Thông Biện

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Thông Biện (通辯) born Trí Không (d.1134) was a Vietnamese Buddhist historian and zen master whose recorded statements are the earliest written source for the history of Buddhism in Vietnam. [1] [2] He was a student of Viên Chiếu (圓照). [3] He is mentioned in Lives of Eminent Zen Monks (vi) (禪苑集英, 1337):

Early on, when the Buddha Dharma came to the lower Yangzi region and still had not been established, yet in Luy Lau [in central Jiaozhi] more than twenty precious temples were built, more than five hundred monks were ordained, and fifteen volumes of scriptures were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. Because of this earlier connection,there already were monks and nuns like Mo Luo Qi Yu, Kang Senghui, Zhi Jiang Liang, and Mou Bo there." Eminent Monks of the Thien Community (1337) text adapted by Dutton (1997) [4] from Nguyễn Tử Cương [5]

The four monks mentioned are Mo Luo Qi Yu (Ma Ha Kỳ Vực) Kang Senghui (Khương Tăng Hội), Zhi Jiang Liang (Chi Cương Lương), and Mou Bo (Mâu Bác, i.e. vi:Mâu Tử) author of the Mouzi Lihuolun (Lý Hoặc Luận).

Kang Senghui was a Buddhist monk and translator during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. He was born in Jiaozhi. He was the son of a Sogdian merchant, hence the last name of Kang, meaning "one whose forefathers had been people from Kangju" or Sogdia. Kang received a Chinese literary education and was "widely read in the six (Confucian) classics." He also read Sanskrit and was know for his knowledge of the Tripiñaka. He joined the saïgha as a teenager, following the death of his parents. Kang contributed more to the diffusion of Buddhist sutras as a preacher than to their translation into the Chinese language as there are only two collections of avadānas in the canon which are attributed to him. According to legend the first Buddha relic in China appeared in a vase in 248 C.E. so that Kang Senghui would have something to show a local ruler. The king of Wu Sun Quan would unsuccessfully attempt to destroy the tooth by subjecting it to various tests.

The Mouzi Lihoulun is a classic Chinese Buddhist text. It comprises a purportedly autobiographical preface by Master Mou, a late 2nd-century Confucian scholar-official who converted to Buddhism, and an imaginary dialogue of questions and answers about Buddhist practices.

The Queen Mother Ỷ Lan consulted the monk Thông Biện regarding the history of Buddhism in Vietnam in 1096 prior to her commencement of the plan to build 100 pagodas. [6]

Ỷ Lan Ly Dynasty empress

Ỷ Lan or Empress Mother Linh Nhân was a Vietnamese regent, the imperial concubine of Lý Thánh Tông, the third emperor and the natural mother of Lý Nhân Tông, the fourth emperor of the Lý Dynasty. She served as regent during the absence of her spouse in 1066-68, and as co-regent during the reign of her son in 1073-1117.

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  1. Tài Thư Nguyẽ̂n The History of Buddhism in Vietnam, Vol. III D.5 2008- Page 111 "Nevertheless, we cannot deny the influence of Tantrism on the Wu Yantong sect during the Ly period. ...Many monks of the Wu Yantong sect were keenly interested in elaborating the history of the various Buddhist sects in Vietnam. The originator of such work was monk Thong Bien (died 1134), belonging to the eighth generation of this sect. He originally had the name Tri Khong, and was imperial preceptor Vien Chieu's disciple."
  2. Thích Nhất Hạnh Master Tang Hôi: first Zen teacher in Vietnam and China 2001 Page 21 "He was able to respond eloquently when the queen asked about the origins of Buddhism in Vietnam, and so the queen asked the king to bestow on him the title of National Teacher Clear Eloquence (Thong Bien). So Tri Khong became Thong ..."
  3. Keith Weller Taylor, John K. Whitmore Essays Into Vietnamese Pasts 1995 Page 90 "Thông Biện even specified that at his time (eleventh century) Huệ Sinh (?-1064) and Chan Khong (died 1100) represented the Vinltaruci sect, while Viên Chiếu (999-1090) and Quang Tri (died around 1085-1091) carried on the V6 Ngon ..."
  4. George Edson Dutton, Jayne Susan Werner, John K. Whitmore Sources of Vietnamese Tradition 2012- Page 48 "The Queen Mother and Thong Bien The Origins of Buddhism in Dai Viet (1096) - In the late eleventh century, as recorded in the Eminent Monks of the Thien Community (1337), the queen mother, ..."
  5. Nguyen Tu Cuong Zen in Medieval Vietnam: A Study and Translation of Thiền Uyển Tập Anh. 1997 - Page 12 "The story goes that lare in the eleventh century, the learned Viernamese Buddhist savant Thong Bien presented the empress dowager with an account of Vietnamese Buddhist history. Speaking of the period of Sui Wendi (sixth century), Thong ..."
  6. David G. Marr, Anthony Crothers Milner Southeast Asia in the Ninth to Fourteenth Centuries 1986 Page 148 " Thông Biện's biography reveals that in 1096 he was consulted by the Queen Mother ( Ỷ Lan) for an explanation of the history of Buddhism in Vietnam; his answers to her questions reveal him as an impressive scholar."