The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism

John R. McRae




The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism






Why are descriptions of Ch’an practice, both medieval and modern, so dominated by
dialogues, narratives, and orality? Where other schools of Buddhism may be described in
terms of relatively succinct lists of doctrines and practices-four of this, eight of that,
a dash of ritual, a measure of self-cultivation-it seems that the only way to describe
Ch’an is by a succession of narratives: to explain the Ch’an emphasis on understanding the
mind, tell the story of Huik’o cutting off his hand to hear the teachings from
Bodhidharma; to explain ch’an’s attitude toward seated meditation, recount how Huai-jang
prodded Ma-tsu by pretending to grind a tile into a mirror; to explain how true spiritual
understanding goes beyond words, describe Huang-po and Lin-chi prancing through their
unique combination of first and shout. This is not just the odd proclivity of medieval
Chinese; Ikky?’s sojourn under the Nij? bridge in Ky?to is just one example from medieval
Japanese Zen.1)  And one can hardly read a page of
twentieth-century writings on Zen without encountering the use of story as explanatory
device. The most notable practitioner of this strategy is of course D. T. Suzuki, whose
standard approach is effectively to write that "Zen is such-and-such, and let me tell
a few stories that exemplify what I mean, "with little or no real attempt at
explanation. And virtually all of these stories involve include the direct quotation of
words put in the mouths of enlightened Zen masters. Why, among all the schools of
Buddhism, is there such an emphasis on dialogues, narratives, and orality in the
explanation of Zen Buddhism?

For many readers, it might not be immediately obvious why this is a reasonable and
important question, since the equation of Ch’an with stories has all the feeling of a
shared cosmology, a worldview that we all think of as naturally and obviously true. 2)  That is, the orality of Ch’an practice is as much a
given as the air we breathe, the water in which fish swim. To think of why Ch’an and the
descriptions of Ch’an should emphasize orality is roughly akin to asking why there is
gravity. But this is just the point: just as modern physics may thrill at the explanation
of that most omnipresent of forces, so should we turn our collective gaze to perhaps the
most common feature of Ch’an Buddhism, its peculiar use of language. The first step in
this process is to recognize that the use of language, narration, and orality in and about
Ch’an is indeed profoundly "peculiar," that we should self-consciously
defamiliarize ourselves with the conventional Ch’an rhetoric that teaches us to be
comfortable with paradox and absurdity, to too easily accept the bizarre as merely
"the way Ch’an masters behave." I would argue there is nothing pre-ordained or
obligatory about how Ch’an masters and their students are depicted in Ch’an literature;
the first step in understanding Ch’an as a cultural and religious phenomenon is to realize
how deeply contingent, how specifically conditioned in historical terms, such descriptions
are. To paraphrase Suzuki R?shi, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and one of
the most beloved icons of Zen in America, we need an attitude of "beginner’s
mind" toward the understanding of Ch’an itself.3)

The goal of this paper is to specify and describe the various factors that influenced
the appearance of Ch’an encounter dialogue. Given both the limitations of space and the
preliminary nature of my own research on the matter, I will not attempt to analyze how all
these factors may have operated in coordination with each other to yield the results
apparent in the historical record; the focus here is strictly on the apprehension of the
most likely culprits, not the complete unraveling of the entire conspiracy.

Before this inquiry can begin, however, we must understand what "encounter
dialogue" is and how its appearance may be recognized. This will draw us into two
separate areas: first, issues of orality versus written transcription and, second, the
historical evolution of Ch’an and the types of texts that may include the transcriptions
of encounter dialogue.

The term "encounter dialogue" renders a Chinese term used by YANAGIDA Seizan
柳田聖山 to refer to the questions and responses that take place between Ch’an masters
and their students, chi-yüan wen-ta 機緣問答 (J. kien
mond?).4)  As used here, encounter dialogue is
a particular type of oral practice, one in which masters and students interact in certain
definable, if unpredictable, ways. Ideally, the goal of the interactions is the
enlightenment of the students, and since the teachers cannot simply command their students
to achieve this they use various verbal and physical methods to catalyze the event. Often
the exchanges of encounter dialogue can be understood in terms of both the assumption of a
spiritual path (maarga, tao 道) and its negation: students ask questions positing
a path to liberation, and teachers undercut the implicit assumptions involved so as to
indicate the immediate perfection of the here-and-now. 5) 
There are of course also negative examples, in which a student is dismissed for not being
a true seeker, or when a student or other questioner turns out to be beyond the need for
spiritual assistance. And sometimes a student or fellow teacher will catch a master
napping, so to speak, using an inadvertant dualism. Even in these cases, there is a
palpable sense of lively immediacy in encounter dialogue exchanges. What is not
included in the definition of encounter dialogue are questions that seek to elicit
explanations about Buddhist doctrine or the spiritual path in general, as well as answers
that seek to provide information. Such topics miss the mark because they are only
"about" seeking and do not speak to the needs of an actual seeker in the
immediate present.

The preceding definition should suffice for the moment, in spite of its incompleteness
and lack of detail. More important, it is almost certainly an idealized abstraction that
fails to capture the vitality, variegation, and nuance of encounter dialogue itself, and
which perhaps incorporates too much of our own projections onto medieval Chinese Ch’an. We
can ignore these issues for the present. A pair of significant problems occurs, however,
because of the spontaneous fluidity of oral exchange and the fixity of written language.
First, what we have to go on are written texts, which contain not encounter dialogue
itself but the transcriptions thereof. This is a crucially important distinction. There is
good evidence to suggest that something like encounter dialogue was in vogue within Ch’an
practitioner communities long before it came to be written down, and that the very act of
transcribing it was both difficult and significant. Second, how do we recognize when a
particular exchange is one of encounter dialogue, rather than some less inspired form of
communication? Are there specific characteristics of written language by which we can
differentiate between knowledge-and enlightenment-oriented discussions? Although it would
be a difficult, if no doubt useful, exercise to enumerate such characteristics, the task
is probably easier done than said: we may not be able to explain it well, but we can
recognize encounter dialogue when we see it. In addition, I will argue below that the
transcriptions of encounter dialogue exchanges use a set of literary techniques to
generate the impression of oral spontaneity and lively immediacy, and it will be useful to
observe the extent to which this literary effect has shielded us from seeing the
dramatized nature of the transcriptions. That is, encounter dialogue exchanges do not
necessarily record what "really happened," although they are rendered with such
lively immediacy that they appear this way to the reader. It is important to recognize
literary efficacy for what it is.

When did encounter dialogue emerge in the Ch’an tradition, and when did it first come
to be transcribed in written form? The following is a quick summary of the historical
evolution of Ch’an, organized into a convenient set of periods or phases. 6) 

Proto-Ch’an: Although the historical identity of Bodhidharma is now
unrecoverable, a group of meditation specialists celebrated him as their spiritual model
from at least the middle of the sixth century on. This group of practitioners seems to
have wandered to various locations in northern China, carrying with them the Treatise
on the Two Entrances and Four Practices(Erh-ju ssu-hsing lun
二入四行論), a text
composed in Bodhidharma’s name to which they appended a substantial body of material. Much
of this latter material is anonymous or attributed to figures unknown. And the provenance
of this material is also in question, with some of it probably deriving from the eighth
century. None of the exchanges included seem to fit the definition of encounter dialogue
given above, but there are several that might be considered questionable. 7) 

East Mountain Community: During the half-century from 624 to 674, Tao-hsin
道信(580-651) and Hung-jen 弘忍(601-74) stewarded a monastic community at Shuang-feng
雙峰("Twin Peaks") or Huang-mei 黃梅 in what is now Hupeh Province. Tao-hsin
actually resided on the western peak; the name of this phase of Ch’an is taken from the
location of the community during Hung-jen’s time, since he was the central figure of this
phase of Ch’an. We know that this was a meditation community attended by Buddhists of
various inclinations from all over China. We know a certain amount about the teachings of
Hung-jen, or at least those attributed to him retrospectively, through a text known as the
Treatise on the Essentials of Cultivating the Mind(Hsiu-hsin yao lun
修心要論), which was compiled for him by his students some years or even decades after
his death. There also exists a text attributed to Tao-hsin, but this was probably composed
even later than the Treatise on the Essentials of Cultivating the Mind. 8)  In any case, there is nothing resembling encounter
dialogue in either of these texts, and the closest we get to any sense of dialogic
immediacy is the following statements attributed to Hung-jun:

My disciples have compiled this treatise [from my oral teachings], so that [the reader]
may just use his True Mind to grasp the meaning of its words… If [the teachings
contained herein] contradict the Holy Truth, I repent and hope for the eradication [of
that transgression]. If they correspond to the Holy Truth, I transfer [any merit that
would result from this effort to all] sentient beings. I want everyone to discern their
fundamental minds and achieve buddhahood at once. Those who are listening [now] should
make effort, so that you can achieve buddhahood in the near future. I now vow to help my
followers to cross over [to the other shore of]….

QUESTION: This treatise [teaches] from beginning to end that manifesting one’s own mind
represents enlightenmnet. [However, Ⅰ] do not know whether this is a teaching of the
fruit [of] or one of practice.

ANSWER: The basic principle of this treatise is the manifestation of the One Vehicle…

If I am deceiving you, I will fall into the eighteen hells in the future. I point to
heaven and earth in making this vow: If [the teachings contained here] are not true, I
will be eaten by tigers and wolves for life-time after lifetime.

This material from the very end of the Treatise on the Essentials of Cultivating the
Mind clearly evokes the voice of the compilers, who identify themselves as
Hung-jen’s students. However, both here and in the repeated injunctions to "make
effort" throughout the text, we may be hearing Hung-jen’s own voice as well.

Northern school: In 701 Shen-hsiu 神秀(606?-706) arrived in Lo-yang at the
invitation of Empress Wu, an event which constitutes the debut of Ch’an among China’s
cultured elite. For the next two or three decades Shen-hsiu and his students maintained an
extremely high profile in imperial court society, where they presented themselevs as
transmitters of the "East Mountain Teaching" of Tao-hsin and especially
Hung-jen. (Actually, the East Mountain Teaching period of Ch’an might be extended past
Hung-jen’s death to include Shen-hsiu’s residence at Yü-ch’üan ssu during
675-700, and the Northern school phase may be said to have begun with Hung-jen’s student
Fa-ju’s 法如 [638-89] activities on Mount Sung in the 680s.) The Northern school
represented a great flourishing of Ch’an activity and writing, and the first examples of
the "transmission of the lamp history" (ch’üan-teng shih
傳燈史 ; J. ent?shi) genre of Ch’an texts appear during this phase. It is in one
of these texts that we find the first incontrovertible evidence that something like
encounter dialogue was being practiced within the Ch’an community-but was not yet being
transcribed in full. 9) 

Southern school: Beginning in 730, a monk named Shen-hui 神會 (684-758)
sharply criticized the Northern school in public, promoting instead his own teacher
Hui-neng 慧能 (638-712) as the Sixth Patriarch in succession from Bodhidharma and the
exponent of the true teaching of sudden enlightenment. Shen-hui’s career included activity
both in the provinces and centered on Lo-yang, and he was an active missionary for the new
Ch’an movement as well as a factionalist partisan and fundraiser. Indeed, my research into
his life and teachings suggests that his vocation on the ordination platform helped to
determine the content and style of his teachings. We have a remarkable collection of texts
recording the teachings of Shen-hui, which include a considerable amount of oral exchange,
and although I believe he had a significant influence on the transformation of Ch’an
discourse, none of this oral exchange constitutes encounter dialogue according to the
definition given above.10)

Oxhead school: Although this faction describes itself as a subsidiary lineage
deriving from Tao-hisn, its real heyday was the second half of the eighth century. Below I
will discuss two texts associated with this school, the Treatise on the Transcendence
of Cognition
(Chüeh-kuan lun 絶觀論), an anonymous text from
sometime after 750 or so, and the Platform Suutra of the Sixth Patriarch
t’an-ching 六祖壇經), the first version of which dates from about
780. In addition to the significant data in these two texts, I will introduce a few brief
passages from biographical sources for members of the Oxhead school, which in spite of its
shadowy historical reality had a very creative impact on the evolution of Ch’an rhetoric
and doctrine.

Provincial Ch’an: Sometime in the second half of the eighth century, or perhaps
the very beginnig of the ninth, a new style of Ch’an developed in what is now Kiangsi and
Hupeh. I will focus on Ma-tsu Tao-i 馬祖道一(709-88) and his Hung-chou school
洪州派. 11) Ma-tsu and his disciples are depicted in
Ch’an records as engaging in spontaneous repartee in what is almost a barnyard atmosphere
of agricultural labor and other daily tasks, and this style of interaction seems to fit
perfectly with the descriptions of Ma-tsu’s teachings about the ordinary mind and the
activity of the Buddha-nature. (These issues are discussed below in section GET.) If so,
this would be the earliest incontrovertible appearance of encounter dialogue, and indeed
the accounts of Ma-tsu and his first-and second-generation disciples form the core
repertoire of encounter dialogue anecdotes in Ch’an literature. There is just one problem:
the presentation of Ma-tsu and his disciples in this fashion does not occur in writing
until 952, and earlier writings relating to Ma-tsu and his faction present a somewhat
different image of his community.

Rather than proceed further with this listing of Ch’an phases and factions, let me
comment on the crucial incongruity just mentioned. The first text to transcribe Ch’an
encounter dialogue bursts onto the scene in 952, a twenty-fascicle compilation of
dialogues and stories associated with all Buddhas and patriarchs down to that time. The is
the Tsu-t’ang chi 祖堂集 or Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, which was
compiled by two third-generation students of Hsüeh-feng I-ts’un 雪峰義存(822-908)
living in ch’üan-chcu 泉州 (Fukien). The compilers worked during the period of
disturbances and political unrest following the collapse of the T’ang dynasty, but in the
peaceful haven of the Five Dynasties regimes of the Min-Yue ?越 region of the
southeastern coast. I can only imagine that the two compilers were amazed to discover an
unexpected characteristic about the Buddhist monks arriving in Ch’üan-chou during
this period: so many of them told encounter dialogue anecdotes about their teachers, their
teachers’ teachers, and their fellow practitioners. Presumably, until this emergency
gathering of the sa^ngha no one had quite paid attention to the very prevalence of such
anecdotes, which probably circulated in the form of monastic gossip as practitioners
traveled from one place to the next. Thus I imagine the two compilers exclaiming in
amazement at the recognition that so many were celebrating the same types of stories, the
initial realization of the magnitude of a new development that before then the
participants in this informal, "back room" enterprise had considered interesting
individually without recognizing its widespread importance. 12)

At the same time as the Tsu-t’ang chi compilers realized the widespread nature
of this gossip and its intrinsic religious value, they must also have become aware of its
precarious existence: further civil disturbance might do irreversible damage to the
Buddhist establishment, and this ephemeral oral genre would be lost. Thus, simultaneously
with the expression of amazement at what they had just recognized as a new and widespread
phenomenon of encounter dialogue practice, they also reacted with horror at the prospect
that, unless it were recorded, the entire body of material and indeed news of the genre
itself were liable to disappear with the civil and military unrest of the times.

One of the innovations of encounter dialogue transcriptions as a genre is that they
record not only the sage pronouncements of Buddhist teachers, but the sometimes foolish
and often formulaic questions of their students as well. I am not certain the Tsu-t’ang
compilers were aware of the significance of their decision to record not only the
words of teachers, but also those of the students. Rather, I imagine they could not have
seen any other course of action, given the quality of the dialogue material they had
collected, although from our vantage point this appears to be a shift of major
significance in the evolution of Chinese Buddhism.13)
Whatever their reflexive awareness of the processes involved, they established a format in
which written recreations of oral dialogue could be transcribed in a standardized format
(i.e., Mandarin) of colloquial speech and thus be widely understandable, without the
barriers of regional dialect transcriptions that would have rendered the text inaccessible
at various points to all Chinese readers. In Ch’an studies we have tended to disregard the
significance of the act of transcribing or representing oral dialogue in writing, but of
course this is not a trivial process at all. Even though many o the dialogues recorded in
the Tsu-t’ang chi were between southerners or residents of other regions who must
have been spoken in some form other than northern Mandarin, that is the form in which they
are represented in the anthology. In other words, either or both of two conditions apply
to virtually the entire contents of the Tsu-t’ang chi: first, dialogues had to be
converted from some non-Mandarin dialect into Mandarin, and, second, literary techniques
were used to make the written product appear as if it transcribed actual speech. 14) The first condition suggests that in the very act of
transcription some "translation" of encounter dialogue exchanges inevitably took
place; the second is merely our recognition of the fact that we are dealing with a genre
primarily of "text" rather than "event." In other words, rather than
thinking of the Tsu-t’ang chi anecdotes as sources of information about what
happened in Ch’an history in the eighth century, we should approach them as evidence for
how Ch’an figures thought and wrote in the tenth.

These speculations and inferences have played an important role in determining the
course of the present research, but they will have to await another venue to be examined
as they deserve. Here I must emphasize the extraordinary nature of the Tsu-t’ang chi
and the great temporal disconformity between the supposed emergence of encounter dialogue
as a religious practice and its transcription into written form.15)   True, this text is one in a series of "transmission of
the lamp history" texts, which begins in the second decade of the eighth century, so
that its basic structure is not unprecedented. However, with the exception of some partial
and/or equivocal examples introduced below, no earlier transcriptions of encounter
dialogue now exist, and it is stunning for the first known representatives of this new
genre to appear for the very first time in such extensive form. It is not only that there
is such a substantial volume of this material appears all in one text, although this is of
course striking, but also that the material included shows all the signs of a mature oral
genre. That is, these are not raw, disconnected stories, Often we find different versions,
comments, and changes that imply both a lively discourse community and conscious editorial
intervention. Obviously, the Ch’an community as a whole is engaged in a shared or common
dialogue about the spiritual implications of a whole is engaged in a shared or common
dialogue about the spiritual implications of a number of profound statements and telling
anecdote. And, of course, they were organized into the comprehensive genealogical
framework of the "transmission of the lamp history" genre.

Eventually, processes such as these lead to the emergence during the Sung dynasty of
the Kung-an chi 公案集 (J. K?an sh?) or precedent anthologies, in which
particular snippets of encounter dialogue material were collated into series and their
most crucial passages used to form curricula of meditation subjects. This style of
practice is referred to as "viewing the critical phrases," K‘an-hua
看話; J. kanna. I am referring of course to texts such as the Blue Cliff
(Pi-yen lu 碧巖錄 ; J. Hekigan roku) and Gateless Barrier
(Wu-men kuan 無門關 ; J. Mumonkan). Although it would be convenient to
think of these precedent anthologies as entirely a later development, we will see that the
tendency of teachers to put questions to their students becomes apparent well before the
appearance of the Tsu-t’ang chi. Was it possible, in fact, that the very editorial
tendencies that led to the emergence of the precedent anthologies were already apparent in
the Tsu-t’ang chi? We will not be able to address this intriguig question in the
present context. However, there is good evidence that early Ch’an teachers posed
unsolvable conundrums for their students to contemplate, a practice which is inescapably
similar to the later k’an-hua style of meditation. Therefore, it makes excellent
sense to couch these inquiries in terms of not only the oral practice of encounter
dialogue, but also so as to include certain encounter-style interrogations by teachers of
their students.) By "encounter-style" I of course mean inquiries that conform to
the style of emphasis on individual spiritual endeavor described for encounter dialogue

I will introduce an example from the Tsu-t’ang chi at the end of this paper.
Based on the preceding considerations, though, we can specify the following questions to
be asked of the available evidence on Ch’an prior to the appearance of this important
text: Does any of the dialogue material of early Ch’an bear similarities to mature
encounter dialogue? Are there any partial transcriptions of encounter dialogue exchanges,
especially teachers’ questions that might have been used to guide students’ meditative
endeavors? At the most basic level, what are the criteria we should use for identifying
encounter dialogue material, or its prototypic variants, if any? And, at the opposite end
of the scale, is there any evidence for tendencies similar to those which led to the
emergence of k’an-hua or "viewing the critical phrase" type of Ch’an,
which seems to be a natural progression from the devotion to encounter dialogue perse?

II. The eightfold path to the emergence of
transcribed encounter dialogue and k’an-hua ch’an

Based on an admittedly sketchy review of the evidence, I have found eight separate
characteristics of early Ch’an Buddhism that may have contributed to the eventual
emergence of encounter dialogue and k’an-hua Ch’an. I have avoided previously
discussed doctrinal issues, such as the concepts of ^suunyataa(emptiness) and praj~naa(non-discriminating
wisdom), and the impact of Maadhyamika dialectic, etc. But this by no means limits us to
linguistic issues; below I will suggest that Ch’an had to develop a rationale for socially
oriented practice prior to the perfection of dialogue techniques. Obviously, none of these
characteristics is shared throughout the entire early Ch’an movement, and there are almost
certainly others not yet identified.

A. The image of the Ch’an master responding
spontaneously to his students

There are numerous examples of early Ch’an teachers being described as having special
abilities of teaching, which they exercised in an unstructured moment-to-moment manner.
Some of the earliest known expressions of this concern Hung-jen, the central figure of the
East Mountain Teaching and so-called "fifth patriarch." Hung-jen forms the
original nucleus of the hagiographical persona of the unlettered sage, and he is described
as spending his days in meditation and his nights tending the monastery cattle. As soon as
he was appointed successor to Tao-hsin, the previously silent Hung-jen was immediately
able to understand the problems of his students and teach them with a fluid, spontaneous
style that combined an appreciation of the Ultimate Truth with complete expertise in the
expediencies of religious practice. 16)    
Fa-ju, who was unique among Hung-jen’s students for spending so many years with the
master, is described as having unique abilities in his interactions with his students, so
that he could remonstrate them strongly without incurring resentment. His anger is
described as two empty boats hitting each other in the middle of a lake, which I take to
mean having a hollow sound that signified an absence of attachment or resistance. Also to
be considered here are Lao-an 老安, or Hui-an 惠安(584?-708) and I-fu 義福(661-736)
of the Northern school, who were the subjects of various occultish anecdotes.17) 

The primary examples of this religious type are of course Bodhidharma and Hui-neng. The
portrayal of Bodhidharma teaching Hui-k’o and others clearly developed over time and has
been documented so clearly by SEKIGUCHI Shindai 關口眞大 as to represent something of
an index to the evolution of the Ch’an ideology as a whole. Based solely on date of first
occurrence, though, it is significant for our purposes that the famous "pacification
of the mind" exchange between Bodhidharma and Hui-k’o does not appear until the
publication of the Tsut’ang chi in 952. In earlier texts, Bodhidharma is
represented as teaching Hui-k’o by means of the transmission of the La^nkaavataara
(in the Hsü kao-seng chuan 續高僧傳 667) or Diamond Suutra (the
appendix to a text by Shen-hui, who died in 758); even the famous exchange between
Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty, a celebrated mismatch that neatly
illustrates the difference between the conventional "Chinese maarga model" and
the Ch’an "encounter model" of master-student exchange, is not recorded for the
first time until 758 or shortly thereafter (in the same appendix to Shen-hui’s text). 18) 

Hui-neng is of course a different story. Here we can safely accept the date of 780
suggested by both Yampolsky and Yanagida as the date of the Tun-huang version of the text
as its date of compilation, so that a few pages below we may consider an accretion to the
text in at least its two tenth-century versions. 19) 
That is, we can purposely avoid consideration of the existence of any earlier version of
the text and take the Platform Suutra as pertaining to a legendary creation of the
late eighth century and beyond, rather than the historical figure who supposedly died in
713. Here we have a figure who responds to situations with remarkable élan and
spiritual brilliance, in spite of the fact that he is supposedly quite untutored in the
literary arts: he composes insightful poetry (the "mind verse" [hsin-chieh
心偈] offered in response to ‘Shen-hsiu’s verse), makes mysteriously profound
pronouncements (informing two monks that their minds were in motion, not the flag and wind
about which they were arguing), and poses miraculous challenges to individual seekers
(showing the pursuing Hui-ming 慧命 CHECK that he could not lift the robe, let alone
take it back to Huangmei 20)). In all these cases,
Hui-neng is represented as enlightened, not by any doctrine he pronounces or essay he
produces, but rather in his interactions with the figures around him.

B. "Questions about things" in the Northern school

How did early Ch’an teachers interact with their students? The hagiographical images of
Hung-jen and Hui-neng are not our only clues: we do not know how the students responded,
but at least we have some evidence for the types of questions early Ch’an masters placed
before them.

The Leng-ch’ieh shih-tzu chi 楞伽師資記 [Records of the Masters and
Disciples of the La^nkaa[vataara], a "transmission of the lamp history"
written in the second decade of the eighth century, contains an intriguing set of
rhetorical questions and short doctrinal admonitions, which it refers to as
"questions about things" (literally, "pointing at things and asking the
meanings," chih-shih wen-i 指事問義).21) 
  Such questions and admonitions are attributed to several of the early masters, as
shown in the following examples:


When [Gu.nabhadra] was imparting wisdom to others, before he had even begun to preach
the Dharma, he would assess [his listeners’ understanding of physical] things by pointing
at a leaf and [asking]: "What is that?"

He would also say: "Can you enter into a [water] pitcher or enter into a pillar?
Can you enter into a fiery oven? Can a stick [from up on the] mountain preach the

He would also say: "Does your body enter [into the pitcher, etc.,] or does your
mind enter?"

He would also say: "There is a pitcher inside the building, but is there another
pitcher outside the building? Is there water inside the pitcher, or is there a pitcher
inside the water? Or is there even a pitcher within every single drop of water under

He would also say: "A leaf can preach the Dharma; a pitcher can preach the Dharma;
a pillar can preach the Dharma; a building can preach the Dharma; and earth, water, fire,
and wind can all preach the Dharma. How is it that mud, wood, tiles, and rocks can also
preach the Dharma?"


The Great Master [Bodhidharma] also pointed at things and inquired of their meaning,
simply pointing at a thing and calling out: "What is that?" He asked about a
number of things, switching their names about and asking about them [again] differently.

He would also say: "Clouds and mists in the sky are never able to defile space.
However, they can shade space [so that the sun] cannot become bright and pure…"


The Great Master (Heng-jen} said: "There is a single little house filled with crap
and weeds and dirt-what is it?"

He also said: "If you sweep out all the crap and weeds and dirt and clean it all
up so there is not a single thing left inside, then what is it?…"

Also, when he saw someone light a lamp or perform any ordinary activity, he would
always say: "Is this person dreaming or under a spell?" Or he would say:
"Not making and not doing, these things are all the great"

He also said: "When you are actually sitting in meditation inside the monastery,
is there another of you sitting in meditation in the forest? Can all the mud, wood, tiles,
and rocks also sit in meditation? Can mud, wood, tiles, and rocks also see forms and hear
sounds, or put on robes and carry a begging bowl?"


(Shen-hsiu} also said: "Is this a mind that exists? What kind of mind is the

He also said: "When you see form, does form exist? What kind of form is

He also said: "You hear the sound of a bell that is struck. Does (the sound} exist
when (the bell} is struck? Before it is struck? What kind of sound is sound?" He also
said: "Does the sound of a bell that is struck only exist within the monastery, or
does the bell’s sound also exist (throughout} the universe (in all the} the

Also, seeing a bird fly by, he asked: "What is that?"

He also said: "Can you sit in meditation on the tip of a tree’s hanging

He also said: "The Suutra says: ‘The Bodhisattva with the
Limitless Body came from the East.’ If the bodhisattva’s body was limitless in size, how
could he have come from the East? Why did he not come from the West, South, or North? Or
is this impossible?"22) 

There are a number of observations that must be stated about these interrogatives, even
if we cannot develop them all fully here. First, to me the image of Bodhidharma asking
about the things around him has the ring of believability, but only because I know what it
is like to move into a new language community and struggle to communicate with those
around me. By the rule of difference used in biblical interpretation,23)  I wonder if this may be a detail actually deriving from the
shared life experiences of foreign missionaries that was so trivial as to escape polemical
alteration. I can easily imagine Bodhidharma struggling with language, and yet at the same
time transforming some of his questions from simple linguistic issues into more profound
religious and philosophical queries. Second, although I have not made an extensive search,
my readings over the past decade and occasional discussions with specialists in Indian
Buddhism have not shown any specific antecedents to this type of inquiry in any earlier
Buddhist context. One of course might draw comparisons with the questions found in ch’ing-t’an
淸談 or "pure conversation" literature of the third and fourth centuries, but
I have not found this line of investigation to be fruitful. 24)
  Third, this style of interrogation probably had some general currency at the
beginning of the eighth century among Northern school figures. In the strictest sense, of
course, all we can say is that it was known to the compiler of the text, a successor to
Shen-hsiu named Ching-chüeh (683-ca. 750). The attribution of "questions about
things" is clearly unreliable with regard to Gu.nabhadra, who is included in the
Ch’an lineage solely in this text and without any known basis in fact. In spite of my
speculative comment just above, it is not fair to assert on the basis of this text that
such questions were actually known to Bodhidharma, either. Fourth, the terminology used
here is clearly based on a Chinese dictionary usage, in which chih-shih or to
"indicate [a] thing" refers to characters whose shape immediately invoke the
abstract meaning involved, such as the numbers one and two and the directions up and down(一,
二, 上, 下, respectively).25) Fifth, the logical
similarity and content of several of the questions implies a consistent intellectual
perspective, which seems not thoroughly undercut by their paradoxical nature. The
doctrinal implications of these questions would certainly merit further investigation.

Sekiguchi has already suggested that these "questions about things" resemble
the Kung-ans of later Ch’an. Although his analysis was superficial and unconvincing
to the extent that it inspired unusually harsh criticism from Yanagida, I believe that his
observation deserves reconsideration. 26) Obviously, we
cannot jump immediately from these questions to the k?an anthologies of the eleventh
century and beyond, but instead need to take into account the intervening efflorescence of
encounter dialogue. However, it certainly is reasonable to infer that these represent
something like the same sort of questions posed by masters to students in that later
genre. In contrast to kung-an anthologies, there is no context or literary
structure to explain how such questions were intended.

C. The "Ch’an" style of explanation in
eighth-century sources

In addition to these "questions about things," there are various hints in
texts from this period and slightly later of what seems like the idiosyncratically
"Ch’an" style of discourse glorified in the later tradition. It is not always
clear, to be sure, that one unified style of explanation is indicated, but the references
are enough to suggest that something interesting is being reported, but not yet recorded
in full.

The central figure in this respect is Shen-hsiu, already introduced above, who had a
special role as "Ch’an commentator" on the meaning of the suutras as translated
by ^Sik.saananda during the first few years of the eighth century. One longs to know what
the "Ch’an meaning" of any scriptural term might be, but no doubt Shen-hsiu’s
style of interpretation was largely identical to the "contemplative analysis"
found in his Treatise on the Contemplation of the Mind(Kuan-hsin lun
觀心論) and related works. Here Shen-hsiu represents all of Buddhism as metagogy for
the "contemplation of the mind" (k’an-hisn 看心), declaring that the
Buddha was simply not interested in the nominal subject matter of some of the suutras but
instead had an esoteric meaning. Thus rather than actually describing how monks should
bathe themselves, the Buddha was actually building an extended metaphor for meditation,
with the heat of the fire standing for the power of wisdom, the cleansing effect of the
water the efficacy of mental concentration, etc. Rather than describing actual votive
lamps to be used for devotion, the Buddha described the "truly enlightened
mind," in which the body was metaphorically the lamp’s stand, the mind the lamp’s
dish, and faith its wick, etc. Shen-hsiu writes, "If one constantly burns such a lamp
of truly suchlike true enlightenment, its illumination will destroy all the darkness of
ignorance and stupidity." 27)

Another clue for the prevalence of unconventional "Ch’an-style" dialogue
occurs in the epitaph for the Northern school figure I-fu(661-736) by Yen T’ing-chih
嚴挺之, in which the another recounts that he and Tu Yü 杜昱, another of I-fu’s
epigraphers, collected the departed master’s sayings as they were remembered by his
students. The two men were apparently unable to write down all of those sayings,
presumably because of their great number. Even though they recognized the value of these
sayings, neither of their epitaphs for I-fu contains anything that might correspond to the
subject of such a search. 28)  Although the format
of disciples collecting a master’s sayings is known from the earliest days of Ch’an
(witness the material associated with Bodhidharma’s Treatise on the Two Entrances and
Four Practices
(Erh-ju ssu-hsing lun 二入四行論) and the Treatise on
the Essentials of Cultivating the Mind
(Hsiu-hsin yao lun 修心要論), the
latter of which declares explicitly that it was compiled by Hung-jen’s students), but the
manner of the statements by Yen T’ing-chih and Tu Yü imply that a special kind of
pronouncement was involved.

As time went on, the epitaphs of members of the Northern school and other figures
important in the development of Ch’an began to include precisely this sort of material.
For example, note the following exchange and commentary form the epitaph for P’u-chi’s
普寂 student Fa-yün 法雲 (d.766):

"Has the Buddha’s teaching been transmitted to you?"

"I have a sandalwood image [of the Buddha] to which I pay reverence."

[This reply was] profound yet brief, and those listening felt chills of loneliness. The
day after [the questioner, a prominent official,] left, Fa-yün died without illness
while sitting cross-legged on his chair.29) 

After all the hyperbole about Shen-hsiu’s being equivalent to a buddha and P’u-chi’s
being the religious teacher of the universe (themes stated in documents from the first
half of the eighth century as part of the Northern school’s campaign for public
recognition), it is perfectly natural to find a slightly later master deflating the idea
of the transmission altogether.

The epitaph for Hui-chen 慧實(673-751), who was more closely affiliated with the
T’ien-t’ai and Vinaya schools than with Ch’an, includes a more explicit reference to and
several examples of what seems like encounter dialogue:

"When people do not understand, I use the Ch’an [style of] teaching(ch’an-shuo

QUESTION: "Are not the teachings of the Southern and Northern [schools]

ANSWER: "Outside the gates of both houses is a road to everlasting peace."

QUESTION: "Do the results of religious practice vary according to the extent [of

ANSWER: "When a drop of water falls from the cliff, it knows the morning

QUESTION: "How can one who is without faith achieve self-motivation [in spiritual

ANSWER: "When the baby’s throat is closed (i. e., when choking), the mother yells
to frighten it [loose]. Great compassion is unconditioned, but it can also cause [a
student to] whimper."30)

A confirmed skeptic might suggest that Hui-chen is merely answering in easily
understood metaphors, rather than in some really new "Ch’an [style of]
teaching." If this is the case, then we must infer that a new type of metaphorical or
metagogic usage became the vogue in Ch’an Buddhism during the second half of the eighth
century, for such usage is also apparent in the biographies of Fa-ch’in 法欽 (714-92)
and Hsüan-lang 玄朗 (673-754), well-known representatives of the Oxhead and
T’ien-t’ai schools, respectively. 31) The Sung
kao-seng chuan
宋高僧傳 [Biographies of Eminent Monks (Compiled During the) Sung]
and Ching-te ch’üan-teng lu 景德傳燈錄 [Records of the Transmission of
the Lamp (Compiled During the) Ching-te (Era, or 1044)] contain several examples of
encounter dialogue involving Northern school figures, although of course these examples
may be later fabrications. 32)  The practice of
this prototypic encounter dialogue may have had a much wider currency than the extant body
of literature suggests, and the members of the Northern school may have only been the
first to legitimize its use within the Ch’an tradition,

D. Doctrinal bases for the social orientation of
early Ch’an practice

What were early Ch’an practitioners doing when using paradoxical interrogation,
dialogue, and interactive training methods? Since they do not tell us explicitly,33) our only recourse is to turn to the voluminous writings
they did bequeath to us and explore them for clues. There are obvious methodological
problems in this approach involving interpretive leaps and projections, but I see no other

One of the most clearly apparent features of the Treatise on the Two Entrances and
Four Practices
attributed from quite early on is its bimodal structure, which consists
of one abstract and one active "entrance" or "access" to
accomplishment of the Dharma. Although there are several different ways in which one can
read this text, one of the most appropriate and useful readings is to take them as
introvertive and extrovertive, respectively. That is, the "entrance of
principle" refers to interior cultivation, mental practice undertaken deep within the
individual’s psyche, and the "entrance of practice" refers to practice
undertaken actively and in interaction with the world.

Other than dialogue per se, the other important question to be considered here is the
extent to which the doctrinal formulations of the Northern school’s Five Expedient
Means (Wu fang-pien
五方便) may have provided justification for the emergence of
encounter dialogue. Here I am not thinking of encounter dialogue so much as an oral
practice, but in the more general category of its identity as a social practice.
That is, is there anything in the Five Expedient Means that provides justification
for the outward, social dimension of Ch’an religious practice?

The answer to this question is of course affirmative, the key passage being the
following (from section J):

Bodhisattvas know the fundamental motionlessness of the six senses, their internal
illumination being distinct and external functions autonomous. This is the true and
constant motionlessness of the Mahaayaana.

[QUESTION]: What do "internal illumination being distinct" and "external
functions autonomous" means?

ANSWER: Fundamental wisdom (ken-pen chih 根本智) is "internal
illumination being distinct." Successive wisdom (hou-te-chih 候得智) is
"external functions autonomous."

[QUESTION]: What are fundamental wisdom and successive wisdom?

ANSWER: Because one first realizes the characteristic of the transcendence of the body
and mind, this is fundamental wisdom. The autonomous [quality of] knowing and perception
and the nondefilement [associated with the enlightened state] are successive wisdom. The
first realization of the fundamental…. if realization [of the transcendence of body and
mind] were not first, then knowing and perception would be completely defiled. Know
clearly that the autonomous [spontaneity of] knowing and perception is attained after that
realization and is called successive wisdom.

When the mind does not activate on the basis of the eye’s perception of form, this is
fundamental wisdom. The autonomous [spontaneity of] perception is successive wisdom. When
the mind does not activate on the basis of the ear’s hearing of sounds, this is
fundamental wisdom. The autonomous [spontaneity of] hearing is successive wisdom. The
nose, tongue, body, and consciousness are also the same. With the fundamental and
successive [wisdoms], the locations [ch’u 處) are distinct, the locations are
emancipated. The senses do not activate, and the realizations are pure. When successive
moments of mental [existence] are nonactivating, the senses are sagely (sheng 聖).

Now, the terms "fundamental wisdom" (mula-j~naana)
and "successive wisdom" (p.r.s.tha-labdha-j~naana) are well known from
the Abhidharmako^sa and many subsequent texts, but they do not occur CHECK with any
emphasis in the Lotus Suutra, which is supposed to be the basis of this section of
the Five Expedient Means. 34) Since this and
other examples of Northern school literature revel in playing with and immediately
discarding doctrinal formulations, there is little reason to speculate on why this
particular pair of terms should occur here. The important issue is the congruence between
this and other dyads used.

Scattered throughout the same section of the Five Expedient Means we find
various statements involving this dyad:

If the mind does not activate, the mind is suchlike. If form does not activate, form is
suchlike. Since the mind is suchlike the mind is emancipated. Since form is suchlike form
is emancipated. Since mind and form both transcend [thoughts], there is not a single
thing. 35)

The transcendence of mind is enlightenment of self, with no dependence (yüan
緣) on the five senses. The transcendence of form is enlightenment of others, with no
dependence on the five types of sensory data. The transcendence of both mind and form is
to have one’s practice of enlightenment perfect and complete (chüeh-hsing yüan-man
覺性圓滿) and is equivalent to the universally "same" dharmakaaya of
a Tathaagata. 36) 

The transcendence of though is the essence, and the perceptive faculties (jianwen
hi) are the function. Serenity (chi 寂) is the essence, and illumination (chao
照) is the function. "Serene but always functioning; functioning but always
serene." Serene but always functioning-this is the absolute (li 理)
corresponding to phenomena (shih 事). Functioning but always serene-this is
phenomena corresponding to the absolute. Serene yet always functioning-this is form
corresponding to emptiness. Functioning yet always serene-this is emptiness corresponding
to form….

Serenity is unfolding; illumination is constriction (lit., "rolling up").
Unfolded, it expands throughout the dharmadhaatu. Constricted, it is incorporated
in the tip of a hair. Its expression [outward] and incorporation [inward] distinct, the
divine function is autonomous.37) 

The meaning of enlightenment is that the essence of the mind transcends thoughts.
Transcending the characteristic of craving, it is equivalent to the realm of space, which
pervades everywhere. This is called enlightenment of self. Transcending the characteristic
of anger, it is equivalent to the realm of space, which pervades everywhere. This is
called enlightenment of others. Transcending the characteristic of stupidity, it is
equivalent to the realm of space, which pervades everywhere. The single characteristic of
the dharmadhaatu is the universally "same" dharmakaaya of the
Tathaagata. This is called complete enlightenment.38)

These examples, which could easily be supplemented from later sections of the Five
Expedient Means
and other works, should suffice to reveal the basic Northern school
concern for describing not only how one understands the abstract truth of the
Buddhadharma, but also how one puts it into practice on behalf of sentient beings. This
bimodal structure is certainly indebted to the Treatise on the Two Entrances and Four
attributed to Bodhidharma and may be taken as a basic characteristic of
early Ch’an Buddhism.

It would be more convenient for our purposes, I suppose, if this bimodal structure
explicitly involved masters and students, and if it stated clearly that one was first to
become enlightened oneself and then inspire the enlightenment of others. Instead, as with
all Ch’an literature at this time (not to mention the texts of other schools), the
aspiring student is still invisible, and the recipients of the enlightened master’s grace
from the moment of successive wisdom onward are anonymous sentient beings. However, the
emphasis on the importance of activity in the social or inter-personal realm (which is
implicitly seen as temporarily subsequent but equal in value terms) is firmly established
with these formulations.

E. The use of ritualized dialogue between teachers
and students

The mechanical formulations given above are not the only interesting feature of the Five
Expedient Means
. The text must have been something like a set of teacher’s notes for
holding initiation and training meetings according to an approved Northern school program,
in which context it includes the following examples of ritualized dialogue. The first
example is from the very beginning of the text, just after the initiates are led
responsively through a declaration of certain basic vows:

The preceptor asks: What do you see (lit., what thing do you see)?

The disciple(s) answer: I do not see a single thing.

Preceptor: Viewing purity, view minutely. Use the eye of the Pure Mind to view afar
without limit, without restriction. View without obstruction.

The preceptor asks: What do you see?

ANSWER: I do not see a single thing.

D. View afar to the front, not residing in the myriad sensory realms, holding the body
upright and just illuminating, making the true essence of reality distinct and clear.

View afar to the rear…to both sides…facing upwards…facing downwards…in the ten
directions all at once…energetically during unrest..minutely during calm…identically
whether walking or standing still…identically whether sitting or lying down, not
residing in the myriad sensory realms, holding the body upright and just illuminating,
making the true essence of reality distinct and clear.

E. QUESTION: When viewing, what things do you view?

[ANSWER}: Viewing, viewing, no thing is viewed.

[QUESTION}: Who views?

[ANSWER]: The enlightened mind (chüeh-hsin 覺心) views.

Penetratingly viewing the realms of the ten directions, in purity there is not a single
thing. Constantly viewing and in accord with the locus of nonbeing (wu-so 無所),
this is to be equivalent to a buddha. Viewing with expansive openness, one views without
fixation. Peaceful and vast without limit, its untaintedness is the path of bodhi (p’u-t’i
菩提路). The mind serene and enlightenment distinct, the body’s serenity is the bodhi
tree (p’u-t’i shu 菩提樹). The four tempters have no place of entry, so one’s
great enlightenment is perfect and complete, transcending perceptual subject and object.39)

The second example is in the second section, which is nominally based on the Lotus

A. The preceptor strikes the wooden [signal-board] and asks: Do you hear the sound?

[ANSWER] : We hear.

