56.   Cheng-shih Sect

56.   Cheng-shih Sect

56.1   Name

Cheng-shih [¦¨Ήκ] was translated from Sanskrit word 'Satyasiddhi', which was the short form of a shastra written by Harivarman called 'Satyasiddhi Shastra'. The sect was named after the shastra, as it was the principal text of this sect. In Chinese, 'Cheng' means 'establishment' and 'Shih' means 'truth'. The name of the text is derived from the claim that it emphasizes the true meaning of the shastra.

56.2   Development

The shastra was translated in Chinese by Kumarajiva. His followers studied it and established as a sect. The sect was popular in Six Dynasties till Tang Dynasty.

56.3   Principal Text

Satyasiddhi Shastra is the principal text, written by Harivarman in the 3rd century. The shastra was widely studied from the time of its translation in Chinese by Kumarajiva in early 5th century.

56.4   Main Doctrines

This sect is regarded as the most liberal amongst Hinayana sects. It expounded the views on the emptiness of 'self' and 'Dharma', which was unique and spectacular by that time.

56.4.1   Two-Truth or Two-Emptiness Theory

There are 2 main truths:

  1. Contemplating the emptiness of Five Skandhas, we should not hold the views of self, others, or sentient beings as a real and concrete entity.
  2. Contemplating the emptiness of all Dharmas derived from Five Skandhas, we should understand these are just names given or titles adopted by us, but their own entities.

If all Dharmas and human beings are empty in nature, all the existence and phenomena will be reverted to the state of Nirvana – the ultimate truth of Hinayana

56.4.2   Two-Obstruction or Two-Hindrance Theory

There are 2 kinds of obstructions that hinder us from Enlightenment:

  1. The obstruction by afflictions -- it is equivalent to the delusion of the views and thought. The obstruction can be removed by contemplating the emptiness of self and others.
  2. The obstruction by knowledge -- the worldly knowledge is the accumulation of our experiences in the past, which is conditional. That means it is not universally true. It may lead many people to become more subjective, thus hinder us from Enlightenement. The obstruction can be removed by contemplating the emptiness of Dharmas.

56.5   Fruition upon cultivation

This sect lists 28 levels of fruition in the course of cultivation. The highest level is Arhatship. Thus the sect is regarded as Hinayana, though its doctrines are close to Mahayana, particularly the Theory of the Emptiness of Dharma.

As an Arhat, the practitioner enters in the state of Non-residual Nirvana, which transcends the Three Realms and, of course, liberate from reincarnation. However, amongst the Ten Realms, Arhat is inferior to Bodhisattva and Buddha. The practitioner has to give back Hinayana and set goal to Mahayana and One Vehicle. During the attainment of the Supreme Enlightenment in Buddhahood, all will be empty, including Samsara , Nirvana, and even Buddhahood and emptiness itself.