Protecting Insects in Medieval Chinese Buddhism
Daoxuan’s Vinaya Commentaries
Keywords:Chinese Buddhist monasticism, vinaya, Daoxuan, insects
Buddhist texts generally prohibit the killing of all sentient beings. This is certainly the case in vinaya (disciplinary) texts, which contain strict guidelines on the preservation of all human and animal life. When these vinaya texts were translated into Chinese, they formed the core of Buddhist behavioural codes, influencing both monastic and lay followers. Chinese vinaya masters, such as Daoxuan (596–667) and Yijing (635–713), wrote extensive commentaries and accounts, introducing Indian concepts into the Chinese environment. In this paper, we focus on an often neglected aspect of inflicting harm on sentient beings: namely, the injury that may be caused to some of the world’s smallest animals — insects. Some insects produce economically valuable products, such as silk and honey; others, such as mosquitoes and bedbugs, are annoying or dangerous; and still others are innocent victims of essential human activities, such as earthworms that are killed when farmland is tilled. Yet, all of these are sentient beings that — according to Buddhist principles — should not be harmed or killed. What this implies for Chinese vinaya masters, and especially the highly influential Daoxuan, is the core question of this paper. As we will see, their responses are mixed, but they always attempt to remain true to the basic principles of Buddhism.
Analayo. 2017. 'Parajika'. In Vinaya Studies, edited by Analayo, 7-33. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76538-9_2
Benn, James. 2007. Burning for the Buddha: Self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780824861735
Blum, Mark. 2013. The Nirvana Sutra (Mahaparinirvana-sutra). Volume I. Berkeley, CA: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai America.
Chen, Huaiyu. 2007. The Revival of Buddhist Monasticism in Medieval China. New York: Peter Lang.
---. 2009. 'A Buddhist Classification of Animals and Plants in Early Tang Times'. Journal of Asian History 43(1): 31-51.
Clarke, Shayne. 2000. 'The Existence of the Supposedly Non-existent Siksadatta-sramaneri: A New Perspective on Parajika Penance'. Buddhist Studies [Bukkyo kenkyu] 29: 149-176.
---. 2009a. 'Monks Who Have Sex: Parajika Penance in Indian Buddhist Monasticism'. Journal of Indian Philosophy 37(1): 1-43. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10781-008-9059-3
---. 2009b. 'When and Where is a Monk No Longer a Monk? On Communion and Communities in Indian Buddhist Monastic Law Codes'. Indo-Iranian Journal 52: 115- 141. https://doi.org/10.1163/001972409X445915
---. 2015. 'Vinayas'. In Brill's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Volume I: Literature and Languages, edited by Jonathan A. Silk, 60-87. Leiden: Brill.
Demieville Paul, Hubert Durt and Anna Seidel. 1978. Repertoire du canon bouddhique sino-japonais, edition de Taisho (Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo). Paris: Librairie d'Amerique et d'Orient.
Funayama Toru. 1998. Toho gakuho 70: 203-290.
---. 2006. 'Masquerading as Translation: Examples of Chinese Lectures by Indian ScholarMonks in the Six Dynasties Period'. Asia Major 19(1-2): 39-55.
Gethin, Rupert. 2004. 'Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The Analysis of the Act of Killing in the Abhidhamma and Pali Commentaries'. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 11: 167-202: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2010/04/geth0401.pdf
Greene, Eric. 2016. 'A Reassessment of the Early History of Chinese Buddhist Vegetarianism'. Asia Major 3rd series, 29(1): 1-43.
Hanyu Da Zidian (Suoyin ben). 1995. Wuhan: Hubei Cishu chubanshe and Sichuan Cishu chubanshe.
Harvey, Peter. 2000. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511800801
Heirman, Ann. 2002. The Discipline in Four Parts: Rules for Nuns According to the Dharmaguptakavinaya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
---. 2007. 'Vinaya from India to China'. In The Spread of Buddhism, edited by Ann Heirman and Stephan-Peter Bumbacher, 167-202. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004158306.i-474.44
---. 2019. 'How to Deal with Dangerous and Annoying Animals: A Vinaya Perspective'. Religions 10(113): 1-18. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020113
Heirman, Ann and Tom De Rauw. 2006. 'Offenders, Sinners and Criminals: The Consumption of Forbidden Food'. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 59(1): 57-83. https://doi.org/10.1556/AOrient.59.2006.1.5
Hirakawa, Akira. 1960. Ritsuzo no kenkyu [A Study of the Vinaya-Pitaka]. Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin.
