Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:21 pm

From what I understand, Rangtong interprets Tathagatagarbha as synonymous with dependent origination and teaches Emptiness as definitive, while Shentong interprets Tathagatagarbha as clear light of the Dharmakaya and teaches an innate Buddha Nature of untarnishable luminosity as definitive. Shentong asserts that Emptiness reveals an ineffable transcendental reality with positive attributes while Rangtong holds that Emptiness is merely the elimination of falsely imagined projections upon the relative truths of the world and does not imply anything else beyond that.

Assuming I am correct in the descriptions above, I would like to know if the Zen/Chan School of Buddhism generally leans toward a Rangtong or Shentong view of Emptiness/Tathagatagarbha or both or neither?

Thanks
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Andrew108 » Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:43 pm

I'm not really sure about Zen but your description of the differences between Shentong and Rangtong aren't the quite right. If you want we can discuss this some more.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Astus » Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:08 pm

Zen is not about philosophical opinions but going beyond ideas and concepts. Whether one emphasises buddha-mind or emptiness, they are just expedient means. And there are examples for both cases.

This story sums it up nicely:

A monk asked, "Master, Why do you say that Mind is Buddha?"
Mazu said, "To stop babies from crying."
The monk said, "What do you say when they stop crying?"
Mazu said, "Neither Mind, nor Buddha."
The monk asked, "Without using either of these statements, how would you instruct someone?"
Mazu said, "I would say to him that it's not a thing."
The monk asked, "If suddenly you met someone who was in the midst of it, then what?"
Mazu said, "I would teach them to realize the great Way."
"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: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Jikan » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:22 pm

No, because the "shentong" and "rangtong" distinction is strictly a Tibetan invention, and hence a Tibetan problem.

The discussions around Madhyamika in East Asian Buddhism are much less obfuscated. If you have access to a good library, check out Swanson's book _T'ien-T'ai Philosophy_ for an example. Ng's _T'ien-t'ai Buddhism and Early Madhyamika_ is also worth your time.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:29 pm

Andrew108 wrote:I'm not really sure about Zen but your description of the differences between Shentong and Rangtong aren't the quite right. If you want we can discuss this some more.
Would you be able to give me a brief overview of the differences between how Shentong and Rangton view Emptiness, svasamvedana/Rang Rig, Tathagatagarbha and Buddha Nature? If so, would you prefer to answer on-board or via PM?
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:31 pm

Astus wrote:Zen is not about philosophical opinions but going beyond ideas and concepts. Whether one emphasises buddha-mind or emptiness, they are just expedient means. And there are examples for both cases.

This story sums it up nicely:

A monk asked, "Master, Why do you say that Mind is Buddha?"
Mazu said, "To stop babies from crying."
The monk said, "What do you say when they stop crying?"
Mazu said, "Neither Mind, nor Buddha."
The monk asked, "Without using either of these statements, how would you instruct someone?"
Mazu said, "I would say to him that it's not a thing."
The monk asked, "If suddenly you met someone who was in the midst of it, then what?"
Mazu said, "I would teach them to realize the great Way."


Thanks for sharing the monk/Mazu discussion, Astus. I like your avatar by the way.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:36 pm

Jikan wrote:No, because the "shentong" and "rangtong" distinction is strictly a Tibetan invention, and hence a Tibetan problem.

The discussions around Madhyamika in East Asian Buddhism are much less obfuscated. If you have access to a good library, check out Swanson's book _T'ien-T'ai Philosophy_ for an example. Ng's _T'ien-t'ai Buddhism and Early Madhyamika_ is also worth your time.

Appreciate the book recommendation, Jikan. A friend who works at a local college might be able to get it for me through inter-library loan. He's been able to check out other, rather obscure philosophy books for me.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Matylda » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:39 pm

My Socks Smell wrote:From what I understand, Rangtong interprets Tathagatagarbha as synonymous with dependent origination and teaches Emptiness as definitive, while Shentong interprets Tathagatagarbha as clear light of the Dharmakaya and teaches an innate Buddha Nature of untarnishable luminosity as definitive. Shentong asserts that Emptiness reveals an ineffable transcendental reality with positive attributes while Rangtong holds that Emptiness is merely the elimination of falsely imagined projections upon the relative truths of the world and does not imply anything else beyond that.

Assuming I am correct in the descriptions above, I would like to know if the Zen/Chan School of Buddhism generally leans toward a Rangtong or Shentong view of Emptiness/Tathagatagarbha or both or neither?

