The Great Dhāraṇī on Immaculately Pure Light (Wugou jingguang da tuoluoni jing, T 1024) was used extensively in Korea during the middle and late periods of Silla (668-935) after its introduction in the early eighth century. Although some scholars maintain that it provides evidence of Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism or the synthesis of Pure Land and Tantrism in Silla, my research indicates instead that the dhāraṇī and ritual procedures contained in this sūtra were mainstream Mahāyāna practices more closely associated with repentance practices in medieval East Asian Buddhism. Tantric/Esoteric Buddhism should be defined as consisting of ritual procedures such as initiations or coronations, graduated systems of meditation, and procedures using dhāraṇī in the recreation of the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. The language of the Great Dhāraṇī provides little internal evidence of such conclusively Tantric or Esoteric elements, especially because many of the procedures and spells it describes—like most medieval Sinitic Buddhist ritual literature—attempt to resolve practical religious concerns for individuals and to protect states from harm, both internal and external: eradicating sins and extending one's lifespan; recovering from serious illnesses; avoiding rebirth in the evil paths and achieving rebirth in heavens; receiving predictions of the attainment of buddhahood; acquiring the spiritual penetrations and not backsliding in spiritual progress; generating merit and wholesome roots; destroying all obstacles and unwholesome karma and enabling practitioners to fulfill all their vows; and acquiring a fullness of the six perfections in one's life.


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pp. 33-73
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