53. Development of Sects in Chinese Buddhism
Sects in Chinese Buddhism
53.1 Meaning of
After the advent into the world, Shakyamuni Buddha preached in
over 300 assemblies in 49 years after his enlightenment under the
Bodhi tree at the age of 35. His sermons were later collected into
the Tripitaka in Twelve Divisions subsequent to several councils
in Buddhist history. His teaching is broad and precise covering
all worldly matters and phenomena in the world, as well as in transcendental
super-mundane worlds. No matter it is a mote of dust, or it is the
entire universe, it is perfectly and completely explained in his
When Buddhism is transmitted to China, it is divided into many
different sects. In Chinese, they call sect as 'tsung' [©v].
It should be noted that 'tsung' bears a wider meaning than 'sect'
or 'school' as translated. 'Tsung' consists of people in hierarchy
who succeed their Dharma-descent to the common 'tsu', [¯ª]
53.2 Reasons for
the division of sects
The reasons for the division of sects are as follows:
- The text in Tripitaka is as huge as encyclopedia. If they are
not edited and divided into different subjects, they cannot be
- Each doctrine is different from others. Sometimes, they may
be contradictory. Despite to the fact that each doctrine has its
own profound meaning, it may be meaningless if we try to combine
the doctrines together.
- Human beings differ in background and disposition, their studies
in Buddhism are diverse. Moreover, their roots, abilities and
interests are also different. In order to deal with their problems
individually, they must be treated separately with different 'medicines'.
- Some Buddhist doctrines must be simplified and clear, so that
they can be transmitted properly generation by generation.
- Our life and energy is limited. It is almost impossible to study
all the Buddhist scriptures in one life, so it is better and easier
to study in one single school in details. Actually, Buddhahood
can be achieved through each sect or school, just like PhD degree
can be obtained whichever subjects we study.
- The patriarchs have different experience in their cultivation
towards enlightenment. It is inevitable that they have their own
ways to teach their followers, transmit them onwards.
Having different sects does not mean splitting in Buddhism, as
all Buddhist Dharma is based on the Tripitaka. Buddhahood is the
ultimate goal to be achieved, no matter which way we choose to take.
Sects are like departments in a company, which have to co-operate
to achieve the common business objective. One sect should not look
down upon the other, or exaggerate one's own superiority over the