...the Flower Sermon, the earliest source for which comes from the 14th century.
It is said that Gautama Buddha gathered his disciples one day for a dharma talk. When they gathered together, the Buddha was completely silent and some speculated that perhaps the Buddha was tired or ill. The Buddha silently held up a flower and several of his disciples tried to interpret what this meant, though none of them were correct. One of the Buddha's disciples, Mahākāśyapa, silently gazed at the flower and is said to have gained a special insight directly from the Buddha's mind, beyond words. Mahākāśyapa somehow understood the true inexpressible meaning of the flower, smiled and the Buddha then acknowledged Mahākāśyapa's insight by saying the following:
"I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa."
'The Founding Fathers'
From Mahākāśyapa through various other teachers and students, the dharma was eventually transmitted to the Indian monk, Bodhidharma. Several scholars have suggested that Bodhidharma as a person never actually existed, but was a combination of various historical figures over several centuries.
In the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) of Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665-713)—one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng, the 6th patriarch of Chan Buddhism—it is written that Bodhidharma was the 28th patriarch in a line of descent from Mahākāśyapa, a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, and the first patriarch of Chan Buddhism:
"Mahākāśyapa was the first, leading the line of transmission;
Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West;
The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country;
And Bodhidharma became the First Father here:
His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers,
And by them many minds came to see the Light."
Bodhidharma is said to have spent several decades living in a cave, staring at a cave wall, meditating. He left India in 517 C.E. and arrived in China in 520 C.E., to spread Buddhism to Asia. When he got there, he found that Buddhism, which had already been established, was perverted by superstitious devotionalism, devoid of true insight. Thus, Bodhidharma focused on direct insight about one's own experience, under the instruction of a Zen teacher, discouraging misguided veneration of Buddhas for the sake of superstition. Often attributed to Bodhidharma is the Bloodstream Sermon, which was actually composed quite some time after his apparent death.
"Buddhas don't save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil."
'To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.'
Another famous legend involving Bodhidharma is his meeting with Emperor Wu of Liang. Emperor Wu took an interest in Buddhism and spent a great deal of public wealth on funding Buddhist monasteries in China. When he had heard that a great Buddhist teacher, Bodhidharma, had come to China, he sought an audience with him. When they met, Emperor Wu had asked how much karmic merit he had gained from his noble support of Buddhism. Bodhidharma replied, "None at all." The Emperor asked, "Then what is the truth of the teachings?" Bodhidharma replied, "Vast emptiness, nothing holy." So the emperor asked, "Then who are you standing in front of me?" Bodhidharma replied, "I do not know," and walked out.
Another legend involving Bodhidharma is that he visited the Shaolin Temple in the kingdom of Wei, at some point, and taught them a series of exercises which became the basis for the Shaolin martial arts.
Chan, as it is generally called when referencing Zen Buddhism in early China, developed from the interaction between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Taoism. Some scholars also argue that Chan has roots in yogic practices, specifically kammaṭṭhāna, the consideration of objects, and kasiṇa, total fixation of the mind.
The entry of Buddhism into China was marked by interaction and syncretism with Taoist faiths, Taoism in particular. Buddhist scriptures were translated into Chinese with Taoist vocabulary, because it was originally seen as a kind of foreign Taoism. In the Tang period, Taoism incorporated such Buddhist elements as monasteries, vegetarianism, prohibition of alcohol, the doctrine of emptiness, and collecting scripture into tripartite organisation. During the same time, Chan Buddhism grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism.
