The Reflection On The Metaphysical Presuppositions Of The Korean Buddhism

Ven. Chong-rim

Senior Director of Research Institute
of Tripartaka Koreana
The Reflection On The Metaphysical Presuppositions Of The Korean Buddhism 


Is the Korean Buddhism Metaphysically oriented?

To speak conclusively, the answer is ‘yes,’ if we have to select one alternative between metaphysical and non-metaphysical. Although there have been different point of views among the Chinese Ch’an schools, they all interpreted the teachings of the Buddha to represent metaphysical worldview. Even the concepts such as Causality (Prat?tyasa?utp?da) and Emptiness (??nyat?), which are central terms of the Buddhism in general, have been understood in the frame of metaphysical thoughts: The former, which is the structure of the existences, has been understood by at least East Asian Buddhists as referring to the phenomenal world in the dualistic idea of noumenon and phenomena; The latter also has gained the idea of the primordial essence of the universe. The concept of the Enlightenment (悟) in the Ch’an Buddhism also presupposes metaphysical entity in the logical structure of substance (體) and function (用).

In the Buddhist thought, the origin of the metaphysical thought may be traced back to the Treatise of the Buddha-nature (佛性論) and the Tath?g?tagarbha thought (如來藏 思想) which were introduced into China in the relatively early stage. In addition to these thoughts, the metaphysical trends of the Taoist philosophy exerted critical impact on the formation of the Chinese Buddhist thought. Consequently, so called the domesticated Chinese Buddhism, such as Ch’an, T’ien-t’ai, Hua-yen etc., has been evolved in the direction of metaphysical inclinations. In this circumstance, the Buddhists of the East Asia, that is, China, Korea, Japan, have interpreted the Buddhist Scriptures and Treatises under the light of metaphysically oriented system of thought. In the same manner, the mind also came to assume the role of the creator of the world.

The limit or discrepancy of the metaphysical notion in the Buddhism played far-reaching influence on the doctrinal system of the Buddhism.

Human being bears numerous suppositions, as the basis of his activities, such as instinct, scientific evidence, divine nature, or ideology: Human being has primarily instinctive proclivity. He selects an object according to his desire and acts in accordance with the instinctive disposition. Yet very often he is not allowed to do so. Again, although he is subject to an object or the rule of nature, he is not totally destined by the law of cause and effect. Finally, even though the divine nature and an ideology may serve the ground on which he find the meaning of life or he select his action, they sometimes distort the life as it really is. All the objects of the external world, though they sometimes provide with guiding principle, mostly disguise the reality of the world from us. Thy oblige us to have dualistic viewpoint, and to make slavery life.

The metaphysical system of thought which presuppose immutable reality is non-Buddhist. This fallible viewpoint is stemmed from the illusive attachment to a criterion which regulates our way of living. According to the attitude whether one takes the metaphysical substance or not, result is quite various as to the interpretation of the Buddhist doctrine especially of one of the key terms of the early Buddhism, Causality; At least in the early Buddhism, the Ultimate Reality, or Permanent Substance whatsoever were basically denied. This standpoint, however, altered with the historical evolution of the Buddhism in which the Causality also has been understood and interpreted under the influence of this trends.

Even these days, the apparition of the Permanent view does not seem to have been completely wipe out. As long as the interpretative presupposition still throw the shade on the Buddhist thought, the metaphysical speculations would not come into an end. In other words, if we should not give up those ontological basis, the Buddhism will not escape from the pitfalls; it may either reinforce the theistic leaning, or assume mystical veil.

Hopefully, if we turn the ontological understanding into the epistemological understanding of the concepts of the Causality or Emptiness, or if we could draw the non-substantial picture of the Buddhist doctrine, the question of discrepancy embraced in East-Asian Buddhism would be resolved.


Despite the conviction that the Son (禪) implies excellent methodology, it is often doubted that the Son, which seems to assume the metaphysical trends, follows the right path the historical Buddha showed. This doubt is not solely concerned with the Son Buddhism, rather it is the question of all the sects of the Buddhist thought. When it comes to the question of the Ching-t’u (淨土, the Pure Land) school, it is more or less admittable for the school accept the metaphysical presupposition as an expedient. The case of the Son, however, it is not necessarily required.

The Causality, meaning dependently co-origination, designate the idea of relativity and interdependence. As all the existences are, as causes and conditions one another, inter- dependently woven, there is no independent, ever lasting entity apart from the relation itself.

Nonetheless, an age-old ideation that there should be the permanent existence or the primordial substance have dominated the thought of the human beings. As a result, we came to have the idea of the Absolute divine or pantheist doctrine, which gave birth to many entailed realistic categories of dualism such as the divine and man, subject and object, nature and form, substance and function, and so forth.

The Causality has also been interpreted in the frame of thought; even if the phenomena are ephemeral, it is believed, there are ever lasting, immutable essence behind them. One of the Three Marks of the Truth, impermanence (anitya 無常) signifies the truth of phenomena which is in flux, for all the existences are just transient combination of causes and conditions. The truth of non-self (an?tman 無我), by the same logical inference, denies the invariable subjectivity or essence of each phenomena; Each the existences is lacking of its own being (自性).

The crucial point lies in the concept of nirv?na (涅槃). Although the concept originally indicates the state where the kle?a is blown out, it came to point out the noumenon, the realm of the ever-lasting, primordial substance (本體界). In this context, the concept of an?tman is altered into the capitalized ?tman that is in absolute peace in that realm. In short, while the Causality indicates the phenomenal world, the concept of nirv?na points out the world of the absolutist, primordial, substance. We are accustomed to this sort of dualistic concept of dharma.

The concept of Emptiness designates neither nothingness (無), the opposite term of existence (有), nor non-existence (非有), the contradictory concept of existence (有). It denies the reification of the world of existence which is always changing without any essence within themselves. The concept of the Emptiness recognize the world of transformation as it is being never hindered by verbal expression or deep-seated disposition for the permanent existence.

If one reifies the world of relation that is in flux, the Buddhism will end up with another form of realism. At best, it may require the existence of the omniscient being who is planning the relation and controls the organizations of the universe. This distorted view of the Emptiness, no doubt, will render to be the solid ontology of the Buddhism; the concept of the Emptiness may, as a matter of course, be superseded by the Ultimate Reality or the Primordial essence of all the existences.

In the dictum, ‘in true Emptiness is mysterious existence (眞空妙有),’ the true Emptiness means both the Emptiness in existence and ,in its Emptiness, the creative power producing all beings in the universe. The Emptiness is equivalent to the Causality and to the Middle Path in terms of epistemological point of view, but not of ontologically.

In the Nirv??a S?tra (涅槃經), which discourses the Buddha-nature of all sentient beings (一切衆生 悉有佛性), the four doctrines of the early Buddhism, i. e., impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and non-self, are transformed to the Four Qualities of the Nirv??a (涅槃四德) which are permanence, joy, self, and purity on the ground of the Two Truths (二諦). In the level of the Conventional Truth, this world of transmigration is full of agony, ephemeral, non-self, and empty, where as, in the level of the Supreme Truth, the Buddha-body as the Dharma-body (法身) enjoys permanent, joyful, realm of the Self. This transform by the Nirv??a S?tra typically shows us the initiative stage of the evolution leading to the metaphysical standpoint.

When demarcating the Buddhist philosophy into ontology and epistemology, the teaching of the Buddha ??kyamuni is assigned to latter with the empirical tendency. Yet the mind in the dictum, ‘directly points out the mind of the human being (直指人心), and the nature in the dictum, ‘makes him see the nature and realize the Buddhahood (見性成佛), are identified with the metaphysical Reality. The Tao, which is eternal dharma, presupposes the Principle (理), on the other hand, the Enlightenment presupposes the nature. However, the original nature of both of the concepts, it is insisted, is empty (of its own being). The truth that the emptiness is, along with the phenomena, also empty of its own being may only be realized by endless negation of absolute negation or transcendence of the argument. Even so, the negation or transcendence can not elude the realm of metaphysical structure. We, therefore, take into account the very frame of the metaphysical speculation itself.


The religious attitude of the human beings may be divided into extroversive and introversive one. Of them, the Son methodology belongs to the latter. These two attitudes differentiate the answer to certain religious questions in terms of religious ideal, the method to lead the ideal and psychological apparatus.

The extroversive attitude lays its religious purport on the divine city. The idea of devas and the pure land may belong to this case. On the contrary, the introversive one sets up the realm of nirv??a where the divine being is no more necessary as in the case of the divine city. This is the main difference between theism and atheism.

In accordance with the form of faith or the object of faith, there are also two different types of the Absolute (being). They are personified and non-personified being. In the former case, the deliverance solely depends on the revelation and the grace of God. In the latter case, to the contrary, one has to find the path leading to the deliverance by himself. The difference between the personified and the non-personified give rise to the different attitudes of the ‘other-power’ and the ‘self-power.’

The theistic religion based on the other power, in spite of severe criticisms on it, has been prosperous even up to these days. Although the Buddhism belongs to atheistic religion, the Buddhas in the Mah?y?na Buddhism and the Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land school stand for the standpoint akin to the theism.

By the psychological attitude, religion may be also divided into the religion of pathos and that of ethos. The former, we may name the Islam and the Christianity in this category, depends on emotions and the latter, the Hinduism and the Buddhism belong to this category, on reason and intuition.

These all diversities of religious attitudes make the methodological difference of practice. There are, according to the methodology, three types of practice; petition, invocation and contemplation: The petition makes use of the method of ritual and incantation in order to get the supernatural power; The invocation is a form of faith for the the revelation and the grace of the divine being to get the deliverance by forming the relation with the transcendental divine and the human being; The contemplation stand for the introversive religion of ethos in which one wishes to attain the truth through meditation and insight.

Although the contemplative meditation or insight seems to pursue the sam?dhi (定, concentration), it entertains speculative contents as the object of the contemplation. The object of insight serves a means to get concentration. The meditation is a method to get the divine being or cosmic truth by pondering over the reality or the truth. Through the practice of insight, one does not cognize the contents of the object. It is a means of integration of man and the Ultimate Reality through the practicing the concentration of the mind and thereby eliminating delusive mind.

There is the Ku-an which is the object of the Son practice. Nevertheless, the Ko-an is not the meditative object, nor the contents of idea. Though the Ko-an sometimes implies the contents of idea, it does not conceives the contents of idea as the meditative method does. On the contrary, the Ko-an method functions to rule out the conceptual reasoning or logical inference. It is true that meditative practice also eliminates the delusive mind by concentrating on the object of the meditation. However, the Ko-an method, in addition to the function of elimination of delusive mind by concentration on the Ko-an, gives rise to doubts within the mind. In other words, denying all object, either internal idea or external things and events, the Ko-an Son practice develops only the function of doubt.

The difference between the Son practice and other system of practice seems to lie in the distinction whether a practitioner has the object of worship or the truth as the object of ideation. Thus, in this sense, it seems that only the Son methodology is able to remove the idol worship, and, even more importantly, the fallacy of the Absolutism.

In the Ko-an practice, in the first place, the conscious of doubt becomes the mass of doubt, and then both the subject that conceives the object and the object that is conceived by the object will fade away. By annihilating dualism of subject and object, which is the fundamental discrepancy of the human beings, one comes to experience radical transformation. To be oneness without being attracted by pantheism is final goal of the Son Buddhism, which is the experience of the Enlightenment.

The two typical forms of the Son practice are the Son of Calm Reflection (默照禪) and the Son of View of Hwa-du (看話禪). The difference between the two may be detected in the relation of sam?dhi (定) and the Enlightenment (悟). In the Son of Calm Reflection, the sam?dhi functions as the cause of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, in the Son of View of Hwa-du, the relation of the two is ignored. The function of the Ko-an intends the alertness of consciousness, while the sam?dhi that the Son of Calm Reflection pursues is the settling down of the mind. The purpose of the sam?dhi of the practice is the manifestation of the inherent nature on the calm mind.

Although the practice of the Ko-an partly aims at the exclusion of delusive mind or outer stimuli, the main function of the Ko-an practice is the enforcement of the mass of doubt; it is intensive function of the mind. Mere sam?dhi is no more than the serene state of the mind. But the awakened consciousness reacts every momentary stimuli as they really are in the full awareness.


The basic standpoint of the Buddhism represents atheism and not the religion of faith as the term is generally understood. The religion of the ‘other-power,’ which shows the attitude of self-annihilation, is much different from the Buddhism which seeks for the enlightenment through self-awakening. Faith oriented Buddhism, which shows the feature of the ‘other power’ religion, is in a sense not Buddhist. Religions have been evolved with the shift of time and space. So it is difficult to tell which element is Buddhist or non-Buddhist.

It is true that faith oriented Buddhism has contributed the evolution of the Buddhism, but from the viewpoint of the Son which criticizes even some of the early Buddhist doctrine, it is non-Buddhist. It is uncertain whether faith oriented Buddhism played affirmative role or not. At any rate, the faith oriented Buddhism altered the fundamental aspects of the Buddhism and contributed to the adoption of the factors of other religious thought into the Buddhist rite. This is the basis on which the Korean Buddhism is called the Buddhism of integration. In general, it is estimated by some scholars that the faith oriented Buddhism has been more or less the origin of confusion in the idea of the Buddhism.

Among the cultured religions, such as the Judaism, the Christianity, the Zoroastrianism, the Hinduism, and the Buddhism, only the Buddhism is atheistic religion. The Mah?y?na Buddhism, different from the early Buddhism which primarily emphasized individual practice to achieve the enlightenment, emphasizes the Bodhisattva practice. In this circumstance, the sentient beings, just like in the theistic religions, depends their deliverance upon the vow or compassion of the Bodhisattvas.

Faith oriented Buddhism not only creates feud between emotion and reason, but brings about difference of the worldview. From the Buddhist point of view, there are neither the will of the divine beings nor definite law of the universe. Although Einstein, claiming that the God would not play at dice, believed in the will of the God and in the order of universe controlled by the God. However, according to the principle of uncertainty, the motion of a particle is random. It is the same as the case of the biological evolution. The evolution of living creatures is largely influenced by contingency or by mutations.

Korea looks like a exhibition of religions from the shamanism to the so-called world religion. If a religion is the system of symbol representing varying religious experiences, the realm of experience exerts absolute meaning to whoever experienced it. On the contrary, either the system of symbol or institution of the church is the result of historical transformation, and so it has only relative importance. Nevertheless the religion of today makes much of the institution and its system of symbol at the cost of the value of individual experience.

In the modern times, we have nothing that is sacred. Everything is buried under the insignificance of the mundane daily life. What is sacred transcends beyond unawakened life and the manifestation of the transcendental. There is no holy being in the early Buddhism. So is in the Son Buddhism. If any, the sacred of the Son Buddhism lies in the all activities of everyday life, that is in the speech, silence, motion, and stillness. There is no such thing as the Reality in the name of the divinity or the transcendental.

In the personified religion, the sacred is revealed through the manifestation of the divinity, myth, and through sanctified place. On the other hand, in the non-personified religion such as the Buddhism, cosmic principle or immutable substance is immanent within concrete things and events.

For example, the post-modernism is neither mythical nor ontological, rather it is functional. If we interpret the teaching of the Buddha in terms of the Causality, the post-modernism and neo-science can be discussed within the territory of the Buddhism. The future is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. The most important thing we have to deal with is the question of metaphysical viewpoint. We are to find the sacred in this very life and in this very moment rather than to attach to the metaphysical presuppositions which do not belong to this time in this place.

The Linchi-lu and the Korean seon Buddhist Tradition

Shim, Jae-ryong 

Seoul National University
The Linchi-lu and the Korean seon Buddhist Tradition

1. Preliminary Remarks

What does it mean to re-establish the traditional Korean seon Buddhism of the Patriarchs(祖師禪)? Is it really possible to re-establish tradition? If possible, in what manner? Plethora of questions pop up in our mind. We do not dare to answer all the questions. This is a limited attempt to show that the Linchi Ch’an is closely connected with Korean Patriarch seon Buddhism throughout history, and is still alive in Korea deserving our attention as an important tradition. In this paper we evaluate the recent Imje style Son movement through historical reflection.

Tradition is alive as long as it is held as valuable but questioned and put to critical evaluation for possible uses. Keeping in mind that tradition can play either a positive or a negative role, we can approach the current Ch’am Saram (True Human) Society Movement led by Rev. S?-ong at the Paekyang-sa Monastery.

Tradition is a process of selection. What does Rev. S?-ong select among the many strands of Son Buddhism? what is left unselected? and what is added? In every epoch-making selection, tradition is transformed. Tradition is, therefore, a continuous transformation. Whether the transforming process is continuous or discontinuous is difficult to decide. It may not be an exclusively disjunctive choice.

In the case of Lin-chi Ch’an (Imje seon in Korean) tradition in Korea, we can trace a fairly well formulated tradition-line being upheld as orthodox continuously since the time of its first introduction from China to this peninsula. At every turn of historical event, the Imje seon was utilized by Korean seon masters and patriarchs to the needs of society, secular or sacred: at times of trouble to bolster its authority and sustain its experiential authenticity over against other sects or religions and most times usually to instruct aspiring students of high capacity in the seon to immediate enlightenment. Those many uses of Korean Imje seon tradition bespeak its tremendous influence on Korean seon Buddhism.

In short, Imje seon is a living tradition in Korean Buddhism. It is still alive in the dharma talks of masters; offering rare opportunities of enlightenment to students, giving credentials to those who are awakened and providing both lay people and monks with some possible remedy to the modern malaise such as loss of humanity and even environmental hazard. It is a task for us to evaluate those awesome claims. But one thing is definite and clear: the Imje seon tradition is live in Korea, not in a sectarian sense, but in its claim to the universality, comprising two notions; one, the spirit of independence or freedom from all kinds of slavery in the conspicuous Imje style and another, that of infinite compassion in the general Buddhist tradition.

Idiosyncratic of Korean seon Buddhism, however, is the fact that, in spite of its overall influence, the Imje seon has never established itself as a sect as is the case of Japan nor has its sectarian name been used as the representative of Korean seon Buddhism. It is all the more strange that the Linchi-lu, the record of the life and sayings of Chinese Ch’an Master Linchi I-xuan (d.866), has never been published nor studied as an independent text in Korea, though parts of it were included in Son anthology, up until Korean Chogye Order ex-Patriarch S?-ong(西翁)’s Imjerok S?ong Y?n?i (臨濟錄 西翁 演義 an extended commentary of the Linchi-lu by Old Man from the West) in Han’g?l, a vernacular Korean language was published fairly recently in 1974. Hence this attempt to trace some uses of the Imje seon tradition in Korean Buddhist history and the role the Linchi-lu has played in the process of conscious selection within that tradition.

We will illustrate five uses of the Imje seon thus far, including the current Ch’am Saram Movement. By so doing we try to carve out the characteristic feature and significance of this revival and retrieval movement called “Ch’am Saram Ky?lsa Undong (True Human Society Movement). We hope we can confirm the contemporary relevancy of Imje seon and its universal appeal to human kind in stark contrast to the sectarian and ultra-nationalistic bent of the Japanese Rinzai sect.


