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 Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:40 am

INVENTING HUI-NENG, THE SIXTH PATRIARCH: Hagiography and Biography in Early Ch’an by John Jorgensen.

I just ordered this book.... it's nearly 1000 pages and costs $250, but i decided to add this to my library.....

It was through the propaganda of Shen-hui (684-758) that Hui-neng (d. 710) became the also today still towering figure of sixth patriarch of Ch’an/Zen Buddhism, and accepted as the ancestor or founder of all subsequent Ch’an lineages. The first part of the book analyses the creation of the image of Hui-neng and the worship of a lacquered mummy said to be that of Hui-neng.

Using the life of Confucius as a template for its structure, Shen-hui invented a hagiography for the then highly obscure Hui-neng. At the same time, Shen-hui forged a lineage of patriarchs of Ch’an back to the Buddha using ideas from Indian Buddhism and Chinese ancestor worship. The second half of the book examines the production of the hagiographies of Hui-neng , how they evolved, and the importance of ideas about authorship and the role of place. It demonstrates the influence of Confucian thought, politics and the periphery in the growth of early Ch’an hagiography and the changing image of Hui-neng.

From a Review by John McRae (partial): John Jorgensen’s Inventing Hui-neng is an extraordinary contribution to the study of early Chán Buddhism. First of all, it is massive—the book really is almost nine hundred pages in total length. Of course, such a sizable tome comes with a price—at $250, it is certainly worth its weight in dollar bills, if not quite in gold.

Second, these are well-packed pages, too. There is a certain amount of repetition, primarily the restatement of previously made arguments, but certainly no more than is reasonable; the author presents his analyses and interpretations in economical language, without wasting words on airy nuance. Coverage is also comprehensive, in that having selected the hagiography of Huìnéng as his focus, Jorgensen attempts to treat every possible aspect of the subject. He follows whatever direction this inquiry takes him, occasionally leading to excessive speculation and the investigation of subjects best left for other occasions.

From a Review on the DharmaWheel website: “Do I believe that there was a Huineng with hundreds of disciples who attained enlightenment? No, it is very unlikely as Huineng was very much unknown for his contemporaries. It was Shenhui who attributed patriarchy to Huineng after the death of Shenxiu - who was actually a famous master in his time revered by Empress Wu Zetian and many others - so he could claim to be the 7th patriarch and single rightful heir. It was also Shenhui who invented the transmission of robe and bowl. As a matter of fact, Hongren had a couple of disciples who (or rather their disciples) claimed authenticity to themselves. And there were other Chan groups not directly related to Hongren. That's for the historical part. Otherwise the Platform Sutra is a fine Zen work and it's worth studying as it has been done by many others throughout the centuries.”
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:09 pm

How is it Josh?

I am very fond of the legend/myth of Huineng...would love to know more about this publication
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:37 pm

I recently finally got the book - and it is HUGE so honestly have not had time to read it - a major undertaking. There are other books that clearly address the myth creation process -- and most of these author scholars are still big fans of the text even as they acknowledge that it Huineng himself is mostly or entirely fictional.
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sun Feb 26, 2012 11:10 am

Josh,

What book would you recommend that gives an overview of how Zen history was rewritten for political purposes and how the transmission and transmission line dating back to the Buddha was a fabrication.

Thanks for your contributions on this subject. I am one of those who took the truth of these things for granted, having had assumed that all this was part of recorded history.

PS I would like to pay less than 25 cents/page (as in the above book) and I would like to not have to increase my work out time in order to lift it. 14 ounces max.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sun Feb 26, 2012 11:52 am

Having been a sometime practitioner of narrative therapy (one formulation of cognitive therapy), it has become clearer to me how deep is the need in human nature to make meaning out of events through the construction of story. The construction of story can be an immensely creative process. In the therapeutic process the therapist helps the client access the story that is underlying the problem issues in their life, help them make the narrative conscious, and in that process discern whether the story is an oppressive one, or liberating one in its meaning. When stories become oppressive, fixed, and immutable they become a source of suffering rather than healing for humans. So often in institutional religion the story becomes a matter of dogma and not to be questioned, whereas, in any evolutionary, growthful process, a conscious organism must have the freedom to revisit the story with a new understanding, and reauthor it, so that it becomes a liberating story rather than oppressive one.

The mythology of religion is too often an oppressive one, fixating on meanings that fulfilled the purposes of a prior culture, which were too often intent on justifying and maintaining the values of that culture, (i.e. patriarchy, hierarchy, control by religious authority) rather than bringing liberation and growth to the followers of that narrative. As we have seen both on an individual, society, and level of civilization, when the mythical narrative is a closed system, no longer able to adapt and integrate new knowledge and experience, the entire paradigm breaks down, and newer competing narratives begin to emerge with conflict, sometimes violent reaction over which narrative actually is truer. Hence the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether institutional or scripturally based.

