The Role of Zen Buddhism in the Modern Scientific Era

Yongjeung Kim
Emeritus Professor
Dongguk University

The Role of Zen Buddhism in the Modern Scientific Era

1. Our Scientific Era and its Doomsday Effect

I want to begin to write this essay with mentioning Prof. Seonglae Park, who is the famous scholar in the history of science. Prof. Park carefully explained in his heading remarks of the quarterly journal, “Gwahak Sasang”(The Thought of Science) how the West occupied the East, and how the moral civilization of the East has been changed by the Western mechanic civilization and anticipated the situation of the coming 21st century world as follows:

I dare to say that human beings would be disappeared just before 3,000 years. As dinosaurs disappeared in the past, human beings, who reigned during a few million or ten thousand years and ruled this world with their absolute power, would be completely disappeared in the earth too.1) 

Even though what he said suggests a direct warning for human beings who live in this modern world, his warning must be seriously considered due to his thoughtful scholarship. He is very cynical about the real contribution to our capitalistic and individualistic society. He continues to say:

The coming 21st century will begin in a chaotic condition with the fever of capitalism and individualism. we tend to interpret the word ‘ism’ as an expression of will of human beings….However, capitalism and individualism are not ‘isms’ by which we, human beings, consciously remake our world. They are nothing but the results of the thought in which we let our nature leave, namely, the give-up of our will. In the past a thousand years, the fact that capitalism or individualism has been survived among other thoughts means that we gave up our attempt to improve our society with our will.2)  

Any body would agree that the crisis of our modern world occurs because of the unlimited enlargement of human beings’ nature, the unlimited economic development, and the accompanying the destruction of environment and the falling-down of our natural humanity. Of course, I do not ignore the advantage that capitalism and technology have given us. In other words, its flourishing material growth. But, the problem is the material civilization radically flourished, while the mental civilization is decreased. Furthermore, men forget what nature gives us and what freedom they really have to enjoy.

Karl Jaspers once pointed that the modern history of the West has been made with a “false enlightenment.” According to him, the spirit of the modern Europe tended to go ‘either-or’ direction, namely, going into a mechanic view of nature but not a harmonious view. Hence, the modern spirit of Europe becomes falling into insincerity. 3) Here, the ‘false enlightenment’ means that our knowledge, will, and act are based on the mechanic view of nature by which our intellect becomes insincere.

According to Jaspers’ criticism, Descartes did not see the limit of science and forgot its practical aim. And, he attempted to construct ‘universal science.’ However, his idea was dogmatic and was based on a mechanic mythology. 4)  In other words, in the beginning the spirit of Europe aimed to a kind of balance between organic and mechanic views of nature. But, Cartesian ‘universal science’ overemphasized the mechanic view and a technological knowledge and finally mechanic control of natural environment. Hence, man, who is often symbolized as ‘the son of nature’ or ‘the humanity of internal nature,’ is buried with the destruction of external nature.

Today the limit of science is shown in the world here and there; that is, the destruction of natural environment and the collapse of humanity as well as the limit of science itself. The American science critic, John Horgan, says how the limit of science is going on as follows.

Moreover, science itself, as it advances, keeps imposing limits on its own power. Einstein’s theory of special relativity prohibits the transmission of matter or even information at speeds faster than that of light; quantum mechanics dictates that our knowledge of the micro realm will always be uncertain; chaos theory confirms that even without quantum indeterminacy many phenomena would be impossible to predict; Kurt Godel’s incompleteness theorem denies us the possibility of constructing a complete, consistent mathematical description of reality. And evolutionary biology keeps reminding us that we are animals, designed by natural selection not for discovering deep truths of nature, but for breeding. 5) 

Science itself does not give men a complete truth but a partial truth by which men are destined to satisfy. In his book, Horgan presents ten kinds of eschatology; eschatology of development, philosophy, physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, social science, neuro science, and et cetera. For him, the radical development of science itself shows the end of science. Quoting Gunther Stent, Horgan argues the paradox of development and the end of science.

“If there is a limit of science and a difficulty by which there cannot be any development of science, science will be developed in a very speed just before meeting such difficulty. When science is shown successful, powerful, and effective, it means the end of science coming close. Stent said in his book The Incoming of the Golden Age that this speedy development of science makes us think such development and will be stopped in our life or one or two generation.” 6) 

The above quotation predicts that the end of science is coming close in proportion to the speed science develops.

Science has a double-value, positive and negative. If science is employed in a negative way, for example, the war using atomic bomb, the earth and our world would be ruined. In addition, the moral consciousness of human beings would be crashed.

In modern society, the life of men is getting comfortable and wealthy, but they are interested in seeking after pleasure. What is worse, they make a mistake the effect of drug and virtual reality for the true reality. Stent cynically ended his argument in his book that sooner or later our scientific development will be stopped, …and all our attempt for art and science during 1,000 years finally will let our life seem a true result by a just impromptu happening. 7)  Although we do not much need to worry all these negative phenomena, we still have to keep in mind these phenomena because the negative phenomena are getting serious.

The principal problems of our modern techno-scientific society are rooted from intellectuality, measurement, quantification, symbolization as well as bureaucratization, materialization, economicalization, business-making. Although the industrial society has been developed by the above items, these items, which come from the reason-based thoughts, are nothing but mechanic systems which are against our true life. The systematic and mechanic power of the modern techno-scientific society respects the dignity of humans, while such power debilitates the value of life and is indifferent to the dignity of our human life.

Therefore, A. N. Whitehead earlier found that although matter itself lacks sense, value and aim, the mechanic and materialistic view of nature comes from the classical view of physics because it is supposed that matter is absolutely real. 8)  So, Whitehead called such materialistic view of nature as a lose of value and aim, and attempted to change it into a holistic view of nature.

Erich Fromm, who was the greatest of psychoanalysis, realized that the mechanic power of modern technological civilization wrongly guided our true life into senseless thing and finally drew our life into a material death. 9) This disease of necrophila is made by the external power of modern environment in which the bureaucratic, technocratic information system consists. What is worse, school system and education are easily involved in such a negative modern system.

Among all these difficult conditions, the information society alienates and isolates human beings, and finally transforms the moral men into the machines. Today we live in the period of great change that we have not experienced. In the name of the frontier science, the development of technology established the invention of new materials with the super-computer and the satellite communications. Besides, by the genetic science, we became to make a new kind of species and a radical development of agriculture and livestock farming, and the medical science.

But, the unlimited flood of mas media and the computer game guide young men to be given to the intemperance for their sexual instinct and make them the playful murder. The problems of information society are shown in other cases: for example, the problems of virtual reality on the dimension of cyberspace, computer hacking, and the outflow of information and etc: all these cases make us consider moral questions we have not experienced in the past.

Especially we cannot properly cope with our technological crisis, because we realize that with moral treatment, we cannot well control the technological problems of computer. For example, because the organism of long-range gun, missile or atomic bomb is absolutely unhuman, even any coward can kill a million people at a moment only using buttons without a serious conscience. In fact, in the modern automatic machine, computer chips and automatic sensors are attached, and so we easily forget our responsibility about the results when we operate the buttons of the machines. Then alienation from using the machine is made. In next chapter, I will discuss such alineation problem with the information engineering.

2. Information Engineering and Alineation

The modern society establishes its network system through autonomy, separation, or cooperation. For example, each robot, which has relatively a simple tool functioning independently and cooperating with other parts of it, establishes a given aim.

Since 1990s, people have been interested in the artificial life (AL) rather than the artificial intellect (AI). That is, beyond the artificial intellect, they have researched making a kind of artificial life. The research of AL goes a step farther than the research of AI. Christopher Langton is the scientist who used the word ‘artificial life.’ He presumed that if the ability of ‘self-copy’ might be defined ‘life,’ with a relatively simple model an artificial life can be made. In his model of AL consists of a cellular automaton which is a two dimensional grid. Each grid means a cell and each time transforms into a new cell responding to the mixture of a current condition and others. At this moment, a collection of each grid-cell is defined as life. 10)

The alive image through a computer graphics is also considered as a kind of artificial life because through the graphic image, real or unreal life can be depicted in a given space-time condition without any difficulties. The live expression through the computer graphics has an ‘elementary meaning’ among the several visualization of simulation. For example, a high quality of technology is necessary in order to express the move of human body with the computer graphics. If this technology can be acquired, a high quality art can be made only by the computer graphics. Then, a real machine like an alive animal can be an area of artificial life.