[QUESTION]: What is this "hearing" like?

[ANSWER]: Hearing is motionless.

[QUESTION]: What is the transcendence of thoughts?

[ANSWER]: The transcendence of thoughts is motionless.

This motionlessness is to develop the expedient means of sagacity (hui fang-pien
慧方便) our of meditation (ting 定). This is to open the gate of sagacity.
Hearing is sagacity. This expedient means can not only develop sagacity, but also make
one’s meditation correct. [To achieve this motionlessness] is to open the gate of wisdom,
to attain wisdom (chih 智). This is called the opening of the gates of wisdom and
sagacity. 40) 

Here we find transcribed segments of ritual dialogue from a doctrinally specific
Northern school context. When looking for antecedents for transcribed dialogues in early
Ch’an texts, we should not overlook this type of material. That is, to what extent did
encounter dialogue grow out of a monastic training and ritual context in which students
responded to monkish ritual celebrants in thoroughly formalized manners? Elsewhere in the Five
Expedient Means
are other portions of this catechistic ritual, which demonstrate the
same form of scripted recitation-and-response pattern. This material skilfully weaves
Northern school doctrine into an intriguing mix of ritualized initiation, teaching
catechism, and guided meditation practice. I have already discussed the relevance of some
of the phraseology here for our understanding of Northern school doctrine and the
construction of the Platform Suutra;41) other
aspects of this material that deserve discussion include its bearing on the indebtedness
of early Ch’an to T’ien-t’ai formulations. 42)  
Here I would like to focus on the following possible reading of the implications of this
material: that Ch’an encounter dialogue derived not (or, perhaps, not solely) out of spontaneous
oral exchanges but rather (perhaps only in part) out of ritualized exchanges. Given
arguments already made by Griffith Foulk and Robert Sharf that spontaneity is merely
"inscribed" within the heavily ritualized context of Sung dynasty Ch’an, this
interpretation allows us to wipe out the distinction between the "classical" age
of T’ang dynasty Ch’an when encounter dialogue was spontaneous and the subsequent
ritualization of dialogue within Sung dynasty Ch’an.43) 
  At the very least, the examples of transcribed dialogue introduced above should
break us loose from the preconception of "event" and suggest we look elsewhere
for the origins of encounter dialogue as "text." I will come back to these
points later.

F. The widespread use of anecdote and dialogue in teaching

One factor that should not be overlooked is the widespread tendency within the
developing Ch’an movement to use anecdotal material and dialogue transcriptions for
teaching purposes. One can almost chart the ever-increasing anecdotal content of Ch’an
literature. One of my favorite examples is a story about a stupid couple brewing rice
wine, who’ve never seen a mirror and mistake their partners’ reflections on the surface of
the fermenting liquid as secret lovers; the moral drawn is that foolish ordinary people do
not recognize that the entire world is a reflection of their own minds.44)   The growth of the Bodhidharma legend over time is once
again relevant here, but need not be discussed again. Then again, the most important
individual contributor to this dimension of Ch’an was of course Shen-hui.

We do not have to accept the entirety of Hu Shin’s characterization of Shen-hui’s
historical importance-which clearly projects Hu’s own twentieth century concerns onto his
medieval subject-to recognize that Shen-hui transformed Chinese Ch’an. Whatever the
doctrinal significance of Shen-hui’s teaching of sudden enlightenment. whatever the
factionalist impact of his outspoken criticism of the Northern school, one of the ways in
which he changed Ch’an was in the extreme caution he made his colleagues feel about
describing their doctrinal formulations. I have labelled this impact Shen-hui’s standard
of "rhetorical purity," which mitigated against any expression using dualistic
or gradualistic formats. That is, Shen-hui’s vigorous attack on the dualism and gradualism
of Northern school teachings had a chilling effect on other teachers.

Simultaneously, Shen-hui was a master story teller, even as he was a master public
speaker. Many of the most famous stories of Ch’an appear first in the transcriptions of
his sermons and lectures: Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu, Bodhidharma and Hui-k’o, and CHECK,
but not, curiously enough, many stories about his own teacher Hui-neng. There is also a
substantial amount of transcribed dialogue within the Shen-hui corpus, either between
Shen-hui and his designated Northern school stand-in or between him and various famous
laymen of his day. There is a palpable sense of fictional creativity here, such that some
of the dialogues with famous laymen may very well have been made up out of whole cloth. On
the other hand, the dialogues do not quite conform to out expectations of encounter
dialogue, in that they are two clearly structured, too much of a logical pattern, to
represent spontaneous exchanges.

G. The fabrication of enlightenment narratives

There is another tendency of early Ch’an writings to be discussed here: the tendency to
compose fictionalized accounts of enlightenment experiences. Let me discuss the other
examples of this tendency before turning, in the next section, to the case of Hui-neng.

One of the best-known texts of early Ch’an is the Treatise on the Transcendence of
Cognition (Chüeh-kuan lun
絶觀論) of the Oxhead school faction, whose members
were known for literary creativity. This text describes an imaginary dialogue between two
hypothetical characters, Professor Enlightenment (ju-li hsien-sheng 入理) and the
student Conditionality (yüan-ch’i 緣起), of which the following is only the
barest skeleton:

Professor Enlightenment was silent and said nothing. Conditionality then arose suddenly
and asked Professor Enlightenment: "What is the mind? What is it to pacify the mind (anxin)?"
[The master] answered: "You should not posit a mind, nor should you attempt to pacify
it-this is called ‘pacified.’"

Question: "If there is no mind, how can one cultivate enlightenment (tao
道)?" Answer: "Enlightenment is not a thought of the mind, so how could it
occur in the mind?" Question: "If it is not thought of by the mind, how should
it be thought of?" Answer: "If there are thoughts then there is mind, and for
there to be mind is contrary to enlightenment. If there is no thought (wunian) then
there is no mind(wuxin), and for there to be no mind is true enlightenment."
… Question: "What ‘things’ are there in no-mind?" Answer: "No-mind is
without ‘things.’ The absence of things is the Naturally True. The Naturally True is the
Great Enlightenment (ta-tao 大道)."…

Question: "What should I do?" Answer: "You should do nothing."
Question: "I understand this teaching now even less than before." Answer:
"There truly is no understanding of the Dharma. Do not seek to understand it."
… Question: "Who teaches these words?" Answer: "It is as I have been
asked." Question: "What does it mean to say that it is as you have been
asked?" Answer: "If you contemplate [your own] questions, the answers will be
understood [thereby] as well."

At this Conditionality was silent and he thought everything through once again.
Professor Enlightenment asked: "Why do you not say anything?" Conditionality
answered: "I do not perceive even the most minute bit of anything that can be
explained." At this point Professor Enlightenment said to Conditionality: "You
would appear to have now perceived the True Principle."

Conditionality asked: "Why [do you say] ‘would appear to have perceived’ and not
that I ‘correctly perceived’ [the True Principle]?" Enlightenment answered:
"What you have now perceived is the nonexistence of all dharmas. This is like the
non-Buddhists who study how to make themselves invisible, but cannot destroy their shadow
and footprints." Conditionality asked: "How can one destroy both form and
shadow?" Enlightenment answered: "Being fundamentally without mind and its
sensory realms, you must not willfully generate the ascriptive view (or,
"perception") of impermanence."

[The following is from the end of the text.]

Question: "If one becomes [a Tathaagata] without transformation and in one’s own
body, how could it be called difficult?" Answer: Willfully activating (ch’i
起) the mind is easy; extinguishing the mind is difficult. It is easy to affirm the body,
but difficult to negate it. It is easy to act, but difficult to be without action.
Therefore, understand that the mysterious achievement is difficult to attain, it is
difficult to gain union with the Wondrous Principle. Motionless is the True, which the
three [lesser vehicles] only rarely attain."[?]

At this Conditionality gave a long sigh, his voice filling the ten directions.
Suddenly, soundlessly, he experienced a great expansive enlightenment. The mysterious
brilliance of his pure wisdom [revealed] no doubt in its counter illumination. For the
first time he realized the extreme difficulty of spiritual training and that he had been
uselessly beset with illusory worries. He then sighed aloud: "Excellent! Just as you
have taught without teaching, so have I heard without hearing…"45)  

I would not suggest that the preceding constitutes "encounter dialogue,"
because it is entirely too well structured and logical. This critique is also applicable
to two texts that share a single rhetorical structure: the Treatise on the True
and Essential Determination.46) In
each case, a single proponent of Buddhist spiritual cultivation is depicted as both
enlightened Ch’an master and sincere lay seeker. That is, the same individual is depicted
as both asking and answering questions concerning spiritual cultivation, in his identities
as monk and layman. I have always been amused by the openings of these texts: after
describing the dual identity of the speaker as both teacher and student, when the first
question is posed by the student the teacher praises it as the most profound inquiry he’s
ever received in all his years as a monk!

(Talk about self-serving!)

The narratives found in the Treatise on the Transcendence of Cognition, Treatise on
the True Principle
, and Essential Determination are manifestly fictional, but
it is reasonable to suspect that they were intended to model ideal teacher/student
interactions and may in fact have resembled to some degree actual exchanges that took
place between living meditation masters and practitioners. The point here is not to
speculate on the precise nature of such events, but to note that these texts represent an
innovative use of text in the Ch’an tradition. The same may be said for the Platform
, of course. In my study on the Northern school I showed how the events
described in this text could not have taken place, and the central point here is that the
very fictionality of the Hui-neng story is of prime importance.47)

H. The genealogical structure of Ch’an dialogue

Here let me add one other point about the example of Hui-neng, based not on the
fictionality of the story per se but instead the character of the protagonist. That is, I
suggest that there is a profound similarity between the story of Hui-neng and that of the
dragon king’s daughter in the Lotus Suutra: their total lack of the conventional
accoutrements of spiritually gifted persons. On the one hand, she was female, nonhuman
(although of high nonhuman birth), and severely underage-yet in a single moment she was
able to transform herself into a male, pass through all the trials and tribulations
expected of bodhisattva practitioners, and achieve perfect enlightenment. On the other
hand, he was illiterate, from the very edge of civilization in the far south, lowborn
(although his grandfather had been an official, albeit a banished one), and not even a
monk-yet he had the intuitive genius to be selected as the Sixth Patriarch.

It is in the story of Hui-neng that we find the last key to the emergence of encounter
dialogue transcriptions. The problem was not whether or not such dialogues were actually
occurring between masters and students, and if so how and to what extent. Rather, the
problem was the reluctance to transcribe what may have been virtually an everyday
occurrence in the back rooms of China’s monastic compounds. There had to be some epistemic
change that made it acceptable to transcribe, not only the words of the gifted and famous
master, but those of the student as well. The example of Hui-neng may have been a
significant factor in incurring this epistemic change, but the time was still not at hand.

It is generally believed that encounter dialogue first flourished in the faction of
Ma-tsu Tao-i 馬祖道一 (709-88), which is known as the Hung-chou school 洪州派.
Ma-tsu and his disciples are depicted in Ch’an records as engaging in spontaneous repartee
in what is almost a barnyard atmosphere of agricultural labor and other daily tasks. There
are enough dialogues concerning a large enough number of figures that it would seem heresy
to suggest that nothing of the sort "really" happened, that the encounters were
all "fictional." I will certainly not go that far here, but I cannot avoid
noticing a certain problem, already introduced above: whereas the encounters involving
Ma-tsu and his disciples are supposed to have taken place in the latter part of the eighth
century and beginning of the ninth, they are not found in transcribed form until the year
952, with the appearance of the Tsu-t’ang chi 祖堂集 or Anthology of the
Patriarchal Hall

We do have a much earlier text from the Hongzhou school, the Pao-lin chuan
寶林傳 or Transmission of Pao-lin [Monastery]. Only parts of this text
are extant, and scholars have generally assumed that the lost portions (which were devoted
at least in part to Ma-tsu and his immediate disciples) must have been incorporated into,
and thus were not substantially different from, the corresponding sections of the Tsu-t’ang
. Unfortunately, I cannot accept this assumption, for the simple reason that the
extant portions of the Pao-lin chuan do not contain encounter dialogue
transcriptions. There is a great deal of dialogue transcribed in this text, virtually all
of which is fictionalized representation of enlightened masters. However, none of this
dialogue has the same lively feel as the exchanges of the Tsu-t’ang chi.

There is one feature of the Pao-lin chuan, though, that I believe to be of
crucial importance: the rigid narrative structure of the text. This text describes the
lives, and to a lesser extent the teachings, of the Ch’an patriarchs from ^Saakyamuni
through Bodhidharma to Ma-tsu, and in each case the patriarch in question is described
twice; first as a gifted student discovered by the current patriarch and second as a fully
vested patriarch out searching for his own successor. It is curious that in no case (at
least up to the account of Huike) is the enlightenment experience of the patriarch in
question described; we have only the "before" and "after" images, not
any reference to or depiction of what we would think to be the most crucial event in the
entire process. For the present purposes, though, we may also note the great significance
placed on the patriarchs as students. That is, this text creates a structural parity
between the student as incipient patriarch and the patriarch as realized student.

I suspect that this structural parity played a role in making the transcription of
encounter dialogue possible, that is, in making the transcription of both sides of
encounter dialogue exchanges possible. However, it was not possible yet, and the
reluctance of this text to describe enlightenment experiences may imply that it was used
for popular teaching in the spread of Buddhism throughout the newly developing areas of
Chiang-hsi, rather than for training within the context of the monastic meditation hall.

III. Final ruminations

Because of the preliminary nature of this research, I will not add an integrated set of
conclusions. Instead, so as to indicate some of the different considerations that can be
applied to examples of Ch’an encounter dialogue transcription, let me present one brief
passage from the Tsu-t’ang chi. The following is the famous story of Ma-tsu’s first
encounter with Huai-jang:

Reverend Ma was sitting in a spot, and Reverend Jang took a tile and sat on the rock
facing him, rubbing it.

Master Ma asked, "What are you doing?" Master [Huai-jang] said, "I’m
rubbing the tile to make a mirror."

Master Ma said, "How can you make a mirror by rubbing a tile?" Master
[Huai-jang] said, "If I can’t make a mirror by rubbing a tile, how can you achieve
buddhahood by sitting in meditation?"48)

Did this really "happen?" There is obviously no way to prove that it did not,
but since the event is first reported some centuries it was supposed to have taken place,
we are certainly entitled to substantial skepticism.

More important than journalistic accuracy, though, is how the anecdote was recorded,
edited, augmented, and transmitted through both oral and written media. In the first
place, we can clearly hear echoes of Vimalakiirti scolding ^Saariputra for sitting in
meditation in the forest. This famous precedent has been recast in a contemporary mode, by
means of implicit reference to the "mind-verses" of the Platform suutra,
which of course involve polishing a mirror. The material that immediately follows on the
dialogue with Ma-tsu in the Tsu-t’ang cbi contains other references to the
mirror, which implies some sort of unified editorial inclination. Second, the reader
should notice the primitive character of this rendition of the story: neither location nor
time are specified ― all we have is the simple nucleus of the words, with no effort to
establish the context. Later versions of the story will add suitable detail, but it is the
nature of the Tsu-t’ang cbi to require its readers to use their imaginations
to provide their own context; in Marshall MacLuhan’s terms, this is "hot medium"
like radio that makes the readers or listeners actively imagine what is happening, rather
than a "cold medium" like television that gives viewers enough sensory data to
turn off their minds.

Third, this story is usually cited as Ma-tsu’s enlightenment story, or at least to
indicate his identity as Huai-jang’s student. Although this earliest version includes
several lines of subsequent dialogue between the two men, it does not contain either
statement explicitly. Based on this story Ma-tsu is traditionally thought of as
Huai-jang’s successor, with Huai-jang understood as a successor to the Sixth Patriarch
Hui-neng. However, when we look mire closely at the available sources, we see that Ma-tsu
studied with other figures as well, and that Huai-jang’s connection with certain Northern
school figures is ever so much more substantial than his problematic connection with

The point is that, from whatever may have happened during Ma-tsu’s religious training,
from some unknown point in time the Ch’an community developed this image of an encounter
between him and Huai-jang. Whatever did or did not happen, the news of that encounter was
dramatized and circulated in oral and/or written form. What we have in the Tsu-t’ang cbi
is something like the core of the story, with the reader, listener ― or perhaps the
teacher ― left to supply the details. As T. H. Barrett has written, this process
resembles nothing so much as the circulation of jokebooks at roughly the same time. As
with the formulaic notation of the Five Expedient Means, which seems to have provided the
liturgical skeleton on which Northern school teachers could superimpose their own
flourishes and interpretations, the encounter dialogue literature of Ch’an was prepared as
skeletal notations upon which teachers and students could improvise. In order for this
genre of literature to appear, though, it required a shared conception of Buddhist
spiritual practice, some of the elements of which I have attempted to isolate in the pages

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1) See Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism. A History
Volume 1 India and china
(New York: Macmillan, 1988), pp. GET. revised version info.
Ikky? Get source. (Not in Dumoulin.)


2) See Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols: Explorations in
, second edition (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), GET. In the following I
use either "orality" or the "Zen use of language" as shorthand for the
tripartite combination of dialogue, narrative, and orality.


3) See Shunry? Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal
Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
(New York: Weatherhill, 1970).


4) YANAGIDA Seizan, "The Development of the ‘Recorded
Sayings’ Texts of the Chinese Ch’an School," trans. by John R. McRae, in Lewis
Lancaster and Whalen Lai, eds., Early Ch’an in China and Tibet, Berkeley Buddhist
Studies, no.5(Berkeley, CA: Lancaster-Miller Press, 1983), pp.185-205, esp.pp.192 and 204
n.25, where the first compound (for "encounter") is defined.


5) See my "Encounter dialogue and the transformation of
the spiritual path in Chinese Ch’an, "in Robert E. Buswell, Jr., and Robert
M.Gimello, eds., Paths to Liberation: The Maarga and its Transformations in Buddhist
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992), pp.339-69.


6) The following summary draws heavily from my Northern
, pp. GET, although with the incorporation of more recently published analyses.


7) CHECK Yanagida and Faure translations. Consider one or two


8) See David Chappell, "The Teachings of the Fourth Ch’an
Patriarch Tao-hisn(580-651)," in Lewis Lancaster and Whalen Lai, eds., Early Ch’an
in China and Tibet
, pp.89-129; and Bernard Faure, The Will to Orthodoxy: A
Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism, trans. by Phyllis Brooks (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1997), p. 50ff. Although both Chappell and Faure take the section
devoted to Tao-hisn in the Leng-ch’iehshih-tzu chi as an authentic representation
of his teachings, I have argued that it is unlikely to be so; see Northern School,


9) In this paper I have intentionally over-simplified the
definition of encounter dialogue and the issue of when it first came to be transcribed.
Recently I have begun to consider hitherto unnoticed examples of Ch’an literature from
Tun-huang that include dialogue transcriptions that may test the boundaries of the usage


10) Certain examples of Shen-hui’s story-telling will be
discussed below. The dialogues in his texts involving Shen-hui himself are formulaic and
doctrinally oriented. I will defer documentation to my study of his teachings and
translation of his extant works, which is now in progress.


11) In an unpublished manuscript on early Ch’an history,
Jeffrey Broughton uses the term "metropolitan Ch’an" to encompass both the
Northern and Southern school phases, which largely completed for the same clientele of
cultured urbanites. While I choose to differentiate between the Northern and Southern
schools here(and recent evidence shows how much of Shen-hui’s efforts were in the
provinces), my use of "provincial Ch’an" is indebted to Broughton’s usage. CHECK
to see if he uses "provincial Ch’an." Yanagida, "Recorded Sayings,"
p.192, suggests that the practice of recording Ch’an encounters probably began with
Ma-tsu. The present article attempts to address this issue with greater nuance.


12) For the expalnation of "back room" activities,
Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life(Garden City, NY:
Doubleday & Company, 1959), pp. 106-40, esp.pp.109-13.


13) See the article cited in note 5 above.


14) Here I am drawing upon personal conversations with
Professor Mei Tsu-lin of Cornell University.


15) One of the indications of this disconformity is that no
encounter dialogue material has been discovered among the Tun-huang texts, even though a
set of verses by the compilers’ immediate teacher, Ching-hsiu Wen-teng淨修文 [人十登]
, occurs there.


16) See MeRae, Northern School, p.36. It may not be
precisely fair to suggest these were the earliest such descriptions in Ch’an literature,
since the same text (the Ch’üan fa-pao chi 傳法寶紀) simultaneously
provides information about other teachers. Also, the epitaph for Fa-ju, discussed
immediately following, antedates the Ch’üan fa-pao chi by two decades.
Nevertheless, Hung-jen was the earliest central figure around whom this sort of mystique


17) The metaphor about Fa-ju is found in the Ch’üan
fa-pao chi
, McRae, Northern School, p.264. For various stories about Lao-an and
I-fu, See Northern School, pp.56-59 and 64-65, and Faure, Will to Orthodoxy,
100-5(Huian, i.e., Lao-an) and 78-81 (Yifu, i.e., I-fu).


18) See SEKIGUCHI Shindai 關口眞大, Daruma no kenky?
達磨の硏究 (T?ky?: Iwanami shoten 岩波書店, 1967), which lists the various
elements of Bodhidharma’s hagiography and the texts in which they appear, arranged


19) Cite En? no kenky?. Check Schlütter and there: are
Daj?ji and K?sh?ji versions that old? Or, can they be taken as indicative of the Hhi-hsin
version, which was?


20) This story is expanded considerably as the Platform
evolves. See En? kenky?. GET. Yampolsky?


21) This section draws heavily on Northern School,


22) Northern School, pp.92-93.


23) See Perrin, CHECK Brakke and Jan’s Ugra presentation.



24) I have looked for similarities, to no avail, in Richard B.
Mather, trans., A New Account of Tales of the World, by Liu I-ch’ing, with
commentary by Liu Chün (Minneapolis, MN; University of Minnesota Press, 1976)…


25) See the definition in OGAWA Tamaki 小川館環樹, et
al., Shin jigen 新辭源, 改訂版(T?ky?: Kadokawa shoten 角川書店,
1994),p.413a. Of course, this makes me wonder all the more about any actual connection
with Bodhidharma’s efforts to learn Chinese and teach the Dharma.


26) Cf. SEKIGUCHI Shindai 關口眞人, Daruma no kenky?
(T?ky?: Iwanami shoten, 1967), pp.335-43, and YANAGIDA Seizan, Yaburu mono(T?ky?:
Shunj?sha, 1970), p.236.


27) See the Kuan-hsin lun, in McRae, Northern School,


28) See Northern School, pp.95, 294 n. No1, and 302 n.


29) See Northern School, pp.95-96 and 302 n.244.


30) See Northern School, pp. 96 and 302 n. 245.


31) See Northern School, pp. 96 and 302 n. 246.


32) The best example of this is Hsiang-mo Tsang 降魔藏
(d.u.); see Northern School, p.63.


33) And of course their somewhat later successors had a great
reluctance to explain their activities openly. Perhaps they were profoundly incapable of
doing so, for reasons we have not yet thought to explore.


34) This pair of terms is discussed in the Abhidharmako^sa,
26.4x, and Fa-tsang’s 法藏 Wu-chiao chang 五敎章, A3.64x. CHECK these! These
references are from Nakamura, 381c-d, where the two terms are correlated with self-use
wisdom and enlightening self, and other-use wisdom and other-use wisdom and enlightening
others. NOTE that these terms ae widely used in the Five Expedient Means. See
Mochizuki, 1269a-b and 1378b-c, 2689c-90a, and 4846b-cv. CHECK occurrence of terms in
Tendai CD.


35) Northern School, p. 174 (from Five Expedient
, section One, A).


36) Northern School, p. 175 (same, One, D).


37) Northern School, p. 178 (same, One, J).


38) Northern School, p.179 (same, One, M). I have
included only this one example of how a dualistic formulation is expanded into a
tripartite one, but others occur. For example, on pp.176-77 the text develops a different
tripartite variation in which the initial nonactivation of the mind is correlated with the
dharmakaaya, knowledge of the motionlessness of the six senses is correlated with
the sambhogakaaya, and perfect illumination through all the senses is correlated
with the nirmaa.nakaaya.


39) Northern School, pp. 173-74 (Five Expedient
, Introduction, C-E). For various minor comments on the terminology used, see Northern
, pp.228-29 nn.228-33.


40) Northern School, p. 180 (Five Expedient Means, Two,


41) See the conclusion to Northern School, p. 238.


42) Note Shen-hsiu’s 25-year residence at Yü-ch’üan
ssu 玉泉寺, previously T’ien-t’ai Chih-i’s 天台智?(538-97) place of residence.


43) GET Foulk and Sharf references.


44) See the Yüan-ming lun 圓明論, Northern
, pp.169-70.


45) Cf. John R, McRae, "The Ox-head School of Chinese
Buddhism: From Early Ch’an to the Golden Age," in R. M. Gimello and P. N. Gregory,
eds., Studies in ch’an and Hua-yen, Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian
Buddhism, no. 1(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), pp.169-253.


46) These titles are abbreviations of Ta-sheng k’ai-hsin
hsan-hsing tun-wu chen-tsung lun
大乘開心顯成頓悟眞宗論 [Treatise on the
True Principle of Opening the Mind and Manifesting the (Buddha)-nature in Sudden
Enlightenment (According to the) Mahaayaana], and Tun-wu zhen-tsung chin-kang po-jo
hsiu-hsing ta pi-an fa-men yao-chüeh

頓悟眞宗金剛修性達彼岸法門要決 [Essential Determination of the Doctrine of
Attaining the Other Shore (of by the Practice of Adamantine Wisdom (According
to) the True Teaching of Sudden Enlightenment]. I have discussed these treatises in
"Shen-hui and the Teaching of Sudden Enlightenment in Early Ch’an Buddhism," in
Peter N. Gregory, ed., Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in chinese
, Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism, no.5 (Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1987), pp.227-278, and although now I would be very hesitant to make the
historical assertions that form the heart of this article, the intriguing format of these
two essays is still worthy of comment. CHECK texts to see final outcome: is student
enlightened in each?


47) See Northern School, p. 6. McRae’s first law of Zen
studies reads, "It’s not true, and therefore it’s more important." That is,
historical events are trivial in comparison with how legends and myths live in the popular



48) TTC, 72a14-b3.


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sudden awakening-sudden cultivation / sudden awakening-gradual cultivation

Wisdom, Compassion, and Zen Social Ethics: the Case of Chinul, Sŏngch’ŏl, and Minjung Buddhism in Korea

American University
Department of Philosophy and Religion

This essay examines the possibility of Zen social ethics by contemplating the relationship between wisdom and compassion in two Korean Zen masters, Pojo Chinul and T’oe’ong Sŏngch’ŏl. Unlike the common assumption that wisdom and compassion naturally facilitate each other in Zen practice, I contend that in both Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl, they are in a relationship of tension rather than harmony and that such a tension provides a ground for Zen social ethics. In this context the Minjung Buddhist movement in contemporary Korea is discussed as an example of Zen social activism that makes visible the social dimension of Zen philosophy and practice.

Recent Buddhist scholarship in the West has raised a question regarding how to understand Zen teachings in the larger milieu of the life-world beyond monastic experiences. In other words, is ethics possible in Zen Buddhism and, if so, what kind of ethics does Zen offer? This further raises the question of whether Zen Buddhism can contribute to social activism. To answer these questions, in this essay, I will examine the relationship between wisdom and compassion in the context of how an individual’s path to realizing the teachings of Zen Buddhism influences the person’s relationships with others, that is, his or her practice of compassion.

A common assumption is that wisdom and compassion are like two wings of Zen practice, and, thus, the attainment of the one “naturally” facilitates the other. This essay questions that very assumption and claims that wisdom and compassion are, in fact, in a state of tension, and even create a theoretical gap in two major Zen teachers in Korean Buddhism. This essay further contends that addressing the nature of this tension and, thus, finding its position both in Zen discourse and in its practice could be one of the first steps to understanding the status of Zen Buddhism in the ethical discourse. I will discuss the issue by examining the Zen teaching of Pojo Chinul (普照知訥, 1158-1210) and comparing it with the Buddhist thoughts of T’oe’ong Sŏngch’ŏl (退翁性徹, 1912-1993). After discussions on Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl, I will examine Minjung Buddhism (民衆佛敎, Buddhism for the Masses) in contemporary Korea as a possible example of Zen social activism.

1. The Mind: Doctrinal Ground for the Identity of Wisdom and Compassion in Pojo Chinul

Chinul’s Buddhist thought developed around the idea of the mind. At the very beginning of his early work, Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Samādhi and Prajñā Community (Kwŏnsu chŏnghye kyŏlsa mun 勸修定慧結社文, 1190), Chinul states(1):

When one is deluded about the mind and gives rise to endless defilements, such a person is a sentient being. When one is awakened to the mind and gives rise to endless marvelous functions, such a person is the Buddha. Delusion and awakening are two different states but both are caused by the mind. If one tries to find the Buddha away from this mind, one will never find one.

In another of his essays, Secrets on Cultivating the Mind (Susimkyŏl 修心訣, 1203-1205), Chinul also teaches (HPC 4.708b):

If one wants to avoid transmigration, the best way is to search for the Buddha. Though I said “search for the Buddha,” this mind is the Buddha. The mind cannot be found in a distant place but is inside this body.

Also in Straight Talk on the True Mind (Chinsim chiksŏl, 眞心直說, around 1205), Chinul advises that the role of patriarchs is “to help sentient beings look at their original nature by themselves” (HPC 4.715a).

By identifying the Buddha with the mind and one’s original nature, Chinul joins many other Zen masters to whom the identity between the Buddha and sentient beings in their original state marks the basic promise of the school. Chinul further characterizes the original state of a sentient being as a state of liberation and, thus, advises his contemporary practitioners (HPC 4.700b):

Why don’t you first trust that the mind is originally pure, the defilement empty. Do not suspect this but practice, by relying on this. Outwardly observe precepts, and forget about binding or attachment; inwardly practice samādhi, which, however, should not be suppression. [Then, w]hen one detaches oneself from evil, there is nothing to cut off, and when one practices meditation, there is nothing to practice. The practice without practice, the cutting off without cutting off, can be said to be real practice and cutting off.

Through such paradoxical statements as “practice without practice” or “cutting off with nothing to cut off,” Zen Buddhism, including that of Chinul, emphasizes that the ultimately realized liberated state of enlightenment is none other than the original state of a being. Chinul describes such a state of the mind as the original mind of both the Buddha and sentient beings. In the Secrets on Cultivating the Mind, Chinul clarifies this non-existence of the differences between the Buddha and sentient beings through his emphasis on “the mind of marvelous knowing” (Kor. yŏngchi chisim, 靈知之心) which is empty and quiet (Kor. kongjŏk, 空寂). As Chinul states (HPC 4.710a):

The deluded thoughts are originally quiet, and the outside world is originally empty; in the place where all dharmas are empty exists the marvelous knowing, which is not dark. This mind of marvelous knowing, which is empty and quiet, is your original face. This is also the dharma-recognition that has been mysteriously transmitted through all the Buddhas in the three worlds and all the patriarchs and dharma teachers.

The combination of emptiness and the non-empty nature of emptiness deserves further analysis. Emptiness and quietness are the ontological reality of a being, whereas marvelous knowing is the epistemological ground for the being’s awareness of the empty and quiet nature of one’s existence, which is repeatedly represented as the mind in Chinul. Chinul responds to the question requesting a further elaboration on the quiet and marvelous mind by pointing out that neither an entity (an individual) nor the actions of the entity—both physical and mental—has one identifiable control center. Hence, both an entity and its actions are empty. Their source, which Chinul describes as nature (Kor. sŏng 性), is empty and, thus, cannot have a shape. Hence Chinul states (HPC 4.710c):

Since there is no shape, how can it be either big or small? Since it is neither big nor small, how can there be limits? There being no limits, there is neither inside nor outside; there being neither inside nor outside, there is neither far nor close; there being neither far nor close, there is neither this nor that; there being neither this nor that, there is neither going nor coming; there being neither going nor coming, there is neither life nor death; there being neither life nor death, there is neither past nor present; there being neither past nor present, there is neither delusion nor awakening; there being neither delusion nor awakening, there is neither the secular nor the sacred; there being neither the secular nor the sacred, there is neither purity nor impurity; there being neither purity nor impurity, there is neither right nor wrong; there being neither right nor wrong, all the names and sayings cannot explain it.

The statement succinctly sums up the logical development of the ontological status of a being, and its implications in religious practice, and then its position in ethical discourse. The non-discriminative nature of one’s being negates the secular distinctions of binary opposites, which has been identified as one major obstacle that Zen Buddhism needs to deal with in order to make it viable as an ethical system. For the sake of convenience, let us identify this as the first problem of Zen Buddhist ethics: ambiguity of ethical categories in Zen Buddhist discourse.

Despite this non-existence of the binary reality between the Buddha and sentient beings, the gap still exists, in reality, between the two. Chinul explains this bounded state of sentient beings on three levels: the first involves being bound through outside phenomena, the second, through inner desire, and the third, through the desire for enlightenment. One can identify them as epistemological, psychological, and religio-teleological bondages respectively, which an individual experiences as obstacles to the full realization of one’s original nature.

Liberation from outside phenomena has to do with the relationship between an individual and the outside world. In this encounter, the disturbance of the mind by the phenomenal world indicates that the practitioner is bound by the characteristics of the object of her/his perception. Whether the object is a thing or an event, the disturbance of the mind by an outside phenomenon gives evidence that the subject takes the phenomenon as if it had a substance of its own, and this perceptual illusion, according to Chinul, is created through the function of the mind. By understanding the phenomenon as if it had a substantial nature, the mind not only mistakes the nature of the object of perception, but misunderstands the subject’s own nature by imposing on the object certain qualifications. In this process, both the mind and the phenomenon turn into substances, creating a dualistic structure of the subject and the object, and binding both of them to imaginary substances.

The second and the third instances of bondage—i.e., bondage through an inner desire (or psychological binding) and bondage through the teleological idea (or religio-teleological binding)—can be explained through the same logic. Such emotional reactions to the outside world as greed, anger, or pleasure have meaning only when the outside phenomenon has a substantial nature in and of itself. When its nonsubstantiality is understood by the practitioner in the first place, not only does the emotional reaction lose its meaning, but it proves to the practitioner the non-substantiality of the practitioner’s reaction itself. The realization of the first and second instances of bondage opens a way of being liberated from the third, for a logical conclusion indicates that, from the beginning, there was nothing for the practitioner to free her/himself from. Searching for a goal, that is, enlightenment per se, turns out to be the practitioner’s illusion. At this point, the original state of the practitioner is confirmed as the state of full liberation, that of wisdom.

This brief analysis of the status of sentient beings in bondage reflects the inward movement in Zen Buddhism’s understanding of an individual’s reality, and, thus, the practitioner’s realization of innate wisdom. Bondage begins with one’s mind and so does liberation from bondage. The subjective and individualistic nature of one’s realization of original nature has been addressed as another problem in the construction of Zen Buddhist ethics. We will identify this as the subjectivism of Zen practice.

This identity of difference and difference of identity between the enlightened and unenlightened leads us to the third problem in Zen ethics: the issue of the ethical agent. In his essay on Chinul’s Buddhism, Hyŏnghyo Kim introduces the idea of existentiality (Kor. siljonsŏng, 實存性) and essentiality (Kor. ponjilsŏng, 本質性) of self-nature (Kor. chasŏng, 自性). Characterizing Chinul’s Buddhism as “metaphysics of the self-mind [Kor. chasim, 自心]” (Kim 1996:8), Kim defines the meaning of awakening in Chinul as follows: “As the mind becomes calm in the process of its acceptance of self-nature, the existential mind experiences a metaphysical acceptance of self-nature; such acceptance is the awakened mind [Kor. osim, 悟心]” (ibid:19). In other words, the existential mind is the unenlightened aspect of the mind, whereas self-nature is the mind in its original state; the former is bound to various aspects of the worldliness of an individual, whereas the latter is free from such bondages. When the former, the existential mind, becomes one with the essence of self-nature, the existential mind turns into the true mind (Kor. chinsim, 眞心). Kim’s philosophical rephrasing of Chinul’s Zen thought elaborates on the problem of ethical agency in Chinul’s thought. Is the essential (enlightened) mind the ethical agent (i.e., for compassion) or the existential (unenlightened) mind? On a theoretical level, they cannot be separated. On the other hand, it is true that there exists a gap between the two in the real world.

The three issues that I have identified as problems in Zen ethical discourse—i.e., ambiguity of ethical categories, subjectivism of practice, and ambiguity in the identity of the ethical agent—are not separate issues, but closely related. As the fourth entry in this list, we also need to consider the public meaning of Zen awakening. In other words, if original nature is an awakened state, how does it enable an individual to practice virtuous behaviors, which are understood as a natural outcome of one’s recovery of the state of original mind? Why does the ontological recovery of one’s original state facilitate moral behaviors and bodhisattvic activities?

More often than not, Zen Buddhist tradition has offered, if any, a foggy response to this issue. Chinul could be one example. Examine the following statement by Chinul from his Encouragement to Practice (HPC 4.699b):

Vain is all phenomena. [When you encounter phenomena] search for the fundamental cause of them. Don’t be influenced by them, but keep your entire body in a calm state, firmly close the castle of your mind, and make more efforts for concentration. You will find a quiet returning place, which is comfortable and without discontinuity. In that situation, the mind of love or hatred will naturally disappear; compassion and wisdom will naturally become clearer as your evil karma will naturally cut off and meritorious behavior will naturally be advanced [emphasis mine].

In this passage, correction of perceptual illusion is directly connected with moral activities. In other places in the same text, Chinul quotes a gāthā that runs: “Dhyāna is the armor of diamond. It is capable of fending off the arrows of defilement; Dhyāna is the storehouse of wisdom; it is the field of all kinds of meritorious virtues” (HPC 4.701a). In this gāthā, meditation leads one to virtuous behaviors. Not only is there no explanation of why that should be the case, Chinul does not explain the nature of this meritorious behavior either. Does it have to do with social engagement, or is the fact that one is free from all illusionary thoughts itself virtuous behavior?

Chinul’s “naturalist” position exposed in the above seems a good example of what James Whitehill criticized as a “transcendence trap” of a romanticized version of Zen Buddhist ethics: “The trap misleads them [interpreters of Zen] and us into portraying the perfected moral life as a non-rational expressiveness, something natural, spontaneous, non-linguistic, and uncalculating” (Whitehill 2000:21). Although it is true that Zen Buddhism has not been very eager to provide a clear response to the problem that Whitehill identified here, a close examination of Chinul’s texts indicates that Chinul was actually keenly aware of this problem and constantly emphasized the gap between sentient beings and the Buddha, as much as confirming their identities. The coexistence of both the emphasis of identity and, at the same time, the differences between the Buddha and sentient beings, and thus the intrinsic identity of wisdom and compassion and their differences, could confuse practitioners and cause a theoretical conflict in Chinul’s Buddhism. However, binary postulations in Zen tradition, including the Buddha and sentient beings, wisdom and compassion, the unenlightened and the enlightened, awakening and cultivation, are actually in a relationship of tension as much as in a state of harmony. To consider the nature of this tension will take us into a new dimension in Zen Buddhist ethical discourse.

2. Sudden Awakening and Gradual Cultivation as an Ethical Paradigm

In the Secrets of Cultivating the Mind and the Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Special Practice Record with Personal Notes (法集別行錄節要幷入私記, 1209, henceforth Personal Notes), Chinul constantly brings up sudden enlightenment, followed by gradual cultivation, as he emphasizes the importance of returning to one’s original mind. In that context, Chinul also brings the practitioner’s attention to the fact that the existence of the mind, which is void, calm, and marvelously knowing, only confirms the ontological reality of a being, and thus, its realization is not accomplished naturally. That is, to Chinul, the exercise of the mind of the Buddha requires continuous and strenuous efforts, which Chinul articulates as sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation (Kor. ton’o chŏmsu, 頓悟漸修).

In the Personal Notes, Chinul summarizes the four Zen schools of China as they appear in the Special Dharma Records of Guifeng Zongmi (圭峯宗密, 780-841), and connects them with the theory of subitism and gradualism. In his commentaries, Chinul states that the doctrinal school spreads out teachings and that Zen makes a selection, and, thus, simplifies. The simplified teachings can be summarized in the following two aspects: “With regard to the dharma, there are absolute (Kor. pulbyŏn, 不變) and changing (Kor. suyŏn, 隨緣) aspects; with regard to humans, there are sudden awakening (Kor. ton’o, 頓悟) and gradual cultivation (Kor. chŏmsu, 漸修)” (HPC 4.734c). This statement suggests that, in Chinul, sudden awakening and gradual cultivation are not in the relationship of either/or, but represent two aspects of the same phenomenon. In the later section of the text, Chinul further clarifies his position on the relationship between awakening and cultivation and, thus, wisdom and compassion, as he states (HPC 4.755b):

Practitioners in our time often say, “if one is able to look into one’s Buddha-nature clearly, the vow and altruistic behaviors will naturally be realized.” I, Moguja, do not think that is the case. To see clearly one’s Buddha-nature is to realize that sentient beings and the Buddha are equal and that there is no discrimination between “me” and others. However, I worry that if one does not make the vow of compassion, they will stagnate in the state of calmness. The Exposition of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra says: “The nature of wisdom being calm, it needs to be guarded by the vow.” Therefore in the deluded state before the awakening, the strength of the mind is dark and weak, and thus is unable to realize the vow. However, once one experiences [the initial] awakening, one will be able to sympathize with the suffering of the sentient beings through one’s discriminative-wisdom, and thus exercise one’s compassion and make a vow, and practice the bodhisattva path according to one’s capacity, which will gradually complete one’s awakened-behaviors. How could this not be joyful?

Chinul, in this passage, emphasizes that a mere awareness of wisdom cannot be directly connected to compassionate wisdom; this statement, in a sense, contradicts his remarks in the Encouragement to Practice in which he emphasized the natural flow from wisdom to compassion. However, we should interpret this in two different ways. In this sense, Sung Bae Park makes a distinction between the realm of faith and the realm of practice in understanding the sudden–gradual paradigm in Chinul (Park 1993:217-224). In terms of the realm of faith, practitioners believe that their minds are the original Buddha; thus, enlightenment should be sudden. In the realm of practice, the realization of the innate Buddha-nature requires a constant cultivation. From this, one can further move on to the idea, as expressed by Kŏn’gi Kang, that sudden awakening is the realization of wisdom as gradual cultivation is the exercise of compassion (Kang 1999:43).

Pŏpchŏng moves one step further in his interpretation of the relationship between wisdom and compassion in the soteriological structure of sudden-awakening-and-gradual-cultivation in Chinul and states: “In the case of Śākyamuni Buddha, awakening under the bodhi tree represents sudden enlightenment, whereas forty-five years’ activities of guiding numerous sentient beings represents gradual cultivation. This also represents the two wings in Buddhism: wisdom and compassion” (Pŏpchŏng 1987:4).