Thanks


Rangtong and shentong have nothing to do with Indian Buddhism. Names and ideas are Tibetan... similarly there are no 4 or 6 tantra division in Japan, as there was no such division known in India. But in Japanese zen both madhyamaka and yogachara are well known and there are clearly divided as in India but not seen as antagonists. Moreover shentong texts which claim Indian works to be madhyamaka-shentong are recognized in japan as they were in India as yogachara works.

In the curriculum of both academic zen study for monks, and also in koan study in the monastery you may find both views. In koans there are some which relate to either of the views. But generally for Japanese it would be rather strange idea that they could be antagonists, and also they do not understand why Tibetans went nuts over the matter. But maybe more emphasis are on the ... Mahaparinirvanasutra view of permanence, joy, self and purity in relation to the nature of mind, and phenomena. But there is no way that Nagarjuna view or Prajnaparamita view may be ever rejected.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:56 pm

Matylda wrote: But in Japanese zen both madhyamaka and yogachara are well known and there are clearly divided as in India but not seen as antagonists.
I was not aware that Japanese Zen contains a strong element of Yogachara idealism. That worries me. Therefore, may I ask you (or anyone who would care to answer), could you give a brief analysis of exactly what differentiates Yogachara idealism found in Zen from the concept of the "One Without A Second" found in Advaita Vedanta? Thanks.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:09 pm

My Socks Smell wrote:I was not aware that Japanese Zen contains a strong element of Yogachara idealism. That worries me. Therefore, may I ask you (or anyone who would care to answer), could you give a brief analysis of exactly what differentiates Yogachara idealism found in Zen from the concept of the "One Without A Second" found in Advaita Vedanta? Thanks.


Yogachara is not Advaita, never was. Look into the works of Asanga and Vasubandhu, or some basic summary of Yogachara, like this one: What is and isn't Yogācāra. However, Zen is not Yogachara, and in East Asia it is a secondary teaching behind those of Tientai/Tendai and Huayan/Kegon. But again, Zen is neither of them.

As for East Asian Yogachara - if you're interested - see this nice intro by Tagawa Shun'ei: Living Yogacara: An Introduction to Consciousness-Only Buddhism
"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: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:09 pm

Matylda wrote:Rangtong and shentong have nothing to do with Indian Buddhism. Names and ideas are Tibetan... similarly there are no 4 or 6 tantra division in Japan, as there was no such division known in India.



Your first statement here is correct.

The second is false: there were such divisions in India -- it is found in such tantras as the Vajramala and so on, but they are post-eighth century.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:38 pm

My Socks Smell wrote:Would you be able to give me a brief overview of the differences between how Shentong and Rangton view Emptiness, svasamvedana/Rang Rig, Tathagatagarbha and Buddha Nature? If so, would you prefer to answer on-board or via PM?

Brief?
Shentong - True nature of mind is empty of dualistic twists and turns (stains) but not empty of wisdom. Rangtong - True nature of mind is empty of dualistic twists and turns (stains).
Shentong - Emptiness beyond conceptual fabrication but with energy or potential. Rangtong - Emptiness beyond conceptual fabrication.
Shentong - True Nature of Mind empty of stains but not of qualities - wisdom is self-arisen. Rangtong - True nature of Mind being empty of true nature always exists - wisdom is realizing true nature.

These are some very brief descriptions of the differences. But personally from my side I would say that the key difference is that in Rangtong one is always trying to establish emptiness to get at wisdom, whereas from the Shentong view one rests (all about not reifying). It often comes down to practice, inspiration and your teacher. My own bias is to say that Dzogchen contains all of this and a bit more.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Jikan » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:40 pm

Would you please explain what you mean by Yogacara idealism? there's more than one way to answer your question.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:16 pm

Jikan wrote:Would you please explain what you mean by Yogacara idealism? there's more than one way to answer your question.
From the information I've read about Yogachara, it is a "mind-only" form of idealism which some critics say too easily crosses the line from being a "phenomenology" to become the basis for an "ontology".

I was just reading through a paper titled, "Yogacara Buddhism and Sartre's Phenomenology" by Wing-cheuk Chan where he mentions that an idealistic interpretation of Yogacara Buddhism finds its justification in the slogan of the Samdhinirmocana sutra that says, "the object of consciousness is the manifestation of consciousness only." I might be wrong, but personally, that sounds a bit like Advaita Vedanta to me. Chan goes on to say many Indian scholars simply translate "vijnaptimatrata" or "vijnanavada" as "idealism", and that such an idealistic understanding of Yogacara is still dominant. The Yogacara school is unique in expounding its doctrine of Vijnaptimatra, a term which has been literally translated as "There is no object, there is consciousness only." Again, to me personally, this sounds like Advaita Vedanta. Is this Vijnaptimatra a dependently originated entity or is it a stainless, unchanging, non-compounded, abstracted thing possessing qualities which validate it as ultimately, substantially and qualitatively real?

