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Chan (Zen) Buddhism . Jeffrey L. Richey, Ph.D. REL 260 Buddhism Berea College Spring 2004. BUDDHISM COMES TO EAST ASIA. “Silk Road” merchants and missionaries transmit Buddhism to China by 65 CE

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Chan (Zen) Buddhism

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Chan (Zen) Buddhism

Jeffrey L. Richey, Ph.D.

REL 260

Buddhism

Berea College

Spring 2004


BUDDHISM COMES TO EAST ASIA

  • “Silk Road” merchants and missionaries transmit Buddhism to China by 65 CE

  • As Han 漢 dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE) declines, Chinese elites turn away from Confucianism to Daoism and Buddhism, often combining elements of each in syncretistic mix

  • By Tang 唐 dynasty (618-907 CE), Buddhism reaches zenith of its popularity in China

  • From China, Buddhism spreads to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan


CHALLENGES TO BUDDHISM IN CHINA

  • Geographic: difficulty of India-China travel

  • Linguistic: translation of foreign texts and concepts

  • Political: conflicts between rulers and sangha; separation between north and south during “Period of Disunity”

  • Religious: competition with and/or dilution by Confucianism and Daoism

  • Social: traditional Chinese distaste for foreign ways (e.g., celibacy, monasticism, Sanskrit terminology, karma theory)


Buddhists in Tang China develop theory of “Last Days of the Dharma” (Chinese mofa, Japanese mappo 末法) – view of present as degenerate era in which former methods of teaching do not suffice for enlightenment

“Desperate times call for desperate measures” – tendency to focus solely on one text or practice

Chan禪 = Sanskrit dhyana (“meditation” – Japanese: Zen)

Chan goal: Chinese jianxing, Japanese kensho見性 (seeing one’s true nature) – sudden enlightenment

Based on Theravāda concept of individual effort (Chinese zili, Japanese jiriki自力) and Tantric meditation techniques

Enlightenment verified by “mind-to-mind” transmission from master to disciple, beginning with Bodhidharma (Indian, 400s CE?)

ROOTS OF EAST ASIAN BUDDHISM


SOURCES OF JAPANESE BUDDHISM

  • Buddhism (Tantric, Chan, Pure Land) introduced during 500s CE by Korean immigrants, missionaries, and diplomats

  • Functions of Buddhism in early Japan:

    • Instrument of diplomacy

    • Vehicle of civilization

    • Symbol of political power

  • Shintô-Buddhist syncretism:

    • theory ofhonji suijaku本地重跡 (original reality, manifest traces)

    • Buddhas and bodhisattvas are honji, kami are suijaku


DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHAN/ZEN TRADITION

  • Degeneration of dharma justifies rejection of devotion and scripturesin favor of meditation as sole or primary method of attaining enlightenment

  • Reality must be seen as it is (nondualistic, spontaneous, “empty”)

  • Two major sects:

  • Chinese Linji, Japanese Rinzai臨濟 – uses riddles (Chinese gong’an, Japanese koan公案), verbal abuse and meditation

  • Chinese Caotong, Japanese Soto曹狪 -- uses meditation only


LEGACIES OF THE CHAN/ZEN TRADITION

  • Cements syncretism of indigenous and imported elements (Buddhism/Daoism, Buddhism/Shintô) in East Asian Buddhism

  • Hugely influential on East Asian cultures:

  • Calligraphy

  • Cuisine (e.g., tea)

  • Drama (especially in Japan)

  • Martial arts (e.g., fencing)

  • Painting

  • Philosophy

  • Poetry

  • Ritual (e.g., tea ceremony)


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