Buddhism was most likely brought to Vietnam first by
well-known monks who were respected by their contemporaries. True too,
many of their names were not written down and have thus been lost to
history. The few mentioned in this chapter are those fortunate to have
had their names passed down from generation to generation. They
certainly were not the very first ones; however, below they are regarded
as such because they are the first to receive mention in historical
Mahajivaka and Kalacarya, both monks, arrived
together in Luy Lau, Governor Shishee’s headquarters, at the end of
Emperor Lingdi’s reign in the Han dynasty (168-189 AD). According to Co Chau Phap Van Phat Ban Hanh Ngu Luc,
upon their arrival in Giao Chau, Kalacarya decided to stay while
Mahajivaka continued on to China. Mahajivaka’s story is mentioned in a
number of Chinese and Vietnamese documents, each bringing out a unique
aspect. Put together, they give a full picture of his way of preaching.
Hue Hao’s Cao Tang Truyen tells the story of Mahajivaka as follows:
Mahajivaka was born in India and traveled to many
places, both civilized and uncivilized, without ever stopping for long
anywhere. To his disciples and attendants, his actions were
unpredictable. He traveled from India to Funan, then along the coast to
Giao Chau and Guangzhou by the end of Jin Emperor Huidi’s dynasty
(290-306). He came to Luoyang, then returned to India after unrest
The Chinese historical text, Fozu Li Dai Tong Zai,
contains mention of him: "In the fourth year of the Yongping era
(Huidi, 294 AD), an Indian monk named Mahajivaka arrived in Luoyang".
Thien Uyen Tap Anh, a Vietnamese
historical document, tells of Dam Thien’s reference to the Vietnamese
Bonze Thong Bien, citing Buddhism’s introduction into China: "Kalacarya,
Mahajivaka, Kang Zenghui, Zhi Gangliang, and Mouzi had been already in
Giao Chau." Among the five Buddhist monks referred to in the book, only
one was Chinese, while the others were South and Central Asians.
Mahajivaka’s preaching activity in Giao Chau,
however, appears in no Vietnamese nor Chinese records. Historians can
only find reference to his work in China on which to base his activities
in Vietnam. In the Cao Tang Truyen Hue Hao writes:
Mahajivaka was an Indian who traveled throughout
China and uncivilized regions but without any permanent residence. What
he did was wonderful, unusual and unpredicted by his contemporaries.
From India he came to Funan, then along various coasts to Giao Chau and
Guangzhou, doing many sacred and unusual things.
Arriving in Tuong Duong, one pleasant day in Nghe An
province, he was refused entry onto a ferry to cross the river because
he looked so shabby. Strangely enough, when the ferry reached the
northern bank, Mahajivaka had already crossed. Seeing two tigers waving
their tails and ears, Mahaiivaka petted them and they suddenly moved
away. Witnessing this, people on the two riverbanks followed him.
By the end of the Huidi reign, when Mahajivaka came
to Luoyang, local monks held a ritual to greet him. Mahajivaka quietly
kneeled down, maintaining his composure. Hue Hao continues by recounting
that Mahajivaka used his supernatural powers to cure a number of sick
people, including Dang Dinh Van, chief of the Hoanh Duong region.
Living then in Luoyang was a monk named Truc Phap
Hanh who was loved and respected by the local people. In one
conversation between him and Mahajivaka, he said, "You are a senior monk
who reaches the peak in your path to enlightenment. It is very kind of
you to give us some good advice."
Mahajivaka responded, "You should rally the people,"
preaching that one "should watch his words, never commit any crime and
do good things".
Truc Phap Hanh insisted, "You were kindly requested
to preach things we have never heard of, but what you said has already
been learned by heart [memorized] by an eight-year old! Such being the
case, there is no need to make such a request to you."