2. Korean Imje seon Tradition and Transformations

Seeing is believing. Seeing the Buddha nature is the key to becoming a Buddha. Thus declare the famous motto of Son Buddhism. But any kind of seeing can be subjective. To guarantee the authenticity or veracity of seeing experience, inter-subjective recognition by the teacher of the student’s seeing the Buddha nature i. e., enlightenment is provided in the Son Buddhist tradition. Through the teacher’s recognition the holy pedigree of transmission lineage is established in Son Buddhism, supposedly uninterrupted from the Buddha Shakyamuni through Bodhidharma, Huineng and Linchi down to the present Korean Chogye Son Buddhist Order Patriarch. Hence the sacred authenticity and orthodoxy of the Korean Son Patriarchs belonging to the Chogye Son Buddhist Order as the representative of Korean Son Buddhism. This seems to be the popular understanding about the Korean Son Buddhist tradition among the Korean Buddhist populace.

We will contend, however, in the following that the Korean Son Buddhist tradition has been consciously formed by selective acceptance of the transmission lineage from China during the Koryo period, and consolidated during the Choson period in Korea. In the process Imje Son and implicitly the Linchi-lu play important roles to establish that Korean Son Buddhist tradition. The formation of Korean Son Buddhist tradition was thus completed during the Koryo period and further consolidated consciously during the Choson period. Perhaps we can call this process the formation of the Korean Son Buddhist paradigm.

Of special note is the emphasis laid upon the Dharma lineage by Korean Son Buddhists. In order to emphasize the importance of teacher’s recognition and direct transmission from the teacher to the student in the seon lineage, the first generation Korean Son Buddhists belonging to the Nine Mountains schools concocted even the story of Chingwi Chosa(眞歸祖師), who supposedly recognizes and gives sanction to the historical Gautama Siddharta Buddha Shakyamuni. The secular family ties seem to be copied and confirmed repeatedly even in the sacred family tree in the Son tradition. <Give citation and note. Ch’?nchaek’s seonmun pojang-nok>


Another surprising fact about Korean Son Buddhism is that Chinul (1158-1210), the actual founder of the current Chogye Son Buddhist Order, has never been approved by any teacher at all for his enlightenment experience but he self-taught himself arduously through careful reading of books related to Ch’an and even Hwaom Buddhist scriptures. For Chinul, books are the teachers. It is a strange feat for a Son monk, whose tradition, being separate from the doctrinal Buddhism, avowedly eschews any scriptural adherence by claiming non-dependence on words and letters. How could this strange feat happen and yet how on earth Chinul is still considered by some as the founder of Chogye Son Buddhist Order in Korea? This is a topic for our immediate concern. And in what connection to Chinul, does Imje Son play any role in establishing Korean Chogye Son Buddhist tradition?

2.1. Chinul’s Appropriation of Ta-hui’s Records -Taxonomy of seon Practice according to the Three Dark Gates of Linchi

The hallmark of the Korean Son Buddhist practice since the time of Chinul’s immediate disciple Chingak (1178-1234) is the hawdu(話頭) or kongan(公案) meditation, a uniquely Son Buddhist technique of “looking critical phrase” (看話) in the story-telling book of Son transmission lineage, for the sake of inducing enlightenment. Chinul is the one who first introduced this technique to Korea without having any direct contact with Chinese masters but indirectly through reading Ta-hui’s(1089-1163) Records(大慧語錄) on the occasion of his third and final awakening experience. His culminating experience was so striking and radical, according to his biographer, that he accepted and approved this special technique as the most effective short-cut (徑截門) for the superlative capacities to enlightenment, although he provided lower capacity students with two other approaches; one, simultaneous cultivation of meditation and wisdom (惺寂等持門) based upon the teachings in the Platform Sutra (六祖檀經), and another, all round and sudden approach by faith and understanding (圓頓信解門) based on the Li Tung-xuan’s interpretation of the Huayen Sutra (李通玄, 華嚴新論), thus completing his comprehensive three-way approaches to becoming a Buddha basically following Chinese Huayen-Ch’an monk-scholar Tsungmi.

Imje style practice, modified by Tahui and Linchi sect in China, was only a part; one third of the Pojo Chinul’s triple approaches to Buddhahood or true humanity. But for Chinul’s followers thereafter accepted, among the three approaches, the hwadu meditation to be the exclusive, effective method for cleansing conceptual adherence to letters and words and thus attaining the ultimate enlightenment.

A partial adaptation of Imje Son is further witnessed by Chinul’s utilization of Imje’s various instructional devices. Chinul uses specifically the so-called three mysteries of dark gates (三玄門) and four processes of liberation from subjectivity and objectivity (四料簡) as instructional devices as presented in the Linchi-lu. The former was utilized by Chinul to analyze and classify entire Buddhist scriptures including Son writings, while the latter was included in the ten kinds of No-mind practice.

…In Son there are three mysteries(dark gates): first, the mystery in the essence; second, the mystery in the word; third, the mystery in the mystery. The mystery in the essence (體中玄) is the approach to dharma which demonstrates the unimpeded interpenetration of all phenomena and involves such statements as “throughout boundless world systems, oneself and others are not seperated by as much as the tip of a hair; the ten time periods of past and present, from beginning to end, are not separate from the present thought-moment.” It is a preliminary approach for inducing an awakening in those of beginning potential.

Since this approach has not yet abandoned understanding based on the verbal teachings, the mystery in the word (句中玄) is employed. These words have no traces, are ordinary, have a cleansing effect, and eliminate grasping so that students can suddenly forget their conceptual understanding and knowledge of the Buddha-dharma.

But since this approach also involves cleansing knowledge and vision and cleansing words and phrases, the mystery in the mystery (玄中玄) – the use of pauses, silence, the staff, and the Son shout – is also employed in training. When this last approach is used, one can suddenly forget the cleansing knowledge and vision and the cleansing words and phrase of the second mysterious gate. As it is said, “When we get the meaning and forget the words, the path is near at hand.” This is called the sudden realization for the dharmadhatu. For inferior men of beginning capacity, the Son school points out that there is a sublime mind, pure in nature, which follows along with the stream of falsity and pollution; this enables such men to understand easily and enter into faith. After they have entered in faith and forgotten their understanding, they can achieve personal realization. But if they do not forget their understanding, they will ait??? in the deep pit of liberation unable to use their bodies freely in displaying the manifold supplementary practices belonging to the approach of conditioned arising. (Buswell’s translation; The Collected Works of Chinul, pp.214-215 Complete and Sudden Attainment of Buddhahood 圓頓成佛論)

An initial attempt to classify all the Buddhist writings can be gleaned in the above. In the Straight Talk on the True Mind (眞心直說), Chinul’s most comprehensive guide for Son practice, he quotes Imje’s Four stages of liberating from both subjectivity and objectivity without directly pointing to the name of Imje. For Chinul, Imje was one of the Chinese Ch’an masters who shed light on the “sublime path of the patriarchs.” In the synopsis of ten different techniques for extinguishing delusions concerning the true mind, Chinul quotes Imje as one of the ancients (sic ancient patriarchs in China):

…Three: efface the mind but preserve objects. This means that when we are practicing, we extinguish deluded thoughts and do not concern ourselves with the external sense-spheres. We are only concerned with extinguishing the mind, for when the deluded mind is extinguished, what danger can sensual object present? This is the teaching advocated by the ancients” “take away the man but leave the object.”

…Four, efface objects but preserve the mind. This means that when we are practicing, we contemplate all internal and external sense-spheres as being void and calm. We preserve only the one mind, signaling solitarily and standing alone….If the mind is attached to the sense-spheres it becomes deluded. But if there are no sense-spheres, what delusion can there be? The true mind shines alone and is unobstructed in regard to the path. This is what the ancients called “take away the objects but leave the man.”…

…Five: efface both mind and objects. This means that when we are practicing, we initially make the external sense-objects void and calm and then annihilate the internal – the mind. Since internal and external are both calmed, where can delusion arise?…This is the patriarchs’ teaching of “take away of both man and objects.”…

…Six: preserve both mind and objects. This means that when we are practicing, mind remains in its place and objects remain in their place. If there is a time when the mind and the objects come in contact with each other, then the mind does not grasp at the objects and the objects do not intrude upon the mind. If neither of them contacts the other, then, naturally, deluded thoughts will not arise and there will be no obstacles to the path…. This is the patriarchs’ teaching of “take away neither the man nor the objects.”…(Buswell’s translation pp. 170-171)

We have observed two specific uses of Imje’s teaching as part of the Chinese patriarchs’ instruction as to the methods of eliminating delusions. Hence Chinul’s use of Imje was not a total acceptance but a partial application of some of his instructional devices. Imje, according to Chinul, in terms of Chinese Ch’an lineage, was only one of the patriarchs in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism belonging to Matsu-Hungchou line, never the originator of Linchi branch/sect in distinction to other sects like Fayen, Yunmen, Tsaotung, and Kueiyang, forming the so-called five families of late Chinese Ch’an lineage. In passing, we can also note that Chinul uses t’i-yung category in two combinations as expedient means of explaining methods of eliminating delusions.

This picture of Imje Son has been dramatically changed : Imje Son became the only orthodox line of Son in Korea immediately after Chinul’s demise, for his direct disciple Hyesim Chingak(edited all the available Son stories in an anthology, which later became the standard text for kongan meditation for all Korean Son monks. Chinul’s round about way of dealing with the problem of Son-Kyo controversy by striking a balance between the two tilted towards an extreme and exclusive practice of kongan meditation.

2.2 T’aego’s Direct Transmission of Lin-chi Ch’an Lamp – Origin of the Korean seon Patriarch Lineage Debate

This exclusive tendency was strengthened when T’aego Pou (1301-1382) went to Yuan China and got a seal of recognition from the Linchi line Chinese master Shi-wu Ching-kung(1270-1352): T’aego emphasized the hwadu meditation as the only method of attaining Buddhahood. Out of the three masters in the same Koryo period, namely Naong Hyegun (1320-1377) and Paeku Kyonghan (1299-1375) included, who had any connection to the Chinese Linchi lineage, T’aego was selected and his line of transmission became consolidated during the Choson period by the followers of Sosan Hyujong(1520-1604) specifically by Chunggwan Haean(1567- ?) who repudiated the nativistic Ho Kyun (1569-1618)’s claim to include Chinul and Naong to be the legitimate heir to Chinese Ch’an lineage. Under the severe oppression of Buddhism in the Confucianism dominated Choson society, it is understandable to uphold the legitimate lineage of Son Budhist tradition to safeguard its authority by connecting it to the then East Asian universal frame of reference, i. e., the only living Chinese Linchi line.

Even in contemporary Korea there still is a lively discussion as to who deserves to be the founder or sectarian head patriarch (宗祖) of the Korean Chogye Son Buddhist Order. Conservative and universalism-oriented elements tend toward Ta’ego while nativistic and progressive, toward Chinul. Six out of 28 registered Korean Buddhist denominations list incidentally T’aego as their founding father. To put an end to the controversial matter, Chogye Order statute lists Toui, the first importer of Chinese Ch’an to Korea during the Unified Silla period as the founding father.

2.3 Paekp’a’s Re-appropriation of Lin-chi’s Three Phrases – Establishment of the Korean Patriarch seon Taxonomy

At the impending downfall of the Choson dynasty, Paekp’a Kungson (1767-1852) tried to reestablish the Son Buddhist tradition through careful analysis of the whole scriptures of Son. Korean Son Buddhist taxonomy of triadic Son is firmly put into place in the minds of Korean people. The current usage of the Patriarch Son seems to stem from Paekp’a and his followers’s prolonged discussion extending well over one hundred and fifty years: a similar feat can be found in the Korean Confucian debate over four beginnings and seven emotions during the first half of the Choson period. Some may criticize the overly metaphysical paraphernalia and pedantic bickering of the debate. But the focal point of the discussion rests firmly on what kind can be the legitimate heir to the true spirit of Son. The Patriarch Son(祖師禪) is the highest, because it refers to the state of enlightenment of true emptiness and subtle beings (namely, manifold phenomena) comparable to the Buddha mind, while Tathagata Son(如來禪) is concerned only with the One Mind, hence put to the second level. The third and lowest is the intellectually ratiocinating Son (義理禪) where discrimination of phenomena and essence exists, existence and emptiness co-exist and spoken of. Throughout two centuries of discussion nobody challenges the supreme orthodoxy and authority of the Patriarch Son. Hence, the establishment of Korean Patriarch Son by multitudes of scholar-monks starting from Paekp’a, confronted by Ch’oui Uisun (1786-1866), conjoind by Udam Honggi (1832-1881), and Soldu Yuhyong(1824-1889), rebutted finally by Ch’ugwon Chinha (1861-1926). All of this discussion was ignited and refueled by the three phrases in the Imje-rok. Criticized as an empty talk, it still bears grave importance of the Linchi’s influence over the Korean Son Buddhist tradition.

2.4 Manhae’s Imje-chong Movement – Failure of the anti-Japanese Sectarian Movement

The history of Buddhism in Korea during the past and present century is riddled with problems like unification of the many strands of Buddhism, how to deal with colonial authority and its edicts and questions of reform and revival of the Buddhist order. Manhae Ha Yongun(1879-1944), opposing to the Japanese political move to merge Korean Son Buddhism to one of the Japanese Soto sect, proposed and created a counter-order/sect, the Imje-chong in 1911 but soon aborted by the Japanese colonial government. We are reminded of the famous diction in the Story of the Three Countries: Dead Kongmyon is better than the living Chungdal. The name Imje had such an appeal to Korean Patriarch Son Buddhists.


3. Concluding Remarks: The Linchi-lu and the Korean Patriarch seon – The significance of the Ch’am Saram Society Movement

Now we are ready to put the Ch’am Saram Movement in perspective. As the fifth and the final transformation of Korean Son Buddhism, this movement is significant and epoch-making in the sense that it tries to cope with the Western civilizational challenges. The previous transformations were made within the East Asian Buddhist framework of reference. Ven Seo-ong’s attempt to retrieve and revive the Imje Son spirit is a colossal venture to radically transform the Korean Son Buddhism, and by the same token, the Buddhist tradition itself in the upcoming age of global civilization.

When any tradition is secured and established, something is selected and accepted while another is left unselected. Thus the tradition is transformed. When Rev. So-ong tries to re-establish the Imje Son tradition, he selects the Linchi-lu as a whole and commented it in its entirety. But the focus of his selection rests securely on the single idea of ch’am saram, the True Human Without Rank in the Linchi-lu. He brush aside all the historical ramifications in one stroke as nothing but a heap of puppets: the three mysteries and concomitant taxonomical classifications, claim to the orthodox lineage requiring us sectarian fidelity are puffed at by him. He selects the true humanity ideal for the sake of coping with the new age of globalization.

Ven. Seo-ong’s approach to the traditional patriarchs’ Son including Imje is epitomized in the Three Vows of the True Humanity:

“Firstly, let us awaken ourselves to the true self of no form and non-abiding and put it to practice by compassionate living [together with all other beings].

Secondly, unobstructed, unbound by any thing, being free from everything, let us create [a new] history where all human kind can live in peace and with equal [right].

Thirdly, being aware of the fact that our individual selves, human kind, and the universe are both eternal and solitary living entity, and yet keeping their own identity, let us respect each other, help each other without grasping [anything as absolute] and practice [our enlightened awareness] in the truthful and right manner so that we can construct a world where beauty is appreciated.”

We take note of two factors in the above vows. It is to be remarked first, that Ven. Seo-ong does not fall into a trap of ontological commitment. In the descriptive explanation at the beginning of his extended commentary on the Imje-rok, he explicitly denies Son to be connected or even compared with either of the Western metaphysical category of both mysticism and pan-theism. His method of ‘infinite break through (無限透過)’ seems to connote this attitude of non-commitment, which is reminiscent of the historical Buddha’s positive and yet anti-metaphysical stance. Incidentally the so-called Critical Buddhist charge of substantialism, associating the Buddha nature to the idea similar to Atman does not seem to apply to Son Buddhism, including Ven. Seo-ong’s recommendation of True Humanity movement.

Ven. Seo-ong also emphasizes the key idea only i. e., that of Ch’am Saram, a rarified universal model of true humanity, in the Imje-rok without labeling it as the Imje-chong sectarian tenet. Hence, he effectively disengages himself with any sectarian or nationalistic/nativistic implication of his proposal to revive Korean Son Buddhist tradition to cope with the globally human problem.

By logical extension, Ven Seo-ong tries to universalize the basic and only aim of Son practice: to become a truly human being. To forge a radical transformation out of ordinary, sense-enslaved man to the universally true humanity in a socially engaged network of world system is an extremely sophisticated and yet very laudable endeavor.

We have no qualm over the first claim. In the universalization process just mentioned in this period of paradigmatic change, however, we are supposed to invent many mediatory steps to fill the wide gap between the rarified universal model of true humanity and the concrete social problems like justice, human rights, environmental hazard, and furthermore construction of world peace. Internally within the Buddhist tradition, the Patriarch Son Buddhist is required to deal with other alternative meditation techniques by critically repudiating them and thus re-confirm the uniqueness as well as the supremacy of the idiosyncratic hwadu meditation. Externally the general idea of religious freedom must find its way and channeled into the socio-political dimension. Without aping a Buddhist type of liberation theology, how could we find the crucial link between the Son idea of unbounded, unobstructed freedom and the concrete social proposal of reform or revolution of the whole world? It is all the more necessary for any Son Buddhist to critically aware of the unbridgeable gap between the spiritual manifesto and the concrete social transaction. But the first gigantic step toward building a brave new world in the radical spirit of Imje’s universal freedom has already taken by Ven. Seo-ong. It is up to the present gathering of practicing monks and intellectual scholars to make up the mediatory steps to fulfill his grand design.


Eshin Nishimura   (西村惠信)
Professor of Department of Buddhism
Hanazono University


1. Historical Root of Hakuin Zen Tradition

2. Self-confidence and its Practice

3. Evil state of illusion

4. Definite awareness of the Reality

5. Passing through the Patriarchal gates

6. Non-attachment to the ultimate

7. How to live the ordinary life

8. Succession of Buddha-Dharma

9. Breeding of the Seed of Buddha


Tourie-Enji(東嶺圓慈 1721-1792) is one of the greatest disciples under Hakuin-Ekaku 白隱慧鶴(1685-1768), a restorer of Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa era. He was especially respected among Hakuin’s disciples as Delicate Tourei(微細の東嶺 misai-no-Tourei) for his carefulness in his Koan study(公案工夫 Kouan-kuhuu). Maybe it is because of Tourei’s inborn intelligence.

According to the Tourei’s biography, upon arriving at Shouin-ji 松蔭寺 for the first time, great master Hakuin asked Tourei to help his preparation for the discourse upon Kidouroku(虛堂錄, Record of Hsu-t’ang chih-yu 虛堂智愚 1185-1269) for coming new semester, since Hakuin knew that Tourei had already learned almost all of Patriarchal records such as personal history, life episode, dialogue and so on, by heart at his age of twenty-three.

Five years later, twenty-eight years old, Torei’s weak body got a heavy disease from too much private meditation at some layman’s house in Kyoto. He came to know that his life is comming to an end within three to five years, so he wrote down two volumes of manuscript entitled “The Theory of Unestinguished Lamp of Zen Buddhism(宗門無盡정論 Shuumon-mujintou-ron: for short, TULZ is used in this paper”) taking only thirty days. Recovering from disease, Tourei intended to burn up his manuscript, but Hakuin who thought this would be a kind enough guidance for Zen student under Koan Zen study put a stop it.