The establishment of Chan is traditionally credited to the Indian prince turned monk Bodhidharma (formerly dated ca 500 CE, but now ca early fifth century), who is recorded as having come to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". Bodhidharma settled in the kingdom of Wei where he took among his disciples Daoyu and Huike. Early on in China Bodhidharma's teaching was referred to as the "One Vehicle sect of India". The One Vehicle (Sanskrit Ekayāna), also known as the Supreme Vehicle or the Buddha Vehicle, was taught in the Lankavatara Sutra which was closely associated with Bodhidharma. However, the label "One Vehicle sect" did not become widely used, and Bodhidharma's teaching became known as the Chan sect for its primary focus on chan training and practice. Shortly before his death, Bodhidharma appointed Huike to succeed him, making Huike the first Chinese born patriarch and the second patriarch of Chan in China. Bodhidharma is said to have passed three items to Huike as a sign of transmission of the Dharma: a robe, a bowl, and a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra. The transmission then passed to the second patriarch (Huike), the third (Sengcan), the fourth patriarch (Dao Xin) and the fifth patriarch (Hongren).
The sixth and last patriarch, Huineng (638–713), was one of the giants of Chan history, and all surviving schools regard him as their ancestor. However, the dramatic story of Huineng's life tells that there was a controversy over his claim to the title of patriarch. After being chosen by Hongren, the fifth patriarch, Huineng had to flee by night to Nanhua Temple in the south to avoid the wrath of Hongren's jealous senior disciples. Later, in the middle of the 8th century, monks claiming to be among the successors to Huineng, calling themselves the Southern school, cast themselves in opposition to those claiming to succeed Hongren's then publicly recognized student Shenxiu (神秀). It is commonly held that it is at this point—the debates between these rival factions—that Chan enters the realm of fully documented history. Aside from disagreements over the valid lineage, doctrinally the Southern school is associated with the teaching that enlightenment is sudden, while the Northern School is associated with the teaching that enlightenment is gradual. The Southern school eventually became predominant and their Northern school rivals died out. Modern scholarship, however, has questioned this narrative, since the only surviving records of this account were authored by members of the Southern school. Many historians proposed that Chan was probably an indigenous Chinese creation by mixing Buddhist doctrine with Daoist and Neo Daoist ideas. Some Chinese scholars, such as Ma Tian Xiang even propose that Zen's foundation is based on Lao Zhuang Daoist philosophy instead of Indian Buddhism.
The following are the six Patriarchs of Chan in China as listed in traditional sources:
1. Bodhidharma (बोधिधर्म) about 440 - about 528
2. Huike (慧可) 487 - 593
3. Sengcan (僧燦) ? - 606
4. Daoxin (道信) 580 - 651
5. Hongren (弘忍) 601 - 674
6. Huineng (慧能) 638 - 713
The Five Houses of Zen (Ch'an)
Developing primarily in the Tang dynasty in China, Classic Zen is traditionally divided historically into the Five Houses of Zen or five "schools". These were not originally regarded as "schools" or "sects", but historically, they have come to be understood that way. In their early history, the schools were not institutionalized, they were without dogma, and the teachers who founded them were not idolized.
* Guiyang (Japn.,Igyo), named after masters Guishan Lingyou (Japn., Isan Reiy, 771-854) and Yangshan Huiji (Japn., Kyozan Ejaku, 813-890)
* Linji (Japn., Rinzai), named after master Linji Yixuan (Japn., Rinzai Gigen, died 866)
* Caodong (Japn., Soto), named after masters Dongshan Liangjie (Japn., Tozan Ryokai, 807-869) and Caoshan Benji (Japn., Sozan Honjaku, 840-901)
* Yunmen (Japn., Unmon), named after master Yunmen Wenyan (Japn., Unmon Bun’en, died 949)
* Fayan (Japn., Hogen, named after master Fayan Wenyi (also Fa-yen Wen-i) (Japn., Hogen Mon’eki, 885-958)
Ch'an in China
In the centuries following the introduction of Buddhism to China, Chan grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism and, despite its "transmission beyond the scriptures", produced the largest body of literature in Chinese history of any sect or tradition. The teachers claiming Huineng's posterity began to branch off into numerous different schools, each with their own special emphasis, but all of which kept the same basic focus on meditational practice, personal instruction and personal experience.
During the late Tang and the Song periods, the tradition continued, as a wide number of eminent teachers, such as Mazu (Wade-Giles: Ma-tsu; Japanese: Baso), Shitou (Shih-t'ou; Japanese: Sekito), Baizhang (Pai-chang; Japanese: Hyakujo), Huangbo (Huang-po; Jap.: Obaku), Linji (Lin-chi; Jap.: Rinzai), and Yunmen (Jap.: Ummon) developed specialized teaching methods, which would variously become characteristic of the five houses (五家) of Chan. The traditional five houses were Caodong (曹洞宗), Linji (臨濟宗), Guiyang (潙仰宗), Fayan (法眼宗), and Yunmen (雲門宗). This list does not include earlier schools such as the Hongzhou (洪州宗) of Mazu.
Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Guiyang, Fayan, and Yunmen schools were gradually absorbed into the Linji. During the same period, the various developments of Chan teaching methods crystallized into the gong-an (koan) practice which is unique to this school of Buddhism. According to Miura and Sasaki, "[I]t was during the lifetime of Yüan-wu's successor, Ta-hui Tsung-kao 大慧宗杲 (Daie Sōkō, 1089-1163) that Koan Zen entered its determinative stage." Gong-an practice was prevalent in the Linji school, to which Yuanwu and Ta-hui (pinyin: Dahui) belonged, but it was also employed on a more limited basis by the Caodong school. The teaching styles and words of the classical masters were collected in such important texts as the Blue Cliff Record (1125) of Yuanwu, The Gateless Gate (1228) of Wumen, both of the Linji lineage, and the Book of Equanimity (1223) of Wansong, of the Caodong lineage. These texts record classic gong-an cases, together with verse and prose commentaries, which would be studied by later generations of students down to the present.
Chan continued to be influential as a religious force in China, and thrived in the post-Song period; with a vast body of texts being produced up and through the modern period. While traditionally distinct, Chan was taught alongside Pure Land Buddhism in many Chinese Buddhist monasteries. In time much of the distinction between them was lost, and many masters taught both Chan and Pure Land. Chan Buddhism enjoyed something of a revival in the Ming Dynasty with teachers such as Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清), who wrote and taught extensively on both Chan and Pure Land Buddhism; Miyun Yuanwu (密雲圓悟), who came to be seen posthumously as the first patriarch of the Obaku Zen school; as well as Yunqi Zhuhong (雲棲株宏) and Ouyi Zhixu (藕溢智旭).
After further centuries of decline, Chan was revived again in the early 20th century by Hsu Yun, a well-known figure of 20th century Chinese Buddhism. Many Chan teachers today trace their lineage back to Hsu Yun, including Sheng-yen and Hsuan Hua, who have propagated Chan in the West where it has grown steadily through the 20th and 21st century.
It was severely repressed in China during the recent modern era with the appearance of the People's Republic, but has more recently been re-asserting itself on the mainland, and has a significant following in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as among Overseas Chinese.
http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Sutr ... structions
The Sixth Patriarch's Last Instructions:
"You men are different from the common lot. After my entering into Parinirvana, each of you will be the Dhyana Master of a certain district. I am, therefore, going to give you some hints on preaching, so that when doing so, you may keep up the tradition of our School.
"First mention the three categories of Dharmas, and then the thirty-six 'pairs of opposites' in the activities (of the Essence of Mind). Then teach how to avoid the two extremes of 'coming in' or 'going out'.
In all preaching, stray not from the Essence of Mind. Whenever a man puts a question to you, answer him in antonyms, so that a 'pair of opposites' will be formed. (For example), 'coming' and 'going' are the reciprocal cause of each other; when the interdependence of the two is entirely done away with there would be, in the absolute sense, neither 'coming' nor 'going'.
"The three categories of Dharmas are:--
Ayatanas (places or spheres of meeting),
Dhatus (factors of consciousness).
