Note: This article was written in 1999 and posted in VNForum. I recently rediscovered it in my archive and was amazed that I could write such a piece 13 years ago.
The material in here can be found in the following references :
(1) Li.ch su+? tu+ tu+o+?ng Vie^.t nam – Nguye^~n Dda(ng Thu.c (1993)
(2) Li.ch su+? Pha^.t Gia’o Vie^.t Nam – Nxb Khoa ho.c Xa~ ho^.i (1991)
(3) Cha’n and zen teachings – Lu Kuan Yu, 1975
The first (“History of Vietnamese philosophical thoughts” by Nguyen Dang Thuc) is the most comprehensive work : a six volume work by a respected writer who is still living in Saigon. I can only glean of some that i can possibly grasp. So i recommend that people should read this masterpiece that was published recently.
In earlier articles and postings by various people, we know what was the buddha teaching and a glimpse of the earlier Vietnamese buddhism. Buddhism found its most influence in the Ly period. Confucianism and Taoism also co-existed with Buddhism and harmoniously integrated in the philosophical framework of “tam dda.o”.
The fusion of the three major elements was laid soundly by the “philosopher kings” of Tran dynasty : Thai Tong, Thanh Tong and Nhan Tong.
At the beginning of the Tran period, buddhism in Vietnam found its new vigour with the earlier kings and family members of the Tran dynasty. Amongs these are Tra^`n Tha’i To^ng, Tra^`n Tha’nh To^ng, Tue^. Trung thie^`n su+ (uncle of Tra^`n Nha^n To^ng), and Tra^`n Nha^n To^ng. A different style of the buddhist thoughts and practices of these Tran monks from the previous monks of the Thie^`n schools, which are more or less imported from India and China, emerged. The Vietnamese element and characteristic is more apparent : profound, harmonious and yet practical to the Vietnamese mind.
And this is reflected markedly in Tran Nhan Tong, the founder of Truc Lam Zen. This arose from the newly-found confidence and pride of the people for the country and the national development since the success of the struggles with the Mongol invasion.
(1) The Thien (Zen) buddhism of the Tran masters
(a) Tra^`n Tha’i To^ng
One of the most learned kings and buddhist monks of the period. He was the author of various buddhist writings. One of his writings is “Kho’a hu+ lu.c” (loosely translated as Lessons on infinite hu+, cha^n kho^ng(Sunya)). This “sutta” is a collection of thoughts expressed in chanting poems in which the author outlined that the changing nature of life, death, the world of phenomena, the duality of all things that we see and experience are just mirage. They are just fictious from the mind, these duality of all things. The only real infinite eternal “existence” in these mirages is the infinite “void” of sunyata (hu+ or cha^n kho^ng) from which the changing world of phenomena arises. This is what Thai Tong called the Principle of “Ba^’t nhi. pha’p” (or no-duality). He also often evoked the theme of returning to “home”, the sunyata, in his writings. We, wayward people, often straying from the “beginning”, should take rest and return “home” from the duality of phenomena.
In understanding this, then our existence is also a phenomena arises from karma : the result of some past action. Thai Tong then provided the way to solve and escape this phenomena world of karma : action without pre-meditated intention like “water flows down from the mountain without intention, white clouds fly from the mountain without mind consciousness” (nu+o+’c cha?y xuo^’ng nu’i kho^ng du.ng y’, ma^y tra(‘ng trong hang nu’i ddu`n ra vo^’n vo^ ta^m). The practical method is therefore Action without pre-meditated intention, silently act from a sunya (cha^n kho^ng) “void” source, a kind of “vo^ tu+” action.
We can see that in this philosophical framework, there is a fusion of the buddhist and Tao element. So the sutta of “Kho’a hu+ lu.c” starts with the mirage of the natural world (“tu+’ so+n ke^.”) and ended with the recommended way for people to follow (“khuye^’n chu’ng ke^.”).
This sutta (kho’a hu lu.c) was the principle document that nearly all buddhist temples in Vietnam used. This is what Nguyen Ddo^?ng Chi considered as the light torch of the Vietnamese Thie^`n.
Beside his buddhist activities, the king also established a foundation for the national study (“Quo^’c ho.c”) incorporating the best of the 3 traditions. This was his lasting legacy to Vietnam. He once said : “Chu+a ro~ thi` chia la^`m ba gia’o, hie^?u ro^`i thi` cu`ng ngo^. mo^.t ta^m” (Once not clearly understood, seing 3 ways, but once clear, in one enlightened mind)
(b) From Tra^`n Tha’i Tong, Tra^`n Tha’nh To^ng inherited the tradition but added further his distinct approach. Independently developed, Tra^`n Tha’nh Tong buddhist Thien is now considered as to bear some resemblance to Rinzai Zen (La^m Te^’), one of the five branches of Zen started by the sixth Chinese Cha’n patriarch Hue Neng (Hue^. Na(ng).
Another brilant man in this period was Tue Trung. He was the student of Tieu Dao which was mentioned in “Thien Uyen Tap Anh” as the student of Ung Thuan. Tue Trung inherited the tradition of the Vo Ngon Thong school. His thoughts are contained in “Tue Trung thu+o+.ng si~ ngu+~ lu.c”. Like Thai Tong, his core consisted of sunyata (“kho^ng”) and “vong nhi. kie^’n” (non-duality). He also considered and developed “ta^m va.n pha’p” in which he encouraged people to be blended in life, without contrary to “natural law”.
(2) Tra^`n Nha^n To^ng and Tru’c La^m Thie^`n
Tran Nhan Tong teacher was his uncle, Tue Trung. From Tue Trung, he inherited the Vo Ngon Thong tradition. But Nhan Tong was also a practical man in pursuing the path. He believed that to get “giac ngo” (enlightenment), people had to be “in-life” first, to face challenges, tribulation, endurance in life, to be with people and experiences. Therefore the “outside” life (ddo+`i) and the buddhist life (dda.o), in which a person inner life interacted with the external world, are a continous evolvement without interuption.
He acted naturally with ease and mostly im-promptu without tied to the intention. His mind was clear and expressed calmly verses in response to the nature around him. In a spring morning at the court gathering to pay respect to ancestors, he spontaneously made an evocative poem
Xua^n Nha^.t ye^’t Chie^u La(ng
Tru+o+ng ve^. thie^n mo^n tu’c
Y quan tha^’t pha^?m tho^ng
Ba.ch dda^`u qua^n si~ ta.i
Va~ng va~ng thuye^’t Nguye^n phong
Nghi ve^. da`n ha`ng ddu?
Qua^`n tha^`n ddu? ma(.t ddo^ng
Li’nh gia` dda^`u to’c ba.c
Nha(‘c nho+? chuye^.n Nguye^n phong
His mind expressed the simple beauty of the relationship between human beings. He found happiness when seeing others happy. He forgot himself and express emotion in seing the white-haired soldiers talking of old memories. This is his typical approach. His approach in buddhist religion is strongly influenced by humanism.
His poetic mind also evoked simple bucolic scenes of Vietnamese countryside as in the poem “Thie^n Tru+o+`ng va~n vo.ng”
Tho^n ha^.u, tho^n tie^`n dda.m tu+. ye^n
Ba’n vo^, ba’n hu+~u ti.ch du+o+ng bie^n
Mu.c ddo^`ng ddi.ch ly’ qui ngu+u ta^.n
Ba.ch lo^. song song phi ha. ddie^`n
Ca?nh chie^`u phu? Thie^n Tru+o+`ng
Tho^n tru+o+’c la`ng sau mo+` chi`m va`o su+o+ng kho’i
Hi`nh nhu+ kho^ng, hi`nh nhu+ co’ khi chie^`u ta`
Theo ddie^.u sa’o cu?a tre? cha(n tra^u, tra^u ve^` he^’t
Co` tra(‘ng ha`ng hai bay sa` xuo^’ng ddo^`ng ruo^.ng
(In “Li.ch su+? tu+ tu+o+?ng Vie^.t Nam”, Nguye^~n Dda(ng Thu.c)
If Thai Tong evoked people to come back to “home” in his sutta then Nhan Tong evoked an image of a man wanting to come back to the root of a simple Viet life in his attitude to life with the people. Tran Nhan Tong was loved by the people as a king and a buddhist monk as witnessed by the reaction of the people after his death at Yen Tu mountain temple.
In his life, he faced crisis during the Mongol invasions and succesfully preserved Dai Viet intact. Even in the time of crises, he had shown his encompassing benevolent character and was above all a humanist. His lasting legacy was his organising skill in the formation of the Truc Lam Zen and laying a systematic structure of monk lines in the sangha. His disciples Pha’p Loa and later Huye^`n Quang carried the work further. They are called the three founders of Truc Lam (“Truc Lam tam to^?”).
In conclusion, we can say that buddhism in the Tran period is the culmination of Vietnamese creativeness in fusing the 3 major elements of philosophical thoughts originated from India and China with strong national characteristic woven into a humanistic view. The framework of “tam dda.o ddo^`ng nguye^n” was solidly laid with buddhism as the central element by Tran Thai Tong and refined further by Tran Nhan Tong of Truc Lam Zen from Yen Tu mountain.
(3) The decline of buddhism and the rise of confucianism
The end of the Tran period also marked the decline of buddhism in the country. It started in the court as learned buddhist monks, scholars lose influence due to the rise of new class of confucian scholars.
These confucian men, “white face scholars” (“ba.ch die^.n thu+ sinh”) as they were called by the Tran kings and Ho Quy Ly, openly attacked buddhism and blamed buddhist as well as Taoist influence as the cause of the weak state.
They called for buddhist teaching to be excluded from the affair of the state, from the selective exams to recruit state officials. Instead, the Confucian teaching should be adopted exclusively. After the invasion of the Ming troops led by Chinese General Truong Phu, buddhism was finished as a major force in the cultural and spiritual development in Vietnam. The new dynasty did not like to see any remnant influence of the last dynasty lingering on as well as persons with past connection with the previous royals. Truc Lam therefore slowly disappeared from national life but was not yet extinct,
The last humanist, Nguye^~n Tra~i, who was an enlightened confucian, and descended from Tra^`n Nguye^n Ddan, was executed by the new rigidity of the Le dynasty in a false implicated plot of killing the king. Tra^`n Nguye^n Dda’n was Nguyen Trai maternal grand-father. He was one of the few confucian scholars who advocated a tolerant view toward others which are different from the strict confucianist one. As he said to Chu Van An : “Ki’nh la~o, su`ng nho dda(‘c chi’nh ta^n”
Confucian practices and teachings since then became the state ideology and adopted by successive kings. But buddhism survived in the populace and in various temples dotting throughout the Dai Viet kingdom. The light of Truc Lam was faint but not out.
The litterature of this period (15th century) under the earlier Le kings carried little buddhist influence except in the work of Nguyen Trai in “Ba?o Ki’nh ca?nh gio+’i”, “Tie^u du tu+.”, “ngo^n chi'” , Luong The Vinh and Le Thanh Tong.
(4) The vitality of buddhism in populace and “ba’c ho.c” culture and the restoration of buddhism in late Le-Mac and Trinh-Nguyen period (16th to 18th century)
During the period of Le ma.t-Mac period, popular culture produced two outstanding works :”Quan A^m thi. Ki’nh” and “Quan A^m Nam ha?i”. Anonymously written, “Quan A^m thi. ki’nh” is a literature work in lu.c ba’t (6-8 verses). It was widely known and reflected the influence of the buddhist beliefs and ancient Viet culture with regard to woman role in society. “Quan a^m Nam ha?i” also called “Pha^.t ba` chu`a Hu+o+ng” also showed the strong influence of popular and buddhist beliefs.