I read that according to Yoshifumi Ueda, there was an ontological turn only later in the development of Yogacara. But even Ueda accounts for the possibility of a known object by declaring that, "if there is not objectification of consciousness, there is no object." He even claimed, "To say that the object of consciousness is nothing but consciousness only is to say that consciousness sees itself." At least on first glance, this objectification of consciousness seems to resemble the position of German Idealism, which declares that the world basically results from the self-objectification of spirit. Even if in its early development, Yogacara was primarily epistemological rather than ontological, I'm still scared of it. A.K. Chatterjee has written a book titled, "Yogacara Idealism" in which he argues that Yogacara is not merely an idealism but a synthesis of idealism and absolutism. That's still not comforting.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:43 pm

How do you feel about the following poem? Too simple? Inspiring? What are your feelings about it? -

''Mind's ultimate nature, emptiness endowed with vividness,
I was told is the real Buddha.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of hierarchy.

Mind's ultimate nature, its emptiness aspect,
I was told is the real Dharma.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of political correctness.

Mind's ultimate nature, its vivid aspect,
I was told is the real Sangha
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of equal rights.

One cannot disassociate emptiness from vividness.
This inseparability I was told is the Guru.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with depending on chauvinist lamas.

This nature of mind has never been stained by duality,
This stainlessness I was told is the deity.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with the categories of "gender" or "culture."

This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:17 pm

Andrew108 wrote:How do you feel about the following poem? Too simple? Inspiring? What are your feelings about it?
I'm going to have to read it again tonight or tomorrow before I can say for sure exactly how I feel about it. However, in the meantime, I will comment that I like Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's answer to someone asking what one must believe in order to be a Buddhist. He said anyone who accepts the four seals of the Dharma can call themselves a Buddhist.

I understand the four seals as follows:

1. All compounded/conditioned things are impermanent.

2. All phenomena stained by selfish attachment are unsatisfactory.

3. All things lack separate, independent, inherent existence.

4. The peace of enlightenment is beyond concepts.

Does that sound about right?
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Jikan » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:08 pm

OK, I see where you're coming from now. There are indeed some approaches to Yogacara that do veer into the eternalistic/idealistic. I'm not convinced that Yogacara is in itself necessarily idealism, though. But that's a separate topic.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:12 pm

Sounds about right to me. The poem I posted is mainly coming from the Shentong point of view. Hope it's not too out of place here. It's good to analyse but at some point the practitioner taps into a different kind of knowledge, than the knowledge found in philosophy texts. That's just how it is I'm afraid. But of course this doesn't mean abandoning your studies.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby My Socks Smell » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:34 pm

Andrew108 wrote:
My Socks Smell wrote:Would you be able to give me a brief overview of the differences between how Shentong and Rangton view Emptiness, svasamvedana/Rang Rig, Tathagatagarbha and Buddha Nature? If so, would you prefer to answer on-board or via PM?

Brief?
Shentong - True nature of mind is empty of dualistic twists and turns (stains) but not empty of wisdom. Rangtong - True nature of mind is empty of dualistic twists and turns (stains).
Shentong - Emptiness beyond conceptual fabrication but with energy or potential. Rangtong - Emptiness beyond conceptual fabrication.
Shentong - True Nature of Mind empty of stains but not of qualities - wisdom is self-arisen. Rangtong - True nature of Mind being empty of true nature always exists - wisdom is realizing true nature.

These are some very brief descriptions of the differences. But personally from my side I would say that the key difference is that in Rangtong one is always trying to establish emptiness to get at wisdom, whereas from the Shentong view one rests (all about not reifying). It often comes down to practice, inspiration and your teacher. My own bias is to say that Dzogchen contains all of this and a bit more.
I meant to comment on the above, but think something happened to it so I'm re-posting to say I'm contemplating what you provided and thanks for helping clarify the difference.
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Re: Does Zen/Chan Offer an Opinion Regarding Shentong/Rangtong?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:18 am

My Socks Smell wrote:
Matylda wrote: But in Japanese zen both madhyamaka and yogachara are well known and there are clearly divided as in India but not seen as antagonists.
I was not aware that Japanese Zen contains a strong element of Yogachara idealism. That worries me. Therefore, may I ask you (or anyone who would care to answer), could you give a brief analysis of exactly what differentiates Yogachara idealism found in Zen from the concept of the "One Without A Second" found in Advaita Vedanta? Thanks.


Frankly I have no idea what do you mean by yogachara idealism etc. I am not well versed in Western interpretations of teachings.
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