The five Skandhas are:--
Rupa (matter), Vedana (sensation), Samjna (perception), Samskara (tendencies of mind), and Vijnana (consciousness).
The twelve Ayatanas are:--
Six Sense Objects (external) Six Sense Organs (internal)
Object of sight Organ of sight
Object of hearing Organ of hearing
Object of smell Organ of smell
Object of taste Organ of taste
Object of touch Organ of touch
Object of thought Organ of thought
The eighteen Dhatus are:
The six sense objects, six sense organs and six recipient vijnanas.
"Since the Essence of Mind is the embodiment of all Dharmas, it is called the Repository Consciousness (Alaya). But as soon as the process of thinking or reasoning is started, the Essence of Mind is transmuted into (various) vijnanas. When the six recipient vijnanas come into being, they perceive the six sense objects through the six 'doors' (of sense). Thus, the functioning of the eighteen dhatus derive their impetus from the Essence of Mind. Whether they function with an evil tendency or a good one depends upon what mood -- good or evil -- the Essence of Mind is in. Evil functioning is that of a common man, while good functioning is that of a Buddha. It is because there are 'pairs of opposites' inherent in the Essence of Mind that the functioning of the eighteen dhatus derive their impetus.
"The thirty-six 'Pairs of opposites' are:--
Five external inanimate ones:
Heaven and earth, sun and moon, light and darkness, positive element and negative element, fire and water.
Twelve Dharmalaksana (phenomenal objects):
Speech and Dharma, affirmation and negation, matter and non-matter, form and without form, taints (asravas) and absence of taint, matter and void, motion and quiescence, purity and impurity, ordinary people and sages, the Sangha and the laity, the aged and the young, the big and the small.
Nineteen pairs denoting the functioning of the Essence of Mind:
Long and short, good and evil, infatuated and enlightened, ignorant and wise, perturbed and calm, merciful and wicked, abstinent (Sila) and indulgent, straight and crooked, full and empty, steep and level, Klesa and Bodhi, permanent and transient, compassionate and cruel, happy and angry, generous and mean, forward and backward, existent and non-existent, Dharmakaya and physical body, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya.
"He who knows how to use these thirty-six pairs realizes the all-pervading principle which goes through the teaching of all Sutras. Whether he is 'coming in' or 'going out', he is able to avoid the two extremes.
"In the functioning of the Essence of Mind and in conversation with others, outwardly we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, whence come contact with objects; and inwardly, with regard to the teaching of the 'Void,' we should free ourselves from the idea of Nihilism. To believe in the reality of objects or in Nihilism would result in deep-rooted fallacious views or intensified ignorance respectively.
"A bigoted believer in Nihilism blasphemes against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism). If that were so, then neither would it be right for us
to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature. He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded. But does he appreciate that the two words 'is discarded' are also literature? Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticize the speakers as 'addicted to scriptural authority'. It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures. You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!
"He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine. He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realize the Essence of Mind.
"We should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and not keep our mind in a state of indolence, thereby creating obstacles to the understanding of the Norm. To preach or to hear the Law without practicing it would give occasion for the arising of heretical views. Hence, we should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and in the dissemination of the Dharma we should not be influenced by the concept of the reality of objects.
"If you understand what I say, and make use of it in preaching, in practice, and in your daily life, you will grasp the distinguishing feature of our School.
"Whenever a question is put to you, answer it in the negative if it is an affirmative one; and vice versa. If you are asked about an ordinary man, tell the enquirer something about a sage; and vice versa. From the correlation or interdependence of the two opposites the doctrine of the 'Mean' may be grasped. If all other questions are answered in this manner, you will not be far away from the truth.
"(Let me explain more fully).
Suppose someone asks you what is darkness, answer him thus:
Light is the Hetu (root condition) and darkness is the pratyaya (Conditions which bring about any given phenomenon). When light disappears, darkness is the consequence.