Both these anonymous works showed that buddhism, eventhough was declined and lost its influence in the official court literature (called “va(n chu+o+ng ba’c ho.c” or scholar literature), survived and was thriving in the Vietnamese common people.
Eventhough not sanctioned by the state, various monks of various schools did some buddhist works and propagated the dhamma. In this period, some monks from the Truc Lam Zen survived and reappeared in the Mac period and the Le restoration period (Le^ trung hu+ng) such as Cha^n Nghie^m, Vie^n Ca?nh and Vie^n Khoan. In the Mac period, a scholar Nguye^~n Bi?nh Khie^m who was tired of warring between factions in the country and the rigid structure of official life, retired to a bucolic life. His enlightened view toward nature and human beings was reflected in many of his literature work. Many of his students, later on, had influential roles in the mainly confucian society.
A student of Nguye^~n Bi?nh Khie^m, Nguye^~n Du+~, produced a remarkable volume of stories called “Truye^`n ky` ma.n lu.c”. This set of fantastic, fairy dream-like stories derived from many Viet popular beliefs. He developed them into stories with Taoist and buddhist beliefs to make them like legends with messages to people (especially confucian educated class). Stories such as “Thie^’u phu. Nam Xu+o+ng”, “Truye^.n Tu+` Thu+’c”, “Truye^.n Ca^y Ga.o”.. sounds like escape stories for disaffected or retired confucian scholars but it conveyed many morals, life beliefs from simple Viet people of the lower class. Clearly, the stories called for the return to “tam gia’o ddo^`ng nguye^n” in finding happiness in life and showed the inadequacy of a single confucian value.
Another literature work similar to “Truye^`n ky` ma.n lu.c” is “La^m tuye^`n ky` ngo^.”. It was produced anonymously. The theme to “tam gia’o” was also evoked.
During the Trinh-Nguyen period, both Trinh Lords and Nguyen Lords attempted to revive buddhism and construct new temples. But the efforts by Trinh Lords were of superficial values as they built new temples at paranomic and scenic sites to be used as retreat. However both Trinh and Nguyen lords did show some respect for monks and buddhism in general compared to the previous Le monarchs.
Also in this period, the influence of La^m Te^’ (Rinzai) Zen sect came to Vietnam with some typical monks such as Chuye^’t Chuye^’t, Cha^n Nguye^n, Nguye^n Thie^`u, Lie^~u Qua’n. Lie^~u Qua’n was an outstanding monk of the Rinzai Zen Sect. He was respected by the Nguye^~n Lord (Hie^’u Vu+o+ng) and was bestowed with the title “Chi’nh Gia’c Vie^n Ngo^.”. He founded Thie^`n To^n temple in Hue.
Today many buddhist, from Hue to the southern part of Vietnam, belonged to this La^m Te^’ (Rinzai) Sect. In fact, because of his pioneered work in the south, this became a branch of Rinzai and is called the Lie^~u Qua’n Sect.
Another Sect was also coming to Vietnam from China in Trinh-Nguyen period was the Ta`o Ddo^.ng (Soto) Zen Sect but its influence is minor.
Of the three Zen sects, Tru’c La^m is much more Vietnamese in style and thought characteristic but its influence to the scholar and intellectual class was still limited. Two outstanding monks of this period are Hu+o+ng Ha?i and Cha^n Kho^ng. Both of them continued the path of the 3 founders. They refused the rigid orthodox form of confucianism and adopted a more liberal approach with other different ideas. Cha^n Nguye^n wrote many Han and Nom books. One of these is “Tra^`n trie^`u Thie^`n to^ng chi? nam truye^`n ta^m quo^’c ngu+~ ha`nh” in which his outlined the foundation of Truc Lam zen and extended the “tam dda.o” concept. It is interesting to note that Cha^n Nguye^n first learned from the Minh Lu+o+ng of the Rinzai zen school but later came and continued the Truc Lam tradition.
