rocala

The Chinese part of Chan/Zen

Recommended Posts

I have often read introductory articles that state something along the lines of Chan/Zen is Buddhism that absorbed some aspects of Taoism. Some have said Taoism and Confucianism. However I have not really found out what this exactly entailed.

Any explanations would be appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The love of poetry and painting, and an abiding interest in the phenomenal world (landscapes, animals, etc.), are probably the most Chinese (Daoist/Confucian) elements of Chan and related Chinese Buddhist currents like Huayan and Tiantai. Indian Buddhist texts, in my experience, tend to have am ambivalent or even indifferent attitude to natural beauty and to aesthetics. Their poetry tends to be very didactic and flatfooted. I am speaking in broad terms here though so don't take this as a rule either way.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My sense of this is strongly flavored by Chinese Novel "Journey To The West", pretty much set at the junction of Chan and Tao, particularly when compared to biographical information on the historical monk the fictional account is based on.

 

One way I look at it is that Chan, and Zen, are mainly defined as systems of non conceptual meditation, and the creation of conditions useful for such.

 

 This is a useful ability, and even a prerequisite for much Daoist self development.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, idiot_stimpy said:

When you look at Indian Buddhism that traveled to Tibet, maybe it took on a Bon flavor too.

Yes I have come across this several times. Again, it would be interesting to know the exact nature of this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, idiot_stimpy said:

When you look at Indian Buddhism that traveled to Tibet, maybe it took on a Bon flavor too.

 

It did.  Tibet Buddhism is mixed with Bon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 13/11/2020 at 5:01 PM, rocala said:

I have often read introductory articles that state something along the lines of Chan/Zen is Buddhism that absorbed some aspects of Taoism. Some have said Taoism and Confucianism. However I have not really found out what this exactly entailed.

Any explanations would be appreciated.

 

Daoism influenced Zen in the latter's emphasis on accepting things in their "suchness" - that is, not labelling them as either good or bad.

 

"To enter the Buddha Way is to stop discriminating between good and evil and to cast aside the mind that says this is good and that is bad."

A Primer of Soto Zen: A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki

 

"When everyone in the world sees beauty,

Then ugly exists.

When everyone sees good,

Then bad exists."

Dao De Jing, chapter 2

 

In conjunction with this kind of philosophical outlook, both Daoism and Zen teach doing away with the complexities caused by social conditioning and returning to one's original "child-like" nature.

 

In regards to practical methodology, zazen practice with its emphasis on developing the Lower Dantien (Tanden in Japanese) can be seen, in part, as a simplified version of certain Daoist approaches to chi cultivation.

 

 

Edited by Michael Sternbach
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Tibetan culture and sensibility in which Buddhism took root brought rich and complex artistry and a deep love, awe, and respect for the natural world originating in the shamanic roots of Bön, or so it appears to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/13/2020 at 8:01 AM, rocala said:


I have often read introductory articles that state something along the lines of Chan/Zen is Buddhism that absorbed some aspects of Taoism. Some have said Taoism and Confucianism. However I have not really found out what this exactly entailed.

Any explanations would be appreciated.
 


From Wikipedia, "Chinese Buddhism":

"Traces are evident in Han period Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures, which hardly differentiated between Buddhist nirvana and Daoist immortality.

... Initially, Buddhism in China faced a number of difficulties in becoming established. The concept of monasticism and the aversion to social affairs seemed to contradict the long-established norms and standards established in Chinese society. Some even declared that Buddhism was harmful to the authority of the state, that Buddhist monasteries contributed nothing to the economic prosperity of China, that Buddhism was barbaric and undeserving of Chinese cultural traditions.  However, Buddhism was often associated with Taoism in its ascetic meditative tradition, and for this reason a concept-matching system was used by some early Indian translators, to adapt native Buddhist ideas onto Daoist ideas and terminology.  

...¬†KumńĀrajńęva revolutionized Chinese Buddhism with his high quality translations (from AD 402‚Äď413), which are still praised for their flowing smoothness, clarity of meaning, subtlety, and literary skill. Due to the efforts of KumńĀrajńęva, Buddhism in China became not only recognized for its practice methods, but also as high philosophy and religion. The arrival of KumńĀrajńęva also set a standard for Chinese translations of Buddhist texts, effectively doing away with previous concept-matching systems."

So Buddhism was initially grafted onto Daoism, then after some 300 years, separated out.  Interestingly, there were translations of the Pali sermon volumes made in the time of Kumarajiva in China, but by that time Mahayana Buddhism with its antipathy toward Nikaya Buddhism was already established. 





 

Edited by Mark Foote
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/13/2020 at 10:21 AM, SirPalomides said:

 Indian Buddhist texts, in my experience, tend to have am ambivalent or even indifferent attitude to natural beauty and to aesthetics. Their poetry tends to be very didactic and flatfooted.

 

I agree with this assessment. Initially my interest in Buddhism started with Zen and Tibetan Buddhism but I suppose being raised Protestant I began wanting to know more about the original Indian stuff and I think I found it more nihilistic and somehow took the color and all out of things in my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites