Daniel Shakhmundes, Zain Dinath, Derek Pritchett, Rachel Tiano - Chinese Philosophy (PHIL 2P17) - 2005-03-28
The name Zen (Ch’an in Chinese) was derived from the attempt to render the Sanskrit term dhyana meaning “meditation” into Japanese and Chinese. Ch’an Buddhism is a derivative of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism and stresses meditation over adherence to scriptures or doctrine.
According to legend, an Indian monk Bodhidharma, who arrived in China in about 520, founded the school. He taught the Lankavatara Sutra which taught “conscience only”. His insight was then transmitted through a series of Chinese patriarchs; the most famous was the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng.
Hui Neng stressed the Platform Sutra, which defines enlightenment as the direct seeing of ones original nature, which is the Buddha nature. The 8th and 9th centuries produced many great Ch’an masters such as Ma-tsu, Huang Po, and Lin-chi. Later, Korean monks studying in China learned of Zen and spread it to Japan in the seventh century.
"Awakening - or satori - is the fundamental aim of Zen. It is seeing into your nature, realizing your own Buddhahood, freeing yourself from the cycle of birth and death."
When Buddhism first came to China Taoism and Confucianism heavily influenced it. This resulted in meditation being understood not as concentration as in India, but as things such as conserving energy, reducing desires, living in the here and now etc. Therefore, the Ch’an School put meditation at the center of its practice. Followers gave up the study of traditional Buddhist scriptures to pursue a more intuitive way of enlightenment through meditation, physical training and the study of illogical puzzles known as koans. Koans force one’s intellect to consider impossible scenarios until it becomes exhausted, realizes the futility in searching for an answer and gives up. Once the intellect is out of the way, enlightenment (satori) is more readily attained.
It is a common tenet of Buddhism that the direct perception of reality (enlightenment or satori) is necessary to liberate oneself from the cycle of death and rebirth. Satori attained from Zen is not an understanding obtained through intellectual analysis, but rather it is an awareness obtained through a direct experience. The ultimate purpose of Zen practice is to reach the same enlightened state of mind as the Buddha did. Zen meditation is designed to prevent the mind from distractions and achieve wisdom and ultimately reach enlightenment.
Similarities between the Northern and Southern Schools
• Both schools started out with the major premise that Nirvana is identical with the original substance of the Buddha-mind, which is the same as Buddha-nature, and the Buddha-nature is in all men so that all men can become Buddha’s.
• Both schools remain within the Buddhist traditions of idealism and universal salvation.
• The Northern school taught that the pure mind arises from absolute quietude and does so only after erroneous thoughts are eliminated
• The Southern school insists that the mind cannot be split into parts and that all of its activities are functions of Thus-ness (True Reality).
• Northern school considers the mind in its undisturbed state as calmness (Samadhi) and the senses in their undisturbed state as wisdom (Prajna).
• Southern school refuses to accept the distinction, regarding both as of one substance and not two. It affirms the unity of the mind and everything else.
Absence of thought; Forgetting our feelings; Letting the mind take its own course; Travel; Never tell too plainly; Koan; Shouting and Beating
• When a commoner suddenly becomes a sovereign it is called a mundane mystery.
• If in the 1st stage of one’s spiritual progress (10 stages)
• The initial resolve to perfect wisdom has a correspondence with truth
• They will immediately achieve Buddha hood.
• These types of mysteries are in accord with the Buddha principle of sudden enlightenment.
• Gradual enlightenment comes from the other teachings of Buddhism, which emphasizes on gradual steps towards enlightenment. This means loading the mind of knowledge to understand.
• Sudden enlightenment is the belief of Zen Buddhism. It follows the Buddhist principle having no attachment to the self.
• Zen Buddhism attempts to achieve nirvana without renouncing life and death (different from other Buddhist teachings)
“Why is ignorance the same as spontaneity (Tzu-Jan)”
• “Because ignorance and Buddha-nature come into existence spontaneously” (pg.443)
• One is the basis for the other, therefore when one exists, the other exists and without one there cannot be the other
• An example: It is like gold and minerals; they both come into existence at the same time. After a master has smelted and refined the material, gold and the minerals will be differentiated and further smelting the residual mineral will become dust.
• Gold is an analogy of the Buddha-nature and minerals an analogy of afflictions resulting from passions.
• Therefore the afflictions and Buddha-nature exist simultaneously. If only one exists the other cannot, until all is rid and the purity shows through (gold)
The Recorded Conversation of Zen-Master I-Hsuan
• This conversation, Zen-Master would beat the monk for asking questions.
• Reason being, Seekers of enlightenment in Buddhism do neither need effort, nor questions answered for them. Buddha hood is not to be searched for. Nothing needs to be done to achieve it.
• Enlightenment is a sudden event with no effort needed.
The Platform Scripture
Our A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy cites selections from the oldest version of the Liu-tsu t'an-ching
There are five versions of the Liu-tsu t'an-ching that followed the initial, the latest being dated 1291. It was included in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) editions of the Buddhist Canon of 1420-1440, which goes to show how significant to Buddhism this scripture became.
The Ming Canon version is twice as long as the oldest text. Despite the many corrected mistakes in the oldest copy from the Tun-huang cave, “elaboration does not alter the general story or the fundamental teachings.”
The oldest Platform Scripture is ascribed to Hui-neng. Dr. Hu Shih thinks that it was probably by an 8th century monk, most likely a follower of Shen-hui's school.
The scripture begins with an encounter between Priest Hung-jen and Hui-neng, recounted in first-person perspective by the latter.
Further on unfolds the story of how the 6th Patriarch (Hui-neng) came to receive his position/title from the 5th Patriarch (Hung-jen). Though dedication, labours, and discipline, Hui-neng rises to Hung-jen's challenge of writing a verse to exemplify the wisdom inherent in one's nature. The 6th Patriarch gave a detailed statement of the Diamond Scripture to Hui-neng in secret (without the knowledge of anyone in Hung-jen's establishment). The method of sudden enlightenment and a robe were given, as testimony of transmission. For some reason, because of the transmission of the Law, Hui-neng risked harm if he did not leave quickly.
The 6th Patriarch went to what is presently called Canton, in South China. According to Hui-neng's own words in the scripture, he “associated with government officials, disciples who have renounced their families, and lay folk. This, after all, was due to causes operating over many long periods of time.”
What kind of life do you think Hui-neng lead, given the implications you conceive upon hearing his circumstances in Canton?
The scripture goes on with Hui-neng's explanation on how one could become enlightened.
“Perfect wisdom is inherent in all people”-- Being deluded holds back enlightenment.
Strong and repeated recommendation/suggestion/advice to “seek the help of good and learned friends of high standing to show them the way to see [their own] nature.”
To be enlightened is to attain wisdom
Calmness and wisdom are one substance and the foundation of Hui-neng's method
To say that one follows the other, or that they are different, would imply that the dharmas (elements of existence) posess two different characters
Good words and heart are identifiers of calmness and wisdom
Self-enlightenment and practice do not consist in argument
Consideration of success or failure in attaining enlightenment will result in the dharmas being produced as real entities, in which case one will not be free form the Four Characters [of coming into existence, remaining in the same state, change, and going out of existence]
The enlightenment of anyone who attains it, sudden or gradual, is the same as that of anyone else who attains it - regardless of time
The dharma-body (Law-body or spiritual body) is freed from the physical body through the following:
Absence-of-thought – main doctrine
“Not to be carried away by thought in the process of thought”(A concept likely coming from the influence of various forms of Taoism).
Free yourself from afflictions resulting from passions brought on by thoughts initiated by external objects
One's untainted thought is the substance of true nature or True Thus ness (True Reality)
Absence-of-characters – the substance
“To be free from characters while in the midst of them”
“Not to be defiled by external objects”
The thoughts of others influence you and contaminate your own characters and thoughts
Contemporary marketing tactics of influencing your recognition and nature (magazine covers, etc.) are a good large-scale example of imposing erroneous views (i.e. The monstrous businesses of “Soft-drink” [pop/soda], fast food, and cigarettes).
Nonattachment – foundation
“Man’s original nature”
A dharma never has any thought attached to it – it is to be as instinctual
“Man's nature is originally pure”
“It is by false thoughts that True Thus ness is obscured”; this is how one may become deluded
The cultivation of imperturbability (say that three times fast) prevents one's nature from becoming perturbed by the mistakes and defects of people
The scripture goes on to reiterate all the above points in explaining how they may be realized through the given meditation techniques
Metaphysical concepts are brought down, such as the Three Bodies of the Buddha, to dispel idolatry of the Buddha.
Pure [Law] is further explained with the assistance of the metaphysical notions
Enlightenment cannot happen in steps, one split second of truth empties the mind. No questions need to be asked, No questions need answers.
“The Zen emphasizes the spirit of revolt but also determination and removes anything in the way of the mind’s direct and immediate intuition of truth”(Pg.449)
“Not only is there not much in Hsung-po’s Buddhism; there is not much in Buddhism itself” (pg. 449) *This saying has been repeated time and again by Zen Buddhists. *Also one of the top five most important Buddhist points.
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