Now we meet a new era treating a life without a real life, namely, an artificial life. At the late 20th century, the leading technology is information by computer, while the beginning 21st century will be laid with the science of artificial life as the leading technology. Recently by the robot technology, a micro-precision machine goes into the human body and then treat the disease of human body. DNA simulation is possible even on the computer, and by the life information technology, the reproduction of sheep becomes possible. At the moment, agriculture and livestock farming and medical science contributes for human welfare by the DNA simulation and the technology of reproduction.

On the other hand, negative phenomena of life science happens to young generation: for example, a possibility of virtual reality which harms their personality and make them be in a chaotic state. The confusion of virtual reality and true reality are paradoxically made by the development of science. Another example of the negative phenomena is a third kind of life and an absolutely new kind of bacteria which are produced by the extravagant use of the reproduction technology.

The more urgent problem is the human alienation by the increase of information system. Today most young generation spend their time playing the computer game, and so they do not have enough time to talk with their family. In a certain sense, computer is a machine which helps to isolate humans. Computer, as a machine which is a phase of a given game, offers an isolate space to people: personal computer offers a series of discontinuous scenes. All these scenes are the thing given but not a chosen by people consciously. In it, there is a given rule, but people operate the given scene by a programmed rule.

By the development of the information technology of the computer, labor is replaced by robot and plants are robotized. According to this robotization, men’s labor is restricted and isolated by automation. Men work with a fixed order and a given information which are already programmed by the production and sales fields.

Although all these programmed information originally are set up for men’s welfare, they feel, in a sense, anxious to the given machine-like ordering. A reasonable question what nature and humans are become meaningless by such development of science, in which humans are proved as a limited entities. The anxiety was due to the development of warfare, which was possible by the scientific civilization through the 1st and 2nd World wars. Human anxiety is not due to a special object or event but a limited existence of humans which is rooted from the power of science. Furthermore, the anxiety comes from the increase of much freedom which is made by the progress of industrialization and a misguided democracy.

For Kierkegard, men feel anxious to the possibility of freedom, namely, the free choice of picking up the fruit of good and evil, when Adam and Eve heard God’s order “Not to eat that fruit.” 11) According to J. P. Sartre, man cannot escape from his existence because he is a man. Hence, anxiety comes from man’s existent choice. But, nowadays people get losing the feeling of anxiety by the progress of information society. 12) Such lose must be ‘oblivion’ which is different from Heideggerian ‘existence forgetfulness’ or J. Derrida’s. (which was mentioned in his speech published in 1968’s book The End of Man.) Men just act according to the programmed order of computerized database. When they perform any work depending upon computer, they are overwhelmed by it, and finally get forgetting their existence and losing their personality.

In fact, insects and animals do not feel anxiety. instead, it is right if they just live following their natural equipment or their own information system. But, now men act by a given programmed information when they use computer and cannot live without computers. Hence, they do not feel any more existential anxiety and a sense of death, and finally do not need to feel such assumed anxiety.

Men become busy with the development of information media rather than taking a rest. They spend most time using beeper and handphone, and invest more time watching television, typing on the computer, sending facsimile to others. Although the development of multimedia gives them a great advantage, such development take their valuable time and energy.

Norbert Wiener, who invented cybernetics, claimed that if the modern man is interested in ‘know-how’ by which a method of establishment is acquired and neglects ‘know-what’ with the question “What is the value and aim of man’s life?,” he won’t help kill themselves. 13) He also warns: “The time is too late, and the choice of good and evil knocks at our door. Human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levels and rods.”14)  

In any way, in this modern information society, men must choose from the programmed menu of computer. If most works we have to treat are practical things in our ordinary life, we cannot have much time the important problems, “what the ideal life we must pursuit.” What is worse, we cannot escape from the network system because we spend a lots of time for making program and using the given programmed data on the computer.

In a short word, the modern man falls into a programmed system, like in a cage and alienates himself. The question is how man can recover such alienation. It is possible through the Zen meditation by which he becomes a ‘true man.’ The only way to become the true man is acquired by the Zen meditation.

3. The Recognition of the Quantum Theory

Although I have criticized the negative side of the modern science and its culture, I also have to point out a positive side. For the positive side, I will consider the philosophy of the Middle Way of Buddhism and the thinking method of quantum physics in terms of their epistemic way. It is because the quantum theory can help for mediating religion and science, and East over West: the quantum theory will present an absolutely different thinking method from the traditionally existing causal determinism.

In the beginning of 20th century, from the fact that the micro materials of electron and photon tend to have a double qualities of particle and wave at the same time, the quantum physicists began to understand the quality of quantum: that is, they realized the quality of wave from that a quantum makes diffraction and an intereference fringes. But, when they realized that a quantum reflected an electron from the surface of metal by the photoelectric effect, they also must accept that a quantum is a particle. When they found the double quality of particle and wave of a quantum, they had to change their existing understanding of nature.

As you see, in the beginning of 20th century two radical development of the relativity theory and the quantum mechanics changed the traditional views of matter and world. Since the quantum mechanics has been born, the opposed theories of particle and wave are modified into a unified theory for a quantified particle and wave. That is, the quality of particle and wave for light is not a separate character, rather shows a double character of an identical substance: in other words, the double character is considered as a ‘wavecle.’ Matter consists of the continuum of particles which oppose and mediate each other, and matter finally reveals a complementary property of micro material. Supposing the existence of a photon, the wave of light is accompanied with a particle which holds a quantum units of energy, and then matter and energy become to have a double character of wave and particle. It is by the complementary function of the double character that a new understanding of physics is made. In a macro way, both matter and light consist of a continuous wave, while in a micro way they also consist of a discontinuity of particles. N. Bohr’s theory of complementation is the result that men attempted to understand the double character of wave and particle without any difficulty.

By this double character of wave and particle, it is possible that an uncertain element lies in the micro world of the photon, electron, and atom. In 1927, Heisenberg measured this uncertainty in which he tried to measure the position and speed of the quantum particle at the same time. We want to get an exact measurement of the position of an electron, while we cannot get any knowledge about the momentum of the electron. In the other hands, if we can measure the momentum of the electron, we cannot do its position. This paradox happens because if an electron is fixed in a certain position, the process of ‘fixing the electron’ makes an effect for the momentum of the electron. The attempt to measure the momentum of the electron also makes an effect for us to realize exactly the position of the electron because the momentum shakes the position of the electron.

This paradox is due to the original meaning of nature rather than the limit of human recognition accompanied by technology. That position and momentum of an electron cannot be measured at the same time shows that in a micro world a causal determinism is meaningless. 15) 

By N. Bohr and Heisenberg, we become to know that the position and momentum of a particle cannot be measured at the same time, because the atoms of matter and light are resulted as the phenomena of particles in a certain experiment, and as the phenomena of waves in the other experiment. Consider a more logical answer why these different phenomena occur. Hans Reichenbach explains the problem of this paradox mentioning L.V. de Broglie. While the classic physicists had been involved in the two-valued logic for the double character of particle and wave, de Broglie dared to think a possibility that light could consist of a particle as well as a wave. For him, the two-valued logic, ‘either-or’ logic, must be replaced by ‘both-and’ logic in which a complementary theory would be made. He set up a three-valued logic which consists of ‘true (T),’ ‘false (F),’ and ‘indeterminate (I),’ and then considered a true result by an experiment of a momentum of a particle as an indeterminacy. What a particle is in a state of indeterminacy means that when a momentum of a particle is determined, the determinacy is uncertain. That is, when an utterance is true, the other utterance must be in an indeterminate state from the given condition. Furthermore, de Broglie’s ‘both-and’ character of particle and wave makes us interpret a possibility that particle and wave exist at the same time. Of course, such existence does not mean that they are real in a certain condition, rather real only in an interpreting condition. That is, both particle and wave are true all the time.  16) 

His argument is to divulge a limit of human recognition, and makes us imagine the thought of the middle Way in buddhism. For N. Bohr, it is meaningless to ask what the electron is. And, according to Paul Davies, with the development of Bohr’s idea, the Western philosophical view of the whole and part, and the macro and micro world is radically changed.

“So the quantum reality of the microworld is inextricably entangled with the organization of the macroworld. In other words, the part has no meaning except in relation to the whole. Thus holistic character of quantum physics has found considerable favour among follows of Eastern mysticism, the philosophy embodied in such oriental religions as hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Indeed, in the early days of quantum theory many physicists, including Schrodinger, were quick to draw parallels between the quantum concept of part and whole, and the traditional oriental concept of the unity and harmony of nature.”17)

With the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat which is understood by Paul Davies and J. Brown, I will show a similarity of quantum mechanics and Zen Buddhism.  18) 

A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device. Suppose that the probability of radioactive substance half in a given period. If the radioactive substance flows out, the counter tube discharges, and moving a hammer by an attached cord shatters the flask which holds hydrocyanic acid. Then, the hydrocyanic acid comes out and the dies.