Mahajivaka smiled and said, "Though memorized by the
time one reaches 100 years of age, even, what is the use of memorizing
it? Everyone knows how to respect people who reach the peak of the Way
in their religion but fail to know how themselves to reach it. What a
pity! I have said a few things which, if put into practice, will be very
When Mahajivaka left the crowd, hundreds of people
invited him to lunch at their houses. Mahajivaka accepted all of them
and on the next day he was seen at 500 different houses. Initially, all
the hosts claimed he had come to their house only. Later they realized
that he had used his supernatural powers to multiply himself and appear
at every house simultaneously.This unbelievable story is surely
fictitious. Hue Hao, a great admirer of Mahajivaka who shared the same
views, likely did not check these stories and eagerly wrote them down
for people to read.
It is mentioned in Theravada and Mahayana sutras that monks were given supernatural powers (called "Abhidjnas"
in Buddhist texts and "magic" by Chinese books) which cannot be
obtained by ordinary people. But Buddha often recommended that monks not
use those powers because it would mislead people and make them haughty.
The strange things done by Mahajivaka possibly originated from these
THE LEGEND OF KALACARYA AND MAN NUONG
Unlike Mahajivaka, Kalacarya did not continue his
trip on to China, but stayed in Vietnam. His name and deeds were closely
related to the legend of Man Nuong mentioned in many historical books
and legends of Vietnam, and to the annals of Phap Van (or Dau) Pagoda,
one of the most ancient in Vietnam, in what is now Ha Bac, Vietnam.
The story of Kalacarya and Man Nuong was highly
legendary and written differently in various books. We have read the
historical legends of Kalacarya and Man Nuong in the hope of inquiring
into the historical values hidden behind the legends.
According to a passage in Bao Cuc Truyen, when
arriving in Luy Lau, Kalacarya and Mahajivaka met a monk called Tu Dinh
who invited them to stay. Mahajivaka refused, continuing his eastward
journey. Kalacarya remained in Tu Dinh’s, entering Buddhist ascetic
monkhood. With great veneration, Tu Dinh asked his daughter A Man to
serve Kalacarya. After one month, Kalacarya told of his intention to
leave. In response, Tu Dinh requested Kalacarya to give him Buddhist
instruction and predict his future. Kalacarya answered:
Being too busy with sifting rice, one fails to
realize that it is already dark; then one loses his way and gets
confused. When confused, one becomes indifferent to all, sages and
ordinary people as well. Now that you have entered my religion, you have
a predestined attachment. Your daughter, A Man, will be bestowed a big
religious favor. When she meets with a ‘savior’, she will become an
important vessel of the Law [the Dharma]. Do you understand what I mean?
Kalacarya agreed to stay longer. Sometimes he stood
on one foot saying prayers for seven days and nights. One day he read
prayers and then disappeared. His voice was heard from the peak of a
mountain in the West. People tried in vain to find him. What they could
find was only some verses written on a big tree and on the mountain
peak. Some thought that the monk had died while others said he had left
for other places.
This story in Bao Cuc Truyen is significantly different from the same story in Linh Nam Trich Quai by Tran The Phap, though the personalities are the same. In the latter, the character was named Man Nuong. The Kalacarya in Bao Cuc Truyen
foresaw what would happen to Man Nuong when he said: Your daughter, A
Man will be bestowed a big religious favor. When she meets with a
‘savior’, she will become an important vessel of the Law."
The phrase "vessel of the Law" ("Phap khi") here can be understood as a tool or a means to practice Buddhism. Kalacarya was ‘possibly referring to the four vessels: "Phap Van (Dharmmegha, Buddhism as a fertilizing cloud), "Phap Vu" (The rain of Buddha-truth which fertilizes all beings), "Phap Loi" (The thunder of dharma, awakening man from stupor and stimulating the growth of virtue, the awful voice of Buddha-truth) and "Phap Dien" (The lightning of the truth). Based on concrete details about Man Nuong and the four vessels in Linh Nam Trich Quai, Tran Van Giap in Vietnamese Buddhism from its beginning to the 13th century agrees with this interpretation.