“TULZ” was published in 1800 that is eight years after Tourei’s death, though Tourei himself had prohibited his disciples to open his manuscript to the public. It is our good fortune, however, to have this kind of rare systematic text book of Koan study published by his lay disciple after Torei’s passing away, so that Hakuin’s creative method of Koan Zen study is still at hand today in its original form, so that unestinguished lamp of Zen tradition is still living even in our days.

TULZ is not an ordinary record of Patriarchal teaching done from the standpoint of the truth of the first principle[第一議諦 or daiichigitai in Jp.] like other texts, but the text described by Tourei’s own hand for future use. Therefore it is written from standpoint of the truth of second principle[第二議諦 or dainigital in Jp.]. He arranges various kinds of Patriarchal episodes along with the procedure of Zen study from the entrance to the final attainment of Reality, so that Rinzai Zen students might be able to go along same path as the Patriarchs took for their deepening of Zen mind.

1. Historical Root of Hakuin Zen Tradition

The first chapter of “TULZ” is entitled “ Root of Zen Transmission”(宗由 shuuyuu in Jp.) in which Tourei describes general history that is a transmission tree of Rinzai Zen tradition starting with Buddha and end up with his own master hakuin-ekaku.

Like other religions, Rinzai Zen takes importance upon its traditional history as well as its teaching. Or it might be better to say that history of Zen transmission itself is nothing but the essence of Zen Buddhism. Because Zen transmission has been only achieved through the indirect transmission of existential essence of Zen from master to his disciples, as existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard ever pointed out by saying that the direct transmission is impossible in the case of transmission of the Truth. Therefore the discontinued continuity is only the form of transmission of the Buddha’s Lamp. This means that there is no so-called continual history in Zen tradition but the series of each personal experience.

When Tourei entitles the first chapter “The Reason of Zen tradition”(or 宗由 shuyu in Jp.), “Reason” here means the historical base on which Zen Buddhism stands. Though this chapter is the historical description of Rinzai Zen transmission, it is still not a mere history of Rinzai Zen, but a ground on which Rinzai Zen is surely based. In fact, Tourei’s way of description is not historical but simple arrangement of episodes in the life of Patriarchs. In this specific reason, a history of Rinzai Zen tradition is what is beyond the history itself

The specific reason why historical description could still be super-historical is because it is not a simple document of the Patriarchs, but the records of particular situations in which each Patriarch came to realization of Reality, and therefore they are called “Ancient Samples and Episodes” 古則話頭 that is so-called Koan(公案). Each Kouan(episode) is what has happened once in history and yet it happened as a full manifestation of Reality in each case. Therefore, Shuyu(宗由 or Root of tradition) does not mean mere origin of Rinzai Zen history, but the “Root” where the essence of Zen is manifested through the individual experience.

Therefore, what Tourei tries to describe in the first Chapter is not a simple introduction of this text, but the presentation of the essence of this text in which all other following chapters are also based upon.

In the very beginning of this chapter, Tourei admires Buddha’s declaration of the nobility of his individual existence right after his birth as follows;

Stop talking! Your saying already betrays this Matter too much. Master Yun-men Wan-yen ever criticized you saying; “If I were there with you at that moment, I would club him and give it to dog to eat. I wish you kept this world in peace”. (Eshin Nishimura Text published from The Institute for Zen Studies, 1992, page24)

In this way, Tourei demonstrates his admiration of Buddgha’s birth in the negative way of saying to stress the significance of Buddha’s coming into this world. All these way of saying shows Tourei’s subjective standpoint, which is free from the tradition within the definite framework of Zen tradition. Here we may see the unique attitude of Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk to go beyond their own tradition for the purpose of going down to deep horizon where they can really meet with all patriarchs of history.

2. Self-confidence and its Practice

Second chapter of TULZ is entitled the self-confidence and its practice [信修 sinshu in Jp.] where Tourei discusses the inevitable preparation for Zen student intending to begin Koan Zen study.

Here I dare to translate this particular Chinese term 信 not belief of faith as ordinarily done, because in Zen study the term 信 (sin) does not mean so-called religious act done toward some outer Being beyond man, but somehow means self-confidence for the Reality which is hopefully realized at the end of his way of Koan Zen study course. Torei writes as follows;

If a man wishes to achieve his path of Zen, in the very beginning, he has to have great root of self-confidence(大信根 Dai-shin-kon). Then what is this confidence?
A confidence about the existence of the same inborn nature and infinite Wisdom as all Buddhas ever had. A confidence of the fact that there is neither big nor small in each individual’s religious ability(根 kon, “root”), neither wise nor fool in each individual daily religious capacity(幾 ki), so that all those who go this way should achieve the goal without exception. A confidence that along with the deepening procedure of meditation, there easily happens various kinds of evil delusions, and if a man took it as the ideal sate of the way(悟りSatori), he would suddenly fall down to the second or non-Buddhist level of the goal. A confidence that when time has come and man’s effort has fully devoted, Buddha-nature is revealed by itself, so that man does not need to use his intellectual judgement anymore. A confidence that no matter how buddha-nature is suddenly revealed, unless a man has a chance to see a Zen master to pass the Gates set by ancient Patriarchs, he would walk through the wrong way of life. A confidence that there is still one more small step(些子向上の一著子 sasi-koujyouno-ichijyakusu) remains even after you finish passing through all those patriarchal gates. A confidence that no matter how man attains this special step, there is deep delicacy in the daily activity following each individual different personality. A confidence that a matter of Zen transmission has most important significance so that man should transmit the lamp to the disciples and not monopolize it for himself. A confidence that each part of daily life is nothing but retraining of his Dharma, and carry on that daily training with him so that Dharma might not be extinguished in the future.(Nishimura’s Text, page41)
In this way, Tourei encourages us to have confidence as a fundamental condition of whole series of Zen study, therefore this second Chapter is not a part of TULZ anymore, but covers whole system of the text. Here we may see the characteristic of this text, which should be called unsystematic system of Koan Zen study. And this kind of structure can be seen in each Chapter of TULZ.

In this second Chapter Tourei put stress also upon the importance of Vows of Bodhisattva(菩薩の警願 bosatu-no-seigan) as the fundamental condition for the beginner of Zen study. Needless to say, Vows of Boddhisattva is most indispensable to Zen study as Mahayana Buddhist practice, otherwise Zen study comes to be merely the self-centered. He writes as follows;

After the above confidence firmly settled, student must make Vows to himself not to abandon his study until he finally arrives at the achievement of his study.
Not to have any idle mind from his study, no matter how long his journey of suffering would continue.
Not to be controlled by other Buddhist teaching even though he might fall into hell because of his deed. Not to fall into non-Buddhist view by being satisfied with easy realization of Satori experience which is mere evil state of delusion.
To practice Bodhisattva deed after once he achieved his study, and so on.   (Nishimura’s Text, page42)

3. Evil state of illusion

In this chapter, Tourei talks about the danger of the evil state, which appears along with the way of koan study. This dangerous state of mind called Genkyou(現境 or literally translated the appearing state) is already taught as devil state(魔境 or makyon in Jp.) in the Buddhist canons or texts such as the 40th Chapter. of Part one of Maha-prajna-sutra(大般苦經), the 10th volume of Surangama-stura(首楞嚴經) and the 8th volume of Mo-ho-chih-kuan(摩訶止觀)

Among various kinds of evil state of mind, Tourei calls our attention more to the good state(善境界) or zenkyoukai in Jp.) than the evil, because man can easily guard himself from the unpleasant condition of his feeling, while he enjoys himself whenever he feels to be comfortable with the good feeling even though it is nothing but the illusion. Therefore, pleasant illusion which Zazen meditation brings into man is thought to be very dangerous.

Some examples of good state of mind are taken out by Tourei himself such as the view that the existing beings are all empty(法空の見), view that everything is equal(一味平等の見), view that the Reality is being manifested throughout the universe(現成底の見), view that this body is perfect by itself(當體卽是の見), and so on. All these states of view are only possible through deep meditation practice, therefore we should say this is the disturbance, or the necessary evil, which is happen on the way to the real goal of Zen way.

Medieval Japanese Zen Master Musou-soseki(夢窓疎石 1275-1351) is also talking about Madou(魔道 or Evil-path) in his Text “Muchuu-mondou” (夢中問答 or A Dialogue in Dream) as follows;

There are two kinds of Evil that are inner evil and outer evil. Outer evil means the Evil king(魔王 or Maou) and his people(魔民) who are coming from outside the Buddhist student and disturb him. The Evil king is called 天魔(天魔 or Tenma) since he is staying in the sixth Heaven(第六天) and so-called 天狗(Tengu or long-nosed goblin) are his people. That Evil king thinks all sentient being as his relatives, therefore he intends to disturb the sentient being who makes effort to enter the Buddha’s way….. Even if there were no such disturbance from outside, in such a case as Buddhist student has delusion in his mind, or has attachment with incorrect view, or has self-pride of his achieved state, or sinks into meditation, or is proud of wisdom, or hopes to be released from suffering only for himself in the idea of his Arahat, or falls to the second level of compassion to the other(愛見の慈悲), and so on. All these belong to the inner evil since they are all disturbances for the ultimate Bodhi(or 無上菩提 or Mujyou-bodai in Jp.). (Nishimura’s translation and comment of Muchuu-mondou published NHK Press, 1998, page29)
All these inner and outer evils are what might usually happen also in the process of Christian mysticism as is called “The dark night of the soul” by Mystics. Zen students also have to go once through this dangerous state.

4. Definite awareness of the Reality

An anthentic evidence (or 實證 jisshou in Jp.) of existence of Reality realized as a whole bodily experience is needless to say a core of whole procedure of koan Zen Practice, and that would happen when hard discipline under the Koan study reaches climax. A well-known phrase: “A great awareness(or 大悟 taigo in Jp.)” is only possible amid great darkness or mass of doubt(or 大疑 taigi in Jp.)” is a principle of Koan study Zen(or 看話禪 Kanna Zen) demonstrated by Ta-hui Tuang-kao (大慧宗高 1089-1163) in Sung dynasty China, and Japanese Koan Zen which was re-systematized by Hakuin-ekaku is direct descendant of this tradition.

In particular, Tourei is putting emphasis upon the necessity of visit with an authentic Zen master(明師 meisi or 正師 shousi in Jp.) whenever a student arrives at this experience of Self-realization, otherwise he will fall into the tremendously dangerous cave of self satisfaction. Tourei writes as follows;

Upon attaining a realization of Self Nature(見性 kenshou in Jp.), Zen student has to visit an authentic master in order to remove the delusion of self-awareness(悟中迷 gochuu-no-mei). In old day, Huang-lung Szu-hsin(黃龍死心
1043-1114) told that when you meet one delusion, you mast gain one awareness. After you attain an awareness, you have to be aware of both delusion in awareness(悟中迷 gochuu-no-mei) and awareness in delusion(迷中悟 meichuu-no-go). Therefore you should know that the time to visit an authentic master or the time to start to study in more authentic way. (Nishimura’s Text, page67)
Reading above quotation, we might know that even though the self-realization of Reality which is known as Satori(悟り) in Japanese seems to be a core of Koan Zen practice, it is merely one stage which happens half way of the whole process of Rinzai Zen study where the more important Zen study really begins.

5. Passing through the Patriarchal gates

This Chapter called “Toukan”(透關) is so to speak the checking upon the attained state of awareness(悟り Satori in Jp.) by reflection on the mirror of Buddha’s or Patriarchal paradigm. As well-known among people today, to deepen one’s awareness of Reality through following the foot prints which Buddha or Patriarchs have ever marked is called Kouan Zen practice(公案禪修行) and this is no other than the proper method which Rinzai Zen tradition started from Sung dynasty China and still practices today in Japanese Rinzai Zen.

In fact, Japanese Rinzai Zen has been able to maintain its traditional Lamp of Dharma only because of this somehow artificial looking method which was systematized by Hakuin-ekaku who was so much worried about declining of Japanese Rinzai Zen as he violently criticized Bankei-youkaku’s unique “Unborn Zen”(盤珪永琢の不生禪 Hushou Zen), Ungo-kuyou’s “Meditating on Buddha Zen (雲居希膺の念佛禪 Nembutu Zen) or Eihei-Dougen’s Meditation-only Zen(永平道元の只管打坐 Sikan-taza) calling them “a modern blind priest living in nothingness only(近代斷無の해僧 Kindai danmu no kassou)” or “the evil party of silent meditation(默照の邪黨 Mokushou no jyatou)” and so on.

Tourei writes in this Chapter as follows;

Today, we easily see Zen brothers who misunderstand Zen as the Wisdom which transcends the rational understanding(沒意智 motuichi), and assert that since Zen Buddhism has been transmitted outside scriptures, it does not need to use any Buddhist scripture. Those people do not realize that if Zen were transmission outside Scripture, it should also accept inside. If “outside Scripture” could not accept inside Scripture, that Outside would also not be true. Why is it so? Because when a mirror is bright enough, it reflects any object whatever it might be. So in the case when object does not appear in the mirror, it means that mirror is not bright. Nonetheless, you sometime refuse the object to hide the darkness of the mirror. This is never the view of great path of Buddhism. In the same way, in the Scripture, there is contained deep teaching of Buddha or Patriarchs, which often points at the disturbance of your path of Zen study. But only because your awareness of Reality is not yet clear, you ignore the Golden words of Buddha and are unable to research the deepest meaning of Scripture. What I mean here is not take Scriptures as the main object of study, but take them as bright mirror. It is important to reflect Self-nature upon the Teaching of Buddha and Patriarchs and also to reflect the Teaching upon the Self-nature. In so doing, both Self-nature and Teaching should be most clear. (Nishimura’s Text, page81)
The attitude of Zen student toward Koan should be same as Tourei talks about Buddhist scripture as above quoted. This particular Chapter of TULZ commands us to reflect the state of awareness of Self-nature (Reality) upon the Koan so that Self-nature is examined if it is clear enough. But as Tourei writes to study Koan is not the final purpose of Zen study but to reflect the Koan upon the Self-nature to examine if Self-nature is clear enough.

For the purpose of bringing student to the ultimate attainment of self realization of Reality(大悟徹底), Hakuin systematized traditional paradigmatic episodes(古則話頭) into the more effective order(公案體系). Koan system itself is, however not opened in any document form, but secretly transmitted through Nissitu-sanzen(入室參禪) or private interview of student with Roshi(老師) in small room of the monastery. And contents of so-called seventeen hundred Koans(千七百則の公案) are told to be different each other according to the two main branches, that is to say Inzan-branch(隱山系) and Takujyu-branch(卓州系), that were separated under Gasan-jitou(峨山慈棹 1727-1797) who is the one of Hakuin’s Greatest disciple.

However, both branches are at least keeping the fundamental Koan system which Hakuin set for his students. Or it would be better to say that Hakuin confirmed Koan system which had already been developed by the Japanese Rinzai Zen patriarchs in early days of Japanese Zen such as En’ni-ben’nen(圓爾辨圓 1202-1280) or Nampo-jyoumain(南浦紹明 1235-1308). These Patriarchs divided Chinese Koans into three groups according to their function, namely Richi(理致 or Ultimate of Truth), Kikan(機關 or Skillful Method) and koujyon(向上 or Non-attachment).

“Richi” is the group of words, which show the True Reality and most of them are extracted from Buddhist scripture and Patriarchal record. All Koan of Richi are the theoretical expression of Buddhist theology or State of Zen mind, so students practice Zazen meditation(坐禪) reflecting his mind upon the Koan so that he will realize authentic meaning of each phrase through his bodily experience of awareness(Satori 悟り or Kenshou 見性 in Jp.)

“Kikan” is the group of the episodes by which student knows how the Patriarchs of early days of China came to self realization of Reality, and by refelcting upon those stories through Practice of Zazen meditation, he might attain the living mind of the Patriarch or Kassoi(活祖意) which is called Satori.

“Koujyou” is the group of Koan through which student wipes the dust which he get by above two groups koan. In other words, student has to remove so called the attachment of Buddha-view(Bukken 佛見 in Jp.) or Dharma-view (Hokken 法見) or his Pride of Ultimate attainment of Reality so that he might return to what Buddha or Patriarchs really taught which is nothing but original Ordinariness(Heijyoutei 平常底).

Hakuin opened these three divisions into the five, that is to say Hossin(法身 or dharma-kaya), Kikan(機關 or Skill), Gonsen(言詮 or Word expression), Nantou(難透 or difficult to pass through) and Koujyou(向上 or Non-attachment).

6. Non-attachment to the ultimate

As I already mentioned above, the qualitatively different path still remained for the student as a final part of his Zen study jhourney and it is called Kojyon(向上). A well-known phrase: “This particular path of Koujyou has never been transmitted by any past Saint” (向上之一路, 千聖不傳). This path is specially called “Smallness of Koujyou”(向上之些子) which means that this path is the entirely different from the preceding path where student has passed, or it would be better to be said that this path is the total negation of what has been experienced before. Therefore student should not continue his quantitative progress of path walked but jump into the entirely different realm of quality. Chinese Patriarchs teach this jump by saying: “Have one more step at the top of hundred feet pole!” Here Tourei writes as follows;

Here is a path of non-attachment. This is called the One which even patriarchs never transmitted before. ….. This is what all Patriarchs ever transmitted from one to the other. (Nishimura’s Text, page92)
What Tourei mentions here seems to be somehow paradoxical, but this is the essence of Zen transmission. However, as a matter of fact, such Self realization of Reality is never able to be transmitted from man to man directly but only transmitted through indirectly transmitted as an existential philosopher Soeren Kierkegaard ever pointed out. Therefore, we may realize that Koan system itself is not the object of study as it is mere foot-prints of Patriarchs and not the Reality of Patriarch himself. Student should not follow such a shadow of the Reality. Instead, he should jump out of traditional transmission after all. This might be the deep significance of the small path of non-attachment.

7. How to live the ordinary life

Next chapter of TULZ is entitled Rikiyuu(力用 or daily Use) in which Torei talks about the way of living daily life for the student who achieved his Zen study. A student who came to be free from tradition and returned to his own self has to live his daily life authentically(履踐分明 risen-hunmyou in Jp.) His ordinary daily life has to be the continuity of Right meditation(正念相續 Shounen-souzoku in Jp.).

As Bodhi-Dharma says, There are many who attain the Buddha’s Way, but very few who are practicing it. And, moreover, this practice should have no traces(沒종跡 Mosshouseki in Jp.). Torei calls this kind of daily use “Wisdom-use beyond scale(格外の知用 kakugai no chiyuu)” because nobody knows his Saint-ness.

