The tradition of Chan Buddhism—more popularly known as Zen—has been romanticized throughout its history. In this book, John R. McRae shows how modern critical techniques, supported by recent manuscript discoveries, make possible a more skeptical, accurate, and—ultimately—productive assessment of Chan lineages, teaching, fundraising practices, and social organization. Synthesizing twenty years of scholarship, Seeing through Zen offers new, accessible analytic models for the interpretation of Chan spiritual practices and religious history. Writing in a lucid and engaging style, McRae traces the emergence of this Chinese spiritual tradition and its early figureheads, Bodhidharma and the "sixth patriarch" Huineng, through the development of Zen dialogue and koans. In addition to constructing a central narrative for the doctrinal and social evolution of the school, Seeing through Zen examines the religious dynamics behind Chan’s use of iconoclastic stories and myths of patriarchal succession. McRae argues that Chinese Chan is fundamentally genealogical, both in its self-understanding as a school of Buddhism and in the very design of its practices of spiritual cultivation. Furthermore, by forgoing the standard idealization of Zen spontaneity, we can gain new insight into the religious vitality of the school as it came to dominate the Chinese religious scene, providing a model for all of East Asia—and the modern world. Ultimately, this book aims to change how we think about Chinese Chan by providing new ways of looking at the tradition.
seeing through zen
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Compiled by a leading scholar of Chinese poetry, Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown is the first collection of Chan (Zen) poems to be situated within Chan thought and practice. Combined with exquisite paintings by Charles Chu, the anthology compellingly captures the ideological and literary nuances of works that were composed, paradoxically, to "say more by saying less," and creates an unparalleled experience for readers of all backgrounds. Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown includes verse composed by monk-poets of the eighth to the seventeenth centuries. Their style ranges from the direct vernacular to the evocative and imagistic. Egan's faithful and elegant translations of poems by Han Shan, Guanxiu, and Qiji, among many others, do justice to their perceptions and insights, and his detailed notes and analyses unravel centuries of Chan metaphor and allusion. In these gems, monk-poets join mainstream ideas on poetic function to religious reflection and proselytizing, carving out a distinct genre that came to influence generations of poets, critics, and writers. The simplicity of Chan poetry belies its complex ideology and sophisticated language, elements Egan vividly explicates in his religious and literary critique. His interpretive strategies enable a richer understanding of Mahayana Buddhism, Chan philosophy, and the principles of Chinese poetry.
The Platform Sutra comprises a wide range of important Chan/Zen Buddhist teachings. Purported to contain the autobiography and sermons of Huineng (638–713), the legendary Sixth Patriarch of Chan, the sutra has been popular among monastics and the educated elite for centuries. The first study of its kind in English, this volume offers essays that introduce the history and ideas of the sutra to a general audience and interpret its practices. Leading specialists on Buddhism discuss the text's historical background and its vaunted legacy in Chinese culture. Incorporating recent scholarship and theory, chapters include an overview of Chinese Buddhism, the crucial role of the Platform Sutra in the Chan tradition, and the dynamics of Huineng's biography. They probe the sutra's key philosophical arguments, its paradoxical teachings about transmission, and its position on ordination and other institutions. The book includes a character glossary and extensive bibliography, with helpful references for students, general readers, and specialists throughout. The editors and contributors are among the most respected scholars in the study of Buddhism, and they assess the place of the Platform Sutra in the broader context of Chinese thought, opening the text to all readers interested in Asian culture, literature, spirituality, and religion.
Zen Master Who? is the first-ever book to provide a history of Zen's arrival in North America, surveying the shifts and challenges to Zen as it finds its Western home. With the exception of parts of Rick Field's How the Swans Came to the Lake, there has been no previous attempt to write this chronicle. James Ishmael Ford begins by tracing Zen's history in Asia, looking at some of Zen's most seminal figures--the Sixth Ancestor Huineng, Dogen Zenji (the founder of the Soto Zen school), Hakuin Ekaku (the great reformer of the Rinzai koan way), and many others--and then outlines the state of Zen in North America today. Clear-eyed and even-handed, Ford shows us the history and development of the institution of Zen--both its beauty and its warts. Ford also outlines the many subtle differences in teachings, training, ordination, and transmission among schools and lineages. This book will aid those looking for a Zen center or a teacher, but who may not know where to start. Suggesting what might be possible, skillful, and fruitful in our communities, it will also be of use to those who lead the Zen centers of today and tomorrow.
