Virtuous and non-virtuous

Thesis: The Wite Lotus Society and the White Lotus Teachings – Reality and Label Promovendus Barend Joannes ter Haar

Title obtained in Leiden, 1989. Promotor Prof. E. Zurcher Prior assistance and guidance by prof. Kawakatsu Mamoru and Tomita Kenji of Kyushu University

Subject: White Lotus Teachings and Tradition in pré-republican China.

Chapter 2.2.1 of this thesis introduces the saying “chicai shimo“, “Eating vegetables and serving the devils” as follows:

“The phrase ‘eating … etc’ was always taken to imply rebellious intentions, … The phrase has been supposed to refer to Manichaean practices, because of the second part of the label, (shimo) ‘serving the devils’. It is not clear whether this usage of mo was inspired by its sound (homophone with mo in moni, the word for Mani, the Buddha of Light … etc.)”


Eating vegetables” means being a vegan. Being a vegan is being virtuous in the world of East-Asian Buddhism, and especially in that of the White Lotus Schools.
Serving the devils” means being sly, having it behind one’s elbow.
In other words, this is a paraphrase of one of the historical Buddha’s sayings: wearing the robes, and pretending monkhood. I.e. it stands for a false pretense: someone pretends to be what he is not, or someone conceals his non-virtuous conduct.

To correct the misunderstanding around Mani and mo.
Mani was the godhead of Manicheism, not ‘the Buddha of Light”. “Buddha of Light” is one of the two epithets of  Amitābha Buddha, Omito-fo in Chinese.
The author furthermore mistook one Buddha for another: Amitābha (Buddha of Light) for Sakyamuni (historical Buddha).

Sinicizing the name of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni gives Shì jiā móu ní Fo.

To wrapped it up: the entire thesis’ passage about the perceived connection between (White Lotus) Buddhism and Manicheism is utterly wrong. It is based upon an erroneous if not fantasized translation-interpretation of the chinese character mo.

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