Idema, Wilt L. 2019. Insects in Chinese Literature: A Study and Anthology. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.
Kieschnick, John. 2003. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691214047
---. 2005. 'Buddhist Vegetarianism in China'. In Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China, edited by Roel Sterckx, 186-212. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781403979278_10
Kuo, Li-ying. 1994. Confession et contrition dans le bouddhisme chinois du Ve au Xe siecle. Paris: Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient.
Li Rongxi. 2000. Buddhist Monastic Traditions of Southern India: A Record of the Inner Law Sent Home from the South Seas. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research.
Li Zhihuan. 1990. Zhongguo shitangshi gao. Beijing: Nongye chubanshe.
Liu Xinru. 1998. Silk and Religion. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Maes, Claire. 2010-2011. 'One-sensed Facultied Life (ekindriya jiva) in the Pali Vinaya: A Camouflaged Debate between Early Buddhists and Jains'. Bulletin d'Études Indiennes 28-29: 85-104.
Milburn, Olivia. 2017. 'The Chinese Mosquito: A Literary Theme'. Sino-Platonic Papers 270: 1-50.
Muller, Charles and Kenneth Tanaka (trans.). 2017. The Brahma's Net Sutra (Taisho Volume 24, Number 1484). Moraga, CA: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai America.
Nattier, Jan. 2005. A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path According to the Inquiry of Ugra (Ugrapariprccha). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Needham, Joseph et al. 1986. Science and Civilisation in China, Volume VI, Biology and Biological Technology, Part 1: Botany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
---. 1992 . Science and Civilisation in China, Volume VI: Biology and Biological Technology, Part 2: Agriculture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
---. 2000. Science and Civilisation in China, Volume VI: Biology and Biological Technology, Part 6: Medicine, ed. Nathan Sivin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Olivelle, Patrick. 1999. Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
---. 2004. The Law Code of Manu. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pattinson, David. 2012. 'Pre-modern Beekeeping in China: A Short History'. Agricultural History 86(4): 235-255. https://doi.org/10.3098/ah.2012.86.4.235
---. 2019. 'Bees in China: A Brief Cultural History'. In Animals through Chinese History, edited by Roel Sterckx, Martina Siebert and Dagmar Schafer, 99-117. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Potter, Karl, ed. 1999. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume VIII: Buddhist Philosophy from 100 to 350 AD. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Pu Chengzhong. 2014. Ethical Treatment of Animals in Early Chinese Buddhism. Newcastle-uponTyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Reischauer, Edwin O. 1955. Ennin's Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law. New York: Ronald Press.
Schmithausen, Lambert. 1991. The Problem of the Sentience of Plants in Earliest Buddhism. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies.
---. 2009. Plants in Early Buddhism and the Far Eastern Idea of the Buddha-Nature of Grasses and Trees. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute.
Schmithausen, Lambert and Mudagamuwe Maithrimurthi. 2009. 'Attitudes towards Animals in Indian Buddhism'. In Penser, dire et representer l'animal dans le monde indien, edited by Nalini Balbir and Georges-Jean Pinault, 47-121. Paris: Librairie Honore Champion.
Suwa Gijun. 1988. Chugoku chusei bukkyoshi kenkyu (Studies in the History of Medieval Chinese Buddhism). Tokyo: Daito Shuppansha.
Tatz, Mark. 1994. The Skill in Means (Upayakausalya) Sutra. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (translation).
Waldau, Paul. 2000. 'Buddhism and Animal Rights'. In Contemporary Buddhist Ethics, edited by Damien Keown, 81-112. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press.
Willemen, Charles, Bart Dessein and Collett Cox. 1998. Sarvastivada Buddhist Scholasticism. Leiden: Brill.
Winegard, Timothy. 2019. The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator. New York: Dutton.
Yifa. 2002. The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Young, Stuart. 2015. Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. https://doi.org/10.21313/hawaii/9780824841201.001.0001
---. 2017. '"Bald-headed Destroyers of Living Things": Buddhist Identity in the Silk Cultures of Medieval China'. Asia Major 3rd series, 30(2): 27-70.
---. 2019. 'Squealing Silkworms, Bug Clothes and Maidens Who Spit Silk: Indian Silk and Sericulture in Medieval Chinese Buddhism'. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 42: 633-678.
Zou, Ang. 2019. The Life of Daoxuan: According to Others and in His Own Words. Singapore: Buddhist College of Singapore and Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.