As a therapist of 30 years I have companioned many individuals in their process of growth in deconstructing the old narratives and authoring new, more flexible, growthful narratives that are able to assimilate new experience and new information. Fixed narratives that become the dogmatic structures of religion too often become a destructive force in the unfolding of human evolution, a closed system that is oppressive to human consciousness, and, as we see in many present forms in the world today, an instigator of violence as fear-laden humans react to change and the growing challenges to their paradigms upon which they based their individual and group identities, based on historical, closed-structure mythologies, incapable of change and adaptation.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:09 am

Hey Josh--As per Henry's request, I would also be interested in a somewhat "lighter" and broader discussion of Zen hagiography, ideally from a critical and secular but open-minded point of view. Any suggestions?

Nothing against Jorgenson's work, of course, just that I don't have enough hours in the day.

Many thanks.--Dan
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:39 pm

NB: In a previous thread in "The Reading Corner", Josh recommended John McRae's Seeing Through Zen:

http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t419-seeing-through-zen-by-john-mcrae-highly-recommend-this-book

This book is at Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-through-Zen-Transformation-Lilienthal/dp/0520237986/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:46 pm

Seeing through Zen would be a good place to start. Also there are a few books free on line - Mystique of Transmission .... and How Zen Became Zen.... and there is a new book on the platform sutra which I will write about shortly.
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:12 pm

Josh

Very keen to hear about Inventing Hui-Neng as I am on limited income so there is probably no chance of me getting to read it in its entirety-even had I access to my other kalpa-long lives....

However if you make a strong recommendation I might try to get hold of it .

Thanks again for all your contributions.

Before logging on to this website I thought I had a substantial Zen library,now I realise I am but a lightweight in this respect.And very glad to discover this too!

So good to know that I know next to nothing, and there is so much to learn....

Ikuko
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:21 pm

INVENTING HUI-NENG is so expensive. Some libraries might have it or can get it for you.

Also, the new book - READINGS OF THE PLATFORM SUTRA edited by Morten Schlutter and Stephen F. Teiser - has a chapter by John Jorgenson that summarizes the key insights about the creation of the Hui-Neng myth. And this book is a relatively affordable paperback. Also it is under $10 on kindle. Highly recommended.

Until I started participating in this forum, I had not even explored all the new books on the history of Zen/Chan and the whole field of critical Buddhist and Zen studies. Had no idea. And yes, I realized that truly I knew next to nothing about the actual Zen history. What we had read in the 70s was the canned idealized version that bears little resemblance to what actually went on. Nice stories, inspirational, but hardly history - and much of it manufactured hundreds of years after events supposedly took place. I have always been fascinated by history, especially religious history. More on this later
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: Inventing Huineng-your recommendation   Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:48 pm

Thank you for the recommendation Josh.

I am thinking about where to read next and will probably go with that one.

Since you say you have developed a new interest in these revisionist texts,have you thought about compiling any of them together?I am thinking of a publication on the theme,something akin to John Daido Loori The Art of Just Sitting.A thought only,and this is not a task I would be up to.Maybe someone else has had the same thought and is selecting excerpts as I write!

These revelations and revisions seem very timely to me.Part of the "adolescence" of Western Buddhism,if you see what I mean-the next step in growing a mature reflective sangha, consisting of adults who can tolerate the inconsistencies and imperfections of their humanity.

This reading and reflection is a great gift-it helps a lot.

Thanks again for the absorbing reads.

Ikuko
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:56 am

Many of the new books on Zen I listed are essay compilations from many very good current historians -- who, by the way, are not anti-Zen. Their critical studies do not spring from some antagonistic or hyper critical stance. Most of them have deep respect for the teachings and insights and at the same time see clearly that much of what passed for history was mythology and fabrication heavily influenced by politics, personal and sectarian competition, wishful thinking, self-aggrandizement, and so on. Zen/Chan was never some pure mystical stream beyond history, politics, daily life, etc. It was and is a religion, much like all the others. For me, to actually exam the history, the actual reality of how things evolved, makes my sense of these Buddhist schools more grounded.

Zen Skin, Zen Marrow is a good book to read also.

