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Santian neijie jing 三天內解經 Kohn, Livia


The “Scripture of the Inner Explanation of the Three Heavens” (DZ 1205), in two juan, is a text of the southern Celestial Masters that can be dated around the beginning of the Liu-Song dynasty. Its first juan, translated by S. Bokenkamp, expounds the basic worldview of the group, outlining the creation of the universe through the Dao and Lord Lao, the unfolding of the three major world religions—Daoism (east), Buddhism (west), and Yin-Yang practice (south)—and the development of the organization of the Celestial Masters. In terms of the latter, it emphasizes the replacement of the corrupt and despicable Six Heavens (the cosmology of the Confucian ritual system) with the pure and eminent Three Heavens of the Dao, made up of the three qi: original, beginning, and primordial. The three qi also gave rise to Lord Lao, who then created his own mother, the Jade Maiden of Mystery and Wonder (Xuanmiao yunü) from cosmic energies, then orchestrated his own birth and life. At the end of the latter, he moreover ordered Yin Xi to become the Buddha and thereby deliver the pure Dao to the western barbarians. The text provides an integrated worldview and represents as justification of Celestial Masters’ beliefs for the benefit of the Liu- Song court. The second juan deals more specifically with moral rules and theoretical doctrines, associated the Dao with nonaction and outlining details of zhai or purgations. It also presents a discussion of Daoism versus Buddhism in terms of greater and lesser vehicles, contrasting again the purity and eminence of the Dao with the more primitive and simple practices of Buddhists.

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