Huseng wrote:pueraeternus wrote:I wonder if we can pinpoint more or less when in Buddhism does the primacy of the guru comes into play? Would that be the early stages of esoteric or vajrayana Buddhism?
I suspect that towards the end of the Gupta (550) and the rise of Indian feudalism thereafter we can identify practices or lineages that insist on a guru as a precondition for liberation. This was perhaps tied in with vast cultural and religious changes in north India where authority, both political and religious, came to be heavily emphasized. This likewise applied to Hindu schools of thought as well. Buddhist institutions like Nālandā became fortresses with abbots acting effectively as lords over the peoples in their territories. In such a cultural context authority and deference to authority seem to have become a lot more emphasized than ever before.
Chan definitely had the idea of a teaching transmitted outside of scriptures from master to disciple, though that might have specifically come to exist in the seventh or eighth centuries. According to McRae in Seeing Through Zen, Bodhidharma forms the "proto-Chan", having died around 530 (see page 13). There's also a source saying Bodhidharma arrived from Persia in China in 547 (see page 26). A lot of the details of his hagiography and the teachings attributed to him are difficult to take at face value. So, assuming Chan really starts in the 7th century, there would have been such influences from India and especially all the more so come the 8th century when Indian esoteric masters started introducing practices which required initiation and lineage.
Interesting. All these do seem to point to post Yogacara, and the beginning of esoteric orders.