Also, recommend you find and read all the on-line essays by Stuart Lachs. I listed them somewhere on this site, but you can easily find them. He makes some terrific points about hagiography.

http://mandala.hr/samsara/Stuart_Lachs.When_the_Saints_Go_Marching_In.pdf

This essay points out two very recent example of how we create myths almost on the spot, how we want these "masters" to be a certain way, no matter what the truth. We love these big shiny stories with all the messy bits left out.
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:39 am

I read the above article by Stuart Lachs and I very highly recommend it. It is 41 pages long, but is well worth reading. The first 35 pages are, as Josh pointed out, how the stories of two contemporary teachers were "photoshopped" beyond recognition of who they truly were by employing the time honored practice of hagiography. The last pages are Lach's thoughts on what it means to the teachers and their students to create so wide a gulf between the perfection of the master and ordinariness of the student. If you don't have time for the full 41 pages I'd highly recommend reading from page 35 "Hype and Consequences." To get to page 35 you'll have to put your cursor over the bottom of the page and arrows will appear to click on one page at a time. It's not a normal PDF document and it can be a pain to navigate. At least it was for me.

I remember my years of feeling isolated at Shasta, even before I became so ill and bedridden. I was never comfortable with how things played out. How Rev. Kennett's rages and other flaws were sanctified into teaching. How her most gross imperfections were made so little of and how others' small imperfections were a cause for her to explode. And how all this made so much sense to so many. For those for whom this made little sense, we were thrown back on ourselves to doubt our own common sense. We each were isolated until we left the monastery and slowly pieced together for ourselves over the course of years how bizarre this all was and how much emotional (and for some, physical) pain had to be endured to perpetuate this self-enclosed delusional system.

What's amaziing to me now, is that while I was at Shasta feeling so isolated and so doubting of myself, my same story was being played out in numerous Buddhist centers throughout America. And here we are, years later, finding out that what seemed like our own private crisis was a crisis being undergone by so many. And so many of us grew out of that crisis, on our own, coming to so many of the same conclusions.

It seems there are two types of people: one for whom this idealization simply doesn't work, no matter how hard we tried, and how ill it made us; and those for whom it works quite well (or so it seems). Those who can swallow whole the manufactured history, the hagiographies, the suppression of common sense, the idealizing and idolizing, the turning a blind eye to the pain the "master" creates for so many. I have started to see all this as just another form of fundamentalist religion. A denial of scholarship (how debased is that enterprise in Zen literature?) and a denial of common sense and one's own ability to perceive and judge for oneself. To swallow the manufactured history whole because we simply know the unbroken transmission must be true because we believe it is and our master told us. We believe in the story of Christ, even though the whole story of Christ had been told for many other "sons of God" during the previous 2000 years prior to Christ. It's all true because our religion tells us its true. The story line, be it the perfect master or the son of God, must be believed. Faith in the master, as Rev. Kennett said, is morer important than being a light unto oneself. Faith in the religious story (whatever religion) is more important that being a light unto oneself.

There are those for whom fundamentalism works and those for whom it does not. We must know who we are.


Last edited by Henry on Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:49 am

Here are links to two interviews Stuart Lachs did for the web podcast Buddhist Geeks which might be of interest. FREE to listen to.

http://personallifemedia.com/guests/999-stuart-lachs
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:36 pm

by the way, with regard to the Stuart Lach's article about Walter Nowick and contemporary Zen hagiography. Nowick is also an Enneagram Eight, the same type as Kennett.
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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:27 pm

Perhaps you might comment, Josh, on the development of "Dark Zen" and its relevance to this thread and emphasis on scriptural authority and teachings vs. the futility of experience to be realized?
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:21 pm

not quite sure what you're asking. Say more......
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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:32 pm

When I became aware of the emergence of the "Dark Zen" movement (90s ?), it seemed rather odd to me, rather "un-Zenlike". In this thread there has been an exploration of the false mythologies of traditional beliefs. "Dark Zen" for me seem to emphasize a reliance on the truth of the Zen scriptures and traditional teachers over experience so it seemed like a form of Zen fundamentalism. So, that is the background to my question. Maybe it isn't relevant but it was just a matter of curiosity to me.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:54 pm

What is "dark zen"?
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PostSubject: Re: Inventing Hui-Neng: Hagiography and Biography in early Chan Buddhsim   Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:46 pm

Carol wrote:
What is "dark zen"?

Carol, I came across the term several years ago on a Zen discussion list. The most I can recall is that it is a term for a group of practitioners who have "debunked" and deconstructed the whole transmission lineage idea as a false myth. Instead they rely on the Zen canon of scriptures for authority.
Here's a URL on the topic that can probably explain better than I can.
http://www.darkzen.org/basis_of_darkzen.html
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