In the story of Kalacarya and Man Nuong in Linh Nam Trich Quai,
the name Kalacarya was transliterated into Vietnamese as "Gia La Do Le"
which was possibly another transcription of the Sanskrit Kalacarya,
meaning the black sage. This strange name suggests that Kalacarya was
not an Aryan but a Dravidian, the aboriginal population of Southern
India before it was conquered by Aryan tribes from the North. The
Dravidians were pushed further to the South, so Kalacarya was possibly
from the south. Man Nuong was not the true daughter of Tu Dinh, but an
orphan with a miserable life who spoke in a non-standard accent.
Nevertheless, she had a firm belief in religion, taking care of the
cooking for monks, including Kalacarya. The following paragraph is
similar to one in Kien Van Tieu Luc by Le Quy Don:
Sometimes in the fifth lunar month when the night was
short, Man Nuong hurriedly finished her cooking. When everything was
ready, the monks had not finished their prayers, everyone returning to
his room. Kalacarya found no other way than to step over her body.
Suddenly Man Nuong felt her heart throbbing and she got pregnant. Three
or four months later, Man Nuong felt ashamed, leaving the place.
Kalacarya also left for a pagoda by the riverbank and stayed there.
When the time came, Man Nuong gave birth to a baby
girl. She came to see the monk and handed the baby over to him.
Kalacarya carried the baby to the place under a banyan tree at the
crossroads by the river head, putting her into the tree stem and saying:
"I entrust this Buddhist adherent to you, take care of her and you will
become a Buddhist disciple." Before their separation, the monk gave her
a stick, and said: "You carry this stick home. Whenever there is a
drought you will just wave the stick, — the water will come out to save
When Man Nuong was 80 years old, the banyan tree
suddenly collapsed, drifting on the river to the ferry front of the
pagoda. People came to cut at the tree, but all their axes and knives
broke in the process: Some 300 villagers tried to pull it out of the
water, but the tree did not move. Yet, when Man Nuong, who went down to
the ferry to wash her hands, slightly pulled at it, the tree suddenly
drifted ashore. Everybody was stupefied, asking her to pull the tree up
so that carpenters could make four statues of Buddha. But when they
worked to the core of the tree where the monk had hidden the baby, their
tools broke and that part of the tree turned into a slab of stone. The
workmen took the stone out and threw it into the water. Suddenly, all
those who threw the stone into the water were killed. Everyone implored
Man Nuong for mercy, and then asked a fisherman to dive into the river
and bring the stone up. People staged a procession for the stone into
the Buddha temple for their worship.
The four statues were named Phap Van, Phap Vu, Phap
Loi and Phap Dien and put into the Dau pagoda for worship. Every year,
on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, people from different parts
of the country, young and old, male and female, would gather at this
pagoda for entertainment and singing. This ritual was named the Buddha
More details were revealed in the book Co Chau Phap Van Phat Ban Hanh, a book of historical legends written in verse around the year 1752:
During Shishee’s time, there lived in the Linh Quang
Pagoda of Phat Tich village, on the northern bank of the Duong river, a
monk called Kalacarya who set up a secluded hut to preach his religion:
In Tien Son hamlet, Tien Du district
Stands the pagoda of Linh Quang on the Phoenix mountain
The green forest is called the hill of Ma Mang
Next to Thach That exists a village called Tien Mountain,
Where stays a monk from the far away country of India
Who, called Kalacarya, entered the reclusive Monkhood.
Setting up a secluded hut under a banyan tree
Where he lived and read prayers daily.
It is revealed through the above verses that the
monk’s name was Kalacarya who had come from India. He did not stay in
the Linh Quang Pagoda which was nearby, but in a secluded hut under a
banyan tree to enter his monastic seclusion. The place was the Tien Son
hamlet, of Tien Du district. The book also recounted there lived in Man
Xa hamlet (Ha Man village) on this bank of Duong river the family of Tu
Dinh who had a beautiful daughter called Man Nuong. One day, she slept
at the door of Kalacarya’s room. The monk, who had just returned from a
religious mission, unconsciously stepped over her body and Man Nuong
became pregnant. After 14 months, on the eight of the fourth moon, she
gave birth to a daughter:
The woman’s longing for day and night,
The baby to be born though it is fourteen months or more.
