Buddhist Studies profiles of buddhist figures
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Profiles of Mahayana Buddhists

Asanga (310-390)
Founder of the Yogacara (or Mind-Only) school of Buddhism. Born of a Brahmin family in North India sometime in the fourth century A.D. He was converted to the Mahisasaka (one of the 20) early schools of Buddhism and became a monk in that tradition. Apparently he received teaching, through a vision, directly from the future Buddha Maitreya who provided him with a series of texts. Quickly converting to Mahayana as a result of this interaction, Asanga began composing text in his own name, founded the Yogacara school of Buddhism and converted his brother Vasubandhu.

Asvaghosa is one of the four great Indian Buddhist sages who are called the 'four suns that illuminate the world'. Buddhist poet best known for his famous epic poem called the Buddha-Carita which represents the first complete biography of the Buddha. Information concerning his life is conflicting but it appears that Asvaghosa was a contemporary of King Kaniska (second century C.E.).

Austin, Rev Jack (1917-93)
Pioneer of Shin Buddhism in UK, born Caerleon, Gwent (South Wales, UK). With Richard Robinson, founded Dharma Study Group for studying Mahayana sutras.1946-52: a member of 1st ad hoc council of Buddhist Society. 1952: with Richard Robinson, ordained by Ven Sumangalo in London. 1953: launched Western Buddhist to promote Mahayana Buddhism. 1954: initiated into Arya Maitreya Mandala (founded by Lama Govinda in Das Budhhistische Haus, West Berlin. 1966: initiated into Soto Zen by Chisan Koho Zenji in London. With others founded the Hannyakai to practise zazen under proper tuition for the first time in the UK, inviting Sochu Suzuki Roshi from Japan (later London Zen Society). Served as Buddhist representative on various committees. 1975: Development Officer of World Congress of Faiths, organizing conferences and interfaith activities; served on several related committees, including Buddhist Religious Adviser, especially in education. Contributed to numerous Buddhist and related publications, including new edition of Dhammapada for the Buddhist Society. 1976: co-founder of Shin Buddhist Association in London (Patron: Chief Abbot Kosho Ohtani). 1977: ordained a Hongwan-ji priest in Kyoto. Has also visited Shin temples in Hawaii, San Francisco and New York.

A Chinese monk of the Eastern dynasty (4th-5th Century). In 399 he left China for India, finally arriving there after six years of hard travel. After studying Sanskrit and obtaining many Sanskrit texts of the Tripitaka (Buddhist canon), he returned to China by sea in 414. After his return he not only translated these texts but also wrote a record of his travels. He died when either eighty-two or eighty-six years old.

Fujii, Most Venerable Nichidatsu (1884-1985)
Founder and preceptor of the Nipponzan Myohoji order. 1903: became a monk. 1918: began to preach Buddhism publicly, travelled widely through China, Korea. Manchuria and Japan. Warned of the growing militarism in Japan. Disciples joined him in the practice of beating the hand-drum and chanting of the prayer for peace (Namu myoho renge kyo). 1924: first Nipponzan Myohoji formed at Tagonoura, near Mt Fujii. 1931-33: travelled in India to regenerate Buddhism there; met Gandhi. Throughout World War II, prayed and regularly fasted for early peace. After War, began promoting construction of peace pagodas in Japan and later elsewhere. In UK, pagodas built at Milton Keynes and Battersea Park (London). Books including Buddhism for World Peace, Beating Celestial Drums, Ichienbudai, The Time Has Cone, etc.