(5) The attempt to go back to “tam giao” with buddhism playing a role in the late Le^ and Ta^y So+n period
In the world of chaos and feuding of the late Le^ and Ta^y So+n period, in which people despaired of warring, decay in morals and disintegration of society, many intellectual began to search for something that gave solution or comfort which the past may offer. The faint echo of the brillance of Yen Tu humanist “tam dda.o ddo^`ng nguye^n” Thie^`n was picked up by Ngo^ Thi` Nha^.m.
In his work, “Tru’c La^m to^ng chi? nguye^n thanh”, Ngo^ Thi` Nha^.m found that confucius monopolic wisdom as adopted by various monarchies did not solve the problem of the world and did not provide a comfort and moral foundation in the well-being of the people. He attempted (with Phan Huy I’ch) to combine Confucian and buddhist values into one. The application of each is appropriate for each different occasion. He admired the works and the ideas of the three founders of Truc Lam and in particular Tran Nhan Tong. He believed nostalgically that these 3 founders ‘s circumtances are similar to him and his associates such as Phan Huy Ich. And he thought that he can use Truc Lam as a foundation for him to develop his new ideas and work. In fact, in re-discovering the works of Truc Lam, he ecstasically declared that he may be the fourth founder of Truc Lam. But his work and knowledge about buddhism was limited as compared to his confucian knowledge.
But it was Le^ Quy’ Ddo^n who rejected the rigid orthodox confucianism and called for the return of the “tam gia’o” approach. In many of his works such as “Va^n dda`i loa.i ngu+~”, “Kie^’n va(n thie^`n da^.t”, “va^n dda`i ly’ khi'”, he openly questioned the attitude of the court and mandarin class in rejecting Tao and buddhist approaches.
“Bo.n nha` Nho chu’ng ta cha^’p quan ddie^?m na`y quan ddie^?m kia, mo^~i mo^~i bie^.n ba’c.. nha.o ba’ng ca? Tie^n Pha^.t sao ma` lu’ the^'” (In “Kie^’n va(n Thie^`n da^.t”)
(Why we, as confucian scholars, always rejected this and that idea, concept.. even ridiculed “Tie^n Pha^.t”. It was really ignorant)
His literature, religious and scientific works are of immense values to the future generation. These include “Dda.i Vie^.t tho^ng su+?”, “Thu+ kinh die^~n nghi~a”, “Kim cu+o+ng chu’ gia?i”, “Tho+ va(n Quo^’c a^m”..
Another literature work in this period was “Hu+’a su+? truye^.n” by Toa`n Nha^.t thie^`n su+. Toa`n Nha^.t was a monk, a poet, a writer in Tay Son period. His literature output is enormous, including works such as “tam gia’o nguye^n lu+u ky'”, “To^’ng vu+o+ng truye^.n”, “Tham thie^`n va~n”..
But his complete philosophical thought is contained in “Hu+’a su+? truye^.n va~n”.
(7) Buddhism as a dormant force under the Nguyen period
The Nguyen kings under Gia Long, Tu+. Dddu+’c. also did not see buddhism in favourable light. Although they did not ban buddhism as the case with Christianity, but they discouraged buddhism and sometimes attacked its philosophical ideas. They adopted Confucianism as a monopolic belief in the country exclusive of others. Ngo Tu`ng Cha^u once said to prince Ca?nh :
“Nha` vua ba`i tru+` dda.o Pha^.t la` vie^.c ra^’t hay, ba^`y to^i kho^ng bie^’t ta’n tha`nh la.i co`n ru+o+`m lo+`i.. To^i kho^ng ghe’t rie^ng gi` nha` su+. Nhu+ng mo^’i ha.i cu?a Pha^.t, La~o co`n qua’ ho+n Du+o+ng, Ma(.c, kho^ng the^? kho^ng no’i ddu+o+.c”
But not all Nguyen kings attacked buddhism. Minh Ma.ng and Thie^.u Tri. however did have some inclines toward buddhism. They allowed renovation and building new temples such as chu`a Da^u, Bu’t Tha’p, Pha^.t Ti’ch, Thie^n Mu… as well as visited some of them. But they did not receive many sympathetic ears from the court mandarins at that time.
