Tibetan Myth of Chan

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Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Astus » Fri May 07, 2010 1:14 pm

I've been reading the commentaries to an analysis on the Samye debate and its circumstances (here). And then I thought how interesting it is that while there are so many books and other sources on Chan, people still have the same misunderstandings about it in Tibetan Buddhism.

Chan is not a single school. There is not a single person who could represent everyone. One teacher is responsible for what he teaches personally and represents only his own lineage and monastery/church. Also Chan teachers can be quite independent. In the 7th-8th century, when Chinese teachers were roaming Tibetan land, there were many different groups in China that could be identified as belonging to the Chan movement. I say this in order to avoid simplification of what Chan is.

A reoccurring critique and usual argument to differentiate Chan view from Dzogchen (nb. I don't say they're the same!) is that Chan knows nothing about the aware nature of mind but only the empty. That is of course not so.

Another misconception is that Chan disregards gradual teachings. First of all, within the Chan tradition different meditation techniques have always been used, both common Mahayana methods and special Chan teachings. On the other hand, it is essentially a sudden path - direct realisation of buddha-mind - but that doesn't mean the denial of the efficacy of gradual methods.

Third misconception is about Chan being only (or mostly) a samatha meditation. First of all, as far as its suddenness goes, Chan is direct seeing of buddha-mind, therefore development in meditation is irrelevant. Second, the techniques used for stage by stage progress cover both samatha and vipasyana, plus many other things Mahayana has. Third, just because it is called Chan (a derivative of Sanskrit dhyana) doesn't mean it's all about sitting in meditation and nothing else.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Josef » Fri May 07, 2010 3:12 pm

Astus wrote:
A reoccurring critique and usual argument to differentiate Chan view from Dzogchen (nb. I don't say they're the same!) is that Chan knows nothing about the aware nature of mind but only the empty. That is of course not so.


I agree with you. And you are right to say that you dont say they are the same.
I personally find it baffling when people try to say that they are. Chan and Dzogchen are completely different animals.
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Astus » Fri May 07, 2010 4:15 pm

Yes, Chan is Chan, Dzogchen is Vajrayana. They aren't even spelt the same way. Nevertheless, it is still intriguing to see some common features too. But my aim here is simply to show a clearer picture of Chan - the sudden path to buddha-mind.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Yogicfire » Sat May 08, 2010 9:03 am

Interesting thoughts. I have been interested in the past in the famous debate concerning the gradual and sudden paths as well...

I do wonder what you mean by 'Chan' though. As you say that Chan has always been a mixture of traditions and lineages, and then we have to take note that the Chan school doesn't actually exist anymore, as the teachings were transmitted into Zen and other Japanese lineages.... So, when you try to give an account of Chan, I wonder what school you are really referring to.
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Astus » Sat May 08, 2010 9:25 am

Bummer. It is another myth that there is no Chan but in Japan only. Obviously there is Chan in China, some teachers have even come to the West (Ven. Xuanhua [City of Ten Thousand Buddhas], Ven. Shengyan [Dharma Drum Mountain], Ven. Xingyun [Fo Guang Shan]).

There are certain concepts shared by the different lineages (similar to greater groups like Madhyamaka, Mantrayana), like the teaching of sudden enlightenment and buddha-nature. By Chan here I generally referred to (1) common basics of the "Bodhidharma School", (2) the schools present around the 7-8th centuries.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Huifeng » Sun May 09, 2010 2:37 am

Regards the "Tibetan Myth of Chan" in the West, given the huge predominance of Tibetan Buddhism when compared to Chan, something tells me that either the Myth shall be further enshrined, or that it shall become even more mythic (in the sense of not really representing what actually happened). But maybe I'm a little pessimistic on these sorts of things.
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby andrewcyh » Sun May 09, 2010 6:03 am

sam van schaik's blog sheds some light on the samye debate and Chan in Tibet

http://earlytibet.com/2007/11/13/tibeta ... rors-chan/
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Yogicfire » Sun May 09, 2010 7:23 am

Astus wrote:Bummer. It is another myth that there is no Chan but in Japan only. Obviously there is Chan in China, some teachers have even come to the West (Ven. Xuanhua [City of Ten Thousand Buddhas], Ven. Shengyan [Dharma Drum Mountain], Ven. Xingyun [Fo Guang Shan]).

There are certain concepts shared by the different lineages (similar to greater groups like Madhyamaka, Mantrayana), like the teaching of sudden enlightenment and buddha-nature. By Chan here I generally referred to (1) common basics of the "Bodhidharma School", (2) the schools present around the 7-8th centuries.