This view on sudden awakening and gradual cultivation, especially in our exploration of Zen Buddhist ethics, suggests to us that the seemingly exclusive dominance of inward movement of the practitioner in understanding Zen practice needs reconsideration. At least in Chinul’s case, his constant reference to and emphasis on the importance of gradual practice after the initial awakening and further compassionate bodhisattvic behaviors as main activities of the gradual cultivation point to several issues in our previous discussion. Unlike the common assumption that Zen practice is exclusively dominated by introspective subjectivism, Chinul contends that even though introspectivism facilitates one’s awakening, it should also accompany social activities of compassion to reach its perfection. In other words, to Chinul, compassionate activities are manifestations of wisdom. This is an important point because, unlike the romantic version that envisions a natural flow of compassion upon the realization of wisdom, Chinul is claiming that compassion is wisdom; that is, wisdom per se without compassionate actions cannot be obtained. The commonly accepted movement from wisdom to compassion, then, is reversed here.

A support for such a claim—that wisdom is nourished by and perfected through compassionate activities—is ironically found in the teachings of the opponent of Chinulean gradualism. Known as the sudden-gradual debate (Kor. tonchŏmron, 頓漸論), the subitist critique of Chinul’s gradualism occupied the center stage of Korean Buddhist debate on Zen Buddhist soteriology in the 1990s, and continues to spark debates on the nature of enlightenment, cultivation, and the identity of Korean Zen Buddhism.

The debate was triggered by Zen Master T’oe’ong Sŏngch’ŏl who challenged the authenticity of Chinul’s Zen Buddhism in his publication entitled the Right Path of the Zen School (Sŏnmun chŏngno, 禪門正路, 1981). In this book, Sŏngch’ŏl claims that Chinul’s teaching of the sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation is a heretical teaching of Zen Buddhism.(2) On a surface level, the contrasting claims between gradualists and subitists seem clear. Enlightenment, for Chinul, means realizing one’s own nature; hence it is sudden. Chinul identified this first stage of awakening as understanding-awakening (Kor. hae’o, 解悟). This initial awakening, however, cannot be sustained continually due to the influence of the habitual energy accumulated within the practitioner throughout many lives. Thus, gradual cultivation after the initial awakening is necessary for the practitioner to reach ultimate enlightenment. To Chinul, the subitist idea of sudden awakening, followed by sudden cultivation, is also a part of sudden enlightenment, followed by gradual cultivation, because what is meant by sudden practice is none other than the result of gradual cultivation that practitioners performed in their previous lives, which makes sudden cultivation in this life possible.

Sŏngch’ŏl claims that realizing one’s own nature is possible only in the state of ultimate enlightenment; hence, the understanding-awakening that takes place in the first stage of the Ten Faiths falls far short of being any kind of enlightenment. Sŏngch’ŏl contends that the sudden awakening in sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation is mere knowledge, which creates the worst kind of obstacle for Zen practitioners. Whoever endorses sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation, Sŏngch’ŏl further claims, is a follower of intellectual knowledge, which is the heretical and wrong way of practicing Zen Buddhism.

Sŏngch’ŏl has been well known for his relentlessly strict view on Zen Buddhism. His radical subitism claims that there is only one complete enlightenment, which he defines as “seeing one’s true nature” (Kor. kyŏnsŏng, 見性). In the preface to his Right Path of the Zen School, Sŏngch’ŏl writes (1981:2):

The essence of the Zen school is seeing one’s true nature, which means to get through one’s true nature of suchness. To see through one’s true nature is not possible unless one completely cuts off the finest delusion in the eighth ālaya-vijñāna, the fundamental ignorance, which hides one’s true nature.

To Sŏngch’ŏl, “seeing one’s true nature” cannot be partial; in order to truly see one’s own nature, even the most infinitesimal and coarse delusion should be eliminated. Claiming subitism as the only authentic form of Zen practice, Sŏngch’ŏl insisted that, without maintaining consistency or integrity in one’s practice of hwadu (Ch. huatou, 話頭) in the state of moving or staying still (Kor. tongjŏng iryŏ, 動靜一如), in the state of dreaming (Kor. mongjung iryŏ, 夢中一如), and in the state of a dreamless sleep (Kor. sungmyŏn iryŏ, 熟眠一如), one should not mention being awakened. This is known as breaking through the Three Gates in Sŏngch’ŏl’s theory of enlightenment. Not only was he adamant in his view on the authentic way of Zen enlightenment in theory, Sŏngch’ŏl himself has been known as an uncompromisingly strict Zen practitioner. He undertook, for eight years, the practice of “never lying down” (Kor. changjwa purwa, 長座不臥) and, for ten years, the practice of seclusion (Kor. tonggu pulch’ul, 洞口不出, 1955-1965). He was also obstinate in his belief that practitioners should remain isolated on a mountain without becoming involved in worldly affairs.

Sŏngch’ŏl’s teaching of Zen Buddhism raises an important question in the context of our discussion on Zen ethical structure. Earlier, I proposed that sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation provides us with an ethical paradigm of Zen Buddhism in Chinul’s gradualism. If we apply this idea to Sŏngch’ŏl’s subitism, in which only rigorous Zen practice on a secluded mountain is validated, how do we find an ethical dimension? In what way is Sŏngch’ŏl’s rigorous subitist vision of enlightenment turning wisdom into compassion? His search for wisdom being so rigorous, there does not seem to exist room for compassion. Does this mean that Sŏngch’ŏl ‘s Zen teaching remains in the solipsism of practitioners, cutting itself off completely from the outside world, including the world of other sentient beings?

It is true that Sŏngch’ŏl has been a target of such criticism by more socially oriented thinkers. However, if we look into Sŏngch’ŏl’s Dharma talks, we find another aspect of Sŏngch’ŏl’s Buddhism, which seems to go directly against this subitist vision, and which endorses the Chinulean gradualist view and, thus, emphasizes the importance of compassionate activities as gradual cultivation in the process of one’s practice of Buddhism.

One of Sŏngch’ŏl’s major teachings includes his emphasis on making offerings to the Buddha (Kor. pulgong, 佛供). In his efforts to reform monastic life in Korea in the early twentieth century, Sŏngch’ŏl prohibited the practice of monks making offerings to the Buddha on behalf of lay practitioners in exchange for donations. Sŏngch’ŏl claimed that one cannot make offerings or pray “on behalf of” others: one should make offerings oneself. Sŏngch’ŏl further contended that “one cannot pray to the Buddha by mindlessly beating a wooden block in a temple. It should be practiced by helping others” (1987:112). Sŏngch’ŏl emphasized that making offerings to the living beings in the world is equal to making offerings to the Buddha since all the beings in the world are the Buddha. In his Dharma talk to Buddhist practitioners, he brought special attention to the practice of Samantabhadra-bodhisattva in the Huayan jing. In the section in which Sudhana hears of Samantabhadra-bodhisattva‘s great vows, Samantabhadra explains the Dharma-offerings as follows (Taishō shinshū daizōkyō 10.293.845 a.):

[Dharma-offerings mean] making offerings to the Buddha by practice as taught by the Buddha; by helping sentient beings; by respecting and embracing sentient beings; by emphasizing the suffering of sentient beings; by producing the root of goodness; by not deserting bodhissatvic activities; by not leaving the bodhissatvic mind . . . Such an utmost and universal offering should be made until the empty sky becomes exhausted; until the world of sentient beings becomes exhausted; until the karmic result of the sentient beings and their defilements become exhausted, and then my offering-makings will come to an end. But the empty sky and all of the above including the defilement of sentient beings cannot be exhausted, my offering-making cannot come to an end.

Sŏngch’ŏl emphasizes that, among the above seven Dharma-offerings, helping sentient beings is the marrow of the Buddha’s teaching. He also cites the story from the same sūtra that to offer a bowl of cold rice to a starving dog is a better way to make offerings to the Buddha than offering thousands of prostrations to the Buddha (Sŏngch’ŏl 1987:104-105). Sŏngch’ŏl’s teaching of making offerings to the Buddha, which was at the forefront of his teaching throughout his life, conveys the meaning, which is rather similar to Chinul’s teaching of the gradual practice of compassionate altruistic activities after the initial awakening. In one of his public Dharma talks, Sŏngch’ŏl even moved closer to Chinul in his gradualist position as he stated (Sŏngch’ŏl 1987:156-157):

For a hundred thousand kalpas, all living beings have been Buddhas, living in the Buddha land, so how come we still get lost in this pitch darkness? That is because we are yet to open our mind-eyes. Then, how do we open our mind-eyes? Either one should diligently practice hwadu [Ch. huatou, 話頭] and thus attain awakening or one should lead an altruistic life of helping others. Whether your business is selling rice-cakes, running a bar, or a butcher’s shop, whatever your occupation might be, learn hwadu and practice hwadu in your heart. In your heart, practice hawdu, and in your actions, help others: if such a life continues, someday, your mind-eyes will become bright like lightning, then, the Buddha’s teaching that everybody was originally the Buddha who has lived in the Buddha land for timeless kalpas will be clearly understood. From then on, you will be a teacher for both the human world and heaven and exercise endless great Buddha-works until the future comes to an end.

How does Sŏngch’ŏl’s emphasis on the importance of compassionate action in the practice of Buddhism in this passage go together with his rigid teaching of Zen practice that we discussed earlier? Should we dismiss the inconsistency between Sŏngch’ŏl’s view on making offerings to the Buddha through the exercise of compassion and his rigid view of sudden enlightenment and sudden cultivation to attain wisdom as a mere contradiction in his theory? Or is this gap and tension between awakening and cultivation, wisdom and compassion, rather something internal in Zen Buddhist teaching?

In his essay on Chinul’s view on sudden awakening and gradual cultivation, Robert Gimello proposes to understand the sudden–gradual paradigm in Chinul as a reflection of the tension within Zen Buddhism between the radical challenge to the existing status-quo and the necessity of ethical concern and responsibilities (Gimello 1990:231).(3) In other words, Gimello suggests that sudden awakening reflects the very promise of Zen Buddhism, whereas gradual cultivation meets the ethical dimension required for maintenance of religious practice. Gimello’s interpretation can also be applied to the seeming conflict between acquiring wisdom and the exercise of compassion. In both Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl, these two aspects—sudden awakening and gradual cultivation—create a gap or a tension in their teaching and lives. In the case of Sŏngch’ŏl, his rigid emphasis on subitism, which proposes the secluded practice of hwadu meditation, is combined with his strong emphasis on the gradualist practice of compassion in the form of making offerings to sentient beings in one’s daily life. In the case of Chinul, his emphasis on the gradualist practice of compassion as a way of obtaining wisdom created a gap with his own life, which was not much different from that of Sŏngch’ŏl in that Chinul preferred to stay away from society and remain in a mountainside monastery. This aspect of Chinul has led Woo Sung Huh to define Chinul’s ethics as ethics of mind, body, and space. In Chinul, Huh claims, in order for the mind to be pure, the body should be pure, and in order for the body to be pure, the body should be placed in pure space (Huh 1996:125, 138-150). Huh supports his idea by referring to the Compact Community of Samādhi and Prajñā, which Chinul created in his early years as a way of focusing on Buddhist practice and staying away from the corruptions of the secular world. In this context, Huh asks, if one is free only within the limitations of a conditioned state, how do we overcome the limitations of Chinul’s ethics, which functions only by leaving society (ibid.:184-185)?

3. Minjung Buddhism and Zen Social Activism in Contemporary Korea

The idea that the movement from wisdom to compassion should actually be reversed in Zen Buddhism, and that they are in a relationship that is characterized more by tension than by harmony, is in some way reflected in Minjung Buddhists’ understanding of Zen Buddhism. Minjung Buddhism (Kor. Minjung pulgyo, 民衆佛敎, Buddhism for the Masses) is a socially engaged Buddhist movement in Korea whose activities were most visible from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. Critical of the collusion between the ecclesiastics and the state in the Korean Buddhist tradition, Minjung Buddhism demanded that Buddhism change its direction and actively become involved in the lives of those who are alienated and exploited in society.

The idea of Buddhism for the masses in Korea first appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century when reform-minded Buddhist intellectuals proposed changing Korean Buddhism to correspond with the life of the general public, especially those who were marginalized in society. However, as a movement, Minjung Buddhism took shape together with pro-democratic and anti-government movements in Korean society during the military dictatorship in the mid to late twentieth century.(4) By its founding principles, Minjung Buddhism is Buddhism for the politically suppressed, economically exploited, and socio-culturally alienated. This sets it in clear opposition to traditional Korean Buddhism, which had a tendency to collaborate with the state, isolate itself in mountain-side monasteries, and, in general, be at the service of the upper class. Adherents of Minjung Buddhism emphasize liberation from all forms of suppression, especially that conducted by the state and the ruling class.

A question has been raised of whether Buddhist social engagement as offered by Minjung Buddhism can earn broader support from the Korean Buddhist community without first defining its relationship with Zen Buddhism, given that Zen Buddhism has been the dominant form of Buddhism in Korea. If we examine some details of the Minjung Buddhist understanding of Buddhist history and philosophy, the issue of defining the relationship between Zen and Minjung Buddhism appears to be critical. In an essay that considers the viability of Buddhist social engagement in the context of Korean Buddhism, the author Hee-Sung Keel summarizes Minjung Buddhism with the following six characteristics: (1) Minjung Buddhism considers the nature of the suffering of the people as socio-political, and refuses as idealism the idea of ascribing the cause of suffering to the individual’s mind; (2) it strongly criticizes traditional Korean Buddhism’s uncritical support for nationalism and its state-oriented nature; (3) it emphasizes the social and historical consciousness which Minjung Buddhism considers as lacking in traditional Korean Buddhism; (4) in this context, Minjung Buddhism is critical of Zen Buddhism for its individualistic and idealistic philosophy of the mind; (5) it highly values the Hīnayāna tradition and emphasizes the role of saṅgha as an ideal social community; (6) emphasizing the negative aspects of capitalism and nationalist Buddhism, it proposes the land of Maitreya as a Buddhist ideal society (Keel 1988:28).

Identifying the characteristics of Minjung Buddhism, Keel is less than positive about the interface between social engagement and Zen Buddhism as he asks “whether Zen enlightenment that aims to liberate us from the secular concerns in our lives is compatible with active practice of social ethics” (ibid.:28). Keel comes to the conclusion that Zen Buddhist identification of good and evil based on its doctrine of emptiness disables Zen Buddhism from offering social ethics; further, he claims that the identification of emptiness and forms deprives Zen of any room for ethics to be sustained within its system. Keel contends that the world confirmed with the enlightened mind, in which good is identified with evil, is not the same as that where the unenlightened individual suffers from various evils, the resolution of which is necessary for the members of a society to lead a happy life. Keel ends his essay with questions (ibid.:40): “Is emptiness compatible with compassion? Is it not that emptiness dissolves the real compassion that is needed to solve the real suffering of the sentient beings? . . . Where does compassion come from? . . . Is Buddhist compassion that is anchored on the wisdom of emptiness able to take the form of practical social ethics?”

The questions that Keel has posed above well reflect our discussion in which we identified four problem areas of Zen Buddhism in its encounter with social ethics. I am sympathetic with Keel’s agonizing efforts to find a place for Zen Buddhism in the social and ethical context of today’s world. However, in line with our previous discussion on subitism and gradualism as a Zen ethical paradigm, I would like to suggest that the problems Keel identified as limits of the Zen ethical paradigm need further consideration. This consideration includes the very foundation of Zen philosophy and the relationship between subitism and gradualism in Zen Buddhism. One clue to this consideration can be found in the philosophy of Minjung Buddhism, as was outlined by Yŏ Ikku. Like Keel, Yŏ also criticized some forms of Mahāyāna Buddhism, including Zen, Tiantai (Kor. Ch’ŏnt’ae), and Huayan (Kor. Hwaŏm) Buddhism, claiming that these Buddhist schools turned Buddhism into a subjective idealism by overemphasizing the mind and its emptiness, and, thus, obscuring the social and political reality of the general public (Yŏ 1988:123-127). However, unlike Keel, who could not find a positive connection between Zen and the Minjung Buddhist movement, Yŏ did not deny the possibility of the mutual incorporation of the two. In fact, Yŏ emphasized that only if Zen can reject the secluded shelter of subjective idealism, can Zen Buddhism’s radical rejection of authority be a powerful force for Buddhism to liberate the people from suppression and suffering.

The social dimension of Zen philosophy and practice becomes more visible in another Minjung Buddhist thinker, Pŏpsŏng, who joins Yŏ in his criticism of the subjectivist position of Buddhism, and interprets hwadu practice as a form of Zen social activism. In one of his essays, Pŏpsŏng asks (1990:223):

Is Buddhist activism a movement to deliver the theological doctrine called Buddhism or is it a movement that pursues an inner safety of an individual through a certain mystical practice proposed by Buddhism? How do we put together these two different categories of activism and Buddhism?

In this context, Pŏpsŏng claims that hwadu practice is not an individual’s encounter with “internal spiritual mystery,” but an activity through which one “negates the reification of conceptions and absolutization of being-in itself” (ibid.:223). And he further states (ibid.: 223-224):

[H]wadu practice is a thinking-activity that opposes falsity and fantasy and at the same time a creative historical movement through which one realizes one’s independence in spite of situational contradictions. Therefore, hwadu practice is not a training that makes one a perfect and holy self, as many idealist Zen masters have claimed . . . It is a question-in-action that one asks oneself with regard to the situation at hand.

Yŏ’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism’s potential as a social activism and Pŏpsŏng’s radical reinterpretation of hwadu practice in its social and ethical context help us fill the gap that Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl, the two more conventional-style Zen thinkers, left unanswered or at least ambiguous. In other words, what does it mean exactly that compassionate activities will complete the attainment of wisdom? What did Sŏngch’ŏl mean when he said that regardless of one’s occupations, one should practice hwadu in mind and try to help others, and then awakening will eventually take its own course? Obviously, Sŏngch’ŏl was not claiming here that practicing hwadu and helping others or running a bar are in two totally different dimensions; they are and should in some way be connected, however tenuous the connection might look at first regard. Chinul’s admonition that compassion and wisdom are not naturally connected to each other, but require practitioners’ constant efforts to make them work together is also in line with Sŏngch’ŏl’s teaching about Buddhist practice and its position in the life-world.

In Pŏpsŏng’s interpretation of Zen hwadu practice, together with Yŏ’s emphasis of a potential role that Zen Buddhism can play in social activism, Zen Buddhism does not remain as a solipsistic introspective subjectivism, but is projected as a practice for a mental revolution that further facilitates a socially engaged Buddhism, through the practitioner’s strenuous efforts to transfer one’s spiritual and mental change into the reality of one’s social existence. More importantly, the relationship between the two—mental revolution and social engagement—are not in a relationship of lineal process in which the accomplishment of the former naturally facilitates the latter. They are rather in a relationship of tension, through which both wisdom and compassion influence each other in a dynamic action. Constituents of tension in this case cannot be mutually exclusive, but mutually nourishing and stimulating. When we foreground a certain element in the constituents of tension and suppress others in an attempt to create a harmony or consistency in Zen theory, we risk the danger of envisioning either a purely asocial version of Zen practice or Zen social activism that negates the basic tenets of Zen Buddhism.

4. Conclusion

I have proposed four categories as problem areas in terms of understanding Zen Buddhism in the context of ethical discourse: (1) ambiguity of ethical categories; (2) subjectivism of practice; (3) ambiguity in the identity of the ethical agent; and (4) the relationship between awakening and altruistic action. I would like to contend that these four seeming problems in Zen Buddhist ethics are not irreparably negative markers for Zen Buddhist ethics. Instead, a serious consideration of Zen Buddhism’s position in an ethical discourse can revalorize the tradition itself—in the sense that Rita Gross claims that the feminist re-reading of Buddhism is a revalorizing of the tradition (1994:3). At the same time, considering the nature of Zen Buddhist ethics also challenges traditional normative ethics and demands a new ethical mode in our time. In the section below, I will briefly discuss why this is the case.

First, the subjectivist nature of Zen meditation has been understood as an anti-social aspect of Zen Buddhism. However, historically, Zen tradition per se has not developed as an exclusively meditation-oriented school, nor have Zen masters exclusively focused on solipsistic meditational practices in seclusion. I have tried to demonstrate this through the example of Sŏngch’ŏl. Even such a rigid Zen master as Sŏngch’ŏl, who remained in a secluded mountain place, provided a guideline for practitioners regarding how to transfer one’s efforts to obtaining awakening into one’s altruistic activities and vice versa. Secondly, this issue is also relevant to our understanding of the relationship between awakening (wisdom) and altruistic activities (compassion). In analyzing Chinul’s gradualism and Sŏngch’ŏl’s subitism, I have demonstrated that, in both cases, Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl emphasized to practitioners that awareness of one’s wisdom does not naturally transfer to the activities of compassion, and that one should constantly make efforts for altruistic behavior as one makes offerings to the Buddha.

Thirdly, ambiguity in the ethical category and the ethical agent are not so much a problem of Zen Buddhism per se as one that arises when one views the Zen Buddhist value system from the perspective of normative ethics. If the metaphysical concept of ethics grounds itself in the belief of human beings’ capacity as rational beings capable of distinguishing between right and wrong or good and bad, then Zen Buddhist ethics cannot follow the mode of normative ethics, for, from the Zen perspective, making a distinction itself creates delusion. This, however, does not mean that Zen cannot provide ethical guidelines, for ethics begins with the acceptance that such distinctions are possible only after appropriation and, thus, suppression in the decision making. One name for such an appropriation is bias; Zen Buddhism calls it delusion. What this suggests is that one cannot create Zen Buddhist ethics simply by appropriating Zen theories into the format of the current normative ethics; instead, Zen Buddhist ethics demands a new direction in our understanding of ethical categorization itself.

Zen Buddhism is not alone in demanding a new form of ethics that radically challenges normative ethics based on a metaphysical view of the world and its beings. Postmodernist thought, being a non-substantialist mode of thinking as Zen Buddhism is, has faced a problem similar to Zen Buddhist ethics; in this context, contemplation on the nature of Zen Buddhist ethics can go together with postmodern ethical thinking. In order to consider Zen Buddhist ethics in its full scope, a new ethical paradigm, to which both postmodern thought and Zen Buddhism can contribute, should emerge as an alternative to normative ethics.


(1) Kwŏnsu chŏnghye kyŏlsa mun (Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of Samādhi and Prajñā Community) in Han’guk pulgyo chŏnsŏ (Collected Works of Korean Buddhism 韓國佛敎全書, hereafter HPC): 4.698a-708a, p. 4.698a. Throughout the essay, for the translations of the titles of Chinul’s works, I have adopted Robert Buswell’s translations (Buswell 1983); all other translations from Classical Chinese and Korean are mine, unless noted otherwise.

(2) In response to Sŏngch’ŏl’s claim, a conference, “Enlightenment and Cultivation in Buddhism” was held in 1990 at the Songgwang monastery, the place where Chinul launched his compact community movement almost eight hundred years ago, and which has become the head-monastery in maintaining the Chinulean tradition. Three years later, the Hae’in monastery, where Sŏngch’ŏl resided as a headmaster, hosted a conference in which the sudden–gradual issue was actively debated.

(3) Only a Korean translation (without an English original version) was published.

(4) The expression “Minjung Buddhism” was first used at a college students’ meeting held at the Songgwang monastery in 1976 where a paper on the “Theory of Minjung Buddhism” was presented. A critical event took place in the fall of 1980 when, in the name of purifying Buddhism, the government cracked down on Buddhist headquarters and on more than three thousand monasteries. Known as the 10/27 Persecution, this event brought disillusionment to many Buddhists, which expedited the spread of Minjung Buddhism.


Buswell, Robert E. Jr. The Korean Approach to Zen: The Collected Works of Chinul. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983.

Chinul. Kwŏnsu chŏnghye kyŏlsa mun (勸修定慧結社文, Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Samādhi and Prajñā Community, 1190). In Han’guk Pulgyo Chŏnsŏ (韓國佛敎全書, Collected Works of Korean Buddhism), vol. 4. Seoul: Tongguk taehakkyo ch’ulp’anbu, 1982, 698a-708a.

Chinul. Susimkyŏl (修心訣, Secrets on Cultivating the Mind, 1203-1205). In Han’guk Pulgyo Chŏnsŏ (韓國佛敎全書, Collected Works of Korean Buddhism), vol. 4. Seoul: Tongguk taehakkyo ch’ulp’anbu, 1982, 708b-714c.

Chinul. Chinsim chiksŏl (眞心直說, Straight Talk on the True Mind, around 1205). In Han’guk Pulgyo Chŏnsŏ (韓國佛敎全書, Collected Works of Korean Buddhism), vol. 4. Seoul: Tongguk taehakkyo ch’ulp’anbu, 1982, 715c-723c.

Chinul. Pŏpchip pyŏrhaeng nok chŏryo pyŏngip sagi (法集別行錄節要幷入私記, Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Special Practice Record with Personal Notes, 1209). In Han’guk Pulgyo Chŏnsŏ (韓國佛敎全書, Collected Works of Korean Buddhism), vol. 4. Seoul: Tongguk taehakkyo ch’ulp’anbu, 1982, 741a-767b.

Gimello, Robert M. “Songdae Sŏn pulgyo wa Pojo ǔi tono chŏmsu” (“Zen Buddhism During the Song Dynasty and Pojo’s Sudden Awakening and Gradual Cultivation”), translated by Hosŏng Kim, Pojo sasang 4 (1990), 204-231.

Gross, Rita. Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Huayan jing 華嚴經 (The Flower Garland Scripture). In Taishō shinshū daizōkyō 大正新修大藏經. Tokyo, 1914-1922, 10.293.661a-851c.

Huh, Woo Sung. “Chinul ǔi yulli sasang ǔi t’ǔksŏng kwa han’gye: Taehye Chonggo rǔl maegyero” (“Characteristics and limitations of Chinulean ethics—in connection with Dahui Zonggao”). In Chinul ǔi sasang kwa kǔ hyŏndaejŏk ǔimi (Chinul’s Thought and its Meaning in Our Time), edited by Hyŏnghyo Kim et al., 123-192. Pundang, Korea: Han’guk chŏngsin munhwa yŏn’guwŏn, 1996.

Kang, Kŏn’gi. “Susimkyŏl ǔi ch’e’gye wa sasang” (“Structure and thoughts in Secrets on Cultivating the Mind“) Pojo sasang 12 (1999), 9-47.

Keel, Hee-Sung. “Minjung Pulgyo, Sŏn, kǔri’go sahoe yulliljŏk kwansim” (“Buddhism for the Masses, Zen, and Socio-Ethical Concerns”), Chonggyo yŏn’gu (Religious studies) 4 (1988), 27-40.

Kim, Hyŏnghyo. “Chinul sasang ǔi siljonsŏng kwa ponjilsŏng” (“Existentiality and essentiality in Chinul’s thought”). In Chinul ǔi sasang kwa kǔ hyŏndaejŏk ǔimmi (Chinul’s Thought and its Meaning in Our Time), edited by Hyŏnghyo Kim et al., 3-60. Pundang, Korea: Han’guk chŏngsin munhwa yŏn’guwŏn, 1996.

Park, Sung Bae. “Ton’o tonsu ron” (頓悟頓修論, “Theory of Sudden Awakening and Sudden Cultivation”), Paengnyŏn Pulgyo nonjip (White Lotus: A Collection of Buddhist Studies), 3 (1993), 201-254.

Pŏpchŏng 法 頂. “Kanhaengsa” (“Preface to the Publication”), Pojo sasang 1 (1987), 3-5.

Pŏpsŏng 法 性. “Minjung pulgyo undong ǔi silch’ŏnjŏk ipchang” (“Practical standpoint of the Minjung Buddhist movement”), Chonggyo yŏn’gu (Religious studies) 6 (1990), 223-228.

Sŏngch’ŏl, T’oe’ong. Sŏnnum chŏngro (禪門正路, Right Path of the Zen School). Seoul: Pulkwang ch’ulp’ansa, 1981.

Sŏngch’ŏl, T’oe’ong. Chagi rǔl paro popssida (Let’s See Ourselves Clearly). Seoul, Korea: Changgyŏnggak, 1987.

Whitehill, James. “Buddhism and the Virtues.” In Contemporary Buddhist Ethics, edited by Damien Keown, 17-36. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2000.

Yŏ, Ikku. Minijung Pulgyo ch’ŏrhak (民衆佛敎哲學, Philosophy of Buddhism for the Masses). Seoul, Korea: Minjoksa, 1988.

The Modern Significance of Sudden Awakening

From Book “Seon Thought in Korean Buddhism”, 1998

Written by Mok Jeongbae
(Former Professor, Dept. of Buddhist Studies, Dongguk University)

A. The Modern Definition of Sudden Awakening

1) The Problem of Sudden Practice and Gradual Practice

Recently, arguments on sudden awakening and gradual practice have once again become popular.1
Whether or not the issue can and will be ever resolved is still unknown. It is possible that the debate continues for a long time.
From the standpoint of the gradual practice idea, different theories can be suggested depending on the direction from which the issue is viewed. Directions include that of science, that of Seon study and that of Seon practice. But from the point of view of the Seon practice of sudden awakening, it seems clear that there actually cannot be any further discussion.2 But if awakening is regarded only from the point of doctrine or only from the point of Seon practice, the two are in confrontation and the problem will remain unsolved.
Actually sudden awakening is experiencing the culmination of meditation by the thorough practice of Seon. If one tries to enter the world of awakening by doctrine or logic alone, one only encounters big problems which are hard to solve.3
In this short thesis, on the basis of wishing to find a clear view in the cultural chaos of today, I am going to investigate the meaning of modern thinking on sudden awakening on the basis of the Orthodox Path of Seon (禪門正路 Kor. Seonmun-jeongno)4 written by Master Toeong Seongcheol, even though my ideas may sometimes appear irrational and intuitive, thereby lacking in logic.

2) The Utmost Truth

The inscription on the divine bell of King Seongdeok, known as the Emilie Bell, says:

The utmost perfect truth surrounds the whole world, hence forms are not seen. The sound of the truth fills up and overflows into the world; hence the sounds are not heard. To make sentient beings able to realize the extremely deep truth which is neither seen nor heard, this bell is made as a model of the truth and hung up for all to see.5

Truly, the utmost perfect truth cannot possess form and sound, but humans try to express the truth using form and sound. The divine bell of King Seongdeok is the highest form of art in which all the minds and all the bodies of the artisans who created it are condensed. The bell is famous for its perfect, holy sound, for other bells which have been made so far do not reveal the sublime sound of the One Vehicle because they are bound by the frame of gradual practice.
Original form cannot be shaped and the sound cannot be made. The original form is truth, so it can not be represented by artificial functions or by phenomena.
We express something in which the highest forms of art and nature are combined in the “divine manufacture,” and it might signify the world of the one True Suchness and its manifestation. Whereas the case of the culture of art recognizes divine manufacture, we have left the world of awakening unfinished.
We humans recognize the absolute convenience of things which we have made with scientific creativity and we experience the effective value of their use as the highest. But we question the absolute value of humans. We think that humans cannot become perfect for humans have ignorance of the five desires, and we are discouraged by that, and consciousness of this discouragement leads us to live ordinary lives.
Let us here use a daring expression. What is the difference between the various ways of changing the systems, using either a formal, gradual approach or a revolutionary one? If conservative systems are recognized to reach a certain standard and amended and supplied, then the existing privileged class can always enjoy benefits. But revolutionary change of all systems and organizations leads all classes to live on the same level.
If gradual practice is said to cause the systematic modification of the person, then sudden awakening is said to be a revolutionary event. Therefore, sudden awakening is something which cannot be entered into through the hierarchy of the Three Virtuous Positions and Ten Excellent Characteristics. Though hierarchy is gradually experienced and practiced, it still is on the level of awakening‐in‐the‐form‐of‐understanding (Kor. haeo). From this perspective, awakening’ is not a standard of knowledge. Awakening is absolutely perfect knowledge. The awakening of all-embracing wisdom is a sudden awakening; it is final Nirvana, and the stage of no mind.6

B. The Original Substance of Beholding the Buddha‐nature

Therefore Master Seongcheol, in his Orthodox Path of Seon, claimed “When one sees nature then one immediately becomes the Tatheogata.”7 That is, one becomes Buddha on the spot where one attains awakening. To enter the stage of a Buddha or attain awakening can be achieved by investigating certain doctrinal steps one by one logically. But Master Seongcheol quotes a saying from Records of Zongjing (Chn. Zongjing lu, Kor. Jonggyeong‐nok): “When one sees nature, one directly becomes mindless, and both medicine and disease disappear and both doctrine and meditation become unnecessary.”8 He adds “Though the bright light of True Suchness always shines very clearly in the realm of reality, sentient beings, concealed by a cloud of ignorance, do not see the light. As a bright light comes out when clouds disappear, when every extremely minute, misleading thoughts disappear, one realizes all and the True Nature is discovered.” According to Master Seongcheol, this stage is something in which all false thinking is cut off and consequently disappears, so it is no-thought or no-mind, and named “final Nirvana,” that is, “sublime awakening.” Hence in the Awakening of Faith (Kor. Daeseong‐kishin‐non) it is said, “Enlightenment is final awakening in which no extremely minute false thinking can arise or exist,”9 and Master Wonhyo, in his Commentary on the Awakening of Faith (Kor. Daeseong‐kishin‐non‐so), mentioned that the thought of ignorance still remains in all sentient beings, and the Buddha stage is no-mind.10 Thereby, since all sentient beings before the stage of equal awakening have thinking and mind to deal with, the stage of equal awakening needs the divine teachings of the Buddha and the medicine of Dharma. And the stage of no-thought or no-mind is one requiring no medicine being without disease, and it disregards both the teachings as well as meditation. Therefore it is the sublime awakening in which defilements have disappeared forever.
To realize the truth is to become the truth itself. If the truth and the seeker who grasps the truth are divided into two, it means that the seeker does not realize the truth correctly. The truth and the seeker should be together where the two become one without any difference. The way of realizing the truth is not the way of analysis. Realizing the truth means the oneness of the truth and the seeker.
Therefore, the spot where the seeker sees the True Nature should be no-mind and the no-mind should be to see the True Nature. The spot of no-mind is a spot where both medicine and disease become extinct, for the spot is a condition in which principal and auxiliary agree with each other. People need medicine when their bodies are sick. But when the sick body is cured, taking medicine is unnecessary. Medicine and disease are like a body and its shadow. Wherever the body goes, the shadow follows, and when the body is not visible, the shadow is also not to be seen. So it is that medicine is not needed when there is no disease. When one gets sick, the ailing person wants to take medicine. But when the sickness is over, the desire for medicine vanishes. That is a natural physiological function. As in the case of defilements and false thinking, when they arise in us, we should extinguish them. But if we think that these defects are not a serious disease and we do not take medicine, the defilements naturally become larger and the false thinking annoys us. To attain awakening in Buddhist practice is to reach a state of tranquility in which the false thinking, which endlessly occurs in our mind, disappears absolutely and completely. This state of tranquility is the final stage after which there are no further stages.
Such a state of mind is called Nirvana. To express Nirvana in Buddhist language is difficult because it encompasses many meanings. But its absolute meaning is the state of a stable mind which never shakes under any circumstances. Therefore, the mind of tranquil extinction becomes no-mind. When one is able to live with a mind of absolute stability and absolute tranquility, then one can enjoy absolute freedom. As such freedom is created within oneself, there cannot be any constraint or limitation. Therefore deliverance means to live in a world of no-mind, and it is the realization of absolute and transcendental potentiality and freedom of self-liberation. Transcendental self-liberation is the great no-mind, and the great no-mind is a mind of total tranquility. But extremely minute defilements continuously occur in ordinary people’s mind. That is, 84,000 defilements successively conflict with one another and create a continual series of shock waves. Human affairs seem to expand into a reality in which uncountable defilements of the number of 84,000 multiplied by 84,000 are accumulated and ever active. Such conflicts created by the minute mind mislead human beings and mess up their lives. Most people live in this illusion and are so misguided as to think it is normal. The total annihilation and perfect extinction of such minute and endless defilements is the spot of the great no-mind.
The spot of the no-mind is the space of the “true man of no rank,” where human beings can live correctly.11 It is said that extremely small differences divide the heavens and the earth. Today’s highly developed space technology proves that any minute error prevents execution of the task at hand. In this way, most defilements, even the smallest, in our mind should be extinguished to allow us to reach the state of Nirvana The spot where defilements do not occur can become a place of Nirvana, and furthermore, the spot in which nothing is given birth to becomes the space of tranquil extinction and joy, that is, Nirvana.
The spot of awakening is a world where no defilements occur. It is a world of calmness, where all activities of the mind, that is, the mind of discrimination, of distinction, cease by choice. Therefore, this world is a true aspect of True Suchness, the raw appearance of the essence, the great void, the great calm.12
Humans see things with their eyes. But we can only see the shapes and it is really hard for us to see through to the essence. We can only see, measure and understand everything from our own limited viewpoint. Surely this way of measuring cannot be right, hence humans make mistakes and their lives are mislead. And that is the tragedy which comes from pseudo-awakening or an approximate awakening, it is a trap resulting from guess work. To look at it from a different angle, the pseudo-self which could not enter into the truth always gets tangled up in imperfection and contradiction. We should boldly break away from this measure of self-distinction, self-discrimination and selfish choice. We should face things with a mind of equanimity which is the fundamental nature of the no-mind free from all discriminative consciousness of self, so that the mind will become mindless and equal. To promote ourselves to the utmost heights of the mind’s capacity, we should always get rid of false thoughts in which the discriminative consciousness ceaselessly arises.
Thereby Master Seongcheol repeatedly claims in his Orthodox Path of Seon to rightly guide students to the spot where they can see their Nature, and he tells them that to see their Nature is to rightly attain Buddhahood:

If one rightly discovers the Buddha-nature then there is Nirvana, then one can always live in mysterious deliverance.13

If one rightly discovers the Self Nature of the True Mind of all Dharmas, this is true ultimate awakening and the beholding of the Buddha-nature.14

When one sees the True Nature, then one directly attains Tathagatahood.15

If one suddenly sees the Buddha-nature, then one becomes a Buddha by thought.16

Then, why don’t human beings reach the highest stages? Why do we not experience and attain the truth and enjoy the great freedom of Nirvana? It is because we meaninglessly continue to create our discriminative foolish mind. If, while practicing Seon for seeing the self or while studying Gyo for investigating the most reasonable way, we can entirely remove defilements from our mind, then that is the highest way to no-mind.
Awakening-understanding is possible only when everything is realized and understood. Partial understanding and exaggeration of that partial understanding, taking it to be true understanding is a tremendous illusion. Our understanding is limited to the partial understanding of worldly matters, and moreover, it is difficult to directly grasp the reasoning of truth. Therefore, only sudden knowledge leads us to the perfect understanding of reality. This perfect awakening signifies the reaching of a stage of absolute eradication and no more birth of defilements. This no-birth is a condition for the eternal extinction of all things and of their no longer ever coming into existence again, it means that there is nothing to produce the defilements, for the mind is intrinsically, originally pure. That is, though realization is possible by progressive Seon, Master Seongcheol emphasizes the attaining of sudden awakening.
Therefore, through the claim that seeing one’s Nature directly is the becoming of a Buddha, we have a confirmation of the original look and the manifestation of the true aspect of the Tathagata. If a person is of high character and is respected by people, there is probably a moral code in the inner world of that person. This moral code made the person’s character noble. In Buddhism, the person who attains great Nirvana and becomes free and equal might have kept the precepts and thereby attained Nirvana, and so attained the great deliverance by seeing the true Buddha-nature. Hence, the keeping is equal to Nirvana, Nirvana is equal to the Buddha-nature, and the Buddha-nature is deliverance. All men are said to possess a Buddha-nature, and so if people live keeping the precepts without breaking them, then the Buddha-nature will become their deliverance and this deliverance will become Nirvana Like that, the way to awakening is easily revealed, but our life is continually shaken by our old habits which constantly surge up in the form of defilements. Let us see how this awakening is related to our ego. In the Sayings of Mazu (Kor. Majo-eorok) there is proof that the self and awakening are the same as the Dharma aspect.

Awakening is the thorough realization of the True Nature, of the self. Hence when one attains understanding once, then this is the eternal awakening and one can never be confused again. For example, when the sun rises, it does not correspond to a state of darkness, when the sun of wisdom arises, the dark clouds of defilements disappear, consciousness and conditions vanish, and false thoughts do not occur. This is no-birth, this is the patience attained through Dharma, and the searching for what originally existed. There is no need to ask for practice and sitting meditation in order to attain awakening. It is neither governed nor does it arise, and this is the pure Seon of the Tathagata.17

Through the endless arising of false thoughts the pure mind is dyed and polluted, false thoughts are broken by the pure Seon originally inherited in us, and the original light of understanding illuminates the Dharma realm. And so Master Seongcheol proclaimed:

The sudden awakening of Master Mazu concerning the pure Seon of the Tathagata in which false thoughts are gone forever, and in which no-birth is thoroughly realized results in one never being confused again. This Seon is the awakening of no-mind, and it is the final awakening. Not only was this the experience of Master Mazu but also that of other masters of right insight who correctly appreciated the teachings of Master Bodhidharma. All are the great attained ones who have perfectly realized that patience rests in belief in no rebirth. Hence it is sure that sudden awakening and seeing one’s True Nature in the orthodox transmission of Seon can never be a partial awakening or an awakening-in-the-form-of-understanding, but it is a realized-awakening which is the perfect awakening.18

Master Seongcheol meant that awakening by mere understanding or by discrimination is a lack of the true understanding of Seon Dharma As the time of sunrise does not agree with darkness, the dark clouds of defilements are extinguished when the light of wisdom appears.
This is the true state of awakening, and this awakening can be inherited by anybody. This awakening is not something made but something to be searched out and found. In other words, our true life is found but until then we are covered with defilements and false thoughts. And when the cloud of false thoughts is dispelled, the Tathagata of bright light appears right here.
Therefore, when one attains awakening, one should sustain the stage of being awakened and cannot, indeed must not, ever be confused again because “attained awakening” means the thorough realization of the True Nature. Let us use a metaphor to explain the stage. A room is dark, only lit by a ten watt bulb. If a 100 watt bulb is used, then the room will be bright. The sudden change of ten watts to 100 watts is much more startling than if the change was brought about gradually; this can be compared with the realization of sudden awakening. That is, partial knowledge or mere understanding cannot last long. We should keep it in mind that the meaning of “seeing the Nature” is that much more difficult to understand.

