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A Brief History of the Chinese Esoteric School


Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra, brought Esoteric Buddhism from India to China

during the Tang Dynasty around 716 to 720 AD; introducing the Chinese to a mysterious and dynamic

ancient culture, which includes methods for self-realization, to achieve enlightenment with this very body

in one lifetime, to protect a person or an empire, to affect a person’s fate after death, and, particularly

popular, to bring rain in times of drought.

All three masters had absorbed the essence of Confucian and Taoist (pronounced Dow-ist) teachings

and were well received by the emperor Tang Xuanzong.  Their teachings quickly became popular from

the court to the commoners, enabling the Esoteric School to instantly flourish.

Vajrabodhi had studied various kinds of Buddhism and received complete transmission from

Nagabodhi, who in turn received from Nagarjuna. The Yoga Tantra, Sarva-Tathagata-Tattva-Samgraha,

partially translated by Vajrabodhi, along with the  Mahavairocana Sutra translated by Subhakarasimha,

provides the foundation of the Mantrayana or Esoteric School in China, where the Shingon and esoteric

branch of the Tendai came from.

Amoghavajra, a prolific translator, and especially noted for rainmaking and stilling storms, was the

most famous Yogacharya of his time.  He was the disciple of Vajrabodhi and Subhakarasimha, and

became the Lineage Holder of the ‘Not-Two Dharma Teaching.’  Empress Wu Zetian decreed the Daxing

Shansi Monastery, located in today’s Xi’an, as the  first abhiseka-bodhi-mandala and awarded

Amoghavajra the title ‘National Master.’  Tang emperor granted dharma instruments to Amoghavajra, thus

began the Esoteric School in China.

As the saying goes, “Good things are often turned about.”  The immeasurable, virtuous Dharma had

encountered defamation, which resulted in ruthless attitudes towards the Esoteric School, the school that

has the Buddha lineage and also the essence of the  Confucian and Taoist teachings.  The situation

worsened to the point that even Amoghavajra’s most  famous disciple, Huiguo, was rumoured to go

eastward with the famous Japanese monk, Kukai.

Historically, the Esoteric School was thought to be lost when emperor Tang Wuzong, fearful of the

popularity and the magical abilities of the practice, banned the teachings.  In reality, Amoghavajra's last

disciple, Huisu, who received all the religious instruments and transmission, became the Dharma Lineage

Holder.  The lineage was hidden away for twelve centuries.

Dechan Jueren, Master Yu Tianjian, is Mahavairocana Dharma King, the 49th Lineage Holder of the

Esoteric School, and the 47th Lineage Holder of the Linji Chan School, Speaker at U.N. Millennium World

Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, and Special Advisor First Secretary to the World

Council of Religious Leaders.