The two are in contrast to each other.
From the correlation or interdependence of the two the doctrine of the 'Mean' arises.
"In this way all other questions are to be answered.
To ensure the perpetuation of the aim and object of our School in the transmission of the Dharma to your successors, this instruction should be handed down from one generation to another."
Sit down, all of you, and let me read you a stanza on reality and illusion, and on Motion and Quietude.
"In all things there is nothing real,
And so we should free ourselves from the concept of the reality of objects.
He who believes in the reality of objects
Is bound by this very concept, which is entirely illusive.
He who realizes the 'Reality' (i.e.,Essence of Mind) within himself
Knows that the 'True Mind' is to be sought apart from false phenomena.
If one's mind is bound by illusive phenomena
Where is Reality to be found, when all phenomena are unreal?
Sentient beings are mobile;
Inanimate objects are stationary.
He who trains himself by exercise to be motionless
(Gets no benefit) other than making himself as still as an inanimate object.
Should you the find true type Immobility
There is Immobility within Activity.
Immobility alone (like that of inanimate objects) is immobility (and not Dhyana),
And in inanimate objects the seed of Buddhahood is not to be found.
He who is adept in the discrimination of various Dharmalaksana
Abides immovably in the 'First Principle' (Nirvana).
Thus are all things to be perceived,
And this is the functioning of Tathata (Suchness).
Treaders of the Path,
Exert yourself and take heed
That as followers of the Mahayana School
You do not embrace that sort of knowledge
Which binds you to the wheel of birth and death.
With those who are sympathetic
Let us have discussion on Buddhism.
As for those whose point of view differs from ours
Let us treat them politely and thus make them happy.
(But) disputes are alien to our School,
For they are incompatible with its doctrine.
To be bigoted and to argue with others in disregard of this rule
Is to subjects one's Essence of Mind to the bitterness of mundane existence.
"So much for the Dharma. As to transmission of the robe, this practice is to be discontinued. Why?
Because you all have implicit faith in my teaching, and being free from all doubts you are able to carry out the lofty object of our School. Furthermore, according to the implied meaning of the stanza by Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch, on Dharma transmission, the robe need not be handed down to posterity. The stanza reads:--
"The object of my coming to this land (i.e., China)
Is to transmit the Dharma for the deliverance of those under delusion.
In five petals the flowers will be complete.
Thereafter, the fruit will come to bearing naturally."
Thereupon Fa Hai spoke to the Patriarch, "Sir, will you please leave to posterity definite instructions whereby people under delusion may realize the Buddha nature."
"It is not impossible," replied the Patriarch, "for these men to realize the Buddha-nature, provided they acquaint themselves with the nature of ordinary sentient beings. But to seek Buddhahood without such knowledge would be in vain even if one shall spend aeons of time in the search.
"Now, let me show you how to get acquainted with the nature of the sentient beings within your mind, and thereby realize the Buddha-nature latent in you. Knowing Buddha means nothing else than knowing sentient beings, for the latter ignore that they are potential Buddhas, whereas a Buddha sees no difference between himself and other beings. When sentient beings realize the Essence of Mind, they are Buddhas. If a Buddha is under delusion in his Essence of Mind, he is then an ordinary being. Purity in the Essence of Mind makes ordinary beings Buddhas. Impurity in the Essence of Mind reverts even a Buddha to an ordinari being. When your mind is crooked or depraved, you are ordinary beings with Buddha-nature latent in you. On the other hand, when you direct your mind to purity and straightforwardness even for one moment, you are a Buddha.