C. The World of Sudden Practice

As revealed in the 13th chapter of Orthodox Path of Seon, Master Seongcheol detests the teaching of “sudden awakening and gradual practice.” To state “sudden awakening and gradual practice” in another way means that “even Buddha, after he had attained awakening, needed to practice,” or “I will attain awakening by slowly practicing.” Such a half-hearted and vague way of practice is severely criticized by Master Seongcheol. According to the claim of the “sudden awakening and gradual practice” way, even though one has attained awakening, one must go on practicing, and one is not capable of teaching the Dharma or of answering others’ questions on Dharma. It is because of these things that this so-called awakening does not prepare the person for full maturity or for perfect awakening, hence it is a mere incomplete awakening-in-the-form-of-understanding and can be compared to the first stage of seeing one’s Nature.
Therefore Master Seongcheol claimed that “Seeing one’s Nature is final awakening which has the appearance of perfect and thorough realization. Hence understanding-realization which is an initial stage of the Ten Faiths is not truly seeing one’s Nature.”19 Understanding-realization is a first investigation and the admiration of an unknown world, and not a systematic research, hence it is not a perfect understanding. Therefore Master Seongcheol said that “Sudden awakening in the Seon tradition, from ancient times up to today, should be examined by extremely deep and profound questions and rightly answered bearing in mind the distinction which is as clear as the difference between the blue sky and the bright sun. Otherwise, it cannot be acknowledged.”20 Certain and thorough realization is the perfect realization of sudden awakening. The answer should neither be closed knowledge nor just a kind of guessing but a certain, accurate and direct answering. Sometimes shouting or hitting with a stick was a method used in Seon practice, and it was to draw a direct answer without hesitation, investigation or thinking, like the immediate sound that is heard when a stick strikes the table or the way a room becomes immediately bright when a light is turned on. There is no interval of time during which the sound is heard or during which the light is seen. The sound is heard and the light is seen at the very place they occur, immediately. Like that, direct seeing, hearing, realization and knowledge should be represented as substances of sudden awakening.
It is for this reason that there is a great difference between the sudden awakening of Seon, that is, seeing one’s Nature, which is perfect and whole awakening and the sudden awakening of Gyo, which is attained by mere knowledge. The stage of sudden awakening is a world of constant realization and, besides, in addition, there springs wisdom which is direct and thorough. Basically, theoretically understood knowledge and self-realized awakening to the stage of final realization are totally different.
Master Bojo, in his Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Meditation and Wisdom Community (Kor. Gwon-su-jeonghye-gyeolsa-mun), says:
How can they compare with men who first have faith and understanding that the mind-nature is originally pure and the defilements originally void, and yet find that this does not interfere with their subsequent cultivation based on that understanding?”21
About this, Master Seongcheol mentioned that “The ‘faith and understanding’ (which Master Bojo spoke of) means sudden awakening which is understanding-realization, therefore it is the thought of sudden awakening and gradual practice of the Gyo tradition.”22 Master Seongcheol further commented on sudden awakening and gradual practice mentioned in Master Jinul’s Secrets on Cultivating the Mind (Kor. Sushim-kyeol):

Understanding-realization is an illusive and false condition which is bounded by heavy false thoughts, so it is a fact that various defilements actively arise and vanish as before. Therefore removing these defilements and false thoughts is a gradual practice after one has attained awakening.23

But in the Seon tradition, sudden awakening or seeing one’s Nature signifies a stage of great repose of absolute no-mind, in which not only defilements and false thoughts but also minute defilements are all extinguished forever. The stage is that of perfect awakening, which is as hard as a diamond and which is described as no-mind, no-thought, no-rank and no-work. According to Master Seongcheol, the sudden awakening which is mentioned in the Gyo tradition cannot be the same as the sudden awakening of the Seon tradition, and the tendency to regard the two as the same by later Seon students is nothing but a great mistake.
The Dharma which Master Bodhidharma first transmitted and which Master Huineng continued, teaches only sudden awakening and not gradual practice. That is, Master Huineng’s verse, “Fundamentally Bodhi is no tree, nor is the clear mirror a stand” originally signifies the sudden realization of the body of the Dharma Nature which is void, therefore sudden awakening and sudden practice become the orthodox thought of Seon. Sudden awakening/ gradual practice is the means of practice advocated in the Gyo tradition, and therefore does not pertain to the Seon tradition. To do meditation rightly, one should follow only the right Dharma of Sort and must be free from confusion concerning all other theories. Therefore, Seon practice by the understanding-realization way according to Master Seongcheol is not the right Dharma. Since understanding-realization is an illusive and false condition, various defilements continue to occur, and removing these defilements is the very gradual practice which is needed even after awakening. But in the Seon tradition, not only false thoughts but also extremely minute bits of knowledge are cut, and the place of great repose of the final no-mind is nothing but sudden awakening and the seeing of one’s Nature. Hence sustainment and protection of this great diamond stage of the mind known as no-mind, no-thought, no-rank and no-work is needed.
There is a big difference between awakening and knowing, and the latter cannot be understood as seeing one’s Nature. In Gyo, the approach of gradual practice is certainly needed, because sudden awakening according to Gyo practice simply means a mere stage of understanding-realization, therefore the removal of defilements and false thoughts is needed in order to reach the stage of great repose. But in Seon, sudden awakening is the stage in which all defilements and false thoughts absolutely vanish, and only then one can see one’s Nature. There is a great difference between understanding-realization and sudden awakening.
Master Jinul, in his Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Meditation and Wisdom Community and Secrets on Cultivating the Mind claimed that the “sudden awakening and the gradual practice” of masters Heze Shenhui and Guifeng Zongmi was the right transmission of Master Bodhidharma. But in his Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Special Record with Personal Note (Kor. Peopchip-pyeorhaeng-nok-cheoryo-pyeongip-sagi), he mentioned that the two masters were followers of knowledge and understanding, and that they were not the legitimate successors of the Jogye Order. Moreover, Master Jinul made it clear that his idea of sudden awakening and gradual practice is not that of the Seon tradition, which departs from speech and forgets understanding, but that of the Gyo tradition, which relies on speech and produces understanding.
According to Master Seongcheol, Master Jinul wrote Encouragement to Practice and Excerpts from the Dharma Collection at the age of 33 and 52, respectively; Excerpts was written one year before his death. And though it is not certain when Secrets on Cultivating the Mind was written, Master Seongcheol considers it to have been early on in his life because the content is similar to that of Encouragement to Practice.24 Master Jinul, in Encouragement to Practice and Secrets on Cultivating the Mind, was confused between Seon and Gyo and wrongly claimed the idea of sudden awakening and gradual practice to be that of Seon of Master Bodhidharma But as his wisdom and understanding grew in his later years, Master Jinul realized his mistake and proclaimed that the Seon approach is the shortcut gate, that is, practice of principal topic” called “hwadu” (literally “head (topic) of speech”). Master Jinul’s later claim that “relying on speech and producing understanding is the understanding-realization of sudden awakening and gradual practice” made an important turning point in the Seon approach; this was an epoch-making event in the history of the Goryeo Seon Order. Master Jinul realized that sudden awakening and gradual practice, which had been the common language of the Seon family, was nothing but the formation of knowledge understood by language, but not the original final realization.
As the above shows, Master Jinul clearly revealed that he realized during his life that sudden awakening and gradual practice were not the main idea of Seon. But in spite of this, some Seon students, on the pretext of following in the footsteps of Master Jinul some 800 years after Master Jinul has passed away, insist that sudden awakening and gradual practice are the hallmark of Seon, and Master Seongcheol strongly rebukes them. According to Master Seongcheol, since Master Jinul himself affirmed that masters Heze and Guifeng, the originators of the idea of sudden awakening and gradual practice, were mere followers of knowledge and understanding, whoever believes in the idea becomes nothing but a follower of knowledge and understanding.25 The main practice of the Korean Jogye Order is Seon, but the idea of sudden awakening and gradual practice is still very strong in the order. From another viewpoint, Seon students do not realize that sudden awakening and seeing one’s Nature are the final stages and the students show a strong tendency to practicing by the logic of realization awakening. This is due to this existing tradition of Korean Seon which has relied on the wrong understanding of the orthodox transmission of the Seon and teachings of Master Jinul.
As mentioned already, Master Jinul in his later years wrote that the “direct transmission outside the texts” is what came out of the Gyo vehicle, and affirmed that sudden awakening and gradual practice is but a dead phrase which is nothing but knowledge and understanding, and not the shortcut approach.26 Therefore, regarding the idea of sudden awakening and gradual practice as that of Seon is not only a revolt of the orthodox transmission of Seon, but also an idle view and a misunderstanding of Master Jinul. Hence Master Seongcheol repeatedly emphasizes that “Seon students must not become followers of knowledge and understanding, like masters Heze and Guifeng; it is the most serious taboo of Seon.”27 Master Seongcheol ends the 15th chapter, “Learned Knowledge and Understanding” of Orthodox Path of Seon, with a special mention.

When one clearly realizes that “complete and sudden faith and understanding” is the understanding-realization of sudden awakening and gradual practice, and that it is mere knowledge which is the first taboo of Seon, then it is natural to totally give up the idea Therefore, the right masters of the orthodox path of Son considered knowledge and understanding as evils which cut the life of the teaching of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, and only rejected knowledge and understanding, never encouraging them. But Master Jinul, though criticizing Master Guifeng’s idea of understanding-realization as mere knowledge, could not give up the idea but always encouraged it in his writings such as Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Complete and Sudden Attainment of Buddhahood (Kor. Wondon-seongbul-non). Master Jinul’s persistent idea of complete and sudden faith and understanding, in spite of his clear comments to the contrary in his later years that complete and sudden understanding-realization is not the true idea of Seon, makes him not a true master of Seon. For a true master’s duty is to keep the transmission of pointing to the mind. The chief object of Master Jinul’s thought is the Seon of the Flower Garland (Skt. Avatamsa, Kor. Hwaeom).28

Here, Master Seongcheol opened up a new frontier in the history of the Korean Seon Order. Master Seongcheol here seems not merely to criticize the Seon thought of Master Jinul but he appears to try to understand it correctly.

D. The Position of Sudden Awakening in Modern Times

Orthodox Path of Seon is a book of 19 chapters. Each chapter has its own characteristics, but all of them are about how to find the One Mind and to live rightly with the true mind. The book was not written for Seon students alone but also to emphasize the orthodox transmission of Seon in modern times and to counter some misrepresentations of traditional Seon practice.
People of today understand Seon using reasonable and expedient means. They often use expressions such as “Seon and health,” “Seon and calligraphy,” “Seon and tea,” “Seon and poetry.” These offshoots of Seon are only vaguely related to Seon and they are not the Suchness of Seon itself or the oneness of true Seon thought. Though some say “oneness of tea and Seon” or “oneness of poetry and Seon,” the expressions signify certain situations related to Seon. Master Seongcheol named Master Jinul’s idea not “Seon” but “Seon of the Flower Garland,” because many ideas derived from the Flower Garland are to be found in the Seon idea of Master Jinul. And this is even more so in the case of Seon poetry, of Seon writings, of Seon tea, and of Seon martial arts. They are newly formed affiliates of Seon, but they cannot be considered to be true Seon itself.
Then, is the realization of Seon in this life really impossible? Some Seon ideas give the impression that they even break general human moral standards, those which are fundamental to society. An example of this is the claim that “The heavy misdeed of killing one’s parents can be ranked as a crime, but the misdeed of slandering great wisdom is really hard to overcome.” This expression first seems to be a paradox of accepted morality, but it comes from the logic of language which is unique to Seon. In order to understand this paradox, we have to look at it from other standpoints. Those who slander great wisdom always behave against justification. If one lives according to the truth, it would be impossible to kill one’s parents. Like that, if one claims to have attained awakening falsely then this is nothing but slandering great wisdom, and through this, deceiving sentient beings and leading them the wrong way, a deed which cannot be forgiven.
What is most wrongful is to represent wrong views as if they were the truth and in Seon, this kind of wrongful deed is unacceptable. In this sense, it is worthy to take note of one particular phrase used by Master Seongcheol, that “When one beholds the Buddha-nature and becomes Buddha, one attains awakening once and for all. Then one relies on one’s own precious storehouse and manages the family treasure, and there is no limit to one’s accommodation.”29 When one becomes an absolutely perfect person, this awakening lasts forever. That is, the perfect person can supply the necessary daily dynamic power with the unlimited energy available regardless of time. To manifest our True Nature and really see it is the same as applying our unlimited dynamic power. Limited energy, after being used, needs to be recharged with electricity again or to have the fuel topped up. But the unlimited dynamic power of awakening is the beginning of a great turning point in human life. When one attains sudden awakening by Seon practice, one enters into the condition of not-birth and no-birth, and everything is changed. Master Seongcheol claims that the awakened one should make this condition manifest before us in our daily lives.
Master Seongcheol’s teaching is usually hard for ordinary people to understand, for the speech is consistent with the unusual language of Seon. So he sometimes gave easy Dharma talks, and one of them is about how to live life from day to day. He said, “The mind of human beings is the basis of life and the origin of all things. But human beings have lost their Self Nature and have been carried away by the workings of daily life. It is because they have lost their True Nature that they think that material things are everything. That is why masters of old have advised us to consider riches and the opposite sex as if they were snakes.”
Material things cannot fulfill the deep set human sense of emptiness. And the lost self can only be found in one’s own mind-nature. Master Seongcheol said, “That is why people who have left home to find truth are called pilgrims returning to the original role,” and he further mentioned that human beings can only be helped by their own efforts, by themselves, for they alone have the keys to awakening. Concerning method of practice, the aim of the practice, and whether sentient beings are sentient beings forever, Master Seongcheol offered, “There are no sentient beings in the teachings of the Buddha. For, the teaching is free from the appearance of sentient beings. Then, modern practitioners should find their own faults by themselves and live in order to realize their original selves.
Master Seongcheol added strongly, “Both Dharma and truth are transmitted from mind to mind, and texts are a mere means which help to awaken the true aspect in students. There is a way to the mind, a way which leads people to attain awakening without reading texts, and that is called a direct transmission outside the texts.”
The moderns are fettered by problems and are willing to live under the pretext of others’ ideas. Others’ ideas, though they are great, are what other people have understood but they are not my own. No matter how wonderful the teachings of the Buddha are, the world of perfect realization, they are teachings, ideas, and a mere means to goodness and perfection. What is actually needed is to enter the world and attain awakening by oneself. That is the way of Seon practice and the way of sudden awakening and sudden practice.
Therefore, Seon is something which is not taught, but faced up to in the reality of the universe. Grasping everything in the universe as it is, this is Seon. Sentient beings try to find Buddha outside the mind, but Buddha does not exist outside the mind. If all living beings are one, then it is there that the original aspect lies, thus “Mountains are mountains and water is water.”
Seon is not some way to see phenomena, but Seon is the mind’s way of taking a far-sighted view of the true essence. Whereas phenomena deal with objects, essence sees through, right to the origin of life. Moreover, Seon students, by grasping the essence, can develop their original power which leads them to the origin of life. Therefore, the power attained in the final stages of Seon is the power of the Buddha and of the Bodhisattvas. And that power is neither the logic of cognition, which is mere knowledge, nor is it ethical service, which is the activity resulting from sympathy. Seon is the realization of life in the depths of oneself, and Seon is to involve oneself in the true equality of all lives at the same time. The way of Seon is neither that of cognition, nor of logic, nor of ethical service in society. Seon students should follow the way without concerning themselves with conditions. That is, one should not be shaken by conditions but one should confront all conditions and solve all problems. Seon is the state of mind of firm determination, and it is the key to living consciously aware of all problems and their solution. Thereby Seon becomes the great self as historical being in the dimension of reality. It is active Seon which, with the consciousness of responsibility, takes charge of history. Master Seongcheol’s idea of Seon was this kind of active Seon, and the power of his active Seon idea was strong enough to break all the wrong understanding of Seon, especially concerning awakening and practice.
The modern meaning of sudden awakening lies neither in the procedure begun by awakening nor in the understanding-realization in which realization ends, but in the general manifestation of the essence in our daily lives. All of this can be cited in relation to Seon, like the cases of Seon of hwadu, Seon of life, and Seon culture, are something understood and realized by Seon. But sudden awakening is a world of bright light, which is a revolution to sentient beings, resulting in the obliteration of all defilements and mental dirt so that they are totally eradicated and no ignorance and bad karmas can influence the person any more. The effort used to understand and practice in this world logically and dogmatically creates numerous social, ethical and personal conflicts. The modern understanding of sudden awakening should be the thought that “sentient beings are Buddhas, which might be expressed as cosmic Dependent Origination, “[(n-1) n] divided into 2.”30 In Dependent Origination, all conflicts, alienation, loneliness and agony created by human desires disappear suddenly, the pure mind shines forth for all to see, and sentient beings attain Buddhahood.


1. Since the publication of Orthodox Path of Seon (Kor. Seonmun-Jeongno) in 1981, representative cases of discussions are the International Buddhist Academic Conference sponsored by the Research Institute of Master Bojo’s Thought (Kor. Bojo-sasang-yeonguso) and seminar “Awakening: Is It Sudden Awakening and Gradual Practice, or Sudden Awakening and Sudden Practice?” sponsored by Minjoksa Publisher in 1992.
2. I have already stated my standpoint on the Seon practice of sudden awakening in my theses “The Position and Prospect of Modern Korean Seon”(Kor. Hyeondae-hanguk-seon-eoi-wuich’i-wa-cheonmang) printed by the Korean Buddhist Research Institute (Kor. Hanguk-bulgyo-munhwa-yeonguwon) in 1984, ” The Basic Thought of Orthodox Path of Seon (Kor. Seonmun-jeongno-ui-keunbon-sasang), in Thought of Bojo (Kor. Bojo-sasang)the fourth collection printed by the Research Institute of Master Bojo’s Thought in 1990. Professor Shim Jae-ryong wrote a comment on my article, “The Basic Thought of Orthodox Path of Seon.” Representative people who support the standpoint of gradual practice are Venerable Beobjeong and Professor Sungbae Park.
3. Such a theme is hard to deal with from the aspect of analytics, poetics or literature. But the claim of Roudolf Oden, “Unreasonable elements which majestically exist as fundamental and essential elements in religion should not be left to voluntary language or claim, or to intellectual chaos, but they should be clearly revealed as far as possible, so that a sound theory can be established” should be recognized.
4. Toeong Seongcheol, Orthodox Path of Seon (Kor. Seonmun-jeongno), Seoul, Bulgwang Publisher, 1981.
5. Whole Korean Inscriptions (Kor. Han-guk-keumseok-jeonmun), article on the Divine. Bell of King Seongdeok (Kor. Seongdeok-daewang-shinjong), chap¬ter “Ancient Period,” Asea-munhwasa, p. 137.
6. Toeong Seongcheol, Orthodox Path of Seon, op.cit, p.28.
7. Ibid, p.21.
8. Records of Zongjing (Kor. Jonggyeong-nok) 1, in the Taisho Tripitaka 48, p.419c.
9. Awakening of Faith (Kor. Daeseong-kishin-non), in the Taisho Tripitaka 32, p.576b.
10. Wonhyo, Commentary on the Awakening of Faith (Kor. Daeseong-kishin-non-so) 2, in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts (Kor. Han-guk-bulgyo-Jeonseo) 1, p.719c.
11. Sayings of Linzi (Kor. Imje-eorok), in the Taisho Tripipika 47, p.496c.
12. Secrets on Cultivating the Mind (Kor. Sushim-kyeol), in Whole Collection of Bojo (Kor. Bojo-jeonseo), the Research Institute of Master Bojo’s Thought, 1989, p.35.
13. Toeong Seongcheol, Ibid, chapter 1, “See the Nature is Buddha,” op.cit., p.22.
14. Ibid. p.21.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Jingde Records of the Transmission of the Lamp (Ch. Jinde chuandeng lu, Kor. Gyeongdeok-jeondeung-nok) 28, in the Taisho Tripitaka 51, p.440b.
18. Toeong Seongcheol, Ibid, chapter 4, “Patience Rests in Belief in No Rebirth” (Kor. Musaeng-beobin), p.65.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid, chapter 13, “Understanding-realization and Gradual Awakening” (Kor. Hae-o-chomsu), p. 155.
21. Bojo Chinul, Encouragement to Practice: The Compact of the Meditation and Wisdom Community (Kor. Gwonsu-jeonghye-gyeolsamun), in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts (Kor. Han-guk-bulgyo-jeonseo) 4, p.700b.
22. Toeong Seongcheol, Ibid, chapter 13, “Understanding-realization and Gradual Awakening,” p. 156.
23. Ibid, p. 159.
24. Ibid, chapter 15, “Learned Knowledge and Understanding,” p.204.
25. Ibid, p.205.
26. Ibid, p. 208.
27. Ibid, pp.208-209.
28. Ibid, p.209.
29. Ibid, chapter 19, “Extinction of the Seed of Buddhahood,” p.254.

The Correct Path of Seon

From 1st Journal of White Lotus Buddhist Studies(JWBS), 1991

This text is composed of essentials specially excerpted directly by Venerable Master Seongcheol from his previously published Seonmun Jeongno (Correct Path of Seon) plus supplementary explanations related to the practice (gongbu) of hwadu.

“There is not a single sentient being that does not possess the wisdom of the Tathagata, but because of their attachments to delusions they cannot realize (this wisdom). So if they can lose the delusions, all will have natural wisdom and unhindered wisdom revealed to them.” (80 fascicle Huayan jing [Avatamsaka Sutra], 50 )

Comment: The wisdom of the Tathagata means the Buddha-nature, and so if one discards the delusions that conceal the Buddha-nature, the Buddha-nature automatically appears.

“All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, but because it is covered over by defilements, they do not know and do not see it.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

“The thus-so Buddha-nature can only be known by a Buddha.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

“The anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (supreme, correct enlightenment/awareness) is achieved due to seeing the nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

Comment: Since the Buddha-nature can only be seen by a Buddha who has eliminated all delusions, this is the supreme, correct awareness.

“The arhats do not see the Buddha-nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 27)

“Even though a bodhisattva has reached the tenth (of the ten stages), that bodhisattva still does not clearly see or know the Buddha-nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 8)

Comment: A bodhisattva, even at the tenth of the stages, still cannot clearly see the Buddha-nature because subtle delusions remain. Needless to say this also applies to arhats.

“Even though one profoundly believes that sentient beings all share the same true nature, because that is covered by adventitious contaminants, it cannot be completely visible. If one can discard the delusions and return to the true (nature), because one is calm and has nothing to do that is called entry into principle.” (Bodhidharma, Sixinglu)

Comment: This is seen in the Dunhuang texts etcetera, and so is recognized as being the personal teaching of Bodhidharma.

“Although the myriad Dharmas are all present in the self-nature, being covered by the floating clouds of false thoughts, the self-nature cannot be elucidated. If one has blown away the illusory falsities, inside and outside are completely clarified and the myriad Dharmas will all be visible in the self-nature.” (Dunhuang Platform Sutra)

Comment: “Inside and outside are completely clarified” is just like when the Buddha lit a light inside a glass bottle, the inside and outside were bright, which was called marvelous awareness.
“When in the space of a moment false thoughts are all extinguished, and inside and outside are completely clarified, one recognizes that one’s own original mind is itself liberation, which is no-thought.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment: The popularly circulating Platform Sutra writes, “People who see the nature are also the same as this.” Since ‘inside and outside are completely clarified’ and ‘immediate cultivation, no-thought’ are contents shared by the Dunhuang and popular Platform Sutra texts, these are the fundamental thought of the Sixth Patriarch expressed unchanged in the Platform Sutra. That is, if inside and outside are completely clarified, and if one sees the nature and delusions have all been removed, that is called no-thought. Since a fundamental principle of Buddhism is that the ending of delusions is seeing the nature, the words of the Buddha and patriarchs do not contradict this.

“When one has completed the bodhisattva stages and has distanced oneself from the subtle false thoughts, since one can see the nature of the mind it is called ultimate awareness.” (Qixinlun [The Mahayana Awakening of Faith])

“When the false mind is extinguished, the Dharmakaya (Body of the Law) will be clearly visible.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

Comment: Since the Dharmakaya is the body of the Dharma-nature, this means that is the same as the Buddha-nature.

“If one removes and extinguishes ignorance one will see the original Dharmakaya.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

“The Buddhas and Tathagata are simply the Dharmakaya.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

Comment: The Awakening of Faith is a recognized summation of Mahayana Buddhism. Ultimate awareness in which all delusions have been removed is called seeing the nature. This agrees with the words of the Buddha and patriarchs.

“In the stage of no pollution of the diamond-like samadhi (vajra-upama-samādhi) that is the final mind (state) of the tenth stage, the mental thoughts of the subtle force of habit are all eliminated. Therefore it is said (that at this stage) one can see the nature of the mind.” (Xianshou Fazang, Qixinlun yiji [Notes on the Meaning of the Awakening of Faith], T44.268c)

Comment: The authoritative doctrinal scholar Xianshou also says that at the tenth stage that the subtle delusions must be eliminated before one sees the nature.

“The saints of the tenth stage preach that the Dharma is like clouds rising or rain falling, and that seeing the nature is like (seeing) with ones eyes covered over by fine gauze.” (Yunmen, Jingde chuandenglu 19)

“Just like a clear-eyed person who (sees) all the masses of material objects (with his eyes) covered by light gauze, the bodhisattva of the ultimate stage likewise sees all percepts. Just like a clear-eyed person who has no obstructions (sees) all the masses of material forms, the Tathagata sees all percepts likewise.” (Yujialun 50)

Comment: As even the bodhisattva of the ultimate and tenth stage has remaining subtle delusions, they do not see the nature.

“The enlightened person immediately cultivates. The self-nature is immediately cultivated.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment: These lines of the Dunhuang Platform Sutra are expressed in the popular Platform Sutra version as, “The deluded person gradually tallies, the enlightened person immediately cultivates. Immediate enlightenment and immediate cultivation likewise have no stages,” and so (these two versions) are unanimous in advocating immediate cultivation. This shared advocacy of immediate cultivation in the Dunhuang and popular versions of the Platform Sutra is a fundamental teaching of the Sixth Patriarch. The Sixth Patriarch did not propose gradual cultivation after enlightenment.

“As immediate enlightenment and immediate cultivation does not produce a single thought, it has terminated both before and after.” (Zongmi, Chanyuan zhuquanji duxu).

“If false thoughts are all completely extinguished, wipe away the place of elimination also.” (Record of Consulting Seon, in Taegorok)

Comment: Although one has eliminated all false thoughts, if one remains at the place of elimination that is the great death that cannot come to life. And so only when one has abandoned even the state of having eliminated all false thoughts is one properly enlightened.

“Anybody who does not produce a single thought and who has terminated before and after, will immediately be enlightened and immediately cultivate, immediately terminate and immediately realize, and will have no stages.” (Seosanjip 4)

Comment: The import of the immediate enlightenment of ‘immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation’ and ‘immediate enlightenment with immediate cultivation’ is fundamentally different. The immediate enlightenment of gradual cultivation is the defilements and delusions left as they are, and the gradual cultivation is the removal of delusions. The immediate enlightenment of immediate cultivation is the great no-mind in which not even a single thought is produced, and so there is no need to remove delusions, which is called immediate cultivation.

Bojo’s immediate enlightenment is leaving delusions as they are, which he called the starting (mind) of the ten faiths [the first of the ten stages of the bodhisattva career]. The Sixth Patriarch’s immediate enlightenment is the inside and outside completely clarified of marvelous awareness, which he called the no-thought of the Buddha-stage. These two contradict each other. The correct-eyed lineage masters of the Seon School all passed beyond the non-production of a single thought, and since none (of them) lacked no-thought, therefore Bojo’s starting (mind) of the ten faiths that advocated leaving delusions as they are does not even have relative value. However, we must note that even though one has reached (the state of) not producing a single thought, if one remains with the non-production of a single thought that is a great death that cannot come to life and is not called seeing the nature.

“Fada was greatly enlightened at a word and said himself, ‘Hereafter every moment I shall practice the Buddhist practice.’ The Master said, ‘The Buddhist practice is the Buddha.’” (Dunhuang Platform Sutra)

Comment: As immediate enlightenment is the stage of the Buddha, this means that gradual cultivation after enlightenment is not necessary. The practice of the Buddha is the practice of immediate cultivation and perfect realization.

“Each one of our six generations of masters said, ‘Decisively and directly enter, and directly see the nature.’ They did not speak of stages or gradual. Those who would learn the Way should immediately be enlightened and gradually cultivate.” (Shenhui yiji 3)

Comment: As there was much immediate cultivation thought in the Shenhui yiji, Hu Shi declared that Shenhui had spoken of immediate cultivation. But Shenhui, while saying that the Chan/Seon School was immediate cultivation, on the other hand advocated gradual cultivation. Therefore the founding patriarch of gradual cultivation could be none other than Shenhui.

“First one should immediately be enlightened, and only then should one cultivate gradually. This refers to enlightenment through understanding. Therefore the Huayan (jing) preaches that ‘when the mind is initially determined (for enlightenment), that is achieving the correct awareness.’ And after that the three sagely and ten saintly (stages of the bodhisattva career) are successively cultivated and realized.” (Zongmi, Chanyuan zhuquanji duxu, Ji-nul, Jeolyo)

“One first enters the stages of the ten faiths after enlightenment.” (Zongmi, Chengxitu, Jeolyo)

Comment: ‘Successively cultivate the three sagely and ten saintly (stages)’ are evidently the words of doctrinal scholars, and so to call this (teaching an) advocacy of the Seon School of the separate transmission outside of the doctrine is ridiculous.

“Even though one is immediately enlightened that one’s self-nature is originally empty and quiescent, the adventitious contaminants and defilements are no different to what they were before.” (Ji-nul, Susimgyeol)

Comment: While the Buddha and the patriarchs said that the ultimate awareness of the great ground of no-mind is seeing the nature, Bojo said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths that is no different to the preceding defilements and delusions is seeing the nature. Therefore this (claim) is fundamentally a violation of the words of the Buddhas and patriarchs.

“Turn back the light in a single thought and see one’s own basic nature. That nature-ground is the nature of the wisdom that lacks outflows [insight unstained by defilements], which is something one was originally fully provided with, and which is not in the slightest degree different to that of all the Buddhas. There it is called ‘immediate enlightenment.’”

“Although one is enlightened that the basic nature is no different to the Buddha, the beginning-less force of habit (means) it is ultimately difficult to remove immediately. Therefore, through cultivation that is dependent on enlightenment, one should long nurture the fetus of the saint (Buddha), and after a long time one becomes the saint. Therefore I say (one should) cultivate gradually.” (Susimgyeol)

Comment: Although Bojo said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths that is no different to the preceding defilements and delusions is seeing the nature, that is not the seeing the nature (spoken of by) the Buddha and patriarchs.

“After enlightenment one should examine and reflect for a long time, and even if false thoughts suddenly arise, one should not follow them at all, but discard them and again discard them till one comes to (where) there is nothing more to be done in discarding (wuwei), which is to be at the point of the ultimate. The excellent teachers of the world herd the oxen [mind/thought] after enlightenment.” (Susimgyeol)

Comment: In the Mahayana sutras, the Avatamaska and the Mahaparinirvana, the Buddha says that the stage of the Buddha where delusions are all ended is seeing the nature, and that there is no need for further cultivation thereafter. In the Platform Sutra the Sixth Patriarch speaks in detail of inside and outside completely clarified as seeing the nature. He did not speak of further cultivation. Even in the oldest text, the Dunhuang version, one cannot find ideas about gradual cultivation.

Bojo said that the ten faiths that overlay the delusions are the seeing of the nature, and that the removal of the delusions is gradual cultivation. One can see that this contradicts the words of the Sixth Patriarch. To the extent that one says that the ten faiths that lie layer upon layer over the delusions are the seeing of the nature, to that extent one is wrong. (To the extent that one says that) one must not leave the delusions as they are, that inevitably means that naturally one pursues gradual cultivation. And thus one must know that this idea of gradual cultivation is clearly that of the doctrinal scholars and not that of the Seon School.

“In the idea of doctrine, immutability and adaptability to conditions, immediate enlightenment and gradual cultivation have a fore and after [temporal succession]. In the Seon Dharma, during one thought/moment, immutability and adaptability to conditions, nature and attribute, substance and function, are fundamentally simultaneous.”

Comment: These are words in Seosan’s Seonga gugam, which says that immediate enlightenment and gradual cultivation are the ideas of doctrinal scholars and not those of the Seon School.

“Of those who now mistakenly receive the meaning of Seon, some regard the gate (method) of immediate (enlightenment) and gradual (cultivation) to be the correct genealogy, and (some) regard the teaching of perfect immediacy to be the vehicle of the school, so how can I dare to speak of their errors in slandering the Dharma?” (Seon gyo gyeol)

Comment: Since the ideas of immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation and perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith are those of the doctrinal scholars and not those of the Seon School, the mistaken assertion that this is an idea of the Seon School was cautioned against by Seosan as a major error of slandering the Dharma. Moreover, these identical lines (of caution) appear in the Seonmun bojangrok.

“Heze (Shenhui) is a lineage master of intellectual understanding.”

Comment: Heze was the founding patriarch of immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation, and Guifeng (Zongmi) continued to propagate this. Bojo also was a person who did the utmost to advocate the ideas of Heze and Guifeng, and Bojo at the start of his Jeolyo criticized Heze as a “lineage master of intellectual understanding.” That criticism was a major change in (Bojo’s) thought.

“But although this principle is perfectly marvelous, because it is totally interpreted through the affective mind and is determined through thinking, in the short-cut entrance [gate or method] that is the entrance of Seon, each single one is selected out as a disease of intellectual understanding.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

Comment: Perfect immediacy and understanding through faith mean an intellectual understanding of the Buddha Dharma.

“Perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith are verbal teachings of reality that are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, but they are called dead words. Therefore they make people produce obstacles to understanding.”

Comment: Bojo himself fiercely criticized perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith that is immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation as dead words, but even now, eight hundred years later that double of perfect immediacy with immediate and gradual are still advocated as belonging to the Seon School. That is something that cannot be comprehended.

“Persons who make manifest the realization of wisdom are presently rarely seen and rarely heard of. Therefore, just now one should value the elucidation of the correct knowledgeable views that are reliant on the gate [method] of investigating the meaning of the hwadu.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

“At present the majority of those who destroy doubts investigate the meaning. Therefore they cannot investigate the words, and so are one with the gate of perfect immediacy and the elucidation of correct understanding.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

“Investigation of the meaning is the dead words of perfect immediacy. This is because they have ideas about the paths of principle, of language, and of understanding through hearing.” (Seonga gugam)

Comment: Investigation of words means the part of live words that have ended language and thought. In the Ganhwa gyeoluiron, Bojo abandoned the dead words of perfect immediacy that he had advocated up till then, and tried to advocate live words, but in the final section of the Gyeoluiron, he ended it with a weak conclusion.

That is, while Bojo himself held that investigation of the meaning was the same as the gate of perfect immediacy, because he again returned to the dead words of perfect immediacy and encouraged it, Bojo’s fundamental thought is thus known to be perfect immediacy and understanding through faith, just as it was previously.

Because this directly contradicts the inside and outside completely elucidated and the immediate entrance and immediate cultivation spoken of in the Platform Sutra, in a Seon School that is the Dharma-heir of the Sixth Patriarch, this absolutely cannot be approved. Because this tells us that Bojo could not have had a coherent and fixed view, it was a theoretical contradiction that was nothing but suicidal. In the Seon School, the Platform Sutra is still a standard, and one must return to the live words section of inside and outside completely clarified, and enlightened entry and immediate cultivation.

“If one values the doctrinal teaching and makes light of Seon, even though one passes through endless time, one is still completely of the demonic host of heaven and is a non-Buddhist.” (Seon Gyo seok).

Comment: As this is the conclusion of the Seon Gyo seok written by Seosan, these are awesome words. If one advocates the teaching (doctrine) beneath the signboard of the Seon School, one is professing that one is a demon of heaven, a heretic who is not of the Buddha Dharma, which means Seosan is a truly excellent guide.

“If one directly uses the live words of the short-cut method to teach them, and has gained enlightenment oneself, then that is the style of a lineage master who teaches people. If he sees that a student cannot understand and drags him into the mire by preaching doctrine, he will blind the eyes of many people. If a lineage master violates this Dharmic rule, even though he preaches the Dharma, and even though the flowers fall down from heaven in profusion (in approval), all of this is a stupid madness of running to the outside.”

Comment: Because Seosan in his Gugam indicated that (the teaching of) being first enlightened and afterwards cultivating under the principles of understanding through faith and the practice of realization is that of doctrinal scholars, the gradual cultivation ideas of Bojo are evidently those of a doctrinal scholar and those of the Seon School. There is a world of difference between advocating that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths in which there is no difference with the pre-existing adventitious contaminants and defilements will be the immediate enlightenment to the self nature and that these delusions will then be removed by gradual cultivation, and advocating that in marvelous awareness all delusions will have disappeared, and that inner and outer are completely clarified and one enters by enlightenment and cultivates immediately [i.e. simultaneously].

In the Seon School one must sever off and discard the dead words of perfect immediacy. If one cannot end and discard the attachment to the dead words of perfect immediacy, one will be “in a stupid madness that runs to the outside” as Seosan so sternly taught, and one will be a follower of the school of intellectual understanding that is most taboo in the Seon School.

While Bojo allowed that one could only see the nature in the ultimate awareness in which all the defilements and delusions that conceal the Buddha-nature have all disappeared, Bojo also said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths stage that was no different to the preceding adventitious contaminants and defilements is seeing the nature. Thus from the very start this opposed the principles of the Buddha and the patriarchs. Even while advocating gradual cultivation, Bojo criticized the founding father of gradual cultivation, Heze, as a master of the school of intellectual understanding, and he also said that one had to decisively discard ideas of gradual cultivation. Although there appears to have been an ideological about-face in his Gyeoluiron, in the final section of this work, because there is an advocacy of the investigation of the meaning of dead words as before, this was only a temporary change in his thought, and was not a fundamental about-face. This counters his efforts in arguing that one must not investigate dead words. It is a fact that Bojo did not abandon the dead words of perfect immediacy and understanding through faith. One must eliminate this mistaken idea and must observe the legacy of Seosan’s strict instruction about this being a “stupid madness that runs to the outside.”

“Even though one gradually reaches a (state in which) sleep and waking are one, one still needs the hwadu to not be divorced from one’s mind.” (Taegorok)

Comment: Even though one becomes (as if in a state in which) sleep and waking are the same during the investigation of the hwadu, one still has to make an effort in investigating the hwadu. This is the lifeline of the meditation monk.

“If one is a strong man, examine a gong’an [Jap. koan]. A monk asked Zhaozhou, ‘Does a dog also have the Buddha-nature?” Zhaozhou replied, ‘It does not.’ In the twenty-six hours (of the day) simply examine the character ‘does not have.’ Investigate it day and night, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. Pay attention to it mind after mind [thought by thought] continuously, fiercely concentrate the mind. If you do this for a long time, (the hwadu and the doubt) will become one lump, and suddenly the flower of the mind will blossom and one will have been enlightened to the secret (occasion) of the Buddha and patriarchs.” (Yunqi, Changuan ceqin)

“The evaluation says, ‘This was taken up in later ages as a gong’an and was the beginning of the examination of hwadu. One does not necessarily firmly grasp the character ‘does not have’ (mu), but should stick to one case (gong’an), such as the character ‘does not have’ or ‘Mt Sumeru’ or ‘having died, one is cremated,’ etcetera, with enlightenment made the object. Even though the doubted (hwadu) are not the same, the enlightenment cannot be different.” (Yunqi, Changuan ceqin)

Comment: The transmission by writing of the investigation of the gong’an began with Huangbo (Huaihai). Not just the character ‘does not have’, but any gong’an that one receives direction for, if investigated diligently is sure to definitely enlighten one, and so this is the most developed method of meditation in the Seon School.

“’Having fully attained the ten faiths, one still needs to observe the precepts. If one lacks the practice of the precepts that is like erecting a tower up in empty space. Do you still observe the precepts?’ He said, ‘I observe the five precepts.’ ‘From now on only examine the character “does not have” and do not consider whether it is this or that. One must not make interpretations as to whether it has (exists) or has not (does not exist). Moreover, do not examine the sutras, doctrine and recorded sayings etcetera. Just simply take up this character ‘does not have’ and throughout the day, whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, one must be alert like a cat hunting mice or a hen brooding on an egg; there cannot be any interruption. Before one has attained lucid enlightenment, one cannot change (the hwadu). At times one can again whip up a doubt that says, “All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, but why did Zhaozhou say they do not?”’” (Weishan)

“In making an effort, one must not just only be mindful of the gong’an. If you are examining the character ‘does not have’ then one should give rise to a feeling of doubt about that character ‘does not have’. If you are examining the ‘cypress tree’ then you should give rise to a feeling of doubt about the ‘cypress tree.’ If one is examining ‘where does one revert to?’ one should give rise to a feeling of doubt about it. Only if one can initiate and give rise to a feeling of doubt will all the worlds of every direction be just one ball of doubt.” (Boshan Jingyu)

“Should you have doubt about the gong’an to be originally investigated, with that great ball of doubt you are sure to have great enlightenment. The thousands and tens of thousands of doubts will mass together into one doubt so that one will be able to make a determination about that originally investigated gong’an.” (Mengshan Deyi)

“Movement and calm as one, alert whether asleep or awake, the hwadu appears, just like the moonlight in translucent water, even in lively and disturbed rapids. When the light strikes them it is not scattered, and when the (waters) are dissipated it is not lost, for inwardly it is quiescent and undisturbed, and outwardly it does not move even though shaken. If the ball of doubt is here destroyed, the correct eye will be opened.” (Mengshan Deyi)

“Our patriarch came from the West and simply offered up the direct pointing and regarded great enlightenment to be the entrance through the gate (of Seon). He did not discuss meditation and miraculous powers.” (Mengshan)

“Correct enlightenment is like being in the dark for a long time and then encountering the light, or like suddenly awakening from a great dream; if one realizes one, one realizes all, and there is no longer the slightest trace of the habits of hate, love, grasping and abandoning in one’s breast.” (Zhongfeng)

“It is like coming from a blackened room into the bright sunlight.” (Xueyan)

“The hallucination of life and death forever extinguished, the correct substance of the Diamond are also revealed, and once (enlightenment is) attained it is attained forever and there is no interruption to that.” (Yuanwu, Xinyao).

“Seeing the nature and becoming Buddha, once attained is attained forever. Possessing one’s own treasure store, one manages one’s own treasures, so how can there be an end to their use?” (Xinyao)

“The singular method of the examination of the word (ganhwa) is the best short-cut. Śamatha-vipaśyanā and samadhi-insight are naturally within it.” (Jin’gak)

“Just throughout the whole of the day, whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, one must examine the hwadu only.” (Jin’gak)

Comment: Although Jin’gak was the leading pupil of the leader of gradual cultivation thought, Bojo, he did not advocate Bojo’s joint cultivation of samadhi and insight, but rather advocated ganhwa, and he compiled the Yeomsong, a fundamental scripture of ganhwa Seon.

“There is a type of person (who holds that) there is a bright and intelligent nature that reasons and knows, that sees and hears, and is a lord over the corporeal field of the five skandhas. If one is like this and is an excellent teacher, one cheats people greatly. Do you know this? Now I ask you, ‘If you acknowledge this bright intelligence as your true reality, why when you are profoundly asleep are you still not bright and intelligent? If when you are deeply asleep you are not so (bright and intelligent), you are (mistakenly) recognizing a bandit as one’s own offspring, which is the root of birth and death and the conditional production of delusion.’” (Xuanshalu, Jingde chuandenglu 18)

“This Dharma is not something that can be understood by deliberation and discrimination.” (Lotus Sutra)

“The Buddha said, ‘Those who learn my Dharma will know only by realization.” (Zongjinglu 22)

“Even though this mind is Buddha, only those who realize will know it.” (Chengguan, Jingde chuandenglu 30)

“The dharma-nature is only known by the realizing wisdom, there is no other realm (that can know it).” (Uisang, Beopseinggye)

Comment: In the Beopseongdo that Uisang composed there is verse called Uisang’s Beopseonggye. In it he wrote that the realizing wisdom is something that only a Buddha knows. Even though (the idea that) one does not know if it is not the realizing wisdom is an iron rule that is consistent with the Buddhas and patriarchs of Seon and Doctrine, as Bojo says that enlightenment through understanding in which the delusions are the same as before is seeing the nature, he must be truly rebelling against the Buddhas and patriarchs. Therefore his gong’an, in other words, the hwadu, as a deliberation and discrimination that is not realizing wisdom, absolutely does not know.

“One lamplight can remove the darkness of a thousand years; one wisdom can extinguish the stupidity of ten thousand years.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment: Yuanwu sharply warned his disciple, Dahui, that even though one has (achieved a state in which) sleep and waking are as one, once one dies one cannot come back to life, (and so) ‘Not having doubt in the hwadu is a major illness.’ The gong’an of past patriarchs cannot be known before sleep and waking are as one and inside and outside are completely clarified. And therefore before sleep and waking are as one and inside and outside are completely clarified, one must still devote one’s whole body and strength to the investigation of the hwadu. Sleep and waking as one and inside and outside completely clarified are absolutely impossible before (one achieves the state of) a single thought not produced. And a single thought not produced is immediate cultivation, and if there is no immediate cultivation then that immediate enlightenment is not seeing the nature. Bojo’s biggest error was in deciding that enlightenment through understanding, in which the adventitious contaminants and defilements are the same as they were before, is seeing the nature. Enlightenment through understanding in which the delusions remain as they are is not seeing the nature, and with this one absolutely cannot know the gong’an of the past patriarchs. If one gives rise to the disease that one knows in the midst of delusions while meditating, one’s efforts will never achieve (enlightenment). Therefore the disease of intellectual understanding is certainly the greatest of the diseases. And so, because Bojo recognized this to be seeing the nature, the harm he did to later people was tremendous. The theory that one sees the nature through enlightenment via understanding fundamentally destroyed the Seon School for this is the greatest cause that furthered the disease of intellectual understanding.

Therefore meditators absolutely must not give rise to the thought that they know before they achieve the real state of inside and outside completely clarified, and the no-mind no-thought that is spoken of in the Platform Sutra. If one catches this disease of the view of knowing, while posing as a teacher, by doing so one guides later students erroneously and also destroys ones self. This is a truly frightful thing. However, as long as one does not think that perfect realization and immediate realization are too difficult, and does not catch the disease of intellectual understanding, if one genuinely makes a strenuous effort, within three or four years one will attain inside and outside completely clarified and can be greatly enlightened. However, it is absolutely forbidden to think of making a business through the disease of enlightenment via understanding. People who make a vigorous effort do not sleep before midnight, do not talk in the meditation cloister, and do not look even at the writings of the scriptures and recorded sayings, and even though the summer (meditation) retreat has finished do not go wandering, and assuming that they are the Ananda of this age, only try to exert themselves in vigorous practice. They are sure to achieve numinous experiences. One must be convinced that one cannot know the gong’an of the ancients before one achieves inside and outside completely clarified. People who say that their effort (in hwadu) is not working but do not vigorously practice should remove the signboard of the disease of knowledgeable views and genuinely make a vigorous practice. They will be sure to gain a good result.

Not only do I repeatedly say it, but people of the past also said “not doing is not (the same as) being unable to do.” Provided one genuinely practices vigorously and still cannot succeed, since it is cautioned that one should even cut off one’s own head (in the effort), assume that one is not born into this world, put aside all affairs, produce a fiercely heroic mind, do not be deceived by vain dreams, and only request that one can genuinely practice vigorously. This is not a struggle between the (other) persons and myself (ego), but is daring to comment so that the Buddha-Dharma will endure.

The Psycho-semantic Structure of the Word kṣānti (Ch. Jen)

The Psycho-semantic Structure of the Word kṣānti(Ch. Jen)

Sungtaek Cho (趙 性 澤)

Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, State University of New York


1. Introduction

2.1. “Unrelated” meanings of kṣānti

2.2. The polysemy of khanti;a new way of

understanding its diversity of meanings

2.3. khanti, a psychological complex

2.4. Various Psychological modes of khanti

3.1. Khanti as “liking” or “preference” or “intentionality”

3.2. khanti as “determining factor”

3.3. Khanti as “choice power” (khanti-bala)

3.4. khanti as “wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa)

3.5. Khanti as “marga”

4. Kṣānti in the Mahāyāna Soteriology

The Psycho-semantic Structure

of the Word kṣānti (Ch. Jen)

1. Introduction

The anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti is one of the forms of enlightenment assuring avinivartanīya, or the non-retrogression stage of the bodhisattva. This is a key concept needed to understand the soteriology of Mahayana Buddhism. The set phrase anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti is, semantically, composed of two different parts: anutpattika-dharma and kṣānti. The former, meaning “non-arising of dharma,” contains the central Mahayana tenet of “the emptiness of dharma” ; the latter, which is derived from the verbal root “kṣam,” meaning “to forgive,” “to be tolerant,” or “to endure suffering,” is commonly translated as “patience” or “forbearance.” Thus, a possible translation of the phrase, anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti would be “patience in the [acceptance of] non-arising of dharma.” Yet, anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti has nothing to do with “patience” in the context of Mahayana soteriology. The attainment of anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti, usually accompanied by a prediction of future Buddhahood given by the Buddha himself, is the ultimate goal, indicating that one will realize in the near future the ultimate truth of Buddhism. The key to understand this important concept in Mahayana soteriology lies in the proper understanding of the word “kṣānti.” Many translators of Buddhist texts simply assume that “kṣānti” refers to “patience,” and their renderings become descriptive terms which are aimed at conveying the proper contextual meanings while holding back the meaning “patience.” However, an investigation of the earlier usages of kṣānti in Buddhist texts will show no relation to the word “patience.” Earlier Buddhist texts, namely the Suttanipāta, use kṣānti as if it had no sense of virtue, such as patience, in its meaning. Rather, as a Buddhist technical term, it denoted an attentive “intentionality,” or various modes of such mental states.

In order to understand the concept anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti properlyI would like to examine thevarious meanings of “kṣānti” in Buddhist texts written in Pāli as well as Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. I will explore the possibility of understanding the diversity of meanings of a single word, based on the “polysemous” analysis of the word. By doing so, I will discuss how in Mahayana Buddhism the concept of “kṣānti” was incorporated into its soteriological theory, its cultic practices and the hierarchy of its religious community. Also, I will examine how another Buddhist tradition, the Abhidharma, developed “kṣānti into a philosophical technical term defining a type of cognitive function. I will discuss how the fundamental differences in their philosophies are illustrated, explicitly as well as implicitly, in terms of their different understanding of “kṣānti.”

2.1. “Unrelated” meanings of kṣānti

Most translators assume that the various usages of the word kṣānti are secondary meanings derived from the ‘primary’ sense, ‘patience.’ Because of this, they have sought to find the possible metaphorical relationship between the primary sense and a specific usage of the word in a given context. They presuppose, consciously or unconsciously, the historical development of the meaning of kṣānti. In addition, they seem to ignore the fact that the so called “unrelated” usages of the word, without the sense of ‘patience,’ were already found in the earlier Buddhist texts in Pāli.

Having noticed that kṣānti (P. khanti) was used with “unrelated” meanings in Pāli texts, some scholars tried to challenge the long misunderstanding of kṣānti. They argued that it had been a unique-historical development of the doctrine of Sarvāstivādin or Mahayana traditions. Some of their work is informative enough to show us a new way of understanding the word, especially the research of Professors P. V. Bapat and Hajime Sakurabe, which I will review here.

Having noticed that the Pāli word khanti is used in two different senses : (1) liking, mental inclination, disposition, view or sight, and (2) forbearance, patience, endurance, capacity to bear etc., Professor P. V. Bapat challenged the translation of the Sanskrit word kṣānti as merely “patience” etc.. He argues as follows :

Even where the sense of “liking,” “view,” “inclination” appears to be more natural and resonable, the interpretation of forbearance or patience is attributed by several scholars. But these are some ‘leftouts’ even in Buddhist Sanskrit where the Pali word khanti is not rendered by kṣānti but kānti, liking.

He thus considers the “mechanical” use of kṣānti instead of kānti to be incorrect. He provides the evidence for his argument in the following passages:

In Bodhisattva-bhūmi (p. 33 Dutt’s edition) there is a verse in the last quarter of which we read : dṛṣṭe śrute kāntim a-samprakurvan : having no liking for what is seen or heard. This exactly corresponds to diṭṭhe sute hhantim (sic. for khantim) a-kubbamāno (Sn. 897). …Here is used as an equivalent of Pāli khanti. The use of aspirated kha, tha, pha, bha in Pāli-Prakrit for un-aspirated ka, ta, pa, ba respectively in Sanskrit is not unknown.

Essentially, his argument is based on the same approach as N. A. Jayawickrama and Sasaki H. Genjung, in that since philologically the Pāli word khanti can be sanskritized into either kānti or kṣānti, the mechanical use of the Sanskrit word kṣānti is not correct. His argument may be supported by some Chinese translations of the equivalent passages, as in the Chinese it was translated into (pu) ai, meaning ‘(not) loving,’ of which the Sanskrit equivalent form could be kanti. However, his argument is not substantiated in other examples. For instance, it is hardly believable that the kṣānti in dharma-jñāna-kṣānti etc., which is one of the most important concepts in Sarvāstivāda soteriology, is completely wrong for kanti. There is no textual evidence that kanti was ever used instead of kṣānti in Sanskrit texts, except in the Bodhisattvabhūmi, where the Sanskrit is not correct in many places. Even Yaśomitra, when commenting on passages where the word kṣānti occurs, kept silent while only providing ruci as the synonym for kṣānti, which is already found so frequently in the commentarial works in Pāli Buddhist texts. However, over all, Bapat’s article must be considered an important contribution to Buddhist studies. After all, he makes it clear that the word khanti (Sk. kṣānti) had meanings other than ‘patience’ etc., which had gone almost unnoticed by other contemporary Buddhist scholars.

Going one step further, Prof. Sakurabe, a famous Abhidharma scholar in Japan, examined the original sense of the word kṣānti. He also agrees that “…in Pāli canon apparently coexist both senses of the word khanti, ‘patience’ [<kṣam] and ‘willing to,’ ‘desire’ [<kam].” However, disagreeing that the second sense of Pāli word khanti could be derived from kam, he calls our attention to a compound word ditthi-nijjhana-kkhanti. He says :

Doubled consonant-kkh proves that khanti here is derived not from kam, but from kṣam ; an ideomatic(sic) use of nijjhānaṃ khamati (S ⅲ 225 ; Mⅰ133, 480), too, evinc it.

Philologically, his argument makes sense. But unfortunately, we can find a passage, “… khantiṃ diṭṭhiṃ ruciṃ mutiṃ pekkhaṃ dhamma-nijjhāna-khantiṃ” (Vbh 325 ; VM 371 ; M ⅱ 218), in which ‘single k’ shows us that his philological argument is not enough to prove his position, even though his point that khanti is not derived from kam must be correct. At any rate, based on the presupposition that the two senses of khanti must come from the same etymological origin, he disputes that khanti bears the meaning ‘liking’ or ‘desire.’ This rendering is mostly based on the assumption that khanti and kanti might be a homonymic confusion. Based on the Abhidharmakośa and its commentary by Yaśomitra, he feels that the Pāli word khanti means “intellectual implication,” as opposed ti “liking” or “desire,” as is generally assumed. He concludes that:

Here we can see close relations between those words as dṛṣṭi, kṣānti, saṃtirāṇa, (upa-)nidhyāna, rocana (a fellow derivative from ruc with ruci), āloka and jñāna, to all of which the intellectual implication is common. The word kṣānti in the compound anutpattikadharmakṣānti, too, should be understood in this connection.

However, he fails to answer the question of why khanti came to have such an intellectual implication.

In spite of both scholars’ inspiring suggestions, they failed to spot every variety of the “unrelated” usages occurring in the Pāli canon, partly because of their arbitrary, as well as limited, sources. In addition, they failed to explain how the “unrelated” usages were related to the primary meaning, ‘patience.’ Through my investigation of the occurrences of khanti in the Pāli canon, I have found that khanti has various meanings, rather than only two, as most scholars have assumed.

Therefore, in the following I attempt, first, to illustrate all the meanings of khanti in Pāli literature ; and second, to explore the possible ways of understanding the diversity of meanings of a single word, based on the “polysemy” understanding of that word. In doing so, I have created a new approach, quite different from what has been done so far by other scholars. I would therefore like to briefly explain my approach, which is based upon the belief that one single word came to have multiple meanings, not necessarily through history, but more likely synchronically, a process I call “polysemy.”

2.2. The polysemy of khanti;a new way of

understanding its diversity of meanings

Literally, “polysemy” means ‘diversity of meanings.’ In this paper, however, it means more than that. Probably the most important factor in “polysemy” is to accept the ‘diversity of meanings’ of a single word as a natural phenomenon in human language. It is a modern linguistic term that, when a word with several uses or meanings is examined, provides a way of accounting for many-to one mapping of function to form. Thus, it refers to “a grouping of related but distinctive senses of a single lexical item ; often there is an observable direction to the relationship between these senses, one being more central than, or prior to, others”.

It is beyond doubt that the Pāli word khanti is a typical “polysemy” word. However, this does not mean that this linguistic approach can be applied mechanically to the understanding of a Buddhist word. As we will see, the Buddhist use of language, especially in the case of khanti, provides unusual complications.

I presuppose that in order to understand the word khanti properly, every occurrence in the texts should be taken seriously. In other words, we have to accept that every occurrence in the texts is reasonable. It is not justifiable to make the general assumption that the various usages of the word are related, regardless of the context, nor to mechanically assume that the primary sense of the word is ‘patience.’ As aforementioned, such assumptions have been quite problematic in the past. Instead, what I think we have to do first is to take every occurrence seriously in the context, without any preoccupation with the meaning. The semantic relationship between the contextual meaning and the primary one can only be looked at after having taken this first step. With this in mind, I have taken every occurrence of the word in Pāli texts seriously. As a result of this, I have found that in Buddhist texts, the multi-meanings of kṣānti (P. khanti) were used from earlier times and yet these meanings were not, as generally assumed, historical ones but rather synchronic ones. However, the fact that the multi-meanings are synchronic or show ‘polysemy,’ does not necessarily exclude any possibility of a historical development to the Buddhist usage of the word. On the contrary, we should note that the usage of the word was dynamically and even radically developed throughout the history of Buddhist doctrine. Nevertheless, what is meant by “synchronic” is that the various meanings other than ‘patience,’ found in later Sanskrit Buddhist texts, were already found in the earliest Buddhist texts, such as Suttanipāta and Theragāthā and Therīgāthā. This makes evident the antiquity of the “unrelated” usage of the word khanti in Buddhist texts.

In fact, polysemy words are not rare in any language. Rather, it is one of the universal features of human speech. For illustration, I would like to consider for a moment the two senses of “cardinal” in English. The word can refer to both priests and to number. If they are not homonyms, which they are not, how can we understand these two apparently unrelated meanings? These two words have a common origin in a Latin word which meant “hinge.” Cardinals were priests on whom the rest of the church hinged, and cardinal numbers were the numbers on which the rest of the number system hinged. At one point, the relationship was a clear synchronic fact­not just a historical one, like the current relationship between the two English senses. The same approach, I believe, can be applied to understanding the various meanings of khanti (Sk. kṣānti) in Buddhist texts. This approach will not just give us some references by which to understand the “unrelated” usages of khanti but it will also give us a very significant hint as to the Buddhist psychology of earlier times.

If the “unrelated meanings” of khanti were, as we have mentioned, neither “historically developed,” nor related metaphorically to the meaning of “patience,” then how can we understand this use of language? In other words, what is the “hinge” on which the ordinary sense, as well as the technical ones can be connected?

Having investigated all of the occurrences of the word khanti in the Pāli Tripiṭaka, I found one important thing about the usage of the word in Buddhist texts. I found that the various “unrelated” meanings of khanti, such as ‘choice,’ ‘liking,’ ‘preference,’ ‘approval,’ or ‘ability’ (to comprehend etc.) do not just refer to the action denoted by each of them. They also refer to the mental state or the psychology underlying those actions. For instance, the word khanti in the passage of the Suttanipāta, “… nave knantiṃ na kubbaye [should not show a liking for the new],” cannot be simply understood as “enjoying,” or “being pleased with” (a new) object. Rather, it is more reasonable to understand the word as “putting one’s mind near the object,” or “directing one’s mind towards the object”­none other than the mental state or the psychology underlying “liking.” This will become clearer if we remember that Yaśomitra offered upanidhyāna, “put down near” as a synonym of kṣānti, in his commentary on Abhidharmakośa. As we will see in detail later, the other usages of khanti with “unrelated” meanings can also be understood in the same way : “directing one’s mind towards an object,” either external or internal, commonly underlies them. The question then becomes : how did the word khanti, meaning ‘patience’ or ‘endurance,’ become a psychological term denoting “directing one’s mind etc..” In regard to this question, one can only speculate. Buddhists from earliest times may have believed that the psychological property of “directing mind etc.” was the key factor of “being patient.” In other words, “being patient,” the opposite of an emotion like “anger,” was not merely “suppressing anger,” but more positively, “redirecting the mental state of ‘anger’ to another mental state such as ‘friendliness’ (maitrī, P. mettā) or equanimity (upekṣā).

This “redirecting” or “directing” is recognized as a central meaning in all of the various usages of khanti in Pāli texts. And from this central meaning various other meanings are derived, spreading in many directions. Therefore, though it seems natural that those various meanings, radiating from one central meaning, look “unrelated” to each other, we must consider the underlying psychological property central to each. Once we posit “redirecting” or “directing” as the center of the various meanings of khanti, we can easily understand not only how an “unrelated” meaning is related to the primary sense of khanti, but also how one meaning was transformed into another.

The psycho-semantic structure of the various usages of khanti is not only an example of the unique use of language by Buddhists, something which has gone unnoticed by many Buddhist scholars, it is also evidence of how intuitive and subtle was the ancient Buddhists understanding of the human mind. In the following discussion of the “polysemy” of the word khanti, I would like to avoid the historical sense and discuss through semantic logic how the word came to have the multi-meanings in the Buddhist context.

2.3. khanti, a psychological complex

On the subject of the “unrelated” usages of khanti, Rhys Davids in his Pā1i English dictionary, defines khanti as : “…in scholastic (i.e., Abhidhamma) language [it occurs] frequent in combination diṭṭhi khanti ruci” and “In dogmatic language… in combination diṭṭhi, khanti, ruci [each of which means, respectively,] one’s own views, indulgence and pleasure (=will), i.e., one’s intellectual, emotional, volitional sphere etc..” In at least two points he misunderstands the word khanti in Pāli literature. Firstly, those three combined words are not found in only “scholastic” or “doctrinal” texts, but also, as we will see, in many other “non-scholastic” ones, such as Sutta or Vinaya texts. Secondly, he speaks as if those three words referred to the three different spheres of human mental activities, and as if khanti could only refer to something “emotional.” However, this is not substantiated anywhere. Throughout Abhidhamma, commentarial, and other canonical texts, the three words do not just refer to their three mental activities. Instead, they are used as synonyms, or glossaries, complementary to each other. Moreover, we have to remember that in Yaśomitra’s Sphuṭārthā-Abhidharmakośa-vyākhyā, the word kṣamate, the verb form of kṣānti, is substituted by rocate, which could not possibly mean something “emotional” in this context. Here also, rocate and kṣamate can have no other meaning than ‘to recognize.’ In this sense, Oldenberg’s renderings of the triad, ‘belief,’ ‘opinion,’ and ‘persuasion’ are more reliable in understanding the three terms synonymously.

As I am unable to rely on the dictionary in defining the meaning of khanti for the purpose of this papaer, I would like to postulate some working hypotheses regarding ‘various meanings denoted by the various usages of khanti’ as a ‘psychological complex.’ I fell this is necessary because, as aforementioned, khanti apparently denotes in various contexts, various psychological modes. All of these modes are, nevertheless, commonly “radiated” from the central meaning, “redirecting” or “directing” underlying the psychology of ‘being patient.’

In Pā1i Tipiṭakam Concordance by E. M. Hare and K. R. Norman 97 occurrences of the word “khanti” are listed. As a purely hypothetical model for understanding the multi-meanings, or polysemy, of khanti as a whole, I classified them into the following three categories. : (1) khanti as opposite to “anger” etc.­19 occurrences ; (2) khanti as an “asceticism”­11 occurrences ; and (3) khanti as various psychological modes such as religious piety, intentionality, choice, ability, liking, preference or approval etc.­59 occurrences.

This classification does not assume any historical development of the meaning of khanti. And, also, these classifications are not mutually exclusive. In fact, each of the categories is blurred into the others and one occurrence may belong to more than one category. Nevertheless, this classification is useful, not only because it provides us with a visible formational structure for understanding the complicated “polysemous” development of the word, but also because each category provides us with an internal logical nexus, from one usage to another, so that we might comprehend how the occurrences in one category were developed to the ones in another category.

We might say that the first two categories are of the ordinary, or primary sense of khanti. Namely, we usually translate their usages as “patience,” “forbearance,” etc., which is the virtuous mental state mentioned as one of the Perfections (pāramitā). Although there is no difficulty in understanding the occurrences of the word, khanti (Sk. kṣānti) in categories (1) and (2), I have distinguished between them because even though they both refer to a virtuous mental state, the are not identical in their psychological modes nor their mental functions. The former one is always described as the opposite of krodha (anger), dveṣa (animosity), pratigha (repugnance) and vyāpadā (malice). Thus, as Har Dayal states, “it is defined as freedom from anger and excitement (akopanā, akṣobhanatā) and as the habit of enduring and pardoning injuries and insults (par-āpakārasya marṣaṇam).” On the other hand, the latter one is the “patient endurance of pain and hardship (duḥkhādhivāsana).” From this latter usage of khanti, where if functions as a very special spirit toward a higher state of mind, we can predict the occurrences in the third category.

The third category deals with the so called “unrelated” senses, ones with no relation to the meaning “patience.” Strikingly enough, these “unrelated” usages amount to over 50 percent of the entire occurrences in the Pāli Tripiṭaka. Moreover, as we will see, they occur through the whole texts of Pāli canon, from the earliest to the latest, and from Sutta and Vinaya to Abhidhamma and other commentary works. This seems to be enough evidence to prove the “polysemy thesis” of the word khanti. In my work, I will mainly discuss the occurrences of the last category.

2.4. Various Psychological modes of khanti

For the reason of structuring discussion, I classified the various psychological modes of khanti into five groups, according to psychological functions as well as contextual meanings. These are : (1)’liking’ ; (2)’determining factor’ ; (3)’choice power’ ; (4)’wisdom’;(5)’marga’ (path).

The semantic relationship among these five modes is much more complicated than we might expect. Because, in some cases, when one usage of the word, khanti, having been derived from the primary meaning, comes to have a ‘new’ meaning. Then it also becomes a central one from which other ‘new’ meanings are derived, forming a pattern almost like a ‘spider web.’ Even if this is the case, however, the underlying psychological property in khanti of ‘directing’ is still common in those various modes. In order to avoid the confusion, I would like to present a general survey of the way in which the various modes can be characterized before analyzing those occurrences in texts.

(1) khanti as ‘liking’ : This use of khanti will give us an opportunity to reconsider our ordinary experience of ‘liking’. What is meant by ‘liking’? Does it merely denote any ‘pleasure’ or ‘delightedness’ of mind? Rather, should it not denote “putting our mind near to a object.” Or, in other words, “to direct our mind toward the object arisen at the present moment, and try to keep holding it as if it were real?” In this sense, even if I titled this use of khanti as ‘liking,’ to follow conventional English translation, one could hardly say that ‘liking’ is exactly the correct translation. So, I will suggest another one.

(2) khanti as a ‘determining factor’ : We will see that Buddhists understood khanti as not only a mental state preparing one to understand Buddhist teaching, but also, by analogy, as a determining factor distinguishing one religion from another, one belief from another, or dhamma from non-dhamma etc.. Here also, we can see how khanti is characterized as the psychological property of “directing.” In other words, one’s mental, intellectual, or emotional attitude can be determined by which direction his mind is inclined towards ; for example, whether his mind is directed towards dhamma or non-dhamma.

(3) khanti as ‘choice power’ (khanti-bala)

What is another psychological aspect of “redirecting” one mental state to another? It is : “to abandon one thing to choose another.” As we will see, khanti is this very mental function, or power for “abandoning zeal for sensual desire and choosing renunciation” (kāmacchandassa pahīnattā nekkhammaṁ khantīti’ khantibalam), or “abandoning all defilements to choose the Arhant Path” (sabbakilesānaṁ pahīnatta arahattamaggo khantīti khantibalam).

(4) khanti as ‘wisdom’ (khanti-ñāṇa)

khanti, then comes to mean more than just “to choose another by abandoning one thing,” more and more it becomes “the intellectual choice to recognize truth.” Khanti, in this sense, is resonant especially of the kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, which asserted that kṣānti, a type of knowledge (jñāna ; P. ñāṇa), is the knowledge to investigate (saṃtīraṇa) dharma, or more precisely, one preceding moment of saṃtīraṇa. That is, with more elaboration, that the Sarvāstivādins considered the kṣānti to have a mental force capable of both destroying the mental defilements that obstruct the pure knowledge, as well as to give rise to pure knowledge. The former mental force of kṣānti is no different from khanti as a choice power, in the sense of abandoning, while the latter is no different from the khanti as wisdom (khantiñāṇa).

(5) Khanti as marga

It is a quite natural consequence, from those various usages we have seen so far, that khanti finally becomes an important concept in the Buddhist soteriology. Thus, khanti, in this context, is used as a more specific term, concerning the attainment of right knowledge, as seen in this example :

When a bhikkhu sees all formations (saṅkhāra) as impermanent (aniccato), it is possible that he shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and making a choice in conformity [with actuality] (anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato) it is possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, (sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati) and by entering upon the certainty of rightness it is possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.

If followings, we will discuss each of these five modes of psychological complex, denoted by the word ‘khanti’.

3.1. Khanti as “liking” or “preference” or


Sn. 897

Yā kāc’ imā sammutiyo puthujjā, sabbā va etā na upeti vidvā, anūpayo so upayam kim eyya diṭṭhe sute khantim akubbamāno.


Whatever opinions are commonplace, with none of these indeed does a man who knows get involved.

Why should a man who is without involvement become involved, when he shows no preference for what is seen and heard?

Sn. 944

Purāṇam nābhinandeyya, nave khantiṃ na kubbaye hīyamāne na soceyya, ākāsaṃ na sito siya.


He should not take delight in the old ; he should not show a liking for the new. When (something) is diminishing he should not grieve ; he should not be attached to (an object of) fascination.

These two verses mention the ascetic life of the Buddhist sage (muni), who would not pay attention to any phenomenal things. The “khantim” in both verses must syntactically be an object of the verbs, “akubbamāno” and “na kubbaye,” respectively. Semantically, the two “khanti(m)” translate as “something” that one should not do. Thus, the two lines in which “khanti(m)” appears read as, “do not make any khanti.” In this sense, the current use of “patience” and “forbearance,” which are the primary translations of khanti, is far removed from its original meaning. Although commentaries do exist that provide information and helpful hints in understanding “khanti,” such as Pj Ⅱ 558.5 “…khantim akubbamāno ti … pemam akronto” and the synonyms “diṭṭhi, ruci, laddhi, ajjhāsaya” provided for khanti in Culla-Niddesa 165, these are only helpful in understanding the lines in that particular context. They do not explain how the word khanti came to have such a meaning in those contexts. Accordingly, many translators of the Sn. seem to have been guided by these commentaries. Fausboll translates Sn. 897d as “he who is not pleased with what has been seen and heard.” Neumann translates the same passage thusly : “Beim Sehen und Hören angehalten nimmer.” Chalmers translates the same passage thusly : “when phenomena of sense appeal to them no more.” E. H. Hare translates the same passage thusly : “why gives accord to things of sight and ear?” While these translations have not failed to convey the idea of the text properly, they seemed to have failed in conveying the word itself.

Thus the question still remains : What is the meaning of khanti in the Sn.? With the aid of only the contextual usage and its etymological meaning, it seems almost impossible to determine the exact meaning of this particular khanti. However, various Abhidharma texts may provide helpful hints, or clues, in determining the meaning of this word.

In the seventh chapter, “On Knowledge,” of Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, Vasubandhu discusses the various functions of wisdom (prajñā), which is one of the forty-six “Concomitant Mental Faculties” (citta-samprayukta-saṃskāra). According to his interpretation, jñāna (knowledge) is the ability to cognitively comprehend the Four Noble Truths, niścitam (decision), while kṣānti has the nature of investigation (santīraṇātmakatva) and, therefore, it can functionally be regarded as dṛṣṭi. As we discussed before, kṣānti is a synonym of upanidhyāna, meaning “putting down (the object) near (one’s mind),” or, directing one’s mind toward (a mental) object. In addition, another great Abhidharmist Saṅghabhadra presents a more detailed explanation of this in his Shun Cheng li lun (Nyāyānusāra śāstra).

Kṣānti (Ch. jen) gives rise to “investigation” and “enjoyment of mind.” It is not included in the function of jñāna, for its psychological function affects [the religious practitioner] more stronger than jñāna in preparation for [the Enlightenment].

As stated above, kṣānti is clearly a term used to denote a certain type of mental function. In order to avoid confusion, however, the lines of Yaśomitra and Saṅghabhadra must be sutdied carefully. According to them, kṣānti itself is not santīraṇa (investigation), which immediately follows the moment of kṣānti. In other words, kṣānti is just a preceding moment of santīraṇa. This is related to the Theravāda Abhidhamma theory of “the process of perception” (Vithi-citta-uppāda), which is well known for the famous “mango” simile popularized by Buddhaghosa. The process of perception, according to Theravāda Abhidhamma, can be summarized as follows, in which the functions arise, in due order, for one moment each :

[From the 4th moment to the 8th moment]

Awareness (āvajjana)[in the fourth moment]

Seeing (dassana), respectively

Hearing (savana)

Smelling (ghāyana)[in the fifth moment]

Tasting (sāyana)

Touching (phuṣana)

Receiving (sampaṭicchana)[in the sixth moment]

Investigating (santīraṇa)[in the sixth moment]

Determining (voṭṭhappana)[in the eighth moment]

Keeping in mind the phrase, “diṭṭe sute khantim akubbamāno” of Sn. 897, and the point made that “kṣānti (P. khanti) is a preceding moment of investigation (santīraṇa), the khanti in the Sn. can then be said to be in its functional process of mental perception corresponding to the sixth moment, ‘receiving’ (sampaṭicchana). In other words, “making khanti for what is seen” means “receiving ‘what is seen’ as an object into the mind.” This is attested by another phrase, “nave khantim na kubbaye” [should not show a liking for the new] in Sn. 944. Because in the phrase, “the new” (nava) is referring to the five skandhas arising just now (Nava vuccanti paccuppannā rūpā vedanā saññā saṁkhārā viññāṇam. Paccuppanne saṃkhāre taṇhāvasena khantiṃ na kareyya…). Therefore “liking for the new” means “directing out mind towards a new object arising presently.” This is made clearer in the “mango” simile. The time of stretching out his hand and taking the mango is as that of the resultant mind-element receiving the object (sampaṭicchana) ; the time of taking it and squeezing it is as that of the resultant element of mind-cognition examining the object (santīraṇa). As illustrated in the simile, the moment of ‘receiving object’ (sampaṭicchana) is not the moment of enjoying or being pleased with the external object, i.e., ‘liking’ or ‘delightedness’ (kānti), but the moment of putting one’s mind near to the external object. In the same way, the phrase in question, “diṭṭe sute khantim akubbamāno,” can be understood literally as “not making any (attentive) intentionality to what it seen or heard.” Therefore, the khanti in the Sn. is neither “a virtuous act,” such as “patience,” nor “any pleasure or delight of mind.” Rather, it is a mental state of an (attentive) intentionality [towards an external object]. However, if we consider the khanti, only in the contexts of the two verses, “liking” or “preference” can also convey the meaning properly. But, even if this is the case, what we still have to keep in mind is that “liking” is a correct translation only in the sense of the psychology underlying “liking.”

The “mind-body” theory by Professor John Searle, a modern philosopher, can be used to support the aforementioned speculation. According to Professor Searle, such mental states as “forgiveness,” “acceptance,” or “aspiration” can all be characterized as “intentionality,” which is “that property of many mental states and events by which they are directed at or about or of objects and states of affairs in the world.”

3.2. khanti as “determining factor”

The following verses from Aṅgulimāla Sutta shows us incisively how khanti was used with the meaning, “directing.”

[Thag. 875 ; M ⅱ 105, Aṅgulimāla Sutta]

874 : disā hi me dhammakathaṃ suṇantu, disā hi me yuñjantu buddhasāsane, disā hi me te manusse bhajantu ye dhammam eva-ādapayanti santo

875 : disā hi me khantivādānaṃ avirodhappasaṃsinaṃ sunaṇtu dhammaṃ kālena tañ ca anuvidhīyantu.

876 : na hi jātu so mamaṃ hiṃse aññaṃ vā pana kañcinam, pappuyya paramaṃ santiṃ rakkheyya tasathāvare

877 : udakam hi nayanti nettikā, usukārā namayanti tejanaṃ, dārum namyanti tacchakā, attānaṃ damayanti paṇḍitā

878 : daṇḍen’ eke damayanti aṅkusehi kasāhi ca ; adaṇḍena asatthena ahaṃ danto ‘mhi tādinā.


874 : Let even my enemies hear a discourse on the doctrine ; let even my enemies apply themselves to the Buddha’s teaching ; let even my enemies consort with those men who, being good, cause (other) to accept the doctrine.

875 : Let my enemies hear dhamma in proper time from those who speak about khanti and praise gentleness and let them act in conformity with the dhamma.

876 : Because he (Arahat) would not harm me or anyone else ; he would attain to the highest peace ; he would protect creatures moving and unmoving.

877 : Because canal-makers lead water, arrow-makers bend the bow, carpenters bend wood, wise men tame the self.

878 : Some tame with a stick, or hooks, or whips. I was tamed by the Venerable one without stick, without sword.

First of all, we need to note the passage in verse no. 875, “let them act in conformity with dhamma.” If I interpret it with more detail in the context of the previous phrase of verse 874, it will read : “having heard about ‘khanti and the gentleness’ [of mind toward dhamma], they will act, by the ‘khanti and the gentleness,’ in conformity with dhamma.” Moreover, as seen in the last line of the verse 874, those who speak about ‘khanti’ are not only themselves endowed with ‘khanti,’ but also cause others to accept dhamma (dhammam eva ādapayanti). In this sense, what is referred to by the metaphor of “canal-maker (nettika)” etc., in the verse 877, is clear enough. As canal-makers lead water naturally and gently, Arhat has not only already tamed himself but by speaking about ‘khanti and the gentleness,’ he also tames ordinary beings and lets them act in conformity with dhamma. Thus, ‘khanti and the gentleness’ has double references. One is [to teach dhamma] gently without violence, and the other one is to tame one’s own being and other beings in conformity with dhamma. Therefore, it is a quite natural use of language for the two words ‘khanti’ and ‘soracca’ (gentleness) to appear together. Although they convey seemingly different metaphorical images, because ‘khanti’ usually denotes something hard, like “steadfast” or “firmness,” together they create a single meaning through the context. This is true in the sense that in order to direct or redirect, or to cause something to bend (namati) without breaking it, the object and one who bends it should be soft and gentle. In fact, the image of softening the mind in order to abandon defilements is very prevalent in Buddhist texts that mention the Path to attain enlightenment. In order to understand this “soft image” of khanti, the followings Sutta will be helpful. We will notice that khanti, as a compound word, is combined with the word “soracca” meaning “gentleness” or “meekness” and is very frequently found in combined words with khanti.

[A ⅳ 45 ; D ⅲ 61 ; A ⅱ 68 ; ⅲ 46]

Katamo ca brāhmaṇa dakkhiṇeyyaggi?

Idha brāhmaṇa ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇa madappāmāda paṭiviratā khantisoracce nivitthā ekam attānaṃ damenti ekam attānaṃ samenti ekam attānaṃ parinibbāpenti.


What is, Brahman, the fire of the gift-worthy?

Consider, Brahman, those recluses and godly men who abstain from pride and indolence, who bears things patiently and meekly [or settled in khantisoracca], each taming self, each calming self, each perfecting self.

Here, in defining the religious mendicant, the key words are : “muda-ppamādā paṭiviratā” and “khantisoracce niviṭṭhā,” both of which lead the mendicant successively to the state of “taming self, etc..” The proper reading of this passage is to consider it as a temporal sequence : having abstained from … (paṭiviratā), settle oneself to … (niviṭṭhā). Even if only for the sake of logical coherence, this must be understood as “from one stage to another stage.” Thus, in this passage, khantisoracca is referred to as the counter part of “mada-ppamāda.” The meaning of mada-ppamāda (Sk. mada-pramāda) could mean, “intoxication of sensual pleasure.” Thus, the passage in question would read : “having renounced from” [the life style of] intoxication of sensual pleasure, the mendicant settles himself in the state of “khantisoracca.” So, if it were not for the sentence : “taming self … etc.,” to understand “khantisoracce niviṭṭhā,” the translation of, “(keep mind) patiently from (sensual pleasure)” would not be incorrect.

But, if we consider the syntactic relationship between “mada-ppamāda paṭiviratā khantisoracce niviṭṭhā” and “ekam attānaṃ damenti,” those passage must be understood as “one who renounced from the sensual pleasure and now settles himself in the state of khantisoracca is the one who tames well his own self….” Thus, in this instance, khantisoracca must be understood as not merely “to endure oneself from sensual pleasure” but also “to put one’s mind firmly (niviṭṭha) toward taming his own self, etc..”

From these two occurrences, we can now begin to understand why Buddhaghosa gave the word khanti as a synonym of Arhatship. And again, the khanti power of redirecting a mental state is not always toward Buddhist teaching. Sometimes, it also refers to a mental state “directed the wrong way” towards the non-Buddhist teaching. This is clearly shown when Buddha explains to Vaccha why it is difficult for him to understand Buddhism. The English word, “intentionality” or “[religious] piety” might be the proper translation of khanti in this context.

[M.Ⅰ 487]

Alaṃ hi te Vaccha aññāṇāya … so tayā dujjāno aññadiṭṭhikena aññakhantikena aññarucikena aññatrayogena aññathācariyakena.


You ought to be at a loss, Vaccha … it is hard for you who are of another view another intentionality, another objective, of a different observance, and under different teacher.

With these four differences, the different view, objective, observance, and teacher, an intentionality towards another direction makes it difficult for Vaccha to understand Buddhism. Both the lack of intentionality, as well as an intentionality oriented in a different direction, exist as obstacles that must be overcome in order to understand the truth.

With the exception of the khanti and ruci, the other three obstacles listed above are all shared by those who share a common religion. In other words, whose in the same religion all share the same views, observances, and teacher(s). But the “intentionality” and “objective” can belong to the psychological properties of the individual only ; it cannot be shared with others. Because of this psychological attribute, khanti will become an increasingly important concept in Buddhist marga. This individuality of khanti is clearly shown in the following passage.

In addressing the issue of the existence of two different religions, Buddhism and Jainism, Buddha enumerated a different list. However, this new list also included “khanti”.

[M.Ⅱ. 218]

Evaṁ vutte ahaṁ bhikkhave, te Nigaṇṭhe etad avocaṁ : Pañca kho ime, āvuso Nigaṇṭhā, dhammā diṭṭhe va dhamme dvidhā vipākā, Katame pañca? … Saddhā ruci anussavo ākāraparivitakko ditthi-nijjhāna-khanti.


When this had been said I, monks, spoke thus to those Jains: “These five conditions here-now, reverend Jains, have a two-fold result. What five?” Faith, inclination, tradition, consideration of reasons, and the intentionality of views and understanding.

A different khanti is not only an obstacle to understanding Buddhism, but also a determining factor of different religions. One may possess a pious intentionality, but if it is directed in a different way, it will lead one to a different conclusion Thus, the khanti can be seen as a factor in determining different ways of practicing a religion, or in forming a completely different religion. The passages of Mahāniddesa, commenting on Sn 781, clearly shows this character of khanti. What is indicated in this use of khanti is that a wrongly directed intentionality could evoke a religious prejudice or, collectively, an antagonism among religions.

Sn. 781

Sakam hi ditthim katham accayeyya chandānunīto ruciyā niviṭṭho? sayaṃ samattāni pakubbamāno : yathā hi janeyya, tatha vadeyya.


How could anyone overcome his very own view, (when he is) led on by desire, entrenched in his own inclination, fulfilling those (wrong views) himself? For as he knows, so would he speak.

Nd. 1. 64

Sakam hi ditthim katham accayeyyā ti. Ye te titthiyā Sudariṃ paribbājikam hantvā, samaṇānaṃ sakyaputtiyānaṃ avaṇṇam pakāsayitvā, evaṃ etaṃ lābhaṃ yasaṃ sakkārasammānaṃ paccāharissama ti evamditthikā evamkhantikā evamrucikā evamladdhikā evamajjhasayā evamadhippāyā…

In commenting upon “…sakaṃ diṭṭhim” (one’s own view) the commentator gives an example of “being entrenched in one’s own view”. He refers to well-known episode of Sundari, who was killed by heretics. What misguided the heretics to murder Sundari was noting but their own view directed the wrong way. The commentator was clearly aware that the word khanti would be one of the most proper words which could denote such psychology. Therefore, khanti, in this case, must be understood as [wrongly directed] “intentionality” or “religious piety,” entrenched in one’s own view. Another aspect that one must note here is the passage, “evaṃdiṭṭhikā evamkhantikā evamrucikā evaṃladdhikā evamajjhasayā evamadhippāya.” Through Pāli canon, we so often encounter a cluster of words such as diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti etc.. Even though there are variations in the numbers listed, the three items, diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti, appear in every case. The following passages are the contexts where the combination of diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti etc. occur.

How do we distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma when two monks contend with each other? For this matter, Mahāpajāpati the Gotamī spoke to the Buddha as follows :

[Ⅴ.ⅰ355 : Mahavagga Ⅹ]


It is said, Lord, that the monks of Kosambi … [to contending with other monks about eighteen points] … are coming to Sāvatthī. How am I, Lord, to behave in regard to these monks?

Well then, do you, Gotami, hear dhamma on both sides ; having heard dhamma on both sides, choose the views and the approval and the persuasion and the creed of those monks who are the speakers of dhamma. (…ye tattha bhikkhū dhammavādino tesam ditthiñ ca khantiñ ca ruciñ as ādāyan ca rocehi), ….

As mentioned here clearly, the four psychological modalities, diṭṭhi, khanti, ruci, and ādāya are the crucial criteria to distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma. Buddhists from earlier times noticed that even among monks sharing the same religious teaching (dhamma), and behavior code (vinaya), each monk could have a different psychological attitude toward their institutionalized system, as exemplified by Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. Of these four, the three modalities, diṭṭhi, khanti, and ruci, are used very frequently in combination. As I mentioned earlier, Rhys Davids understood the triad, respectively, as “one’s views, indulgence and pleasure (=will), i.e., one’s intellectual, emotional and volitional sphere.” However, the psychological spheres of these three terms are not as clear, as Davids assumed. First of all, as we saw before, each one shares all of the “three psychological spheres” without any exclusion. Khanti, for example, is being used in all three of the spheres according to its context. It is more likely that the triad diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti, sometimes combined with other terms, is a set phrase of complementary terms which denotes one’s overall mental attitude, including all three psychological spheres, towards a religious teaching. Because of this character of ‘being complementary each other,’ the triad is always used together. When used for denoting one’s mental attitude the words never appear independently. If the three terms indicated the different three spheres, as Rhys Davids understood it, there would have to be a case where one person shares only one or two elements of the triad with other people. However, we cannot find such a case.