According to the quantum theory, matter consists of a double-laid state in which radioactivity can flow out or not. Then, we can suppose that the probability of life and death of the cat is half. The probability of alive and dead state is half if we express the cat in terms of the quantum mechanics. How to understand this strange state is expressed by the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat.

In our common sense, the cat should be dead or alive. There is no choice between alive and dead. Because each probability of alive and dead state of the cat is half, we cannot say that the cat is alive and dead. If we, however, observe these states, one of the states occurs in a real condition. If we suppose that the cat is alive, and open the steel chamber, the cat is found alive, while if we suppose that the cat is dead and open the chamber, the cat is dead. That is, according to our chosen will, the cat is alive or dead. Technically saying, we can say that a wave function is broken and each state has its own value.

Although all these results happen in a micro state of an electron, when we understand nature, these results have a significant meaning in which our subjective recognition works. This curious relationship between particle and us is found as the spin state of particle.

The particle of neutrino and electron have a kind of internal rotation, namely, a spin (of course, all elementary particles have a spin). If we make an experiment apparatus to find the direction of spin and choose a certain direction for a co-ordinates, we discover that the spin is pointing a field-direction. That is, the spin of the particle is always pointing the direction we choose. A particle always points a direction as we want to point. In the micro world of the elementary particles, our subjective element is mediated. This state is very similar with the cases of ‘a smile with the flower shown’ and ‘an immediate communication from mind to mind’ in Buddhism in which people can intuitively feel a co-understanding without any word. In the case of the quantum mechanics, particles of electron work like human beings pretending to communicate by the mind. Of course, we do not know why this happens.

Davies and Brown argues that the significant role of observation in the quantum mechanics lies in dealing with the relationship between matter and mind. That the wave function suddenly changes when we observe the quantum shows the idea that mind is over matter. This idea is similar with the Buddhist idea ‘Buddha nature all over the world’: the physical state affects the spiritual state and vice versa.

P. Neumann uttered that anything cannot ‘break’ the wave function. The wave function, however, is broken when man’s consciousness is involved. In other words, when a result of measurement enters into man’s consciousness, the complex pyramid organization of quantum is easily shown as a distinct reality.

For Eugene Wigner, mind plays an important role in which mind determines the nature of measurement and makes happen an irreversible change of the quantum state of matter.

As Davies and Brown says, the relationship of mind and matter in the quantum physics is very similar with the thinking method of Eastern religion in many ways. In Zen Buddhism, there are some important arguments: ‘language beyond language’ and ‘a secret beyond canon.’ A true reality is understood only by mind from mind and the canonical truth is understood just by our self-reflection but not by the Buddhist canons themselves. All external things and events are only the mirror-like thing of our original nature and all canonical principle are just the musical echoes of our true nature. Therefore, we should not identify our original nature with such a mirror-like thing or echoes. We can identify ourselves only if we directly observe our original nature.

The reality of Zen Buddhism is well understood by the relationship between Buddha and K??yapa. 19)  K??yapa is known as the founder of the Indian meditation. Originally ‘dayana’ meant a concentrated meditation. On the other hand, the Chinese meditation meant the sudden enlightenment. Hence, the real nature of meditation means the revelation of self and self-proof.

According to D. T. Suzuki, the Zen meditation presents a method in which we go into an object itself and realize the object as it is. To know what a flower is a means for us to become the flower, blossoming with the flower and getting wet with rain and being exposed to the sun. Hence, the flower wants to talk with us and at the same time I share, with the flower, joy and suffer. Now I can understand the phase of the flower, namely, its life. Not only I know the mystery of the universe with enlightenment but also I know the mystery of itself. 20) At this moment, universe and I are unified: in this unity universe becomes me and vice versa.

Here, the Zen meditation and the quantum mechanics meet each other. That is, the quantum mechanics cannot be explained by the two-value thinking as the Zen meditation cannot do. Although in a sense the quantum mechanics is a new way of recognition, it indirectly is to show as what the Zen meditation is. In next chapter, I will explain the Buddhist thought of the Middle Way with ‘language beyond language’ of the Zen meditation. When we understand that thought, we also can find the logical ground of the intuitive world of the Zen meditation in which life and death are unified as one.


4. The Epistemology of the Middle Way

Nagarjuna unfolded his philosophy of the Middle Way by paramartha-satya and lokasamvrti-satya: Nirodha-?ryasatya belongs to the param?rtha-satya and suffering, attachment, and way belong to lokasamvrti-satya: that is, the paramartha-satya means a state of salvation, while lokasamvrti-satya means its previous state or a means of the paramartha-satya. Therefore, Nagarjuna said that paramartha-satya cannot be required without lokasamvrti-satya, and without such paramartha-satya, we cannot get nirvana. 21)   The point we have to keep in mind here is that paramartha-satya is divided into both an expressible absolute and an unexpressible absolute, and that lokasamvrti-satya must be considered reasonable as well as non-reasonable.

Param?rtha-satya of an unexpressible absolute is the true suchness beyond language’ as a truth, while param?rtha-satya of an expressible absolute is the ‘true suchness depended upon language.’ The latter belongs to the lokasamvrti-satya because ‘satya’ depending upon language cannot be an experience of salvation. The Hegelian dialectics proceeds in a reasonable way depending on language. So, such dialectics cannot deal with ‘the transformation of reasonableness into un-reasonableness.’ Nagarjuna’s ‘dialectics of negation’ does not accept reasonable thinking. To negate reason, we have to be reasonable which is a self-negation of reason. Through a reasonable thinking we discover a paradox and throw it away. The self-negation of reason is performed by the paramartha-satya which is expressible by language; that is, negating language by language. Hence, T.R.V. Murti calls this form of logic as ‘reductio as absuridum.’22)   Although the expressible stage might be reasonable, this stage is still unreasonable because it has a paradox in which a reason has to be explained by reason. So, we must reveal the unreasonableness and then we can transcend from the limit of language and get nirvana.

Won-Hyo (617-686) said: “To cut all kinds of problems of the world with wisdom is a secular law but not a principal law. It is because in the emptiness there is no dying thing and no making thing die, and so everything is empty and is in a state of nirvana.23)  In other words, for him there is no division between truth and falsity, which are not different. His idea is analogous to the idea that ‘stopping observation’ is two wings of birds and two wheels of carriage.

Although Won-hyo criticizes some parts of the thought of the Middle Way, his original idea of truth and falsity is same with Nagarguna’s. Truth and falsity (or secularity) are same, in which we should not be attached to not only falsity but also truth. We have to throw away the attachment for truth and falsity.

Won-hyo’s idea becomes clear if we research one of ‘the first dialect’ which explains Sung-lang’s thought that two different values reveal the Middle Way. His dialect might be schematized as follows.

** Two different values reveal the Middle Way.

1. Birth/Death……….the Middle Way for Secular Value

2. No-Birth/Death………..the Middle Way of True Value

3. Not-birth/Death and Not-(No-Birth/Death)…………the Middle Way of Revealing Two Different Values  24) 

According to the above schema, birth/death is set as the Middle Way of secular value. Most people believe that there in this world birth and death really exist. Hence, the law of birth/death is considered a secular or false value and no-birth/death is considered as true value. Since many intellects do not have any difficulty to understand the fact that there is no-birth/death, in this schema birth/death and no-birth/death is set to be responded to the secular or false value and the true value, respectively.

If we, however, consider birth/death as a real phenomenon and no-birth/death as a real phenomenon, our consideration is also mistaken. We need a unity for two different values which reveal the Middle Way.

Therefore, Sung-lang explains two different values as follows.

“Those two values are a mysterious teaching for the Middle Way as well as a true sermon in which our culture and language are searched. Being and non-being are discovered by a principle. Although being and non-being are separate and cannot be recognized as a unity, reality is found as one principle. Hence, with the ways of truth and falsity, we can educate people to make them find a right way.25)

Won-hyo, in his Sipmunhwajaengnon(十門和諍論) said: “When people, who had attained Buddhahood, lived, their world was peaceful. However, in the future world, people are involved in a vain arguments and fight each other, and finally they would not escape from their inevitable retribution, namely, karma.” 26)   So, Won-hyo said that with the light of wisdom the world can be equal.27) He continued to say: “Like the difference of birds’s marks in the air, the example of the air accompanies with such difference. Although the birds’s marks once existed, we cannot differentiate the actual marks of birds.”28) After all, enlightenment is attained by throwing away fancies which always occur. The state without fancies is like the air.

