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Lecture 10: Zong Mi

Zongmi (780-841)
Born into a gentry family in Sichuan, Zongmi received a classical education in his youth. He
became interested in Chan during his twenties, and before long decided to enter the
monastic order. Zongmi became a student of Chengguan in 812 after his move to Changan.
Zongmis writings do not focus directly on the Huayan jing, and because he was also
recognized as a member of the Chan lineage.
He also introduced changes in his doctrinal taxonomy by including the teachings of
Confucianism and Daoism.
Zongmis contribution to Chinese Buddhism
First, Zongmi was deeply interested in both the practical and doctrinal aspects of Buddhism,
and especially advocated the harmonization between Chan practice (characterized as a
mind-to-mind transmission of enlightenment) and Huayan.
Since the time of Northern and Southern dynasties, within Buddhism there was the conflict
between the meditation Chan masters and the exegetic teachers of Buddhist doctrine. And
this problem became serious in Sui so Tiantai teachers emphasized both. But it was not until
Zongmi the whole Buddhist teaching changed fundamentally.
Second, Zongmi expanded this idea to the harmonization of the three religions of
Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Therefore he advocated the equality of all three
religious founders in his Yuanren lun ( Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity,
Translated by Peter Gregory).
From the Confucian side, Liu Zongyuan (773-819) also emphasized to reconcile and
unite the Confucian and Buddhist doctrines into a pervasive and inclusive understanding.
Among Zongmis many works are the Chanyuan zhuquan jixu (Origins of the
Various Chan Teachings). Other important works include his Yuanjue jing da shou (
Great Commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment). During the process of finishing
this work, Zongmi wrote a series of abridgments, expansions on it.
One of Zongmis contributions to the Huayan school is his doctrinal classification. Zongmis
formulation was essentially soteriological in intent: it mapped out stages of understanding
on the path to Buddhahood. While earlier Huayan thinkers, in contrast, were either
preoccupied with the hermeneutical problem of how to reconcile the apparent
contradictions between different sutras that were all presumed to be the word of the
Buddha, or intent on proving, for sectarian purposes, the superiority of the Huayan Sutra.
Zongmi's concern with soteriology reflected the influence of Chan on Chinese Buddhism in
the eighth and early ninth centuries, and that it represented a radical shift in Huayan

Zongmi devised his five-stage cosmogonic map in order to provide an ontological ground
for Buddhist practice. This is a very complicated aspect of Zongmis teaching.
Chengguan and Zongmi are understood to have further developed and transformed the
Huayan teachings.
After the time of Zongmi and Li Tongxuan the Chinese Huayan School generally stagnated in
terms of new development, and then eventually began to decline. The school, which had
been dependent upon the support it received from the government, suffered severely during
the persecution of 841-5, never to recover its former strength.
Huayan school ended up having profound impact on the philosophical attitudes of all of East
Asian Buddhism. The most important philosophical contributions of the Huayan school were
in the area of its metaphysics, as it taught the doctrine of the mutual containment and
interpenetration of all phenomena (shishiwuai ) that one thing contains all things in
existence, and that all things contain one.
Further spread and influence With Zongmi, the patriarchal tradition came to an end. Yet, that
was not the end of Huayan history in China. Huayan continued to be studied as a major
system of Buddhist philosophy.
Huayan concepts and teachings, such as nature origination, were also absorbed into the
Tiantai School. The increasing scope of Huayan influences became a point of contention
during the Tiantai debates of the Northern Song period (9601126), as proponents of the
Shanwai (Off Mountain) faction of Tiantai were criticized by ZHILI (9601028) and his Shanjia
(Home Mountain) faction for their unwarranted adoption of Huayan metaphysics, mainly
derived from the writings of Chengguan and Zongmi.
For a detailed study of Zongmi and his thought, please read Gregory, Peter. Tsung-mi and
the Sinification of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University of Press, 1991.

Note: Composed from Mario Poceski's article. (POCESKI, MARIO. "Huayan School."
Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Ed. Robert E. Buswell, Jr. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference
USA, 2004. 341-347. 2 vols. )
Beyond China, Huayan entered Korea (where it is known as Hwaom) at an early stage of the
traditions history. The first transmitter and leading Hwaom figure during the Silla period
(668935) was UISANG (625702). Uisang traveled to China and be came a student of Zhiyan
at Mount Zhongnan. He was a senior colleague of Fazang and the two formed a lasting
friendship. After returning to his native land in 671, Uisang was successful in establishing
Hwaom as a major Buddhist tradition on the Korean peninsula. He built a number of
monasteries and secured the official patronage of the royal court, which bestowed on him
the title of national teacher. Uisangs major work, the brief Hwaom ilsung popkye to (Chart of
the Huayan One-Vehicle Realm of Reality), was presented to Zhiyan during his stay in China
and it remains a classic exposition of Huayan thought.
Because of the great influence of Uisang and his disciples, Hwaom became the primary
theoretical system of Korean Buddhism and served as the foundation for the subsequent

