65. Hua Yen Sect (I)
65. Hua Yen Sect (I)
Hua-yen [華嚴] is the pronunciation
of Flower Adornment, which is translated from the Sanskrit word
Avatamsaka, the name of one of the most famous sutra in Buddhism.
This sect takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is the
principal text of the sect. Literally, Avatamsaka means Flower Adornment,
or Flower Garland, or Flower Ornament.
The sect is also known as Hsien-shou [賢首]
sect. Hsien-shou was another name of the third patriarch, Master
Fa-tsang [法藏], who was so remarkable
and respectful that people called this sect after his name.
Hua-yen is generally classified as a scholastic sect for its philosophical
approach in its teaching. It was originated in China and was established
by Master Tu-shun [杜順] (557-640 AD),
and its started to flourish at the time of the third patriarch Master
Fa-tsang [法藏] (643-712 AD).
Shortly after the death of the fifth patriarch Tsung-mi [宗密],
Buddhism was suppressed in the Period of Five Dynasties. Under such
circumstances, no more Hua-yen master appeared and the school declined
in 9th century after flourishing for over 200 years in China.
The following five masters are important to the formation and development
of Hua-yen sect:
- Fa-shun [法順] 558-640 AD
Fa-shun was his Dharma name. As Tu was his last name, he was
also called Tu-shun [杜順]. He was
ordained by the Ch'an master Tao-chen, and devoted himself to
the Dhyana meditation practice. With his great healing power
and profound knowledge in Buddhism, he was bestowed the honorary
title 'the Holy one of the Imperial Heart' by the Emperor. Because
of his miraculous power, people called him 'the Bodhisattva
of Tun-huang' [敦煌菩薩].
did not follow a particular teacher in the hierarchy of this
school. He concentrated his study on Hua-yen and lived on Mount
Zhong-nan [終南山] for many years.
He wrote the essay On the Meditation of Dharmashatu. He
established the concept of 'Contemplating the Dharmadhatu' [一觀法界],
which set the pattern for the subsequent commentaries. He also
established the concept of 'Round Doctrine' [圓教],
which reflects the totalistic view in the Hua-yen sect. He was
considered to be the first patriarch in Hua-yen sect.
- Chih-yen [智儼] 602-668 AD
Chih-yen, the successor of Tu-shun, is the second patriarch
of Hua-yen sect. He was also called Yun-hua [雲華]
because he often preached the Avatamsaka Sutra in Yun-hua temple.
His important writings include The Ten Mysteries in One
Vehicle of Hua Yen, The Fifty Questions and Answers of the Hua
Yen Doctrine, Notes and Commentaries on the Various Chapters
of Hua Yen Sutra, and A Search for the Profound Mysteries
of Hua Yen Sutra. Chih-yen was the one who proposed the
Ten Mysteries, which was perhaps his most important contribution
in the development of Hua-yen doctrines.
- Fa-tsang [法藏] 643-712 AD
Among the disciples of Chih-yen, Fa-tsang was
definitely the most outstanding one. He was also called 'Hsien-shou'
[賢首], which meant 'the head of
the wise', a respectful name given by his followers. He was
given by the Emperor an honorary title 'Kuo-i' [國一],
which meant 'One in the State'.
He was also regarded as the most productive writer
among all Hua-yen masters, because he wrote one hundred volumes
of books and essays. He systematized and organized the Hua-yen
doctrines. Because of his tremendous effort in preaching and
writing on the Hua-yen doctrines, Hua-yen sect was also called
Hsien-shou sect [賢首宗].
In his youth, he assisted Hsuan-tsang [玄奘]
and I-tsing [義淨] in the translation
work. However, he was greatly impressed by the preaching of
Chih-yen and became his disciple in the Yun-hua Monastery. He
was formally ordained at twenty-eight when he was appointed
the abbot of the newly built Tai-yuan Monastery by the Empress
As he was so familiar with Buddhabhadra's translation
of Avatamsaka Sutra, he was invited to assist Sikshanamda in
the translation of the 80-fascicle Avatamsaka Sutra. It was
said that he preached the entire Avatamsaka Sutra more than
thirty times during his lifetime. His enlightening illustration
of Hua-yen doctrines with a golden lion in the writing On
the Golden Lion [金獅子章]
will be elaborated in the following chapters.