Now we know that the quantum mechanics and Zen meditation share with the thought of the Middle Way in terms of recognition of the world. Although there must be more careful understanding about this argument, I, at least, can claim that quantum mechanics and Zen Buddhism are in the state of complementation.

5. The Contemporary Meaning of Zen Meditation in the Era of Science

Today the scientific civilization can be described as the civilization of machine, possession, ambition, and competition. On the other hand, by the Zen meditation we can acquire culture for life, non-possession, freedom from desire, and harmony. We, however, know what the problems this techno-scientific world have. We also find a similarity between the quantum mechanics and the Buddhistic thought of the Middle Way. Hence, modern science tends to hold favorable and non-favorable view with Buddhism. Then, we need a careful insight to discriminate the right and wrong points about the effects of modern science.

As I said before, people are not interested in recovering their natural humanity. They are losing their mind just being interested in using computer, television, handphone, money and enjoying sensual pleasure and playing golf and gambling. To escape from these bad situations, we must consider the real meaning of the Zen meditation.

People often say that yoga is for attaining ecstasy and Zen meditation for enlightenment. As the Great master Seo-Ong once said, enlightenment is acquired when man becomes free without having any discrimination against others. All critical situation is due to our dualistic thought and unfair discrimination. The extreme materialism, individualism, and egoism bring our world to a crisis and aggravate conflicts and split. Zen meditation accepts all forms of State, nationality, religion, thought, and culture. That is, Zen meditation provides a universal ground in which all forms of societies are harmonized.

To prove the effects of Zen meditation, I will explain Zen meditation summarizing its five steps (which are read in Korean as follows.)

1. Jeong Joong Pyun…..the Pyun in the Jeong (substance behind phenomena)

2. Pyun Joong Jeong…..the Jeong in the Pyun (phenomena transitioning to substance)

3. Jeong Joong Lae…..coming from the Jeong (phenomena coming from substance consciously)

4. Gyum Joong Ji….the arriving in the Gyum (substance and phenomena coming together)

5. Gyum Joong Do…..the settling in the Gyum (substance and phenomena harmonizing each other)

Suzuki said that “The sho [Jeong in Korean] and hen [Pyun in Korean] constitute a duality like the yin and yang in Chinese philosophy. Sho literally means ‘right,’ ‘straight,’ ‘just,’ ‘level’; and hen is ‘partial,’ ‘one-sided,’ ‘unbalanced,’ ‘lopsided.’ 29)  He explained the relationship between Jeong and Pyun in English as follows.30)

1) Jeong is translated in English as follows; “the absolute, the infinite, the one, God, dark (undifferentiation), sameness, emptiness, wisdom, and the universal. And, Pyun is translated as follows; the relative, the finite, the many, the world, light, difference, form and matter, love and the particular. I will quote Suzuki’s explanation for the five steps.

[Jeong Joong Pyun] means that the one is in the many, God in the world, the infinite in the finite, etc. When we think, the [Jeong] stand in opposition and cannot be reconciled. But in fact the [Jeong] cannot be the [Jeong] nor can the [Pyun] be the [Pyun] when either stands by itself. What makes the many [Jeong] the many is because the one is in it. If the one is not there, we cannot even talk of manyness.” 31)

2) “[Pyun Joong Jeong] complements (1). If the one is in the many, the many must be in the one. The many is what makes the one possible. God is the world and the world is in God. God and the world are separate and not identical in the sense that God cannot exist outside the world and that the one is indistinguishable from the other. They are one and yet each retains its individuality: God is infinitely particularizing and the world of particulars finds itself nestled in th bosom of God.” 32)  

3) “We now come to the third step in the life of the Zen-man. This is the most crucial point where the noetic quality of the preceeding two steps transforms itself into the conative and he becomes really a living, feeling, and willing personality. Hitherto he was the head, the intellect, in however exacting a sense this might be understood. Now he is supplied with the trunk with all its visceral contents and also with all the limbs, especially with hands, the number of which may be increased even up to one thousand (symbolizing an infinity) like those of Kwannon the Bodhisattva. And in his inward life he feels like the infant Buddha who uttered, as soon as he came out of his mother’s body, this pronouncement: ‘Heaven above, earth below, I alone am the most honored one.’”33)

The [Jeong in Jeong Joong Lae] is not used in the same sense as in [Jeong Joong Pyun] or in [Pyun Joong Jeong]. The [Jeong] in [Jeong Joong Lae] is to be read together with following [Joong] as [Jeong Joong], meaning ‘right from the midst of [Jeong] as [Pyun] and [Pyun] as [Joong]. Jeong Joong Lae is like the ‘thunderous silence,’ which is the eye of the hurricane. The eye is the center of the hurricane and without the eye the hurricane does not occur. The eye is what makes the hurricane possible. Eye and hurricane conjointly constitute the totality. When the Gyum Joong Ji arrives, it jumps in the hurricane escaping from the eye, namely, the center. Here, both Jeong and Pyun are enfolded by the wind which comes from all over directions. Then, man becomes the hurricane itself.

[Gyum] means ‘both’ and refers to the dualism of black and white, dark and light, love and hate, good and bad — which is the actuality of the world in which the Zen-man leads his life now. While [Jeong Joong Lae] still reminds us of something in the preceding two steps, [Gyum Joong Ji] has altogether left them behind, for it is like itself shown of its intellectual paradoxes, or rather, it includes indiscriminately, undifferentially, or better, totalistically, everything that is intellectual or affective or conative. It is the world as we have it with all its ‘brute facts,’ as some philosophers take them, irrevocably facing us. 34) The Zen-man finally realizes that ‘klesa’ is Bodhi, and at this level experiences that appearance which is reasonably understood, and substance is one. Furthermore, appearance and substance cannot be separated and must be in a complementary condition.

Let’s continue to understand Suzuki’s explanation: “We now come to the last step, [GyumJoong Do]. The difference between this and the fourth is the use of [Do] instead of [Ji]….But, according to the traditional interpretation, [Ji] has not yet completed the act of reaching, the traveler is still on the way to the goal, whereas [Do] indicates the completion of the act. The Zen-man here attains his object, for he has reached the destination. He is working just as strenuously as ever; he stays in this world among his fellow beings. His daily activities are not changed.” 35)  

In the fourth step, Zen-man really wants to jump into the universe. His desire might be called a step of meta-cosmic. On the other hand, this fifth state is the transmeta-cosmic state, in which the Zen-man must come back to the condition unifying both appearance and substance. Although he is described as a hero, now he discovers a paradise in this world and becomes to respect all trivial things. He comes to be sincere for himself and helps others and shows a life-model for them. He hereby becomes a true-man.

Suzuki summarized all five steps as follows: “These five are divisible into two groups; noetic, affective or conative. The first three are noetic and the last two are affective or conative. The middle one, the third ‘step,’ is the transition point at which the noetic begins to be conative and knowledge turns into life. Here, the noetic comprehension of the Zen life becomes dynamic. ‘The word’ takes flesh; the abstract idea is transformed into a living person who feels, wills, hopes, aspires, suffers, and is capable of doing any amount of work. In the first of the last two ‘steps,’ the Zen-man strives to realize his insight to the utmost of his abilities. In the last he reaches his destination, which is really no destination.”36)  

The American philosopher of religion, Thomas Merton said in his book Mystics and Zen masters that “If the West continues to underestimate and neglect the spiritual heritage of the East, it may hasten the tragedy that threatens man and his civilizations. If the West can recognize that contact with Eastern thought can renew our appreciation for our own cultural heritage,…then it will be easier to defend that heritage, not only in Asia but in the West as well.”

Now the time that religion and Western science meet each other was made. I will specify such meeting of science and religion, quoting a Korean newspaper.

“Recently an attempt was to find a commonality between two different thoughts. With using brochures, television and making workshops, this great meaningful conference was given in Berkeley, California with the topic ‘Science and the meaning of mind.’ Most scientists who participated in this conference were Christians, Jews, and Islamics. For a long time they attempted to solve the conflicts between religion and science. There was a common sense in this conference in which the universe had a purpose and by its purpose human beings would be really existed.”