Then on the eighth of the fourth moon in summer [came one]
Who looks beautiful, with five-color halos around her body.
The above verses described Man Nuong’s daughter as
the reincarnation of Buddha: her 14-month pregnancy term, the birthday
on the eighth day of the fourth moon - also the Buddha’s birthday
recognized by northern Buddhist countries - and the last verse’s
reference to the baby’s body being covered with five-color halos.
The book went on:
Man Nuong, as instructed by her father, handed over
the baby to a monk who carried the baby to the old banyan tree, knocking
at it and saying some prayers. Suddenly the tree cracked into two for
the monk to put the baby inside. The tree then shut again and blossomed.
The monk and Man Nuong returned home. The monk then gave her his stick
saying that whenever drought appears, if she just plants the stick on
the ground, there would be water.
Once when a great drought occurred, Man Nuong did as
told by her master, realizing that it was effective. "Suddenly water is
following in streams, people everywhere, in the North, the South, the
East, or the West who were longing for water, did not know why [there
suddenly came water]." Then in the year of the Mouse, a storm pulled
down the banyan tree which had drifted to the Dau River. All the strong
men in the village came to pull the tree ashore but it did not move.
When Man Nuong went to the river to wash her hands, the tree was bobbing
on the river, seemingly to show its gladness. Man Nuong threw out the
strap of her bodice, and the tree drifted ashore at once. That night
Shishee, who was asleep in his office, was told in a dream by a deity to
carve the banyan into four statues.
The workmen cut the tree into four pieces, each of
which was carved into a statue. When this was done, rituals were held to
give names to the statues. When the name-giving ritual was organized
for the first statue, a five-colored cloud appeared in the sky, hence
its name was "Phap Van" which was brought to Thien Dinh (or Dau)
Pagoda for worship. Then a similar ceremony was held for the second
statue, when it was showering, its name was "Phap Vu" which was brought to Thanh Dao pagoda (namely Dau pagoda) for worship. Similarly, the third statue was given the name of "Phap Loi" and the fourth "Phap Dien":
when the rituals were held, thunder and lightning appeared in the sky,
and the statues were brought to Phi Tuong pagoda (namely, Tuong pagoda)
and Phuong Quan Pagoda (namely Dan pagoda) respectively for worship.
A solemn ceremony was held for the ‘anointing’ of the four statues:
People gathered along streets like in a fairy tale,
To attend the inauguration of the four statues,
How cheerful it was!
With the beat of gongs and drums,
And the seemingly endless explosion of firecrackers.
From then on, every year on the eighth day of the
fourth lunar month, rituals have been held at the four pagodas where the
four statues are venerated. Noted monks from various localities also
return to Luy Lau for religious devotion. The names of the four statues
were known even in China, so the Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Jin
dynasty (323-325 AD) sent his general Tao Kan and an army to Vietnam to
take the statues, but:
Though 1000 troops were sent,
They could not carry the statue,
Which became as heavy as Altai Mountain.
The next day 3000 troops came,
Hoping to carry the statue to the North,
But these Chinese soldiers fell dead.
That stupefied Tao Kan,
Who then prayed to Buddha for mercy,
And was willing to bring the statue back to the pagoda,
Being aware that it was impossible to carry it to the North.
Through these excerpts, the allegorical nature of Co Chau Phap Van Phat Ban Hanh
is obvious. The allegories here make it easier to understand and
remember that Vietnam’s Phap Van Buddha was determined to stay in
Vietnam and not be taken to China. He stayed and protected historical
records and wrote war songs for the anti-Chinese resistance under the Ly
dynasty. Phap Van was also carried to Thai Nguyen, joining victorious
Vietnamese troops. Phap Van Buddha not only took part in the
resistance war against foreign aggressors but also helped Vietnamese
peasants by creating favorable weather and good crops.