Harsha-vardhana (606-647)
The ruler of a large empire in northern India. He was a Buddhist convert in a Hindu era. Harsa was crowned at age 16 after the assassination of his elder brother, Rajyavardhana, and an encouraging "communication" with a statue of the Buddhist Avalokitesvara bodhisattva. Harsa is known mainly through the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang, who became a personal friend of the king and depicts the emperor as a convinced Mahayana Buddhist, though in the earlier part of his reign Harsa appears to have supported orthodox Hinduism. He is described as a model ruler — benevolent, energetic, and just, and active in the administration and prosperity of his empire. In 641 he sent an envoy to the Chinese emperor and established the first diplomatic relations between India and China. He established benevolent institutions for the benefit of travellers, the poor, and the sick throughout his empire. A patron of men of learning, Harsa sponsored the chronicler Bana and Mayura, a lyric poet. Himself a poet, Harsa composed three Sanskrit works: Nagananda, Ratnavali, and Priyadarsika.

Hönen (1133-1212)
Honen, also called Genku, established in 1175 the Jodo or 'Pure Land' school in Japan. He is said to have reached an awakening in 1175 on reading Shan-tao's Meditation Sutra, and thereafter dedicated himself solely to the chanting of the name of Amida Buddha's name. The founding of the Jodo school is dated from this event. His fundamental tenet was belief in the power and grace of Amitabha, lord of Sukhavati (the Western paradise). He advocated repeated invocation of Amitabha's name, by which anyone, ignorant or wise, high or low, could be saved. His teaching was based on that of master Hui Yuan, the Chinese founder of the Pure Land school.

Hsuan-Tsang (602-664)
Buddhist monk and Chinese pilgrim to India who translated the sacred scriptures of Buddhism from Sanskrit into Chinese and founded in China the "Consciousness Only" school (Yogacara). His fame rests mainly on the volume and diversity of his translations of the Buddhist sutras and on the record of his travels in Central Asia and India, which, with its wealth of detailed and precise data, has been of inestimable value to historians and archaeologists.

Ikeda, Daisaku
Current (3rd) President of Soka Gakkai (Nichiren Shoshu). Born 1928, Ormori, Tokyo, 5th son of edible seaweed farmer, Childhood dogged by poverty and ill-health. 1940: left school at age 12; persevered to read in spare time - and later to write.c. 1947: introduced to SG' and knew instantly that this was a way of life he must follow.' Greatly influenced by Josei Toda, 2nd President of SG, his 'master in life'. 1960:on Toda's death, became 3rd President of SG. Set out to raise membership to 3 million, to erect a large reception hall at Head Temple and 'to arouse an awakening in religious circles'. 1962:1st goal realized. 1964:2nd goal realized.3rd is 'forever in his heart and actions'. 1975: Soka Gakkai International formed; began international activities, holding dialogues with eminent world leaders and leading intellectuals, arranging cultural exchanges, etc. 1972: Sho Honda, Grand Main Temple, opened at Head Temple (Taiseki-ji).1983: presented with UN Peace Award by N Sec Gen Perez de Cuellar. Books including The Living Buddha, My Recollections, Dialogue on Life (A Buddhist Perspective on Life and The Universe); Life an Enigma, a Precious Jewel; A Lasting Peace; Buddhism: the First Millennium; Choose Life (with Arnold Toynbee), The Human Revolution (5 vols), etc.

Inagaki, Rev Prof Hisai
Executive Secretary of International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (founded 1984). Currently Professor of English at Ryukoku University. 1970s. lectured at SOAS (London University); the (British) Pure Land Buddhist Fellowship initiated in his house at that time. Editor of The Pure Land. Member of the English and Portuguese Translation Centres at Hongwanji International Centre. Editor of Ryokoku Translation series. Publications include A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms; A Glossary of the Sukhavativyuha Sutras, The Three Pure Land Sutras, The Amida Sutra Mandala, The Way of Nembutsu Faith.

Kumarajiva (344–413)
Buddhist scholar and missionary. In 383, From 401 he was at the Ch'in court in the capital Chang'an (the modern Xi'an), where he taught and translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. More than 100 translations are attributed to him. Of these only about 24 can be authenticated, but they include some of the most important titles in the Chinese Buddhist canon. Kumarajiva's career had an epoch-making influence on Chinese Buddhist thought, not only because he made available important texts that were previously unknown, but also because he did much to clarify Buddhist terminology and philosophical concepts. He and his disciples established the Chinese branch of the Madhyamika, known as the San-lun, or “Three Treatises” school.

