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 Zongmi on Chan

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Jikan



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Join date : 2011-02-17

PostSubject: Zongmi on Chan   Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:01 am

I'm reading Broughton's book _Zongmi on Chan_ right now. I'm bringing it up because it puts many of the issues JCBaran among others have brought to light here as problematic, and puts them in a specific historical context: for instance, you can see a time when Ch'an practice was not understood as a special transmission outside the scriptures, very different from the version of Lin Chi we get in 19th century Japanese commentaries canonical in Japanese schools.

Ch'an in the 9th century was not inevitably a set of practices or body of knowledge opposed in all instances to critical thinking, to reflecting on the teachings systematically, or reliant on a doctrine of a streaming authority of mind-to-mind transmission from the mythic past for authority.

If you read carefully, you can find instances where Ch'an masters took Madhyamika very seriously, as did Chih-i some generations before (I'm thinking of Niutou Farong here, whose Ox-Head school is said to have been promoted in Mt T'ien Tai and absorbed by Dengyo Daishi...).

Anyway, if you can track down a library copy of this text, it will offer a rewarding read.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zongmi on Chan   Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:30 am

i will look for the book. I totally agree. The history of Zen /Buddhism is quite complex -- as is any religion and is part of the history and culture and politics of the time. It is not black or white and hardly simple. Through it all, there are brilliantly awakened sages and mavericks with insights who taught and shared dharma - clearly. AND there were lots of politics and sectarian in-fighting, competition, mystification, and myth making.

Most of us know little about the history of the tradition. When we did hear stories, it was all hagiography - the teaching myths - that are quite beautiful and inspirational, but they are not history. Teaching myths have their place, but they are only part of the story - and sometimes it is important to know the full story, to be in touch with the human side, the shadows, the issues, the complexities.

What I think is that dharma never depends on myths or fantasies - only on what is true. I don't need to believe in the Zen transmission lineage myth to know that this mind now is Buddha.
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Jikan



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Join date : 2011-02-17

PostSubject: Re: Zongmi on Chan   Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:43 pm

That's an interesting take. I'm not far from you actually.

I tend to interpret such pious fictions in terms of upaya... or even method. Does the idea of mind-to-mind transmission serve a particular purpose at this time, in this situation, for this person? If so, then it may have value, even if we know it's precisely a pious fiction. Investigating the authorship of the Mahayana sutras yields multiple examples. The Surangama Sutra, for instance, doesn't need a perfect pedigree to be "well spoken" and suitable medicine for a body in need of that.

Anyway, I've noticed in thumbing through certain of Jiyu Kennett's writings that she tends to make claims on history that can only be accepted by faith (because they are unverifiable, or because they are baldly sectarian, or because they are in the realm of the mythic). She was not alone in this among Soto Zen teachers who do the job in English, even now.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zongmi on Chan   Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:37 pm

Bodhidharma or the the Sixth Patriarch may never have existed -- certainly not as described in the stories - nonetheless, the teachings themselves are profound, inspiring - so behind these insights were real sages. The Dharma was passed down from India to China, Tibet and then onward - and we can be deeply grateful - even if there was marketing, false promotion, fake lineages created, stories invented. I studied many of the Mahayana sutras - still have no idea how or who wrote them. At the same time, often return to the original Pali texts for simple clarity.

When Kennett wrote about "history" with regard to Soto Zen in her book, she was just repeating what she had been told by the folks at Sojiji - which was undoubtedly the simple mythology, the official cleaned up story. Kennett was no historian and did not speak Japanese much until later, and frankly,in an introductory book, why would she even venture into sticky territory?

But this is much like any other religion. Keep it simple and positive and delete the messy bits, the inconsistencies, the humanity, the shadows.
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