– Munhwa Daily (number 2054) July 20 –


6. Conclusion

Since 1970s, I have been researching comparative philosophy as well as philosophy of science to harmonize modern science and Eastern religion and ethics. Gwahak Sasang (Thought of Science), the quarterly journal in which I have worked as a chief-editor, has been published to harmonize Eastern religion and science.

In his Dharma teaching, the Great master Seo-Ong once said that the real nature of man penetrates his consciousness as well as unconsciousness, and does his free and easy state, and finally enlighten himself without any limitation. Such unlimited penetration of human nature is to attain the divine enlightenment.

According to Seo-Ong, men have to critically consider their given civilization which has been affected by modern science, and consider the relationship between their civilization and the Zen meditation. When the relationship between them is well harmonized, men can solve the problem how their future world must be guided. Seo-Ong presents his idea as follows to solve this problem.

In Zen Buddhism, we can find a principle of existence in which one and many is unified, and particulars and universals are also unified. Without particulars, ‘one’ becomes meaningless, and without one, particulars are split, lacking unification. Today men are losing such a ‘universal one’ because of particularism due to the modern science, and is taking conflicts. In a short word, our modern civilization is implicated in seeking after particulars still losing ‘one.’ Men can easily be fallen into a mental disease. To solve this problem, they have to create a new kind of scientific civilization in which one and many are unified. Then, men can harmoniously develop their civilization anticipating a peaceful world.37) 

The significance of Zen meditation is found when it is the basis of harmony and unification of all over things in the world, because by the meditation people can be in an absolute freedom. As Seo-Ong said, the absolute freedom is accomplished by ‘penetrating freedom’ itself. Furthermore, through the absolute freedom all conflicts disappear and finally all antagonistic concepts of truth and falsity, the absolute and the opposite, one and many, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, and ‘I and you’ are harmonized in which ‘one’ belongs to ‘two’ and vice versa.

Erich Jantsch, who is the Austrian physicist and one of the founders for Rome Club, said that “Buddha’s thought is the best example of process philosophy, an that each man is the mind at large and with evolution of his mind each participate with the sacred principle and purpose.”38)  If we can say that the real meaning of the Zen meditation is identified with the purpose of all universe through the Zen meditation, we can actively participate with the dynamic state of the holy universe.


1) In the 『Gwahak Sasang』Vol.25, (Seoul: Bumyangsa Press, 1998) P.24.

2) ibid., pp. 24-25

3) Karl Jaspers, Rechenschaft und Ausblick, R. Piper & Co. Verlag (Munchen), 1951, pp. 240-241.

4) Karl Jaspers, Descartes und die Philosophie, (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter & Co., 1966), p. 97.

5) John Horgan, The End of Science, p.13. Also refer to gunther Stent’s The Coming of the Golden Age, (Garden City N.Y.: History Press, 1969)

6) ibid., p. 20 Also Refer to Gunther Stent’s The Paradoxes of Progress, (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman,1978)

7) ibid., p.

8) A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, Cambridge, 1938, pp. 61-68.

9) Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, 1968, p. 59

10) M. Warldrop, Complexity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). Refer to chapter 6.

11) Refer to The Concept of Anxiety of Kierkegard.

12) Refer to Sartre’s Being and Nothing.

13) Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Being, Cybernetics and Society, AVON BPPKS, 1967. p. 253.

14) Ibid., p. 254.

15) P. Brown and J. Davies, The Ghost in the Atom, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

16) Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 175-184.

17) Davis, Brown, op. cit., p. 12

18) Davies, Brown, ibid., pp. 29-35.

19) 指月錄(Zhiyuelu), Vol. 1, p. 11.

Buddha once delivered a sermon for people. Ending his sermon, Buddha picked up a flower and showed it to people without a word. People were embarrassed with his strange act and sat with curiosity. Only K??yapa smiled. here, Buddha said: “I know how the right truth is saved and how nirvana lies in our deep mind. The real image pretends to have no image. The delicate way to open the truth is to know ‘the language beyond language’ and ‘the secret beyond canon.’ I hereby give you truth.”

20) Erich Fromm and D. T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, Harper & Row, 1970. p.134.

21) 末木剛博, {東洋之合理思想}, 講談社, pp.120-121, 龍樹, {中論}, 8, 24, 10.

22) T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, George Allen and Unwin, 1974, p.132 and p.140.

23) Junghee Un, Won-Hyo’s Taes?ng Kisillon So(大乘起信論疏), IIjisa Press, p.211.

24) Naeseok Kim, ‘Sung-lang’s Thought of Three-Principle,’ in Anthology of Buddhistic Essays for honoring Dr. Baek Seonguk, Dongguk University Press, pp. 43-67.

25) Refer to the same page of the above book.

26) Refer to his introduction of Sipmunhwajaengnon(十門和諍論)

27) Refer to introduction of the above book.

28) Refer to the introduction of the above book.

29) Erich Fromm & suzuki, op. cit., pp.60-61.

30) Ibid., p. 61.

31) Ibid., p. 61

32) Ibid., p. 61

33) Ibid., pp. 61-66

34) Ibid., p. 67-73.

35) Ibid., p. 74

36) Ibid., p. 60

37) Seo-Ong, The Collective Essays of Dharma Teaching, Minjoksa Press, 1998, p. 196.

38) Erich Jantach, The Self-Organizing Universe, Pergamon Press, 1980 (trans. by Dongsun Hong, 1989) pp. 422-423.



Cheng Sungbon

Dongguk University


In general, it is erroneously assumed that the patriarchal Ch’an is an easy-going religion which, appropriating the declaration of Ma-tsu Tao-i (馬祖 道一, 709-788), who is an outstanding Ch’an master of the T’ang Dynasty, saying, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind (平常心是道)’ does not require a cultivation, for it is embodied in the ordinary human mind of everyday life. And the dictum, ‘the mind itself is no other than the Buddhahood (卽心是佛)’ has also been regarded as a supporter of the foregoing oversight.

In fact, in the patriarchal Ch’an tradition of the T’ang Dynasty, we may come across numerous statements which, in its face value, seems to thoroughly deny the cultivation or even the enlightenment itself: for instance, the assertion of Ma-tsu, ‘Tao does not call for the practice (道不用修)’, or the phrase found in the Pao-lin chuan (寶林傳), and in the Lin-chi lu (臨濟錄), ‘there is neither practice nor verification (無修無證)’ typically shows ostensible negligence of practice or enlightenment in the Buddhist religion.

It is the same case as the Tso-ch’an (坐禪, meditation in sitting position): Records found in the Ch’uan-teng lu (傳燈錄), or the Ch’an-yu lu (禪語錄) tell us that Ch’an masters could achieve the enlightenment through insignificant incidents run across in the ordinary mundane life, or through the dialogue with Ch’an masters, or through routine chores, not even mentioning the practice of Tso-ch’an. It is, therefore, no wonder to assert that, as the juncture of the enlightenment can be ‘spontaneously’ encountered without any artificiality, the practice of Tso-ch’an is not imperative in the Ch’an Buddhism.

The anecdote of Ma-tsu Tao-i may even deepen this sort of misunderstanding:

When Ma-tsu Tao-i practice Tso-ch’an in Mt. Nan-yueh (南嶽) to attain Buddhahood, the master Hui-jang (懷讓), severely criticizing the practice of Tso-ch’an, says; “if you are determined to be the Buddha through the practice of Tso-ch’an, it is as absurd as you are to make a mirror by grinding a particle of a tile.”

These specific examples mentioned above, however, do not necessarily mean that practice is of no use in the system of patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism. It is true that those who have distorted view on the patriarchal Ch’an and its catechism, often claim such view as Ch’an does not call for any practice or cultivation whatsoever because ordinary human mind, which we are inherently granted, stand for the Buddhist truth. By doing so, they, advertently or inadvertently, have undermined the true spirit of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism.

Thus, this work, in its attempt to set what is misled right, will be mainly focused to criticize those possible misunderstandings and, hopefully, to serve the re-establishment of the fundamental spirit of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism. In order to achieve present task, it will be concerned with a few questions as follows:

– What the Master Hui-jang criticized Ma-tsu’s practice of Tso-ch’an which the latter thought would lead the attainment of the Buddhahood for?

– Is the practice of Tso-ch’an useless in the system of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism?

– On what ground did Ma-tsu assert that ‘Tao does not call for the practice,’ claiming that ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind (平常心)’?

– What is, then, the definition of the ordinary human mind?