"Within our mind there is a Buddha, and that Buddha within is the real Buddha. If Buddha is not to be sought within our mind, where shall we find the real Buddha? Doubt not that Buddha is within your mind, apart from which nothing can exist. Since all things or phenomena are the production of our mind, the Sutra says, 'When mental activity begins, various things come into being; when mental activity ceases, they too cease to exist.' In parting from you, let me leave you a stanza entitled 'The Real Buddha of the Essence of Mind'. People of future generations who understand its meaning will realize the Essence of Mind and attain Buddhahood. It reads:--
The Essence of Mind or Tathata (Suchness) is the real Buddha,
While heretical views and the three poisonous elements are Mara.
Enlightened by Right Views, we call forth the Buddha within us.
When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements,
We are said to be possessed by Mara;
But when Right Views eliminate from our mind these poisonous elements,
Mara will be transformed into a real Buddha.
The Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya --
These three Bodies emanate from one (i.e., the Essence of Mind).
He who is able to realize this fact intuitively
Has sown the seed, and will reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
It is from the Nirmanakaya that our 'Pure Nature' emanates;
Within the former the latter is to be found.
Guided by 'Pure Nature,' the Nirmanakaya treads the Right Path,
And will some day attain to the Sambhogakaya, perfect and infinite.
'Pure Nature' is an outgrowth of our sensual instincts;
By getting rid of sensuality, we attain the Pure Dharmakaya.
When our temperament is such that we are no longer the slaves of the five sense-objects,
And when we have realized the Essence of Mind even for one moment only, then Truth is known to us.
Should we be so fortunate as to be the followers of the Sudden School in this life,
In a sudden we shall see the Bhagavat of our Essence of Mind.
He who seeks the Buddha (from without) by practicing certain doctrines
Knows not where the real Buddha is to be found.
He who is able to realize the Truth within his own mind
Has sown the seed of Buddhahood.
He who has not realized the Essence of Mind and seeks the Buddha from without
Is a fool motivated by wrong desires.
I have hereby left to posterity the teaching of the Sudden School
For the salvation of all sentient beings who care to practice it.
Hear me, ye future disciples!
Your time will have been badly wasted if you neglect to put this teaching into practice.
"Can you let us know for how many generations the Dharma has been transmitted, from the appearance of the earliest Buddha up to now?" asked the disciples.
"The Buddhas who have appeared in this world are too many to be counted," replied the Patriarch. "But let us start from the last seven Buddhas. They are:--
Of the last Kalpa, the Alamkarakalpa: Buddha Vipassin, Buddha Sikhin, Buddha Vessabhu.
Of the present Kalpa (the Bhadrakalpa): Buddha Kakusundha, Buddha Konagamana, Buddha Kassapa, Buddha Gautama (Sakyamuni).
"From the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Law was transmitted to the:
1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa (It was then in turn transmitted to)
2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda
3rd Patriarch Arya Sanavasa
4th Patriarch Arya Upagupta
5th Patriarch Arya Dhritaka
6th Patriarch Arya Michaka
7th Patriarch Arya Vasumitra
8th Patriarch Arya Buddhanandi
9th Patriarch Arya Buddhamitra
10th Patriarch Arya Parsva
11th Patriarch Arya Punyayasas
12th Patriarch Bodhisattva Asvaghosa
13th Patriarch Arya Kapimala
14th Patriarch Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
15th Patriarch Kanadeva
16th Patriarch Arya Rahulata
17th Patriarch Arya Sanghanandi
18th Patriarch Arya Sangayasas
19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata
20th Patriarch Arya Jayata
21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manura
23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas
24th Patriarch Arya Sinha
25th Patriarch Arya Vasiastia
26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra
27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara
28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma (the first Patriarch in China)
29th Patriarch Grand Master Hui Ke
30th Patriarch Grand Master Seng Can
31st Patriarch Grand Master Dao Xin
32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hung Ren
And I am the 33rd Patriarch (i.e.,the 6th Patriarch in China). Thus, by pupillary, the Dharma was handed down from one Patriarch to another. Hereafter, you men should in turn transmit it to posterity by passing it on from one generation to another, so that the tradition may be maintained.
His last stanza:
Imperturbable and serene, the ideal man practices no virtue.