Thus, this triad is sometimes considered to be the major criterion for judging one’s religious piety in Buddhism. Buddhist Vinaya explains explicitly who can be ordained and who should not be and in what conditions one can be granted probation for four months. During these four months, if one fails in following matters he should not be ordained :

[Vin.ⅰ 70~71]

puna ca paraṃ bhikkhave aññatitthyapubbo yassa titthāyatanā saṃkanto hoti, tassa satthuno tassa diṭṭhiyā tassa khantiyā tassa ruciyā tassa ādāyassa avaṇṇe bhaññamaṇe kupito hoti anattamano anabhiraddho, budddhassa vā dhammassa vā saṃghassa vā avaṇṇe bhaññamāne attamano hoti udaggo abhiraddho, yassa vā pana titthāyatanā saṃkanto hoti, tassa satthuno tassa diṭṭhiyā tassa khantiyā tassa ruciyā tassa ādāyassa vāṇṇe bhaññamane attamano hoti udaggo abhiraddho, buddhassa vā dhammassa va saṃghassa vā vaṇṇe bhaññamāne kupito hoti anattamano anabhiraddho, ….


And again, monks, a former member of another sect becomes angry, displeased, dissatisfied if dispraise is being spoken of the teacher, the view, the approval (khanti), the persuasion, the creed of that fold of a sect form which he has came over ; he becomes pleased, elated, satisfied if dispraise is being spoken of the Buddha or of Dhamma or the Saṅgha ; or else he becomes pleased, elated, satisfied if praise is being spoken of the teacher, the view, the approval (khanti), the persuasion, the creed of that fold of a sect from which he has came over ; he becomes angry, displeased, dissatisfied if praise is being spoken of the Buddha or of Dhamma or the Saṅgha ; ….

Here, cleary, as the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha is mentioned as the institution of Buddhist religion, the teacher, views, the approval (khanti), the persuasion (ruci), and the creed (ādāya) are mentioned as a fold of another religion. Thus, only the one who has abandoned these five folds of another religion, could be ordained as Buddhist monks. Here, also as aforementioned, the three lists, teacher, views, and creed, collectively belong to a religious institution, while the other two, “ruci” and “khanti” belong to individual psychology. In order to accept Buddhist views etc., one has to redirect his mind to the Buddha’s teaching. As will be discussed later, “ruci” and “khanti” have a common psychological quality, that implies, turning the mind to a certain object. Before the mental state of “liking an object” occurs, his mind should first be turned to the object. With this connection, it might possible to translate the “ruci” (liking) of this passage into “persuasion”.

There are two other contexts where the triad, diṭṭhi, khanti and ruci in combination appear as a psychological complex : (1) “telling a conscious lie” (sampajānamusāvāda) and (2) “the schism of Sangha.” (saṅghabheda)

[Ⅴ.ⅳ2~3 : Suttavibhaṅga, pācittiya, expiation ; Ⅴⅲ 93 : Suttavibhanga, pārājika]


There are seven ways to tell a conscious lie


1. Before one has lied he knows that he is going to lie.

2. While lying he knows that he is lying.

3. Having lied he knows that he lied.

[In addition, with regard to the psychological modes of telling a lie :]

4. by misrepresenting (vinidhāya) one’s view (diṭṭhi)

5. by misrepresenting one’s approval (khanti)

6. by misrepresenting one’s pleasure (ruci)

7. by misrepresenting one’s intention (bhāva)

Here the four psychological modes are added to the three tenses of the verb bhaṇati. They are added on to the three modes of the verb bhaṇati, thus making seven constituents. Therefore, each of the four psychological modes is said to be the very motive when one tells a conscious lie. In other words, if one tells a conscious lie, it means that he misrepresented (vinidhāya) his diṭṭhi or khanti or ruci etc.. This use of the triad demonstrates well the psychological character of the triad as a whole, as well as khanti. The word sampajāna, meaning “attentive,” “considerate,” “deliberate” or “mindful,” implies that the mental state of misrepresenting khanti, or “telling a conscious lie”, is not an inattentive or careless act. Rather, it comes from the state of having one’s mind having entirely directed towards a certain object. Thus, “misrepresenting khanti etc.,” should be understood as a mental state, entrenched in wrong intentionality, aimed at attaining a certain purpose.

Therefore, in the case of schism of Community (Saṅghabheda), the triad is mentioned as the main psychological motive underlying most purposeful vicious actions that make one “doomed to the downfall.” The following story is mentioned in Ⅴ.ⅲ175 : When Devadatta proceeded with a schism in the Saṅgha, some monks who follow him were said to be as “those following him by taking up his ‘diṭṭhi,’ ‘khanti’ and ‘ruci’ (anuvattakā ‘ti, yaṃdiṭṭhiko hoti yaṃkhantiko yaṃruciko te pi taṃdiṭṭhikā honti taṃkhantikā taṃrucikā).” Another passage, which probably indicates the same meaning appears in the same text as follows : those monks following Devadatta defend him and say that “… this monk, adopting our desire and objectives, gives expression to them ; he knows that what he says for us seems also good to us.” (… eso bhikkhu amhākañc’eso bhikkhu chandañ ca ruciñ ca ādāya voharati, jānāti no bhāsati, amhākaṃ p’etaṃ khamatīti). As seen in these passages, diṭṭhi, khanti, and ruci etc. are shared by those people who agree upon the schism ; this triad is the very factor which distinguishes the schismatic monks from the others in the Community.

In general, a schismatic in Saṅgha is said to be “… doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, incurable.” If the condemnation is not for misrepresenting ditthi, khanti, ruci, etc., however, it is not “incurable.”

V.ⅱ 205~206 (Cullavagga)

Katamo pana bhante saṃghabhedako na apayiko na nerayiko na kappaṭṭho na atekiccho ‘ti.

Idh’ Upāli bhikkhu adhammaṃ dhammo ‘ti dīpeti tasmiṃ dhammadiṭṭhi bhede dhammadiṭṭhi avinidhāya ditthim avinidhāyakhantim avinidhāya rucim avinidhāya bhavām … ayam pi kho Upāli samghabhedako na āpāyiko na nerayiko na kappatthao na atekiccho.


[Upāli asks the Buddha]

“But which schismatic in Saṅgha, Lord, is not doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, not incurable?”

“This is a case, Upāli, where a monk explains non-dhamma as dhamma ; if he has the view that in this (explanation) there is dhamma, if he has the view that in schism there is dhamma, yet not misrepresenting ditthi, misrepresenting khanti, misrepresenting ruci, misrepresenting bhāva, … , even this schismatic in the Saṅgha, Upāli, is not doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, not incurable.

According to the passage above, there are two necessary conditions for the possibility of “curing schismatic monk.” The first is to recognize that there is dhamma in Saṅgha as well as in schism. Secondly, he must not have misrepresented khanti etc.. Even though these two conditions appear independent, they are in fact the same, because if one’s mind is directed firmly in the wrong direction, it is impossible to recognize that there is dhamma also in Saṅgha. In other words, to recognize the existence of dhamma in both parties means that his mind could be redirected towards dhamma in Saṅgha. Therefore, the crucial distinction between “curable” and “incurable” lies in whether his vicious action, such as schism, is resulted from his misrepresenting khanti or not.

As we have seen, the occurrences of khanti sometimes combined with diṭṭhi and ruci, are the determining factors in whether one could understand Buddha’s teaching (in the case of Vaccha, Mⅰ487); distinguish one religion from another (Mⅱ218 ; the case of the heretics killing Sundari, Nd.1. 64) ; distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma (the case of Kosambi monks, Ⅴ.ⅰ355), and whether a schismatic monk could be “curable” or not. All of these usages are based on the psychological property of “directing” underlying the word Khanti. Depending upon which direction one’s mind is directed, his intellectual, emotional and volitional attitudes toward a religion, are determined. In this sense, we might predict that khanti will become a more an more important concept in the Buddhist path.

At the conclusion of this chapter on “khanti as the determining factor,” I would like to examine the Āḷavaka Sutta, which contains some very significant hints for the usage of khanti in Pāli texts.

[Sn. 188~189 (Sⅰ215) : from Āḷavaka Sutta]

[Yakkha Āḷavaka asked Buddha. What in this world is the best wealth for a man? What, when well practiced, brings happiness? What indeed is the sweetest of flavours? Living in what way do they say one’s life best? Having answered to each of his questions, Buddha finally gives him conclusion :]

Sn. 188

Yass’ ete caturo dhammā saddhassa gharamesino saccam dhammo dhiti cāgo, sa ve pecca na socati.

* saccam dama dhiti cāgo (Sⅰ215)

Sn. 189

Iṃgha aññe pi pucchassu puthū samaṇabrāhmaṇe, yadi saccā dama cāgā khantyā bhiyyo ‘dha vijjati


Sn. 188

Whatever faithful house-holder has there four righteous things (dhamma): sacca dhamma dhiti cāga,

* sacca dama dhiti cāga (Sⅰ215)

he indeed does not grieve when he has passed away

Sn. 189

Come now, ask others too, many ascetics and brahmans, if anything is found in this world greater than sacca dama cāga khanti

The four dharmas which should be kept by faithful house-holder are enumerated in Sn.188 as “sacca dhamma dhiti cāga,” but in Sn. 189, these lists are rendered into “sacca dama cāga khanti.” Since the latter verse in the context is a refrain of the preceding verse, these lists should be same, and would certainly be natural in the context of the Sutta. In the same Sutta, appearing in Sⅰ215, line Sn. 188 reads “saccaṃ damo dhiti cāgo” for the line of Sn. 188, and “sacca dama cāgo khantya” for Sn. 189. Although, when we follow the reading of Sⅰ215, it is possible to consider “dama” as a homonym of “dhamma,” how do we account for the fact that “dhiti” was rendered into “khanti” in both texts? I presume that early Buddhists considered both words, “dhiti” and “khanti” to be synonymous, at least in this context. If this is the case, “dhiti” must be an important word in understanding the early usage of “khanti.”

Moreover, the meaning of “dhiti” in Pāli Buddhist text fits well with various usages of “khanti”, except when the khanti is used to mean “patience”. If we consider the meaning of Sanskrit verbal root “dhṛ” from which “dhṛti,” the Sanskrit equivalent of the Pāli word “dhiti” came, this point will be especially clear. In addition to the meanings, “to hold,” or “to bear,” “dhṛ” has another meaning : “to direct (our attention or mind)” or “to fix or resolve upon.” This will immediately remind us the psychological property of “directing or redirecting one’s mind towards,” which underlies every meaning of khanti. This can not be an incidental fact. Also, in Pāli Buddhist texts, thepsychology underlying theword, “dhiti” signifies almost the same thing as “khanti.” “Dhiti,” in Pāli texts, means “energy,” “courage,” or “resolution” and in Nd1. 44 and Pv. A 131, it is used to indicate “wisdom,” which is another important usage of khanti to be discussed later.

3.3. Khanti as “choice power” (khanti-bala)

[Ps ⅱ 171]

Katamam khantibalaṁ?

Kāmacchandassa pahīnattā nekkhammaṁ khantīti khantibalaṁ;

byāpādassa pahīnattā abyāpādo khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

thīnaṁiddhassa pahīnattā ālokasaññā khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

uddhaccassa pahīnattā avikkhepo khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

vcikicchāya pahīnattā dhammavavatthānaṁ khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

avijjāya pahīnattā ñānam khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

aratiyā pahīnattā pāmojjaṁ khantīti’ khantibalaṁ ;

nīvarnānaṁ pahīnattā pathamajjhānaṁ khantīti’ khantibalaṁ ;

sabbakilesānaṁ pahīnattā arahattamaggo khantīti’ khantibalaṁ.

Here, khanti is considered to be the power, to direct one’s mind toward higher spiritual stage by abandoning lower one. It is the power of “abandoning (pahīnattā) ‘zeal for sensual desire’ (kāmacchanda) and choosing (khanti) renunciation (nekkhamma), or ‘abandoning (pahīnattā) all defilements’ (sabbakilesa) and ‘choosing (khanti) the Arhant Path’ (arahattamagga).” This power of “abandoning one thing and choosing another” can be called identical in its psychological properties with that of the “directing” power of khanti. In this context however, khanti cannot yet be called “wisdom” nor an “intellectual ‘choice.'” Neither is it yet a recognition in a specific moment along the path, like the kṣānti stage in the four “wholesome roots (kuśalamūlāni)” of the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, or the “anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti” of Mahayana. It is more likely a religious piety, or an aspiration to abandon worldly things and move toward the supra mundane one. However, this psychological character of khanti must have greatly influenced the formation of the concept kṣānti in Sarvāstivāda doctrine. This is because the mental function of kṣānti, as a type of ‘knowledge’ (jñāna), is to help one abandon defilements which obstruct the pure ‘knowledge’, as well as give rise to pure or correct ‘knowledge’. Therefore, from this usage of khanti we know more clearly that religious aspiration is as a fundamental factor underlying the “intellectual” character of kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine. Usually, scholars agree that religious aspiration is an element of the stage of kṣānti needed to advance to the stage of laukikāgra dharma, which is the highest truth of the mundane. But, they felt that the “aspiration” involved in that stage only indicated “patience.” They usually assumed this because the laukikāgra dharma stage would be very difficult to attain, thus requiring an extraordinary amount of “patience.” Therefore, this preceding stage has been named “kṣānti” or, the stage of patience. However, if we consider the usage of khanti in the passage above, their assumption cannot be substantiated. Even though it is undeniable that one must possess as unusual amount of patience in order to arrive at such a high stage, we have to consider a more fundamental function of kṣānti in the path. This function is that of abandoning the defilements that obstruct the pure knowledge. Therefore, the khanti in the Pāli usage, “abandoning and choosing”, must be regarded as another important concept to understand the kṣānti of the Sarvāstivāda school.

The following passage will show us that khanti signified an intellectual “choice” to recognize truth. However, the “choice” here is not as “intellectual” as will be found in the next chapter, “khanti as wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa). It is similar to samyakdṛṣṭi

(P. sammādiṭṭhi) of the Noble Eight fold paths. Thus, it can be said to be a semantic ‘nexus’ between the khanti as ‘choice,’ and as ‘wisdom’.


Katamo ca sattānaṁ āsayo?

1) sassato loko ti vā, asassato loko ti vā ;

2) antavā loko ti vā, anatavā loko ti vā ;

3) taṁ jīvaṁ taṁ sarīran ti vā, aññaṁ jīvaṁ aññaṁ sarīran ti vā ;

4) hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā ti vā, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā ti vā ; hoti ca na hoti ca Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇa ti vā, n’eva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā’ ti vā.

… ete vā pana ubho ante anupagamma idappaccayatāpaticcasamuppannesu dhammesu anulomikā khanti patiladdhā hoti ; yathābhūtaṁ vā ñāṇam ….


What is [ordinary] beings’ bias?

1) The world is eternal or The world is not eternal ;

2) The world is finite or The world is not finite ;

3) The soul and the body are the same or The soul is one, the body another ;

4) Tathāgata is after death or Tathāgata is not after death ; Tathāgata both ‘is’ and ‘is not’ after death or Tathāgata neither ‘is’ nor ‘is not’ after death.

… Or else, avoiding two these extremes, they either choose in conformity [with supra mundane knowledge] with respect to ideas dependently arisen through specific conditionality or they acquire correct knowledge.

While Ñāṇamoli translates “anulomikā khanti patiladdhā hoti” into “choose conformity [with supra mundane knowledge],” which is quite proper translation in this context, we need to explain how the word ‘khanti’ can be used to mean ‘choice.’ Especially in this context, the passage states that in order to avoiding the two extremes, one must either “choose in conformity with supra mundane knowledge, or acquire correct knowledge.” This means that practitioner, when he has not yet acquired the correct knowledge, should accept and believe in the Buddhist doctrine. This reminds us of the well-known issues on the Noble Eight fold paths. The first stage of the Path is “right view” (samyakdṛṣṭi/sammādiṭṭhi). The problem for a practitioner suffering in ignorance (avidyā) is how to get the “right view.” Thus, to avoid this problem, some texts and commentaries either postulated another stage : ‘right knowledge’ after the eighth stage, ‘right concentration’ (samyaksamādhi), or changed the orders of the stages by putting the ‘right view’ after the eighth stage. All of these efforts stem from the question of how a practitioner, who is still in the state of ignorance, can gain the ‘right view.’

In any case, it is fairly safe to say that ‘right view’ (sammādiṭṭhi) has a double reference, including both initial faith in the Buddha (saddhā ; Sk. śradhā) and the final liberating insight (pañña ; Sk. prajñā). Significantly the line above, “choose in conformity with the supra mundane…,” also means the “initial faith in Buddha.” Thus, the idea of this passage is clear. That is that a practitioner who still has “wrong views” or “doubt,” must avert his wrong views and direct his mind to the Buddha’s teaching in order to have faith in Buddha’s teaching.

3.4. khanti as “wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa)


Kathaṁ viditattā paññā khantiñāṇaṁ? Rūpaṁ aniccato viditaṁ, rūpaṁ dukkhato viditaṁ, rūpaṁ anattato viditaṁ ; yaṁ yaṁ viditaṁ, taṁ taṁ khamatīti viditattā paññā khantiñāṇam.


Ǫ. How is it that understanding (paññā) due to what is recognized (viditattā) is “knowledge as choice” (khanti-ñāṇaṁ)?

Ans. Matter (rūpa) is recognized as ‘impermanent,’ recognized as ‘suffering,’ recognized as ‘non-self’ : whatever is recognized, that he chooses (khamati), thus understanding (pañña) due to what is recognized (viditattā) is “knowledge as choice” (khanti-ñāṇa).

Here it is mentioned that the cognitive function of khanti to recognize the five constantly changing aggregates (pañcaskandha) as impermanent (aniccato), suffering (dukkhato), and non-self (anattato). Thus, the function of khanti as wisdom, or perhaps ‘intellectual choice’ is to understand properly what it is that is perceived by one’s sensory organs, and one’s mental faculties. However, in this context, it is not clear at how khanti could have such a function. The passage, “whatever is recognized, that the chooses” (yaṁ yaṃ viditaṁ, taṁ taṁ khamatīti) is the key to understanding this function of khanti properly. The word khamati, which is the verb form of khanti, was often used with the meaning “to choose,” in Pāli commentarial works. In PsA 450, for example, there is passage commenting upon “khamati” that reads, “tassa yogissa khamati ruccati” (that meditator has that choice, that preference), which reminds us that in Yaśomitra’s vyākhyā, the word kṣamate is replaced by rocate. In the context, rocate=kṣamate can have no other meaning than “to recognize.” As is well known, the original sense of the etymological root, “ruc” is ‘light’ or ‘bright’ which implies some intellectual faculty. The following passage will show the function of khanti as wisdom more specifically :

[Vbh. 325 ; VM. 371]

Tattha katamā cintāmaya paññā? … rupaṁ aniccan ti va, vedanā aniccan ti vā, saññā aniccā ti vā, saṁkhārā aniccā ti vā viññānaṁ aniccan ti vā, evarūpiṁ anulomikaṁ khatiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantiṁ parato assutvā paṭilabhati : ayaṁ vuccati cintāmayā paññā.


What is ‘wisdom by means of thinking?’ … Matter is impermanent ; feeling is impermanent ; perception is impermanent ; mental concomitants is impermanent ; consciousness is impermanent ; that which is similar, in conformity, ability (to comprehend), view, choice, opinion, seeing, ability to apprehend these states, is acquired without (by) hearing from others. This is called ‘wisdom by means of thinking.’

Here, ‘anulomikaṁ khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantiṁ’ is referred to as ‘wisdom’ (paññā/prajñā), a type of knowledge (jñāna). P. A. Thittila translates “khanti” into “‘ability’ (to comprehend)” and “dhammanijjhānakhanti” into “ability to apprehend to these states.” In his works on Visuddhimagga, however, Ñāṇamoli translated it differently, especially the underlined passage :

[VM. 371/trans. 483]

… any preference, view, choice, opinion, judgment, liking for pondering over things, … (in conformity with truth) … is of such kind as to conform with [the axioms] “matter is impermanent etc.”

From this, we see the discrepancy between the two translations. Ñāṇamoli was clearly aware of the semantic difference between dhamma-nijjhāna-kkhanti and dhamma-nijjhāna-khanti, while P. A. Thittila read dhamma-nijjhāna-kkhanti for dhamma-nijjhāna-khanti. In fact, even though many scholars have considered the latter reading a misreading of the former, both occur side by side throughout the Pāli texts. Since our task is to seek out the exact meanings of khanti in various contexts, this difference is much more significant than most scholars have considered it to be.

The single ‘k’ in the latter reading proves that khanti, here, might be derived not from verb root “kṣam” in Sk. but rather from “kam.” On the other hand, the former passage employs the doubled consonant­kkh, surely proving that it is derived from “kṣam” and not from “kam.” Thus, faithfully following the manuscript reading, Ñāṇamoli translated the compound word, “dhammanijjhānakhanti” as “liking pondering upon things (dhamma) and the single word,” “khanti” as “preference.” P. A. Thittila, however, having considered “…khanti” in the compound word as a misreading of “…kkhanti,” translated it similarly in both occurrences offering “ability (to comprehend)” for “khanti” and “ability (to apprehend) these states” for “dhammanijjhānakhanti.”

Even if we consider its Sanskrit equivalent term, dharma-nidhyāna-kṣānti, it is beyond doubt that this passage should be read as “…kkhanti.” Still, however, there are several cases in Sanskrit texts where kanti was used instead of kṣanti for khanti in Pāli. Therefore, it is evident that this compound word, whether it reads as “…kkhanti” or “…khanti,” should not be used independently to define the meaning khanti. Nevertheless, as we have ween before, G. H. Sasaki and H. Sakurabe took only arbitrarily one or the other of the readings to prove their hypothesis.

Instead of taking this occurrence independently, we need to examine it in the context. The passage in question can be rephrased as follows : “Any preference, view, choice, opinion, judgment, liking for pondering over things (khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantim) is of such as to conform (anulomikam) with the truth such as [the axioms], ‘matter is impermanent’… etc..” So, we might consider that the set phrase, “khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ” construes the following word “dhammanijjhānakhanti.” Thus the whole passage can be interpreted as “Conforming his preference, view, choice, opinion, or judgment to the truth,” such as ‘the impermanence of all existence (sabbam aniccam),’ one ponders upon the real nature of all things (dhammanijjhānakhanti). Therefore, in this sense, khanti, diṭṭhi, ruci, etc. are the state of mind of being dedicated to the understanding of Buddha’s teaching (sutamayāpaññā) or the understanding attained from contemplating upon the teaching in meditation (cintāmayāpaññā). In other words, at the very moment when one’s preference, choice, judgment etc., are in conformity with truth, either from hearing the teaching or from contemplating upon it, it can be said that one has attained wisdom. Therefore, it is crucial that in order to attain the ‘correct knowledge’ one has to conform or, we may say, “direct” his khanti etc. to the truth taught by Buddha. Not everyone can attain the “understanding” (paññā), even if they listen to Buddha’s teaching. Unless his khanti, or mind in general, is ready to “direct” towards what he listens to or what he contemplates, it will be very difficult for him to understand the truth.

3.5. Khanti as “marga”

[Theragāthā 1029]

Khantyā chandikato hoti, ussahitvā tuleti tam, samaye so padahati ajjhattam susamāhito


Because of the [pious] intentionality he is eager ; having made an effort he weighs it ; at the right time he exerts himself, well concentrated inside.

This very old source proves that in earlier times the word khanti it self was not merely understood as having or retaining any virtuous quality itself such as “patience” or “forbearance.” Rather, it played a neutral role, free from any qualities of virtue. This verse shows us a gradual sequence from “khanti,” to “chanda,” to “ussahati,” to “tuleti,” to “padahati,” and so on. What makes one’s mind “eager” (chanda)? As we will see in the following occurrences, it is no other than ‘faith’ [in the teaching] (saddha), including ‘desire to listen’ (sotaṁ odahati) dhamma and more importantly ‘to direct one’s mind towards the dhamma taught’ ; then the ‘eager’ is born (sati chando jāyati). In the sense that one’s mind is fully dedicated to listen to and understand dhamma, I translated khanti in the passage above into “[pious] intentionality.” Thus, not everyone attains the correct knowledge (sammāñāṇa), even if they hear the teaching of Buddha. To do so, their mind must be ‘directed towards’ dhamma or, we may say, ‘with [pious] intentionality.’ Similarly, but in more detail, the sequential procedure toward the realization of the highest truth, by means of wisdom, is mentioned in other texts as follows.

M.Ⅰ. 480.


And how, monks, does the attainment of profound knowledge (aññārādhana) come by means of a gradual training (anupubbasikhka), gradual doing (anupubbakiriya), a gradual course (anupubbapaṭipada)? As to this, one who has faith (saddhājāto), draws close [to teacher] (upasaṅkamati), sits down near (payirupāsati), lends ear (sotaṁ odahati), hears dhamma (dhammaṁ suṇāti), remembers (dhatānam), tests the meaning (atthaṁ upaparikkhati) [while testing the meaning] the dhammas are approved of (dhammanijjhānam khamanti) ; eager is born (sati chando jāyati) … he realizes the highest truth itself, penetrating it by means of wisdom….

It is worthwhile to note here that the khanti, as used above, leads the practitioner only to the attainment of the realization of the highest truth but not yet to the final enlightenment. This usage of the cognitive function of khanti is concerned with a specific moment or stage. In other words, unlike the aforementioned usages, concerned with a general [pious] intentionality to “hearing dhamma” and “understanding dhamma,” khanti as used above is posited in the process of cognitive activities such as investigating the meaning, approving it, and finally attaining the highest truth. While the Eight fold path is a list of guiding principles which one can practice, step by step, leading to the attainment of correct knowledge, the gradual course described above is rather a cognitive, or psychological, process to be experienced along the Path. So, khanti is considered to have a particular function in a particular moment, throughout the entire process. In this sense, this use of khanti is related to the kṣānti in the darśana mārga (the Path of insight) of the Sarvāstivāda School. The Sarvāstivāda School also limits the role of kṣānti as one momentary stage in the darśana mārga. The cognitive function of khanti, similar to kṣānti in darśana mārga, is clearly expounded in the following passages :

[Ps.ⅱ 236 ; A.ⅲ 441~442, no. 98~101]

(Bhagavā etad avocad)

So vata Bhikkhave bhikkhu kañci saṅkhāraṁ niccato samanupassanto anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato bhavissatīti n’etaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati, ‘anulomikāya khantiyā asamannāgato sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissatīti’ n’etaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati, ‘sammattaniyāmaṁ anokkamamāno sotāpattiphalaṁ vā sakadāgamiphalaṁ vā anāgāmiphalaṁ vā arahattaphalaṁ vā sacchikarissatīti’ n’etam ṭhānaṁ vijjati.

So vata Bhikkhave bhikkhu sabbasaṅkhāre aniccato samanupassanto anulomikāya khantiya samannagato bhavissatiti thanam etam vijjati, ‘anulomikaya khantiyā samannāgato sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissatīti’ ṭhānaṁ etaṁ vijjati, ‘sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamamāno sotāpattiphalaṁ vā sakadāgāmiphalaṁ vā anāgāmiphalaṁ vā arahattaphalaṁ vā sacchikarissatīti’ ṭhānaṁ etaṁ vijjati.


(The Lord said this:)

Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu sees any mental formation as permanent it is not possible that the shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and without making a choice in conformity [with actuality] it is not possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, and without entering upon the certainty of rightness it is not possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.


Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu sees any mental formation as impermanent it is possible that he shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and making a choice in conformity [with actuality] it is possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, and by entering upon the certainty of rightness it is possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.

In these two passages, we can see a “consecutive causal relationship” between the stages along the Path, especially in the Seeing of the Path (darśana mārga). If one has the wrong view (perverted view), he can not make “choice” (khanti) in conformity with the Four Noble Truths. If this is the case, one is not entering into the certainty of rightness (sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati) and because of this, it is not possible to realize the fruit of the sainthood, such as Stream-winner etc.. From this, we might confirm that the psychological or intellectual character of khanti belongs not to the category of “knowledge” (jñāna/ñāṇa) in a strict sense, but rather to the category of “view,” a more broadly intellectual stance towards a certain knowledge. In other words, having heard the teaching, one should keep the khanti in conformity with the truth, or what he was heard of been taught. In this way, he could gain the “certainty of the knowledge”.

Here, the phrase, sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati (entering upon the certainty of rightness) is comparable to that of samyaktva niyāma avakrānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine. According to Akbh., “the patience (dharmajñānakṣānti) is the entry into niyāma, for it is the entry into the certitude (niyāma) of the acquisition of absolute good or samyaktva. (sa iva ca niyāma avakrāntir ity ucyate / samyakvtaniyāma avakramaṇāt).” Further, and more elaborately, it continues on the theme of samyaktvaniyāma stating that : “entering into this absolute determination of acquisition of samyaktva is arriving, the taking possession of (prāpti). Once this possession arises, the ascetic is an Aryan.” (tatra niyamo niyāma ekāntībhāvaḥ / tasya abhigamanam avakramaṇam / tasyāṁ ca utpanna ayām āryapudgala ucyate) Soteriologically, the phrases, “sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati” and samyakvtaniyāma avakrānti seem to have the same function. Because both of them lead a practitioner to the entry into the sagely path of pure wisdom, or, in other words, the Path of Insight into the Four Noble Truths. However, if we compare the context where the two phrases occur, we can find a significant difference between them. What ensures “entering into the certainty of rightness” is not same in both traditions : dharmajñāna kṣānti in Sarvāstivāda and amulomiki khanti in Theravāda. As we see in Akbh., the former emphasizes the intellectual or cognitive character of kṣānti. The latter one, however, as the word anulomiki (agreeable) indicates, denotes a religious piety such as the faith in Buddha’s teaching. This difference might be another instance of the distinct characteristics of the two major Buddhist schools.

The following Sutta will show us clearly what is denoted by anulomiki khanti in Pāli texts.

[A. ⅲ 437]

Chahi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato suṇanto pi saddhammaṁ abhabbo niyāmaṁ okkamituṁ kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṁ. Katamehi chahi? Tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye desiyamāne

1) na sussūsati,

2) na sotaṁ odahati,

3) na aññācittaṁ upaṭṭhapeti

4) anatthaṁ ganhāti

5) atthaṁ riñcati,

6) ananulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato hoti.

… Chahi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato suṇanto pi saddhammaṁ bhabbo niyāmam okkamitum kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṁ. Katamehi chahi? Tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye desiyamane,

[But the converse holds…]


Bhikkhus, cumbered by these six conditions, though one may listen to Saddhamma, be can not become one to enter the certainty of rightness. When the Dhamma-displine declared by the Tathagata is taught,

1) he has no desire to listen

2) no desire to incline the ear

3) no desire to apply a heart of understanding

4) he grasps the profitless (anattham)

5) rejects the profitable (attham)

6) makes no choice in conformity [with actuality]

Bhikkhus, cumbered by these six….

[But the converse holds…]

Even though this phrase contains a few of the same passages as other aforementioned occurrences of khanti, it gives us a different impression. The six conditions, mentioned above, are neither sequential, nor cumulative steps in the Path. Rather, the former five conditions are the psychological contents of the last one. The former five conditions constitute the mental state of “making no choice in conformity [with actuality]”, which is the mental attitude that prevents us from entering upon the certainty of rightness. Here, the sequential, causal relationship is not necessary. Therefore, in order to understand dhamma properly, or “to enter the certainty of rightness,” one should “make choice in conformity [with actuality].” It is a mental state demonstrating nothing but one’s attitude towards dhamma such as “has desire to listen,” has desire to apply a heart of understanding” and “grasps the profitable (attham).” In this sense, the usage of khanti in this phrase is similar to the kṣāntis mentioned in the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra. The passage runs as follows :

O Ānanda, … all those beings, through the seeing of that Bodhi-tree, never turn away, namely, from the highest perfect knowledge. And they obtain three kinds of kṣānti, namely, ghoṣānugā, anulomikī and anutpattika dharma kṣānti through the power of the former prayers of the same Tathāgatha Amitāyus… without failure and without flaw.

Only in this passage are the meanings of both kṣāntis, ghoṣānugā and anulomikī, are not clear. However, if we consider the meaning of khanti in Pāli text along with those in this passage, they can be understood as an aspiration “to listen to dharma as taught by Buddha” and “to have an agreeable attitude towards the teachings of Buddha,” respectively. As implied in these usages, the kṣānti in Mahayana Buddhism does not have the cognitive function of the Savāstivāda school, instead it has more in common with that of the previous Sutta where khanti is understood as a “pious intentionality of faith toward/in the teaching of Buddha.” However, G. H. Sasaki, in commenting upon the kṣānti in the same passage, misunderstood anulomikī kṣānti as “meaning to penetrate into the truth of non-self.” It might be helpful for him to consult “anulomikī khanti” in Pāli context, which yields : “choice in conformity [with supra mundane knowledge]” as interpreted by Ñāṇamoli.

In the meantime, another thing to note about the previous Sutta is that the khanti is considered to be a preceding moment or stage to enter the certainty of rightness. As we have seen in various occurrences, not every usage of khanti, in Pāli texts, is considered to be a “mārga moment,” or the required preceding moment to bring up a certain resultant fruit in next moment. Thus, even though it is unclear whether the khanti in the Sutta above refers to a momentary stage, it is still reasonable to consider that this use of khanti may influence the concept of kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda School, where kṣānti is always considered to function in giving rise to “correct knowledge”.

4. Kṣānti in the Mahāyāna Soteriology

Since we have made important points that support various positions in the discussion of the many usages of khanti in Pāli Canon, there seems to be no specific conclusion to be made here. So, I would like to explain how this research on the Pāli usages of khanti may contribute to the understanding of the usages in the later two schools, Sarvāstivāda and Mahayana, but especially of the Prajñāpāramitā literature.

First, khanti was used with various meanings, regardless of the text strata in Pāli Canon. This means that, from very early times, Buddhists noticed a special psychological property which underlay the mental state of “being patient.” Also, they understood the common psychological property underlying “various mental activities,” such as “liking,” “preference,” and “choice.” All of these can be characterized as “intentionality,” or “directing one’s mind toward an object.” This must be due to the unique use of language of Buddhists. Even though the multi-meanings of a single word, i.e. “polysemy,” is not rare in human language, the Pāli word khanti is one of the few examples where various meanings derived from a single word are related to each other in their psychological qualities.

Second, from the usages of khanti, we can confirm that kṣānti, in Sanskrit, and jen, in Chinese translation, have meanings other than “patience.” This is especially true of the kṣānti in “anutpattikadharmakṣānti” (Ch. wu sheng fa jen), and “dharmajñānakṣānti” etc.. Another interesting thing regarding this topic is that in the earliest translations of Mahayana Sutras (T244 ; T225 ; T624 by Lokakṣema, T553 by Chi Ch’ien), the “anutpattikadharmakṣānti” was translated into “delightfulness in non-arising of dharma,” as if it had not been kṣānti, but kānti, in the original text. This fact proves that neither the meaning “patience” not the “cognitive” function, as found in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, were necessary in forming the compound word, anutpattikadharmakṣānti. This indicates that the Mahayana usage of kṣānti is more closely akin to the Theravāda, than to the Sarvāstivāda, where the “cognitive” function is dominant over any other function. Also, this indicates, philologically, that there might have been homonymic confusion between khanti and kānti in Indic languages during the time when Lokakṣema and Chi Ch’ien were active, around the second to the third century C. E.

Third, the technical senses of kṣānti found in Sarvāstivāda and Mahayana are not a unique-historical development through the doctrines of the two later Buddhist schools. This does not mean, however, that the technical senses of the two schools come directly from the Theravāda. Rather, what I would like to emphasize is that the technical senses cannot be understood properly without understanding the various usages of khanti in Theravāda texts. However, it was in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine that those usages found in Theravāda texts were theoretically elaborated as a particular concept. On the other hand, it might have been through the Mahayana movement that the usage of khanti in Theravāda as “religious piety,” was more emphasized than ever and was elaborated as a fundamental religious experience.

In many Mahayana Sutras, the phrase “having heard the teaching of Buddha, many bodhisattvas and Śrāvakas attained anutpattika dharma kṣānti “frequently appears. This seems to refer to their fundamental religious experiences. While chanting the names of many Buddhas, praising the virtues of the Buddhas, and reciting sutras, they experience the emptiness of existence in various samādhi (trance), or actually experience the manifestation of Buddha or Buddhas while in a trance (pratyutpanna-buddha-saṃmukha-avasthita-samādhi). This was most likely the typical religious activity of the early Mahayanists. Thus, kṣānti is used in describing their religious experience with typical Mahayanistic interpretations. So here, the kṣānti indicates a “pious intentionality” aimed at achieving the state of anutpattikadharmakṣānti, where “nothing has been born or created in this world and things are seen yathābhūtam from the point of view of absolute knowledge, they are nirvana itself, are not at all subject to birth-and-death.” Even though it is not elaborated as much as in Mahayana doctrine, the following verses form Therīgāthā well demonstrates the usage of khanti as a fundamental basis of religious aspirations toward enlightenment.

[Therīgāthā 521~522]

So hetu so pabhavo taṃ mūlaṃ satthu sāsane khanti taṃ paṭhamasamodhānaṃ taṃ dhammaratāya nibbānaṃ

Evaṃ kathenti ye saddahanti vacanam anomapaññassa nibbindanti bhavagate nibbinditvā virajjantī ti


That was the cause, that the origin, that the root [of enlightenment] ; that very intentionality toward the teaching, that first meeting, that was quenching for one delighting in the dhamma.

So they say who have faith in the utterance of the one who has perfect wisdom ; they are disgusted with existence ; being disgusted with it they are disinterested (in it).

As seen here, the religious intentionality includes not only a positive attitude towards dhamma, but also as an agreeable attitude to the teacher preaching the dhamma. As the commentary of this verse mentions, the khanti is a pious intentionality, the desire to understand the dhamma as taught by the teacher. (sā va sāsane khantī, sā c’eva idha satthu sāsane-dhamme-nijjhāna-kkhati … tad eva satthu sāsane-dhamme abiratāya pariyosāne nibbānan ti phalūpacārena kāranam vadati). Moreover, as we have seen before in the verse of Theragāthā 1092, it produce an “eagerness” (chanda) to advance to a higher stage until enlightenment is attained. This concept, in addition to the mind being delighted in the dhamma, is the main cause of enlightenment. It seems beyond question that khanti in such contexts, having a religious flavor different form the Sarvāstivādin’s philosophical tone, is more closely related to the concept of kṣānti in Mahayana soteriology.

From this point of view, the kṣānti here must be understood differently than when used in the Sarvāstivāda context. In the Sarvāstivāda school, the kṣānti was a cognition functioning momentarily in the course of completing darśana mārga. While Mahayana, the kṣānti is an independent, final notion, as far as its spiritual value is concerned, indicating that one will realize, soon in the future, the ultimate truth of Buddhism.

無生法忍의 忍(kṣānti)에 대한 의미론적 연구

無生法忍(anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti)은 보살이 不退轉位에 이르기 위해 반드시 획득해야 할 중요한 한 깨달음일 뿐, 아니라 붓다의 受記와도 직접 관련이 있는 아주 중요한 개념이다. 이 술어는 일반적으로 ‘法의 無生을 忍하는 것’으로 이해되고 있다. 여기서 법의 무생이란 대승의 空사상을 일컫는 것으로, 반야경 등에서는 핵심적 주제이다. 그러나 문제는 ‘忍(kṣānti)’을 어떻게 이해해야 할 것인지에 대해서는 별다른 정설이 없다.

일반적으로 아비다르마에서 ‘忍’이 종종 ‘慧’의 한 작용인 ‘認可’나 ‘決擇’의 뜻으로 주석되어 있는 것을 그대로 받아들여, ‘~의 무생’을 ‘~을 認可하여 받아들이는 것’으로 이해하고 있다.

이때 문제가 되는 것은, 어떻게 ‘참는다’라는 뜻의 ‘忍’이 ‘認可’나 ‘決擇’의 뜻으로 쓰일 수 있는지, 지금까지 아무런 설명이 없다는 것이다. 일부 학자들은 소품반야 등을 인용하여, “법의 무생이란 놀랍고 두려운 것이기 때문에 불퇴전보살이 되기 위해서는 이를 ‘참고 견뎌야 한다.’”는 뜻에서 ‘忍’이란 말을 썼다고 한다. 그러나 이것 또한 별로 설득력 있는 설명은 아니다.

본 연구는 ‘忍’이란 말이 초기 팔리불교 경전에서부터 산스크리트로 된 아비다르마 논서, 그리고 한역 경전 등에서 어떤 뜻으로 사용되었으며, 이런 여러 多意的 용례를 가능케 하는 kṣānti라는 단어가 가진 의미의 내적 구조를 밝히고 있다.

본 연구는 ‘참는다’를 그 기본 의미로 가진 한 단어가, 어떻게 ‘좋아한다’, ‘認可 決定한다’ 등의 전혀 다른 의미로 轉移되는가를, 초기 불교 문헌을 비롯하여 산스크리트 문헌, 한역 문헌을 총망라해서 연구 조사하고 있다.

kṣānti는 ‘참다’, ‘인내하다’ 등을 뜻하는 동사 어근 ‘kṣam’에서 파생한 명사형으로, 주로 한역 불전에서 ‘忍’ 혹은 ‘忍辱’ 등으로 번역되고 있다. 六波羅蜜이나 十波羅蜜의 하나로서의 ‘인욕’은 본래의 뜻과 일치하고 있어 별 다른 의문이 생기지 않는다. 그러나 대승불교의 수행론이나 보살 계위에서 중요한 위치를 차지하는 ‘無生法忍(anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti)’이라든지, 부파불교에서의 수행론인 見道(darśana mārga)에서의 法類智忍(dharma-jñāna-kṣānti) 등의 8忍, 그리고 慧의 한 작용인 忍可 決定으로서의 忍 등은, ‘忍(kṣānti)’의 본래 뜻인 ‘참다’, ‘인내하다’라는 의미로서는 적절하게 이해되지 않는다.

서양의 불교학자들도 이러한 문제를 인식하여 ‘kṣānti’를 번역하는 데 어려움을 겪었던 것 같다. 예를 들면, Max Müller는 ‘resignation’으로, Sylvain Levi는 ‘acquescence’로 번역하고 있으며, 서양인은 아니지만 영어로 많은 저술을 낸 D.T. Suzuki는 ‘kṣānti’를 ‘recognition’이라고 번역하였다.

한편, Ñāṇamoli, K. R. Norman, I. B. Horner 등은 이를 ‘preference’, ‘approval’, ‘choice’ 등으로 번역했다.

이러한 번역에서 드러나듯이, 일군의 학자들은 ‘kṣānti’를 번역하면서 가능한 한 ‘참다’라는 본래의 의미를 살리려고 했고, 그러다 보니 문맥 속에서의 ‘kṣānti’의 의미를 충분히 살리지 못했다. 그리고 다른 한편의 학자들은 문맥의 의미에 충실한 번역을 함으로써 ‘참다’라는 본래의 의미와는 거리가 먼 번역을 하고 말았다.