8. Succession of Buddha-Dharma

In this Chapter of Succession, Tourei discusses the Importance of Succession of Buddhas Lamp. Succession (師承 Shijyou in Jp.) means to succeed to the Wisdom-life of Buddha(佛の慧命 Butu-no-emyou in Jp.) from certain Zen master who is supposed to be a carrier of Zen Buddhist tradition. For this very reason, student who lives his life in the daily use of attained Reality has to go out of his home for searching authentic Zen master. If student kept staying within his enjoyment of Awareness of Reality, he would remain inside of the mere self-satisfaction. Such a self-satisfaction is called the “Heresy of Selfish awareness without Master”(無師獨悟の外道 musidokugo-no-gedou in Jp.). Tourei writes upon this danger as follows;

A matter of Succession is the most central. Ancient Zen student who arrives at the source of Self-awareness and passes a certain numbers of Patriarchal gates, used to travel throughout the country without any doubt about Reality and have a discussion or fix to the prices of commodities after discussion(問答商量 Mondou-shouryou in Jp.) with any person he meet. But sometime later on, he happened to meet Great Zen master who has Great eyes of Dharma(大眼目 daiganmoku in Jp.), and was compelled to realize the essence of Zen existing in completely different realm that is called Non-attachment, from the Reality he had held until that time. Then he quits his travelling and begins his sincere study under the Great master. In this way, he arrives at Unmovable confidence of his reality. This is the time of Succession(師承). Since that time, he lives with unforgettable thanks to the master about the kindness he received. Such a student should be called “Dharma-successor”(法嗣 Hassu in Jp.). the Patriarchs of Zen tradition all the same have transmitted Fruit of Zen in this way. (Nishmura’s Text, page 119)
From above quotation, we may know that the horizon where succession of Patriarchal lamp become possible is even under the bottom of egoistic self where individual personality is broken into the universal Non-self which is common with master’s Non-self. This is what Wu-men Hui-kai(無門慧開 1183-1150) writes in his “We-men-kuan” (無門開 Mumonkan in Jp.) like “To walk hand in hand with the traditional Patriarchs, and to see the things with same eyes of Patriarch’s and to listen with same ears”.

In other word, Succession is not possible so far as the master and the student stand in opposition to each other, but only possible when student comes down to the transcendentally deep level where he may touch directly with transcendental Non-self of the Master. As we already studied in the above Chapter, this transcendence is only possible with one important step beyond the ultimate self realization of the Reality which was called Koujyou or Non-attachment. However to arrive at such complete level of Non-attachment is so hard that even Wu-tsu Fa-yen(五祖法演 ?-1104) says; “I have studied Zen for twenty years, and now I feel the shame to know my incompleteness(我參二十年, 今方職羞).

9. Breeding of the Seed of Buddha

In this chapter entitled “Chouyon 長養” or Breeding of the seed of Buddha, Torei talks about importance of cultivation of Buddha-seed which student sowed deep in his body through his long Zen meditation. He writes as follows;

Yuan-wu Ko-chin(환悟克勤 1063-1135) says; “Ancient Masters used to live their lives in the humble hermitage or stone cave and take poor meals prepared in broken pans, after he attained Buddha-way(佛道). They never hoped to be known in the world and occasionally spew a word to switchover student’s mind to transmit Buddha’s Dharma”. Therefore, what Zen student has to do is only to
breed the Buddha-seed through many years. Do not like to build a monastery for the purpose of accepting more students. (Nishimura’s Text, page127)
Torei is then taking a number of examples of ancient Patriarchs who hid themselves in the deep mountain or amid the secular world for many years such as the six Patriarch Hui-nung(六祖慧能638-713)’s fifteen years in the South countryside, Nan-yang Hui-chung(南陽慧忠 ?-775)’s forty years, Ta-mei Fa-chang(大梅法常 752-839)’s thirty years, and so on.

10. Currency

The final Chapter of TULZ is the conclusion or the End of long Path of Zen study. Or we should say that it was the ultimate purpose to begin study of Zen when a student was standing at the gate of Zen Path. Since Zen Buddhism is based upon the Mahayana Buddhist thought, no matter how this particular branch is hoping to realize a Reality in his own-self and therefore it might be called the religious way of Self-inquiry(己事究明の行道) lasting throughout a whole life, it should be done for the salvation of all sentient Beings. Here the title of this Chapter “Currency” (流通 Ruzuu in Jp.) means the spread of the Buddha Dharma all over this earth.

However Currency of Buddha Dharma might not be the same as so-called religious Mission or social service done under the name of religion. For Tourei, “currency” actually means transmission of Unextinguished Lamp of Zen (in fact, this was the title of his work) to only a few students. Torei writes as follows;

Yen-tou chuan-huo(巖頭全豁 828-887) says’ “Whenever you intend to demonstrate Great teaching of Buddha, you have to let it issue from your own heart each by each, so that it fills the whole heaven and earth for the sake of all other beings. “I hope that Buddha’s Dharma would last forever by the currency that is possible in a way of gaining of an authentic Seed of Dharma. What I worry is the Buddha Dharma is now in danger like the eggs been piled up! I really do not hope that Buddha Dharma extinguish so easily in future. Situation is like the case that the several persons are traveling through the stormy field. And the all lanterns are almost going to be blown out by the storm. However, if there were one person in the party gives his effort only to concentrate his mind upon a lantern not to extinguish, all other people would be saved by that one lantan. (Nishimura’s Text, page131)
As Tourei teaches here in its most impressive example, “Currency” does not mean to scatter Zen to the masses of world, but maintain the fruit and its seed within deep individual person so that his existence itself could naturally be a shining Lamp for the world of Darkness. This is nothing but what Zen Patriarchs have taught as “The Great Compassion of Non-object”(無緣の大悲 Muen no daihi) which is entirely different from ordinary Compassion occasionally given to a particular Object(衆生緣の慈悲 Shujyouen no jihi). And Tourei here stresses the importance of this specific sort of Compassion as an Ultimate purpose of Zen study.

Critical Considerations on Zen Thought

Shiro Matsumoto (松本史郞)


Professor of
Komazawa University


Critical Considerations on Zen Thought


I. Zen thought and "cessation of thinking"


It cannot be denied that the tradition of dhyaana(Ch’an, So.GIF (312 bytes)n, Zen) has its origin in pre-Buddhist Indian philosophy,
because it seems quite definite, according to Buddhist
scriptures, that the Buddha has practiced dhyaana and
asceticism before the enlightenment(bodhi).(1)

When dhyaana theory, or Zen thought, was introduced into
Buddhism, it is most probable that the theory was modified
from the standpoint of Buddhist philosophy. Therefore, if
we try to understand the original or genuine form of Zen
thought, we are obliged to clarify the meanings of Zen
thought in its pre-Buddhist stage.

Then, what were the essential characters of pre-Buddhist
Zen thought? The essence of Zen thought in those days, I
think, lied in its idea of "cessation of thinking"(2) and its
inseparable connection with aatman(self) theory. It seems
certain that the goal of dhyaana theory then was "cessation
of thinking", because we can find, in the early Buddhist
scriptures, the various theories of dhyaana or samaadhi,
the goals of which can be construed as "cessation of

For example, the word "sa^n^naa-vedayita-nirodha"(想受滅)
of the sa^n^naa-vedayitanirodha-samaapatti seems to
mean "cessation of thinking and sensation." We can also
understand that, it is "sa.mj^naa"(sa^n^naa 想)," the
thinking faculty, that was denied by the
Moreover, because the term "nimitta"(相) of the animitto
ceto-samaadhi(無相心定) means the object of "sa.mj^naa."
Thus, we can understand that, in this samaadhi also,
"cessation of thinking" seems to be aimed at as its goal.(3)

However, against the argument above, it may be objected
that the dhyaana theories above mentioned are not those
practiced in pre-Buddhist stage, because they are found in
Buddhist scriptures. But we cannot assume that all the
theories found in Buddhist scriptures are of Buddhist
origins. As for the dhyaana theories mentioned above, it
seems that they have their origins in pre-Buddhist stage of
Indian philosophy. In those days of India, the practices of
asceticism(苦行) and dhyaana were quite popular among
ascetics(^sramana 沙門), as is shown by the fact that
asceticism and dhyaana were two chief virtues practiced in
Jainism, which I think was the typical example of
pre-Buddhist ascetic philosophy.

According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha himself
practiced dhyaana and asceticism for six years before his
enlightenment. It is stated that he studied the
aaki^nca^n^na-aayatana-samaadhi(無所有處定) from the
master AA.laara kaalaama, and studied the
nevasa^n^naanaasa^n^naa-aayatana-samaadhi from the
master Uddaka Raamaputta. So if we rely on this scriptural
statement, we can conclude that the
nevasa^n^naa-naasa^n^naa-aayatana-samaadhi, which was
counted as the last of the four formless dhyaanas(四無色定)
in the early Buddhist classification of dhyaanas, was of
pre-Buddhist and non-Buddhist origin.

It goes without saying that we cannot entirely rely on the
scriptural statements concerning the two masters of the
Buddha in question. But I think it is most probable that the
dhyaana theories, which the Buddha studied before his
enlightenment, had as their goals "cessation of thinking."

In the case of the theory of the four dhyaanas in the
material world(四禪) also, I think the leading idea was
nothing other than "cessation of thinking and sensation,"
because, in the theory, the process of gradually calming and
suspending all mental functions including "thinking and
sensation" is explicitly stated. In fact, in the
Majjhima-Nikaaya(MN), it is stated as follows:


Having separated myself from desires(kaama)
and evil properties, I have accomplished the first
dhyaana, i.e. the joy and happiness(piiti-sukha),
which[still] possesses "vitakka" and "vicaara."

Then, owing to the extinction of "vitakka" and
"vicaara," I have accomplished the second
dhyaana, i.e. the joy and happiness born from
samaadhi, inwardly pure and concentrated, which
no longer possesses "vitakka" and "vicaara."

Then, owing to the separation from joy, having
become indifferent and composed, rightly
conscious, I have enjoyed happiness by my

Namely, I have accomplished the third dhyaana,
of which the sacred(aarya) explained "[one
becomes] indifferent and composed, abiding in

Then, owing to the abandonment of both
happiness and pain(dukkha), and owing to the
former extinction of joy and sorrow, I have
accomplished the fourth dhyaana, which is
purified by indifference and composure, without
pain and happiness.



In this passage, I think "vitakka" and "vicaara," which are
made extinct in the second dhyaana, both mean the faculty
of conceptual thinking(4), while pain and happiness,
abandoned in the fourth dhyaana, are the variaties of
sensation(vedanaa). So we can understand that, by the
theory of four dhyaanas of the material world expressed in
the passage above, "cessation of thinking and sensation" is
definitely meant as its goal.

Moreover, I think Fujita Klong_o.GIF (526 bytes)tatsu is right when he claims
that the theory in question as well as the theory of the four
formless dhyaanas was of non-Buddhist origin. Further,
according to Fujita, the sa^n^naavedayitanirodha or the
nirodha-samaapatti(滅盡定) could not have significance
from the original standpoint of early Buddhism, because we
can distinguish it from mere death only because it still has
life(aayu), bodily heat(usmaa) and clarity of sense

Thus, we may have the conclusion that the leading idea of
the original form of Zen thought was "cessation of thinking
and sensation," aimed at as the goal of the various dhyaana
theories of non-Buddhist origin.

Later, in the fifth century A.D., it was stated in the
Yogasuutra as follows:


Yoga is the cessation of mental



This definition of "yoga," I think, shows clearly the
fundamental idea of the whole Zen thought, namely,
"cessation of all mental functions including thinking and
sensation." However, it should be noted that "cessation or
denial of thinking" especially has played the central role in
the whole history of Zen thought. In other words, we can
say that "thinking" has been regarded as something like
"original evil" in the history of Zen thought.

For instance, we can read the strongest aversion to
"sa.m^naa"(想) in the whole of the A.t.thakavagga chapter of
the Suttanipaata(Sn). A typical example is found in the
following verse of the chapter:


For him whose "sa.mj^naa" is
abandoned(sa^n^naa-viratta)(6), there are no



It seems undeniable that the main theme of the chapter was
"cessation or denial of thinking."

In the texts of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism we can find many
passages where "cessation or denial of thinking" is
preached. For example, by the passages in the Ratification
of True Principles(正理決), we can understand that
Mo-ho-yen摩訶衍, who is considered to have participated
in the well-known bSam yas debate held at the end of the
eighth century in Tibet, taught that one can attain
Buddhahood merely by abandoning "sa.mj^naa." In fact, in
the Ratification of True Principles it is stated as follows:


If one becomes separated from false
"sa.mj^naa"(妄想) without giving rise to false
mind, the true nature, originally existent, and the
omniscience [of the Buddha] will be naturally
manifested [to him].(7)


Mo-ho-yen’s rejection of "sa.mj^naa" was based on the
following two passages of the Diamond Sutra:


[A] Some people, if they become separated from
"marks"(相),are called Buddhas.

[離一切諸相, 則名諸佛]

(Taisho, 8,750b)

[B] All "marks"(相) are false.

[凡所有相, 皆是虛妄]



Here the original Sanskrit for "mark" in Passage[A] is
"sa.mj^naa," while that for "mark" in Passage[B] is
"" However, because Mo-ho-yen, when he quoted
these two passages in the Ratification of True Principles,
altered "mark"(相) into "sa.mj^naa"(想), he was able to mark
the passages the scriptural basis for his theory of
"separation from sa.mj^naa."(8)

Here we must remember the fact that "nimitta"(相, mark)
was held to be the object of "sa.mj^naa"(想) in the Northern
Abhidharma treatises.(9) So we have good reasons to
consider that the Chinese words "hsiang"(相) and
"hsiang"(想) are sometimes interchangeable in the texts of
Chinese Buddhism in general. Thus, although Mo-ho-yen
was wrong in understanding the original meaning or the
Sanskrit meaning of Passage[B], his interpretation of
"separation from sa.mj^naa" was quite consistent
concerning the Chinese translations of the two passages in

As to Mo-ho-yen’s understanding of "sa.mj^naa," it must
be noted that all "sa.mj^naa" are, according to him, totally
false without exception. In other words, he did not accept
the difference between true "sa.mj^naa" and false
"sa.mj^naa." This theory seems to contradict with our
common sense ideas, because we ordinarily think that there
are two kinds of judgement, i.e. wrong judgement and right
judgement. But Mo-ho-yen thought otherwise. Every
judgement or every thought is wrong without exception,
according to him.(10) So for him "thinking" or "sa.mj^naa"
was something like "original evil," as is known from the
following passage:


[Question] What is the defect of "sa.mj^naa"?

[Answer] The defect of "sa.mj^naa" is that it
covers the omniscience which sentient
beings(sattva) possess originally and makes
them reborn in the three evil destinations so that
they have everlasting transmigrations.(11)


It seems noteworthy that Mo-ho-yen rejected, as
something like "original evil," not only "sa.mj^naa"(想) but
also "kuan"(觀) in the Ratification of True Principles. So he
was famous for his advocation of "pu-kuan"(不觀).(12) Then,
what was the meaning of "kuan," which he rejected so
vigorously? His theory of "pu-kuan" also was based on a
passage of a sutra. It was the following passage from
Kumaarajiiva’s translation of the


[C] "pu-kuan"(不觀) is enlightenment(bodhi)
, because it is separated from
"yüan"(緣) [i.e. aalambana-pratyaya].

"pu-hsing(不行) is enlightenment, because it is



Mo-ho-yen quoted the phrase "pu-kuan is enlightenment"
in the Ratification of True Principles.(13) But because the
original Sanskrit text of the sutra is not available, it is very
difficult to ascertain the original Sanskrit words for
"kuan"(觀) of "pu-kuan" and for "i-nien"(憶念) of "wu-i-nien"
in Passage[C].(14) However, according to Hsüan-tsang’s
translation(15) and Tibetan translation,(16) it seems certain
that the original Sanskrit for "i-nien" is "manasikaara," while
that for "kuan" seems "samaaropa," according to Tibetan
translation, because the Tibetan word corresponding to
"i-nien" is "sgro btags pa."(17) But my opinion at present is
that we cannot deny the possibility that the original Sanskrit
for "kuan" was also "manasikaara," because it seems
improbable that Kumaarajiiva translated "samaaropa" by the
word "kuan."(18)

Anyway, I think we can assume that Mo-ho-yen meant, by
advocation "pu-kuan," the rejection of "manasikaara." In
fact, it might be an indirect evidence that kamala^siila’s
opponent in the third Bhaavanaakrama, who is generally
considered to be Mo-ho-yen, advocated "amanasikaara" and
"asm.rti" there.

Thus, it seems evident that not only "sa.mj^naa" but also
"manasikaara" was rejected as "original evil" by Mo-ho-yen.
Then what is the meaning of "manasikaara"? It is needless
to say that this term has been quite important from the
beginning of Buddhist tradition, because it is stated in the
Mahaavagga chapter of the Vinaya that the Buddha did
"manasikaara"(manasaakaasi) on
Dependent-arising(pratiityasamutpaada) in regular and
reverse orders at the first portion of the night of his
enlightenment.(19) So if we can rely on this scriptural
statement concerning the Buddha’s enlightenment, we may
conclude that the Buddha’s enlightenment was nothing
other than "manasikaara" of Dependent-arising. It goes
without saying that we cannot accept the scriptural
statement in question as expressing literally the historical
facts. But at least we can understand that the compilers of
the Mahaavagga chapter of the Vinaya seem to have been
of the intention to express the interpretation that the
Buddha’s enlightenment lied in "manasikaara" of

Anyway, at least we can say that "manasikaara" has been an
important technical term from the beginning of Buddhist
tradition. However, the Abhidharma definition of
"manasikaara" as "cetasa aabhoga" (directing mind [to
objects])(20) seems insufficient. In Japanese Buddhist
studies, "manasikaara" is generally translated by Chinese
word "tso-i"(作意), and sometimes translated by English
word "attention." But I cannot approve these translations.
As to the Chinese word "ts-i," although it is well-known for
being used by Hsüan-tsang for translating the term
"manasikaara," it is just a word-for-word translation of
"manasikaara," and besides is not the sole Chinese
translation of the term. The following is a list of examles of
Chinese translations by diffrent translators for


Kumaarajiiva: 念·憶念

Paramaartha: 思惟·思量·觀

Hsüan-tsang: 作意·思惟·觀


Among the examples shown above, "ssu-wei"(思惟) seems
to be the most appropriate for translating "manasikaara,"
because I think "manasikaara" primarily means "thinking,"
like "sa.mj^naa." If we consider that the meaning of
"manasikaara" is merely "attention," we cannot exactly
understand the meanings of Mo-ho-yen’s denial of
"manasikaara" and Kamala^siila’s vindication fo
"manasikaara." Thus we can reach the conclusion that
Mo-ho-yen advocated "separation from thinking," and
rejected "sa.mj^naa" and "manasikaara" as the terms
meaning "thinking."

It is quite noteworthy that Mo-ho-yen’s denial of
"sa.mj^naa" and "manasikaara" was evidently under the
influence of Shen-hui 神會(684-78)(22), the famous
advocator of the so-called "Southern School." He quoted, in
his Platform Speech 壇語, Passage[A] of the Diamond
sutra(23) and the underlined parts(不觀是菩提無憶念故) of
Passage[C] of the Vimalakiirti-suutra.(24) Moreover, he
stated in the Platform Speech as follows:


The mere "pu-tso-i"(不作意, amanasikaara),
without mind rising, is the true "we-nien"(無念).
— All sentient beings are originally
markless(wu-hsiang, 無相). All marks(相) are
false minds(妄心).

