The Philosophy and Practice of Buddhist Confession in the Song Dynasty

[Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash]

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Kai Sheng, a visiting professor from Tsinghua University, China , will give a guest lecture with the title “The Philosophy and Practice of Buddhist Confession in the Song Dynasty” on October 26, 2:15pm to 3:45pm in Room 604 of the UBC Asian Center (1871 West Mall).


During the Tang and Song dynasty, Chinese Buddhism underwent a great change, from theory investigation to religion practice. Buddhism in the Song dynasty showed a great orientation toward practice. Confession practices prevailed widely among Tiantai members, and confession ritual procedures were also produced during this time. Jingyuan(净源, 1011-1088), a revivalist scholar of Huayan School, had to make efforts to implement the ideas of his own school in order to keep up with the trend. Huayan School lacked a practical aspect. Jingyuan edited Xiuzheng yi(圓覺經修證儀), reducing eighteen fascicles into one. However, this work actually reduced the characteristics of Huayan Confession itself, which emphasizes contemplation and thought. The Confession not only constituted a ritual that eliminates individual transgressions and karma, it also included rituals that aim at higher goals. At that time, with particular concerns in the background of “Protecting the Nation via Buddhism” (Guojia Fojiao 國家佛教”), it transformed into a ritual that eliminates common karma, in order to protect the nation. In the Song periods, Buddhist communes or societies (sheyi 社邑) continued to develop. They brought together various beliefs, and became a type of community united by Confession practices. Under the influence of Confession practices, Chinese Buddhism became popularized and socialized in this period.