The Zen Canon: Understanding the Classic Texts
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Bodhidharma, its first patriarch, reputedly said that Zen Buddhism represents "a special transmission outside the teaching/Without reliance on words and letters." This saying, along with the often perplexing use of language (and silence) by Zen masters, gave rise to the notion that Zen is a "lived religion," based strictly on non-linguistic practice and lacking a substantial canon of sacred texts. Even those who recognize the importance of Zen texts commonly limit their focus to a few select texts without recognizing the wide variety of Zen literature. This collection of previously unpublished essays argues that Zen actually has a rich and varied literary heritage. Among the most significant textual genres are hagiographic accounts and recorded sayings of individual Zen masters, koan collections and commentaries, and rules for monastic life. During times of political turmoil in China and Japan, these texts were crucial to the survival and success of Zen, and they have for centuries been valued by practitioners as vital expressions of the truth of Zen. This volume offers learned yet accessible studies of some of the most important classical Zen texts, including some that have received little scholarly attention (and many of which are accessible only to specialists). Each essay provides historical, literary, and philosophical commentary on a particular text or genre. Together, they offer a critique of the "de facto canon" that has been created by the limited approach of Western scholarship, and demonstrate that literature is a diverse and essential part of Zen Buddhism.
les manuscrits de Touen-houang,” Michel Soymie, ed., Contributions aux E´tudes sur Touen-houang, (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1952); Yamaguchi Zuiho¯, “Tora o tomonau daiju¯hachi rakanzu no rairek,” Indo¯ koten kenkyu¯ 13 (1984): 1–10; Obata Hironobu, “Pelliot tib. No. 116 bunken ni mieru sho Zenshi no kenkyu¯,” Zenbunka kenkyu¯jo kiyo¯, 8 (1974): 33–103; Ueyama Daishun, Tonko¯ bukkyo¯ no kenkyu¯, (1974): vol. 13, 1–10; Ryu¯toku Kimura, “Le dhyana chinois au Tibet ancien apre`s Mahayana,” Journal
methods of teaching that would amount to a form of direct pointing, one of which is the kind of impatient, accusatory posture that he is pictured as taking in the quote above. We can only imagine him raising his voice, and losing his patience with doctrinal obfuscation. 2. Paradoxical Language The use of paradoxical language in exalted spiritual discourse has a long history in Buddhism, and is not unknown in other religious traditions, as well. Two of Huang-po’s favorite Maha¯ya¯na texts, the
the attempt to legitimize factional claims as true representatives of Ch’an’s “special transmission outside the teachings.”At the time of the compilation of both the Tsu-t’ang chi and the Ch’uan-teng lu, the inﬂuence of the Lin-chi faction was keenly felt, but it had yet to gain unquestioned supremacy. The “classic” Ch’an perspective associated with this faction was in the process of formation and was exerting tremendous inﬂuence over Ch’an’s emerging identity, but its dominance was far from
insurgence, there were ten such commanders or prefects with the title of Military Commissioner. After An Lu-shan, their numbers increased greatly. During the chen-yuan era (785–805), the number grew to thirty. By the yuan-ho era (806–820), there were forty-seven.12 The nature of Buddhism in China, usually aligned with and sanctioned by imperial authority, changed substantially through this process. Local Ch’an movements proliferated from these diverse bases of regional authority, relying on the
that the Tsu-t’ang chi text developed over three stages: ﬁrst, an original compilation in one fascicle; second, an enlarged ten-fascicle text completed by the early Sung dynasty; and third, the division of the ten-fascicle text into twenty fascicles in the 1245 Korean reissue. Although ﬁnal conclusions regarding this hypothesis await further research, it is worth noting that Kinugawa’s proposal is also based on linguistic criteria, by examining the colloquial style of the Tsu-t’ang chi against