Chinese Buddhist thought, tergiversated teachings?

Now that I have read the history of Chinese, Indian and Japanese Buddhism I really can tell that the teachings were influenced or even tergiversated by the translators, it’s a big deal for me, because we could be practicing something different that the original teachings of the Buddha, I still love them, but it gives me something to think about. Any opinions?

just a tradition

A religion or a philosophy is essentially a tradition.

In China, Empress Wu Zetian (624-705 CE) lavished praise and favors upon the Buddhist community. Monk Bodhiruci had re-translated a work (Baoyujing, Precious Rain Sutra) as he added that the Empress was the incarnation of the Sun and Moon Light god who had taken flesh to rule China: (wo)men of destiny manufactured on demand as the gods give (expedient) statements of destiny.

Japanese Zen Abbot Kobori declared:”'there is Buddha for those who do not know what he is really. There is no Buddha for those who know what he is really.'”.

Of course, the Pali -or Christian, Sikh, Confucian...- canon might be but a patchwork quilt of loosely interconnected traditions claiming what they all state to be direct, but which is in all cases a rough one, filiation from a supreme sage that sources claim died at some point between the III and X century BCE. This loose agglomeration of oral traditions was then put in writing and subjected to scribal interpolations, and various rows of authentication. At this point, what could be considered 'true'? What resonates best with who's telling the story, of course.

The highly diverse lump of texts “jibes”, “resonates”, “makes sense” to humans, regardless of whether Buddhism or Abrahamic religions are at stake, precisely because it stimulates human mind's obscure vortexes: humans join their hands revering “revelations” from above (the Quran, Gautama Buddha's doctrine he preached in heaven to his mother, or the Bible) or from below (Mahayana Buddhist texts serpent-beings from the nether world had preserved; the “caverns” of Taoist wisdom).

This was objective! Jesus had said this with others there to hear it! But then nothing was stopping the clever opponent from fabricating his own newly-discovered Jesus-saying! And that is how we ended up with the gospel Jesus offering two opinions about divorce, three about fasting, two about calculating the signs of the end, etc (Price 2010b:65).

Among the many texts recovered from the fourth-century stash of codices recovered from Nag Hammadi, Egypt, are two in particular: Eugnostos the Blessed and the Wisdom of Jesus Christ. The peculiar thing about these two texts is that they pull away the curtain and reveal a key pathway by which Jesus tradition was invented. Eugnostos is a fake epistle written by what is almost certainly a fake person ('Eugnostos' means 'well knowing', an obviously fictional name), possibly composed before Christianity, as it contains no material distinctive of Christianity, but appears to outline an esoteric doctrine of Jewish theology concerning the firstborn celestial Son of God, called the Savior and Son of Man -...-. The Wisdom of Jesus Christ then takes direct quotations from this epistle and puts them on the lips of Jesus, and expands on them, to fabricate a post-resurrection narrative scene with dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. (Carrier 2014:387).

Sometimes their inventiveness went to the very heart of the matter so that what later became the gist of the tradition was not in fact an accurate memory, but one that had been generated as the stories were told and retold, hundreds of times, by hundreds of people, in hundreds of situations. (Ehrman 2016:74-6,95,113).


Alejandro Cardeinte's picture

Chinese Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism

It is said that Theravada is the smallest school of Buddhism in China. May I know what is the significant difference between Chinese Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism?