Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:36 pm

There are two claims I often hear regarding Zen that I'd like to inquire about. One of these claims is that Zen represents a Sinification of Buddhism and is influenced by or mixed with Taoism. An extreme variant of this I've heard is that Zen is merely Taoism in disguise. The other claims I hear is that Zen isn't Buddhism, which I find even more absurd than the first claim.

To what extent if any are these claims true? It seems from my readings into Zen that it isn't merely Taoism in disguise. It seems that Zen is based on sutras like the Lankavatara, and I personally believe in the historical existence of a Bodhidharma and hence Zen's transmission from India. Of course Zen adapted to Chinese and other East Asian cultures and I believe that there may have been influences from Taoism considering Buddhism being influenced to some degree by other indigenous traditions (Hinduism, Bon, Shintoism, Korean shamanism, etc.) wherever it spread, but this is a bit different from the claims I've mentioned.

So yeah, what are the relationships between Zen, Indian Buddhism, and Taoism?
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Qing Tian » Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:35 am

May I just point out that the stillness in Zen, as an example, does not necessaarily derive from the stillness in Daoism, and vice versa. Of course it may well do, and hopefully someone more learned will pop by to verify this, but the simple appearance of similarity does not automatically imply a connection.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:52 am

I don't know what the other scholars here will say about it, but I always rather liked Alan Watts on this topic, particularly his [amazon=http://amzn.com/0375705104]Way of Zen[/url]
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:43 am

oops, here is that link formatted properly - Way of Zen
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:50 am

Vidyaraja wrote:So yeah, what are the relationships between Zen, Indian Buddhism, and Taoism?


Zen is a Chinese form of Buddhism developed in China. It is doctrinally and practically a Buddhist teaching.

There isn't really such a thing as "Taoism". There are certain philosophical-religious schools in China that could be called Taoist, and there is just generally the Chinese folklore and native beliefs people may call Taoist. The two are not the same.
"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: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby seeker242 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:59 am

I would not give much thought to any of those claims personally. If you look, you will find that it is usually not people who are serious zen students or teachers saying such things. It usually just people who have an opinion of zen, without ever actually practicing it.

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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Jikan » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:04 pm

Related: I'd like to know what the forum thinks of Park's book How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China, if anyone here has read it. I've met serious practitioners who take starkly opposed views on this analysis; it's not as though everyone who practices sincerely agrees on this question.. Thoughts on Park?

http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Acquired ... 1845539974
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby LastLegend » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:24 pm

Astus wrote:
Vidyaraja wrote:So yeah, what are the relationships between Zen, Indian Buddhism, and Taoism?


Zen is a Chinese form of Buddhism developed in China. It is doctrinally and practically a Buddhist teaching.

There isn't really such a thing as "Taoism". There are certain philosophical-religious schools in China that could be called Taoist, and there is just generally the Chinese folklore and native beliefs people may call Taoist. The two are not the same.


While Tao or Taoism or whatever it may be called are Chinese folklore and native beliefs, I do believe the principle of yin and yang are practical and true to my experience. It is the foundation of Chinese medicine. For example, I can make a tea from red brown rice and aduzki red bean that can be as strong as viagra. No ingredients added-just red brown rice and aduzki red bean. I personally don't take the Tao lightly, and I am of the opinion that eating is a big part of the spiritual path. Not just being any vegetarian but being a vegetarian by applying yin and yang principle is the way to go, I feel.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:00 pm

Astus wrote: Zen is a Chinese form of Buddhism developed in China. It is doctrinally and practically a Buddhist teaching.

There isn't really such a thing as "Taoism". There are certain philosophical-religious schools in China that could be called Taoist, and there is just generally the Chinese folklore and native beliefs people may call Taoist. The two are not the same.


I agree that it was developed in China, I just wonder about those who claim Bodhidharma wasn't a historical personality, there was no transmission of mind from Bodhidharma to folks like Huike, Sengcan, etc. whose historicity is also questioned. There seems to be notions out there that Buddhism was regarded as foreign and Zen was an adaptation, under Taoist influence, of Buddhism to the Chinese mind and culture rather than an Indian tradition, which is strange because in my view there are a lot of similarities between Zen and the Therevada, insofar as their austerity, simplicity, directness, etc.

Regarding Taoism, of course there are many different entities that fall under that heading, but I was particularly talking about the philosophical-spiritual literature of Laozi, Zhuangzi, Liezi, Wenzi,etc. and their spiritual practices such as "zuowang", qi cultivation (seems equivalent to prana), inner alchemy, etc. It seems at least certain Zen masters saw some value or connection between Zen and Tao, such as Takuan Soho's commentary on the Tao Te Ching, but what I think is questionable is that Zen is basically Taoism in Buddhist garb.

Though I suppose, again, considering Buddhism being influenced by Bon in Tibet or incorporating Shintoism in Japan, there is a likelihood of influence of Taoism in Chan but to what extent I am unaware.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:50 pm

LastLegend wrote:While Tao or Taoism or whatever it may be called are Chinese folklore and native beliefs, I do believe the principle of yin and yang are practical and true to my experience. It is the foundation of Chinese medicine. For example, I can make a tea from red brown rice and aduzki red bean that can be as strong as viagra. No ingredients added-just red brown rice and aduzki red bean. I personally don't take the Tao lightly, and I am of the opinion that eating is a big part of the spiritual path. Not just being any vegetarian but being a vegetarian by applying yin and yang principle is the way to go, I feel.


If I take an Aspirin or some other modern medicine it doesn't make Western Buddhism a mixture of European philosophy and Indian ideas. When I distinguished between regulated Taoist doctrines and general beliefs I meant that while Chinese Buddhism - and not just Zen - adapted and absorbed the culture, starting with using Chinese language, it does not mean accepting ideas that contradict the Dharma or confusing the Buddha's teachings with those of Zhuangzi, Mengzi or any other Chinese thinker.
"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: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Jikan » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:55 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:
Astus wrote: Zen is a Chinese form of Buddhism developed in China. It is doctrinally and practically a Buddhist teaching.

There isn't really such a thing as "Taoism". There are certain philosophical-religious schools in China that could be called Taoist, and there is just generally the Chinese folklore and native beliefs people may call Taoist. The two are not the same.


I agree that it was developed in China, I just wonder about those who claim Bodhidharma wasn't a historical personality, there was no transmission of mind from Bodhidharma to folks like Huike, Sengcan, etc. whose historicity is also questioned. There seems to be notions out there that Buddhism was regarded as foreign and Zen was an adaptation, under Taoist influence, of Buddhism to the Chinese mind and culture rather than an Indian tradition, which is strange because in my view there are a lot of similarities between Zen and the Therevada, insofar as their austerity, simplicity, directness, etc.


I wonder where the burden of proof for all this falls. Are you claiming that there certainly was a historical figure named Bodhidharma who corresponds in some way to the orthodox narrative? That there is something called "transmission of mind" and that it passed in the line you name? There are a number of similarities between Zen and film noir, for instance, including austerity, simplicity, and directness; is this similarity adequate to claim that there is definitely a continuity between Zen & film noir, that the latter is an expression of the former?

For myself, I do think there's a strong continuity between Indian Mahayana Buddhism & Ch'an. This can be seen the practice manuals used, the liturgies recited, the forms of practice that are carried on to this day. Ch'an is Buddhism. It's not so difficult to show the continuity from Ch'an to Zen, either.

Regarding Taoism, of course there are many different entities that fall under that heading, but I was particularly talking about the philosophical-spiritual literature of Laozi, Zhuangzi, Liezi, Wenzi,etc. and their spiritual practices such as "zuowang", qi cultivation (seems equivalent to prana), inner alchemy, etc. It seems at least certain Zen masters saw some value or connection between Zen and Tao, such as Takuan Soho's commentary on the Tao Te Ching, but what I think is questionable is that Zen is basically Taoism in Buddhist garb.


Yes, certainly.

Though I suppose, again, considering Buddhism being influenced by Bon in Tibet or incorporating Shintoism in Japan, there is a likelihood of influence of Taoism in Chan but to what extent I am unaware


This is the crux of the matter. There's a body of scholarship out there where this is debated. An interesting point of departure may be the role of the Chinese character Tao (and "Li" to) in the translation of Buddhist texts into classical Chinese, and what inflection that may have put on the reception of these texts in China and beyond. Kihwa's approach and his diction may be relevant here as a representative example:

http://www.sunypress.edu/p-2933-the-sut ... htenm.aspx
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:06 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:It seems at least certain Zen masters saw some value or connection between Zen and Tao, such as Takuan Soho's commentary on the Tao Te Ching, but what I think is questionable is that Zen is basically Taoism in Buddhist garb.

Though I suppose, again, considering Buddhism being influenced by Bon in Tibet or incorporating Shintoism in Japan, there is a likelihood of influence of Taoism in Chan but to what extent I am unaware.


These are inevitably huge generalisations that Taoism, Shinto and Bon influenced Buddhism here and there. Thing is, none of those three religions had any fixed canon or doctrine before Buddhism appeared. All of them were native beliefs. I'd say Confucianism had a greater impact on forming Chinese Buddhism than Taoism, although for some reason people tend to forget about that. There are some Buddhist commentaries on "Taoist" works like the Yijing, and there were some who propagated the unity of the three major Chinese traditions. Just as today you find people who believe that Christianity and Buddhism, or science and Buddhism, are somehow compatible or even one.

Zen perfectly fits into the Buddhist teachings and I have yet to see those peculiarly Taoist traits in it. What Zen adopted from the Chinese culture is the idea of the lineage of transmission, and it is based on the imperial succession. There are certain literary styles used in Zen that are also specifically Chinese. Oh, and again, the language they used was Chinese. Now, as we speak English, if someone analysed it, they could say that Western Buddhism got mixed with Christianity, materialism, phenomenology, utilitarianism, and probably a number of other thoughts, not to mention the pervasive romanticism and colonialism-orientalism in Western Buddhist discourse. And almost forgot, the purist idea of an "Original 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: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby oushi » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:12 pm

I see purpose in comparing Zen Buddhism to Taoism, although many characteristics may be distinguished.
When it comes down to Tao and Zen, both are inconceivable and ungraspable.
So, they cannot be defined as the same, or different.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:38 pm

Astus wrote: These are inevitably huge generalisations that Taoism, Shinto and Bon influenced Buddhism here and there. Thing is, none of those three religions had any fixed canon or doctrine before Buddhism appeared.


That may be the case, but just because they had no fixed canon doesn't mean they didn't impart influences, ways of understanding, or flavors to the forms of Buddhism they encountered. Though in the case of Taoism at least, Laozi and Zhuangzi were taken to be the major texts. Perhaps the way of uncovering what influences these indigenous faiths left is through comparing and contrasting them to Indian Buddhism.

Astus wrote:I'd say Confucianism had a greater impact on forming Chinese Buddhism than Taoism, although for some reason people tend to forget about that.


Really? I would have thought Taoism would have considering both are spiritual systems with ascetic practitioners and would have thought Confucianism would have been more for informing ethics. DT Suzuki apparently said Zen was "a natural evolution of Buddhism under Taoist influences" and wikipedia states:

The first Buddhist recruits in China were Taoists.[29] They developed high esteem for the newly introduced Buddhist meditational techniques,[33] and blended them with Taoist meditation.[34] Representatives of early Chinese Buddhism like Sengzhao and Tao Sheng were deeply influenced by the Taoist keystone works of Laozi and Zhuangzi.[35] Against this background, especially the Taoist concept of naturalness was inherited by the early Chán disciples:[36] they equated - to some extent - the ineffable Tao and Buddha-nature,[37] and thus, rather than feeling bound to the abstract "wisdom of the sūtras", emphasized Buddha-nature to be found in "everyday" human life, just as the Tao.[37]


Astus wrote:Now, as we speak English, if someone analysed it, they could say that Western Buddhism got mixed with Christianity, materialism, phenomenology, utilitarianism, and probably a number of other thoughts, not to mention the pervasive romanticism and colonialism-orientalism in Western Buddhist discourse. And almost forgot, the purist idea of an "Original Buddhism".


Seems that may be the case unfortunately. Seems to me a good deal of Western Buddhism mixes itself with scientific materialism and/or atheism, some going so far as to deny all spiritual concepts in Buddhism such as the Absolute, law of karma, reincarnation, hells, etc. It seems there are many in the West who also think Buddhism is a kind of humanism that is all about morality rather than being a transcendent doctrine of Awakening or that we don't possess a Buddha-Nature beyond the 5 skandhas. Not to mention Western Buddhism seems to also mix itself strongly with current political values, seeing in Buddhism a secular "philosophy" (to try to distance itself from the notion of being a religion), being pro-democratic, liberal, etc.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby LastLegend » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:07 pm

Astus wrote:
LastLegend wrote:While Tao or Taoism or whatever it may be called are Chinese folklore and native beliefs, I do believe the principle of yin and yang are practical and true to my experience. It is the foundation of Chinese medicine. For example, I can make a tea from red brown rice and aduzki red bean that can be as strong as viagra. No ingredients added-just red brown rice and aduzki red bean. I personally don't take the Tao lightly, and I am of the opinion that eating is a big part of the spiritual path. Not just being any vegetarian but being a vegetarian by applying yin and yang principle is the way to go, I feel.


If I take an Aspirin or some other modern medicine it doesn't make Western Buddhism a mixture of European philosophy and Indian ideas. When I distinguished between regulated Taoist doctrines and general beliefs I meant that while Chinese Buddhism - and not just Zen - adapted and absorbed the culture, starting with using Chinese language, it does not mean accepting ideas that contradict the Dharma or confusing the Buddha's teachings with those of Zhuangzi, Mengzi or any other Chinese thinker.


I sense that there is a general consensus among Western scholars to downplay the significance of Taoism or Tao as a religion. Maybe I am wrong?
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:32 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:Though in the case of Taoism at least, Laozi and Zhuangzi were taken to be the major texts. Perhaps the way of uncovering what influences these indigenous faiths left is through comparing and contrasting them to Indian Buddhism.


"The Daode jing and Zhuangzi are the only Daoist texts that matter because they are the “essence” and “original teachings” of Daoism"
Response:
"There is no principal Daoist scripture. Although the Daode jing is probably the most central and influential scripture in Daoist history, different Daoist adherents, communities and movements revere different scriptures. The primary textual collection in the Daoist tradition is called the Daozang 道藏 (Daoist Canon). It is an open textual collection, with new additions having been made throughout Daoist history. The first version was compiled in the fifth century CE. The received version was compiled in the fifteenth century, with a seventeenth century supplement. It consists of roughly 1,400 texts, texts that come from every major period and movement of Daoist history. "
(Common Misconceptions about Daoism (PDF))

Regarding Taoism this article is strongly recommended (in PDF): The Taoism of the Western Imagination and the Taoism of China.

And here find Guifeng Zongmi's criticism and at the same time inclusion of both Taoism and Confucianism: On Human Origins.

Also see this post I made in a similar thread last year: The Tao of Zen?: Chengguan's view on the influence of Taoism on Buddhism

I would have thought Taoism would have considering both are spiritual systems with ascetic practitioners and would have thought Confucianism would have been more for informing ethics. DT Suzuki apparently said


Confucianism was the state philosophy most of the time, Confucian works were studied by every educated person and Confucian ethics and values were the social standard. The majority of outstanding and influential Buddhists were from the higher classes (aristocracy, literati), and thus were raised on Confucian teachings. While mountain hermits may have shared practices and ideas with each other to the point that distinguishing sources was nearly impossible, they were not the people who defined the mainstream doctrines or composed works on anything even if they could write at all.

DT Suzuki, well, his writings are mostly biased and fairly outdated.
"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: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:34 pm

LastLegend wrote:I sense that there is a general consensus among Western scholars to downplay the significance of Taoism or Tao as a religion. Maybe I am wrong?


I'd say it's rather the opposite, that Taoism was and is a religion and not a pure philosophy. See the links in my previous post.
"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: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby LastLegend » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:19 pm

Astus wrote:
LastLegend wrote:I sense that there is a general consensus among Western scholars to downplay the significance of Taoism or Tao as a religion. Maybe I am wrong?


I'd say it's rather the opposite, that Taoism was and is a religion and not a pure philosophy. See the links in my previous post.


I still think the subject of Daoism or Taoism is a play of scholars especially Western scholars. My own opinion is if those texts came from sages, they have to be responsive to the Chinese thought which it means has to be practical. This is a cultural thing not just for the Chinese but for all Asian and even tribes all over the world, in my view. This is different from philosophizing on the rock with no application. To make distinction between Tao and emptiness is really missing the point; I think is misunderstanding skillful means of Bodhisattvas. True Dharma have no names either, yet are words to describe them.

Whatever it may be-Tao or Dao or whatever.
I like this passage and do believe that "Two" can be understood as "yin" and "yang." However people understand "yin" and "yang" is a different matter. What matters is it works and practical. As I read Dao De Jing, I saw references to "yin" and "yang." Things like, to move backward is to move forwards. Strong and weak, etc. To be empty is to be full; this can even apply to eating or fasting.

42.
道德經:
道生一,一生二,二生三,三生萬物。萬物負陰而抱陽,沖氣以為和。人之所惡,唯孤、寡、不穀,而王公以為稱。故物或損之而益,或益之而損。人之所教,我亦教之。強梁者不得其死,吾將以為教父。
Dao De Jing:
(The transformations of the Dao)
The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonised by the Breath of Vacancy.
What men dislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as carriages without naves; and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.
What other men (thus) teach, I also teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death. I will make this the basis of my teaching.


http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing

I don't think it is accidental that Mahayana has anchored its well in China.
Last edited by LastLegend on Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:39 pm

Astus wrote:"The Daode jing and Zhuangzi are the only Daoist texts that matter because they are the “essence” and “original teachings” of Daoism"
Response:
"There is no principal Daoist scripture. Although the Daode jing is probably the most central and influential scripture in Daoist history, different Daoist adherents, communities and movements revere different scriptures. The primary textual collection in the Daoist tradition is called the Daozang 道藏 (Daoist Canon). It is an open textual collection, with new additions having been made throughout Daoist history. The first version was compiled in the fifth century CE. The received version was compiled in the fifteenth century, with a seventeenth century supplement. It consists of roughly 1,400 texts, texts that come from every major period and movement of Daoist history. "
(Common Misconceptions about Daoism (PDF)).


Yes, I am aware of this and have read this article previously. Nonetheless, as the author mentions, the Tao Te Ching is the most central and influential scripture, as well as the oldest aside from perhaps the Nei Yeh. Whether Taoism is without a central text or clearly defined doctrine doesn't preclude its ability to influence Buddhism in China, and the influence itself need not be doctrinal. It could be an influence in approach, understanding, aesthetics, or mutual pollination between what Taoist meditation techniques existed and those employed in Buddhism. The Xinxin Ming and other Zen texts talk about emptying oneself of thoughts or transcending thoughts/the conceptual mind, and this is reflected in Taoist practices, such as zuowang mentioned.

In any case, it does seem that the opinion that Zen is either influenced by Taoism or Taoism in disguise has its supporters. While I haven't read Ray Grigg's "The Tao of Zen", it seems this is a work that put forth the aforementioned notion, and so did Dr. Hu Shih. While I am personally not convinced, there must be some basis or reason for multiple figures to make these claims.

Astus wrote: DT Suzuki, well, his writings are mostly biased and fairly outdated.


I haven't read much of Suzuki, but why is he biased and outdated?
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby plwk » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:40 pm

If this is helpful...

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