Zen the Literary Movement

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Indrajala
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Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:11 pm

After spending two years taking some classes on Zen, reading Chan records in the original Chinese and reading Chan / Zen history for many more years I've concluded that Zen really has little to do with meditation and is actually just a literary movement within East Asian Buddhism.

Zen Master Dogen wrote copious amounts of material and evidently was not spending that time in meditation. He was also occupied in his later life building Eihei-ji.

The purported dialogues between Chinese Chan masters and their disciples (they are fictional according to Dr. John McRae) sometimes see someone meditating, but not often. It is more about a on-the-spot dialogue and teaching.

There is a lot of literature in Chan / Zen that draws on earlier generations of sayings, quotes, experiences and literary devices. To learn even a fraction of it takes at least a year or two assuming you already read basic Literary Chinese. Again, that isn't time spent in the meditation hall.

I simply get the sense that historically, as is the case even today, not a lot of people meditate as we would be told by modern day authors like Sawaki Kodo Roshi or various American Zen teachers. Most Zen priests I know in Japan only meditate when they have to (part of basic training). When they study Zen it is usually reading archaic Chinese literature and trying to interpret the meaning of those vague passages.

So, again, Zen has little to do with meditation. It is just a literary movement. It is even a cultural affiliation one can immerse oneself in.
tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Astus
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:36 pm

It is called 文字禪 (wenzi chan), Literary Chan. While literacy and culture has a lot to do with Chan that is not the only thing there is to it. Besides those of high status who composed many works you should consider the hermits and forest monks too - who of course seldom left anything to future generations. One exceptional person is Miyun Yuanwu from 17th century who was from a lowly family and had minimal education. But then his simplistic "hit and shout" Chan was ridiculed and attacked by Hanshan Deqing and many others while at the same time he revived Chan throughout China.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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LastLegend
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby LastLegend » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:27 am

If you get Buddha's teachings, then that's meditation.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Indrajala
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:58 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Jnana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:09 am


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Indrajala
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:16 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Jnana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:37 am


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Astus
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:23 am

I agree very well that Zen is a "literary movement", meaning that it's full of rhetorical methods and relies heavily on written materials. Also, as you mentioned, lineage and Zen masters were/are the matter of leadership, the abbots of monasteries who are busy with obtaining lay support and organising the community. There are now a couple of studies investigating in depth the development of the Zen school throughout the centuries in terms of socio-political events.

Geoff, what you mention in Korea is their system of dividing the year into three months periods where summer and winter are for retreats, spring and autumn are for wandering. But retreat doesn't necessarily mean one has to sit in the hall, it is just one of the options a monk/nun can choose.

But besides that Zen has little to do with rigorous meditation, meditation retreats are usually done once in a while by many monastics as part of their training. Although there's not much specifically Zen in that.

I think there are three important factors in Zen that made it the most successful form of Buddhism in East Asia: sudden enlightenment, dharma lineage and literary style. These three proved to be useful in organising monasteries and involving the literati to give ample support for the Zen people instead of others when they had to vote for the new abbot in a public monastery.

side note: the "dharma lineage" idea that created the Zen family (禪家) - besides its resonance with EA culture - makes it look like a mafia group... :tongue:
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Kyosan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:26 am

Last edited by Kyosan on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Kyosan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:32 am


Kyosan
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Kyosan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:48 am

Quite frankly, I see a lot of sectarianism on this board, much more than I've seen in real life. To me, it's quite alarming. We are all brothers and sisters in the dharma and there is no need to put each other down. We should try to be supportive of each other.
:namaste:

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Indrajala
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:50 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Indrajala
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:13 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Astus
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:47 am

I'm sure there were Zen teachers (abbots) without insight into the depths of Buddhism, however, that I would rather not generalise. Many of them were monks for one or two decades already when got into the position of Zen teacher, so technically they were elders. Also they were supposed to be outstanding people within the community and that's why they were chosen to serve as leaders. They had the necessary education and understanding to maintain the quality of the monastic training. Of course, when we think of thousands of temples and convents where each of them needed an abbot (member of the Zen family) it is natural that some Zen teachers were better than the others.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



Jnana
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Jnana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:01 am


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Astus
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:29 am

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



Jnana
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Jnana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:22 pm


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Indrajala
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:32 pm

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

Jnana
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Jnana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:58 pm


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Astus
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:12 pm

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.




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