The doctrine of buddha-nature in Chinese Buddhism
Although the text has hitherto drawn the attention primarily of Japanese scholars, this is the first critical edition of the sūtra, aligning its Chinese text with the available Sanskrit, offering a richly annotated English translation, a detailed introduction which places the work in its historical and doctrinal context, and a number of appendices exploring key notions, providing a reading text shorn of annotation, and enumerating the prolific quotations of the work found in Chinese Buddhist literature. This volume is thus an important contribution to studies of developing Mahāyāna Buddhism, Buddhist doctrine and the textual history of scriptures.
(Source: Hamburg University Press)
Sharf draws his argument in part from a meticulous historical, philological, and philosophical analysis of the Treasure Store Treatise (Pao-tsang lun), an eighth-century Buddho-Taoist work apocryphally attributed to the fifth-century master Seng-chao (374–414). In the process of coming to terms with this recondite text, Sharf ventures into all manner of subjects bearing on our understanding of medieval Chinese Buddhism, from the evolution of T’ang “gentry Taoism” to the pivotal role of image veneration and the problematic status of Chinese Tantra.
towards revealing the complex historical development of Ch'an theory and practice both in China and Tibet.
The papers on China reveal Ch' an not as a single line of transmission from Bodhidharma, but as a complex of contending and even hostile factions. Furthermore, the view which sees Ch'an as the sinicization of Buddhism through Taoism is questioned through an examination of the Taoism that was actually prevalent during the establishment of Ch' an in China.
The papers on Tibet take us to the heart of the controversies surrounding the origins of Buddhism in that country, based on exciting research into the Tunhuang materials, the indigenous rDzogs-chen system, and the 'Sudden vs. Gradual Enlightenment' controversy.
Of particular note in this volume is the inclusion of several translations of papers by noted Japanese scholars who have led the way in this type of research,
Venerable Cheng Chien lucidly introduces the reader to the meaning of Buddhahood and explains the origin, transmission, and special features of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. He presents us with an understanding of the stature of the "Manifestation of the Tathāgata" chapter in the context of the entire sūtra, as well as its relation to other scholastic texts. (Source Accessed Nov 23, 2020)
Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha nature are technical terms that indicate the existence of the true nature of the Buddha or Tathāgata who has attained enlightenment through totally unclouded insight (prajñā), within all living things, though these living things may be covered with the impurity of worldly desire and be seemingly incapable of attaining enlightenment. In essence, these terms refer to the fact that the Buddha or Tathāgata resides within the nature of all living things. The notions of Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha nature make assertions about the nature of enlightenment or salvation for living things still trapped in an unenlightened condition of suffering. They do so from the ideological position of those Tathāgatas or Buddhas who have already realized truth and been released from suffering and unenlightenment. These ideas are expressed as a kind of theodicy and soteriology, as they deal with the challenge of how super-temporal, absolute truth appears at a historical or personal level. Ideas that originate in the mature period of the history of an ideology produce higher-level notions that allow concepts born in various contexts in the previous history of the ideology to coexist. The ideas of Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha nature, which point to the Tathāgata or Buddha that dwells within all living things, encompass both all living things and Tathāgata, and so exist at a higher conceptual level than either.
There are two foundations of the ideas of Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha nature, which simultaneously problematize both unenlightenment and enlightenment: the features of soteriology in general religious thought, and the view of truth that is unique to Buddhism. Soteriology, as conceived of in general religious thought, considers the world in a dualistic fashion, as being split into the world of humanity and the world of gods, the world of suffering and the world of liberation, the endless cycle of life and death (samsara) and supreme enlightenment (nirvana). On the one hand is a relative, limited, and impermanent world, and on the other an absolute, infinite, and eternal world. The movement from the former aspect to the latter is not ceaseless but, rather, requires a change in the dimension of our existence, such as religious conversion or enlightenment. The experience of the individual transforms the aspect of the world, which formerly appeared as a single layer, thus exposing its mysterious and unseen facets. In contrast to many religions, which end their exposition at this point, Mahayana Buddhism takes the appearance of this duality itself as a subjective experience and seeks to reach the point at which both aspects ultimately become indistinguishable. The scenery of this world as seen from the world of libreration, worldly desire purified by enlightenment, Samsara illuminated by nirvana are all accepted as they are, without the necessity of any negation or denial. The duality of the world is therefore overcome, and a higher-level equality emerges that still acknowledges individual differences. (Source Accessed June 29, 2020)
This is the title of one of the most important books in the world. A Japanese scholar has translated it The Awakening of Faith. It might also be rendered The Mahayana Faith or The Faith of the New Buddhism.
Its importance is apparent when we consider the fact that of the 26,000 Buddhist monks and nuns in Japan no less than 17,000 of them belong to the Pure Land School and the True School, which regard this book as their fountain and origin.
Its importance is still more apparent when we consider that its doctrines are the fundamental ones of the Mahayana Faith, which is by far the chief school of Buddhism, not only in Japan, but also in China, where are the great majority of the Buddhists of the world. If we estimate the value of books by the number of adherents to their doctrines, then, after the Bible, the Koran, the Confucian Classics, and the Vedas, this volume, about the size of the Gospel of Mark, ranks next, or fifth, among the sacred books of the world.
