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KUIJI (632682), religious name of the first patriarch of the Faxiang school of Chinese Buddhism, also known by the titles Dasheng Ji and Ci'en Dashi. Kuiji was the foremost disciple of the great pilgrim-monk Xuanzang, under whose tutelage he came to play an instrumental role in the second major transmission of Indian Yogācāra Buddhist thought into China.

Born into a family of famous generals, the Yuzhi, Kuiji received a classical Confucian education in preparation for the life of a court official, but decided while still in his teens to enter the Buddhist monastic order instead. In 645 Xuanzang returned from his extended study of Buddhism in India and was commissioned by Taizong, the second Tang emperor, to oversee the translation of the numerous Buddhist texts he had brought back to China. Upon his ordination several years later, Kuiji was assigned by imperial order to Xuanzang's translation team and soon became one of his most capable students. As Xuanzang's main assistant for much of the project, Kuiji appears to have been the actual editor of the influential Cheng weishi lun, a synopsis of early Indian scholarship on Yogācāra Buddhism.

After the death of Xuanzang (664), Kuiji turned from translation to exegesis, writing extensive commentaries on most of the works translated by the imperial project, a corpus reflecting his interest in a wide range of Buddhist issues both philosophical and practical. He was especially concerned with the doctrine of vijñaptimātratā, which holds that the world as we know it is the result of a psychologically conditioned process of cognitive construction. Kuiji also devoted considerable literary effort to working out scholastic problems associated with the stages of progression along the path to liberation. In addition, he wrote important works on Buddhist logic and, consistent with his Yogācāra affiliation, his personal religious practice emphasized devotion to the bodhisattva Maitreya.

In spite of its early prominence, the Faxiang school soon experienced a rapid decline, beginning with a shift in imperial patronage that was already apparent in Kuiji's lifetime. The conservative, highly technical, and very scholastic version of Indian Yogācāra thought represented by the school proved antithetical to the prevailing fashion of Tang Buddhism, which had begun to develop independently of the continuing Indian tradition. To bridge this gap Kuiji sought to interpret unfamiliar Indian Yogācāra ideas in terms of contemporary Chinese Buddhist vocabulary (see especially his Weishi zhang, or Essay on Vijñaptimātratā ). His views became the subject of increasing polemic, however, and the school was soon eclipsed by the more indigenous Huayan and Tiantai doctrines. Particularly unacceptable to Kuiji's contemporaries was the Yogācāra affirmation of three distinct (and unequal) religious careers and its corollary that some beings, the icchantika s, were inherently incapable of any religious development and were thus forever barred from liberation.

Despite the eclipse of the Faxiang school, Kuiji's commentaries and essays continued to be widely read throughout East Asia. His students introduced Faxiang thought to Japan, where, as Hosso Buddhism, it became the basis for one of the historically most influential of the Nara schools. While the full range of Kuiji's contribution has not yet been fully assessed by modern scholarship, his greatest achievement may be seen in his effort to catalog and preserve details of the scholastic period of Indian Yogācāra thought, especially since he recorded material from texts that now no longer survive in the original Sanskrit.

See Also

Xuanzang; Yogācāra.


Besides his extensive commentaries, Kuiji wrote a number of essays, many of which were collected in his doctrinal compendium, the Dasheng fayuan yilin zhang (T. D. no. 1861). For a translation and study of the most important of these, his Essay on Vijñaptimātratā (Weishi zhang ), see my study "The Vijñaptimātratā Buddhism of the Chinese Monk K'uei-chi" (Ph. D. diss., University of British Columbia, 1980). On Kuiji's relation to the Indian Yogācāra tradition, see my article "The Trisvabhāva Doctrine in India and China: A Study of Three Exegetical Models," Bukkyō bunka kenkyūjo kiyō 21 (1982): 97119. In his Buddhist Formal Logic (London, 1969), Richard S. Y. Chi has written an excellent study of early Indian Buddhist Nyāya in China based primarily on Kuiji's commentaries to the Nyāyapraveśa. The rather limited traditional sources for Kuiji's biography have been thoroughly analyzed and summarized by Stanley Weinstein in "A Biographical Study of Tz'ŭ-ên," Monumenta Nipponica 15 (AprilJuly 1959): 119149.

New Sources

Shih, Heng-ching, trans. A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā-Hdaya-Sūtra). Translated from the Chinese of K'uei-chi in Collaboration with Dan Lusthaus. Berkeley, 2001.

Sponberg, Alan. "Meditation in Fa-hsiang Buddhism." In Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism, edited by Peter N. Gregory, pp. 1543. Honolulu, 1986.

Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London, 1989. See Chapter 4.

Alan Sponberg (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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