doctrinal evolution of the native tradition, even after Chan (or Son in Korean) became
established as the predominant Buddhist school. Another major figure during the Silla period
was Uisangs friend WONHYO (617686), arguably the foremost scholar in the history of
Korean Buddhism. Although not for mally affiliated with the Hwaom tradition, Wonhyo was
deeply influenced by Hwaom ideas and teachings, which shaped his creation of an
integrated system of Buddhist philosophy that attempted to harmonize the differences of
the various schools. Some of Wonhyos writings were transmitted to China and his
commentary on the Awakening of Faith exerted considerable in fluence on Fazangs thought.
Hwaom continued to be a major tradition of Korean Buddhism into the early part of the
Koryo dynasty (9181392). Its predominant position was sup planted by the resurgent Son
school, but Korean thinkers were able to create an integrated Buddhist tradition that
incorporated teachings and practices from both of these schools. Major contributions in that
direction were made by CHINUL (11581210), the most prominent monk of the period, who
created a successful synthesis that incorporated both Hwaom scholasticism and Son
meditation practice. Chinul was also fond of Li Tongxuans commentary on the Huayan jing,
which became an important text in Korean Buddhism thanks to his advocacy. Chinuls vision
of an integrated and ecumenical Buddhist church be came normative within Korea and,
notwithstanding its past and present detractors, remains a principal model for a distinctive
native tradition, in which Hwaom thought plays a more central role than it does in any other
contemporary Buddhist tradition.

Huayan also entered Japan (where it is known as Kegon) at an early date. In 740 the Korean
monk Simsang (or Shinjo in Japanese, d. 742), a disciple of Fazang, was invited by Emperor
Shomu (r. 724749) to lecture on the Huayan jing at Konshoji (later renamed Todaiji) in Nara,
the Japanese capital. The invitation was extended at the urging of Roben (689773), a
descendant of Korean immigrants and a specialist in the doctrine of the Hosso school
(Chinese, FAXIANG SCHOOL). As a leading Buddhist figure with good political connections,
Roben was instrumental in the establishment of Kegon as one of the eight schools of NARA
BUDDHISM, which functioned as traditions of Buddhist learning rather than as independent
Roben was also involved in the construction of the great Buddha at Todaiji, and
subsequently he became the monasterys chief priest. The great Buddha, repre senting
Vairocana as the principal Buddha of the Huayan universe, was consecrated in 752 under the
auspices of Emperor Shomu. Todaiji emerged as a focal institution for Kegon studies (and
the study of other scholastic traditions) and a prominent center of Buddhist culture. Despite
its turbulent history, including its destruction in 1180, the rebuilt monastery and its great
Buddha statue remain potent symbols of Kegons prominent place in Japanese Buddhism.
While interest in the study of the Nara schools declined during the Heian period (7941185),
there were prominent scholar-monks during the following Kamakura era (11851333) who
continued the tradition of Kegon learning. Well-known examples include Myoe KOBEN
(11731232) and GYONEN (12401321).
Known as a restorer of the Kegon tradition, Myoe was also well versed in the teachings of
esoteric Buddhism and Chan, and he was known for his strict observance of the precepts. His
supporters included a number of prominent aristocrats, and he was successful in turning
Kozanji, a monastery located in the vicinity of Ky oto, into a center of Kegon studies. Gyonen,

a Kegon monk of extensive learning, was known for his exper tise in the vinaya. He moved to
Todaiji in 1277 and af terwards he lectured on the Huayan jing. He also presented lectures on
Fazangs Wujiao zhang at the imperial court, which later awarded him the title of national
teacher. Although Gyonen is chiefly associated with the Kegon school, he was well versed in
the teachings of other schools of Buddhism, as can be seen from one of his principal works,
Hasshu koyo (Outline of the Eight Schools), which is still read as a popular summary of the
history and doctrines of the major schools of Japanese Buddhism.
Beyond the narrowly defined Kegon tradition, evidence of Huayan influences can be found in
the writings of other major figures in the history of Japanese Buddhism. One such example is
KUKAI (774835), the founder of SHINGON BUDDHISM, who drew on Huayan doctrine in his
systematization of esoteric Buddhism, and who ranked Huayan just below Shingon in his
tenfold taxonomy of the Buddhist teachings. Another example is SAICHO (767822), the
founder of Tendai, who studied Huayan texts during his formative years and whose writings
reflect the influence of Huayan ideas.

Huayan in the West

Taigen Dan Leighton, Huayan Buddhism and the Phenomenal Universe of the Flower
Apart from its power to inform and illuminate meditation practice, Huayan philosophy is
highly relevant to Buddhism's potential contribution to environmental and ecological
thinking. The dynamics of the mutual relationship of universal and particular in Huayan has
already been influential in the modern deep ecology movement in its clear expression of the
interrelationship of the total global environment to the well-being of particular ecological
The implications of this interconnectedness and the importance of the bodhisattva's
responsibility in Huayan is also a great encouragement and resource for modern Engaged
Buddhism and Buddhist societal ethics. This can be seen, for example, through the main
Avatamsaka bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who engages in specific projects for worldly
benefit through his dedicated practice of Vow as applied to benefiting all beings and all the
societal systems of the world.
Huayan models of the interconnectedness of totality also have implications for modern
science. Especially in cutting-edge realms of physics such as string theory, Huayan visions
may provide inspirations for clarifying the dynamic interactions of various dimensions of
Given how much Huayan Buddhism has to offer contemporary practitioners seeking to
deepen their experience and understanding, even in realms outside of practice, it is fortunate
that more material about this ancient teaching is becoming available. We can perhaps look
forward to a renaissance of this profound teaching of interconnectedness in response to the
pressing needs of our day.