If mind becomes markless(無相), it is
immediately the Buddha’s mind.(25)


We must remember here the interchangeability of
"hsiang"(相) and "hsiang"(想) in Chinese Buddhist texts. In
other words, the word "hsiang"(相) used in the passage
above must be interpreted as "hsiang"(想) which means
"sa.mj^naa." According to this interpretation, it is quite
clear that Shen-hui’s message in the passage above is
totally based on Passage[A] and Passage[B] of the
Diamond Sutra, because "all marks are false
minds"(今言相者,幷是妄心) in the passage above is merely a
modification of Passage[B] (凡所有相,皆是虛妄), and
because "if mind becomes markless, it is immediately the
Buddha’s mind" there is simply an alter ation of
Passage[A] (離一切諸相. 則名諸佛).(26)

Thus it is clear that Shen-hui, like Mo-ho-yen, denied
"sa.mj^naa" and asserted that one can attain Buddhahood
only by abandoning "sa.mj^naa," based on Passages[A] and
[B] of the Diamond Sutra. Moreover, shen-hui also stated,
in the passage above quoted, the denial of "manasikaara,"
i.e. "amanasikaara," by the word "pu-tso-i"(不作意). But it
shoud be noted that the word "wu-nien"(無念) used there
also means "amanasikaara," because it seems improbable
that Shen-hui was not aware that there had been some
cases where the term "manasikaara" was translated by
Chinese word "nien"(念). Therefore, we may conclude that,
for Shen-hui, the terms "pu-tso-i" (不作意) and
"wu-nien"(無念) are synonymous, both meaning

To sum up, Shen-hui’s theory of "no thinking" was
expressed by three words, i.e. "wu-hsiang"(無相) meaning
"a-sa.mj^naa," and "pu-tso-i"(不作意) and "wu-nien"(無念)
both meaning "amanasikaara." This theory of "no thinking"
was, needless to say, representing Shen-hui’s central
position, because he stated in the Platform Speech that he
erected "wu-nien" as his central thesis(立無念爲宗).(27)

The influence of Shen-hui’s theory of "no thinking" is to be
found almost everywhere in Ch’an texts later than
Shen-hui. We have already seen an example in the
Ratification of True Principles. But Mo-ho-yen, because he
belonged to the so-called "Northern School," did not use the
term "wu-nien,"(28) The direct influence can be found in the
Li-tai fa-pao-chi歷代法寶記(774). According to the text,
Wu-chu無住 (714-774) stated as follows:


If [one becomes] "wu-nien," he will see the

If [one is] "yu-nien" (有念), he will

[無念卽是見佛. 有念卽是生死]


Moreover, in the text, Wu-chu is described as the person
who have "exclusively stopped thinking"(一向絶思斷慮).(30) It
goes without saying that Shen-hui’s influence was found in
the Platform Sutra 六祖壇經(Yampolsky ed.), according to
which it is stated by Hui-neng慧能(638-713) as follows:


This teaching has established "wu-nien" as its



In Japanese Zen Buddhism also, the theory of "no thinking"
or "cessation of thinking" has been the central idea. For
example, Dogen道元(1200-1253), stated in his earliest work
Fukan-zazen-gi 普勸坐禪儀 (1227), as follows:


Suspend the functions of "citta," "manas" and

Stop the conceptions of "nien"(念), "hsiang"(想)
and "kuan"(觀).(32)

[停心意識之運轉, 止念想觀之測量]


Here the terms "nien" and "kuan" must be interpreted as the
translations of "manasikaara," while the word "hsiang" is to
be construed as that of "sa.mj^naa." It is clear that Dogen
meant here the cessation of all mental function, especially
"cessation of thinking."

Thus it is now clearly known that Zen thought, from the
pre-Buddhist stage to Dogen, has rejected "thinking" as
something like "original evil" and has advocated "cessation
of thinking." But why was "thinking" rejected so ardently?
My opinion is the following. It is undeniable that the essence
of Zen thought lies in its idea of "concentration," or "cittasya
eka-agrataa"(one-pointedness of mind),(33) to use the
Abhidharma definition of "samaadhi." It is quite noteworthy
that the word "eka"(one) is used here. The term seems to
indicate that the idea of "concentration" cannot be
established without conceiving the existence of something
one(eka). In other words, the theory of "concentraion," or
Zen thought, presupposes the existence of something which
is ontologically one(eka) and equal(sama) without
distinction(nirvikalpa). In this sense, it is also to be noted
that the word "sama"(34) (equal) is found in both terms
"samaadhi" and "samaapatti."

Thus, to state rather extremely, it seems evident that Zen
thought is possible only when it is based on monism. And
this is why Zen thought has been inseparably connected
with aatman theory. Then why is "thinking" rejected in
monism? It is because both "thinking" and "language," which
makes "thinking" possible, have the function of
dichotomizing or differentiating objects. Thus, roughly
speaking, "thinking" and "language" are antagonistic to
monism. Zen thought, based on monism, denies "thinking"
and "language."


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II. Zen thought and aatman / Buddha-nature


It is generally considered that the connection of Zen
thought with aatman theory or monism is not fully evident.
In fact, Jainism, the chief representative of pre-Buddhist
ascetic philosophy, and the Yoga school, whose definition of
"yoga" as "cessation of mental functions" has been discussed
above, are based on dualism. However, it is undeniable that
both Jainism and the Yoga school have evidently admitted
aatman theory. Especially, Jain theory of asceticism is
theoretically not possible without accepting the difference
of impure body(B) and pure mind(A), i.e. aatman. This
theory is indeed dualistic. But I believe that this is the
simplest or the most general form of aatman theory in
India. The monistic aatman theory of ^Sa^nkara, although
held to be the most orthodox theory, cannot be considered
to be the general idea in India. Without accepting two
mutually opposing existences, i.e. (A) and (B), even the
theory of "liberaton"(35)( cannot have been
established in India, because "liberation" was conceived
there primarily as that of aatman(A) from impure body(B).
Jain asceticism was nothing other than the endeavor to
reduce impure body(B) to nothing and to liberate aatman(A)
from the body.

Then, what is the meaning of "thinking" in this dualistic
aatman theory? In the theory, it is evident that "thinking"
and "aatman" are considered to be opposed to each other,
because the former is dichotomizing function, while the
latter is one and the same ontological existence(eka, sama).
So it is doubtless that, among two principles, "thinking" was
regarded as Principle(B), impure, false and to be reduced to
nothing. Here lied the logical ground for establishing the
Zen theory of "cessation of thinking."

The connection of Zen thought with aatman theory is also
found in the A.t.thakavagga chapter of the Suttanipaata. We
have already discussed the rejection of "sa.mj^naa" in the
chapter(Sn,v.847). Besides, in the chapter, there are many
passages where the existence of "aatman" is positively
admitted.(36) For example, the following expression are
found there:


"the abode aatman" (bhavanam attano)

"the nirvana of aatman" (nibbaanam attano)

"the stain of aatman" (malam attano) [Sn,v.962]

"possessing aatman uncovered" (abhinibbutatta)


The strong aversion to "thinking"(B) and the positive
acceptance of "aatman"(A) are not mutually incompatible in
the chapter, because the leading idea there was the dualistic
aatman theory explained above. Thus it goes without saying
that we cannot directly reconstruct the fundamental ideas
of the earliest form of Buddhism, simply relying on the
accounts of A.t.thakavagga or the Suttanipaata, which
principally was but a Buddhist version of the ascetic
literature quite popular and prevalent in those days of

Moreover, as for the two masters, from whom the Buddha
studied two kinds of dhyaana, the accounts in the twelfth
chapter of the Buddhacarita are not to be ignored. In fact,
the master AA.laara, who taught
aaki^nca^n^na-aayatana-samaadhi, was there described as
a Saa.mkhya phlosopher, and the master Uddaka also was
there stated to have admitted the existence of "aatman." It
goes without saying that we cannot simply accept the
accounts in the Buddhacarita as representing historical
facts. But I think they are improtant because they seem to
indicate that the two samaadhis in question were of
non-Buddhist origin. It is also to be noted that Saa.mkhya
philosophy was the basis for the fundamental ideas of the
Yoga school. Moreover, "aaki^nca^n^na"
(possessionlessness, 無所有) was one of the five chief
virtues of Jainism, and theoretically presupposed the
distinction between "aatman"(A) and "non-aatman"(B),
because "aaki^nca^n^na" was the theory enjoining people
from possessing and adhering to "non-aatman," being
impure and transient.

In early Buddhism, "dhyaana" was placed at the second level
of "three studies" (tisso sikkhaa, 三學). In other words,
"dhyaana" was merely the means to attain "praj^naa"(right
cognition). The final goal of Buddhism was considered to be
"praj^naa," or the right cognition of Buddhist philosophy. It
seems clear that this evaluation of "dhyaana" contradicts the
general "dhyaana" theory of "cessation of thinking," because
right cognitions cannot be produced from "cessation of
thinking." However, I do not think that the "dhyaana" theory
of "cessation of thinking" has never been preached in the
whole history of Buddhism. On the contrary, the theory has
been taught quite often within Buddhism, as is shown by
the arguments above.

Then, why was Buddhist evaluation of "dhyaana" as the
means to attain "praj^naa" altered into the general theory of
"cessation of thinking"? I think it was due to the influence of
monism or "aatman" theory. For instance, is is generally
believed that Buddha’s cognition(j^naana) is "distinctionless
congnition"(nirvikalpa-j^naana 無分別智).(38) But the
concept of "distinctionless cognition" is not so old in
Buddhist philosophy. I do not think that the term
"distinctionless cognition" (nirvikalpa-j^naana) was used
before the rise of Mahaayaana Buddhism. At the second
century A.D., when the oldest form of the
A.s.tasaahasrikaa-praj^naapaaramitaa-suutra was
translated into Chinese for the first time(179), it seems that
the term "distinctionless"(nirvikalpa) was found in the text,
and not the term "distinctionless
cognition"(nirvikalpa-j^naana). The same can be said about
the Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa of Naagaarjuna(c.150-250),
where only one example of the term "distinctionless" can be
found(ⅩⅧ,9). However, the Yogaacara philosophers of the
fifth century used the term "distinctionless cognition"
(nirvikalpa-j^naana) quite often. These facts seems to
indicate that the concept of "distinctionless cognition" was
preceded by the concept of "distinctionless" in Buddhist
tradition, and that the term "nirvikalpa-j^naana"
(distinctionless cognition) originally meant "the cognition of
what is distinctionless." It goes without saying that what is
distinctionless means the single substance or the highest
reality, postulated by monism.

Thus we can understand how the concept of "distinctionless
cognition" was formed under the influence of Hindu monism.
At around the latter half of the fourth century A.D., the
theory of Buddha-nature(buddha-dhaatu) was formed in
the The sutra is well known
for its accpting "aatman" theory openly. The following
statement is found in the first Chinese translation(418):


The [term] "Buddha" means" aatman.(39)"



According to my understanding, the theory of
Buddha-nature or the theory of Tathaagatagarbha was
nothing other than a Buddhist version of "aatman" theory in
Hinduism. When the theory of Buddha-nature was
introduced into China, there were some cases where the
theory was modified under the influence of Taoist
philosophy. Thus, two types of Buddha-nature theory(40)
was formed in China.

One is Buddha-nature Immanence theory 佛性內在論, and
the other is Buddha-nature Manifestation theory
佛性顯在論. the former is the original type, or Indian type,
according to which Buddha-nature is considered to exist in
one’s body, like "aatman." In fact, it is stated in the as follows:


All sentient beings possess Buddha-nature,
which is in their bodies.

[一切衆生皆有佛性, 在於身中.]



The latter, Buddha-nature Manifestation theory, is the
developed or the extreme type, according to which
Buddha-nature is wholly manifested on all phenomenal
existences, including insentient beings such as trees and
stones. In other words, the phenomenal things(事), as such,
are regarded as Buddha-nature itself, and thus absolutized
totally, according to the theory.

Without correctly making distinction between these two
theories of Buddha-nature, it seems difficult to understand
the philosophical meaning of Ch’an Buddhism. Of these two
theories, we will at first discuss Buddha-nature Immanence
theory in Ch’an Buddhism. This theory is found in the
writings or the analects of Tao-hsin道信, Hung-jen弘忍,
Shen-hsiu神秀, Hui-neng慧能, Shen-hui神會, Ma-tsu馬祖,
Pai-chang百丈, Ta-chu大珠, Huang-po黃檗, Lin-chi臨濟,
Tsung-mi宗密 and so on.(41) For example, the Hsiu-hsin
yao-lun 修心要論(42) and the Kuan-hsin lun 觀心論(43) have
the following passage:


Sentient beings have diamond-like
Buddha-nature in their bodies.

[衆生身中, 有金剛佛性]


It is clear that Hui-neng’s central position was
Buddha-nature Immanence theory, because he stated in his
commentary on the Diamond Sutra, i.e. the Chin-kang
ching chieh-i 金剛經解義,(44) as follows:


There is Buddha-nature, originally pure, in one’s
own body(自身中).(45)


In the commentary, he also admitted that Buddha-nature is
identical with "aatman" as follows:


"AAtman" is [Buddha-]nature, and
[Buddha-]nature is "aatman."(46)

[我者性也, 性者我也]


As is stated above, Buddha-nature Immanence theory is
not other than Indian Tathaagatagarbha theory, which in
turn is a Buddhist version of "aatman" theory in Hinduism.
So, because the theoretical structure of Buddha-nature
Immanence theory is nothing other than "aatman" theory,
Hui-neng’s identification of Buddha-nature with "aatman"
was correct.

It is needless to say that Buddha-nature Immanence theory
is stated in the following passage of Shen-hui’s Platform


Everyone has Buddha-nature in one’s body.(47)



The connection of Buddha-nature Immanence theory with
"aatman" theory seems evident in the case of Lin-chi. In the
Lin-chi lu 臨濟錄, his famous teaching is found as follows:


On your lump of red flesh, there is a true man of
no rank, always going in and out of the face-gate
of every one of you.(48)

[赤肉團上, 有一無位眞人, 常從汝等諸人面門出入]


As I argued before,(49) I consider the word "lump of red
flesh"(赤肉團), or the corresponding word "heart of
flesh-lump"(肉團心) in the Sung version of the Ching-te
ch’uan-teng lu景德傳燈錄, to mean "heart"(h.rdaya) and
think that the "true man of no rank" means "aatman,"
because, in Indian "aatman" theory from the times of the
Atharva Veda, it has been considered that "aatman" exists
in "heart" (h.rdaya). Moreover, ^Sa^nkara(c.700-750), the
chief representative of the Vedaanta school, explained the
word "heart" found in the B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad as


The term "heart" (h.rdaya) means a lump of flesh
(maa.msa-pi.n.da) possessing the shape of


The Sanskrit word "maa.msa-pi.n.da" (lump of flesh) was
translated by Hsüan-tsang as "jou-t’uan"(肉團). So it is
clear that the "lump of red flesh"(赤肉團) means "heart"
(h.rdaya) and that "true man"(眞人) means "aatman."

It does not seem so inappropriate to say that the
mainstream of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism has lied in
Buddha-nature Immanence theory. But if we ignore the fact
that the other stream of Buddha-nature manifestation
theory(51) was definitely found in the history of Ch’an
Buddhism, we cannot reach the correct understandings.

The theoretical founder of Buddha-nature Manifestation
theory may have been Chi-tsang 吉藏 (549-623), because
he admitted, in his Ta-ch’eng hsüan-lun 大乘玄論
(taisho,45,40b) that grasses and trees also have
Buddha-nature, and that they can attain Buddhahood.(52)
The attainment of Buddhahood by grasses and
trees(草木成佛) thereafter had become the central tenet of
Buddha-nature Manifestation theory, because the
attainment of Buddhahood by insentient beings cannot be
established in Buddha-nature Immanence theory.

In Ch’an Buddhaism the attainment of Buddhahood by
grasses and trees was admitted in Chüeh-kuan lun 絶觀論
as follows:


Not only human beings but also grasses and
trees have been predicted [by the Buddha to
attain Buddhahood(53)].

[非獨記人, 赤記草木]


However, the most confident advocator of Buddha-nature
manifestation theory was Hui-chung 慧忠 ( -776), because
he not only advocated the theory but also denied
Buddha-nature Immanence theory. In the Tsu-t’ang chi
祖堂集, he stated as follows:


The insentient things such as walls and tiles are
the mind of the old Buddha.(54)

[牆壁凡礫, 無情之物, 普是古佛心]


Here "the mind of the old Buddha" means Buddha-nature or
something regarded as absolute. Therefore, because
phenomenal things including insentient beings are here
considered to be Huddha-nature, it is evident that
Buddha-nature manifestation theory is stated here.
Moreover, in the same text Hui-chung stated as follows:


My [theory of] Buddha-nature is that body and
soul are identical —, while the southern [theory
of] Buddha-nature is that body is impermanent
and that soul is permanent.(55)

[我之佛性, 身心一如, 南方佛性, 身是無常,


Here the second theory is Buddha-nature Immanence
theory, because in the theory the dualistic contraposition
between Buddha-nature(A) and body(B) is indispensable.
For instance, it is considered that Buddha-nature(A) is
permanent and pure, while body(B) is impermanent and
impure. Moreover, it goes without saying that, according to
the theory, Buddha-nature is considered to be pure mind or
soul, because Buddha-nature is but a Buddhist version of
"aatman." Therefore, it is quite evident that Hui-chung
criticised Buddha-nature Immanence theory in the passage

It is to be noted that Buddha-nature Immanence theory is
obliged to have the dualistic structure, like the general idea
of "aatman" theory which we have discussed above. On the
contrary, Buddha-nature Manifestation theory has the
structure of extreme monism, where all distinctions,
including that between body and soul, are not admitte.
Because phenomenal existences or things are, as such,
absolutized by the theory, it seems clear that the theory is
an ultimate form or an extremity of the theory of "affirming
the realities"(56)(現實肯定).

Anyway, after Hui-ching, the advocators of Buddha-nature
Manifestation theory repeatedly criticised Buddha-nature
Immanence theory. For example, it is well known that the
criticism on Lin-chi’s theory by Hsüan-sha 玄沙 (835-908)
is found in the Ching-te ch’uan-teng lu(Taisho,51.345a).
But it is not correctly recognized that Hsüan-sha’s
phiolsophical standpoint was Buddhapnature Manifestation
theory, In the Hsüan-sha kuang-lu 玄沙廣錄, he states as


Mountain is mountain. River is River.—

There is no place, in the whole world of ten
quarters, that is not true.(57)

[山是山, 水是水…盡十方世界, 未有不是處]


Here every phenomenal existence, especially insentient
being, is affirmed as absolute.(58) So it is doubtless that
Buddha-nature Manifestation theory is stated here.

In Japanese Zen Buddhism, Dogen, before his visit to
Kamakura(1247-1248), was an ardent advocator of
Buddha-nature Manifestation theory. Based on the theory,
he criticised Buddha-nature Immanence theory in his
Bendlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)wa(59)   弁道話 (1231). It is evident that his criticism
there was strongly influenced by Hui-chung’s criticism on
Buddha-nature Immanence theory, because Dogen
mentioned there Hui-chung as his authority and expressed
his own position by the words "body and soul are
identical"(身心一如). But of course Dogen’s criticism was
not actually directed to the upholders of Buddha-nature
Immanence theory in China. His criticism there, the
criticism of the so-called "shin-jlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) slong_o.GIF (526 bytes)-metsu"(心常相滅)
theory, was directed to the followers of the
Nihon-daruma-shuu 日本達磨宗, because its position was
Buddha-nature Immanence theory.(60)

Therefore, because Dogen’s own position in the Bendlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)wa
was Buddha-nature manifestation theory, the extreme type
of Buddha-nature theory, I cannot approve of Hakamaya
Noriaki’s interpretation that Dogen criticised "original
enlightenment thought" (本覺思想) in the Bendlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)wa.(61) I am
rather sceptical of the validity of the term "original
enlightenment." Hakamaya’s definition of the term seems
indistinct. My opinion is the following. If we do not make
distinction between thetwo types of Buddha-nature theory,
and if we do not recognize that Dogen’s own position in his
early days was also one type of Buddha-nature theory, we
cannot stop praising Dogen as the excellent philosopher
who denied the general interpretation of Buddha-nature as
something substantial and permanent.(62)

It is quite noteworthy that Dogen criticiced his former
position, i.e. Buddha-nature Manifestation theory, after his
return from Kamakura. In fact, in the Shizen-biku 四禪比丘
volume of the Twelve-fascicle Shlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)blong_o.GIF (526 bytes)genzlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) 十二卷本
正法眼藏, he criticised Buddha-nature manifestation theory
as follows:


Some people say that —–to see mountains
and rivers is to see Tathaagatas.