The great value of the book is also apparent when we remember that the Eastern world had been driven to general despair by the atheistic doctrines of primitive Buddhism, called the Hinayana School, and that it was by the doctrines of this book, which gave rise to the Mahayana School of New Buddhism, that a gospel of great hope was preached to the greater part of the Eastern Asiatic continent. Its new doctrines were that of the One Soul immanent for good in all the universe, that of a Divine Helper of men, of individual immortality and growth in the likeness of God, of the importance of faith in God to produce good works and that of the willingness of the best spirits to make sacrifices to save others—the very subjects which in these modern days still occupy the attention of the most thoughtful men of the world. The book is Brahministic and Buddhistic, Indian and Western in some aspects of philosophic thought. It is profoundly philosophic, reminding one strongly of Hegel, Berkeley and G. Gore in the earlier part, and is as hard to understand as Bishop Butler's famous Analogy; yet very practical in the latter part, therefore it has great importance arising from its high and extensive range of view.
If it be, as it is more and more believed that the Mahayana Faith is not Buddhism, properly so-called, but an Asiatic form of the same Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in Buddhistic nomenclature, differing from the old Buddhism just as the new Testament differs from the old, then it commands a world-wide interest, for in it we find an adaptation of Christianity to ancient thought in Asia, and the deepest bond of union between the different races of the East and the West, viz., the bond of a common religion. Both Christianity and the New Buddhism hold to the transcendent and the immanent forms of God; but the East emphasises more of the immanent form while the West emphasises more of the transcendent. The almost universal reception of the
(Source: Book jacket inside cover)
The book's contribution to the broader field of the History of Religions rests in its presentation and analysis of the Buddhist Enlightenment as the salvific-transformational moment in which Tathatā 'awakens' to itself, comes to perfect self-realization as the Absolute suchness of reality, in and through phenomenal human consciousness. The book is an interpretation of the Buddhist Path as the spontaneous self-emergence of 'embryonic' absolute knowledge as it comes to free itself from the concealments of adventitious defilements, and possess itself in fully self-explicitated self-consciousness as the 'Highest Truth' and unconditional nature of all existence; it does so only in the form of omniscient wisdom.
The Nirvana Sutra deals with the teachings given by Śākyamuni shortly before his death (mahāparinirvāṇa). Nirvāṇa means "extinguishing the flames of passion and attaining the state of enlightenment." Since Śākyamuni attained enlightenment at the age of 35, he did in fact already enter nirvāṇa at this time. But because it was considered impossible to completely extinguish the passions while retaining a physical body, Śākyamuni’s death came to be called mahāparinirvāṇa, i.e. "the state of great serenity in which the flames of passion have been completely extinguished." The sūtra gives the teachings expounded by Śākyamuni immediately before his death. As it contains episodes relating to events before and after his death, it also has value as historical source material.
SourceSkt. Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra, translated into the Chinese by Dharmakṣema as Da banniepan jing (大般涅槃經). 40 fascicles. (Source: BDK America)
It is often linked with The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra to form a trio of texts that have been revered and studied for centuries. However, unlike the other sutras, which transcribe the teachings of the Buddha himself, The Platform Sutra presents the autobiography of Hui–neng, the controversial 6th Patriarch of Zen, and his understanding of the fundamentals of a spiritual and practical life. Hui–neng's instruction still matters—the 7th–century school of Sudden Awakening that he founded survives today, continuing to influence the Rinzai and Soto schools of contemporary Zen.Red Pine, whose translations of The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra have been celebrated and widely received, now provides a sensitive and assured treatment of the third and final sutra of the classic triumvirate. He adds remarkable commentary to a translation that, combined with the full Chinese text, a glossary, and notes, results in a Mahayana masterpiece sure to become the standard edition for students and seekers alike. (Source: Counterpoint Press)
The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch consists of a record of the teachings of Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School in China, recorded by his disciple Fahai, and is known by several abbreviated titles such as Platform Sūtra or Platform Sūtra of the Dharma Treasure. It proclaims the independence of the Southern School of Chan from the Northern School on such subjects as "sudden enlightenment" (Ch. dun-wu) and the external expression of one's real nature (Ch. jian-xing).
Phillip B. Yampolsky has based his translation on the Tun-huang manuscript, the earliest extant version of the work. A critical edition of the Chinese text is given at the end of the volume.Dr. Yampolsky also furnishes a lengthy and detailed historical introduction which contains much information hitherto unavailable even to scholars, and provides the context essential to an understanding of Hui-neng's work. He gives an account of the history and legends of Ch'an Buddhism, with particular attention to the traditions associated with Hui-neng, quoting or summarizing the most important narratives. He then discusses the various texts of the Platform Sutra, and analyzes its contents. (Source: Columbia University Press)
As for Kong-an, the subject matter employed here are all concerning Master Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and the 28th Patriarch of in India. These three Kong-ans are:
1. The Mind is Nowhere to be found
2. The Patriarch’s Quatrain for advanced practice
3. Bodhidharma’s Skin, Flesh, Bones, and Marrow
After reading these, you would have a pretty clear picture about Kong-an and how to make contemplation on it, as well as about the over-all quintessence of fountainhead of Ch’an Buddhism.