한편, 일본 학자들 중에서도 ‘kṣānti’ 및 그 譯語인 ‘忍’의 특수한 용례에 관심을 가진 학자들이 있었다. 그 대표적인 사람이 Sasaki Genjung과 Sakurabe Hajime이다. Sasaki Genjung은 한역 의족경에서 팔리의 ‘khanti’가 ‘愛’로 번역되어 있는 것에 착안하여 산스크리트 경전의 ‘kṣānti’는 ‘좋아한다’ 등을 뜻하는 ‘kanti’로 되어야 맞는데, 과거 경전 편찬자들이 잘못 산스크리트화한 것이라고 다소 엉뚱한 주장을 하였다. 이에 대해 Sakurabe는 정확하게 Sasaki Genjung을 비판하고 있으나, 그 역시 ‘kṣānti’나 ‘忍’이 문맥상에서는 ‘愛’라든지 ‘樂’ 등의 의미로 쓰일 수 있음을 인정하고 있다. 그러나 어떻게 해서 ‘참다’라는 의미가 ‘좋아하다’, 혹은 아비달마 등에서 慧의 작용인 ‘認可 決定’의 의미로 전이될 수 있는지에 대해서는 언급하지 않고 있다.

이 점은 과거 譯經家들이나 註釋家들에 있어서도 마찬가지이다. 팔리 경전인 Sutta-Nipāta 일부를 漢譯한 義足經에서 ‘khanti(Sk. kṣānti)’를 ‘愛’로 번역했음은 앞에서 밝힌 바와 같고, 小品般若經의 고본 중 하나인 道行般若經을 번역한 支婁迦讖은 무생법인을 번역하면서 ‘無所從生法樂’이라고 하여 ‘忍’을 ‘樂’으로 번역하고 있다. 또한 衆賢도 그의 順正理論에서 ‘忍’을 慧의 한 작용으로 설명하고 있으나 어떻게 그 의미가 전이되는지에 대해서는 침묵하고 있다. 그것은 Sphuṭārtha-Abhidhamakośa-vyākhyā를 지은 Yaśomitra의 경우도 마찬가지이다.

일반적으로 한 단어가 불교 경전에서 다의적 혹은 전문 용어로 쓰이는 것은 그 단어에서 파생된 은유적․비유적 용법에서 비롯된다고 보는 것이 학계의 관례이다. 그런데 ‘kṣānti’의 경우는 여러 다른 용례들이 반드시 ‘참는다’라는 뜻에서 파생되어 비유적․은유적으로 쓰인 것도 아닐 뿐더러, 후일 아비다르마 논서나 대승경전에서 쓰이는 다양한 용례들이 이미 팔리 경전에서부터 나타나며, 그것도 가장 초기의 경전이라고 일컬어지는 Sutta-Nipāta에서 나타나고 있다. Sutta-Nipāta 제897게 및 944게에 ‘참는다’와는 다른 용례로 이미 쓰이고 있었던 것이다.

이것은 상당히 초기부터 ‘kṣānti’가 ‘참는다’라는 뜻 이외에 ‘좋아한다’, ‘선택한다’, ‘받아들인다’라는 뜻으로 쓰였으며, Thera-gāthā 등의 초기 경전에서도 아비다르마 논서 등에서 나타나는 ‘慧’의 한 작용으로서 ‘認可’, ‘決擇’ 등의 의미로 쓰이고 있는 것을 볼 수 있다.

최근 언어학에서의 큰 성과 중 하나는 의미론에 있어서의 ‘polysemy(多意)’이론이다. 이 이론에 따르면, 단어의 의미는 반드시 한 의미에서 비유적․은유적으로 파생되어 사용되는 것이 아니라, 동시에 여러 다의적 의미로 쓰일 수 있다는 것이다. 이 이론은 불교 문헌에서 ‘kṣānti’의 다의적 용례가 초기 불교부터 시대적 구분이 없이 나타나는 것과 일치한다. 지금까지 서구나 일본 불교학계에서 ‘kṣānti’의 다의적 의미를 적절하게 설명하지 못했던 것은, 첫째는 팔리 경전을 비롯한 광범위한 불교 문헌에서 나타나는 모든 종류의 다양한 용례들을 조사하지 않았고, 둘째는 ‘kṣānti’의 다양한 의미는 후대에 나타난 역사적 산물이라고 그릇된 가정을 했기 때문이다.

따라서 본 연구자는 다양한 용례를 두고 후대의 산물이라고 가정하는 그릇된 역사적 관점을 떠나, 다양한 의미가 동시적으로 쓰일 수 있는 것이 인류의 자연스러운 언어 사용의 한 방식임을 이해하는 ‘polysemy’이론에 입각해서 ‘kṣānti’의 다양한 의미를 이해하고, 그 다양한 의미에 어떠한 내적 연관이나 구조가 있는지 살펴보고 있다.

지금까지 불교학계에서 일반적으로 받아들이고 있는 바, 무생법인의 ‘忍’은 衆賢 등 아비달마 논사들의 주석을 바탕으로 이해해 왔다. 그러나, 현재까지 해 온 본 연구자의 팔리 경전에서의 연구 결과에 따르면, 무생법인의 ‘忍’은 초기 팔리 경전에서 자주 사용되는 용례 중의 하나인 ‘志向함’의 의미에 더 가까운 것이 아닌가 본다.

Hwadu Meditation and Contemporary Society

Hwadu Meditation and Contemporary Society

Sung Bae, Park

Professor of Buddhist Studies

State University of New York at Stony Brook


I have read many articles recently, and have had quite a few discussions with various knowledgeable people as well, regarding the topic of hwadu meditation. What I have observed from my readings and discussions is that people’s opinions about the hwadu fall into two distinct categories: “pro” and “con.” Those in the “pro”category feel that the hwadu is the only means by which enlightenment can be achieved, whereas those in the “con” category feel that hwadu is ineffective. However, from my observation, I have noticed that both sides are experiencing a sense of crisis regarding the proper use of hwadu meditation. I feel that the suffering on both sides is intensifying; I hear it as a scream for help, and I cannot ignore these screams. I will now look at each side in more detail.

The message of the “pro” people is simple: using hwadu is the only way to become enlightened. However, these people realize that many, if not most, people are not practicing it correctly. People may appear to be using hwadu during their meditation but in reality they are not. This is the crux of the crisis. In order to help these people, the “pros”continue to emphasize the teachings of the ancient Zen masters, reminding them of the basic fact of non-duality and so forth. Some of the “pro” people have proposed to develop some kind of special technique of meditation in order to help those who are having difficulties, such as putting band-aids next to their ears or having them listen to tranquilizing music with headphones, and so forth. However, such methods are not a solution, as they only serve to increase a sense of duality between the practitioner and the practice. In my opinion, the problem is that practitioners are not examining themselves deeply. In other words, they lack the necessary practice of brutal and honest self-criticism.

When I observe the “con” people, I see that they can be further divided into two groups. The first group consists of people who have tried using the hwadu, but feet that it doesn’t work, so they give up and claim that it cannot lead to enlightenment. These people, I feel, are innocent in the sense that they are not aiming to malign or demean others; they simply feel that the hwadu has no value. The second group is more sophisticated. These people are intellectually well-armed; they have much knowledge, having by and large been trainedor at least influenced by modern scholars. Of course, there are many things to be learned from their research, yet what I feel is lacking in their comments is any real interest in Zen meditation. They have no real desire for spiritual practice. They are isolating themselves within their fortress of intellectual security, and from there they feel safe enough to freely attack others. Again, as with the “pro’s,” I feel that there is an absence of brutal self-criticism. In a way, these people cannot be blamed entirely for their views. The media is forcing them to feel as they do, for the media sees any true spiritual practice, any practice based on non-dualism, as mysticism, and looks at it with a skeptical and disdainful eye. But putting blame aside, I find that there is presently no room in the consciousness of the “con” people to accept the mission of the hwadu. What is the mission? It is, metaphorically speaking, to cause the practitioner to have an experience of being in a shipwreck. That is, their very foundation must be shaken. This will be discussed in more detail later on, but for now I would like to ask: is it really possible for “con” people to accept the mission of the hwadu? My answer is: yes, it is possible. However, most of them are simply not ready for such an experience. They have not reached the point in their lives at which they are able to accept the possibility of, or the need for, any real or fundamental change in the way they view things.

Chapter I: The Nature of the Problem

Two immediate facts need to be mentioned; one concerning spirituality in general and one concerning hwadu meditation specifically. First of all, in Korea today, and indeed all over the world, an increasing spiritual thirst is becoming more and more evident among people of all ages and from all sectors. We are all experiencing the pressures caused by our modern way of living and are searching for ways to alleviate these stresses. As a result, we are discovering and learning about various techniques that can presumably enable us to calm our minds and/or strengthen our bodies. Some of these techniques include tai chi, yoga, chi kung, as well as various forms of breathing exercises and meditation. Any and all of these techniques are certainly capable of helping us to feel better.

The second fact that needs to be recognized is that hwadu meditation is, by its very nature, not intended to alleviate people’s tensions and stress. Its practice is far too serious and demanding for it to be categorized among the previously mentioned methods that are on the market today. This is important for people to realize so that they don’t attempt to compare hwadu meditation with any of these other methods, and so that they don’t hold any false illusions or expectations about either the purpose or the value of the hwadu. It requires tremendous discipline and diligence.

It is also helpful to remember that the hwadu method of meditation was introduced and practiced by Zen masters many hundreds of years ago, when the economy of the country, whether it is Korea, China, Japan, or any other country, was completely self-supported. If food was needed, people went into the fields and planted rice and vegetables. If fuel was needed, they went into the mountains and collected firewood. In such a serene atmosphere of relative simplicity, using the hwadu was doubtlessly much easier than it is in today’s world. The most vital requirement for hwadu meditation is the ability to attain a state of total concentration, so that one can thentranscend the limits of time and space. In our modern society, to reach such a state is not an easy task, as we are constantly being bombarded by all kinds of external distractions wherever we go. We cannot even try to escape them at home, as most of us now own television sets, radios, computers, telephones, and numerous other technological gadgets.

Another important feature of the hwadu is that it is not intended to be practiced only during the time of one’s formal sitting meditation. Rather, it is supposed to be used during each and every one of our four possible bodily positions: sitting, standing, lying and walking. In other words, regardless of one’s physical situation, whether he/she is in the meditation hall, the garden, the kitchen, the car, the store, the office, or wherever, his/her mind should be with the hwadu. Is it possible for modern people to maintain such a total, uninterrupted concentration?

It was in order to alleviate the problem of being distracted by external stimuli that serious practitioners left home in the past, and still do so today, to become monks or solitaries. They left the secular world behind and completely isolated themselves in the monastery or the mountains, living like hermits in partial or complete solitude. Yet the Zen masters taught that such an attitude, that is, of attempting to avoid difficult external conditions, was not correct. They constantly emphasized that hwadu meditation could be practiced by anyone, no matter who that person was or where that personlived. Many Zen practitioners living in our world today, however, have abandoned the hwadu method of meditation altogether, replacing it with other, easier styles of meditation, such as those mentioned earlier. Feeling the stresses of modern day society, they have opted for practices that help to calm their minds so that they feel able to cope with all their tensions. Yet this is not the true purpose of Zen.

What is to be done? In the Chogye order, here in Korea, the leaders are in a bit of a dilemma, as they have lost a large part of their membership to these popular styles of spiritual practice. To point out the dangers of this modern trend, a group of reformers has recently arisen and become quite vocal. This group is concerned about what they view as the misbehavior and even the corruption of the religious community. They have made it a point to analyze the psychology of hwadu meditation and they claim that the leaders of the Zen community, that is, the Zen teachers practicing today, are misleading people. What is the nature of their accusation? These reformists claim that the Zen leaders are “sugar-coating” hwadu practice by promising that if done correctly it leads one to enlightenment. The reformers point out that this was never the Buddha’smessage. As we know, his great gift to us was his understanding that we are all already enlightened, just as we are. So how can practicing the hwadu with such a futuristic goal in mind ever produce the correct results?

The majority of practitioners, however, are seduced by these promises of enlightenment. They don’t believe that they are already enlightened. They don’t understand that their real task is to awaken to their inherent essence as fully enlightened beings. They believe instead that by donating money or medicine or by providing gifts to the monks and leaders of their order they can earn merit and thus eventually gain salvation. The leaders in turn are monetarily benefiting from such attitudes, as they are the recipients of all these donations and gifts. Therefore, they are often reluctant to make any changes to this system. They continue to receive gifts while the members continue to practice incorrectly.

To summarize what has been said so far: 1 – In the present world, hwadu practice is generally viewed by most people as too difficult to undertake and 2 – the leaders and monks are not willing to correct people’s views, as they continue to profit from them.

Chapter II: The Real Meaning of “Hwadu”

Almost all Zen texts contain at least some discussion about the use of the hwadu in one’s practice. Indeed, hwadu meditation is and always has been considered the core of Zen practice. Yet this term “hwadu” is not being understood correctly by the vast majority of people living in Korea today. In my opinion, they have “stolen” the term and given it a completely erroneous meaning, which translates into English as “an agenda to be pursued or an issue to be clarified.” Korean journalists, politicians, and others from all walks of life use thisterm in their writings and/or speech freely, saying for example, “The hwadu of the president in this situation is…” or “What is the hwadu to be discussed here?”Such uses of this term are totally incorrect; the word is currently being presented in a secular manner, but that was not the original intention of the Zen masters who originally taught with it.

A similar situation may be seen to exist in the contemporary Christian world. The word “God” has also lost its original meaning, except to a very rare few. Most people these days view God as a kind of broker or agent to whom they can appeal when they have a need to be met. Yet this was certainly not the understanding of Abraham or Moses or Jesus.

Throughout the course of history humans have invented many such sacred words, whose original meaning has either been completely distorted or else has disappeared altogether. To name a few: “tao” in Taoism (meaning the Way), “ren” in Confucianism (meaning benevolence), “ti-yung”in early Chinese thought (meaning essence-function), and so forth. The meaning of these words was originally pure and essential, but as time passed people did not practice according to the original message of the meaning, and so these terms eventually lost their power. This is a great tragedy which has occurred to our human civilization, and it explains why I say that the meaning of “hwadu” has been stolen. It no longer exists in its pure form.

In Korea, during the Koryo dynasty (from the 10th to 14th century), there was a very popular event that used to occur regularly: Buddhist practitioners would gather together, not in a temple or monastery, but in a large field. There they would discuss and practice the teachings of the Buddha. As there were no boundaries to the field, anyone could attend. Such gatherings were called “yadan popsuke,”which means “Dharma seat in the field.”Later the Koryo was replaced by the Choson dynasty, which embraced neo-Confucianism, and this popular practice disappeared. To this day, the term “yadan popsuke” is still in use, but just like the word “hwadu,”its meaning has become greatly distorted; now when people use the term, they use it to mean “noisy.”This is yet another example of a sacred term whose original meaning has been lost due to people’s inability to live up to it.

So what is the original meaning of “hwadu,” the meaning reflected by the teachings of the ancient Zen masters? In my understanding, “hwadu” helps us to return to the Buddha. The hwadu may be used to help us make this journey back to the source. In the history of religion, such a message has always been the core principle: return to the Buddha, return to God, return to Allah, return to Brahman, and so forth. The special message that lies hidden within all these religions is that this source exists within each and every one of us. We ourselves contain or reflect the source that we are seeking. In the Buddhist tradition, when the ancient Zen masters saw that the practitioners did not understand or did not accept this truth, and instead viewed themselves as existing apart from their own, innate Buddha-nature, these Zen masters became angry and hit the seekers with a stick to wake them up. This was an animal instinct arising from inside and manifesting itself. Parents often exhibit the same behavior, scolding or even hitting their children if they see them doing something wrong. The Zen masters recognized the severity of the practitioners’ error in understanding, and wanted to help them rectify it. What was the mistake the seekers were making? In the Zen masters’ eyes, the aspirants’fundamental error was that they were too attached to the scriptures. After reading a particular text, they would organize various dogmas based on their understanding and would then become imprisoned in their own dogmas. The Zen masters knew very well that this was not in accordance with Buddhist teachings. They knew that no matter how well an aspirant might understand a scripture intellectually, if he remained attached to the idea that he was not a Buddha, his understand would yield no results, like a farmer without a harvest. So the message of the Zen masters was always the same: Don’t go in the wrong direction. Return to the Buddha.

How did the use of the hwadu come into being? At an earlystage in the history of Zen Buddhism, there emerged a division into two schools, each practicing quite differently. One school is called “Soto” in Japanese; in Korean it is called “mukjo.” Westerners usually translate this term as “sitting only,” and interpret it to imply the absence of the use of the hwadu. Yet if we analyze this word “mukjo,”we find that it may be broken down into two parts: “muk,” which means “silence,” and “jo,”which means “bright illustration.” In the “mukjo” school, then, the practice involved first quieting the mind and body and then observing the manifestation of one’s field of consciousness. There are several other terms which are now in use that reflect a similar practice: they are “samatha/vipassana” in Sanskrit, “chih/kuan”in Chinese, “ting/hui” in Chinese, and “dhyana/prajna” in Sanskrit. These terms all have similar meanings. Yoshito Hakeda, in his commentary on the Awakening of Faith, has translated “samatha/vipassana” as “cessation/clear observation.” Chinul, the well-known Korean monk of the 12th to13th century, made extensive use of the combined practice of “dhyana” (meditation) and “prajna” (wisdom).

The second school of Zen was called Rinzai in Japanese. This school used the hwadu exclusively. The Zen mastersof this school observed the practitioners of the Soto school with a critical eye and concluded that their practice was ineffective. They felt that too many seekers were using the “mukjo” practice in the hopes that some day all of their problems would be magically solved. They saw that the aspirants did not understand the true relationship between “muk” and “jo,”which is based on non-duality or non-separation. Instead, they were striving to create a balance between the two and thus were attempting to control their practice through the use of their intellects. The Zen masters knew, however, that in order for enlightenment to occur, the intellect must be abandoned. Yet instead what was happening was that the practitioners were holding onto their intellects with all their might! It is for this reason that the Zen masters created the hwadu; it was used to help practitioners loosen and ultimately break their bondage to their intellect. This is always the reason why Zen masters would hit meditators with a stick. The stick itself was a hwadu. It helped the seeker let go of his habitual conceptual tendencies.

With reference to the techniques of the Soto school, however, please do not misunderstand what I say. There is nothing wrong with the practice of “mukjo” if it is performed correctly. It must be understood, though, that the two aspects, “muk” and “jo,”should not be viewed as two different types of practice to be pursued. The truth of the matter is that if the first aspect, “muk,” is performed with the correct understanding, the second aspect, “jo,” will occur naturally on its own. Thus, if cessation is practiced correctly, then clear observation will automatically emerge, with no effort required on the part of the practitioner. We may see a similar truth if we look at the relationship between the sun and the clouds. When the clouds disappear, the sun is automatically seen. It doesn’t have to be coaxed out in order to manifest itself; it is already there. The Zen masters, then, introduced the use of the hwadu in order to help the practitioner dispel the clouds, which are a reflection of his own ego, his own intellect, so that he could see the sun, or his own Buddha-nature, shining in all its beauty and magnificence.

We live in a pluralistic world ; there is no one way of life or culture that exists to the exclusion of all the others. The same may be said of religions, beliefs, and practices. We need to respect all views, whether it is belief in the Pure Land, use of a mantra, practice of prostration, or the performance of various types of breathing exercises. What these practitioners need to be aware of, however, is that they are all practicing “muk” or cessation. That is, these practices are all examples of the first aspect of the Soto school practice, which involves the calming of the mind. They need to ask themselves if they are practicing it correctly. If they are, then the second part, “jo” or clear observation will arise spontaneously. So what does it mean to practice correctly? It means to break apart the whole of the intellect, the ego, and to abandon the dualism between the practice and the one who is practicing. If the seeker is able to practice in this way, then he will be in accordance with the Zen masters’ original message. This has been the basic teaching of all religious saviors of the past, and remains the most vital point which all monastery leaders should be imparting to their members.

Let us now delve into the nature of the hwadu a little more deeply. Why is it that the hwadu is considered by many as being too difficult to practice? Is it merely due to the fact that it requires one’s utmost concentration and discipline, as mentioned earlier? In my view, the issue goes deeper than that. In my understanding, as I mentioned earlier, the core of the nature of the hwadu is that it gives the practitioner the experience of being in a shipwreck. In other words, his very foundation is completely destroyed. Such an experience may be compared to an earthquake. About thirty years ago a severe earthquake struck Berkeley, California, where I was living as a graduate student. The experience was totally devastating. Inside my living quarters pictures fell off the walls. Books, tables, chairs, and all the furniture were turned over. Outside in the streets, buildings collapsed and cars were demolished due to the debris that fell on them. Our lives are based on the belief that our physical foundation, the earth, is solid. When this earthquake occurred, however, this belief was completely turned 180 degrees in my mind. Our earth is not a permanent fixture, I now realized; it can be disrupted at any time.

It is understandable that people seek security, both physical and psychological. Living in fear can and does cause many internal as well as external problems. Thus, we will do everything we can to avoid any fears that arise regarding our own mental and personal safety. Let it be understood: the hwadu will shake our very foundation, just as the earthquake shook my living space. What is the nature of this shipwreck, this earthquake that occurs within us as we practice the hwadu? What is it inside of us that is being shaken to the core?

Unlike the physical shaking of the earth caused by an earthquake, when we are shaken by the hwadu, it is our very belief system, which has been developed within us from the time we are born, that is being attacked. This belief system, which includes our world-view as well as our views about ourselves, has been created by the letter culture in which welive. By letter culture I mean the value system which we have created over hundreds and thousands of years by means of the written word. This letter culture has gone a long way to contribute to our illusion of safety; it has become a dogma for most of us, deceiving us by pretending to insulate us from fear and by claiming to make us feel strong and secure. It is like living inside a dark fortress.

The hwadu, however, bombs this fortress. It rips away any and all illusions we may have regarding who we are and what this world is. It does not allow us to receive the benefits which other types of meditation or spiritual practice may offer us, such as better health, ease of tensions, calmer minds, and so forth. Thus, if a teacher asserts that hwadu mediation can be used to achieve any such beneficial effects, he is being dishonest. We must never propagate the belief that the hwadu can be used in order to bring about any enhanced state of being, including enlightenment. To do so is to use the hwadu as a type of bait in order to lure or entice the practitioner, or like an advertisement in which one says, “Use the hwadu and be cured!” Such tactics are greatly misleading and do not support the teachings of either the Buddha or the ancient Zen masters.

Chapter III: The Solution

As mentioned above, almost every Buddhist monastery these days teaches various forms of meditation in addition to the hwadu. Also, many universities now include Zen Buddhism among their course offerings. In Korea alone, there are about 100 large-scale universities, most of which offer such courses, which generally include information on how to practice meditation. How are they teaching hwadu meditation? If we examine the Zen texts being used in these university courses and in them on a steries as well, we discover that there exists a serious problem: the texts, by and large, are based on ordinary logic as opposed to Zen logic. What is the difference between the two? In ordinary logic, a friend is a friend and an enemy is an enemy. In Zen logic, however, a friend may be an enemy and an enemy a friend. In other words, the reality of a situation and indeed, the reality of existence, cannot be based on one’s pre-conceived understanding alone. This is a fundamental fact that Zen students need to keep in mind at all times. Yet these texts are often using ordinary people’s logic, based on the intellect, in their attempts to interpret Zen logic. This is a serious mistake. The students are being misled and are thus bound to develop an incorrect understanding of the true meaning of Zen.

I like to use the Korean term “mom” which means body or essence, and “momjit” which means function, when discussing the logic of Zen. Zen logic is “mom” in other words, Zen logic is primarily concerned with the entire body or essence of any phenomenon or circumstance. It thus transcends the dualism of the intellect. Ordinary logic, on the other hand, is “momjit” logic, and reflects our usual, day-to-day way of viewing ourselves and life in general. This logic, stemming from our intellect, is based entirely on dualistic concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth.

We find many examples of Zen logic in the Buddhist texts. For example, after the Buddha gave his famous sermon on the four noble truths, one of his disciples, Kondanna, remarked that the second noble truth, which identifies desire as the cause of suffering, was in essence the same thing as the third noble truth, which refers to the cessation of desire. By his statement, Kondannawas using Zen logic; he was saying that the arising of a state and its cessation are no different. In other words, in one is contained the other and vice versa; they cannot be separated. In the field of science, we may discover a similar truth when we examine the law of gravity. What goes up must come down; one cannot exist without the other. This type of understanding is what we usually fail to recognize when we use our ordinary, conceptual way of thinking to view our world or ourselves.

Another example of Zen logic may be found in the Mahayana text entitled The Awakening of Mahayana Faith. This treatise categorizes all phenomena, including all sentient beings as well as our thoughts and actions, as operating within the confines of four distinct sequential stages: 1-arising, 2-abiding(or lasting), 3-decaying and 4-dying. The stage of arising corresponds to our physical birth; then for the major part of our lives we exist in the abiding stage; later, in old age, our bodies begin to decay; finally, at the end of our life, we die. The same process occurs with our every thought and action as well: they arise, experience a period of lasting or abiding, eventually beginning to ebb or die out, and finally they disappear altogether.

For ordinary people likeyou and I, these four stages are experienced as completely distinct and separate phases of a process. Usually, for regular people, it is not until a thought has already disappeared that we even realize that we were thinking the thought. Buddhist practitioners who have a slightly higher level of awareness, for example the level of a Hinayana Buddhist, are able to realize the existence of their thoughts when they are still at the third level, that is before they have disappeared from their consciousness. A Bodhisattva, who functions at an even higher level, is able to be aware of his thoughts while they at the second stage of abiding. This is the stage at which our thoughts are most powerful; we can see the value of being able to thus catch hold of our thoughts before they begin to lose their force and die out. Only an enlightened being, a Buddha, is able to perceive his thoughts at the very moment of their inception, as they are being created in his mind. Indeed, ultimate enlightenment entails knowing right from the start exactly what is occurring within your own mind.

The crucial point that the text makes is that these four stages are said to occur simultaneously. This is a clear example of Zen logic. Everything is seen to happen right at the very beginning; there is no sequential development of one stage occurring before or after another. This understanding is also reflected in the often-quoted analogy of the water and the wave. Each is a part of the other, and they both exist together and at the same time. It is not possible to separate them into two independent entities. Similarly, “mom” and “momjit” also operate in unison. Every “mom” is also a “momjit”and every “momjit” is also a “mom.”

The teachings of Hua-yen Buddhism are yet another example of this fundamental Zen truth. According to this school of thought, there exist 52 stages with regard to the attainment of enlightenment. The first stage refers to the arising of the desire for bodhicitta, or the wisdom mind, which reflects one’s initial desire for enlightenment. Each stage represents one step further along on the path, and the 52nd and final stage is the attainment of ultimate enlightenment itself. Hua-yen thought teaches that at the moment one enters the first stage, that is, the moment the aspiration for enlightenment arises, at that very moment the last stage is inherently included. This is the timeless perspective; by using theistic language, we may call it God’s perspective.

It is extremely difficult to comprehend the Zen logic described above. Our intellects alone cannot accomplish such a feat, for this logic points to an understanding which lies beyond the realm of our reason. It is here that faith is required in order to bridge the gap; otherwise, the practitioner may easily be tempted to give up his practice altogether. What is meant by faith? It is nothing other than having complete and utter trust in the teachings of Buddha. If the practitioner can develop and maintain such an attitude of firm conviction within himself, then eventually his intellect will soften its grip and the practitioner may catch a glimpse of the truth of non-duality.

Many, if not most, scholars, including Hakeda in his discussion of the four stages of phenomena as mentioned above( see p.40 in his translation and commentary on The Awakening of Faith), fail to recognize the crucial need for faith on the part of the practitioner. They discuss non-duality in a straightforward, scientific manner, but do not understand that such an approach is incomplete. Something more is needed if one is to grasp the truth of the Buddha; something is required if we are to transcend the limits of our intellect. In my opinion, it is the underlying background of faith, or the ultimate trust that we, too, are Buddha, which enables us to “cross to the other shore” and attain our goalof enlightenment. It is this issue, the issue of faith, that scholars need to recognize and address if they are to correctly and successfully interpret and communicate the Buddha’s understanding.


What is the hwadu? It is nothing but returning to the Buddha. We must not fall prey to the temptation of mysticizing it by saying that it promises enlightenment. The hwadu, in and of itself, does not promise us anything. It merely points to what already is, to what exists right in front of us. If a Zen master was asked, “What is the essence of the Buddha’s message?”, he would reply, “Flowers are red and leaves are green,” or “My nose is vertical and my eyes are horizontal.”

How did the mystification of the hwadu arise? Whatever the answer to that question, we must not view the hwadu in such an illusory sense. The hwadu means to return to our ordinary, everyday life as it is. There is no mystery about it; therefore, we shouldn’t try to add anything extra. Nor should we be concerned with others’practice with other methods- these things are not important. What is important is that we return to the Buddha. How can we do this? We need to fix our false techniques. We are already Buddha; we exist as timeless beings, as “mom.” So let’s not use “momjit” language or ways of thinking in our spiritual practice. Let’s move, act, think, and speak as that which we are. The hwadu shows us who we are. It is enlightenment itself. Let’s wakeup and celebrate our true identity.

* Keywords

Kanhwasŏn Hwadu, Bojo, Sudden-enligenment, Zen master

Kanhwasŏn Practice in Europe Present Situation and Future

Kanhwasŏn Practice(看話禪修行) in Europe Present Situation and Future

Bernard Senécal sj

/ Faculty of Religious Studies, Sogang University.

Ⅰ. Introduction

The practice of kanhwasŏn in Europe is in line with the broader context of the introduction of Buddhism into the Western world. Accordingly, in order to study that practice we must first examine the context it belongs to. The English historian Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975) did not hesitate to say that the introduction of Buddhism in the West constituted the most important historical event of the 20th century. It may perhaps be compared with the introduction of Indian Buddhism into China some two thousand years ago. As a result, the encounter of Buddhism with the West most certainly represents and event of extremely broad and deep meaning.

Many scholars have strove to define the boundaries of the encounter of Buddhism with the West. In 1952, Cardinal Henri de Lubac (1896-1991) published La Rencontre du bouddhisme et de l’Occident, a work that would become a classic. In 1999, Frédéric Lenoir published another book, on the same topic and with exactly the same title, in which he updated de Lubac’s work. And in 2000, the famous Singer-Polignac foundation, located in Paris, organized a colloquium on the understanding of the encounter of Buddhism and the West since Henri de Lubac(L’Intelligence de la rencontre du bouddhisme, La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l’Occident depuis Henri de Lubac). This colloquium may be understood as an attempt to understand the main events having marked the history of Western Buddhism during the second half of the 20th century. In 2002, a book entitled Westward Dharma, Buddhism Beyond Asia also came out. According to its authors the study of Western Buddhism has begun only recently and it is still too early to describe its outcome.

In fact, it is quite difficult to define in a fully satisfactory way such broad entities as Buddhism and the Western World. Consequently, in 2003, willing to favor a complete, precise and balanced understanding of Buddhism by Westerners, Paul Magnin published Bouddhisme, unité et diversité-Expériences de libération. Of course, the seven hundred and fifty pages of this synthetic introduction to Buddhism represent the culmination of the author’s thirty years of scholarly research and reflection. But as I began writing this paper, I would have appreciated to find a work capable to match Paul Magnin’s book, and that would have been entitled L’Occident, unité et diversité-Expériences de libération. If such a book existed, it ought to state clearly the ground on which the unity of the Western world and its experiences of liberation may be defined. Nevertheless, in order to talk about the encounter of Buddhism and the West coherently, one has to provide at least a minimal definition of those two concepts. But such definitions should be dynamic, that is, capable of taking into account the fact that reality is constantly changing. And that is even more so when we begin to realize that Buddhism and the West are already engaged in a process of mutual transformation. Such is the context in which we have to examine the practice of kanhwasŏn in Europe.

Since our research is limited to Europe, it may look easier at first sight. But such is not the case. That is because the kanhwasŏn practiced in Europe comes from at least four different countries : China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Moreover, things may be complicated by the fact that traditions that existed independently in their homeland may now interact freely as they have to coexist within the European countries they have been imported to. In addition to that, one has to take into account the fact that the activity of Masters like Sungsan and Thich Nhat Hanh goes well beyond Europe. That may make it all the more arbitrary to try to describe the practive of kanhwasŏn in Europe alone. We should also keep in mind that Europe is a huge continent of 3.900.000 square kilometers, with a population of 456.000.000 people, living in 25 different countries and speaking 20 official languages, not to talk about dialects. Even as it is strugling to achieve its unity, Europe keeps expanding by accepting new countries. As the result of those geographical characteristics, the context in which Buddhism is expanding in Europe is very different from that of America. Similarly, Buddhist-Christian dialogue has started later in Europe than in America.

There are two ways to approach the practice of kanhwasŏn in Europe. The first one consists in reducing the dimensions of the topic. In order to do that we can limit our study to the three main European schools offering kanhwasŏn practice to their followers.

The first one has been founded by the Japanese Taisen Deshimaru(1914-1982), a disciple of Kōdō Sawaki(1880-1965) from the Sōtō school(曹洞宗). Arrived in Paris in 1967, Taisen Deshimaru trained a lot of disciples and founded the Association Zen d’Europe, which later became the Association Zen Internationale(AZI). In 1979, he acquired the estate of la Gendronnière(Loir-et-Cher) and founded the first European Buddhist monastery. His several thousand disciples have founded over a hundred temples all over Europe. At present, the AZI runs over two hundred temples worldwide.

The second one is the Sanbo Kyodan(三寶敎團), a minority group among the Japanese Zen schools, also called the Kamakura school. It has been founded by Hakuun Yasutani(1885-1973), a disciple of Harada Dauin Sogaku(1871 -1961), who had inherited the Dharma of both the Rinzai(臨濟宗) and the Sōtō schools. This school distinguishes itself by two characteristics. First, it never required from its Western followers that they convert to Buddhism. On the contrary, it still claims that anybody, including non Buddhists, can benefit from the practice of kanhwasŏn. For this reason, the Sanbo Kyodan has transmitted the Dharma to a number of Westerners that were working in Japan, including Christian pastors, sisters and priests, as well as rabbis. Second, as those people with a first-hand knowledge of the East went back to their native countries, they created branches of the Sanbo Kyodan.

The third group has been founded by Thich Nhat Hanh and is based on the practice of the Vietnamese version of Sŏn called Thiên. Thich Nhat Hanh came to the West in 1970 and created several meditation groups in a number of countries. In 1982, he decided to settle down in France at the Village des Pruniers(Dordogne), and created an association called l’Ordre de l’Inter-Être, which very strongly emphasizes both the practice of meditation and the importance of social work.

Each of the above three groups reckons approximately thirty thousand people. Nevertheless, with around half of its members practicing hwadu(話頭) meditation, the Sanbo Kyodan from Japan is by far the most important European school of kanhwasŏn. There are, of course, other schools of kanhwasŏn in Europe, like for instance from the Japanese Rinzai or the Korean Kwanūm(觀音) lineages. However, since they are much less important numerically, just like Taisen Deshimaru’s AZI or Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ordre de l’Inter-Être, it is exclusively on a more detailed description of the Sanbo Kyodan that we shall focus our attention in the fourth part of this paper .

A second way to study the practice of kanhwasŏn in Europe, which we shall also use in this paper, consists in observing how the Western mind interacts with the spirit of the Sŏn school. More precisely, we will try to show how this mind encounters the religious tradition that has most contributed to the shaping of the Western mentalities. Even though Western Christianity is facing a deep crisis it undoubtedly remains the main religious tradition of the West. Therefore, the first part of this paper will be a synthetic introduction to the encounter of the practice of kanhwasŏn with the Occident. The second one will point to some aspects of Christianity that may facilitate the adaptation of kanhwasŏn practice to the Western world. A third one will describe what kind of help and transformation Christianity may expect from such a practice. A fourth and final part will describe some of the concrete attempts that have been made to integrate hwadu meditation to traditional Christian methods of meditation.

Ⅱ. Understanding the Encounter

of Kanhwasŏn with the West

Above all, one should keep in mind that kanhwasŏn has a very long history. A rapid glance at a book like Chŏng Sŏngbon Sūnim’s Sŏn’ŭi Sasanggwa Yŏksa is enough to realize it. In order to understand kanhwasŏn practice as it has been completed and established under the Song dynasty by Wŏno Kūkkūn(圜悟克勤, 1063-1125), from the Yanggi branch of the Imje school(臨濟宗 楊岐派), and his Dharma heir Taehye Chonggo(大慧宗杲, 1089-1163), one has to trace the remote beginnings of its history back to the third millenium B.C. in Indian Antiquity. As a result, the development of kanhwasŏn has taken place over several centuries and left us a considerable amount of litterature. It is a well known fact that kanhwasŏn practice may be considered the ultimate fruit of the encounter of Indian Buddhism with Chinese thought. Moreover Sŏn also is the most Confucian form of Buddhist. As a result, kanhwasŏn practice not only represents the result of a long encounter of Chinese thought with Indian Buddhism but also the complete emancipation of the latter from the speculative tendencies of the former.

This all means that kanhwasŏn is inseparable from very concrete situations. Consequently, one cannot but wonder how harmoniously the result of such a long historical process in the Far East can integrate itself as such to the West. Accordingly, it certainly isn’t an exaggeration to say that a full integration of kanhwasŏn to the Occident may require several centuries. Moreover, in order to be successful, the result of such a process should involve both faithfulness to the original spirit of kanhwasŏn and its perfect adaptation to Western culture. Maybe it will be possible, then, to talk about the quintessence of the encounter of Far East Buddhism with Western culture.

However, we may wonder if our scholarly knowledge of Buddhism and the sophisticated means of communication and transportation that are available in today’s world will not greatly accelerate and facilitate the settling of kanhwasŏn in the West. This could then mean that the Occident does not need, in order to understand the Buddha’s teachings correctly, a phase of adaptation similar to the one China went through as it interpreted Buddhists concepts through Taoist categories during two centuries. As a result, quoting the worldwide achievements of Masters like Hakuun Yasutani, Sungsan or Sheng-yen, some do not hesitate to claim that kanhwasŏn has already taken root in the West.

Nevertheless, Victor Sōgen Hori from McGill University does not hesitate to say that the Dharma still has to come to the West. Such a statement does not deny the existence of a great number of Sŏn centers throughout the Western world, but challenges the validity of the meditation practiced and the authenticity of the Dharma transmitted in those places. I also believe that it is to early to claim that the Dharma has already arrived to the Occident. Indeed, even though the Buddha’s tradition seems destined to enjoy a bright future in Occident, its followers still do not represent more than a tiny minority. Moreover, kanhwasŏn practice only represents a tiny fraction of Western Buddhism’s practice.

The following table displays the number of Buddhists and Buddhist groups found in ten European countries in the late 1990s.




from Asia









of Total


That Were






























































note: ~denotes very rough estimate

As we can see, in England, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland the numbers of Buddhists coming from Asia is far superior to that of the native converts. We must also notice that the statistics corresponding to French Buddhism are nothing but a gross approximation. That is because good information remains difficult to find and because it is hard to define who really is a Buddhist. But this identification problem seems to go well beyond France.

We should also be careful to keep in mind that the figures displayed in the above table do not correspond to the Sŏn school but only to Buddhism as a whole. However, the following chart gives an idea on how Buddhism from five European countries may be categorized according to tradition.


Great Britain(%)


































It has to be noticed that, with the exception of France, Tibetan Buddhism has a majority in all countries. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that a certain number of Sŏn centers in France have had to close their doors because of the fierce competition coming from Tibetan Buddhism. In other words, Europeans are strongly attracted by Buddhism from Tibet.

According to Martin Baumann, Buddhism is destined to remain a minority religion in Europe during the 21th century. That is enough to make some people in the Far East hastily conclude that Westerners cannot achieve enlightenment. Such statements recall us the Roshis(老師) claiming that being Japanese was a condition sine qua non to achieve enlightenment. Such a declaration is not only founded on ultranationalism, it also denies the core teaching of Mahāyāna Buddhism, according to which all sentient beings are endowed with the Buddha nature(佛性). In order to refute it, let us quote the dialogue that took place between the young and illiterate Hyenūng(慧能, 638-713) and the Fifth Patriarch Hongin(第五祖弘忍, 594-674).

“The priest Hung-jen asked me : ‘Where are you from that you come to this mountain to make obeisance to me ? Just what is it that you are looking for from me?’ I replied : ‘I am from Ling-nan, a commoner from Hsin-chou. I have come this long distance only to make obeisance to you. I am seeking no particular thing but only the Buddhadharma.’ The Master then reproved me, saying : ‘If you’re from Ling-nan then you’re a barbarian. How can you become a Buddha?’ I replied : ‘Although people from the south and people from the north differ, there is no north and south in Buddha nature. Although my barbarian’s body and your body are not the same, what difference is there in our Buddha nature?’ The Master wished to continue his discussion with me ; however, seeing that there were other people nearby, he said no more. Then he sent me to work with the assembly. Later a lay disciple had me go to the threshing room where I sent over eight months treading the pestle.”

Needless to say that it is very contradictory to pretend that the Dharma has to be transmitted to the West while harboring such prejudices.

Roshi Albert Low from the Montreal Zen Center insists to say that it is quite counter-productive to claim that the Dharma has not come to the West yet. Instead, he suggests to work at discovering or rediscovering the elements of Western thought and culture that may favor the acceptance and integration of the Dharma to the Occident. In a sense, what Albert Low says may be understood as Buddhism already existing in the West even before the coming of the Dharma. Nevertheless, however seductive such an idea may be, it ought to be handled carefully. Because if the Dharma already exists in the West, then its introduction from Asia shouldn’t make any difference.

In the next chapter, we shall examine closely some aspects of Christianity that may facilitate the adaptation of kanhwasŏn to the West.

Ⅲ. Christian Hermitic life and Kanhwasŏn

In order to understand how kanhwasŏn may be adapted to the West, it is very important to grasp thoroughly what constitutes the core of hermitic life in the Christian tradition.

1. The Age of the Desert Fathers

Western hermitic life began in the third century with Saint Antony of Egypt(250-356). He retired alone to the desert in order to begin living as a hermit. People being attracted by his life of asceticism, he soon found himself surrounded by many followers. Moreover, Antony’s influence rapidly reached the rest of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Arabia and all parts of Europe where thousands of people made the decision to become hermits.

The appearance of Western hermitic life corresponds to the time when Constantine(? -337) converted to Christianity. Christians naturally rejoiced greatly as a long dreamed of event finally materialized. But such a triumph also had its side effect. Indeed, as the political power of the Church started to rise, the fervor of its followers began to cool down. Since it is precisely that fervor that had favored the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire, its loss could not but be deplored by lucid believers. Therefore, it certainly is no coincidence if the beginning of hermitic life corresponds to an overall weakening of the Christian faith. In other words, hermitic life can be understood as the strong reaction of some believers willing to recover the spirit that had animated the martyrs throughout three centuries of harsh persecutions. The Christians who animated that very powerful renewal movement are called the fathers of the desert.

In fact, in order to find the origins of Western hermitic life, one has to go back to great figures of the Old Testament like Abraham(19th c. BCE), Moses(13th c. BCE) and Elijah(9th c. BCE). And, of course, one also has to remember John the Baptist(1st c. BCE-1 c. CE), who lived in the desert during several decades, and Jesus the Christ, who did the same during forty days, fasting and, according to the tradition, overcoming all temptations.

The desert fathers left us a huge inheritance : “collections of their sayings, letters, sermons, ascetical treatises, biographies, monastic rules, and historical and theological essays of great value.” The literature left to us by the desert fathers has considerably influenced all currents of Christian spirituality.

Among the praying methods that they have taught us, one deserves special attention. It is called ʻprayer of the heartʼ and chiefly consists in repeating, day and night, to the rhythm of one’s breath, the name of Jesus. In many ways, this technique of meditation resembles the continuous(omae iryŏ 寤寐一如) observing(kan 看) of the critical phrase(hwadu 話頭) of a kongan(公安). The practice of the prayer of the heart began in the Eastern church from where it has spread all over the world. Its goal consists in achieving deep and constant peace of the heart.

