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The Development of Buddhism in China

On 16 July, Venerable You Lu delivered the second part of her talk on the development of Buddhism in China as part of the English Dharma Talks Series on Humanistic Buddhism at Fo Guang Shan Singapore.

She began with a recap of her first part of her talk in Q & A style and described the introduction of Buddhism into China when two Indian monks were brought back to White Horse Temple.

The localisation of Buddhism in China were covered in detail mainly on the premise of food, clothing and housing. Venerable explained the rationale for localisation in each aspect of living in order to cater to the needs and culture of the Chinese. Below are some examples she has elaborated.

In order to obtain food, Chinese monastics line up to the dining hall instead of getting for alms. As monastics have to work in farms, they have adapted the rule of "no food after noon time" by supplementing dinner which is regarded as medicine.

Common questions of the lay Buddhist diet such as the significance of the Laba porridge, rationale for omitting the five pungent spices in vegetarian and the difference between a Buddhist diet and a vegetarian diet were also clearly answered.

In terms of clothing, the choice of the unattractive monastic robes was explained as a means to avoid attachment to form. The monastic robe was then localized to suit the climate and custom in China.

Lastly, she gave elaborated on to several Buddhist practices and customs which originated from China. For example, the addition of 2 arhats to form the 18 arhats, the art of sutra calligraphy which used to be a means of circulating Buddhist scripture and incense praise and chanting during the current Dharma assemblies.

As a closure, she posed the following question, "How can Singaporean Buddhists localise Buddhism to cater to the needs and culture in Singapore, so as to attract more devotees?" She hoped that the means by which Buddhism has been localised in China could serve as a role model for Singaporeans to learn, so as to adapt Buddhism to local needs and yet, retaining the original intents of the Buddha.

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