The second renowned genre of contemplation in Ch’an Buddhism is Hua-to. Hua-to is, as it were, a diminutive of Kong-an. Or to put it this way, Kong-an is a novel, a long story, while Hua-to is a novelette, a short story. But both of them are stories. By the same token, the Kong-an is a long contemplative material, containing a story with a complete plot––the beginning, the middle, and the denouement (ending)––for its body. Whereas the Hua-to would not have a plot; it consists only of a sentence, or a phrase. Therefore, in comparison with Kong-an, it is similar to a Kong-an in miniature, or a compressed Kong-an, for the general effect resulted in contemplating on Hua-to was supposed to be the same in contemplating on Kong-an. The instance of Hua-to scrutinized here is “Who is saying ‘Namo Amito-Fo’ (or 'Namo Amitabha Buddha')?”The third genre of contemplation in Ch’an Buddhism is one based on the Text of the Sutras. And under this rubric, the one cited and examined here is just a very prestigious one, if not the most renowned; it is called “The Seven Inquiries to locate the Mind,” from The Surangama Sutra. With the knowledge and skills built up in learning to contemplate on the first two genres, the Kong-an and Hua-to, one would then be able to go on to learn and practice the contemplation of this genre. And having learned about the three genres of contemplation presented in this book, one would virtually have covered the most predominant contemplations in Ch’an Buddhism. (Source Accessed Mar 12, 2020)
challenges the San-chieh-chiao attempted to meet, and it is the burden of Hubbard's careful exegesis to detail the subtle metaphysical and exegetical distinctions theyconstructed to do so. (Griffiths and Keenan, introduction to Buddha Nature, 4–5)
Buddhism has a profound and thoroughly developed set of teachings on human being. One might well argue that the question of human being is the question par excellence with which the Buddhist tradition as a whole struggles. According to the traditional account, for example, the point of departure for the Buddha's own search, discoveries, and teachings was the dilemma of the human condition. Moreover, vast numbers of Buddhist texts speak out of or address human experience as such, consciously focusing upon it as the source of both question and answer. Nonetheless, many questions a modern Westerner asks as a matter of course about human being are not directly addressed in the Buddhist texts. There are of course important reasons for this. Our concept of and assumptions about human individuality are profoundly different from Buddhist views of the same. Our two worlds of discourse about the value and meaning of finite bodily existence, the course of history, the meaning of suffering, and the nature of possible human greatness are set up on entirely different foundations. Thus, for a contemporary Westerner to ask the question "What is a person? What is a human being?" of a Buddhist text is to set oneself up to receive an answer that does not satisfy the intent of the question. Yet, while Buddhist views and assumptions differ so markedly from our own, Buddhist texts reveal in their own way a preoccupation with the human condition as intent as that of our own hyperindividualistic, anthropocentric culture.
With such a shared fixation, it is inevitable that persons on both sides of the cultural boundaries will attempt to gain light from the other side on this subject, despite the incommensurability of each other's questions and answers. The present essay is one such attempt: not an East-West comparison, but an effort to address a Buddhist text from the perspective of cross-cultural philosophy (still, despite the name, a thoroughly Western enterprise) . Herein I will engage in dialogue the Buddha Nature Treatise (Chinese: Fo Hsing Luna; hereafter, BNT), a text representative of the Buddha nature tradition that contains an extensive discussion of the concept of Buddha nature, a crucial component, if not the most crucial component, of the East Asian Buddhist concept of human being. I will attempt to wrest from the text answers to two categories of questions-it s view of the ontological nature of human being and its view of the existential status of human beings. In the course of the discussion I will ask such questions as: What roles do individuality and freedom play in the view of human being portrayed in this text? What value, if any, does an individual human personality possess? Is there anything of value in human history? Clearly, the text itself does not speak in these terms; these are the questions of a twentieth-century, philosophically inclined American. In order to bridge the cultural gap, I will first give a summary account of the text's concept of Buddha nature in its own terms and in its own format. Then, acknowledging that the text itself neither speaks this language nor shares my concerns, I will put my questions to the text and attempt to extract from the text its implications for the subject of my concern. In other words, I cannot claim that the author of the BNT does make the statements I will give as responses to my questions about human being, but I do claim that these views are implicit in and follow from the statements he does make about Buddha nature. Granting that human freedom requires us to expect the unexpected, nonetheless, I believe that if the author of the BNT were here today and could engage in dialogue with me, as long as my interlocutor remained consistent, something close to the views I will articulate in the course of this essay would emerge. (King, "Buddha Nature and the Concept of Person," 151–52)
In the fifth century A.D., Buddhism began to extricate itself from its quasi-Daoist pigeonhole by clarifying definitive differences between Buddhist and Daoist thought, shedding Daoist vocabulary and literary styles while developing new distinctively Buddhist terminology and genres. Curiously, despite the fact that Mahāyāna Buddhism had few adherents in Central Asia and was outnumbered by other Buddhist schools in India as well, in China Mahāyāna became the dominant form of Buddhism, so much so that few pejoratives were as stinging to a fellow Buddhist as labelling him ‘Hīnayāna’ (literally ‘Little Vehicle,’ a polemical term for non-Mahāyānic forms of Buddhism). By the sixth century, the Chinese had been introduced to a vast array of Buddhist theories and practices representing a wide range of Indian Buddhist schools. As the Chinese struggled to master these doctrines it became evident that, despite the fact that these schools were all supposed to express the One Dharma (Buddha’s Teaching), their teachings were not homogenous, and were frequently incommensurate.By the end of the sixth century, the most pressing issue facing Chinese Buddhists was how to harmonize the disparities between the various teachings. Responses to this issue produced the Sinitic Mahāyāna schools, that is, Buddhist schools that originated in China rather than India. The four Sinitic schools are Tiantai, Huayan, Chan and Pure Land (Jingtu). Issues these schools share in common include Buddha-nature, mind, emptiness, tathāgatagarbha, expedient means (upāya), overcoming birth and death (saṃsāra), and enlightenment. (Source: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1)
A monk asked Zhaozhou: ‘‘Does a dog have buddha-nature?’’ Zhaozhou replied: ‘‘No.’’
