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Hui-kuan

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Hui-kuan
慧観 (n.d.) (PY Huiguan; Jpn Ekan)

    A Chinese priest who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries. He studied under Hui-yüan at Mount Lu. Hearing of the master translator Kumarajiva, who had come to Ch'ang-an in 401, Hui-kuan became his disciple and joined in his translation work. He wrote An Introduction to the Essentials of the Lotus Sutra, which won Kumarajiva's high praise. Kumarajiva exhorted him to propagate Buddhism in the south, and after Kumarajiva's death he went to Ching-chou and later to Chien-k'ang, where he lived at Tao-ch'ang-ssu temple. Hence he was known as Hui-kuan of Tao-ch'ang-ssu temple. It is said that in Chien-k'ang he assisted Buddhabhadra with his translation of the Flower Garland Sutra.

Together with Hsieh Ling-yün and Hui-yen, he revised the two existing Chinese translations of the Nirvana Sutra and produced what is called the southern version of the sutra. He also devised a classification of Shakyamuni Buddha's lifetime teachings into five periods according to the order in which he believed they had been expounded. He defined the Nirvana Sutra in this system as the teaching of the eternity of the Buddha nature, regarding it as the teaching of the fifth and last period, and the Lotus Sutra as the teaching of the fourth period.

His concept of the five periods was widely known in China and was incorporated into other scholars' systems of classification. Hui-kuan held that enlightenment is achieved gradually in the course of practice. He thus opposed Tao-sheng, another disciple of Kumarajiva who held that enlightenment is attained suddenly and completely. He wrote The Discrimination of Teachings and The Treatise on the Doctrines of Immediate Attainment of Enlightenment and Gradual Attainment of Enlightenment.

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