During his rule (1072-1128), King Ly Nhan Tong twice asked his men to stage a procession for Phap Van
Buddha from Bao Thien and Khau Son pagodas to the capital city so that
he himself could pray for good weather. In 1136 when the country was
struck with a great drought, Phap Van was also carried in
procession to Thang Long (present-day Hanoi) for the King’s mother to
pray herself. Later, it rained for three consecutive days.
The stories above - although the reality of what they
assert is questionable and deserves further examination - at least
demonstrate popular belief about the four statues, which are strongly
connected to the Vietnamese national spirit.
MOUZI AND LI HUO LUN
Mouzi, whose real name was Mou Bo, was a Han Chinese
born circa 167 AD in Shangwu of present day Guangxi and Guangdong
provinces. He was originally a Taoist, but after migrating to Vietnam,
he became a Buddhist. Later at an advanced age, he returned to China.
Mou Bo’s Li Huo Lun (Ly Hoac Luan in
Vietnamese) was the first Chinese attempt at an explanatory work on
Buddhism. It was written in question-answer form and was frequently used
by Indian theorists on Buddhism to disseminate the religion about 200
years after Gautama Buddha entered Nirvana. The title, Li Huo Lun, means a book to correct people’s misinformation about Buddhism. "Li" means to treat or settle. "Huo" denotes things that mislead people, puzzles, or errors. Finally, "Lun" is used to describe an opinion, view, or statement. Li Huo Lun was collected and published by Zeng You in the sixth century.
The fact that Li Huo Lun was mentioned in both
the Sui and Tang dynasty’s imperial records shows that it was widely
known among the scholarly circles of China. In Sui’s records, Mouzi is
wrongly labeled as Mou Yong, a high-ranking officer, although Mouzi said
himself that he had never been a mandarin. This was surely a mistake,
for Mou Yong’s real name was Zi You and he lived during Emperor
Zhangdi’s reign, while Mouzi lived during Lingdi’s term in power. While
still young, Mouzi was known as a smart student who read a lot as he
attested in the foreword of his book: "I, Mouzi, love all books, big or
small. Though I do not like the art of warfare, I also read books on it.
Though I read books about immortal deities and fairies, I do not
believe in their immortality." We can assume that Mouzi was a rather
learned man with an independent mind and skeptical of what was written.
Li Huo Lun’s foreword also
tells of the aftermath of Emperor Lingdi’s death. China’s later fall
into turmoil compelled people, including Mouzi and his mother, to seek
asylum in Giao Chau where peace prevailed and Shishee had his
headquarters. As Mouzi told the reader, when he was young he had been
widely known for his scholarship, earning him an invitation to a
The governor Shishee, who knew that I had some
schooling, invited me to assume a post. I was young then, eager for more
study, disheartened by the troubled times and with no desire to become a
mandarin. I refused.... With his admiration for my educational records
and knowing that I had not yet held any post, the governor expressed his
wish to give me a high-ranking position. But I used my illness as the
pretext to refuse his offer.
The book’s foreword also reveals that among the
Northern refugees in Giao Chau at the time, many believed in and
practiced the doctrine of abstaining from eating in order to reach
immortality, as advocated by Taoism: Mouzi used the Five Confucian
Classics to argue with those people, — who were unable to answer his
questions. This shows that though a Confucian and a Taoist believer
(more of the former than the latter), Mouzi rejected the ‘eternal life’
theory advocated by a Taoist sect. It is also known that there was then
another Taoist sect called Sheng Tan which advocated a free lifestyle.
Known among this group was Liu Ling who was drunk all day. Having fully
realized the sublimity of the Taoist philosophy, Mouzi separated himself
from this sect, neither adopting a free lifestyle nor taking on austere
practices in order to achieve eternal life.
