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History Of Viet Nam

Buddhisme Toward Peace And Reconciliation

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Prof Nguyen Dang Thuc


That is the good example of pacifist behaviour of an Emperor who applied Buddha's teachings to politics.

After Asoka's conversion Buddhism began to spread quickly and pacifically over Asia. Everywhere it had deed influence over the native societies by its spiritual power, conciliating different beliefs such as Animism, Confucianism, Taoism, as it was the same case in Vietnam. Of course it is classic to say that the soul of Vietnam is dominated by the synthesis of three systems: Confucianism, Taoism, And Buddhism. Each of them belongs to a level of consciousness : the social consciousness is generally influenced by Confucianism, the natural aesthetic by Taoism, and the spiritual religious by Buddhism. In China, the social and the natural were originally opposed to each other for centuries, but in Vietnam, they were reconciled in the spiritual consciousness after our liberation from Chinese domination. This spiritual force of liberation and reconciliation, the Vietnamese people found in the religion of Buddha which has become our traditional faith ever since. This was explicitly expressed by a Zen Master of the eleventh century as follows:

"Confucianism and Moism hold that existence is real, and Taoism denies it. They are worldly teachings and not liberating ways of life. Only Buddhism transcending both affirmative and negative views can solve the problem of life and death. However, one has to keep Right conduct, Right effort and be experimentally proved by edifying Masters ". (Cửu-Chỉ)

That was the active way of reconciliation followed by Vietnam leaders during the two great national dynasties of Lý, Trần from tenth to fifteenth century. In fact, the illustrious King-leader of thirteenth century openly declared:

"The nature of Buddha is universal and transcendent. It is not limited in time or space, in the South or the North. Everybody can find it provided they perfect themselves for the purpose. There are intelligent and stupid people but thanks to the nature of Buddha, they may be similarly enlightened. Therefore the forthright principles of Buddhism are using practical methods to teach ignorant people and direct way to point out to them the reason of life and death. On the other hand, it was Confucius who set up particular patterns and techniques of government for generation to come. Therefore the Sixth Patriarch of Zen said: ‛Sages are no different from Bonzes". So the principles of Buddhism would need the wisdom of Confucianism for its penetration in human societies. Thus, why I cannot have the responsibility of Sages and the principles of Buddha for my own?’ _(Trần-Thái-Tông).

This concept of reconciliation between the two traditionally opposite tendencies of thought is the classical synthesis to be realized by practical active living, not in a close system. It was the way of Vietnamese Buddhist Zen that our King accomplished by a life of unselfish service to the family and to the nation before retiring into the mountains and forests for the eternal life. His living teachings ever since have penetrated the national consciousness and become popular faith as you can see in these opening verse of a popular Buddhist booklet:

"Thus ness (tathata) in Buddhism is really mysterious. In man's consciousness, (Confucian) the first Idea is Humanity which generates Filial Piety of Confucianism. Filial Piety means redeeming one's evil. Humanity aims at liberation from all metempsychosis (Samsara or Life and Death Ocean).

"Its power is magically represented by a being with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands.

"This multiplicity of forms comes out from spiritual unity.

"In the Southern sea of Vietnam, the popular divinity is our Mother Avalokiteçvara or Quan-Âm ( Kuan-Yin ) ".

Thus, you see how Buddhism once combined with Confucianism and Taoism, developed social feeling and universal compassion and intellectual power into spiritual consciousness. That is the union of Reason and Heart, Knowledge and Devotion. That is the solution Vietnamese Buddhism proposes for the problem of Peace and Reconciliation of the world today.

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