Self-possessed and dispassionate, he commits no sin.
Calm and silent, he gives up seeing and hearing.
Even and upright, his mind abides nowhere.
From the late Ch'an Ven Master Sheng-yen
When we speak of Ch'an as it developed in China, we must recognize the difficulties in separating the specific concepts of Ch'an from those of Buddhism in general. It is in fact impossible for someone to achieve the highest attainment in Buddhism without some experience or practice equivalent to that available in the Ch'an tradition.
Buddhism emphasizes the recognition and attainment of wisdom. Without the reality of this attainment, Buddhism means nothing. But why do we cultivate wisdom? To resolve internal struggles and suffering, and to deal with the problems we encounter. The goal of Buddhism, therefore, is to attain wisdom through the guidance of Buddhist concepts and methods of practice similar to those found in the Ch'an tradition.
Buddhism was first brought to China at about the time of Jesus. In this early period dhyana contemplation was the method of practice used. This is a system that helps one to calm the mind and come to an understanding of self in order to bring about wisdom. The introduction of this method as a way to open a path to wisdom was important to the transmission of Buddhism to China.
You may have heard it said that Ch'an Buddhism resembles a religion, but is not truly a religion. Ch'an Buddhism is indeed a religion. Religions speak of faith, and the practice of Ch'an cannot be accomplished without faith. For a discussion of the importance of faith in Ch'an practice, please refer to my book Faith in Mind. However, the faith we speak of in the Ch'an tradition is different from the faith in other religions, which emphasize belief in supernormal beings or gods which are distinct from oneself. Ch'an stresses the importance of having faith in the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings show that everyone has Buddha-nature and that everyone can therefore attain Buddhahood. Every human being who truly has faith in the teachings of the Buddha and follows the principles and methods of practice can become a Buddha.
There are many stories in the Ch'an tradition about disciples asking their masters the question, "What did Bodhidharma bring from India to China?" The answers from all the masters appear to be different, but their essential point is the same: Bodhidharma didn't bring anything to China, just himself. He went to China to tell people that everyone has Buddha-nature and everyone can attain Buddhahood.
When the disciple in one such story asked why, the master replied, "Because it already existed in China." The disciple continued, "If it already existed in China, then why did he have to come?" The master answered, "If he did not come, people in China would not know that Buddha-nature exists in every sentient being." Bodhidharma went to China with nothing but himself to spread the message that everyone has Buddha-nature and that everyone should have faith in it. Before becoming enlightened, one must have faith that one has Buddha-nature.
The Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, probably contributed the most to the development of Ch'an. His most important teaching can be summarized in the phrase, "No abiding, no thought, no form." One must experience the state of mind to which these phrases refer to realize the Buddha-nature in oneself. Even though we speak of Buddha-nature, there is nothing concrete which we could point to as Buddha-nature. This is the essence of emptiness -- sunyata. When Bodhidharma went to China, he mentioned something called the Tathagatagarbha, a term which means that everyone has Buddha-nature.
In the Platform Sutra, the teaching of "No abiding, no thought, no form," was consistent with the essential teaching of the Diamond Sutra -- emptiness. We should not mistake Buddha-nature for something concrete or unchangeable, for then Ch'an would be indistinguishable from a formal religion which emphasizes faith in something external, monolithic and unchanging. This is not correct.
The fourth generation disciple of the Sixth Patriarch, Master Chao-chou, had a disciple ask him the following question: "If all sentient beings are supposed to have Buddha-nature, what about dogs?" The master answered, "No." On the surface, this answer seems to contradict what the Buddhadharma teaches. But we need to understand that Buddha-nature is not concrete or unchanging. This kind of dialogue, which seems paradoxical, contradictory or nonsensical became a method of practice called kung-an or hua-t'ou.