It is good to hear that some kind of Chan lineage still exists. But, surely it has to be a fairly recent phenomena? I can't imagine that you have unbroken thousand year old Chan lineages...

Aren't we saying that the Chan school died out in China completely, and was resurrected at some later stage by other lineages and modern teachers?
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Anders » Sun May 09, 2010 1:53 pm

Yogicfire wrote:Aren't we saying that the Chan school died out in China completely, and was resurrected at some later stage by other lineages and modern teachers?


who is saying that and when did it happen? It's news to me.
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Dexing » Sun May 09, 2010 4:59 pm

That's news to me as well. :|

My masters in China can trace their lineages name-by-name back to Shakyamuni Buddha. As can many other Chinese masters. Ven. Shengyan has two unbroken lineages from both the Caodong and Linji schools going back to Shakyamuni Buddha. You can read it online. Korean and Japanese masters can also trace their lineage back through China and to Shakyamuni.

:namaste:
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Yogicfire » Sun May 09, 2010 5:13 pm

I don't know all the details concerning Chinese Buddhism, but it has suffered a fair bit of persecution and upheaval down the ages.

The Northern transmission died out long ago, and only the Southern transmission survived. Then, looking at the Five Houses of Chan, only the Linji survives today in China. I note that some have stated that the Caodong has survived in some shape, but maybe they are talking about the transmission into Japan.

So, the Linji school has an unbroken lineage going through all the centuries, and all the persecution and suppression linked with the Communist regime?
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Dexing » Sun May 09, 2010 5:23 pm

Yogicfire wrote:Then, looking at the Five Houses of Chan, only the Linji survives today in China. I note that some have stated that the Caodong has survived in some shape, but maybe they are talking about the transmission into Japan.


This is completely false. My master in China and his monastery is all Caodong lineage and has been since the Song/Yuan dynasty era.

So, the Linji school has an unbroken lineage going through all the centuries, and all the persecution and suppression linked with the Communist regime?


As does the Caodong school.

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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Yogicfire » Sun May 09, 2010 6:17 pm

It is good to clear up myths, and you should contact certain publications that assert that only the Linji school has survived in China!

Of the ‘Five Houses of Chan’, only the Linji school survives today in China, Taiwan and Korea. Based on the teachings of Linji (d. 867), this school possibly provided Buddhism with its most ‘Chinese’ voice.

http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/G002SECT9

Best wishes,

YF
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Dexing » Sun May 09, 2010 7:00 pm

Well, it's common knowledge in China at least that both Caodong and Linji schools are doing well. It would take only minimal effort for these "publishers" to find it. One of the largest networks of Chan monasteries in China is primarily Caodong school.
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Astus » Sun May 09, 2010 8:24 pm

Regarding transmission in China I had a topic somewhat relevant to the question: How Important Is Transmission?.

There are numerous studies (well, not too much) on Chan history covering the time from Bodhidharma to the 20th century, although I haven't yet met (which doesn't mean there isn't) anything substantial on the Yuan era (1271-1368, Mongolian rule) or the Qing (1644-1911, Manchu rule).

Even though historical records show that the internal (religious) history of Chan is far from being accurate, it doesn't mean there were no Chan followers - ie. at some point it stopped being practised - since its rise around the 11th century. Chan became an integral part of Chinese Buddhism, its end would mean the cease of Buddhism. There were of course periods when Chan wasn't popular, nevertheless, popularity is not a requirement for existence.

As for the survival of lineages, just as Dexing says, both Linji and Caodong exist in China. The Caodong tradition actually has a stronger claim for historical continuity as it was preserved in the world famous Shaolin monastery and spread out from there in the Ming dynasty Chan revival. Although that doesn't mean it is different from what is practised in the Linji lineage. Also, another source of confusion is that people mainly here about Japanese Zen, which is a separate development with its own 800 years of history. Another noteworthy phenomenon is that Ven. Xuyun (1840-1959) - the most well known Chan master of the last century - is said to be a lineage holder of all five schools of Chan, that's how for instance Ven. Xuanhua (founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas) was in the lineage of the Weiyang school (which didn't survive beyond the Song dynasty, so there is a leap/gap in the transmission).

An important thing to understand about East-Asian Buddhism is that there is very little or no sectarianism at all, unlike in Japan (which has its historical reasons of course). Thus you find Chinese teachers passing on many forms of teaching: Chan, Pure Land, Esoteric, Vinaya, Tiantai, Huayan, etc., while at the same time they may be specialist in any of them. If I remember correctly, Hashang Mohoyen is credited not only with teaching Chan in Tibet but also many sutras.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Yogicfire » Mon May 10, 2010 6:49 pm

Nice post, Astus. Thanks for making those points in detail.