Also in this period, we can see the influence of buddhism (especially Thie^`n to^ng) in other Vietnamese literature work such as “Truye^.n Kie^`u” and “va(n te^’ tha^.p loa.i chu’ng sinh” (VTTLCS) by Nguye^~n Du
Thie^.n ta^m o+? ta.i lo`ng ta
Chu+~ ta^m kia mo+’i ba(`ng ba chu+~ ta`i
Ai o+i la^’y Pha^.t la`m lo`ng
Tu+. nhie^n sie^u thoa’t o+? trong lua^n ho^`i
Many of Nguye^~n Du thoughts have traces of traditonal thougths of “tam dda.o” combining the 3 elements of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism (Nho, Pha^.t La~o) by the earlier predecessors. Nguye^~n Co^ng Tru+’ in “Vi.nh pha^.t” also reflected buddhist influence on this confucian scholar.
Also many well-known respected monks in Nguyen period such as Thanh Dda`m, Phu’c Ddie^`n, Tri.nh Hue^. with many buddhist and literature works appeared. Thanh Dda`m work includes “Pha’p hoa dde^` cu+o+ng”, “Ta^m kinh ba’t nha~ ba la ma^.t dda tru+.c gia?i”. He also provided notes and comments on many buddhist suttas.
Phu’c Ddie^`n had works such as “Tam gia’o qua?n khuy”, “Thie^`n uye^?n ke^’ dda(ng lu+o+.c luc.”.. He provided in details many description of the various temples in Hue. Both Phu’c Ddie^`n and Tri.nh Hue^. explored the “tam dda.o” in details and showed them how well they were woven together.
(8) Buddhism facing changes in vietnamese society
The arrival of French colonialism in Vietnam brought profound and cataclysmic change to Vietnam. Vietnam endured its most humiliating period in history. The collapse of the absolute monarchy, and then reduced to puppet, also brought down confucianism. Confucianism, which only took root in the court mandarin and scholar class, dissappeared when this class lost power. Buddhism, however, survived in the people.
The new world of ideas and changes brought by the French also challenged people belief in the old religions such as buddhism. Christianity was now gaining some footholds in some part of the country.
(9) The movement to restore buddhism to face modern age
At the beginning of the 20th century, many educated people in urban centres saw the needs to restore buddhism so that it can survive in modern times. The centre of buddhist development was shifted from the many isolated temples in the countryside, mountains to the big populated cities.
After seeing many people now turned to many different syncretic religious sects such as Cao Ddda`i, Hoa` Ha?o as well as witnessing many people followed and adopted the new Christian religion, the new educated buddhist people banded together and promote buddhism in the new light. They tried to infuse new life to buddhism in adapting to new challenges, ideas, progress in sciences, technology.. by establishing new journals, clubs and centres to discuss various issues. For the first time, the new medium to be used is the new writing system, Quo^’c ngu+~, that can be reached to the urban mass.
These movement were called “Phu.c sinh pha^.t gia’o”, “Phu.c hu+ng pha^.t gia’o”, “Cha^’n hu+ng pha^.t gia’o” ( or Buddhism restoration movement). Similar movement also happened at that time in China.
