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RELB 2100 12 - Chan / Zen Buddhism

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Manuel Lopez

on 11 February 2014

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Transcript of RELB 2100 12 - Chan / Zen Buddhism

Chan / Zen - Self Power


Pure Land - Other Power
Geographical Spread
General characteristics
Transmission outside scriptures. Claims its own lineage back to the Buddha Sakyamuni himself (direct line of transmission)
Lineage = Legitimacy
Truth is not dependent upon established doctrine (experience vs. doctrine)
Directly recognizing the nature of the mind
Emphasis on Buddha-Nature
Chan / Zen Lineage
Chan History vs. Historiography
Story of the origins of Chan / Zen
The Buddha was giving a sermon and one of the attendants asked a question

He answered by holding a flower.

Mind to Mind transmission
Only Mahakasyapa understood and he smiled

He became the first patriarch of the Chan / Zen tradition

Transmission of knowledge without language
Chan / Zen Buddhism
The Platform Sutra
The problem with the 6th Patriarch
Importance of lineage - 1 Patriarch each generation (like the Emperor). Also connected to Ancestor cult.
According to Chan history, after the death of the Fifth Patriarch there is a split in the lineage
(In fact, the whole lineage was probably created by the disciples of the fifth patriarch Hongren.
We have polemical records from what happen from the winner side (The Platform Sutra, 780 CE)
One candidate was Shenxiu, a senior monk, the other one was Huineng, an illiterate peasant (in some accounts) who achieved enlightenment after hearing the Diamond Sutra
Hongren (601-674)
Shenxiu (605-706)
Huineng (638-763)
Gradual vs. Sudden
The tension between this two successors is framed (by Huineng and his followers, the winning side) as an issue of Sudden (Huineng) vs. Gradual Enlightenment (Shenxiu)
This is represented in the story of the poem. Hongren, before he passes away, asks his disciples to write a poem describing the experience of enlightenment
Southern School
Northern School
The body is the Bodhi Tree
The Mind is like a bright mirror standing
Take care to wipe it diligently
Keep it free from all dust
Bodhi originally has no tree
The bright mirror is nowhere standing
Buddha Nature is forever clear and pure
Where can there be any dust?
Tension between a gradual and a sudden approach to enlightenment
It could also be seen as a sectarian issue
Argument more rethorical than practical but still had important sectarian implications
Based on a radical notion of Buddha Nature: We all have the seed of the Buddha = We are all already Buddhas
There is nothing to do, there is no imperfection
Also based on a radical understanding of the notion of non-duality: Samsara and Nirvana are the same.
Enlightenment, Nirvana, is not the product of meditation, is the manifestation of Buddha nature itself.
Two main schools
Caodong - Soto
Linji - Rinzai
Caodong - Soto
Main practice is sitting meditation: just sitting
Soto or Rinzai?
Life in a Zen Buddhist monastery
in Japan in 1959
Zazen - A Guide to Sitting
Calm your thoughts - samatha
Single pointed meditation
Realization of Buddha Nature
Linji - Rinzai
Criticism of sitting meditation - just sitting
Matsu - polishing a stone to make a mirror -makes no sense
We are already enlightened
Unusual forms of practice: shouting, hitting, paradoxical teachings
Use of Koan (public case) or critical phrase: from a case study (encounter with a teacher) to the object of meditation
What is the sound of one hand clapping
Does a dog have Buddha Nature
Kyudo or Japanese Archery
Hakuin - Blind Men Crossing a Bridge
Japanese Tea Ceremony
Died 866
When you get hungry, eat your rice
when you get sleepy, close your eyes
Fools may laugh at me
but wise men will know what I mean
Notion of letting go
Teachings of Master Linchi p. 77
From the poem of Ming-tsan
Dates: not clear, 5th 6th century

Arrives to China in 520

First Patriarch of Chan in China, the 28th in total, all the way back to the Buddha.

Meeting the Emperor: Merit is not important! Misunderstood
Chan arrives to China
Important Chan Text (700-720 CE)

Discourses of Sixth Patriarch Huineng
Huineng answered:
Shenxiu wrote:
Platform Sutra
Zen and the Arts
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
'What does the Buddha say when he remains silent?'
'The doves chirp in the trees.'
The Master ascended the hall. A monk asked.
"What is the basic meaning of Buddhism?
The Master held his fly whisk straight up
The monk gave a shout
The Master struck him

Linchi, p. 15
If you meet the Buddha, kill him.

Be able to understand the true nature of the mind,
our very own Buddha-nature

The distinction between impure and pure mind (samsara and nirvana) is just an illusion that is generated through ignorance

"One must negate all ordinary distinctions and conceptualizacions through meditative
stillness of mind. Chan meditation is said to be able to still the mind's functioning in a one-pointed concentration that reaches the ground of consciousness" Mitchell, p. 220
A special tradition outside the scriptures
With no dependence upon words and letters
A direct pointing into the mind
Seeing there one's own nature, and attaining Buddhahood

Bodhidharma in Mitchell, p. 221
A monk asked Joshu, "Has the dog the Buddha nature?"
Joshu replied, "Mu (nothing)!"

Mumon's Comment: For the pursuit of Zen, you must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain his mysterious awareness one must completely uproot all the normal workings of one's mind. If you do not pass through the barriers, nor uproot the normal workings of your mind, whatever you do and whatever you think is a tangle of ghost. Now what are the barriers? This one word "Mu" is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. Wouldn't that be pleasant?

Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what "Mu" is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative "not" of "is" and "is not." It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.

Then, all the useless knowledge you have diligently learned till now is thrown away. As a fruit ripening in season, your internality and externality spontaneously become one. As with a mute man who had had a dream, you know it for sure and yet cannot say it. Indeed your ego-shell suddenly is crushed, you can shake heaven and earth. Just as with getting ahold of a great sword of a general, when you meet Buddha you will kill Buddha. A master of Zen? You will kill him, too. As you stand on the brink of life and death, you are absolutely free. You can enter any world as if it were your own playground. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe.

Has a dog the Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you wonder whether a dog has it or not,
You certainly lose your body and life!
The Gateless Gate - Wúméngun

Collection of 48 Chan (Zen) koans compiled in the early 13th century by the Chinese Zen master Wumen Hui-k'ai

Tuesday 10/04 – Chan / Zen Buddhism 1


Mitchell, Buddhism, Introducing the Buddhist Experience, Ch. 7 (pp. 197-244)

Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi, Preface, Introduction, and pp. 3-81

Thursday 10/06 – Chan / Zen Buddhism 2


Mitchell, Buddhism, Introducing the Buddhist Experience, Ch. 7 (pp. 197-244)

Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi, pp. 82-133
Week 7
Sanskrit: Dhyana - Meditation
Chinese: Chan
Japanese: Zen

Zen is the term commonly used in the West
Emphasis on Meditation
Do less - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Master Linji
Main Chan Schools
Zen Gardens
Zen Painting

Compare the figure of Master Linji with that of the Buddha as found, respectively, in the Teachings of Master Lin-chi and the Biography of the Buddha you have read this semester. In which ways are these two figures similar? In which ways are they different?

In which ways are the teachings of Master Linji different from the ones we have found in early Buddhism? How can you explain those differences?

How can you explain the unorthodox teaching methods of Master Linji? What is their purpose? What is he trying to do / teach?

Choose one exchange between Master Linji and his students and discuss it. What is the point of the teaching? Does it make sense? Should it?
Journal Week 7 –
The Teachings of Master Lin-chi (Linji)
Zen Ox-Herding Pics -
Shinzen Young
The Master said, "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it" (Book 2, Chapter 1).
Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-Hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee—zip! Zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he was performing the dance of the Mulberry grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years, I no longer saw the whole ox. And now—now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint….

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until—flop! The whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off my knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life” (Zhuangzi ch. 3, BW 46–47).
Zhuangzi (Daoism)
Idea already in Chinese philosophy
The importance of lineage
and the
Sudden vs. Gradual approaches
Chan / Zen

Different lineage that goes back to the Buddha (importance of lineage vs. sangha)
A special tradition outside the scriptures
With no dependence upon words and letters
A direct pointing into the mind
Seeing there one's own nature, and attaining Buddhahood
Platform Sutra: Sudden vs. Gradual

Can also be seen as a doctrinal issue or a sectarian issue
Bodhidharma - First Patriarch IN China
Emphasis on meditation
6 short questions / ID - 30%

2 text ID 30%

1 Essay 40%
Schaeffer, The Life of the Buddha

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion

Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta: The Shorter Instructions to Malunkya

Introduction to the Vinaya (on Collab)

Conze, “Basic Notions” from Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (VARIOS TEXTS IN HERE!)

Lotus Sutra

The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi
Leonard Cohen
"Ballad Of The Absent Mare"
Go to for http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rh8Fc3ecd8 this video
A Day in the Life of a Zen Monk - EmptyMind Films
A monk asked: "What is the essence of Buddhism?"
The master gave a Katsu.
The monk bowed.
The master said: "This one can hold his own in debate."
Another (monk) asked: "Master, from whom is the song you sing? Where does your style come from?"
The master said: "When I was with Obaku, I questioned him three times, and three times was beaten."
The monk hesitated.
The master gave a Katsu, then hit him and said: "One cannot drive a nail into empty space."
There was a scripture master who asked: "Do not the Three Vehicles and the Twelve Divisions of the Teachings bring to light the Buddha Nature?"
The master replied: "Your plot has not yet been hoed."
The scripture master said: "How could the Buddha deceive people?"
The master said: "Where is he, the Buddha?"
The scripture master was speechless.
The master continued: "Here in front of the Governor you would take the old monk for a ride! Away with you! You prevent others from asking their questions."
When Bodhidharma appeared before him, the Emperor said to him,
“I have built temples and ordained monks; what is my merit?
Bodhidharma replied, “no merit.

The Emperor then asks Bodhidharma,
“What is the first principle of the holy teachings?”
Bodhidharma replied, “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.
When the Emperor heard “Vast emptiness, nothing holy”, he was flummoxed. Finally
he rallied and asked, “Who is standing before me?”
Bodhidharma said, “I don’t know.”
Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu
Talk about the whole process

Talk about aesthetics wabi-sabi-yugen

Read article Haga Koshiro, "The Wabi Aesthetic through the Ages," in Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao, Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989), pp. 195-230*
Description: "In Sanzen the student presents his/her understanding in front of the Zen master. This rare footage was filmed at Sogenji Zen monastery in 2004."

I've used this to supplement the long video *Zen: In Search of Enlightenment*.
Sanzen - Zen student meets the Zen master
Full transcript