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Meditation, Repentance, and Visionary Experience in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism


This dissertation explores the development of Buddhist meditation in China between 400 and 600 CE. Although texts discussing Buddhist meditation were known in China from the end of the second century, only during this period did it become a commonly practiced form of Buddhist training, and did Indian meditation masters come to China in appreciable numbers. Focusing on a body of meditation texts written in China during the first half of the fifth century, I argue that Chinese Buddhists came to understand the practice and meaning of Buddhist meditation in relation to rituals of repentance, which during this time became the core of Buddhist liturgical life. Meditation was thought to produce a state of visionary sensitivity in which practitioners would obtain visions attesting to their karmic purity or impurity, and hence to either the success of or need for rituals of repentance.

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