There are four key concepts in Ch'an: faith, understanding, practice and realization. Faith belongs to the realm of religion, understanding is philosophical, practice is belief put into action, and realization is enlightenment. All these put together create the door which one enters to attain wisdom. In general, without faith, it is difficult to understand; without understanding, you can't practice; and without practice, enlightenment is impossible.
Basically, one must have faith that all beings have Buddha-nature and understand that Buddha-nature is not something unchanging and substantial. When we begin practice and have not really accepted the existence of Buddha-nature, we must have faith in its existence. If we do not, we will not be receptive to the teachings or be able to put them to use. But once one has accepted the existence of Buddha-nature, it is important not to think of it as static or concrete. If we cling to the conception of Buddha-nature as essentially unchanging, we will think there is a true self within us. We will embrace that self, whether it is a true or false self. We will be limited by and attached to that idea of self and will never attain liberation. First one must accept the existence of Buddha-nature, then abandon it completely because there is no such thing. In this way one can truly experience moving from existence to non-existence.
We know that Ch'an practice involves meditation, and that it can be an uncomfortable process, especially because of physical pain. This is why a few early Ch' an masters did not encourage sitting meditation. Even the old manuscripts and documents show no evidence of the Sixth Patriarch sitting in meditation either before or after his enlightenment.
The first two generations of masters after the Sixth Patriarch also de-emphasized the importance of meditation, as can be seen in the famous story about Ma-tsu and his master, Nan-yue. One day while Ma-tsu was sitting in meditation, Nanyue used a very skillful method to point out its weakness. He asked Ma-tsu, "What are you doing?" Ma-tsu replied, "I am meditating." Nanyue said, "Why?" To which Ma-tsu responded, "I do it to attain Buddhahood." Nan-yue said nothing but picked up a brick and started polishing it. Ma-tsu asked, "Why are you doing that?" Nanyue said, "I am making a mirror." Ma-tsu thought about it and asked, "How is it possible for a brick to become a mirror?" Nan-yue replied, "If one cannot polish a brick to make it become a mirror, then how can you become a Buddha by meditating?" This dialogue is still a popular teaching, and it is one of my favorite hua-t'ou's as well. So it is not necessary to meditate to attain Buddhahood or enlightenment.
I have been teaching meditation for over a dozen years and I've come across quite a few very intelligent people who want to use the ancient way of practice used by the Sixth Patriarch and Nan-yue. They do not want to sit in meditation or do not want meditation to take too much time or cause pain. To these people I say that the ancient Ch'an masters are gone now. Modern Ch'an masters require meditation practice.
Prior to the Sixth Patriarch, the Third, Fourth and Fifth Patriarchs all emphasized the practice of meditation. Only the Sixth Patriarch and his followers didn't agree on this point. We do know from manuscript records that Ma-tsu's disciple, Pai-chang, had on-going meditation at his monastery. We may say that enlightenment does not come only from meditation, but meditating is nonetheless a necessary step toward liberation. The guidance of Ch'an concepts is also essential in conjunction with meditation practice. With the guidance of a good teacher, strong practice and Ch'an teachings, enlightenment is not far.
Only through the method of meditation can we calm the mind. Once that has been achieved, then we can reduce our subjective and selfish habits which cause so much vexation. When the mind is calmed to a tranquil or unified state, then it is possible to see what the self is.
There are essentially two major schools of Ch'an: Lin-chi, which uses the methods of kung-an and hua-t'ou, and Ts'ao-tung, which uses the method of silent illumination. Using the methods of either of these schools can lead to enlightenment, but regardless of which one a practitioner adopts, there is a similar preparation. First, one must be able to relax both body and mind and then bring oneself to a concentrated, unified state. Only at this point can the methods of kung-an and huat'ou or silent illumination be used. The process of meditation is long. It is not something one can accomplish by reading a couple of phrases. It involves long, sustained, practice.
OK enuf said here....now over and back to the 'real' Ch'an practitioners
Namo Amitabha Buddha!