This pithy exchange between an unidentified Buddhist monk and the Tang dynasty Chan master Zhaozhou Congshen (778–897) is perhaps the best-known example of a Chan gong’an, or ‘"public case." Although the passage occurs in a collection of Zhaozhou's sayings supposedly compiled by his disciples, its notoriety is due to a Song dynasty master, Wumen Huikai (1183–1260), who placed this exchange at the beginning of his famous gong’an collection, Gateless Barrier of the Chan Tradition (Chanzong wumen guan, 1228). Wumen’s compilation, consisting of forty-four such exchanges and anecdotes accompanied by Wumen’s comments, is one of the most important works of Chan literature. And as the first case in Wumen’s collection, "Zhaozhou’s dog" became the single most influential gong’an in the Chinese Chan, Korean Son, and Japanese Zen traditions. It is often the first and sometimes the only gong’an assigned to monks, and many traditional commentators claim, following Wumen’s lead, that this single gong’an holds the key to all others.
Wumen’s work was neither the earliest nor the most comprehensive compilation of Chan cases. Indeed, the Gateless Barrier is relatively short and straightforward in comparison to two earlier collections, the Blue Cliff Record of Chan Master Foguo Yuanwu (Foguo Yuanwu Chanshi Biyan lu), published in 1128, and the Congrong Hermitage Record of the Commentaries by Old Wansong on the Case and Verse [Collection] by Reverend Jue of Tiantong [Mountain] (Wansong laoren pingzhang Tiantong Jue heshang songgu Congrongan lu), published in 1224. The cases that make up these texts are each based on an individual anecdote, verbal exchange, or quandary known as the benze (original edict), to which has been added comments in prose and verse brushed by later masters. Whereas the Gateless Barrier contains forty-four such anecdotes accompanied by a brief comment and verse by Wumen, the Blue Cliff Record and Congrong Hermitage Record each contain one hundred cases including several layers of appended judgments, verses, and interlinear glosses. (The same "original edict" may appear in two or more collections, but the exegesis will invariably differ. More will be said about the structure of these collections below.) Many more gong’an collections gained currency in China, and the Chan tradition would come to speak of seventeen hundred authoritative cases (although this number was probably not meant to be taken literally). By the end of the Song the gong’an had assumed a central role in the ideological, literary, and institutional identity of the Chan school.
Popular books on Chan and Zen Buddhism present gong’an as intentionally incoherent or meaningless. They are, it is claimed, illogical paradoxes or unsolvable riddles intended to frustrate and short-circuit the intellect in order to quell thought and bring the practitioner to enlightenment. This understanding of gong’an is allied with a view of Chan as an iconoclastic and anti-intellectual tradition that rejects scripture, doctrine, philosophy, and indeed all forms of conceptual understanding in favor of unmediated or "pure" experience. Gong’an are intended, according to this view, not to communicate ideas so much as to induce a transformative experience. To grasp at the literal meaning of a Chan case is to miss its point.
Recently scholars have begun to question the instrumental view of Chan that underlies this approach to Chan cases, arguing that it is based on a misreading of the historical and ethnographic record. Chan ranks among the most ritualistic forms of Buddhist monasticism, and a master’s enlightenment is constituted within a prescribed set of institutional and ritual forms. Moreover, the notion that Chan is designed to induce a nonconceptual or pure experience can be traced in part to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japanese intellectuals such as D. T. Suzuki and Nishida Kitarō, who were culling from Western sources, notably William James. The notion that Chan is anti-intellectual and repudiates "words and letters" is belied by the fact that the Chan tradition produced the largest literary corpus of any Buddhist school in East Asia. This corpus consists in large part of "recorded sayings" (yulu) and "records of the transmission of the flame" (chuandenglu) texts—texts recounting the careers and teachings of past patriarchs from which the original edicts were drawn.
Scholars now appreciate that Chan is more complex than early apologists and enthusiasts cared to admit; it is no longer possible to reduce Chan practice and Chan literature to a mere means intended to engender a singular and ineffable spiritual experience. Accordingly, scholars of Chan gong’an have begun to attend to the institutional context and literary history of the genre, and one scholar has devoted an entire monograph to the folkloric themes that appear in a single case. Be that as it may, little progress has been made in deciphering the doctrinal and exegetical intent of Chan gong’an; it would appear that scholars remain reluctant to treat gong’an as a form of exegesis at all. This reluctance may be due to the enduring legacy of an earlier apologetic mystification of the gong’an literature. The primary objective of this chapter is to demonstrate that such reluctance is misguided and that it is indeed possible to recover the original meaning and doctrinal purport of at least some of the cases. The task is not easy, however, as the cases are philosophically subtle and hermeneutically sophisticated, and the authors of the collections delighted in obscure allusions, clever puns, and deft wordplay. (Sharf, "How to Think with Chan Gong’an," 205–7)
My thanks to Charlotte Furth and Elizabeth Horton Sharf for their comments and
suggestions on earlier drafts of this chapter and to Ling Hon Lam for his meticulous
1. T 2005:48.292c20–24. The exchange is also featured in case no. 18 of the Wansong Laoren pingzhang Tiantong Jue heshang songgu Congrongan lu, T 2004:48.238b21–39a28. Textual details concerning Zhaozhou’s recorded sayings (Zhaozhou Zhenji Chanshi yulu) will be found below.
2. Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy and Chan Insights and Oversights; Foulk, "Myth, Ritual, and Monastic Practice"; Sharf, "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism," "Whose Zen?" and "Experience."
3. Foulk and Sharf, "On the Ritual Use"; Sharf, "Ritual."
4. Sharf, "Whose Zen?"
5. On the sometimes controversial place of literary endeavors in the Song monastic institution, see esp. Gimello, "Mārga and Culture"; and Keyworth, "Transmitting the Lamp," 281–324.
