How Zen Became Zen

How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

Morten Schlütter
Copyright Date: 2008
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    How Zen Became Zen
    Book Description:

    How Zen Became Zen takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote. In this fascinating study, Morten Schlütter shows that Dahui’s target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlütter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents’ arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago. Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlütter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes. He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlütter terms it) in the Chan School.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6288-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Conventions
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about a set of crucial developments that took place within Chinese Buddhism in the Song dynasty (960–1279) that had a defining impact on the evolution of Zen Buddhism in all of East Asia and that came to permanently shape conceptions about the nature of Zen and the issues it is concerned with. It is entitledHow Zen Became Zen, because although Zen (in Chinese pronounced “Chan”) existed earlier, it was not until this period that it fully developed the characteristics that we now associate with it.¹

    By the Song dynasty, Chinese Buddhism was already ancient. Having...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Chan Buddhism in the Song: Some Background
    (pp. 13-30)

    In 1101, shortly after he had ascended the throne, the young emperor Huizong (r. 1101–1126) wrote a preface for an important Chan Buddhist transmission history and ordered the work included in the Buddhist canon. In his preface to this work, theJianzhong Jingguo xudeng lu(Continuation of the record of the [transmission of] the lamp from the Jianzhong Jingguo [era, 1101–1102]; hereafterXudeng lu),¹ Huizong reiterates the Chan school’s version of the enlightenment of the Buddha and the story of how the Buddha transmitted the eye storehouse of the true dharma (zhengfa yanzang) to his disciple Mahākāśyapa (d.u.). The...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Chan School and the Song State
    (pp. 31-54)

    In 955, the Latter Zhou (Hou Zhou, 951–960) began a vigorous suppression of Buddhism when the emperor Shizong (r. 954–959) ordered all monasteries in his realm that lacked an imperially bestowed name plaque destroyed.¹ Records indicate that 30,336 monasteries were dismantled, while only 2,694 were spared.² A couple of years later, one of the Latter Zhou generals rebelled, and in 960 he successfully set up his own dynasty, the Song, and became known to posterity as the emperor Taizu. Immediately after Taizu came to power, he issued an edict modifying the Latter Zhou decree to exclude old and...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Procreation and Patronage in the Song Chan School
    (pp. 55-77)

    In the previous chapter, I demonstrated that state policies, particularly in the Northern Song, had a profound impact on the development of monastic Buddhism, creating an environment that facilitated and encouraged the growth of the Chan school, enabling it to flourish and evolve. Without these policies, Chan would likely never have become a major force in Chinese Buddhism.

    In this chapter, I will argue that support and patronage from members of the literati, both those who were government officials and those who were not, was also crucial for the success of the Chan school in general and for the growth...

  9. CHAPTER 4 A New Chan Tradition: The Reinvention of the Caodong Lineage in the Song
    (pp. 78-103)

    Thus far, I have argued for the great influence certain government policies had on the formation of the Chan school in the Song. I have also shown that the individual Chan lineages were highly dependent on government officials and other members of the educated elite for crucial political and economic support, without which they would not have been able to succeed. Further, I have argued that important political and social shifts that took place around the transition from the Northern to the Southern Song had a significant impact on the Chan school: government policies became less favorable to the Chan...

  10. CHAPTER 5 A Dog Has No Buddha-Nature: Kanhua Chan and Dahui Zonggao’s Attacks on Silent Illumination
    (pp. 104-121)

    The caodong tradition underwent, as we have seen, a remarkable revival and reinvention beginning in the late eleventh century that propelled it onto the national stage and made it one of the leading groups of elite Buddhism. The dharma brothers Furong Daokai and Dahong Baoen were the coarchitects of this new Caodong tradition, although Daokai quickly came to be seen as the paragon of the Caodong revival, partly due to the achievements of his many disciples. The great success of the emerging Caodong tradition was widely noted in Daokai and Baoen’s own time, as witnessed by various comments in extant...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Caodong Tradition as the Target of Attacks by the Linji Tradition
    (pp. 122-143)

    Dahui did not leave his audience in any doubt about his views on silent illumination. It has long been a question in the study of Song Chan, however, who exactly Dahui was condemning when he raged at “heretical teachers of silent illumination Chan,” since he rarely mentioned any names or other specifics. Scholars have long assumed that the main object of Dahui’s criticism must have been his famous contemporary in the Caodong tradition, Hongzhi Zhengjue.¹ Hongzhi’s collection of recorded sayings is one of the few extant twelfth-century sources in which the expression “silent illumination” is used in a nonderogatory sense,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Silent Illumination and the Caodong Tradition
    (pp. 144-174)

    In the previous chapter, I argued that Dahui meant to target the entire new Caodong tradition of the twelfth century, including Hongzhi Zhengjue, with his attacks on silent illumination. There are also strong indications that before Dahui, Zhenjing Kewen, too, criticized the teachings of the new Caodong tradition, and Yuanwu Keqin and others may have done so as well. But a remaining important issue is whether the revived Caodong tradition did in fact teach something that might reasonably be called “silent illumination” and whether Dahui and other critics depicted its teachings accurately. In this chapter, I shall discuss the teachings...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-182)

    Beginning in the late eleventh century, the religious genius of the masters of the Caodong revival created what was essentially a whole new tradition of Chan, with a complete hagiography, a robust literature, and a distinctive style of instruction and meditation. The Linji tradition, which was well established at the time the new Caodong tradition emerged, proved able to renew itself in response to the Caodong revival and created its own innovative teachings. The intensity of religious conviction, the concern for the well-being of the audience, and the great eloquence and sincerity that come across to us in the preserved...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 183-235)
  15. The Caodong Lineage
    (pp. 236-236)
  16. The Linij Lineage
    (pp. 237-238)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 239-250)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-276)
  19. Index
    (pp. 277-289)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 290-292)