They do not know the way of Buddhas and


I do not think that Dogen’s criticism here is not fully
logical. Nevertheless, it is evident that he tried to criticise
Buddha-nature manifestation theory without declaring that
the object of his criticism was nothing other than his own
position in his former period.(64)

In the Twelve-fascicle Shlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)blong_o.GIF (526 bytes)genzlong_o.GIF (526 bytes), the word "busshlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)"
(佛性) was never used. On the contrary, he stressed the
theory of "inga"(因果), meaning Dependent-arising,
according to my interpretation. Although it goes without
saying that Dogen was not freed from the way of thinking
influenced by Tathaagatagrabha thought, it can not be
denied that his philosophical position was gradually changed
from Tathaagatagarbha thought to the theory of
Dependent-arising(pratiityasamutpaada), which I consider
to be the essence of Buddhism.


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III. Conclusion


According to the Eiheiklong_o.GIF (526 bytes)roku 永乎廣錄, Dogen stated in a
"jlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)"(上堂) [No,437] in 1251 as follows:


Ordinary people(凡夫) and non-Buddhists (外道)
also practice Zazen (坐禪). —– If one’s
understanding(解會) is identical with that of
non-Buddhists, it is useless [to practice Zazen]
even if he troubles his mind and body [by
practicing Zazen].(65)


I think this message of Dogen is most important. It seems
that Zen practice is to be directed to attaining correct
understanding of Buddhist philosophy.


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CZ = Critical Studies on Zen Thought(Zen shislong_o.GIF (526 bytes) no hihanteki kenkyuu),

DE=Dependent-arising and Emptiness(Engi to kuu), Matsumoto,1989.



(1) Cf. MN(26), MN(36).

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(2) Cf. CZ,pp.2-85.

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(3) Cf. Schmithausen L., "On Some Aspects of Descriptions
or Theories of ‘Liberating Insight’ and ‘Enlightenment’ in
Early Buddhism, "Studien zum Jainismus und Buddhismus,
Alt- und Neu-Indische Studien, No.23, 1981,

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(4) Cf. CZ,p.84,n.106.

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(5) Cf. Fujita k., "Genshi Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) niokeru Zenjlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Shislong_o.GIF (526 bytes),"
Satlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Mitsuyuu Hakase Koki kinen Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Ronslong_o.GIF (526 bytes), Sankiblong_o.GIF (526 bytes),1972,pp.300-308; CZ,pp.59-64.

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(6) The word "viratta" was interpreted as "pahiina" in the
Paramatthajotikaa(Ⅱ,p.547) and translated in the Chinese
translation by the word"捨" (Taisho,4,180c).

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(7) Ueyama’s text(Ueyama D.,Tonklong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) no Kenkyuu,
Hozlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)kan,1990),p.549. Cf. CZ,p.6.

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(8) Ueyama’s text,p.548,p.545. Cf.CZ,pp.7-8.

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(9) Cf. the definition of "sa.mj^naa" as
"vi.saya-nimitta-udgraha" in the

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(10) Cf.CZ,pp.8-10; Philosophy of Tibetan
Buddhism(Chibetto bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) tetsugaku,

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(11) Ueyama’s text,p.546. Cf. CZ,p.57.

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(12) Cf. Ueyama’s text,p.546,p.549; CZ,pp.14-21.

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(13) Ueyama’s text,p.546.

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(14) Cf. CZ,pp.15-17.

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(15) The corresponding word in Hsüan-tsang’s translation
seems to be "作意" (Taisho, 14,565a).

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(16) The corresponding word in Tibetan translation seems
to be "yid la byed pa" (P.ed.Bu,198b7).

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(17) Cf.P.ed.,Bu,198b7.

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(18) On this point, my view has a little changed. Cf.

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(19) Cf. Vinaya,I,p.1.

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(20) Cf. AKBh,p.54,1.22.

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(21) Cf. CZ,pp.18-20.

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(22) Cf. CZ,pp.36-48.

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(23) Hu Shih’s text (Taipei,1968),p.235.

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(24) Hu Shih’s text,p.236.

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(25) Hu Shih’s text,pp.246-247.

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(26) Cf. CZ,pp.41-42.

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(27) Hu Shih’s text,p.241.

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(28) On this problem, cf. CZ,p.53.

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(29) Yanagida’s text(Zen no Goroku,3,Chikuma Shoblong_o.GIF (526 bytes),1976),p.170. Cf. CZ,p.50.

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(30) Yanagida’s text,p.170.

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(31) On the formation of the Platform Sutra, I have two
main perspectives. The first is that the Platform Sutra was
formed on the basis of Hui-neng’s commentary on the
Diamond Sutra, i.e. Chin-kang-ching chieh-i, and the
second is that rather strong aversion to Shen-hui is found
in the Platform Sutra. On this problem, cf.CZ,chap.Ⅱ. In
this respect, it seems that the phrase "立無念無宗"(p.6.1.14)
at the beginning of the seventeenth chapter of the Platform
Sutra of the Tun Huang manuscript must not be altered into
"立無念無宗" by the Klong_o.GIF (526 bytes)shlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)ji edition, because the passage "if
there is not yu-nien (有念), wu-nien (無念) also can not be
established"(p.7,1.8) in the chapter can be interpreted as the
message which rejected Shen-hui’s thesis. On this problem,
cf. CZ,pp.223-224.

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(32) Dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gen Zenji Zenshuu(Chikuma Shoblong_o.GIF (526 bytes),1969,1970)Ⅱ,p.3.

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(33) AKBh,p.54,1.23.

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(34) On the meaning of "sama," cf.DE,pp.243-246.

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(35) On the theory of "liberation," cf. DE,pp.191-194.

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(36) Cf. DE,pp.200-202.

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(37) On my criticism of Nakamura Hajime’s method of
reconstructing the earliest forms of Buddhist thought by
uncritically relying on the verse portions of the early
Buddhist scriptures,cf. Matsumoto, "Critical Considerations
on Buddhism(Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) no hihanteki Klong_o.GIF (526 bytes)satsu), Sekaizlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) No
Keisei(Ajia kara kangaeru 7), Tlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)kylong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Daigaku Shuppan

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(38) On "nirvikalpa" and "nirvikalpa-j^naana," cf.

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(39) On this passage, cf. Matsumoto, "The
and aatman" (Nehangylong_o.GIF (526 bytes)to aatman), Ga No Shislong_o.GIF (526 bytes),
Shunjuusha, 1991,p.150.

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(40) On the two types of Buddha-nature theory, cf.

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(41) Cf. CZ,pp.97-103,pp.193-194,n.34.

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(42) Tanaka’s text(Komazawa Daigaku Zen Kenkyuusho
Nenplong_o.GIF (526 bytes), No.2,1991), p.37.

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(43) Tanaka’s text(Komazawa Daigaku Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gakubu
Kenkyuukiylong_o.GIF (526 bytes),No.4,1986),p.49.

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(44) On my study on this commentary, cf. CZ,chap.Ⅱ.

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(45) Enlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Kenkyuu(Daishuu-kan, 1978),p.431.

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(46) Enlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Kenkyuu,p.422.

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(47) Hu Shih’s text,p.232.

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(48) Iriya Y.,Rinzairoku, Iwanami Bunko, 1989,p.20.

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(49) Cf. CZ,chap.Ⅲ; Matsumoto, "On Criticising Zen
Thought"(Zen shislong_o.GIF (526 bytes) hihan nitsuite), Komazawa Daigaku Zen
Kenkyuusho Nenplong_o.GIF (526 bytes),No.6,pp.55-91.

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(50) Ten Principal Upanishads with ^Saa^nkarabhaa.sya,

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(51) It seems that Buddha-nature Manifestation theory has
been dominant among the Ch’an masters belonging to the
lineage of Ch’ing-yüan 靑原 (673-741). I think the position
of Tung-shan 洞山 (807-869) also was Buddha-nature
Manifestation theory, because he affirmed
"Dharma-preaching by insentient beings" (無情說法) On this
problem, cf.CZ,pp.102-103,p.198,n.55.

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(52) Cf.CZ,pp.101-102.

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(53) Yanagida’s text(Zenbunka Kenkyuusho,1976),p.91.

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(54) Sodlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)shuu(Chuubun Shuppansha, 1972),p.61a.

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(55) Sodlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)shuu,p.64a.

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(56) I consider the philosophical position of the so called
"Tendan Hongaku Hlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)mon" in Japan to be Buddha-nature
Manifestation theory. Cf. Matsumoto, "Dogen and
Tathaagatagarbha Thought"(Dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gen to nyoraizlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) shislong_o.GIF (526 bytes)),
Komazawa Daigaku Bukkylong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gakubu Kenkyuukiylong_o.GIF (526 bytes),No.56,pp.136-160.

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(57) Genshaklong_o.GIF (526 bytes)roku I(Iriya ed., 1987),p.12.

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(58) I cannot approve of the interpretation that Hsüan-sha
in his later days denied his former position(cf. Genshaklong_o.GIF (526 bytes)roku I,p.14,p.68,p.101). On this problem, I am planning to
argue elsewhere.

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(59) Cf.CZ,pp.587-597; "Dogen and Tathaagatagarbha
Thought" (cf.note 56 above), pp.128-136, pp.145-148.

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(60) Cf. "Dogen and Tathaagatagarbha Thought,"

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(61) Hakamaya N.,Critiques of Original Enlightenment
Thought(Hongakushislong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Hihan), Daizlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Shuppan, 1989,p.141.

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(62) On my criticism on Hakamaya’s theory, cf.

"Dogen and Tathaagatagarbha Thought," pp.128-132,p.150.

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(63) Dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gen Zenji Zenshuu I,p.711.

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(64) Cf. "Dogen and Tathaagatagarbha Thought,"

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(65) Dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)genzenjizenshuu(Shunjuu-sha version),
Ⅳ(1988),p.26. I was influenced by Ishii Shuudlong_o.GIF (526 bytes), who
repeatedly stressed the importance of this "jlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)." Cf. Ishii
S., "Dogen in His Last Days" (Saigo no Dlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)gen), Issues
concerning the 12-fascicle Shlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)blong_o.GIF (526 bytes)genzlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) (Juunikanbon Shlong_o.GIF (526 bytes)blong_o.GIF (526 bytes)genzlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) no Shomondai), Daizlong_o.GIF (526 bytes) Shuppan, 1991,pp.359-365.

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A Response to the Critical Buddhist Position on Zen

Charles Muller

Charles Muller

Toyo Gakuen University

"Innate Enlightenment and No-thought: A Response to the
Critical Buddhist Position on Zen"

General Observations

The Main Issues

Indigenous East Asian Thought: Essence and Function

Essence-Function and Innate Enlightenment Practicing Non-Abiding

Practicing Non-Abiding

The Meaning of No-Thought

The Korean Son Perspective

Ch’an as Buddhism


    General Observations

    Prof. Matsumoto Shiro, who has already presented for us at this
    conference, and his colleague, Prof. Hakamaya Noriaki, have together
    produced a number of lengthy essays on a theme called hihan bukkyo
    (批判佛敎), in English, "Critical Buddhism."(1) Under this broad title, they
    have written on a wide range of issues, including those that are sociological,
    historical, philological as well as philosophical in nature. At the core of their
    project is the conviction that the concepts of tathaagatagarbha and innate
    enlightenment (本覺思想) are alien to Buddhism, due to the fact that those
    concepts imply a belief in a hypostasized self–a type of atman, which
    Buddhism originally and distinctively sought to refute through the
    conceptual framework of pratiitya-samutpaada (dependent origination).

    They claim, therefore, that the only texts to be considered as authentically
    Buddhist are works from the early Pali tradition and from Maadhyamika
    that limit themselves to apprehensions of the Buddhist reality that (1) can
    be treated in and through language, and (2) can be treated in and through
    the language of a strictly delimited model of dependent origination. Any
    discourse that extends to the treatment of an "other" beyond the two
    aforementioned frameworks is regarded as non-Buddhist. Under this
    interpretation, most of the schools of Buddhism that developed in East
    Asia, most importantly Ch’an and Hua-yen, cannot be considered Buddhist,
    as it is in these schools where the conception of innate enlightenment was
    prioritized, serving as the basis for the "faith" that empowers practice. Since
    Ch’an and its descendant schools in Korea and Japan are understood as
    having centered their teachings on a kind of mindlessness that ignores or
    disparages the role of language in religious cultivation, these schools are
    especially singled out as epitomizing the aberrant tendencies of East Asian
    false Buddhist schools.

    Prof. Hakamaya takes the incorporation of emphasis on the
    trans-conceptual in East Asian Buddhism to be in great part the result of
    influence from Chuang-Lao Taoism, which, according to him, is
    representative of a "topical" philosophy that prioritizes subjective religious
    experience over objective rational inquiry. This topical philosophy, in the
    Buddhist context, is said to support a belief in dhaatus, or inherently
    existent entities, a belief that is foreign to Buddhism, but that, according to
    Hakamaya, is characteristic of Taoism. Prof. Hakamaya sees the Taoist
    tendency to focus on a mysterious, experiential, unnamable Tao as having
    infected East Asian Buddhism, and especially Ch’an, which thenceforth
    produced literature that mimicked the dhaatu-vadistic tendency of Taoism.

    The Critical Buddhist project has a markedly Japanese orientation, which is
    understandable, as it originated in the course of an effort to identify the
    source of ideology within the Japanese Soto Zen establishment that has led
    the leaders of that sect to condone government policies that are socially
    discriminatory, and to search out possible Buddhist-related causes for
    attitudes of indifference on these matters on the part of the Japanese
    Buddhist intellectual establishment. Most notorious here are leading
    exponents of the Kyoto school such as Nishida Kitaro and Nishitani Keiji,
    whose topically-oriented writings have provided much support to Japanese
    theories of cultural superiority.

    The vast majority of Japanese Buddhist scholars during the past century
    have devoted their energies to issues of philology and have not engaged in
    any sort of serious inquiry into the role and policies of the modern
    Buddhist establishment in the history of Japan since the Meiji Restoration.
    In this context, the protagonists of the Critical Buddhist movement, who
    are themselves part of the Tokyo Buddhist academic circle, should be
    accorded due praise, being the first in a long time to step outside of the
    Japanese Buddhist monolithic scholarly establishment and dare to call to
    task its lack of critical attitude.

    Unfortunately however, the insularly Japanese context of their argument
    has limited the exposure of the work of the Critical Buddhists to the
    confines of the Japanese Buddhological academy, and a handful of foreign
    scholars who have enough awareness of their situation and their work to
    take an interest. Also limiting, however, are constraints derived from their
    distinctive way of reading of the texts of East Asian Buddhism in particular,
    and their way of understanding East Asian philosophy in general. There is a
    significant degree to which their conceptions of innate enlightenment and
    Zen doctrine as a whole are distinctively Japanese interpretations–and
    more narrowly, Soto-based interpretations. This is approach can be
    accepted if it is clearly indicated that the critique is being made only against
    Japanese Zen. But the fact is that the critique is being made toward the
    East Asian meditative schools in general, with no acknowledgment being
    made regarding the significant differences observable in the character of
    the various streams of Ch’an/Son/Zen in China, Korea and Japan.

    A prominent example of the kind of problem that can be created by this
    non-discriminating approach will be obvious to those with a background in
    Korean Buddhism. With the strongly pon’gak sasang oriented content of
    the writings of such influential figures as Wonhyo, Chinul and Kihwa,
    Korean Buddhism can be argued to have been even more profoundly
    imbued by the notion of innate enlightenment than Japanese Buddhism. Yet
    the philosophical character of Korean Buddhism, and its conduct in regard
    to support of questionable government policies has been radically different
    from that of Japan, demonstrating almost none of the negative "original
    enlightenment"-influenced effects identified by the Critical Buddhists in its
    Japanese manifestation. The Korean Son tradition has also not shown the
    aversion to critical philosophical discourse that is characteristic of the
    Japanese Zen as understood by the Critical Buddhists. Korean Son scholars
    have been extremely sensitive to the matter of the relationship between the
    worded and wordless aspects of the Buddhist doctrine, such that the
    exposition of this issue has often constituted a segment of their writings.
    Are such differences the result of a distance between the Japanese and
    Korean interpretations of innate enlightenment? Or are they derived from
    differences between Japanese and Korean indigenous thought? Or some
    combination of both?


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    The Main Issues

    In treating the interpretations made by the Critical Buddhists of East Asian
    philosophical texts, I will focus on a few main, overlapping arguments. First,
    I will question the characterization of innate enlightenment thought as being
    "topical," along with the assertion that it is equivalent to a topicalized Taoist
    perception of reality. My main theme in this discussion will be the
    importance of the recognition of the central place of the essence-function
    paradigm in East Asian religious thought. I will then question the Critical
    Buddhist’s understanding of the Ch’an usage of the concept of "innate
    enlightenment" through the examination of one of the most prominent of
    the "innate enlightenment" Ch’an texts, to show the extent to which the
    Ch’an authors tried to avoid referring to innate enlightenment in a
    hypostasized manner. I will argue the misunderstanding derives from
    reading Buddhist texts from a perspective that assumes a purpose of mere
    ontological and metaphysical description, rather than the performative
    soteriological intent with which they were actually written. The next part of
    my argument will be an examination of the concept of "no-thought," which
    Prof. Matsumoto takes, as the basis of Zen, to mean "absence of thinking."
    I will assert here that there is no major Ch’an text in which no-thought, or
    no-mind, is defined as absence of thought, but that instead, the concept
    means "non-attached thought." I will refer, in this argument, to seminal
    passages in both the Platform Sutra and Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment.
    Finally, I will give some examples of how the most influential thinkers in
    Korean Son were deeply involved in the exposition of the paradoxical
    relationship between the worded and wordless teachings, and how they
    attempted to resolve this paradox.

