Buddhist Education in Vietnam
Almost 85% of the entire population of Vietnam is Buddhist . The main reason for this vast acceptance of Buddhism is its very early entrance in Vietnam. Buddhism entered Vietnam in the beginning of second century. This was the Common Era and can be called as the first phase of the Buddhist education in Vietnam .
The very first Buddhist education was given by a Taoist named Meou-Po, who later converted to Buddhism . According to many historians, even before this Taoist, some form of Buddhist education could be seen when the Chinese missionaries came to Vietnam .
The Chinese missionaries came in Vietnam during the rule of Si-Nhiep. Later, two Indian monks also came from India to Vietnam, in order to practice and preach Buddhism. Ma Ha Ky Vuc and Khau Da La stayed in Vietnam for some time, later Khau Da La left whereas Ma Ha Ky Vuc stayed. Ma Ha Ky Vuc was a very religious man and used to fast for several days. According to him this helped purify his body and soul. These two Buddhist monks first came to Northern Vietnam, which was called as Giao-Chi at that time. Mau-Bac, a Chinese Buddhist later came to Vietnam, in order to preach his religion.
At that time China was the centre of a serious political conflict, hence many scholars in order to learn and preach at peace, came to Vietnam. This was a breakthrough for the Buddhism. These were the first people ever to bring in Buddhism in Vietnam. They were refugees from China and Pilgrims from India. As time passed by Buddhism became more accepted and most practiced religion in Vietnam. BEGINNING OF BUDDHIST EDUCATION A Hindu price, Gautama who did not like the idea of Hindu caste system, was the founder of Buddhism.
Gautama did not believe that any man could be superior to the other and as Hinduism Brahmans are considered superior, he left this religion . Gautama had spent many years wandering and meditating. In the end he found answers to all his questions and hence found the path of enlightenment, “nirvana”. According to Buddhism, nirvana is the path to endless serenity. It is free from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Moreover, a person will achieve salvation if he believes in the four noble truths.
These four noble truths are that a man suffers in all his consecutive lives; the reason for his sufferings is his wants for earthly things, when the person frees himself from all the wants of earthly things he then achieves deliverance. The last noble truth says that a person can achieve deliverance by following the eightfold noble path . So how did Buddhism actually spread? During the time Si-Nhiep ruled Giao-Chi, it was considered as a safe place. Mau-Bac came to Vietnam looking for peace and tranquility. After coming to Vietnam, he studied Buddhism from an Indian monk named Ksudra .
Ma Ha Ky Vuc who also came to Vietnam got together with Mau-Bac and started preaching their religion. Ksudra also started helping them, hence people in Vietnam, who never knew what Buddhism was, started learning and accepting it. These were the very first people to start preaching and teaching Buddhism. Their teaching is the very early form of teachings found in Vietnam. After these, many Buddhist monks came to Vietnam. Khang Tang Hoi and Cuong Luong Lau were two monks who made a lot of difference. They translated many Buddhist books into Chinese.
As Vietnamese culture at that time was influenced a lot by Chinese and Chinese was the official language used , hence translating these books made a lot of difference to people who could not read or write other languages . PHASES OF VIETNAMESE BUDDHISM The history of Buddhist education in Vietnam can be studied by dividing it into four separate phases or periods. – The formation of Buddhism in Vietnam. This started from the common era and lasted till the end of Chinese dominion – Climax of Buddhism. Buddhism was at its peak during the independence – The decadence after the Le Dynasty
– Revival period. This started in the beginning of the 20th century and has not ended yet. The period before the Common Era lays the foundation for the beginning and development of Buddhist education in Vietnam. It was the time when Siddhartha Gautama, who will later attain enlightenment and will be called as ‘Buddha’ was born. As he was born in India, Indians were the first to learn Buddhism. Later when Buddhism came to China, many Chinese monks went to Vietnam in order to spread Buddhism. However, it believed that the Chinese and Indian merchants came to Vietnam for trading.
They brought monks with them saying that the monks were the “calmer of the sea” These monks started preaching their religion in Vietnam. It was easy for them to teach their religion to many people at a time, as Luy-Lau, later known as Ha-Bac was the centre of all trading activities. All the merchants who came here to trade, and merchants who were travelling between India and China, stopped here to rest, therefore, monks were able to spread their religion very easily. Many missionary activities were started as a result. Monasteries were built and Buddhism became important.
This was the first time ever in the history of Vietnam, that monasteries were built . The next period or phase proved to be best for Vietnamese Buddhism. In this period Buddhist studies were at their peak and many famous people and rulers converted to this religion. It was when King Dinh Tien Hoang came in to power. Buddhism has its own hierarchy of monks and priests who were accepted by the court. Buddhism was now supported by the royal court and this helped many positive changes to take place. Buddhists were now respected and were considered as learned people.
They were asked advice by the royal court and the rulers before taking decisions. This helped them get involved in many political and religious decisions and hence providing many decisions to be taken according to them. This era truly proved to be the best for Buddhist studies and it became one of the most predominant religions. After this, many kings and emperors converted to Buddhism. Many laws came into practice in this era, which were influenced by Buddhism, and hence were in favor of the Buddhists. Van Hanh became a Buddhist in this period.
He is known as the meditation master and has influenced many people to convert to Buddhism. Any ruler who was not Buddhists was at least the supporter of Buddhism and this was a very positive point for the Buddhists. In 1010 A. D, almost eight monasteries were built in Ha Bac. All other monasteries and Buddhist temples were also repaired. Tripitaka texts, which were in China initially, were brought in Vietnam. Thousands of Buddha statues and paintings were made and set up. Festivals were set up. Many new monasteries such as Sung Kharh monastery and monastery at Mount Ba were built. In 1086 A.
d Dai Lam monastery was built in Ha Bac. Later in 1118 A. D Thien Phat was built which had almost 1,000 Buddha statues . BUDDHIST STUDIES The entire Buddhist education comes from the studies of Buddha, who is the supreme teacher. All of the studies root from saddha, which is the faith in triple Gem. Depdnding upon these studies the students are taught according to the five rules. The students should know the rules, their reason and their appliance in daily lives. Most importantly, they should appreciate all these rules and believe in them. The students should know what is generosity and self sacrifice.
These are essential elements that help the students overcome their worldly desires, their selfishness and greed. These five moral rules are dependent on each other. A student can gain by suta, which is by extensive reading of Buddhism texts. According to Buddhist studies the knowledge of a person is dependent on his inside belief of truth i. e. Dhamma. Calm and insight are the two main elements of any Buddhist teaching. In Buddhist education tasks and wisdom are dependent on each other. A student can attain wisdom by deep investigation, discussion and intelligence.
This wisdom was the basic instruments which lead Buddha to salvation. This wisdom is the crown of all educations of Buddhism. Without wisdom, education is incomplete. Before French, people were chosen based on their education. These were officials known as “mandarins”. Learning was very important in those times. It was not just education but it lead a person to intellectual understanding, social standing, wealth and power. Buddhism came directly from India, hence there are many words in Vietnamese Buddhism which are influenced or are taken directly from India. The word Buddha is also taken as it is.
However, as the Vietnamese culture is influenced a lot from the Chinese, hence when Chinese monks came to Vietnam, the word Buddha was replaced by the word Phat. In those days, Buddhism in Vietnam was influenced by Theravada Buddhism. It was seen as religion which helped good people and punished the bad. It was very difficult to teach Buddhism at that time as very little literature was available. Vietnamese had no written script; hence a few translations were made in Chinese. The era between 544 and 602 was an independent era and was helpful in spreading Buddhism