books, they propagated confusing and obscurantist doctrines, a criticism that echoed Ricci's critique of the profusion of Buddhist texts.55
The overall impression is that Gouvea understood little of Buddhist ideas and liturgies. While noting the important soteriological function of chanting Buddhist monks at Chinese funeral rituals, Gouvea betrayed his ignorance of its foundational idea when he remarked that monks in temples continued to chant the following words: 'nanwu amituofo', which, according to Gouvea, 'has no more sense than to say: the pagodas are not from the South, which is China, but from the West, which is India, therefore we will go there'.56 The chant, 'nanwu amituofo', literally meaning 'I beseech you Amitabha Buddha', signified the devotee's desire to be reborn in the Pure Land of the West, the Land of Amitabha Buddha. The enormous popularity of Buddha recitation 'nien-fo' ranged in practice from quiet meditation, visualization, to audible chanting, and was widely popular in lay Buddhism.57
If Buddhist doctrines still represented a shadow of truth, the Buddhist clergy, in Gouvea's opinion, had no redeeming qualities. In stark contrast to Semedo, Gouvea wrote:
they are all villainous, from the people, more vicious than the average, whence they are neither esteemed nor respected. They are sold or given for some cause as children to the temples, and are raised by the monks. Each one has his own disciples, and inherits the mantle of the master upon his death, with the obligation to buy disciples in order to propagate and multiply themselves, as each day large numbers who go about without any relatives or desire for betterment in life become monks, except for some literati who, in order to have quietude or work, cut their hair and live like monks, but not amongst them. And not a few of these same monks, repenting [of their decision], grow their hair and turn to their old ways. They are all normally uncultivated, vulgar, unlettered, leading an indolent life verging on vices, and debasing themselves in such a way that they debase and discredit very much the Buddhist sect that they profess.58
The paradoxical position of the Buddhist clergy versus the state was noted by Gouvea: the mandarins considered them inferior and did not hesitate to administer corporal punishments; but while regulated by the state, the Buddhist clergy flourished in the last decades of the Ming dynasty thanks to the patronage of palace eunuchs and members of the imperial household.59
55 Ibid., p. 294. 56 Ibid., p. 293. 57 Yu, Renewal of Buddhism, pp. 11, 45-6.
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