    I would like to start by drawing attention to two perspicuous responses to
    Critical Buddhism already crafted by two leading specialists in East Asian
    tathaagatagarbha/original enlightenment thought, that did much to help me
    orient my point of departure for this essay: Sallie King and Peter Gregory.
    Dr. King, in her article "Buddha-Nature is Impeccably Buddhist" has
    argued, based on a close reading of the Buddha-Nature Treatise, that a
    major point of that seminal treatise is to demonstrate that the term
    "Buddha-nature" is nothing but another way of expressing the meaning of
    "thusness," which is, she argues, rather than being an ontological category,
    an ecstatic, experiential apprehension of reality as-it-is. She says:
    "[Thusness] is not an ontological theory; [it] is an experience. And if there
    is an ontological theory implicit in this experience, it is certainly not
    monism."(2) She believes that it is erroneous to read Buddhist texts as
    attempting solely to establish epistemological or ontological positions. Such
    texts need, instead, to be seen in their role as soteriological devices. This
    approach is corroborated by the allusions made throughout the Buddhist
    corpus, such as the parable of the raft, or of the arrow, which, as Peter
    Gregory points out, clearly "imply a pragmatic approach to truth according
    to which doctrines only have provisional status."(3)


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    Indigenous East Asian Thought: Essence and


    In terms of a general understanding of Chinese philosophy, there are
    serious problems with the analysis of East Asian philosophical thought
    provided by Prof. Hakamaya, especially regarding his characterizations of
    Confucianism and Chuang-Lao Taoism, of which the latter stands accused
    as the major corrupter of the imported Buddhist religion in East Asia. This
    is, as Hakamaya understands, because the Tao of the Tao te ching
    "precludes conventional naming and denies language."(4) The first problem
    with this assessment, is that it is made based only on a couple of isolated
    passages from the Tao te ching and Chuang tzu. If we examine these two
    texts thoroughly and in a manner that takes into account their overall
    message, we can see that in almost every chapter, the authors have stayed
    far from projecting a simple monistic worldview, attempting instead to
    demonstrate the inseparability of the Tao from the world of phenomena and
    discursive thought.

    Prof. Hakamaya makes this characterization of Taoism by citing only the
    first four lines of the first chapter of the Tao te ching, which Jamie
    Hubbard has translated for us as:


    The ways that can be walked are not the eternal Way;

    The names that can be named are not the eternal name.

    The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;

    The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.


    Putting aside for the moment the matter of whether Prof. Hakamaya’s
    interpretation warrants the positing of the Tao as a kind of atman, or
    whether or not the rest of the eighty-one chapters of the text corroborate
    such an interpretation, if we merely go down to the bottom of the same
    chapter we read:


    These two are the same–

    When they appear they are named differently.

    Their sameness is the mystery,

    Mystery within mystery;

    The door to all marvels.


    If there is a distinction being made between the worded and the wordless,
    why are they, immediately below, declared to be the same? And how can
    someone who is making such an assertion ignore the immediately following
    passage of such a short chapter?

    One might want to maintain here that this sameness is indicative of
    monism. But it is not so simple, as the the two are also named differently,
    and the mode of their sameness is mysterious. Furthermore, anyone who
    does want to argue for monism here should be aware that there is an
    extensive tradition of Chinese scholarship that will argue against such an
    interpretation. The named and the nameless do have a well-defined
    relationship in the context of neither sameness nor difference, which I will
    now explain.

    Rather than being examples of a simple monism, the Tao te ching and
    Chuang tzu conduct a wide variety of articulations of the indigenous East
    Asian concept of essence-function (t’i-yung), among which, that of the
    first chapter of the Tao te ching is quintessential. T’i originally means
    body or substance, and refers to the more internal, more essential, hidden,
    important aspects of a thing. Yung refers to the more external,
    superficial, obvious, functional aspects of something. But these must be
    clearly understood to be aspects–ways of seeing a single thing, and not
    two separate existences. Therefore, the essence-function construction is
    always relative in its usage, and t’i is not the Chinese analog of atman, or
    dhaatu.(5)   In properly understood t’i-yung logic, a dichotomized or
    polarized notion of the pair is impossible. T’i can only be seen,
    apprehended, expressed, and indeed–exist, through the presence of yung.
    In other words, t’i is dependently arisen from yung, and yung is
    dependently arisen from t’i.

    The t’i-yung principle, which has its origins deep in the recesses of early
    Chou thought in such seminal texts as the Book of Odes, Analects, I ching
    and Tao te ching, became formally defined and used with regularity in the
    exegetical writings of Confucian/Neo-Taoist scholars of the Latter Han and
    afterward. Scholars of the pre-Buddhist Chinese classics had utilized
    t’i-yung and its earlier equivalents, such as pen-mo (本末 "roots and
    branches") in Confucianism and hei-pai (黑白 "black and white") of Taoism
    to explain the relationship of inherent human goodness and spiritual
    harmony with its not-always-manifest permutations. The Confucian
    concept of inherent goodness is intimated in the early Chou works, and
    fully articulated in the Analects and the Mencius. Of central importance in
    these texts is the basic human quality of jen ( "humanity," "benevolence")
    that expresses itself in various "functions" such as propriety (li ) and filial
    piety (hsiao ).

    Although Confucianism and Taoism differ in terms of the respective
    emphases of their discourses, with Taoism taking a more naturalistic
    approach to human cultivation and Confucianism advocating a more
    rules-oriented stance, in terms of basic worldview, there is great overlap
    and deep connection between them, most importantly in terms of their
    sharing in the same t’i-yung paradigm. In view of the depth of this
    sharedness, when it comes to making the kind of hard and fast distinction
    between the two traditions that Prof. Hakamaya wants to make, categorizing
    one as "critical" and the other as "topical" it cannot be permissible to do so
    based only on a couple of fragmentary citations from the Analects, Tao te
    and Chuang tzu, while giving almost no consideration to the way that
    these texts are understood in their entirety by specialists in the area. The
    only Confucian specialist to whom Hakamaya refers is Ito Jinsai.(6) But
    even when we read the Ito citation, there is nothing said about the Analects
    other than that it contains "clear argumentation" and "sound reasoning."
    There is nothing whatsoever in the passage to offer any support to
    Confucian-as-critical/Taoist-as-topical distinction.


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    Essence-Function and Innate Enlightenment

    The Buddhist religion, as it was exported from India, did not contain a
    sustained and overt discussion of the concept of innate Buddhahood. But
    East Asians perceived within the Buddhist doctrine the potentiality for
    human perfection, which they naturally described in their native framework
    of t’i-yung. However, with innate and actualized enlightenment as
    manifestations of the essence-function model, innate enlightenment was not
    hypostasized as a "locus" but was instead understood as an experiential and
    enhanceable potentiality. In terms of basic constitution, in the process of
    enlightenment, the the human mind and body have nothing added or
    subtracted. This is a basic premise taught in innate enlightenment texts
    such as the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment (Yan cheh ching 圓覺經 ) and
    the Awakening of Faith (Ta-sheng ch’i-hsin lun 大乘起信論), where innate
    and actualized enlightenment are described not as static ontological
    categories, but as a way of looking at existence that allows for a workable
    prescription toward practice.(7)

    In most of the private discussions that I have had with my colleagues who
    specialize in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, I have been told that that East
    Asian Buddhism shows virtually no new philosophical insights beyond the
    articulation of the theories of pratiitya-samutpaada and uunyataa that are
    contained in Maadhyamika and Yogaacaara. I understand why they believe
    this, since the East Asian concepts of emptiness (k’ung ) and mutual
    interpenetration of phenomena (shih-shih wu-ai 事事無碍) are indeed
    deeply informed by their Indian predecessors. But from here, there is one
    sense in which the critical Buddhists and I are in agreement in perceiving
    that there certainly is some sort of significant philosophical transformation
    that occurs in the Buddhist doctrine once it is assimilated in East Asia. The
    difference between us, however, is that where the Critical Buddhists would
    characterize this transformation as a corruption by the reification of the
    concept of buddha-nature, I would regard the major Chinese
    reinterpretation of Buddhism to be first and foremost that of the recasting
    of the doctrine in terms of essence-function, which, rather than bringing
    harm, was highly beneficial in the degree to which it helped to more deeply
    bind the philosophical dimension of the buddhadharma with the practical


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    Practicing Non-Abiding


    Beyond this philosophical development, the most important contributions
    made by the Ch’an movement are, rather than doctrinal, of a practical
    nature, in that the Ch’an masters showed a special level of sensitivity to the
    tendency of the human mind to become enmeshed in conceptual positions.
    For them, the main obstruction to the attainment of enlightenment had
    nothing to do with either a lack, or excess of knowledge of the doctrine, the
    problem being that of the propensity of the mind to become conditioned
    and attached to concepts. Regardless of the extent of one’s doctrinal
    mastery, such expertise, if not handled properly, will soon turn into an
    impediment. Therefore Ch’an masters to this day are cautious as to their
    wording when they discuss the matter of enlightenment, knowing how easy
    it is for students to get stuck on words, especially the terminology usually
    associated with awakening.

    But since human beings must inevitably discuss things in the course of
    teaching and learning, concepts will be established, reified, and clung to.
    Therefore the need of methods to break such attachments. One of the
    primary remedies used in this work, is to subject such concepts to an
    analysis that shows them, just like all the objects to which they refer, to be
    dependently-originated, and therefore, lacking in self-nature. For the
    scholar, this view of dependent origination is noted, and categorized as a
    seminal aspect of the Buddhist doctrine. For the Buddhist meditator, the
    purpose is quite different. The merely learning of such a metaphysical
    theory in itself will do little to help him in his fundamental task of
    overcoming his habituated, mistaken perception of reality. Therefore he
    engages himself in the practice of meditation, where the observation of the
    dependently-originated nature of things is sustained for long periods of
    time, is deepened and enhanced, such that it begins to affect his worldview
    and actions even while not engaged in formal sitting meditation. Buddhist
    texts tell us that the result of such a sustained contemplation can be, if the
    power of the contemplation is strong enough, a major rupture of the
    habituated discursive process, which allows the disclosure of deeper aspects
    of the consciousness.

    When the Critical Buddhists discuss the analysis of dependent origination,
    they seem to assume that its point is only a matter for the development of
    metaphysical positions within the domain of circumscribed by language. If a
    meditator wanted to participate in such an understanding, she would have to
    halt her pratiitya-samutpaada-based vipayanaa (observing meditation) with
    an intellectual grasp of anatman, and desist from going on to focus the
    same meditative tool on the conceptual objects, or "dharmas." If this kind of
    limitation is enforced, it cannot but end up privileging the status of
    language, as the meditator is denied recourse to the analysis of linguistic
    constructs. However, the so-called "emptiness of dharmas," one of the
    cornerstones of Mahayana doctrine, includes the fact that all linguistic
    constructs are dependently originated, and therefore any conceptually
    grounded insights, while of use in certain applications, cannot be seen to be
    outside the purview of the analysis of dependent origination. While certain
    Buddhist thinkers according to the situation may relax on the thoroughness
    of this contemplation in order to allow for the creation of introductory-level
    instruction, or for the purposes of construction of a coherent system, the
    usage of this analysis in the formal exercise of meditation is quite another

    Therefore the guided contemplation exercises contained in Ch’an sutras,
    while often starting out by alluding to the existence of an originary mode of
    enlightenment, invariably conclude such discussions by refuting the same
    concepts on the basis on the lack of inherent nature in linguistic
    formulations. The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment contains numerous
    examples of this kind of practice, as although apparently-ontological
    statements are offered concerning the presence of something called innate
    (or "perfect") enlightenment, this is done only for the purpose of creating a
    provisional object of faith, such that practitioners may confirm their will to
    practice in the face of the strong negative aspects of the
    emptiness-oriented Mahayana doctrine. The perfect enlightenment being
    described is not intended to be posited as one’s etern>

    Transfer interrupted!

    apacity for total awareness, unobstructed by prejudices and misconceptions
    derived from one’s misunderstanding of the existence of self and objects.
    The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment is especially suitable for examination
    of this problem, since it is considered to be a quintessential "innate
    enlightenment" scripture–a foundational text of the Ch’an school that
    remains influential in the Chinese and Korean meditative traditions to the
    present day.

    Let us look at a well-known passage from the second chapter of the sutra:


    善男子, 一切衆生種種幻化皆生如來圓覺妙心, 猶如空華從空而有. 幻華雖滅,
    空性不壞. 衆生幻心還依幻滅, 諸幻盡滅, 覺心不動. 依幻說覺亦名爲幻. 若說有覺,
    猶未離幻. 說無覺者, 亦復如是. 是故幻滅名爲不動.

    Good sons, all sentient beings’ various illusions are born from
    the perfectly enlightened marvelous mind of the Tathaagata, just
    like the sky-flowers come to exist in the sky. Even though the
    illusory flowers vanish, the nature of the sky is indestructible.
    The illusory mind of sentient beings also vanishes based on
    illusion, and while all illusions are utterly erased, the enlightened
    mind is unchanged. The use of illusion to speak of enlightenment
    is also called illusion. If you say there is enlightenment, you are
    not yet free from illusion. If you say there is no enlightenment,
    this is the same thing. Therefore, the cessation of illusion is
    called ‘unchanging.’(8)

    The first line, which says "all sentient beings’ various illusions are born
    from the perfectly enlightened marvelous mind of the Tathaagata," is typical
    of the characterizations of the "perfect enlightenment" found in this sutra.
    The fact that it is a "source" from which "all illusions" arise could well lead to
    the assumption that some sort of dhaatu is being hypostasized. But,
    interestingly, while we might expect, in a dhaatu-vadistic framework, for
    perfect enlightenment to be the source for manifest enlightenment, it is
    instead the source of "all illusions," which immediately problematizes the
    "topical" interpretation. This is of course is a characteristic implementation
    of the t’i-yung framework. T’i, as the basic enlightened aspect of the
    human mind may manifest itself poorly (as delusion) or correctly (as
    manifest enlightenment), within the same individual, depending on the
    circumstances, and depending on the perceiver.

    The "perfectly enlightened marvelous mind of the Tathaagata" is best not
    interpreted as either an ontological or epistemological category: it is a
    description of an experiential condition of the mind unfettered by mistaken
    views and attachments/aversions. It is a psychological state that sentient
    beings have the potential to experience, according to their basic
    constitution. In the case of the Buddha, this harmonious condition appears
    naturally, and is called "enlightenment." In the case of sentient beings, it
    does not appear naturally, and is called "illusion" or "enlightenment"
    according to its degree of actualization.

    The next line of the sutra says "The illusory mind of sentient beings also
    vanishes based on illusion, and while all illusions are utterly erased, the
    enlightened mind is unchanged." Here, the illusory mind does not disappear
    based upon its "source," but as the result of (dependently arisen) causes and
    conditions. Despite the disappearance of illusion, nothing has actually
    changed–nothing has been added or subtracted. Aware of the
    svabhaava-taste of this description ("the enlightened mind is unchanged")
    the author immediately adds: "The use of illusion to speak of enlightenment
    is also called illusion. If you say there is enlightenment, you are not yet free
    from illusion." This tells us that the prior hypostasized notion of
    enlightenment has no constant validity–that it is a dependently arisen
    notion–a provisional device to orient the practice of contemplation. The
    object being abided in and the subjective abiding are both overturned.
    Finally, the natural tendency that most people have–that once a position is
    negated, to assume its opposite to be true–is also cut off directly with the
    next phrase, that states "If you say there is no enlightenment, this is the
    same thing."


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    The Meaning of No-Thought


    What has been described above is a basic motif found in all major
    Ch’an/Son/Zen canonical texts: the teaching of the method of avoidance of
    abiding in set thought patterns. Although this practice is commonly
    referred to as no-thought (wu-hsin, wu-nien 無心 無念 ), it is a serious
    mistake to understand Zen to refer merely to the "denial" or "cessation" of
    "conceptual thinking."(9)  Even if the etymology of the Sanskrit term
    dhyaana can be shown to have no-thought connotations, we cannot ignore
    all the semantic development undergone by the Chinese term ch’an in the
    course of the production of the Ch’an texts in East Asia. Rather than
    referring to an absence of thought
    , no-mind refers to the condition of
    not being trapped in thoughts, not adhering to a certain conceptual habit
    or position

    The error of interpretation made by many scholars (and by Zen
    practitioners as well) is in taking this term to refer to an ongoing absence of
    thought. Yet while this assumption is routinely made, it is impossible to
    corroborate it in the Ch’an canon. If we study the seminal texts carefully,
    we do find a description of the experience of the severing of thought that
    occurs in the course of a thoroughgoing pursuit of a Buddhist meditative
    exercise. But nowhere in the Platform Sutra, Sutra of Perfect
    , Diamond Sutra, or any other major Ch’an text, is the term
    "no-mind" explained to be a permanent incapacitation of the thinking
    faculty or the permanent cessation of all conceptual activity
    . It is rather
    the case that the interruption of the discursive process at a sufficiently
    deep level allows for an experiential vision of a different aspect of the mind.
    The view of one’s self and world through this other aspect is radically
    different from the former. It is not that thought no longer occurs. The
    conceptualizing faculty still functions quite well–in fact, even better than
    before, since, now, under the influence of the deeper dimension of the mind
    it no longer has to operate in a rigid, constricted, and clinging manner. It is
    now possible to see things as they really are, unfiltered by one’s own
    massive depository of presuppositions. This is what is meant by the term

    When the Ch’an texts talk about no-thought, or no-mind, it is this state of
    non-clinging or freedom from mistaken conceptualization to which they are
    referring, rather than the permanent cessation of thinking that some
    imagine. The deeper, immeasurably more clear aspect of the mind that they
    experience in the course of this irruption of the discursive flow, they call
    "enlightenment." Realizing now, that this potential of the mind was always
    with them, they call it "innate."

    The locus classicus for the concept of no-thought is the Platform Sutra,
    which says:


    無念者於念而不念. 無住者. 爲人本性. 念念不住. 前念念念後念. 念念相讀無有斷絶.
    若一念斷絶法身卽是離色身. 念念時中. 於一切法上無住. 一念若住念念卽住名繫縛.
    於一切法上念念不住卽無縛也. 無住爲本.

    "No-thought" means "no-thought within thought." Non-abiding is
    man’s original nature. Thoughts do not stop from moment to
    moment. The prior thought is succeeded in each moment by the
    subsequent thought, and thoughts continue one after another
    without cease. If, for one thought-moment, there is a break, the
    dharma-body separates from the physical body, and in the midst
    of successive thoughts there will be no attachment to any kind of
    matter. If, for one thought-moment, there is abiding, then there
    will be abiding in all successive thoughts, and this is called
    clinging. If, in regard to all matters there is no abiding from
    thought-moment to thought-moment, then there is no clinging.
    Non-abiding is the basis.(10)


    Nowhere is there a mention of any kind of disappearance of, or absence of
    thought. "No-thought" refers distinctly to an absence of abiding, or
    clinging. According to this explanation of the concept, any reading of
    wu-nien as an "absence of thought" is a misinterpretation.

    Returning to the Sutra of the Perfect Enlightenment, we should make it
    clear that the first passage that we cited from that text is by no means
    some odd exception to an otherwise svabhaava-centric discourse. The
    pattern repeats itself over and over: the initial reference to an intrinsic
    capacity for enlightenment based on a t’i-yung model, followed by an
    exercise in the practice of non-abiding in conceptions–a combination of
    basic Mahayana doctrinal grounding, which is further invariably followed
    with an effacement of provisionally-established conceptual structures.
    Again, in a subsequent passage of the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment we


    善男子, 一切菩薩及末世衆生應當遠離一切幻化虛妄境界. 由堅執持遠離心故,
    心如幻者亦復遠離. 遠離爲幻亦復遠離. 遠離離幻亦復遠離. 得無所離卽除諸幻.
    比如鑽火兩木相因. 火出木盡灰飛烟滅. 以幻修幻亦復如是. 諸幻雖盡不入斷滅.
    善男子, 知幻卽離, 不作方便. 離幻卽覺亦無漸次.

