The Ethics of Generosity in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism: Theory and Practice

  • Vincent ShenEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 9)


This chapter explores the theoretical and practical aspects of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism’s ethics of generosity from a philosophical point of view. Buddhism is a religion par excellence of strangification and generosity. After an introduction, I discuss some essential sources both from Indian and Chinese Buddhism. Then I develop the idea of strangification and ethic of generosity in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, before I arrive at some words of conclusion.

On the theoretical side, I explore the ontological foundation of the ethics of generosity in The Awakening of Faith. This is one of the founding texts in the history of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism that offers an ontological foundation to Buddhist generosity. It does this by the affirmation of One Mind or the Mind of All Sentient Beings as the Ultimate Reality. However, it also sets certain limits to generosity by denying difference/otherness, and sees difference/otherness as merely a delusion. On the practical side, I discuss three types of gift, namely the gift of material goods, the gift of no fear and the gift of teaching Dharma, and more interestingly, the practice of huixiang 迴向 (turning one’s merit to many others) as discussed by Huiyuan in the entry “huixiang” of his Dasheng Yizhang (The Meaning of Mahayana Buddhism).

Some conclusive reflections are done to consider the Chinese Buddhist ethics of generosity in relation to the post-modern ethics of generosity to many others.


Chinese Mahayana Buddhism Ethic of Generosity Theory Practice Strangification huixiang 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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