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Beginning a monastic tradition

Daoxin is credited with beginning the true monastic tradition for Chan. His formation of a self-supporting monastic community with its own agricultural base undoubtedly brought Chan a long way toward respectability in Chinese eyes, since it reduced the dependence on begging.

We'll see in Lesson 16 that Baizhang Huaihai's establishment of monasticism was built on the foundation laid down by Daoxin. This style of monastic Chan, continuing to the present day, is summed up in a list of rules—"the pure regulations"—which include four major points of practice that set the Chan community apart from other sects of Buddhism:

  • Scriptures were to be studied for their deeper spiritual meaning and not to be taken literally.
  • Chan was a spiritual practice for everyone.
  • Activity of any kind is meditation.
  • The community is independent, creating its own resources, such as growing food.

Since this time, acceptance of the precepts, chanting the Heart Sutra and following  monastic rules have been widely accepted parts of the religious practice in most East Asian temples.

Becoming a religion

By combining Zen practice with more broadly appealing acts of religious piety, Daoxin helped create a religion that took root in the broad population of Chinese society.

On his death bed Daoxin admonished his disciples:

All of the myriad dharmas of the world are to be dropped away. Each of you, protect this understanding and carry it into the future.