6. See esp. Heine and Wright, eds., The Kōan.
- Hu-jan nien-ch'i, ming wei wu-mingc
- Suddenly a thought rose; this is called ignorance
This idea has baffled many modern scholars as it has traditionally charmed many a Far Eastern Buddhist. What is meant by "suddenly"? What constitutes "thought"? The most recent translator of the AFM, Yoshito Hakeda, has appended this remark to the passage:
- There has been much discussion on the meaning of hu-jan in connection with the origin of ignorance, mainly on the basis of interpretations proposed by Fa-tsang,d (1) that ignorance alone becomes the source of defiled states of being. It is the subtlest; no other state of being can be the origin of this. It is therefore said in the text that ignorance emerges suddenly. (2) Commenting on a quotation from a sūtra, he says "suddenly" means "beginninglessly," since the passage quoted makes clear that there is no other state of being prior to the state of ignorance. (3) The word "suddenly" is not used from the stand point of time, but is used to account for the emergence of ignorance without any instance of inception.
- . . . A monk of Minge China, glosses "suddenly" as pu-chüeh,f which may mean "unconsciously" or "without being aware of the reason."
- . . . If hu-jan is a translation of a Sanskrit word, the original word asasmāt may be posited. Akasmāt means "without reason" or "accidentally."'"`UNIQ--ref-000000BC-QINU`"'
The Chan tradition is renowned as the “meditation” school of East Asia. Indeed, the Chinese term chan 禪 (Jpn: zen) is an abbreviated transliteration of dhyāna, the Sanskrit term arguably closest to the modern English word “meditation.” Scholars typically date the emergence of this tradition to the early Tang dynasty (618–907), although Chan did not reach institutional maturity until the Song period (960–1279). In time, Chinese Chan spread throughout East Asia, giving birth to the various Zen, Sŏn, and Thiê`n lineages of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, respectively. Today these traditions continue to promote, at least in theory, meditation practices, and these have been the subject of considerable scholarly interest.
It may then come as a surprise to learn just how little is known about the meditation techniques associated with the “founders” of this tradition—the masters associated with the nascent (or proto-) Chan lineages of the seventh and eighth centuries. It was during this fertile period—which, following scholarly convention, I will call “early Chan”—that the lineage myths, doctrinal innovations, and distinctive rhetorical voice of the Chan, Zen, Sŏn, and Thiê`n schools first emerged. Although hundreds of books and articles have appeared on the textual and doctrinal developments associated with early Chan, relatively little has been written on the distinctive meditation practices, if any, of this movement.
This essay emerged from an attempt to answer a seemingly straightforward question: what kinds of meditation techniques were promulgated in early Chan circles? The answer, it turned out, involved historical and philosophical forays into the notion of “mindfulness”—a style of meditation practice that has become popular among Buddhists (and non-Buddhists) around the globe. Accordingly, I will digress briefly to consider the roots of the modern mindfulness movement, and will suggest possible sociological parallels between the rise of the Buddhist mindfulness movement in the twentieth century and the emergence of Chan in the medieval period. (Sharf, "Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Early Chan," 933)
Notes1. The literature is vast; on modern Japanese Zen and Korean Sŏn meditation practice in English see, for example, Buswell 1992, Hori 2000, and Hori 2003. On the history of these practices see Bielefeldt 1988, Buswell 1987, Collcutt 1981, Foulk 1993, and Schlütter 2008.
Bernard Faure, on the other hand, touches upon the same issue of logocentric and differential trends in Chan in his comprehensive critique of the Chan tradition. Faure's study of this issue has two main problems. First, since his study is a criticism, he shows only what he thinks is the logocentric side of Chan, without providing a constructive study of deconstruction in Chan. Second, he criticizes Magliola for relating his logocentric/differential distinction to the historically well-defined distinction between Northern and Southern Chan. Faure believes that this hasty connection is "counterproductive" (Faure 1993: 225). His own approach, as opposed to Magliola's, is to suggest that it is impossible to identify one school or one figure in the Chan tradition as either logocentric or deconstructive. He asserts that there are "only combinations" of these two types in the Chan tradition (Faure 1993: 225). It appears that this position of "combination only" avoids a one-sided view and the error of jumping to a conclusion. However, by concluding that there are only combinations, Faure turns away from the necessity and possibility of analyzing and identifying individual deconstructive trends in Chan Buddhism, and from the necessity and even the possibility of a coherent reinterpretation and reconstruction of Chan thought. The coherent reinterpretation and reconstruction of Chan thought obviously demands more than a mere criticism. It is true that the thought of one school or one figure may involve elements of two trends; but this fact does not preclude the possibility of its being coherently interpreted as representative of one trend.