    Good sons, all bodhisattvas and sentient beings of the
    degenerate age should separate from all illusory and false
    realms. By firmly abiding in separation from thought, you also
    separate from the thought of ‘illusion.’ As this separation
    becomes illusion, you again separate from it. You again separate
    from this separation from separation from illusion, until you
    reach "nothing to be separated from," which is the removal of all
    illusion. It is like making a fire with two sticks. The fire blazes
    and the wood is consumed; the ashes fly away and the smoke
    vanishes. Using illusion to remedy illusion is exactly like this. Yet
    even though all illusions are extinguished, you do not enter into
    nothingness. Good sons, awareness of illusion is none other than
    freedom [from it], without devising expedient means. Freedom
    from illusion is none other than enlightenment, and there are no

    Again, this is an instruction on, and a guided exercise through, the
    non-abiding in conceptual constructs, where the point is for the practitioner
    to learn that illusion is none other than the habit of adherence to reified
    thought constructs. The metaphor, as we can see, is pratiitya-samutpaada
    through and through. We can also see the author’s distaste for attaching a
    baggage-laden name, such as "enlightenment" to the resultant state. But he
    nonetheless wants to add a note of encouragement to make it clear that the
    resulting state is not a void. Where, from this kind of passage, do we get
    the message that the individual is henceforth incapable of thought? And
    where is enlightenment hypostasized?

    Again, in a later chapter of the sutra:


    善男子, 彼之衆生幻身滅故, 幻心亦滅. 幻心滅故, 幻塵亦滅. 幻塵滅故, 幻滅亦滅.
    幻滅滅故, 非幻不滅. 比如磨鏡, 垢盡明現. 善男子, 當知身心皆爲幻垢.


    Good sons, since the illusory body of this sentient being vanishes, the
    illusory mind also vanishes. Since the illusory mind vanishes, illusory
    objects also vanish. Since illusory objects vanish, illusory vanishing also
    vanishes. Since illusory vanishing vanishes, non-illusion does not vanish. It
    is like polishing a mirror: when the filth is gone, its brightness naturally
    appears. Good sons, you should understand both body and mind to be
    illusory filth. When the defiled aspects are permanently extinguished, the
    entire universe becomes pure.(12)

    Here we have a movement of negation that proceeds from the subjective
    body and mind, out to the objects. In terms of standard Mahayana doctrine,
    that is, in itself, a sufficient descriptive account of the enlightened
    condition. However, the author is not content to offer only a doctrinal
    description. He also wants the reader to be repeatedly removed from the
    concept of vanishing. The result is an experiential condition of the mind of
    the practitioner unfettered by illusion. When defilement is extirpated, the
    purity of the entire universe is visible. Nowhere is it stated that the
    attainment of enlightenment implies the loss of the ability to think.


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    The Korean Son Perspective


    Critical Buddhist arguments against innate enlightenment and no-thought
    are unlikely to gain a great deal of currency within Korean Buddhist
    scholarship. But this is not because the argument would be seen as foreign
    or difficult to identify with. Rather, because the question of the relationship
    of innate and actualized enlightenment, and the relationship between the
    wordless and the worded expressions of the buddhadharma have already
    received sustained, extensive and sophisticated treatment by the most
    prominent thinkers in the Korean tradition. The dialog on this topic was
    already well-developed as early as in the twelfth century, and continued for
    several centuries. Any modern scholar who can read literary Chinese, and
    wants to investigate the treatment of this topic can readily find more than
    enough material in the writings of such figures as Wonhyo (元曉 617-686),
    Chinul (知訥 1158-1210), Kihwa (己和 1376-1433) or Hyujong (休靜
    1520-1604). All four of these men wrote extensively on the matter of the
    relationship between innate and actualized enlightenment, and the latter
    three delved deeply into the relationship between the doctrinal (linguistic)
    transmission and the so-called "mind-to-mind" transmission. The
    predominant unifying factor in the Korean Son discourse on these topics is
    that is it thoroughly essence-function oriented, and is based mainly on the
    content of the formational Ch’an texts: the Platform Sutra, Sutra of
    Perfect Enlightenment
    , Awakening of Faith, Diamond Sutra,
    Vajrasamaadhi-suutra, etc.

    The first major Son figure to take up the matter of the relationship between
    the worded and wordless teachings as major project was Chinul. Aided by
    the analysis of the Hua-yen ching provided by the Li T’ung-hsan (李通玄
    635-730),(13)  Chinul utilized Hua-yen philosophy to support Son
    soteriological views. In discussing this matter in his commentary on Li’s
    work, Chinul utilized the essence-function construction to explain the
    relationship of the Hua-yen theory of interpenetration to the Son awakening
    experience, saying:

    The diligent practitioner who is cultivating his mind should first, by means
    of the path of the patriarchs, become cognizant of the fact that the
    fundamental subtlety of his own mind cannot be defined in words and
    letters. Then, using the texts, he should discern that the essence and
    function of his mind are none other than the nature and characteristics of
    the realm of reality (dharmadhaatu). Then the virtuous power of [the
    actualization of] the interpenetration of phenomena with phenomena, and
    the efficacious function of the wisdom and compassion [that are gained
    from an awareness of] the sameness in essence [of all things] will no
    longer be external concerns (i.e., merely conceptual theories).(14)

    While the trans-conceptual aspect of the teaching is obviously prioritized,
    Chinul is quick to follow up by pointing out the need to re-integrate this
    experience with the world of conceptual understanding.

    The matter of the relationship between these aspects is discussed in the
    writings of many of Chinul’s descendants, but the most extensive work is
    done on the topic about two centuries after Chinul, by the monk Kihwa.(15) 
    Kihwa addressed in his writings a wide variety of Buddhist and
    non-Buddhist religious themes, but one of his favorite topics was the
    renewal of Chinul’s argument for the essence-function relationship of Son
    and Kyo, which he did primarily within the context of the Kumgang
    o ka hae sorui (Combined Commentaries of Five
    Masters on the Diamond Sutra
    金剛般若波羅蜜經五家解說誼 )(16)  and his
    commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, (Won’gakkyong hae
    圓覺經解說誼 ).

    Since the Diamond Sutra is a text that deals directly with the problems of
    the relationship of language to reality, it was the perfect vehicle through
    which Kihwa could express his understanding of this intrinsic unity as
    reflected in the two opposite movements of: (1) the necessity of the
    practice of meditation for a proper realization of that which to which the
    scriptures refer, and (2) the viability of scriptural study as a means towards
    the attainment of the Son goal of enlightenment. While Kihwa was clearly in
    favor of an informed usage of scriptural study in Buddhist cultivation, he at
    the same time upheld Ch’an’s strict admonition regarding the possible
    pitfalls of language. He says early in the O ka hae:

    An ancient said: "The Three Vehicles and Twelve Divisions of the Teaching
    embody the principle and grasp the mystery." This being the case, what is
    the special significance of the ancestral teacher’s coming from the West?
    And the separately transmitted teaching should also not be found outside of
    the scriptures. But since that which is contained in the worded teaching has
    remained hidden and undisclosed, now the patriarchs reveal and spread its
    truth, and not only is the meaning of the doctrine made clear, but the
    "separately transmitted teaching" is also fully disclosed. Since there has
    been something designated as "the transmission of direct pointing," how
    could this be something that is contained in the doctrinal teaching? If we
    merely reflect on the story of Ts’ao-chi of Huang-mei,(17)  this can readily
    be seen!(18)

    We should make sure, here, to understand that in the context of our above
    meeting with the Platform Sutra, that we do not take its "formless"
    teaching, to be some sort of blankness, or nothingness, but as the teaching
    of non-abiding in constructs. Here, although Kihwa first intimates that the
    Ch’an of the patriarchs and the sermons of the Buddha manifest the same
    reality, and that one cannot stick to an "anti-language" position, he
    subsequently places a strong emphasis on the privilege of the wordless
    transmission. Below, he offers a view of the issue that tends in the other
    direction, pointing out the usefulness of the worded teaching, while at the
    same time maintaining his warning against attachment to it:

    The dharma that the Buddha has taught is absolute and is relative. Since it
    is relative, liberation is none other than written language. Since what was
    taught in the east and taught in the west for forty-nine years(19)   is
    absolute, written language is none other than liberation;(20)  yet in over
    three hundred sermons, ^Saakyamuni never explained a single word. If you
    are attached to the words, then you see branches of the stream but miss
    their source. If you do away with words, you observe the source but are
    ignorant of its branching streams. When you are confused about neither the
    source nor its streams, then you enter the ocean of the dharma-nature.
    Having entered the ocean of the dharma-nature, the no-thought wisdom is
    directly manifested. The no-thought wisdom being directly manifested,
    whatever is faced is no impediment, and you penetrate wherever you

    Although one should not be attached to words, words also are not to be
    denied. Here, the essence-function framework can be seen in the
    source-streams simile. Kihwa first counsels regarding the serious pitfall
    which has been warned against throughout the Buddhist tradition, and
    which became a main concern of the Ch’an tradition–that an imbalanced
    attachment to words (yung) can lead to an obstruction of the very essence
    (t’i) of Buddhist practice. Yet to forget words and become absorbed in the
    wordless is to forget the phenomenal world and be attached to the essence.
    According to Kihwa, this is also not an acceptable Buddhist position. What
    remains is the "middle path," which means continuous avoidance of abiding
    in exclusivist views. This is "entering the ocean of the dharma-nature,"
    which results in the manifestation of no-thought wisdom. No-thought
    wisdom penetrates everything with which it comes in contact.

    Below, in a related passage, Kihwa makes the same point in a slightly
    different way. The Buddha is speaking to Subhuuti, the arhat-interlocutor
    of the Diamond Sutra:

    "Subhuuti, what do you think? Does the Tathaagata have a dharma to be
    explained or not?"

    Subhuuti answered the Buddha, saying, "World-honored one, the
    Tathaagata has no dharma to be explained."(22)

    Tao-ch’uan, (one of the five commentators) says: "Quietly, quietly."

    Kihwa adds: "The Buddha has nothing to explain; this is definitely true. But
    ‘saying nothing’ is also not the Buddha’s original intention. That is why
    Tao-ch’uan says ‘quietly, quietly.’ One should not claim one-sidedly that
    there is ‘nothing to be said.’"

    A bit further on he adds: ". . . therefore it is said, ‘even though you do not
    rely on the path of verbal teaching, you should also not be attached to the
    position which fully rejects verbal explanation.’"(23)

    Kihwa considers the Diamond Sutra to be so valuable exactly because he
    understands "non-abiding" to be the key of all Buddhist practices. Again
    relying on the essence-function framework, he says:

    "Non-abiding is the great essence of the myriad practices, and the myriad
    practices are all the great function of non-abiding. The teaching of the
    compassionate saint [the Buddha] takes non-abiding as its abode. With the
    great essence shining, one cannot but be aware of the great function.(24)

    Concerning the relationship of the Diamond Sutra with the practice of
    non-abiding, Kihwa says:

    Praj~naa‘s divine source is vast, lacking all kinds of characteristics. It is
    extensive, yet lacks an abode. It is empty and not existing; it is profound
    and unknown. Now this single sutra takes this as its core teaching and as
    its essence. Although there is no awareness, there is nothing that it does
    not know. Although there is no abiding, there is no place where it does not
    abide. Although lacking characteristics, it does not obstruct any
    characteristics. This is the function of marvelous existence. What all
    buddhas have realized is exactly the realization of this. What all the
    patriarchs have transmitted is exactly the transmission of this. Their means
    of awakening people is also exactly through this.(25)

    In the Diamond Sutra, non-abiding is equated with the lack of attachment
    to any characteristic (hsiang/sang ). Therefore, the Diamond Sutra’s
    teaching of No-Aspects (wu-hsiang/musang 無相 ) is synonymous with
    non-abiding. The Diamond Sutra’s discussion, as is the case with the other
    texts of the praj~naapaaramitaa genre, carries out a systematic refutation
    of the abiding in characteristics, and most importantly, the abiding in
    characteristics of selfhood and thinghood. The same then, applies for
    abiding in either of the positions of "words" or "wordlessness."

    In summary, Kihwa is strongly opposed to exclusivist positions either for or
    against the role of written language in the cultivation of the dharma. But
    since his articulation of the polarity is through essence and function, we can
    say that while Kihwa accepts the validity of both approaches, it is clear that
    the "wordless" teaching, being the essence, has priority, and the textual
    approach is secondary. But once again, "primary" and "secondary" in this
    sense cannot be understood in an either-or manner. The secondary is just
    as necessary to the primary as is the primary to the secondary. You can’t
    have one without the other. We find both Chinul’s and Kihwa’s positions
    reiterated throughout the subsequent Korean tradition, in subtle detail. The
    leading Son master of the later Choson, Hyujong, also discussed this matter
    at great length in his writings.(26)

    By contrast, we have seen the Diamond Sutra cited in the Critical Buddhist
    project in an attempt to support the thesis that Ch’an materials advocate
    "no-thought" understood as a kind of mental blankness, together with
    selected citations from Mo-ho-yen, who, although well-known to scholars
    of Tibetan Buddhism for his defeat in the famous sudden-gradual debate, is
    a decidedly minor figure in the history of the development of Ch’an. Here
    Mo-ho-yen is cited as stating that "conceptualizing is a defect," supported
    by a quote from the Diamond Sutra to the effect that: "The Diamond Sutra
    says, ‘One who is free from all conceptions is called Buddha.’"(27)  Based
    on our above discussion, however, we can know that this phrase "free from
    all conception," should be taken, rather than referring to some sort of
    permanent incapacitation of the faculty of thought, to mean exactly what it
    says: namely "freedom from conceptions," which is none other than the
    ability to be unattached to one’s concepts, to be able to stand away from
    the never-ending flow of discursive consciousness. This line from the
    Diamond Sutra is in perfect agreement with what we have seen above in the
    Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment and Platform Sutra. I would further point
    out that the Diamond Sutra, as a text whose theme is nothing but the
    investigation of, and countering of, the tendency to reify and attach to
    conceptual constructs has no line in it that asserts, that "conceptualizing"
    [in itself] "is a defect."(28)


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    Ch’an as Buddhism


    Although it does seem that the art of instruction on methods of
    engagement into the practice of non-abiding may have reached a new peak
    in the birth of Ch’an, I see neither a firm basis nor a special need to claim
    that the notion of unattached thought is the unique creation of the Ch’an
    movement. On the contrary, I would hold that even the earliest Indian
    forms of contemplation on pratiitya-samutpaada had a similar purpose, as
    they sought to sever attachment to the notion of the ego, which they
    conceived to be a basic cause in the production of du.hkha. Indeed, from
    the time of the earliest origins of Indian Buddhism, the concept of
    dependent origination was not merely a philosophical argument to be used
    against the non-Buddhist sects. Dependent origination was the object of
    vipa^syanaa, "observing" meditation, the point of which was the attainment
    of a permanent freedom from entitative thinking, characterized at that time
    by atman-ism. We should not be determined to confine Buddhism strictly
    within the domain of philosophical-linguistic discourse, and ignore the fact
    of its primary purpose as a soteriological system aimed at bringing about

    If we accept dependent origination as a basic strategy to be used in
    meditation, which is aimed at liberation, how can it be permissible to set
    limits to the extent of that meditation, and say "it is OK to use
    pratiitya-samutpaada to deconstruct atma-vaada, but you should stop
    there, and not proceed to the deconstruction of the dhaatu of thought
    constructs." According to the bulk of the materials presented in the
    Buddhist tradition, this is the key to the attainment of wisdom. And once
    we come to this point, how can it be impermissible to speak of the
    enlightenment experience? Or to speak of what quality it is that sentient
    beings possess that makes the enlightenment experience possible?



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    1) Western access to this debate has been greatly
    enhanced by the recent publication of the book Pruning
    the Bodhi Tree: The Storm Over Critical Buddhism
    edited by Jamie Hubbard and Paul Swanson (University
    of Hawaii Press, 1998). This book contains English
    translations of several of the most important essays by
    Profs. Hakamaya and Matsumoto, along with several
    other articles by Japanese and non-Japanese scholars
    that argue for various positions within the context of
    this debate. Most of the citations in this article have
    been made from this extremely valuable work.

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    2) Pruning, King, p. 187.

    3) Pruning, "Is Critical Buddhism Really Critical?" p.

    4) Pruning, "Critical Philosophy Versus Topical
    Philosophy," p. 72.

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    5) For a more thorough discussion of the meaning and
    usage of the t’i-yung framework, see my articles
    entitled "The Composition of Self-Transformation
    Thought in Classical East Asian Philosophy and
    Religion" (Toyo Gakuen Kiyo, vol. 4 (March, 1996), pp.
    141-152.) and "East Asia’s Unexplored Pivot of
    Metaphysics and Hermeneutics:
    Essence-Function/Interpenetration" (paper presented at
    the 1997 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of
    Religion, available on the WWWeb at

    indigenoushermeneutics.htm. The latter work is a revised
    expansion of the former.

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    6) Ibid, p. 73. Hakamaya claims here, without
    explanation, that Ito somehow understood the Analects
    better than almost any Chinese scholar.

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    7) It is true that one can isolate phrases and passages in
    such works as the Awakening of Faith, Sutra of
    Perfect Enlightenment
    and Platform Sutra (Liu-tsu
    六祖壇經 ) that seem to refer to a hypostatic,
    atman-like enlightenment, as there are passages in
    these works which suggest innate, or perfect
    enlightenment as the "source" for manifest events, such
    as actualized enlightenment, or the myriad phenomena.
    But we should consider the Chinese concept used to
    denote this concept of "source," is that of a spring (yan
    ) that is integrally connected to its branch streams–a
    direct analog of t’i.

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    8) T 842.17.914a10.

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    9) See Matsumoto, Pruning, "The Meaning of ‘Zen’", p.

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    10) T 2007.48.338c5-10.

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    11) T 842.17.914a15-19

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    12) T 842.17.914c2.

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    13) Li wrote a famous commentary to the Hua-yen
    ching entitled Hsin Hua-yen ching lun 新華嚴經論

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    14) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 4.768a.

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    15) For details regarding Kihwa’s life and works, please
    see My Ph.D. dissertation "Hamho Kihwa: A Study of
    his Major Works" (SUNY Stony Brook, 1993)

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    16) Commonly referred to in Korea as the O ka hae.
    This is Kihwa’s further annotation to the anonymous
    redaction of five separate commentaries to the
    Diamond Sutra. These commentators include Tsung-mi
    (宗密 780-841), Hui-neng (慧能 638-713), Shuang-lin fu
    (雙林傅, Fu Ta-shih 傅大士 497-569), Yeh-fu Tao-ch’uan
    (冶父道川 ) and Y-chang Tsung-ching (豫章宗鏡 ).

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    17) More commonly known as Hui-neng, the Sixth
    Patriarch. Thus Kihwa is referring to the content of the
    Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.

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    18) Hanguk pulgyochonso 7.12.c5-10.

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    19) The length of ^Saakyamuni’s teaching career.

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    20) In the above two sentences Kihwa is alluding to the
    famous dictum from the Heart Sutra, "form is
    emptiness, emptiness is form."

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    21) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 7.42c21-43a5.

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    22) T 235.8.750a.15-16.

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    23) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 7.56b.24-c.10.

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    24) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 7.36.a.10-13.

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    25) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 7.14a.15-22.

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    26) See especially, his Son’ga kwigam

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    27) Matsumoto, "The Meaning of Zen," Ibid, p. 244.
    Unfortunately, a source for this citation has not been
    provided to allow us to see the original Chinese text, or
    its context.

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    28) Ibid., p. 244.

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