After his mother’s death, Mouzi refused to go to
Lingling and Guiyang as requested by the governor of Giao Chau. Then he
was "determined to follow Buddhism and study Taoism to savor Taoist
mysticism as good wine, to enjoy the Five Classics. Most of the ordinary
people thought that Mouzi had betrayed the Classics and had adopted a
heterodox creed. He thought it of no use to dispute this, and did not
directly argue. Nevertheless, using his pen, he summarized statements by
sages to explain his own thought.
Li Huo Lun contains 37 questions and answers, chiefly challenges to Buddhism by Confucianists, the last nine by Taoists.
Questions l and 2 concern Gautama Buddha. Here Mouzi
describes the Buddha as a superman with supernatural powers, and not
just only as a historical figure. This view of the Buddha is more in
concert with Mahayana Buddhism than with the Theravada sect. In Pali
prayer books more stress is placed on the Buddha’s mysterious and
supernatural powers, which are indescribable and as profound as the deep
sea and less stress is put on Buddha as a superman.
In Mouzi’s answers, he gives his view on why the
Buddha was born where he was. "Buddha was born in India just because it
lies in the center of the world and it is a neutral place."
Questions 3 and 4 deal with Buddhist doctrine. With
an argument similar to the preceding, Mouzi praised the profundity and
wondrousness of worldly thought and language. With a religious belief
obviously influenced by Taoism, Mouzi wrote, "One should be led by
nobody, lead nobody, rise to nowhere and press nowhere from underneath."
Question 5 considers the anxiety caused by too many
Buddhist prayer books to learn thoroughly. Meanwhile, Confucianism is
completely contained in the Five Classics, containing no more than
80,000 words. The question and answer book shows that during Mouzi’s
time in Giao Chau, namely in the early second century, there had been
thousands of Buddhist prayer books.
Questions 7, 8, 9, and 10 and their answers reveal
that the questioner was a Confucian to the bone, who took Confucian
teachings as the standard to evaluate everything. The questioner asks,
"Why should one who has read the Five Classics read Buddhist books? Why
have Buddhist monks shaved their beards and heads, abandoned their wives
and children, as well as their property which was passed down to them
by their parents?"
Rejecting this narrow-minded literal Confucian
interpretation, Mouzi answers, "When doing a big good thing, one should
not be petty with details. For instance, when the father falls into a
pond, the big good thing is saving him from drowning while other acts
such as pulling his legs and arms or putting him upside down to drain
the water from his lungs are only minor details."
Questions 11 and 12 queried the then Giao Chau
Buddhist monk’s way of dressing and behavior, which were a world apart
from normal customs. Again, this showed Confucian narrow-mindedness,
coming from those who are dogmatically stuck to Confucius’s words and
practices. These people fail to realize that Buddhism is world-denying
in character without indulging in honors and privileges as well as
worldly beauty. The Buddhist monks’ way of dressing and behavior must
symbolize that Buddhist idea. Question 11 contains the complaint that
monks in Giao Chau wore red frocks and failed to observe the Confucian
rule of conduct with others: for instance, they failed to kneel down or
welcome others. Through this question one can see that Buddhism in
Vietnam during Mouzi’s time was directly influenced by Indian Buddhism,
hence the local monks also dressed in red frocks and like Indian monks
observed rules of conduct.
Questions 13 and 14 queried Buddhism’s theory of
rebirth, as well as of life and death, and of demons and deities in
Buddhism. In his answers, Mouzi merely quoted Zhou Gong, a renowned
Confucian who had also spoken of demons, saying: "I have many talents,
and I know how to worship demons". Gong also practiced necromancy, a
custom of ordinary Chinese proving that even the Chinese believe that in
the dead person there is something that does not die, that is a sort of
Questions 15 exposes the ‘Great Han’ ideology or
Chinese vanity. The questioner recalls Confucius’s statement: "The
regions of Yi and Di with Kings are not better than the kingless land of
Xia," along with Mencius’s statement: "I often hear that the Han people
are used to assimilate the Yi and Di, but not that the Yi and Di
assimilate the Xia."
