- Dharma: (Hinduism and Buddhism) the principle that orders the universe; one's conduct in conformity with such a principle.
For the Kuei-jin, a Dharma is a path to enlightenment which allows them to transcend their bestial natures and holds out hope for enlightenment and rejoining the Karmic cycle. As demonic creatures, enlightenment is far harder for Kuei-Jin, and the path to wisdom can take millennia.
The Dharmas were originally outlined by the Grand Arhat Xue (who used the term Di'hana in his writings), who received five or one paths to enlightenment and transmitted them through his disciples (save for one who fled to the West). Xue himself reached the Hundred Clouds and has not been heard of since he achieved enlightenment. Since that time, the Dharmas have formed the religious basis of Kuei-Jin society; every Cathayan adopts a Dharma and progresses onwards to enlightenment.
Dharmic progression is tied to the Wheel of Ages. In earlier times, enlightenment was faster (or perhaps by virtue of having Wan Kuei who were once Wan Xian, the road was easier seen). However, as each age has progressed, the time required to achieve enlightenment lengthens and the gifts of higher wisdom are less profound.
Vampires advance in their Dharma by achieving moments of enlightenment, called dah. These moments arrive rarely, and can be triggered by great insight into one's dharma, or occasionally by great diversion from it. Each step of the way is progressively harder, with the time between moments of enlightenment taking years, then centuries, the millennia at the highest levels. The most enlightened Kuei-Jin spend much of their time in contemplation, chasing those moments of clarity.
Physically, higher enlightenment brings rewards. Dharmas traditionally follow a ten step path, with a chih-mei having a rating of zero, and the Hundred Clouds at rank 10. In Kindred terms, a Kuei-Jin has a Generation roughly equivalent to 13 - their Dharma score. In particular, with a Dharma above 5, the Kuei Jin can raise their attributes to 6 or higher. In addition, Dharma rank influences how much chi can be stored and spent, and what type of nourishment a Kuei-Jin can take. Chih-mei subsist on flesh, low-dharma Kuei-Jin on blood, higher dharma Kuei-Jin on breath, and the most enlightened can absorb chi ambiently.
Known Dharmas Edit
There are five orthodox dharmas, with their virtues:
- Devil-Tiger (P'o). The Devil-Tigers believe that they are replacements for the incompetent demons of ages past; they punish sinners and seek enlightenment through pain and violence.
- Song of the Shadow (Yin). The yin-aspected Song of the Shadow, also known as Bone Flowers, are coldly logical necromancers who seek dispassionate reasoning and enforcement of dharmic balance. They are also tightly tied to mortal society through their descendants, and often assist their families even centuries afterward.
- Resplendent Crane (Hun). The Way of the Resplendent Crane is a highly legalistic collection of schools, dedicated to reversing the Wheel of Ages and restoring virtue.
- Thrashing Dragon (Yang). The often misunderstood Thrashing Dragon dharma recognizes that they are dead, but seeks to achieve enlightenment by imitating and interacting with the living. Despite the stunned disbelief of some Resplendent Cranes, they are a fully recognized Dharma, even if they seem to eat and screw their way through unlife.
- Thousand Whispers (Balance). The Thousand Whispers live a sequence of masks, new identities they construct after death in order to understand mortal life and hopefully transcend it.
In addition to these five, there are 4 known heretical dharmas:
- Spirit of the Living Earth: These Kuei-Jin are shamans and interact with spirits, seeking both advice and adhering to taboos.
- Face of the Gods. Possibly the most extreme heresy, the Face of the Gods claim that the Kuei-Jin are exiled Gods. They set up their own cults with worshippers and extract chi from prayer.
- Flame of the Rising Phoenix. The Flame of the Rising Phoenix dharma holds that the purpose of the Second Breath is to make restitution for the crimes of one's life. The dharma is noted for its members failing (or occasionally disappearing) after a short period of time.
- Tempest Of Inward Focus: An alternative balanced dharma, the Tempests pursue a Taoist path in comparison to the Confucian courts.
Finally, there is one dharma despised by all:
- Scorpion Eater: This dharma holds that the Sixth Age is inevitable, that the victory of the Yama Kings is inevitable and that the only logical response it to learn to eat scorpions, feed on waste, and survive the coming times of judgment.
And in addition, one dharma went extinct long ago:
- The Way of Ten Thousand Screams: A dharma that stood in opposition to the Fivefold Way and was eradicated. Its followers preached union with the Yama Kings and saw their new state as a way to serve the August Personage as destroyers.
For the Kuei-jin, the concept of a "Clan" in which you are Embraced is alien. Like most Cainites do not differ between the various dharmas of the Cathayans, so do most Kuei-jin believe that the Kin-jin are all the same. Recent contact, however, challenged that claim. Bone Flowers have taken up study of the various "dharmas" that the western vampires seem to adhere. These dharmas are seen as even less than the heretical dharmas, given that no Cainite has ever progressed beyond the state of hin and their general ignorance of the spirit world, obvious marks of failure in the eyes of the Kuei-jin. To date, they have classified seven.
- The Hundred-Mask Clowns, referring to Clan Ravnos
- The Shameful Path of the Ghost Bully, referring to Clan Giovanni
- The Silent Tiger Brotherhood, likely referring to Clan Assamite
- The Rut of the Pretentious Geisha, likely referring to Clan Toreador
- The Way of the Insufferable Flesh Gardners, likely referring to Clan Tzimisce
- The Inauspicious Order of Blood Devils, likely referring to Clan Tremere
- The Thousand Charming Company Men, likely referring to the Clan Ventrue
During the Victorian Era, the Bone Flowers also studied the Paths of Enlightenment under the umbrella term Dharmas of the Unexamined Horizon, before declaring them hoaxes. One could argue that Golconda as formulated by Saulot after his travels to the Middle Kingdom was inspired by the dharmas of Xue.
- , p.51-54, 63