Buddhist Self-Cultivation Practice

In: Modern Chinese Religion I (2 vols.)


Although the Buddhist monastic elite practiced self-cultivation in many different ways during the Song, Jin, and Yuan, the accumulation of merit and the pursuit of enlightenment were generally considered to be the main reasons for practicing virtually all forms of Buddhist self-cultivation. But Juhn Ahn’s essay shows that the rise of new Buddhist institutions such as the ten directions or public monastery (shifangcha), and intensifying lineage rivalry affected this pursuit of self-cultivation in an important way. As the abbacies of these public institutions became highly desirable, self-cultivation came to focus less on personal development than on the individual’s spiritual accomplishments (the Way) and his ability to garner respect (virtue). One popular way of garnering respect and demonstrating one’s spiritual accomplishments during this period was the perfection of chan or koan locution. To compete, the rival Tiantai tradition, however, had to develop their own methods and institutions of self-cultivation such as the hall of sixteen contemplations and the hall for pure land cultivation.