– As a whole, how is the patriarchal Ch’an practice systematized, and how does the claim, ‘Tao does not call for the practice’ get the validity in this system?


– Tao lies in ordinary human mind –

It is often said that the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism is ‘the religion of everyday life’, ‘the religion of mundane life’ or ‘the religion of self-enlightenment.’ To validate these statements, it is necessary to examine the definitive dictum of patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism, which is ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind.’

According to the Ch’uan-teng lu (vol. 28), the juncture around which the dictum, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind’ was produced, is described as follows:

The practice is not necessary to achieve the Tao. All that is required is non-defilement. What is defiled? If one arouse the disposition of the life and death (sa?s?ra) and get deliberately intentive (to be the Buddha), it is called defilement (of the mind). If one wish to know the Tao, it (Tao) lies in ordinary human mind. The ordinary human mind means, by definition, the mind without deliberate disposition, without the dichotomy of right or wrong, without adoption or rejection, without the attachment to either permanence or impermanence (of the dharmas), or without distinction of the ordinary man or the sage. The S?tra says; ‘the bodhisattva practice is neither that of the ordinary man or that of the sage. What is confronted with things and events and what is associated with daily circumstances (that is ordinary human mind) is nothing other than the Tao. Tao is dharmadh?tu, and every mysterious functions as countless as the sands of Ganges river are not ruled out of the dharmadh?tu.

(T. vol. 52, p. 440a)

This celebrated sermon of Ma-tsu is recorded in his autobiography in the Ch’uan-teng lu and the Yu-lu (語錄). Let us, then, investigate the ordinary human mind as is adopted in his sermon. The sermon has it that the ordinary human mind is ‘that of neither deliberate disposition, nor the dichotomy of right or wrong, nor adoption or rejection, nor permanence or impermanence, nor distinction of the ordinary man or the sage.’ In short it designates unbiased, non-deliberate ‘fundamental mind (本來心).’

Likewise, the Hsin-hsin ming (信心銘) signifies the same idea:

The ultimate Tao is of no difficulty

It is only repugnant to discrimination

(至道無難 唯嫌揀擇)

Consequently, ‘the ordinary human mind (平常心)’ defined by Ma-tsu indicates non-biased, non-fixed, or non-discriminative original human mind (本來心). And this original human mind is the Tao, and, at the same time, is the Buddhahood (卽心是佛).

Nevertheless, a historical survey on the thought of Shen-hui (神會, 684-758) of Southern branch of Ch’an Buddhism and the Liu-tsu t’an-ching (六祖壇經) provides us with a little different information as to how human mind may be defined: That is, both of them advocate ‘true nature of mind (眞如自性)’ which is originally pure. As they discriminate delusive mind (妄念) and pure mind (眞如自性), the former is inferior and is to be criticized in favor of the latter. The system of practice, accordingly, advocates the abrupt realization of the true nature of mind, which is so called abrupt seeing one’s own nature (頓悟見性).

On the other hand, Ma-tsu does not discriminate the delusive mind and true nature of mind. He integrates two different minds into one ‘ordinary human mind’ that functions in the everyday life. Given the standpoint of Ma-tsu, there is no true nature of mind apart from delusive mind. In other words, ‘the ordinary human mind’ proclaimed by Ma-tsu is none other than ‘the true nature of mind (眞如自性)’ or ‘true nature of originally pure mind (自性淸淨心). Let us examine his own remarks cited in the Ma-tsu yu-lu (馬祖語錄):

(He) again asked; “what attitude do we have to keep to attain the Tao?”

The Master Ma-tsu replied; “the true nature of mind is inherently secured in us. Only those who are not entangled with things and events (i. e., external objects) may be truly called practitioners. If one takes what is good at the cost of what is evil, or practices meditation to cultivate insight into the emptiness, it is deliberate mind. Furthermore, if one seeks after the Tao outside, he would be only alienated from it.

(Zokuzokyo, vol. 119, p. 406a)

The ordinary human mind, as Ma-tsu asserts, is equivalent to the true nature of pure mind which all human beings immanently keep within themselves. In fact, the ordinary human mind of everyday life is boundlessly fruitful and perfect and it is, at the same time, naive and normal mind. As mentioned above, the ordinary human mind of Ma-tsu does not indicate the discriminative, biased, and defiled mind, but the originally pure, unbiased and non-discriminative mind.

Ma-tsu’s own sermon confirms again this very point: “The practice is not necessary to achieve the Tao. All that is required is non-defilement. What is defiled? If one arouse the disposition of the life and death (sa?s?ra) and get deliberately intentive (to be the Buddha), it is called defilement (of the mind).”

Asserting that ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind’, Ma-tsu clarifies that the Tao is to be realized by the ordinary mind detached from defilements. In the Ma-tsu’s system of thought, the defilement means the mind of sa?s?ra (transmigration) stained with kle?a (lust), or deliberate, discriminative disposition of mind with which one practices to attain the Buddhahood. Only if the mind is dispense with such defilements, the original pure mind will be revealed of itself. And it is so-called ‘the ordinary human mind.’

In the chapter for Hui-neng of the the Ch’uan-teng lu (vol. 5), it is said that ‘Tao is realized by virtue of the mind (道由心悟).’ Again, in the Tsu-t’ang chi (祖堂集, vol. 3), there is such a phrase as ‘no deliberate mind is identical with the Tao (無心是道)’. As such, Tao lies in the awakened mind, not in any place or things in the external world. In short, these statements emphasize that the most crucial factor in the realization of the Tao is the self-awakening of the original pure mind.

It should be reminded here that the term of defilement (汚染), which seems to be Ma-tsu’s own innovation, as mentioned before, was adopted with the presupposition that ‘the ordinary human mind’ is identical with ‘the true nature of originally pure mind.’ To be sure, the ordinary human mind asserted by Ma-tsu is not defiled, discriminative ordinary mind (衆生心). If so, does the practice, which seems to have been a effective device to wipe out such discriminative defilements, not necessary?

There is a well known dialogue between Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch and Nan-yueh Hui-jang, his disciple, in which, along with the term ‘defilement’, the pivotal point of the theory concerning practice and verification in the Ch’an Buddhism is referred. It is found in the chapter for Nan-yueh Hui-jang of the Ch’uan-teng lu (vol. 5):

The Sixth Patriarch; Where are you from?

Hui-jang; I’m from Sung-shan.

The Sixth Patriarch; What kind of a thing thus came?

Hui-jang; Even if you say it ‘a thing’, it (your designation) is not proper.

The Sixth Patriarch; Is there any necessity do you think to practice and to verify?

Hui-jang; Even though neither of them is not necessary, what is the most important is non-defilement.

The Sixth Patriarch; Only this non-defilement is what is secured and cherished by all the Buddhas. You’ve got the point and so do I.

(T. vol. 515, p. 240c)

This is the juncture where Nan-yueh Hui-jang inherited the Buddhist Truth from the Sixth Patriarch.@@@ When Hui-jang says “Even if you say it ‘a thing’, it (your designation) is not proper”, it is derived from his own experience. By virtue of this insight, Hui-jang could inherit the authentic tradition of Ch’an Buddhism which stemmed from the Sixth Patriarch. This remark, which has been often cited by Ch’an masters, is believed to have been the philosophical foundation by which the Hui-neng’s stanza of the mind was altered into the line, ‘there is nothing by nature (本來無一物)’ in the Liu-tsu t’an-ching.

Both of the dicta, “Even if you say it ‘a thing’, it (your designation) is not proper (說似一物卽不中)” and “there is nothing by nature (本來無一物)” convey the same idea: As everything is by nature impermanent and lacks of their own being, that is, is empty, there is no entity or form that is self-existent. The idea that ‘there is no self-consistent dharma (無有定法)’

bore in the Diamond S?tra manifests the same way of thought. In other words, the dictum, ‘there is nothing by nature (本來無一物)’, indicates the truth of emptiness entertained by Mah?y?na Buddhism. Consequently, the Sixth Patriarch verified Hui-jang of his full enlightenment, because, the Sixth Patriarch thought, the latter declare the truth of emptiness by his dictum, “even if you say it ‘a thing’, it (your designation) is not proper (說似一物卽不中).”

