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Ven. Hongyi's "seed of virtue" : a strategy to support the learning of the vinaya by lay Buddhists


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Li, Zhuo




Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Iwamura, Jane N.
Capitanio, Joshua
Lancaster, Lewis R.


The conception of jieti 戒體, interpreted by Daoxuan as the “seed of virtue,” is developed by Hongyi in his work Nanshan Vinaya Scripture for the Laity (Nanshanlü zaijia beilan 南山律在家備覽) and other lectures. This thesis focuses on how Hongyi's unique conception of jieti 戒體 evolves over time and eventually becomes the justification for opening up the vinaya—a set of rules once reserved only for monastics—to Buddhist lay readers.

Jieti 戒體 or also known as the “essence of precepts” is aimed at preventing wickedness and cultivating the good in the practitioner. The concept historically was interpreted by three Chinese Buddhist schools, including Daoxuan’s 道宣 (596-667) Nanshan Vinaya School 南山律宗, which Hongyi followed and whose interpretation he also advocated in the Nanshan Vinaya Scripture for the Laity. Hongyi also references Yuanzha's 元照 (1048-1116) commentary of Daoxuan’s work and employs the venerable Buddhist monk Ouyi 藕益 (1599-1655) as an example. These various influences become key in the development of Hongyi's thinking concerning the state of monastics and the precepts and provide the philosophical backbone and justification for his effort bringing the vinaya to lay practitioners.

The thesis highlights original translations of Hongyi's works and textual analysis of his oeuvre as it pertains to jieti and the precepts. Though my study, I demonstrate how Hongyi’s earlier lectures and his re-interpretation of the repentance ritual form a logical argument that ultimately culiminates in the Nanshan Vinaya Scripture for the Laity.

For thousand years, the Chinese Buddhist tradition has prohibited the laity from reading the vinaya. Hongyi, prompted by his observations of the early republican Chinese Buddhist world in which the institution of Buddhist monasticism was seen in decay, enacts the bold move of presenting the vinaya to the laity and providing a guide that would be widely read by Buddhist lay practitioners to this day. Not simply an advocate for the laity, Hongyi's view ensures that the preservation and attainment of jieti for both monastic and lay Buddhist devotees and forges a connection between the two groups.

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University of the West



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