Makiguchi Tsunesaburo (1871-1944)
Founder and first President of Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (forerunner of Soka Gakkai). Born Niigata perfecture, Northwest Japan. At 14, went to Hokkaido; educated Sapporo Normal School (now Hokkaido University of Education). Later served as teacher and principal of several elementary schools in Sapporo and Tokyo. Formed small organized of educators. 1928: converted to Nichiren Shoshu. 1930: established Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (lit 'Value-creating Education Society'); worked to spread knowledge of Nichiren's teachings. 1943: arrested together with other leaders for opposing Shintoism and criticizing war effort. Died in prison at age 73. Publications including Soka Kyoikugau Taikei (The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy) and Kyodaka Kenkyu (Research Studies in Folk Culture of Local Communities).

Nargarjuna (2nd-3rd Century)
One of the most important philosophers of Buddhism and founder of the Madhyamika (Middle Way) school. Nargajuna's major accomplishment was his systemisation of the teaching presented in the Prajnaparamita Sutras. He is revered in all of the Mahayana as a great religious figure, in many places as a Bodhisattva. Not only Zen, but also the Tantric branch of Buddhism and the devotional communities of Amitabha Buddha, count Nagarjuna among their patriarchs.

Nichiren (1222-1282)
Nichiren Shonin, the founder of the Nichiren Sect in Japan. At age eleven, his parents sent him to Seichoji-Temple to study. From an early age, he began to wonder why there were so many schools of Buddhism, while the Buddhism expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha was but one? He was ordained a priest at Seichoji Temple at the young age of fifteen. After considerable study of the Buddhist schools, Nichiren Shonin concluded that the Lotus Sutra indeed represented the perfect culmination of the true teaching of the Buddha.

Niwano, Rev Nikkyo
Founder of Rissho Kosei-Kai. Born 1906. Tokamachi, Niigata perfecture, Japan, of farming stock; named Shikazo. Saw military service in Japanese Navy. No higher education. 1923: went to Tokyo; apprenticed to shopkeeper; studied religion, divination, Chinese classics, etc. Daughter's sickness led him to join Reiyukai. 1934: set up milk shop in order to meet people. 1938: seceded from Reiyukai, not because of doctrinal differences, but due to growing awareness of his own powers of leadership and consequent desire for independence; with Mrs M. Naganuma, established Dai Nippon Rissho Kosei-Kai; became its 1st President. Membership has since grown to 5 million with branches throughout Japan and overseas. Practices including Hoza (Circle of Compassion) and the discipline of Veneration. 1979: won Templeton Prize. Books including Buddhism for Today.

Pieper, Rev Harry (1902-78)
Seminal leader of German Shin Movement. Born Berlin; attended Das Buddhistische Haus. 1946: formed a Mahayana group. 1951: joined Arya Maitreya Mandala; received ordination and became Secretary. Met Pro Osamu Yamada and invited him to lecture on Shin Buddhism. 1954: on visit of Kosho Ohtani, received initiation in Nishi Hongwan-ji lineage; resigned from AMM. 1956: founded 1st Pure Land Association in Europe (Buddhistische Gemeinschaft Jodo-Shin). 1962: founded 1st Buddhist prison chaplaincy in German-speaking world. Translated many US and Japanese books on Shin Buddhism.

Representative of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism. Shantideva was a king's son from South India. He flourished in the 7th to 8th centuries and was a monk at the monastic university Nalanda.He was the author of two surviving works, the Collection of Rules and Entering the Path of Enlightenment. The latter is still used in Tibetan Buddhism as a teaching text.