Mouzi once again in his answer was strongly critical
of the ‘Great Han’ ideology, saying that, without going anywhere and
without seeing the world, the Han thought at once that they were the
best in the world, and without studying the philosophies of other
countries, they thought at once that Confucianism was an absolute truth
and superior to all other doctrines. It was just like a person who only
saw the river and stream but not the sea, who only saw the light of a
torch but not the light of the sun.
Question 16 points out that among the Buddhist monks
in Vietnam "Some are alcoholics, some get married, some are traders, and
some are liars." Mouzi replied that whether a religion is good or bad
was not due to [the behavior of] its followers, but due to the religion
itself. In every religion, including Confucianism, there are good and
Questions 17, 18, 19 and 20 are all about
Confucianists’ trifling queries over alms-giving, and about the use of
examples and images in preaching religion, as in Buddhist prayerbooks.
Question 21 is about the day when Buddhism was introduced into China. Mouzi wrote in his answer:
When King Han Mingdi saw in his dream a golden
person flying in front of his palace, he asked his officials, who told
him it was Buddha. The King immediately sent his envoy to the country
called Dai Nhuc Chi to copy the 42-chapter prayer books and bring the
copy home. Then he ordered the construction of a pagoda and the carving
of a Buddha statue for veneration. From then on the number of people who
followed Buddhism has increased.
Here Mouzi confirms that Buddhism has been in China since the first century (67 AD) when King Han Mingdi ruled the country.
Questions 22-28 center on Mouzi’s evaluation of
Buddhism and his way of quoting Confucius’s teachings, not the Buddha’s,
to defend Buddhism. Once again, Mouzi uses examples to compare Buddhism
either to Confucianism or Taoism: "Buddhism is like Heaven’s well,
while Confucianism and Taoism, the cave and hill. Buddhism is like the
sun, while Confucianism and Taoism, the torch. Buddhism is the fruit,
while Confucianism and Taoism, the flower and leaves."
In Questions from 29 to the end, Taoism
representatives ask: Does eternal life exist in Buddhism? Mouzi says
that Taoist books say nothing about abstaining from eating. This was
invented by the Taoist hermits. Moreover, Mouzi added, though not eating
rice, the Taoist hermits ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of alcohol.
Therefore, illogical for they all died young. Mouzi recalled that the
three Taoist hermits who had taught him all died before reaching 80.
In short, the Taoist hermits bragged about what they
had really invented and not found in Taoist books. Mouzi quoted Laozi as
saying, "Even the sky and earth cannot exist forever, so how could
man?" Here, Mouzi rejects the Taoist hermits’ theory of eternal life.
At the end of Li Huo Lan, the
questioners give nothing short of compliments to Mouzi for his complete
explanation of what they had never heard of. They, too, converted to
How did the above phenomenon of Mouzi and his book Li Huo Lun
shed light on the Buddhist situation in Vietnam during the early common
[Christian] era? Based on an analysis of this text, the following
points can be made regarding Mouzi’s role in propagating Buddhism in
Giao Chau and on nascent Vietnamese Buddhism during the beginning of
1. Contrary to some previous writers, Mouzi was not
among the first Buddhist missionaries in Vietnam. He firmly grasped
Confucianism and Taoism, and was already a noted scholar even while
young. From Shangwu (southern China) he and his mother fled his
disturbed country during the last years of the post Han dynasty to the
peaceful Giao Chau. They arrived in Luy Lau, the capital city of Giao
Chau, a thriving Buddhist center.
2. With whom did Mouzi study Buddhism? Certainly with
Indian as well as Caucasian monks, and possibly with Vietnamese monks.
Nothing was mentioned about whether Mouzi knew Sanskrit or Pali. So in
Luy Lau there had to have been many Chinese translations of the Buddhist
canon and books. Many Buddhist convents and pagodas were likely places
where Buddhism was taught, attracting many students including Mouzi..