(Chinese 慧遠; Hui-Yuan
; 334 AD–416 AD) was a Chinese Buddhist
teacher who founded a monastery on Mount Lushan
province and wrote the text On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings
in 404 AD. He was born in Shanxi
province but after a long life of Buddhist teaching he wound up in Hubei
province, where he died in 416. Although he was born in the north, he would eventually move south to live within the bounds of the Eastern Jin Dynasty
Huiyuan was posthumously named First Patriarch of the Pure Land School of Buddhism. His disciples included Huiguan (慧觀), Sengji (僧濟), and Faan (法安).
Huiyuan began studying Zhuangzi
at a young age, as well as the teachings of Confucius
. However, at the age of 21 he was converted in Hebei Province by the Buddhist Dao An
, who was a Chinese disciple of a Kuchan
missionary. Hearing the sermons of Dao An convinced Huiyuan to "leave the family" and embark on a life of Buddhist teachings. Later, he lived at East Forest Temple (東林寺) at Mount Lushan
. His teachings were various, including the vinaya
(戒律), meditation (禪法), abhidharma
or wisdom. Besides his teaching and interaction with lay followers of the Buddhist faith, he also upheld a learned correspondence with the monk Kumarajiva
In the year 402 he organized a group of monks and lay people into a Mahayana sect known as Pure Land Buddhism, the Pure Land being the western paradise of the buddha Amitabha.
In the year 404, Huiyuan wrote a treatise On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings. This book symbolized his efforts to assert the political independence of Buddhist clergy from the courts of monarchic rulers. At the same time, it was a religious and political text that aimed to convince monarchs and Confucian-minded ministers of state that followers of Buddhism were ultimately not subversive. He argued that Buddhists could make good subjects in a kingdom due to their beliefs in retribution of karma and the desire to be reborn in paradise. Despite the Buddhists' reputation of leaving their family behind for a monastic life, Huiyuan stated "those who rejoice in the Way of the Buddha invariably first serve their parents and obey their lords."
- Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.