What I am getting from reading your suggestions is that there may be a disparity between practitioner's views on Chan, and the more academic view of Chan. When you say that the Chinese record of the schools and lineages is somewhat incomplete or vague, it seems to me that the gaps that you mention might well be construed as breaks in the lineage, and an overall disappearance of the school by scholars. From a practitioner's point of view, a master may hold different lineage teachings from various traditions such as Pureland or Chan simultaneously, and preserve the core teachings, but does that mean that the school itself is still alive?
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Astus » Mon May 10, 2010 7:40 pm

What do we mean by "school"? In Chinese the word is 宗 (zōng​) that can mean a lot of things. I would say it is more like a "school of thought" than an institutional thing. Or, to be truer to the original word, it means "clan" - they are separate separate families (the "five houses" are in fact "five families" 五家) with a common ancestor. Master Huifeng can explain it much better how family relationship terms are used in Chan and Chinese Buddhism. Another interesting term here regarding transmitting the Dharma is that it is called a "blood vessel" (血脈) which passes through generations. But this is not as strict as it appears to be in Tantra - others may disagree. So it is one thing how a group of people wants to look in the eyes of outsiders and history is another thing. It is like with Buddhism and its many traditions. Every tradition likes to look like the original and true teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, and in some sense they all are. Every Chan group says they're the heirs of Bodhidharma, which is true in a religious and historical sense. It's just that things are not always what they appear to be.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Huifeng » Tue May 11, 2010 5:51 am

Astus wrote:What do we mean by "school"? In Chinese the word is 宗 (zōng​) that can mean a lot of things. I would say it is more like a "school of thought" than an institutional thing. Or, to be truer to the original word, it means "clan" - they are separate separate families (the "five houses" are in fact "five families" 五家) with a common ancestor. Master Huifeng can explain it much better how family relationship terms are used in Chan and Chinese Buddhism. Another interesting term here regarding transmitting the Dharma is that it is called a "blood vessel" (血脈) which passes through generations. But this is not as strict as it appears to be in Tantra - others may disagree. So it is one thing how a group of people wants to look in the eyes of outsiders and history is another thing. It is like with Buddhism and its many traditions. Every tradition likes to look like the original and true teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, and in some sense they all are. Every Chan group says they're the heirs of Bodhidharma, which is true in a religious and historical sense. It's just that things are not always what they appear to be.


The term "宗 zong1" which is often translated as "school" or "sect", comes from two parts. The key part is the 示 shi4, which represents the ancestral tablets kept in the central room of the family home, the top part is the 宀 which is the roof over it. The term has strong meanings of family ancestry. In Buddhist terms, from teacher to disciple. This really doesn't have much implication as to method, doctrine, or whatever, which is commonly associated with English "school" or "sect". As above, it is very close to "家" jia1, which is "family" derived actually from "home" (it too has a roof on top).

血脈 xue4mai4 is "blood pulse" or "blood vein". Often the latter term is used to indicate the line of the family, a "lineage" as it were.
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Mariusz » Wed May 12, 2010 1:31 pm

well-renowned:

...Very funny – the Tibetans, most of them don’t and haven’t studied this Zen tradition. They aren’t familiar with it. There was very famous meeting between a Zen master and I believe it was Kalu Rinpoche, in which the Zen master held up an orange and said “What is it?” and Kalu Rinpoche said to his translator, “What is the matter, don’t they have oranges in his country?”

from http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/audio/fundamentals_tibetan_buddhism/level_getting_started/approaching_study_meditation/meditation_methods/transcript.html
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Re: Tibetan Myth of Chan

Postby Mr. G » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:10 pm

Tibetan Chan V: Dzogchen and Chan

I’ve managed four posts on Tibetan Chan without mentioning the question of whether the Chinese meditation tradition known as Chan influenced the Tibetan meditation tradition known as Dzogchen. Or, to put it in the stronger version, whether Dzogchen is just a disguised form of Chan. Partly, I’ve left the question alone because it doesn’t seem that interesting to me. It seems evident that if you spend a while with Chan and Dzogchen texts from the time when the influence is supposed to have taken place (the 8th/9th centuries) that there is one clear difference between the two: they are in dialogue with two different kinds of scripture. That is to say, Chan is a tradition in dialogue with the sutras, while Dzogchen is in dialogue with the tantras.

Read More Here...
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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