The field of Ch'an studies has seen some very lively disputes over the course of the twentieth century, but there has been general agreement on the proposition that the doctrine of sudden enlightenment represents the highest expression of the doctrinal mainstream of early Chinese Ch’an Buddhism. Although there is some quibbling regarding details and specific interpretations, scholars working in this field often describe the history of the doctrine of sudden enlightenment within Ch’an in terms of three subjects: (1) Hui-neng’s doctrine of sudden enlightenment as shown in his "mind verse" (hsin-chieh) in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liu-tsu t'an-ching); (2) Shen-hui’s campaign in opposition to the gradual teaching of the Northern school and in support of the public recognition of Hui-neng as sixth patriarch; and (3) the continuation of the spirit of Hui-neng in the teachings and religious practice of Ma-tsu, Shih-t'ou, and the later Ch’an tradition
Research done in recent years has shown that the traditional interpretations of these three subjects are all substantially incorrect, although the implications of these findings have not yet been fully realized. The history of early Ch'an is in the process o f being thoroughly rewritten, but it is already clear that the doctrine of sudden enlightenment and the dispute between the sudden and gradual teachings should no longer be used as yardsticks by which the religious message of Ch'an and its widespread acceptance in T'ang dynasty China are understood. (McRae, "Shen-hui and the Teaching of Sudden Enlightenment in Early Ch'an Buddhism," 227)
The concept of the Buddha's real or essential nature is referred to by (or better: rests upon) many different Sanskrit terms - e.g. (tathāgata-)dhātu, (buddha-)gotra, (tathāgata-)garbha, dharmatā, dharma-kāya, buddhatā. Other terms that are closely related are Tathatā, āśraya, prakṛti, prabhāsvara-citta, dharma-dhātu, buddha-jñāna.'"`UNIQ--ref-00004E97-QINU`"' So when we speak of the Buddha-nature (which is how I will abbreviate the more cumbersome 'the Buddha's real or essential nature' from now on), we are tacitly drawing upon some or all of these terms, which have their own ramifications and interrelations, of course. This is a very complex situation and I want to try and clarify it by approaching it from two angles. First, historically, I want to propose that Buddhism in India always had within it three strands which tended to view and understand the Dharma from their own standpoint; these strands are those of śīla, samādhi and prajñā (see p. 262 for details). Secondly, conceptually, I propose a number of what may be called conceptual nets or images (e.g. withinness, foundation, nature/being—see p. 263 for details) that can be applied to the concept of the Buddha-nature, and which (a) tend to hang together as a group, but in addition (b) each of the conceptual nets to a large extent determines the sort of terminology that is used when speaking of the Buddha-nature. Part of my argument is that works like the RGV (and to a lesser degree, the ŚMS) represent a systematization of the different terms (and hence, tacitly, the conceptual nets that give rise to these terms) that were available at the time that the Mahāyāna was growing to maturity.'"`UNIQ--ref-00004E98-QINU`"' This period of the Mahāyāna is usually referred to as the third turning of the Dharma-cakra; it involved a fundamental shift in the axis of Buddhism which led to a bhedābheda philosophy (i.e. the Absolute is both distinct and non-distinct from its attributes). Finally, we look at what the Chinese made of all this. They settled on the term fo hsing to mean 'Buddha-nature', but we find that hsing is used to translate different Sanskrit terms (e.g. prakṛti, gotra, bhāva—see p. 267 for details), and that these Sanskrit terms are themselves translated by other words than hsing (e.g. t'i, shen, chen, shih). In other words, the inherent ambiguities in the Sanskrit terminology are replaced by inherent ambiguities in the Chinese terminology. In addition, because garbha (which nearly always means 'embryo' in Sanskrit) is translated by ts'ang, ( = 'womb'; lit. 'storehouse'), a certain vacuum was created in the Chinese vocabulary which the terms fo hsing and fo hsin ( = buddha-citta) neatly filled. (Rawlinson, introductory remarks, 259–60)
Buddhism, and especially early Buddhism, is known for the anātman (no self) teaching. By any account, this teaching is central to both doctrine and practice from the beginning. Zen Buddhism (Chinese Ch'an), in contrast, is known for its teaching that the single most important thing in life is to discover the 'true self'. Is there a real, or only an apparent, conflict between these two versions of Buddhism? Certainly there is at the least a radical change in the linguistic formulation of the teaching. Examining the two teachings on the linguistic level, we note that the use of the term 'true' in the phrase 'true self' may indicate that we have here a conscious reformation of the place of the term 'self' in the tradition, or perhaps that the use of this phrase in Zen is the product of such a conscious formulation. Thus we may expect, upon investigation, to find an evolution from one teaching to the other, rather than a true doctrinal disparity. The apparent, or linguistic, conflict between the two, however, remains; hence we must also expect to find a doctrinal formulation at some point in this evolution in which the apparent conflict is consciously apprehended and resolved.
That is, Buddhism embraces both the teaching that there is no self and the teaching that the goal of life is to discover the true self. Not only does Buddhism embrace these two formulations, but each in its own context is the central pivot of the teachings of the school or community concerned. Two questions arise here. (1) How can a single tradition affirm both no self and true self? How can the two ideas be reconciled? (This is the philosophical question.) (2) In linking early Buddhism and Zen we are discussing two religious movements separated by approximately 12 centuries and by their development in two vastly different cultures, the Indian and the Chinese. What is there in the course of this development that could account for the transition from talk of no self to talk of true self? (This is the question of intellectual history.) In the present essay I will attempt to show that it is by examining the Buddha nature (fo hsing 佛性) concept and understanding it as a term representing certain actions that these questions may be answered. (King, "The Buddha Nature," 255)
To illustrate this general point Keenan considers the case of the translator Paramārtha and his amanuensis Hui-k'ai, and shows that in their work on Indic texts they not infrequently added references to tathtāgatagarbha and Buddha Nature where no such mention was made in the originals; they thus contributed to the centrality of Buddha Nature thought in East Asian Buddhism. (Griffiths and Keenan, introduction to Buddha Nature, 5)
Among the many concepts current among Chinese Buddhists, "Buddha-nature" is undoubtedly the most central and the most widely debated. As is well-known, the idea "Buddha-nature" first became popular in China with the translation of the Mahayana Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra (hence-forth referred to as MNS) in the early fifth century; since then, a variety of theses have been proposed on several aspects of the subject. These are worth examining not only because of the important role they play in the history and development of Chinese Buddhist thought, but also because they reflect more fundamental doctrinal differences. Once these differences have been clarified, a more comprehensive picture of the various dominant philosophical trends in the field of Chinese Buddhism will appear. This paper will unravel the diverse streams of thought which came to be associated with the Buddha-nature concept during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, i.e., in the first two centuries of the propagation of the Buddha-nature doctrine in China. (Liu, foreword, 1)
4.1.1 The Nirvāṇa Sūtras. Like many other ancient cultures, the Chinese, too, have a concept of a soul or abiding entity that survives the person‘s death. The Chinese word for such an abiding entity is línghún 靈魂. One of ancient China‘s largest and wealthiest temple, built in 328 (Eastern Jin dynasty) by the Indian monk, Huìlǐ 慧理, is called Língyǐn Sì 靈隐寺, the "Temple of the Soul‘s Retreat," belonging to the Chán school, located north-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. In its heyday, during the kingdom of Wúyuè guó 吳越國 (907-978) [22.214.171.124], the temple boasted of 9 multi-storey buildings, 18 pavilions, 72 halls, more than 1300 dormitory rooms, inhabited by more than 3000 monks. Many of the rich Buddhist carvings in the Fēilái fēng 飛來峰 grottos and surrounding mountains also date from this era.
