Chan Buddhism

Chan Buddhism,
and Chan
Sinicization/sinification of Buddhism
Pure Land and Chan (or Ch’an) are two
schools of Buddhism that best represent the
sinicization/sinification of Buddhism
 The sinicization/sinification finds its
expression in scriptures and practices, among
other things
 Scriptures:
 Pure Land: three Pure Land sutras
 Chan (Ch’an): The Lankāvatāra sutra, the
Diamond Sutra, the Platform Sutra of the
Sixth Patriarch
Practices: devotional/practicing Buddhism
– Devotion and practice take different forms
– Pure Land:
calling name of Amitabha;
taking vows and following Amitabha’s instruction,
putting trust and faith in Him;
be mindful of Him;
cultivate three merits and undertake 16 forms of
– Chan: meditation
On Gong’an (or Kōan)
On master’s words
Formation of Chan
History and Tradition
Chan scholars and historians in the 10th-11th
centuries claimed:
A special transmission outside the teachings/scriptures
 With no dependence upon words and letters
 A direct pointing into the mind
 Seeing there one’s own nature, and attaining
Special transmission:
Chan, Flower, and
Mahakashapa’s smile
Mahakashapa is the
first Chan patriarch
in India
Bodhidharma is the
first Chan patriarch in
The First Patriarch
The Second Patriarch
The Third Patriarch
The Fourth Patriarch
The Fifth Patriarch
The Sixth Patriarch
Three Learnings in Buddhism
Three learnings:
Wisdom, Morality, Mediation
• Right view, right resolve; right speech, right action, right livelihood;
right effort, right mindfulness, right meditation
Traditional ideal Buddhists practiced three learnings
Chan Buddhists were taught to stress meditation
Three baskets: (Tripitaka)
Vinaya pitaka (basket of discipline)
Sutra pitaka (basket of discourses)
Abidharma pitaka (basket of higher philosophy)
Traditional ideal Buddhists mastered three baskets
Chan Buddhists were taught to forsake three baskets
Buddhist Hagiographies
Biographies and hagiographies
 Characteristics of hagiographies
 Based
on writings of disciples/followers of
the saints
 Glorify the saints
 Shrouded with legends
 Mythical, inflated, eulogizing
 Pseudo-history or non-history
Special Transmission
Chan’s patriarchate tradition:
– (Mahā)kaśyapa designated as the 1st patriarch of the
Chan tradition
– In India, from Mahakasyapa to Bodhidharma, a history of
unbroken lineage
Bodhidharma came to China (ca.516-526) and became the 1st
Chan patriarch
– in China, an unbroken Chan lineage continued
Fifth patriarch—Hongren (Hung Jen)
Sixth patriarch—Huineng (Hui-neng, 638-713) [Shenxiu, Shenhsiu (606-706)
Huineng’s tradition: Southern Chan school
Shenxiu’s tradition: Northern Chan school
Other lesser Chan traditions
The Bodhidharma Myth
Imperial audience
– Bodhidharma met Chinese emperor Liang
Traveled to Mt. Song
– Rode a fragile stalk/floating reed across the
Yangtze River’s mighty wave
– Ended up in Shaolin Temple in Mt. Song where
he faced the wall in a cave in meditation
Began the Shaolin martial art tradition
– wrote secret manuals—the Mallow-cleansing
Classic, Sinews Transformation Classic
Began the Chan tradition in China
– Transmission of the Dharma directly from mind
to mind
– Passed dharma-transmission robe to his
disciple, Huike, the second patriarch of Chan
– Continued a non-stop transmission from the 2nd,
3rd, 4th, 5th, to the 6th patriarch, Huineng
Traveled back to India barefoot
– With one shoe in his hand and the other left in
his grave
Possessed a “Dharma Robe”---a symbol of his
transmission of the dharma, which was
followed by later patriarchs
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