In 1920, a group of people in the south (then called Nam Ky) formed the club called “Lu.c hoa`”. This is the first society which was formed to help each others in understanding buddhism and buddhist situation both in the country and in the world. The two organising monks were : Kha’nh Hoa` and Thie^.n Chie^’u. They published two magazines : “Pha’p A^m” and “Pha^.t hoa’ ta^n thanh nie^n”. These are the first buddhist magazines to be published in “Quo^’c ngu+~”. And they reached wide audience who was mainly young educated professionals in the society.
Later in 1931, “Nam Ky` nghie^n cu+’u Pha^.t ho.c” society was formed with the “Tu+` bi a^m” as the main journal of the society. Also in this year, “Thie^`n gia’o to^ng thie^`n hu+~u ho^.i” was formed at Thien Thaipagoda in Saigon. It published the journal “Ba’t nha~ a^m” . In 1933, some monks in Tra Vinh, Tra on, Ben Tre formed “Lie^n ddoa`n ho.c xa~”. It published the magazine “Duy ta^m pha^.t ho.c”.
In 1932, “An nam Pha^.t ho.c ho^.i” was formed at Hue in the Central. Finally in 1934, “To^?ng ho^.i Pha^.t gia’o Ba(‘c ky`” was formed at Qua’n Su+’ pagoda in the North.
Parallel to development in polical issues in the press (especially in the south) during the 30’s, there were some fierce debates in the various papers and journals on some issues. These issues can be summarised as follow
(a) Does buddhist have to involve in liberation and political struggle against French colianialism ?. Is non-violence resistance is the way to do it ?
There are two opposing views on this question : one was of Thien Chie^’u and the other was of Nguyen Nang Quoc. Later on, Nguyen An Ninh also entered the scene.
(b) Is buddhism an theist or atheist religion ?
Eventhough buddhism is a atheist religion but at that time the non-theist characteristic of buddhism was not clear to many. Even the catholic persons entered the debate and said that buddhism must be theist religion!. Magazine such as “Tu+` bi a^m”, “Vi` chu’a” contained hotly debated articles.
(c) Is there a soul ? and what is the relationship between soul and body ? Is the soul eternal ?
This produced many discussion and acrimonous exchanges between buddhists in many journals of the days.
(d) Is there a paradise ?
This involved discussion on “thie^n ddu+o+`ng”, “ta^y phu+o+ng”, “ti.nh tho^?”, and “nie^’t ba`n” and what is defined as “paradise”. These discussion even appeared in daily papers such as “Dduo^’c Nha` Nam”..
It is interesting to see that while in the literary front, there were discussion on topics such as “art for the sake of art” (nghe^. thua^.t vi. nghe^. thua^.t) or “art for the sake of human advance” (nghe^. thua^.t vi. nha^n sinh), “new poetry” (“tho+ mo+’i”) and “old poetry” (“tho+ cu?”) and on political front, there were papers such as “La Lutte”, “la cloche felee”, “Echo annamite” advanced polical ideas… we can also see there were discussion and debates on issues of the minds in those years. It was the age of the new Vietnam began to emerge from the old decaying confucian heritage.
(I stop here now as i am tired of typing 🙂 and lack of recent materials and it is for the future historians and others who have some more up to date knowledge to continue further. My contribution to this buddhist thread started by anh Hoanh is now finished. The baton is back to anh Hoanh :-))
In this brief overview, i present some major faces and development of buddhism from the Tran period up to the beginning of this century. We have seen its evolution from the earliest day (in previous posts) and culminated in the Truc Lam Zen. We also have seen its fortunes throughout the ages.
Buddhism was ingrained in the Vietnamese culture and its vitality was supported by the populace. It is important to note that this is the key to its survival. While confucianism was finished and died out completetely after the state monarchy which elevated it as the nation main ideological foundation collapsed with the arrival of the modern age challenge.
The reason for buddhism to be embraced by the Vietnamese is that the Vietnamese culture was attuned to buddhist beliefs from ancient time. Buddhism had been adapted to the culture and woven into inseparable threads. Buddhism is also well adapted to modern times as witnessed by its current vitality and its contribution to the cultural life of the country.