The Chinese word for anattā (P) or anātman (Skt) (non-self) is wúwǒ 無我, literally meaning "not-I." There is no Chinese word for not-linghun. As such, although a Chinese Buddhist would intellectually or verbally accept the notion that there is no I (that is, an agent in an action), he would probably unconsciously hold on to the idea of some sort of independent abiding entity or eternal identity, that is, the linghun, which is in effect the equivalent of the brahmanical ātman. The situation becomes more complicated with Mahāyāna discourses, such as the Nirvāṇa Sūtra, that speak of a transcendent Buddhanature as the true self.
1. Not to be confused with Huìlì 慧立/惠立 (615 -?), a Táng monk, who respected the works of Xuánzàng Sānzàng 玄奘三藏, and wrote a biography on him entitled Dàcíēnsì sānzàng fǎshī zhuàn 大慈恩寺三藏法師傳. When Huìlǐ 慧理 came to Hángzhōu in 326, he was drawn to the mountainous ambience as a place of "the soul‘s retreat," and founded Língyŭn monastery there. In the Liáng 梁 dynasty, Wǔdì (武帝, emperor 502-550) who generally had a positive attitude toward Buddhism endowed Língyǐn Temple with rich land properties. Emperor Jiǎnwén (簡文, r 550-552) wrote a report on this donation, one which is titled Cì língyǐnsì tián jì (賜靈隱寺田記 Report Concerning the Donation of Land to Língyǐn Temple). See http://www.buddhism-dict.net/cgi-bin/xpr-ddb.pl?97.xml+id(‗b9748-96b1-5bfa‘).2. See Dictionary of Buddhism, sv ātman
The Sutra of Liberation and Breaking the Attributes of the Mind through the Wisdom Stored in the Ocean of Buddha-nature (Foxinghai zang zhihui jietuo po xinxiang jing 佛性海藏智慧解脫破心相經; hereafter: Sutra on the Wisdom Stored in the Ocean of Buddha-nature) is a Chinese apocryphal scripture whose origin is still obscure. For a long time, the sutra was thought to be missing. Following the discovery of the Dunhuang 敦煌 manuscripts and the stone sutras in the Grove of the Reclining Buddha (Wofoyuan 臥佛院; hereafter: the Grove), an overall version of the text can now be restored.
The sutra, consisting of two scrolls, is included in the Taishō edition in the volume on the “sutras in Dunhuang manuscripts whose origins are in doubt 敦煌寫本類疑似部”. The version in the Grove is an incomplete engraving of the first scroll of the sutra. For reasons that still await clarification, the text on wall e in cave 46 reads from left to right. It is preceded on wall d by scroll 22 of the Nirvana Sutra, and followed on wall f by the Diamond Sutra. Neither the author nor the translator of this scripture is mentioned in the Dunhuang and the Grove versions. (Shih-Chung, introductory remarks, 101)
'"`UNIQ--poem-000000ED-QINU`"'Nevertheless, given their very different theoretical upbringings and doctrinal affiliations, it is inevitable that they would carry to their explanations of the Buddha-nature concept some of the basic principles and assumptions of their respective philosophical traditions. In examining and comparing the Buddha-nature teachings of Hui-yüan and Chi-tsang our present study attempts to show how the Buddha-nature concept has come to assume divergent significances when read in the context of the two main streams of thought in Mahāyāna Buddhism: Yogācāra and Mādhyamika. (Liu, "The Yogācāra and Mādhyamika Interpretations of the Buddha-nature Concept in Chinese Buddhism," 171)
From this, we can draw the conclusions that for a Tang Dynasty (618–907) monk, trained on the teachings and traditions of a Sinitic school of Buddhism, the title of a Buddhist writing is highly important, for mainly two reasons: (1.) it can bear the very essence, the 'subtle' meaning of the whole work, and (2.) it can serve as an anchor, that bounds it to the 'original' Buddhist teachings, serving as a means of legitimatisation, at the same time. These two aims can be detected in Zhanran's'"`UNIQ--ref-00000748-QINU`"' 湛然 (711−782) choice of the title for his Diamond Scalpel (Jin’gang bei 金剛錍; T46:1932) treatise. The Diamond Scalpel treatise, in one fascicle, written in his old age, is a relatively short work, compared to his lengthy commentaries, yet well deserves to be considered his most creative, genuine work. The main theme of the treatise is the Tiantai interpretation of the teaching of Buddha-nature, as inherently including insentient realm, as well as all sentient beings. While expounding the topic, and presenting his arguments, the main tenets of the Tiantai school emerge one after the another, offering the reader a complete picture of the self and the world, suffering and the ways to liberation, etc. – i.e. problems of utmost importance for a Buddhist practitioner –, as seen by a Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk. At a first reading, the title of the treatise does not seem to tell us a lot about its content, but taking a closer look, and applying a more careful, meticulous examination, we find that Zhanran's choice of title must have been the result of a thoughtful consideration, for it perfectly suites the above mentioned two criteria. Following Zhiyi’s legacy, Zhanran chooses a title, which 'symbolizes and summarizes' the main issues to be discussed in his treatise. More precisely, first of all, it hides an allusion to a simile from a mahāyāna sūtra (thought to render the words of the Buddha), and thus anchors, bounds the whole work to the 'original' teachings of the Buddha, and secondly, after decoding the symbols and references, and interpreting them in the light of Tiantai philosophy, we find that these three characters can truly be regarded the quintessence of the work, the very argument in support of the theory of Buddha-nature of the insentient. Zhanran, following the example of his great predecessor, Zhiyi, expounds and argues based on the most important texts and tenets of mahāyāna Buddhism, while interpreting, reinterpreting, and often furnishing these with new, ingenious meanings.