When he died at the age of seventy, a state funeral
was held in his honor since he had served as the National Preceptor
for four emperors in Tang Dynasty.
- Cheng-kuan [澄觀] 738-838 AD
He was called Master Ching-liang [清涼],
which was the name of the temple where he studied the Three
Shastras of San-lun sect under Master Hsuan-pi when he was young.
He also studied under many famous scholars and outstanding Zen
masters. His comprehensive knowledge covers almost all the doctrines
of different sects of his time, as reflected in his writing
"A Prologue to Hua Yen". Physically he was said to
be a giant over nine feet tall. He was ordained when he was
fourteen. He traveled to the central, western and northern China,
and at last settled in Hua Yen Monastery on Mount Wutai and
preached there for many years. Later generation of his followers
respected him as the incarnation of Bodhisattva Manjusri, and
called him the Hua Yen Bodhisattva [華嚴菩薩].
In 796 AD, he was invited by the Emperor to assist Prajna to
translate the 40-fascicle Avatamsaka Sutra. He was then granted
titles : 'Master in the Purple Robe', National Preceptor, Professor
Monk and the Chief of Monks. He lived to 102 years old and was
known to be the Imperial Master for six consecutive Emperors
in the Tang Dynasty.
He wrote over 400 essays and commentaries on Avatamsaka Sutra.
He was also the master of many distinguished disciples, who
respectfully called him 'the Master of Law'.
Cheng-kuan was born 27 years after Fa-tsang's death and could
never have studied under Fa-tsan. But interestingly he was considered
the fourth patriarch of the Hua-yen sect by the 'orthodox' Hua-yen
- Tsung-mi [宗密] 780-841 AD
He was also called Master Kuei-feng [圭峰].
He first studied Confucian classics when he met Ch'an master
Tao-yuan, and became a monk and practiced meditation. He was
deeply impressed by the commentaries on Avatamsaka Sutra written
by Cheng-kuan. Later, he submitted himself to Cheng-kuan as
his disciple. Though he was the fifth patriarch of Hua-yen sect
and was highly respected by the Emperors and his disciples,
his contribution to Hua-yen was not on a par with those of the
other four patriarchs.
The most important of the principal texts for this sect is the
This sutra was expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha 21days after his
Enlightenment. The sutra was compiled by Bodhisattva Mansjuri and
his disciple Ananda, and was said to be kept in the dragon palace
in the heaven.
It was said that later on, the Sutra was found and read by Nagarjuna.
It was said that there were three volumes, including billions of
verses in many, many chapters in the first volume, 498,800 verses
in 1,200 chapters in the second, 100,000 verses in 38 chapters of
the last. Since the first two volumes were so huge and difficult
for ordinary people to study and understand, Nagarjuna brought the
last volume and circulated it in this world.
this sutra was propagated to China in three versions, each being
translated by one of the three following great masters :
- Buddhabhadra in 420 AD - It has 36,000 verses in 60 chapters
(fascicles). As it is the first one translated in the Jin Dynasty,
it is called 'the old Sutra', or 'the Jin Sutra' [晉經].
- Siksananda - It has 45,000 verses in 80 chapters. It is also
known as 'the new sutra', or 'the Tang Sutra' [唐經]
since it was translated in the Tang Dynasty.
- Prajna - It has only 40 chapters and was also translated in
the Tang Dynasty later on and is thus called 'the later Sutra'.
Though all three versions are only part of the Sutra, the first
one is predominantly that for studying, and the other two are just
There are other principal texts in the Hua-yen sect as well, such
- Shastra on the Dasabhumi Sutra [十地經論]
written by Vasubandhu
- The Sandhinirmocana Sutra [解密深經]