The strange verbal paradoxes called koans have been used traditionally in Zen training to help students attain a direct realization of truths inexpressible in words. The two works translated in this book, Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate ) and Hekiganroku (The Blue Cliff Record), both compiled during the Song dynasty in China, are the best known and most frequently studied koan collections, and are classics of Zen literature. They are still used today in a variety of practice lineages, from traditional zendos to modern Zen centers. In a completely new translation, together with original commentaries, the well-known Zen teacher Katsuki Sekida brings to these works the same fresh and pragmatic approach that made his Zen Training so successful. The insights of a lifetime of Zen practice and his familiarity with both Eastern and Western ways of thinking make him an ideal interpreter of these texts.
The disciplines and teachings of Zen are revealed in the Japanese master's commentary on the cryptic sayings used for monastic training
David M Whites inspiring stories see birding as a meditative practice and pathway to true connectedness.
The Linji lu, or Record of Linji, ranks among the most famous and influential texts of the Chan and Zen traditions. Ostensibly containing the teachings of the Tang dynasty figure Linji Yixuan, the text has generally been accepted at face value, as reliable records of the teachings of this historical figure. In this book, Albert Welter offers the first systematic study of the Linji lu in a western language. Welter places the Linji lu in its historical context, showing how the text was manipulated over time by the Linji faction. Rather than recording the teachings of the illustrious patriarch of legend, the text reflects the motivations of Linji-faction descendants in the Song dynasty (9601279). The story of the Linji lu is not simply the story of one heroic figure, Linji Yixuan, but the story of an entire movement that sought validation through retrospective image making. The success of this effort is seen in Chan's rise to prominence. Drawing on the findings of Japanese scholars, Welter moves beyond the minutiae of textual analysis to place the development of Linji lu within the broader forces shaping the development of the Chinese Records of Sayings literary genre as a whole.
Whether speaking of student or master, Zen hinges on the question. Zen practice does not necessarily focus on the answers, but on finding a space in which we may sustain uncertainty and remain present and upright in the middle of investigations. Zen Questions begins by exploring "The World of Zazen,"--the foundational practice of the Zen school--presenting it as an attitude of sustained inquiry that offers us an entryway into true repose and joy. From there, Leighton draws deeply on his own experience as a Zen scholar and teacher to invite us into the creativity of Zen awareness and practice. He explores the poetic mind of Dogen with the poetry of Rumi, Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and even "the American Dharma Bard" Bob Dylan. What's more, Leighton uncovers surprising resonances between the writings of America's Founding Fathers--including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin--and the liberating ideals at the heart of Zen.
The Record of the Dharma-Jewel Through the Generations (Lidai fabao ji) is a little-known Chan/Zen Buddhist text of the eighth century, rediscovered in 1900 at the Silk Road oasis of Dunhuang. The only remaining artifact of the Bao Tang Chan school of Sichuan, the text provides a fascinating sectarian history of Chinese Buddhism intended to showcase the iconoclastic teachings of Bao Tang founder Chan Master Wuzhu (714–774). Wendi Adamek not only brings Master Wuzhu's experimental community to life but also situates his paradigm-shifting teachings within the history of Buddhist thought. Having published the first translation of the Lidai fabao ji in a Western language, she revises and presents it here for wide readership. Written by disciples of Master Wuzhu, the Lidai fabao ji is one of the earliest attempts to implement a "religion of no-religion," doing away with ritual and devotionalism in favor of "formless practice." Master Wuzhu also challenged the distinctions between lay and ordained worshippers and male and female practitioners. The Lidai fabao ji captures his radical teachings through his reinterpretation of the Chinese practices of merit, repentance, precepts, and Dharma transmission. These aspects of traditional Buddhism continue to be topics of debate in contemporary practice groups, making the Lidai fabao ji a vital document of the struggles, compromises, and insights of an earlier era. Adamek's volume opens with a vivid introduction animating Master Wuzhu's cultural environment and comparing his teachings to other Buddhist and historical sources.