First, we are going to examine the provenance and possible interpretations of the title – i.e. the context in which the basic notions appear, before Zhanran's time –, Zhanran's own explanation of the title, i.e. the very first paragraph of his work, and further interpretations of the title (and its explanation) found in later commentaries, written to the treatise, by Tang and Song Dynasty monks. Through this one, particular example we can get a glimpse into the complex process of how Chinese monks interpreted and reinterpreted the texts inherited from India, the way in which through focusing on, and/or consciously selecting certain motifs, similes or even terms, embellished these with new meanings, which were further used as tools to prove their own ideas and theories, as if these were identical with the original teachings of Buddha Śākyamuni. Secondly, we are going to examine the most important arguments Zhanran is using to prove his theory about the Buddha-nature of the insentient. I will argue that these arguments can be grouped around two key concepts, already concealed within the title. (Pap, "Zhanran’s Arguments in Support of his Buddha-Nature Theory," 129–130)
The Buddhist Self: On Tathāgatagarbha and Ātman (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2020) by Christopher Jones
It has long been recognized that Indian Buddhist writings concerned with buddha-nature, or more narrowly the enigmatic expression tathāgatagarbha, have a complex relationship with foundational Buddhist teachings about 'not-self' (anātman). Drawing upon and developing recent scholarship concerning the relative ages of Indian Buddhist works that deal with buddha-nature, The Buddhist Self explores the likely trajectory of this complex relationship. Constituent chapters deal with all Indian texts, across Indic, Chinese and Tibetan sources, that deal with buddha-nature and the matter of how far it should be conceptualized in terms of selfhood. I argue that it is likely that our earliest sources for teaching about tathāgatagarbha, perhaps beginning with the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra, are those which understood this term to refer to what could also be called the self (ātman). It is only later in the development of tathāgatagarbha literature that teachings about buddha-nature were elaborated to stress that this is not, after all, something of a caveat to teachings about absence of self. As such, teaching about tathāgatagarbha was perhaps originally presented as the Buddha's revelation of what is enduring and precious in the constitution of all sentient beings, and was in part a dynamic move to enter wider Indian discourse about the nature and value of the self. In 2021 The Buddhist Self was awarded the Toshihide Numata Book Award.
Kukyō ichijō hōshōron to higashiajia bukkyō: Go—nana seiki no nyoraizō, shinnyo, shushō no kenkyū『究竟一乗宝性論』と東アジア仏教 ── 五—七世紀の如来蔵・真如・種姓説の研究 [The Ratnagotravibhāga and East Asian Buddhism: A Study on the Tathāgatagarbha, Tathatā and Gotra between the 5th and 7th Centuries] (Tokyo: Kokusho kankōkai, 2020) by Li Zijie
My monograph explores theories on tathāgatagarbha, tathatā and gotra in East Asian Buddhism between the 5th and the 7th centuries, with a focus on the influence of the Ratnagotravibhāga [Chin. Jiujing yisheng baoxing lun 究竟一乘寶性論]. There are major differences between the Sanskrit text and its Chinese translation of the Ratnagotravibhāga, which had an immeasurable influence on East Asian Buddhism and has yet to be explored. I furthermore discuss the background, such as the Pusa dichi jing 菩薩地持經 and the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra [Chin. Lengqie jing 楞伽經], and the influence of the Ratnagotravibhāga on the Dasheng qixin lun 大乘起信論, Jizang 吉藏, Huiyuan of Jingying temple 淨影寺慧遠, Fazang 法藏, and some writings in Korean and Japanese Buddhism.
Kokyo Henkel has been practicing Zen since 1990 in residence at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center (most recently as Head of Practice), Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, No Abode Hermitage in Mill Valley, and Bukkokuji Monastery in Japan. He was ordained as a priest in 1994 by Tenshin Anderson Roshi and received Dharma Transmission from him in 2010. Kokyo is interested in exploring how the original teachings of Buddha-Dharma from ancient India, China, and Japan can still be very much alive and useful in present-day America to bring peace and openness to the minds of this troubled world.Kokyo has also been practicing with the Tibetan Dzogchen ("Great Completeness") Teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche since 2003, in California, Colorado, and Kathmandu.