Subsequently, when the Sixth Patriarch asked again to make sure Hui-jang’s stage of enlightenment, “Is there any necessity do you think to practice and to verify (還可修證否)?” Then, Hui-jang answered, “Even though neither of them is not necessary, what is the most important is non-defilement.” At this juncture Hui-neng, fully satisfied, verify his authenticity of enlightenment saying, “Only this non-defilement is what is secured and cherished by all the Buddhas. You’ve got the point and so do I.” In this episode, Hui-neng explicitly advances that the content of enlightenment of all the Buddhas is no other than the non-defilement. Whoever achieves the non-defilement (of mind), Hui-neng acknowledges, is undoubtedly the enlightened one.

Here, it may be safe here to summarize the Ch’an Buddhist point of view concerning practice and verification: The non-defilement (of mind) means the originally pure mind detached from any discriminations, prejudices, and so forth. This mind is, however, not different from that of everyday mundane life. All human beings are inherently granted this fundamental mind. Accordingly, this fundamental mind is not acquired through practice or any kind of deliberate effort because it is already seated in them. Only within this limited meaning, the assertion ‘the Tao does not call for the practice, could have the right place.

It is clear, therefore, that the mind declared by Ma-tsu in his dictum, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind,’ does not indicate the defiled human mind (衆生心), but originally pure, fundamental mind which functions in daily life without any defilement of lust, ignorance, hatred, or even the desire to be the Buddha. What, then, constitutes the practice of non-defilement?


The fundamental spirit of the Ch’an Buddhism needs to be realized in everyday life of ordinary human beings, who freely interacts with men and their circumstances, whether it is a predicament or a favorable situation, without any impediment. It is a life of freedom and wisdom even in a worldly level. The Ch’an Buddhism signify the life of ordinary human mind, and thereby fulfill the world of the Buddha which is original mind. The basis of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhist practice consists of Tso-ch’an, Ch’an dialogue and daily chores. Let us examine one by one.

1) The practice of Tso-ch’an

Tso-ch’an is regarded as the essential practice of the Ch’an Buddhism.

Basically, the practice of Tso-ch’an is a device by which one elucidates the original state of one’s own self. It is the practice carried out in a quiet place, mostly in the hall of meditation, either individually or collectively. Through the practice of Tso-ch’an, which is self-awakening meditation, the mindfulness is secured. Again, through mindfulness, the path leading to enlightenment is cultivated.

From the historical point of view, there is no doubt that the formation of the Chinese Ch’an school initiated by the group of the practitioners of Tso-ch’an. Letting aside the case of the Buddha ??khyamuni who practiced meditation under the bodhi tree and the legendary story of Bodhidharma who is believed to have practiced meditation against the wall at the Shaolin temple in the Mt. Sung-shan (嵩山) for nine years, Tao-hsin (道信), the Forth Patriarch, who established the Tung-shan teaching, is supposed to have lectured the Tso-ch’an i (坐禪儀) at the Mt. Shuang-feng (雙峰). Hung-jen, the Fifth Patriarch, who practice Tso-ch’an under Tao-hsin’s instruction, is believed to have worked in the daytime and to have practiced Tso-ch’an in the night.

It is also well known that the tradition of retreat of both in summer and winter has been observed since the time of the historical Buddha. In the retreat, the most essential practice is Tso-ch’an. It is confirmed that the practice of Tso-ch’an has been essential practice at least in the Chinese Ch’an Buddhist school when we look up the Ch’an-yu lu in which the practice of Tso-ch’an is often taken the theme of Ch’an dialogue, or the Lin-chi lu which bear the information about the practice of Tso-ch’an of Huang-po and Lin-chi.

Nevertheless, as we have seen in the previous chapter, there are many who misunderstand that the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism reject the practice of Ch’an. It is no wonder considering such phrases as; ‘Tao does not call for the practice’ (by Ma-tsu) ‘Tao is realized by virtue of the mind, why Tso-ch’an?’ or ‘The originally pure Buddhahood is universal presently and inherently. So the adoption of the practice of Tso-ch’an is not necessary’ (by Hui-neng) Above all, the Ch’an dialogue between Ma-tsu and Hui-jang, so called ‘making a mirror by grinding a tile,’ which is recorded in the chapter for Nan-yueh Hui-jang of the the Ch’uan-teng lu (vol. 5), shows a typical example:

During the Period of K’ai-yuan (開元), Ma-tsu Tao-i was practicing Tso-ch’an at the Chuan-fa yuen (傳法院). The master (i. e., Nan-yueh Hui-jang), noticing he was a promising practitioner, approached and asked him, “what are you practicing Tso-ch’an for?”

“I want to be the Buddha.” replied Ma-tsu.

Thereupon, the master brought a tile and began to grind it against a rock in front of the hermitage. Seeing that, Ma-tsu asked, “what are you doing with it?”

“I’m going to make a mirror.” answered the master.

“How can you make a mirror by grinding a tile?”

“How, then, can you make the Buddha by practicing Tso-ch’an?” retorted the master.

At this, Ma-tsu asked, “What should I practice then?”

“When a farmer drive a cart, if the cart would not proceed, to which one does he have to take a whip, the cow, or the cart?” the master asked in return.

Ma-tsu could not answer for the question.

Then, the master gave him an instruction as follows;

“Do you practice the Tso-ch’an (坐禪, sitting meditation) or learn to make the Tso-fo (坐佛, sitting Buddha)? If it is Tso-ch’an, Ch’an has nothing to do with sitting or reclining. If it is Tso-fo, fo has no established posture (or form). Just dwell on the non-residing truth and never arouse the mind of adoption or rejection. If you learn to make the Buddha, you will end up with suffocating the Buddha! If you attach to the posture of sitting meditation, you will never realize the true purport of the Buddha-truth!”

On hearing the master’s sermon, he felt as if he drank the ghee (clarified butter).

(T. vol. 51, p. 240c)

This is the juncture in which Nan-yueh Hui-jang transmitted his Buddha-truth to Ma-tsu. It is well known, and typical example showing the practical feature of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism which emphasize the dicta, ‘neither practice nor verification is available’ or ‘the Tao does not call for the practice.’ This anecdote also points out wrong views related to the practice of Tso-ch’an. For instance, the practitioner should not have prejudice or fixed ideation as to the sitting position or even the deliberate purpose to be the Buddha. In this context, the Sixth Patriarch emphasizes the practice and verification without defilement, and Ma-tsu also asserts the ordinary human mind without defilement.

Even though the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism seems to have denied the practice of Tso-ch’an in appearance, it should not be forgotten that it always presupposes the practice of Tso-ch’an. At any rate, Tso-ch’an is one of the Three Teachings of the Buddhism, which are precept, meditation (or concentration), and wisdom. In Ch’an dialogue, masters never asks how long one have practiced Tso-ch’an in the monastery. They always asks how long one have been there, because the practice of Tso-ch’an is a part of daily routine.

The Tun-huang (敦煌) version of the Liu-tsu t’an-ching systematically establishes the practical spirit of the practice of Tso-ch’an. The S?tra presents the practical spirit of the Southern branch of the Ch’an Buddhism as follows:

What is the characteristics of the practice of Tso-ch’an in the Southern branch of the Ch’an Buddhism? In this teaching, the practice of Tso-ch’an regard as of great importance not to be hindered by things and events in the external world. Not to arouse delusive mind toward the external world is called Tso (sitting), and, by virtue of realization of the Buddhahood, not to be confused is called Ch’an (meditation).

This utterance invokes the question of the form of the Ch’an tradition observed by the Northern branch or traditional Ch’an in general except the Southern branch. The Northern branch of the Ch’an Buddhism, the latter thought, was only concerned with the elimination of lust (kle?a), or, at best, was interested in the state of quiescence the practice of the Ch’an brought about. Though the same idea as this is found in the Shen-hui yu-lu (神會語錄) for the first time, in the course of editing the Liu-tsu t’an-ching, he inserted in it this definitive Southern Ch’an idea, thereby the essential philosophy of the Southern branch of Ch’an Buddhist school was firmly established in the history of Chinese Buddhism.@@@

‘Not to be hindered by things and events in the external world’ indicates the practice of the emptiness. That is, Tso (sitting), it is said, means the state that the original mind is not obstructed by the external world. That, by virtue of realization of the Buddhahood, not to be confused is called Ch’an (meditation) indicates the state of the ‘abrupt enlightenment and seeing true nature’ which is asserted by the Southern branch of the Ch’an Buddhism. Enlightening of the Buddhahood may be understood, in this school, as the experience in which the practitioner does not give up the subjectivity of the enlightenment and, on the ground of the self-enlightenment, and exerts the wisdom of enlightenment freely and without obstruction through the jungle of things and events.

