June 17th 2021 | Deng Huizhong | Bitterwinter

Last month, in Jilin province, the police interrogated followers of Buddhist Master Jingzong of Hongyuan Monastery in Xuancheng, Anhui province. They were told that the teachings promulgated by Master Jingzong are xie jiao (“heterodox”), and his group and the so-called “Hongyuan Method” are banned in Jilin. The devotees were very surprised, as Master Jingzong publicly teaches in Xuancheng’s Hongyuan Monastery, which he built from 2004 to 2007. The monastery has not been closed by the authorities, as it should normally have happened if it had been classified as xie jiao.

It might seem that overzealous police are at work in Jilin, if it was not for the fact that Bitter Winter has also learned that the government-controlled China Buddhist Association is sending to “friends” abroad a list of Buddhist masters whose teachings are xie jiao,and Master Jingzong of Xuancheng is included.

Devotees in Jilin were so surprised that they asked the police whether they were not confusing Master Jingzong of Xuancheng with Master Jingkong or Jing Kong (more usually spelled as Chin Kung), who lives in Australia and whose movement is regarded by the authorities as a xie jiao. They were told that no, Jilin province has now banned the teachings of Master Jingzong of Xuancheng in addition to these of Master Jingkong, which were already banned previously. The list of Buddhist xie jiao circulated by the China Buddhist Association also lists Master Jingzong of Xuancheng and Master Jingkong of Australia separately.

So, there are already two clues, the police action in Jilin and the list circulated by the government-controlled Buddhist association. In addition, on Chinese social networks, we find often comments by people connected with local branches of the China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association claiming that the teachings of Master Jingzong of Xuancheng are xie jiao.

Master Jingzong is in fact one of the most well-known teacher in China of Pure Land Buddhism. His accusers claim that he teaches that by chanting the mantra 南無阿彌陀佛  (Namo Amitabha) one is automatically assured of salvation and rebirth in the Pure Land, no matter how many sins s/he commits. At times, criticism of Master Jingzong appears to be an indictment of Pure Land, one of the major traditions in Buddhism, as a whole.

Devotees believe that there are ulterior motives behind the criticism of Master Jingzong. One is that his own master, Master Huijing, besides being an internationally respected Pure Land teacher, is from Taiwan. The other is that the Pure Land network is fiercely independent, and difficult to control for the China Buddhist Association.

One of the largest Pure Land organized groups, the Pure Land Learning Association, founded in Taiwan in 1984 and incorporated in its present form in Australia in 2001 by Master Jingkong (Chin Kung, as mentioned earlier not to be confused with Master Jingzong) was banned in China as a xie jiao in 2011. Western scholar Edward Irons noted that it was never formally included in the national list of the xie jiao. However, since it was denounced as a xie jiao in 28 different cities and provinces, often with the clause “under instruction from the central leadership of the CCP,” Irons regards the group as in fact part of the list of the xie jiao. Irons also comments that “the various Pure Land Associations constitute in effect a network that is too well-organized and uncontrolled to be allowed to continue.”

This also explains the attacks against Master Jingzong. In China, religious organizations that commit the capital sin of growing and acquiring an international reputation cross forbidden red lines and are first harassed, then eradicated.