Over the centuries, Christian hermitic life has taken a great variey of forms. It is neither necessary nor possible to describe them all in this paper. Therefore, I will only indicate briefly the role played by hermitic life at some key moments of the history of Christianity.

2. The Middle Ages and Saint Francisco of Assisi

Francisco of Assisi(1182-1226), the famous Italian saint who created the religious order that bears his name, may well be considered one of the chief representatives of hermitic life in the Middle Ages. In his time, the Church enjoyed considerable power and wealth. The extreme poverty that characterized Francisco’s life style has been a powerful challenge for an institution that had moved away from Christ’s spirit. There is no doubt that the long time that Saint Francisco spent in solitude, praying and fasting, allowed him to gather the spiritual energy necessary to accomplish his mission. It is also well worth noticing that he wrote a rule for hermits.

3. The Renaissance and Ignatius of Loyola

The Church of the Renaissance saw the rising of the Basque Ignatius of Loyola(1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, also called the Jesuit Order. Ignatius came to realize that the Church of his time was to narrowly centered on Europe and that it had to open itself up to the rest of the world. That is the reason why he founded an international religious congregation, which he placed directly under the authority of the pope. As a result, in order to answer rapidly and efficiently any demand of the supreme authority of the Church, the Jesuits are ready to go anywhere in the world. But the most amazing thing is the fact that Saint Ignatius not only lived as a hermit for over a year, but also considered seriously dedicating all his existence to that life style. Indeed, he wanted to enter the Carthusian Order, whose most famous monastery is La Grande Chartreuse, located in the French Alps. That religious congregation has been founded by Saint Bruno(1030-1101) for people desiring to spend their whole life in a community of hermits. Though Saint Ignatius’ desire has not been realized as such, it has considerably influence all the spirituality of the Jesuit Order. That is why it may be said that the Jesuits are Carthusians living right in the middle of the world. This means that there is a common ground between the desire of a hermit to enjoy the freedom of a complete solitude, that allows the total entrusting of oneself to the action of the Spirit, and the apostolic freedom, to be found in the middle of action, aimed by Saint Ignatius to realize the same goal. It also signifies that the contemplation of a hermitic life can be fully combined to a radical social commitment. Indeed, it is written in the constitutions of the Society of Jesus that any Jesuit willing to become a Carthusian monk is perfectly free to do so. This means that for the fully awakened one, there can’t be any contradiction between living in complete solitude and being present to the whole world. It also signifies that as it is possible to contemplate right in the middle of highly dynamic action, it is also possible to be active in the depth of the most profound contemplation. Here we can discover one of the main characteristics of the way of life embodied by Christ himself.

4. Today’s Hermitic life

Hermitic tradition remains very lively in today’s world. The mere fact that it exists offers people the possibility to take some distance from a society that is so full of itself that it believes that its high technique and industry are capable of satisfying all human desires. Indeed, even though they lived in solitude, hermits have always played the role of spiritual director for those that came to beg their help. Moreover, when hermits live in communities, they often run retreat houses allowing those willing to do so to share their life style for some time. Here, rather than describing the multiple forms of hermitic life found in today’s world, I will briefly recall some of its key figures. This should allow us to detect some of the main trends of hermitic life in today’s world.

The Frenchman Charles de Foucauld(1858-1916) has spent his life as a hermit in the Hoggar Mounts of southern Algeria. By doing so, among other things, he aimed at entering into dialogue with Islam.

The Frenchmen Jean Monchanin(1895-1957) and Henri le Saux(1910-1973), as well as the Englishman Bede Griffiths(1906-1993) have dedicated their lives to a dialogue between Christianity and Hindouism by living with the hermits of the Saccidananda region of India.

As one of the most famous hermits of the 20th century, the American Thomas Merton(1915-1968) considered that the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers “enables us to reopen the sources that have been polluted or blocked up altogether by the accumulated mental and spiritual refuse of our technological barbarism.” Such words remind us (8 c. BCE) what God said, through the prophet Hosea, to the Hebrews who once more had abandoned Him to worship idols : “I shall seduce you, take you to the desert and speak to your hearth.” One of Merton’s biggest contribution is his beginning of a dialogue between Christianity and the Buddhist monks and nuns of Asia. This dialogue has kept developing ever since.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty(1896-1985), from Russian descent, has written over thirty books, the best known of which is Poustinia. In that work she encourages people living in huge modern cities to create a space of silence and prayer, ie of desert, right in the middle of their homes. That is in order to become more intimate with God in every day life.

Finally, we can think of the Swissman Brother Roger(1915-2005), assassinated lately, whose Taizé community in France has considerably favored the development of Christian ecumenism worldwide.

The above examples allow us to draw the following conclusions. Although the meaning of hermitic life is very often misunderstood by people, it has always had a considerable impact on all the Christian tradition. Indeed, even though they dwelled in solitude, hermits have always strongly influenced not only the life of the Church but also the societies on the fringe of which they lived. In this sense, it is not exaggerated to say that hermitism is the blood of Christianity.

Even though hermits have never been more than a very small minority, it is important to underline that they have kept recalling all Christians the irreplaceable importance of silence and meditation whenever one wishes to deepen his understanding and knowledge of truth. Moreover, today’s hermits are inviting all Christians to achieve unity and to dialogue with the world religions.

All the above facts on hermitic life allow us to realize that Western society has at its disposal a strong tradition that can considerably facilitate its acceptation of kanhwasŏn practice.

Ⅳ. The Help that Western Christianity

can get from Kanhwasŏn

Like all religions, Christianity has been victim of its success. This is true to such an extent that we may say that as failure is the mother of success, success is the mother of failure. Western Christianity, despite having had to face challenges coming from atheism and inner divisions, has managed to maintain the same shape during several centuries. Moreover, it has had no serious contacts with another well organized religion, like Buddhism for instance, dealing thoroughly with the problems of suffering and death.

There is no need to describe, in this paper, the actual situation of European Christianity. As we have said above, this Christianity is facing a crisis. The decreasing number of its believers should be enough to prove it. As an explanation of this situation, we may say that European Christianity has lost a huge part of its vitality. Consequently it has also lost a lot of its capacity to attract people. In front of such a situation, some naturally ask whether Christianity still has a future or not. That is why so many Europeans are looking for a new source of hope. It is against this backdrop that kanhwasŏn is being introduced into the Western world. My argument is that as a transfusion of blood may save the life of a dying person, so may kanhwasŏn practice, without loosing its identity, become a source of renewal for Western Christianity. Of course, Christianity may end up developing a new shape through such an encounter.

From here on, before explaining what kind of help Christianity may get from kanhwasŏn practice, I will recall briefly what is the original spirit of the Christian tradition and what are the consequences of its loss.

1. The Original Spirit of Christianity

In the New Testament, Christ says of himself that he has nowhere to rest. In many ways such a statement may resemble one that is found in the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch(六祖壇經) and according to which non-abiding is set as the main doctrine(無住爲本). In order to understand the meaning of Jesusʼ words, we have to go back to Abraham, the common ancestor of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

As a Bedouin, Abraham lived in the solitude and silence of the deserts he wandered about. As a nomad, he had a tent for abode and did not store surplus products. He lived entrusting himself to the circumstances and believing that all he needed, beginning with water and food, would be given to him day after day. Even though Abraham was waking toward a land that had been promised to him, that land should not only be thought of as a country like, for instance, todayʼs Israel. It should rather be understood as the true nature that one has to find within himself. In other words, in many regards, the Promised Land resembles the Pure Land. In that sense, we may say that Abraham was walking toward himself, or, in other words, toward his true nature. As he was following his course, Abraham was always open to the possibility of an encounter with God and with foreigners. As a result, he kept experiencing new realities. That is why it may be said that God kept surprising him. For God was not where Abraham expected him to be, He also was where Abraham did not expect Him to be. Similarly, Abraham did not know whom he would meet during his journeys across the desert. Such unexpected encounters kept transforming him. Consequently, as we can discover through Abrahamʼs experience, truth is not an abstract reality such that we could take hold of it. On the contrary, truth is a dynamic and lively reality we are being seized by through concrete experience. Such a truth is given at every step and rediscovered at every instant. If there were some signs along the desert roads followed by Abraham, they kept indicating contradictory directions. In other words, it was a road without a road. Some of Jesusʼ words may help us to understand what this means : “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So is it with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

It is in order to rediscover the nomadic spirit of Abraham that hermits made and still make the decision to entrust themselves to the solitude and the silence of the desert. It is this very spirit that has allowed them to act as reformers within Christianity. As this spirit, when it is fully-fledged, is the Spirit of Christ, it has to be the spirit of all Christians. In other words, as all Buddhists have to become living buddhas, so should all Christians become living christs. But unfortunately, the descendants of Abraham tend to forget his nomadic spirit.

2. The Problem with Christianity

History teaches us that Christians, Jews and Muslims keep displaying a tendency to forget the common root of their respective faith : the spirit of Abraham. In other words, they tend to prefer a sedentary life to a nomadic one, noise to silence, and gathering together rather than solitude. That is why they abandon nomadic life, and build houses in cities well indicated by road signs and in which they can store in large quantities just about anything they want. However, such a transformation of their way of living has a considerable impact on their conception of truth. Truth loses its concrete and dynamic character to become a fossilized and absolute abstraction. At the same time, the Christians lose their ability to deal with reality inductively and their thinking becomes more and more deductive. Instead of being constantly transformed by constant and unpredictable encounters with God and others, they try to control those encounters by reducing God and others to their limited horizon. In a word, instead of living by the truth, they become administrators of the truth. As a result, the clerics harboring such a state of mind end up transforming the temple of Jerusalem into a place where a stuffed god is being worshipped. Such was Judaism in Jesusʼ time. It may be said that, just as Buddhism was a reformist reaction to Hinduism, Christianity was borne from a reformist reaction to such a temple. Jesus said to the clerics of his time : “Woe to you experts on the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. And not only haven’t you gained access, you have stopped others who were trying to enter.”

Of course, all that we have just said represents a dramatized and condensed view of Western Christianity. Nevertheless, it may be said that a constant conflict, between a nomadic and a sedentary paradigm, constitutes one of the main impulses behind the unfolding of Christian history. Each time that the course of events has had an excessive tilt toward the latter, a reformist movement based on the former has arisen. This is exactly what a synthetic look at the history of hermitic life within Christianity has allowed us to highlight. And it may be said that the Christian conscience is always tempted to rebuild the Jerusalem temple, let it be in Rome or elsewhere. Such a tendency deepened as the Catholic church became split with the Orthodox church in 1054 and with the Protestant church in 1517. But the ecumenical council of Vatican II(1962-1965), as it has emphasized both the unity of all Christians and opened dialogue with all religions of humankind, has made a historical effort to put the situation right. And Pope John Paul II(1920-2005) has been perfectly faithful to that spirit of renewal. Such an opening, in an effort to renew Christianity, reminds us of the one made by some adepts of Zen desiring to renew their tradition through contacts with the West.

3. The Contribution of Kanhwasŏn

I think that kanhwasŏn can bring something to a Christianity eager to renew itself. Indeed, kanhwasŏn practice can remind Christians of the traditional values of hermitism and of Abraham nomadic life : silence, solitude, the mobility of non-abiding and meditation. Such a reminding cannot come from a inner challenge alone, it must necessarily also come from an external one. This means that a genuine reform is possible through an epoch-making event like the encounter of kanhwasŏn with Christianity.

Kanhwasŏn has the advantage that it can be practiced, either individually or in a group, even in the middle of cities. It suffices to regularly create a space of silence and solitude where we dwell. Kanhwasŏn may allow our troubled minds to get rid of their endless and sterile calculations so that they may recover their original simplicity. As a result, it helps one to acquire a right view as he faces the world he lives in.

It cannot be said that Christians do not have traditional methods of prayer. On the contrary, though they have many, most of the time they either do not know them or do not use them. Moreover, if they want to recover a dynamic understanding of truth, these methods of prayer may gain much from an encounter with techniques of meditation coming from another tradition. For instance, though there exist both an affirmative and a negative way (Via Affirmativa and Negativa) within Christianity, the vast majority of those who pray usually tend to rely solely on the latter. As a concrete example, let us recall one of the sayings of Jesus to his disciples : “Still, I must tell you the truth : it is much better for you that I go.” In fact, this means that in order to fully understand who He is and what He has said, Christians must let Him go. Even though Jesus has clearly told them not to do so, Christians keep being attached to Him in an excessive way, as if they were hooked to a finger pointing the direction of the moon. In many regards the dialectical relation of the affirmative and negative ways found in Christianity is very similar to the one found in Buddhism and especially in Sŏn. But the mutual complementarity of the two ways being much more clearly emphasized within Buddhism, the practice of kanhwasŏn can certainly help Christians to discover, or rediscover, and use a much more balanced approach of those two paradigms. In a word, Christians have to be born again from above. As Jesus has said : “Unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is exactly what the practice of kanhwasŏn may allow Christians to discover. And if I say it, it is because I have experienced it.

Of course, some people could easily argue that the main ideas developed in this paper tend to reduce the understanding of the practice of kanhwasŏn to some of the needs of Western Christianity. But D. T. Suzuki did exactly the same when he introduced Zen Buddhism to the West as the “non historical essence of all religions.” It can be said that this is an extremely limited and selected view of Buddhism. That is because by introducing Zen as such in his most famous works, D. T. Suzuki repackaged Buddhism according to the expectations and hopes of his Western readers. Such an attitude may deserve many criticisms. Nevertheless, it is precisely because of that repackaging that D. T. Suzuki could successfully introduce Zen Buddhism to the Occident. And even though what he did may be considered somewhat flawed, since he intended to remain faithful to the spirit of Zen, it is hard to say that such a repackaging was completely wrong. Moreover, it is possible to say that the whole history of Buddhism is filled with similar examples. For instance, in his History of Buddhist Philosophy, David J. Kalupahana introduces Buddhism to Westerners through occidental categories, to such an extent that some critics claim that what he talks about isn’t Buddhism anymore. But in fact, since Buddhism has kept doing the same thing, for the sake of its adaptation, each time that it entered in a new area, such criticisms seem misplaced. The birth of Mahāyāna or of Tantric Buddhism may be considered other examples of the same phenomena.

I shall now talk about the concrete attempts that have been made to integrate the practice of kanhwasŏn with Christian methods of prayer.

Ⅴ. Attempts to Integrate Kanhwasŏn Practice and Christian Methods of Cultivation

Since there exist both common points and differences between Buddhism and Christianity, the attempts to integrate kanhwasŏn practice to Christian teachings have sparked off a number of reactions. I am now going to mention some of these reactions. Afterwards, I will describe the Sanbo Kyodan and give an account of the past history and of the prospects of the attempts made to achieve an integration of kanhwasŏn practice to the Christian tradition.

1. Western Reactions to Sŏn Buddhism

A first reaction consists in believing that the practice of Sŏn is the sole way to achieve truth. As a result, the advocates of such a position consider that Sŏn Buddhism is superior to all other religious traditions and they look down on them. The Dalai Lama is very critical of such people. They believe that the followers of traditions others than theirs cannot discover what they have found in Sŏn Buddhism. Such a feeling of superiority may make them look endlessly for an ever purer form of Sŏn tradition. As a result, they may end up looking and sounding very fundamentalist, confusing unessential matters like, for instance, clothes, furniture, or the tea ceremony, with essential ones. Such people make the Dalai Lama laugh. At the opposite extreme, some people consider that Sŏn Buddhism is nothing but a hoax destined to fool people. This is exactly the position of H. Van Straelen in his Le Zen Démystifié.

The two fundamentalist attitudes that we have just described are clearly opposed to an encounter between Sŏn Buddhism and the West. Between such extremes, we can find positions that are opened to a dialogue between the cultural and religious context to which Sŏn Buddhism has to adapt. But the problem is to find a good balance between mutual transformation and the maintaining of each partners identity.

Let us take a look at some attitudes regarding Christian Sŏn. According to Jacques Brosse, any attempt to disconnect the practice of Sŏn from Buddhism amounts to its neutralization. Similarly, Éric Romeluère claims that the teachings of the Sŏn school and of Christianity are so different that Christian Sŏn amounts to pure schizophrenia. On the other hand, the Benedict monk and priest Willigis Jäger has got so deeply into the practice of kanhwasŏn within the Sanbo Kyodan that he has obtained the Dharma seal and became, though still a Roman Catholic priest, Ko-un Roshi. He also runs a very successful meditation center, called the Benediktushof, near Würzburg, in Germany. Moreover, at an international level, Father Jäger is one of the three highest persons in charge of the Sanbo Kyodan. But recently, the Vatican has decided to prevent Father Jäger from teaching, declaring that the overall content of his predications does not conform to the tradition of the church. We may wonder if such a decision does not come from difficulties to understand the thought of a man who is too far ahead of his time. But even if it were so, let us remember the case of Thomas Merton who has managed to dwell in between the two extremes that we have just quoted. He declared that the more he got to know and love Buddhism, the more he could live as a good Christian. He also said that he felt closer to Buddhist monks practicing meditation than to Christians that did not. Nevertheless, Thomas Merton’s orthodoxy has never been challenged and he is unanimously recognized as a beacon of the encounter of Christianity with Buddhism.

2. The Sanbo Kyodan(三寶敎團)

With thirty thousand members, the Sanbo Kyodan is by far the largest organization teaching kanhwasŏn in Europe. Its followers have the choice between two different paths.

The first one, called ‘shikantaza(只管打坐)’ merely consists in sitting down, observing oneʼs breath and physical sentations or the sensations coming from outside the body but without developing any attachment to them. In addition to that, those who wish to do so may pronounce the sound mu(無) with their mouth and lips, but without producing any sound. About half of the members of the Sanbo Kyodan practice shikantaza.

The second method adds kanhwasŏn practice to shikantaza and is practiced by the other members of the Sanbo Kyodan.

The Sanbo Kyodan uses about seven hundred kongans(公案) coming from five different collections(konganjip 公案集). They are given to the adept, one by one, and in a predetermined order. He must find the answer to a given kongan in order to get the next one, and must solve all the seven hundred kongans to get the Dharma seal. The first collection contains twenty two kongans. It has been made for Westerners by the founders of the Sanbo Kyodan. In general, these kongans have been selected from the other collections and their content does not refer too much to the Chinese background they come from.

The other collections are the Mumungwan(無門關), the Pyŏgamnok(碧巖錄), the Chongyŏngnok(從容錄) and the Chŏndŭngnok(傳燈錄). Yamada Koun Roshi(1907-1989) has made commentaries(chech’ang 提唱) for all the kongans found in those records. As he wanted his students to understand easily, he thaught in English and explained to them the Chinese cultural, spiritual and religious background of each kongan. A commentary is not an answer to a kongan but an explanation that allows the student to get a better grasp of the question asked by it. The commenteries of Yamada Koun Roshi have been translated in English, French, German and other European languages. The making of the commentaries is based on the kongans. As the content of the kongans is extremely diversified, it allows the writers of commentaries to deal with just about every aspect of the adept’s life, either internal or external. In the Sanbo Kyodan, all the people that have either taken the direction of an already existing meditation center or created a new one have written commentaries in European languages.

The people practicing kanhwasŏn can do it individually or with a group meditating on a regular basis, generally weekly, or during an intensive training period lasting several days(yongmaeng chŏngjin 勇猛精進). The encounter with the roshi can take place during the weekly practice meeting, or twice a day during a period of intense training, or during an individual visit of the adept to the roshi. The adept enters the room where the roshi is sitting, bows in front of him, reads the text of the kongan that he is meditating and keeps silent during a brief moment. That silence is kept in order to allow the roshi to say something or ask a question if he wishes to. Afterwards, the adept displays the state of mind that he has achieved(ch’edŭkhan kyŏnggye 體得한 境界). In 99% of the cases, the answer must be non verbal. In other words, the state of mind achieved has to be expressed through a gesture or an attitude. If the answer is correct, the roshi may say a few words to help the student expand his conscience even more. Afterwards, the adept may start meditating the next kongan of the collection he is going through. If the answer is wrong, the roshi tells it to the student and then sends him back. In such a case, the adept has to keep trying to find an answer by himself, a process that may take several months, if not years.

Kongans do not have logical answers. Consequently, an answer has to be found in an other dimension than that of reason. By doing so, a level of conscience different from the ordinary one may be stimulated. A correct answer cannot come out of a logical process. It must rather spring up from the deepest part of the human being. The answer must be non verbal in order to prevent the mind from playing the endless game of its rational tricks. Here, the roshi’‘s attitude is very important, because he must discern instantly whether the state of mind displayed by the adept is rational or not. If it is, he must uproot the cause of the wrong answer on the spot. Here, ʻwrongʼ does not mean that the answer is bad from a rational standpoint, but rather that it cannot arouse a deeper state of conscience. Indeed, the goal of kongans is to spark off small or big awakenings. The intense observation of the critical phrase of a hwadu(話頭) continuously trains the mind of the practitioner and leads him toward an ever greater opening to the hidden reality of the world.

Two main reasons may be given to explain why the members of the Sanbo Kyodan are attracted by the practice of kanhwasŏn. The first one is because they believe that such a practice will allow them to discover something that does not exist in the Western tradition. The second one is because they hope that kanhwasŏn will help them to get the indomitable and countless passions of their mind under control. It is interesting to notice that they all start looking at kongans with a considerable amount of curiosity, believing that they are simple enigmas that they will be able to solve through rational thinking. However, most of them overcome this first approach. But the most essential problem comes from the Chinese cultural background in which kanhwasŏn was born. Its understanding requires the learning of an entirely new language with its symbols and metaphors. This is the reason why kanhwasŏn will never be popularized. Of course, a considerable number of works explaining the context in which kanhwasŏn was born, as well as translations and interpretations of the records of the sayings of the patriarchs, or of the sūtras and treaties, keep being published in Western languages. In addition to that, many efforts have been made to create kongans for Westerners and there are numerous possibilities. Material like some short stories coming from the Bible, as well as sayings of Christ or of the desert fathers could be used. But to my knowledge nobody has really succeeded yet in taking advantage of that material. Above all, there should be specific answers to the kongans thus made, but nobody has done yet the research necessary to find and test them.

The above informations allow us to see that the Sanbo Kyodan can rightly claim that it has a clear Dharma lineage. In addition to that, it also offers a fully-fledged course of kongans, to be solved one by one, and each having a distinct answer. On the other hand, it is important to mention that some other masters attach no importance to these three elements, claiming that a course of kongans to be covered step by step, each with its own answer, is against the genuine spirit of the Sŏn school. In addition to that, the Sanbo Kyodan also enjoys a good international organization and all its masters agree to abide by a strict, simple and clear code of ethics. In that regard, the meditation centers of the Sanbo Kyodan are unlike so many Sŏn centers that do not belong to a specific organization.

Beside the reasons that we have just mentioned, there are two others that may help to understand the success of the Sanbo Kyodan. The first one is that its first Western members are people who went to Japan to learn the culture and the language. It is with such a first hand knowledge that they went back to their native countries to transmit the teachings of the school. The second is its openness toward other religions, including Christianity. But the AZI of Taisen Deshimaru and the Association Inter-Être of Thich Nhat Hanh, the two other main Sŏn groups of Europe, also attract a number of Christians, even though that doesn’t seem to be the result of a systematic policy like in the case of the Sanbo Kyodan. For instance, many French Christians listen attentively to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh whose great openness toward other religions is well known. Among the many books that he has written, one is entitled Going Home-Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. Similarly, it is not difficult to find many Christians among the members of the AZI. In 2004, during an encounter with Yuno Roland Rech, one of the high responsible of this group, he told me : “So much the better if the practice of Sŏn may be of some help to the Christians.” Of course, the great interest taken by some Christians in Sŏn does not necessarily mean that they intend to give up their religious identity.

Master Sungsan of the Kwanūm Sŏnjong has said : “I myself am the way, I am truth, and I am life.” Even though he interpreted this powerful Christian statement in a Buddhist sense, the mere fact that he used it should be enough to let us guess that he too kept Christians in mind.

The above facts show us that, whether we like it or not, Buddhism and Christianity are actually coexisting in the Western world.

3. Concrete Attempts of Integration

It is important to realize that quite often the Japanese roshis themselves have suggested the creation of kongans adapted to Christians. A good example is Taeŭi Roshi(大義 老師), from the Japanese Rinzai school and the master of Chongdal Nosa 宗達 老師(1905-1990), the Korean who has created the Han’guk Sŏndohoe(韓國禪道會) in 1965. But let us now take a look at the way such a task should be accomplished. In order to do that, I will examine the work done by some Jesuits that have worked in Japan during the last fifty years. Indeed, the specific contribution of each one of them is an indispensable link for the creation of a Christian kanhwasŏn.

The German Heinrich Dumoulin(1905-1995) is an academic who was thaught at Sophia University in Tokyo and gained an international reputation. Unfortunately, his famous work Zen Buddhism : a History, does not talk about Korean Sŏn.

Enomiya Lassalle(1898-1990) is another German but who became a Japanese citizen. Moreover, rather than studying Sŏn, he dedicated his whole life to its practice, going as far as going through all the kongans of the Sanbo Kyodan several times. In one of his works, he systematically compares the practice of the spiritual exercices created by Saint Ignatius of Loyola with that of kanhwasŏn. His numerous books have made him known worldwide and very much contributed to the propagation of Sŏn in the West.

The Irish William Johnston, also an academic teaching at Sophia University, has both practiced and studied Sŏn. He has compared Christian and Buddhist meditation methods, and especially the thought expanded by mystics like Master Eckhart with the negative way of the Sŏn school. His books keep selling very well worldwide.

The Japanese J. K. Kadowaki also is an academic teaching at Sophia University and who both studies and practices Sŏn. In his book Zen and the Bible, he systematically compares kongans with the content of the Old and New Testaments. But, most interestingly, he got the inspiration to write that book in the 1950s, from a professor called I. Ratzinger, who later became a Cardinal before becoming lately Pope Benedict II. This shows us that the man who now holds the highest responsibility in the Catholic church had already realized, some fifty years ago, the considerable importance of the encounter of Sŏn Buddhism with Christianity.

Ⅵ. Conclusion

Instead of being centered on the Sanbo Kyodan, this research could have chosen a more global approach to the study of kanhwasŏn practice in Europe. Or, on the contrary, it could have focused on the Korean share of would could be called “the European market of religions.” Nevertheless, I have chosen to set back the practice of kanhwasŏn in the global context of the encounter of Buddhism with Western culture, and especially with Christianity. Each of the other approaches would have had a value of its own. But the one that I have chosen has the advantage of avoiding to deal with an extremely broad question in a vague an abstract way. Instead, without losing the broadness of the topic, it has remained very concretely focused. Refusing to recognize the value of such an approach would be tantamount to trying to understand the Buddhist conquest of China without knowing anything about Chinese religions. Of course, the present research study should be completed by a number of others based on issues like feminism, philosophy, psychology, social justice, sociology, etc.

As we have seen in this paper, hermitic life, that has tremendously influenced the Western world, constitutes an excellent ground for the encounter of kanhwasŏn. Moreover, the present crisis of Western Christianity favors its acceptance of a tradition that may contribute to its renewal. We have also examined the reasons of the success of the Sanbo Kyodan, as well as the role played, during the last fifty years, by Jesuits working in Japan for the development of a Christian kanhwasŏn.

The firs reason of the success of the Sanbo Kyodan is the fact that its teaching has spread to the West through people that often had an outstanding first hand knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Secondly, it has a well defined Dharma lineage, proposes a step by step course of seven hundred kongans, each having a specific answer, and all its masters write commentaries on the kongans. Its also is well organized at an international level, sticks to a clear code of ethics, and is opened to a dialogue with other cultures and religions. But we have also learnt from Victor Sōgen Hori that the practice of capping(ch’akŏ 著語) should form an indispensable part of kanhwasŏn training. And we should not forget that the engaged Buddhism proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh is very successful in the West.

The study of the work done during the last fifty years by some Jesuits working in Japan allows us to say that the following elements are required for the creation of a Christian kanhwasŏn : a deep, broad and accurate knowledge of Buddhism, a thorough experience of the practice of kanhwasŏn, as well as a good understanding of the Bible, of Christian mystics, and of philosophy.

In Europe, Korean kanhwasŏn is far from being as well known as Japanese Zen. At present, nothing allows us to predict that things are susceptible of changing, let it be on the short or on the long run. So much the better if the conclusions of this paper may somehow contribute to change that situation.

Let us now enumerate some of the distinctive traits of Korean kanhwasŏn.

First, the fact that it remains unknown may play in its favor since people are often attracted by what is entirely new, especially in America.

Secondly, from the view point of the history of Buddhism, Chinul(知訥)’s tono ch’ŏmsu(頓悟漸修) doctrine is very innovative.

Thirdly, though the sudden-sudden(tono tonsu 頓悟頓修) conception of enlightenment advocated by Master Sŏngch’ŏl(性徹) has provoked a huge controversy it has also enriched Korean Buddhism and made it even more attractive.

Fourthly, the fact that Korean Buddhists and Christians each represent approximately 25% of the population of Korea constitutes a unique situation, providing exceptionally good conditions for the development of a Christian kanhwasŏn that could be exported.

Fifthly, the existence in Korea of associations of lay people(在家修行者) like the Han’guk Sŏndohoe(韓國禪道會) can serve as a model for the creation of similar groups abroad.

The encounter of kanhwasŏn with Western culture is a process that will most probably take several centuries rather than just a few decades. It is an extremely complex phenomena, the understanding of which will require the collaboration of many people during a great number of generations. Right now, among the Westerners that practice kanhwasŏn, some do it as Buddhists and others as Christians. But the two types are necessary and it would be desirable that they work together in harmony instead of clashing. That is because the coexistence of the two groups is indispensable to guarantee both the preservation of kanhwasŏn‘s specific identity and its full integration to the Occident. While the Western Christians will work at the integration of kanhwasŏn to their faith, the Western Buddhists will keep helping them to acquire a correct understanding of Buddhism. And conversely, the former will recall the latter that the Occident is not a religious tabula rasa. Needless to say that it would be of the outmost importance for the adepts of kanhwasŏn, let them be Buddhist or Christians or of any other religion, that they maintain strong ties with the Far East tradition they trace their roots back to.

Sometimes ago, I heard a French Buddhist scholar say to some people attracted by Buddhism : “Please do not come if you are not very seriously motivated.” These words came from the fear, shared by many, that Buddhism may be in danger of becoming an easy fashion. I want to say the same thing to the Westerners attracted by the practice of kanhwasŏn. But to all those that feel strongly committed to that practice, despite its difficulties, I want to communicate my certitude that, on the long run, the encounter of Far East Buddhism with Western Christianity will most probably bear fruits profitable to all humankind.

* Keywords

kanhwasŏn, Association Zen Internationale, Association Zen d’Europe, Han’guk Sŏndohoe, the sudden-sudden(tono tonsu 頓悟頓修), Sŏngch’ŏl(性徹)

The ‘Buhyu’ Line Members’ Perception of the ‘Lines’ and the Heritages of Master Bojo

The ‘Buhyu’ Line Members’ Perception of the ‘Lines’

and the Heritages of Master Bojo

Kim, Yong-tae / Seoul National University

The so-called ‘Buhyu’ Line(‘浮休系’) was populated by Buddhist priests who claimed to be inheriting the legitimate teachings(法脈) of Master Buhyu Seonsu/浮休善修(1543-1615). Along with the Cheongheo Line(‘淸虛系’) headed by Cheongheo Hyujeong/淸虛休靜(1520-1604), this Line was one of the two major Lines that existed in the Buddhist society during the latter half period of the Joseon dynasty. Both masters Hyujeong and Seonsu were all disciples of Buyong Yeonggwan/芙蓉靈觀, and during the time of Seonsu himself, there were no visible differences between them in terms of traditions(家風) and the line of succession(嗣法關係).

Later, since 1609, the Buhyu Line members have settled themselves at the Songgwang-sa/松廣寺 temple of the Jogyae-san/曹溪山 mountain, and became an independent line of its own. Byeogam Gakseong/碧巖覺性(1575-1660), who was the disciple of Seonsu, laid out the basis for the development of the Line, and during the time of Baegam Seongchong/栢庵性聰(1631-1700), who was the member of the next generation, the Line finally established its own identity as an independent line based upon the Songgwang-sa temple and the actions of the historic master Bojo Jinul/普照知訥(1158-1210).

The Buhyu Line members conducted annotations to Master Bojo Jinul’s writings and widely published them, in order to honor and promote the teachings and heritage of Bojo(‘普照遺風’). At the Budo-jeon/浮屠殿 shrine of the Songgwang-sa temple, the Budo(tab) pagodas of the Buhyu line members are erected in the order of the legitimate line of succession(‘嫡傳’), which displays the line of succession among mainstream members of the Buhyu Line, and reveals the Line members’ perception of their own heritage and hierarchy. After Seonsu, the line of succession shows Byeogam Gakseong/碧巖覺性, then Chwimi Sucho/翠微守初, then Baegam Seongchong/栢庵聖聰, then Muyong Suyeon/無用秀演, then Yeonghae Yaktan/影海若坦, then Pungam Saechal/楓巖世察, then Mugam Chwaenul/黙庵最訥, and finally Hwanhae Beobrin/幻海法璘, in order. Among these renowned priests, especially 4 renowned masters(‘四傑’) under the guidance of Pungam Saechal, namely Mugam Chwaenul/黙庵最訥, Eungam Nangyun/應庵朗允, Jaeun Haejing/霽雲海澄, and Byeokdam Haengin/碧潭幸仁 were trained, emerged, and became the mainstream of the Buhyu Line in the post-medieval(近世) period. The most notable one was Chwaenul(1717-1790), who actively engaged in commemorating his master Saechal and promoting his teachings. His actions truly consolidated the Line members’ own perception of the heritage of the entire Buhyu Line.

With regard to the religious identity of the entire Line, the Buhyu line considered the heritage of Master Bojo most importantly. But in terms of the concept of line of teachings(法統), the Line members also shared another belief that they were actually inheriting the teachings of the Imjae-jong school(‘臨濟宗風’) which had supposedly been introduced to the Korean people through Taego Bowu/太古普愚 during the ending days of the Goryeo dynasty. This particular notion of considering Taego’s teachings to be the ultimately legitimate one(the ‘Taego Beobtong-seol/太古法統說’) was suggested by the Cheongheo line members during the early half period of the 17th century, and was established as a theory supported by practically everyone(‘公論’) inside the Buddhist society. The Buhyu line apparently also accepted this generally received notion, and claimed that they have been inheriting the teachings of the Imjae-jong school as well.

In terms of philosophy, the main characteristic of the Buddhism in the late Joseon dynasty period could be named as the Seon-Gyo Gyeomsu/禪敎兼修 principle(the principle of practicing Seon and Gyo teachings together), based upon the notion of prioritizing the Ganhwa-seon/看話禪 practice above all else. This characteristic was well mirrored in the education process for the Buddhist priests(the Iryeok Gwajeong/履歷課程 curriculum), and the training course was established in the form of Sammun Sueob/三門修業, which meant practicing Seon, Gyo and Yeombul(禪‧敎‧念佛) at the same time altogether. Included in the Sajib/四集 of the Iryeok Gwajeong curriculum were the 『Doseo/都序』 of Jongmil/宗密 which was considered to be a very important text by Jinul, and the 『Jeolyo/節要』 text that featured annotations of Jinul. And in the Daegyo/大敎, there was the 『Yeomsong/拈頌』, which was published by Jingak Haesim/眞覺慧諶, who was also the disciple of Jinul. As we can see, the training process and the curriculum for the Buddhist priests of the late Joseon dynasty period clearly reflected the philosophical influences of Master Jinul, and the most basic element of that influence was the Seon-Gyo Gyeomsu principle. The Buhyu line succeeded the heritage of Master Bojo, maintained the principle of Seon-Gyo Gyeomsu, and considered Gyohak studies to be very important.

During the latter half period of the Joseon dynasty, among Gyohak studies, especially the Hwaeom-hak/華嚴學 studies blossomed. Since Seongchong had launched a huge project of publishing Jinggwan/澄觀’s 『Hwaeom Socho/華嚴疏鈔』 which was proofread and published by Pyeong Rim Yeob/平林葉 of the Chinese Ming(明) dynasty, and the 『Hwaehyeon-gi/會玄記』 text annotated by Boseo/普瑞 of the Yuan(元) dynasty, studies of the Buddhist Sutras(‘講經’) and publications of annotated versions of the writings of past masters continued vigorously, and led to a new social atmosphere which could be referred to as the Renaissance of the Hwaeom studies. From the Buhyu line, renowned Hwaeom-jong masters(華嚴宗師) such as Mowun Jineon/慕雲震言, Hwaeam Jeonghae/晦庵定慧 and Mugam Chwaenul emerged, and delivered superb achievements in terms of Gyohak studies, which even matched those that had been delivered by the Cheongheo Line members.

The Buhyu Line members featured a unified line of succession and a unique perception of their heritage and hierarchy. They maintained the principle of practicing Seon and Gyo teachings altogether, and considered Gyohak studies to be very important. What helped them establish such strong identity and a perception viewing their own heritage, was the heritage of Master Bojo, and their conviction and pride in inheriting such honorable heritage.

* Keywords

Buhyu line(浮休系), Cheongheo line(淸虛系), Jogyae-san/曹溪山 mountain’s Songgwang-sa/松廣寺 temple, Heritage of Master Bojo(普照遺風), Teachings of the Imjae-jong School(臨濟宗風), Taego Bowu/太古法統, Bojo Jinul/普照知訥, Buhyu Seonsu/浮休善修, Byeogam Gakseong/碧巖覺性, Baegam Seongchong/栢庵性聰, Mugam Chwaenul/黙庵最訥, Ganhwa-seon/看話禪 practice, Seon-Gyo Gyeomsu/禪敎兼修(practicing Seon and Gyo teachings together) principle, Iryeok Gwajeong/履歷課程, Sammun Sueob/三門修業, Hwaeom Socho/華嚴疏鈔

The Spirit of Buddhist Monastic Precepts & Christian Monastic Rules: a Comparative Study

The Spirit of Buddhist Monastic Precepts & Christian Monastic Rules: a Comparative Study

Bernard SENÉCAL S.J. / Professor,

Department of Religion,

Seogang University

This paper compares the basic spirit of Buddhist monastic precepts and Christian monastic rules. By first examining the data and then appraising them through the use of functional comparisons, it applies the methodology of religious phenomenology: a dialogical approach of truth that avoids the extremes of objectivism and subjectivism.

A first part shows that Buddhist monastic precepts and Christian monastic rules each display a very strong unity of spirit throughout time, despite the fact that they both underwent considerable transformations due to the need to adapt to ever changing historical situations. Indeed, as monastic precepts are meant to help the Buddhists that have renounced the world to achieve awakening like the Buddha, the monastic rules are meant to make Christians as awakened as Christ was.

A second part describes how monastic precepts and rules were respectively born, pointing to the fact that, although the core of the former progressively took shape within the Buddhist monastic community during the lifetime of the Buddha, the latter took shape several centuries after the death of Christ, during Constantine rule at the beginning of the fourth century, when Christian religious life began to appear in answer to the excessive secularization of Christianity within the Roman empire. Nevertheless, despite such a striking difference pointing to the distinctive character of each tradition, monastic precepts and rules are respectively meant to help one to achieve, through complete awakening, the compassionate or loving behaviour which constitute the ultimate goal of Buddhism and Christianity.

A third part demonstrates that both Buddhism and Christianity see ultimate reality as being thoroughly ethical in nature. Their respective founders became one with that ultimate reality through awakening, thus completely embodying that ethical ideal in time and space. As a result, their behaviour was highly ethical and they had no need at all for a fully-fledged set of precepts or rules. But the same cannot be said of their followers who almost always definitely needed and still need such precepts and rules in order to become awakened to that reality and embody it through their behaviour. At the same time, an excessive clinging to precepts or rules may end up being just as detrimental as their total neglect. The spirit of the Middle Way constitutes an excellent antidote to the constant temptation of falling into such extremes that obviously pervades both traditions.

In conclusion, it may be said that just as Buddhism sees in the practice of the monastic precepts, meditation and wisdom the three complementary disciplines indispensable to realize Buddhist awakening, Christianity sees in monastic rules, prayer and life in the Spirit, the three indivisible and sine qua non disciplines required to achieve Christian awakening. Interestingly, a tension has been at work throughout history within both Buddhism and Christianity regarding whether it is necessary or not to renounce the world to reach full awakening. Nevertheless, Buddhists having renounced the world and Christians having joined a religious society may be said to be close in spirit as they search for truth and respectively strive to achieve Buddhist Compassion or Christian Love in action.

* key words

renouncing the world, joining a religious order, Buddhist monastic precepts, Christian monastic rules, awakening, one body compassion, first commandment, Buddhist-Christian inter-monastic encounter, Chogye Order, Society of Jesus

The formations come into being of Ganhwa-Seon(看話禪)

The formations come into being of Ganhwa-Seon(看話禪)

Kim, Ho-Gui / The Buddhist Research Institute, Dongguk Univ.

The zen-school of Tang(唐) dynasty was the essence of China zen buddhism. But, in Song(宋) dynasty, the zen action and zen thought went off their color. So, gradually vicious practices and side effects appeared in many aspect.

The Ganhwa-Seon(看話禪) was a practice of zen-buddhism. Especially, Ganhwa-Seon emphasis so called Hwadu(話頭). That is, Ganhwa(看話) means have a look at the Hwadu. This Ganhwa-Seon come into being in Song-dynasty of Chinese by Daehye-Jonggo(大慧宗杲 : 1089-1163). Here we can ratiocinate some reasons, namely, the formations come into being of Ganhwa-Seon.

Firstly, We can examined that Daehye-Jonggo have the critical attitude for the thought of Silent-Penetration(黙照) by Jinhul-Chungryo(眞歇淸了). At that times, a group of the thought of Silent-Penetration lapsed into a state of coma. In many ways, this was a target of the critical attitude by Daehye-Jonggo, so called, a fancy, a foolish imaginings, a stupefaction, a sleeping sickness, a delusion, and the borderland between sleeping and waking, etc.

Secondly, the attitude of a peace-at-any-price principle about all seon-practice. The ways of prudentialism was originated from the closing years of Tang-dynasty. The secondly effect on seon-buddhism were prevalent every seon-masters at the time of the early days in Song-dynasty.

In this state of affairs, Daehye-Jonggo had the critical attitude for the thought of Silent-Penetration and the ways of prudentialism. So, he standed by his many opinions in his “The Discrimination between right and wrong on Seon-practice(辨邪正說)”. At that time, Daehye-Jonggo(大慧宗杲 1089-1163) set up against that problem and that followers. As a part of that preventive measure, he preached sermons for not only Buddhist priests but also high officials that The Discrimination between right and wrong on seon-practice.

Here we can abstract his taught for them in eight ways.

First, discriminate the expedients.

Second, Alert absence of expedients.

Third, Do not ignore of enlightenments.

Fourth, Do not depend on letters and notions.

Fifth, Only adhere The Muja-Hwagu(無字話頭) instead of divisionism.

Sixth, Do not consider at own discretion.

Seventh, Seek after for seon masters.

Eighth, Bear in mind the faiths.

These eight ways were as it used at that times, and are as it useful for modern seon practice and buddhist priests. Here we can examined some reasons about the formation come into being of Ganhwa-Seon(看話禪)