Shinran (1173-1263)
Founder of the True Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism. A disciple of Honen (Jodo School), he carried the doctrine of salvation by faith in Amitabha Buddha to the extreme one of recitation of Amitabha's name being sufficent if done with a pure heart. He advocated marriage of priests, and was himself married. He popularized congregational worship. Except in Japan and to a certain extent Korea, Shinran's reforms (salvation by faith alone, marriage of priests, meat-eating, etc.) are not accepted by the Buddhist traditions of East Asia.

Sumangalo, Ven (Robert Stuart Clifton, 1903-63)
Pioneering Western Shin Priest in USA. Born Birmingham, Alabama, USA as Harold Amos Eugene Newman. Travelled in East. First Westerner to be ordained a priest of Nishi Hongwan-ji by Ven Kosho Ohtani. Returned to USA; performed priestly function while working as probation officer, etc. 1951: founded Western Buddhist Order, ' an organization dedicated to interpreting the Dharma to the West and to establishing groups where none existed' (The Western Buddhist). Later moved to Malaya and worked vigorously for Buddhism there until his death.

T'ai-Hsu (1889-1947)
Famous modern Chinese Buddhist monk. Organised revival of Buddhism in China between the World Wars. Founded Chinese Buddhist Association and the journal Hai Cha'o (the Voice of the Tide). Travelled in Europe 1928-9 where he founded Les Amis du Bouddhisme in Paris. Worked hard to improve relations between Buddhists of the East and West. His main doctrinal theme focused on promoting a synthesis of various Chinese Buddhist schools in a harmonious fashion.

Tsuji, Kenryu Takashi
Minister, Buddhist Churches of America. Born 1919, Mission City, BC, Canada. 1946: married Sakaye Kawabata; 5 children. 1937: University of BC, Canada. 1942: University of Toronto. 1948: Ryukoku University, Kyoto. 1958: ordained minister, Jodo Shinshu, Buddhist Churches of America. 1968: Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America. 1941-2: minister, Vancouver Buddhist Church. 1942-5: Slocan Buddhist Church. 1945-58: Toronto Buddhist Church. 1958-68: National Director of Buddhist Education, BCA.1968-81: Bishop, BCA; President of Institute of Buddhist Studies. 1981-: Eko-ji Buddhist Temple. Editor, Program of Studies of Buddhist Sunday Schools. 1960: Publications including Three Lectures on Tannisho. Has made documentary films, including In The Footsteps of Shinran, The Story of Hongwan-ji, A Buddhist Pilgrimage, and Sri Lanka, Where the Dharma is Preserved.

Vasubandhu (420-500)
Famous Indian philosopher and writer. With his brother Asanga founded the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism. His early work, the Abhidharma-Kosa, is one of the fullest expositions of the Abhidamma teachings of the Theravada School. Later on, being converted to the Mahayana point of view by his brother, he wrote the Vijnaptiimatra Shastra, expounding the Mahayana doctrine of Mind-only.

Yamaoka, Seigen Haruo
Former Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America (1981); President, Institute of Buddhist Studies. Born 1934, Fresno, California. 1966: married Shigeko Masuyama; 2 children. 1956: BA from California State University, Fresno. 1961: MA from Ryukoku University, Kyoto. 1969: MRE, and 1979, PhD (Ministry in Religious Education) from Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, Cal. 1964: ordained, Buddhist Churches of America: Research Committee, BCA. Minister, Buddhist Church of Oakland. 1971-81: Stockton Buddhist Temple. 1969-71: Registrar, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, Cal. 1970-5: member, Research Committee, BCA.1971-5 and 1979-81: member, IBS Board of Trustees, 1972-5: English Secretary, Ministers Association. 1977: member, Board of Buddhist Education. 1979-81: Chairman, Ministers Association. Publications including Compassion in Encounter, Teaching and Practice of Jodo Shinshu, Jodo Shinshu - Religion of Human Experience, Meditation - Gut Enlightenment. The Way of Hara and Six Aspects of Jodo Shinshu. Office: San Francisco.

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