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(4 pages total)

Page 4 - Buddhism in the West

This is a sad irony, for Buddhism has a rich history in mainland China dating back 2,000 years. It was transmitted into China from India via the old Silk Route, the east-west trade route that brought the finery of China to Europe. As merchants, monks, and other travelers brought Buddhism deeper into the East, the religion gradually grew in popularity and was seen as a threat to the existing Confucianism, a philosophical system founded in China by Kongzi (Confucius) in the 6th century B.C.E. Confucianism proclaims a strict social order, respect for the ruler, and a devotion to moral ideas.

China's Later Han Dynasty (25-220 C.E.) saw the emergence of the un-Confucian Taoism, which stresses the need for meditation, simplicity, and harmony. In the Taoist philosophy, the Chinese detected similarities with the Buddha's teaching that a simple existence unfettered by desire is the best life. This led to a greater acceptance of Buddhism in China and by the sixth century, Buddhism enjoyed an enormous advance in the mainland. Yet, even at its height of popularity during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.), Buddhism shared the spiritual spotlight with Confucianism and Taoism.

The advance of Communism in the 20th century has given Buddhism a serious blow. While looking upon Buddhism with disfavor, Communist China has officially permitted it to exist, believing that the establishment of an ideologically correct state would cause the religion to atrophy on its own. It didn't.

During the so-called Cultural Revolution of 1965-1975, Buddhist temples and monasteries in China and Tibet were destroyed and the future of Buddhism in the mainland became tenuous.

Today, Taiwan and Hong Kong are where Chinese Buddhism thrives. And, of course, it flourishes here in America, where the Hsi Lai Temple and its Fo Kuang Shan monastic order have brought Buddhism to the West and serve an ever-expanding Chinese-American community.

By Mark Hawthorne
Mark is a freelance writer living in Orange County, California.

For information on the Hsi Lai Temple, Hsi Lai University, ESL classes, Buddhist studies, or other services, contact the temple at:
3456 South Glenmark Drive
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
Phone: (818) 961-9697, Fax: (818) 369-1944

Hsi Lai Temple is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no charge for admission or parking, although a $1.00 donation is requested to enter the museum. A vegetarian buffet lunch is served in the dining hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays and from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends (donation requested). Visitors are welcome in the shrines, but no photography is allowed inside.

Reprinted from Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness
Copyright 1996, reproduction prohibted without written permission.

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