Buddhism and Buddhists in China
By Lewis Hodus
Public Domain Books
This volume is the third to be published of a series on “The World’s Living Religions,” projected in 1920 by the Board of Missionary Preparation of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America. The series seeks to introduce Western readers to the real religious life of each great national area of the non-Christian world.
Buddhism is a religion which must be viewed from many angles. Its original form, as preached by Gautama in India and developed in the early years succeeding, and as embodied in the sacred literature of early Buddhism, is not representative of the actual Buddhism of any land today. The faithful student of Buddhist literature would be as far removed from understanding the working activities of a busy center of Buddhism in Burmah, Tibet or China today as a student of patristic literature would be from appreciating the Christian life of London or New York City.
Moreover Buddhism, like Christianity, has been affected by national conditions. It has developed at least three markedly different types, requiring, therefore, as many distinct volumes of this series for its fair interpretation and presentation. The volume on the Buddhism of Southern Asia by Professor Kenneth J. Saunders was published in May, 1923; this volume on the Buddhism of China by Professor Hodous will be the second to appear; a third on the Buddhism of Japan, to be written by Dr. R. C. Armstrong, will be published in 1924. Each of these is needed in order that the would be student of Buddhism as practiced in those countries should be given a true, impressive and friendly picture of what he will meet.
A missionary no less than a professional student of Buddhism needs to approach that religion with a real appreciation of what it aims to do for its people and does do. No one can come into contact with the best that Buddhism offers without being impressed by its serenity, assurance and power.
Professor Hodous has written this volume on Buddhism in China out of the ripe experience and continuing studies of sixteen years of missionary service in Foochow, the chief city of Fukien Province, China, one of the important centers of Buddhism. His local studies were supplemented by the results of broader research and study in northern China. No other available writer on the subject has gone so far as he in reproducing the actual thinking of a trained Buddhist mind in regard to the fundamentals of religion. At the same time he has taken pains to exhibit and to interpret the religious life of the peasant as affected by Buddhism. He has sought to be absolutely fair to Buddhism, but still to express his own conviction that the best that is in Buddhism is given far more adequate expression in Christianity.
The purpose of each volume in this series is impressionistic rather than definitely educational. They are not textbooks for the formal study of Buddhism, but introductions to its study. They aim to kindle interest and to direct the activity of the awakened student along sound lines. For further study each volume amply provides through directions and literature in the appendices. It seeks to help the student to discriminate, to think in terms of a devotee of Buddhism when he compares that religion with Christianity. It assumes, however, that Christianity is the broader and deeper revelation of God and the world of today.
Buddhism in China undoubtedly includes among its adherents many high-minded, devout, and earnest souls who live an idealistic life. Christianity ought to make a strong appeal to such minds, taking from them none of the joy or assurance or devotion which they possess, but promoting a deeper, better balanced interpretation of the active world, a nobler conception of God, a stronger sense of sinfulness and need, and a truer idea of the full meaning of incarnation and revelation.
It is our hope that this fresh contribution to the understanding of Buddhism as it is today may be found helpful to readers everywhere.
New York city,
The Committee of Reference and Counsel of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America has authorized the publication of this series. The author of each volume is alone responsible for the opinions expressed, unless otherwise stated.