The definition of the Southern branch of the Ch’an Buddhism, as represented in the Liu-tsu t’an-ching of the Tun-huang version, integrates the thought of emptiness of the school of Prajñ? and the thought of the Buddha-nature into the practice of the Ch’an which is the essence of the practical spirit of the Mah?y?na Buddhism. Based on this definition of the Tso-ch’an, Tsung-tse (宗?) of the Sung Dynasty wrote the Tso-ch’an i, and Lin-chi, in his Lin-chi lu, also made exposition as to the practical spirit, the self-enlightenment of the ordinary human mind, of the practice of Tso-ch’an:

If you admire the sage and dislike the ordinary man, you never will come out of the sea of birth and death (sa?s?ra, the transmigration). As the kle?a (passion) is aroused by the delusive mind, if you can do without the delusive mind (that is, if you do not exert the deliberate mind), how are you hindered by the kle?a? Only if you do not attach to the form by discriminative disposition, you would immediately obtain the Tao. Even though you seek after (the Tao) elsewhere for three asa?khya period, you are never freed from the transmigration. You’d better practice Tso-ch’an in lotus position on the meditation board at the Ch’an monastery.

(the Lin-chi lu, vol. 13, p. 13.)

Birth and death here means, as in the sermon of Ma-tsu, the arising and disappearing of the kle?a (生滅心). The desire that seeks after the Tao in the external world and the discrimination of the sage and the ordinary man – all these defilements should be eliminated through the practice of Ch’an in the Ch’an monastery. In this context, Lin-chi discourses no deliberate mind (無心): ‘The place where your delusive mind of an instant is pacified, is the tree of wisdom. And the place where your delusive mind of an instant is not pacified, is the tree of ignorance. The original mind without delusive disposition is equal to no deliberate mind. Living at ‘this very place’, ‘without deliberate mind or action’ is the life where the dictum, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind’ is realized. Subsequently, the Lin-chi lu reiterates the concrete method for Ch’an practice in the following way:

You, monks! Only yourself that is working in front of you is none other than the Patriarchs and the Buddhas. Not knowing this, you are looking for the Tao outside in vain. Don’t be awry! You can not get at the dharma outside nor can you get at anything inside. Even though you are trying to get something from my own discourse, you would simply fail. The most important thing for you to do is to pacify your delusive mind, and by doing so, you would live freely without any deliberate intention. Do not let the delusion that has arisen last and let the delusion that is not yet arisen be as it is. If you practice the Tso-ch’an in this way even for an instant, it is far better than you do otherwise for ten years.

(T. vol. 47, p. 500c)

The Buddhist dharma is the dharma of the mind aiming to realize the mind as Hui-neng said, ‘the Tao is realized by virtue of the mind.’ So Ma-tsu and Lin-chi always emphasize that one should not look after the Tao (or truth) outside (莫向外馳求). The assertion, ‘do not let the delusion that has arisen last and let the delusion that is not yet arisen be as it is,’ manifests the core idea of the practice of the Tso-ch’ang. It says that, letting aside any delusion or things and events whatsoever, one should be well aware of himself and this very situation in order to live in accordance with the original pure mind. There is a dialogue in the chapter for Tung-shan in the Tsu-t’ang chi (vol. 6).

Question; what is the ailment?

The master; The delusive mind of an instant is the ailment.

Question; What is the remedy?

The master; To keep the delusive mind not to arise is the remedy.

This is also cited in the Tsung-ching lu (宗鏡錄, vol. 38), and the same idea is also expounded by Shen-hui in his discourse based on the Ta-ch’eng ch’i-hsin lun (大乘起信論). Moreover, Tsung-mi (宗密), in his Tu-hsu (都序), and Huang-po, in his record of discourse, account the same philosophy of mind. In this way, pacifying the delusive mind is thus the main structure of the practice of the Tso-ch’an. Tsung-tse of the Sung Dynasty systematizes it in his Tso-ch’an i in the following way:

Do not take into account good and evil. If the delusive mind once arise, be fully aware of the fact that the delusive mind has arisen. If you are aware of it, it will disappear right away. If you practice in this way for a long time and ignore all cause and conditions (of your dispositions), the objective world and your subjectivity will be integrated. This is the essence of the Tso-ch’an.

The maxim, ‘do not take into account good and evil,’ which is for the first time exposed in Shen-hui’s discourse, is later appeared in the Liu-tsu t’an-ching as the Hui-neng’s own wording to Hui-ming who chased him to the uphill. What is then the practice of not taking into account good and evil? As we have examined in Ma-tsu’s discourse, any discrimination, between the sage and ordinary man, or between good and evil, is a defilement of mind. The defiled mind taking adoption or rejection is discriminative mind. And, finally it is the delusive mind.

It is important not to arouse the delusive mind. And the particular practice not to arouse the delusive mind is ‘to be fully aware of the fact that the delusive mind has arisen.’ If one can not be aware of the fact that the delusive mind has arisen, he will be submissively drifted in the sea of birth and death (i. e., in the transmigration). On the contrary, if one is able to be aware of the fact, by means of the practice of Tso-ch’an, that the delusive mind has arisen in him, the delusive mind will disappear at once and the practitioner will restore the fundamental, pure mind. That is, the essential function of the practice of the Ch’an is the self-realization and restoration of the fundamental pure mind which is, by the definition, not discriminating good and evil, the sage and ordinary man, the adoption and rejection, and so forth.

2) The practice by virtue of Ch’an dialogue

In the Ch’an dialogue a master and his disciple encounter, where the former provides the latter with the opportunity to realize the enlightenment. It is an extension of the life of Ch’an practice. What then is the origin and function of the Ch’an dialogue?

As Ch’an is an self-enlightened practice based on the original pure mind, Ch’an dialogue can be defined as the dialogue between original pure minds. It is quite different from those between delusive minds of the ordinary sentient beings. In short, the way of Ch’an life in which the function of the original mind is inter-communicated is called Ch’an dialogue.

Ch’an dialogue begins with the affirmation of language and verbal expressions as they are the revelations of original mind or the Buddha nature. So, with the activation of the Ch’an-yuan ching-kui (禪院淸規) in the Ch’an monasteries, the convention of public Ch’an dialogue has been regularly evolved as one of the pedagogical method since the T’ang Dynasties. Some of the devices are Si-jung (kor. 示衆), Sang-dang bup-mun (上堂法門), So-cham bup-mun (小參法門). The tradition of the Ch’an dialogue in monastery has been established through this dialogues and sermon.

The characteristics of the Tso-ch’an may be summarized as the self-enlightenment of original mind through establishment of self integration by oneself, while Ch’an dialogue is formed primarily through encounters between masters and practitioners. Through mutual interaction, whether it is a verbal expression or any physical activities, one may confirm the original mind without being entangled by the objective world.

Through Ch’an dialogue, the practitioner may experience a great conversion. Sometimes one may ask himself who he is or what he is doing at the moment in question. And, by so doing, by specific cause and conditions, he thoroughly realizes the original mind which is beyond the dualism of subject and object.

The maxim of Ch’an Buddhism, ‘directly pointing out the mind of human being, one makes him see the true nature to be the Buddha (直指人心 見性成佛),’ typically stands for the spirit of Ch’an dialogue. The phrase, ‘To point out the human mind,’ indicates pedagogical method by which the masters point out the original mind of the disciple and thereby makes the latter enlighten the Buddhahood.

The reason why the method of Ch’an dialogue is brought about as a part of Ch’an practice is to affirm the original pure mind in the everyday life. The practice of Tso-ch’an is focused on the individual, speechless meditation by cutting off any activities in daily life. But we can not live without physical or mental activities such as going, staying, sitting, reclining, speech, silence, acting, stillness, and even relieving oneself nature. The Ch’an dialogue is a device not to lose the original pure mind within these activities of daily life.

The Ch’an dialogue is philosophically founded on the Ma-tsu’s Ch’an thought, embodied in his dictum, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind,’ which asserts that Ch’an practice should be carried out in everyday activities because they are revelation of the original mind. In other words, the Ch’an dialogue has been evolved as a practice of everyday activities, in which the original pure mind should not be buried by things and events of the external world. ‘Inquire into the meaning of a thing by pointing it out’ in the Leng-chia shih-tzu-chi (楞伽師資記) too is one of the Ch’an dialogue. To be sure, as the records of Ch’an dialogue shows, everything of mundane world, whether it is animal, plants, tea meeting, etc., can be a theme of Ch’an dialogue.

That our daily activities is, as a whole, a manifestation of the Buddha-nature (or original pure mind) may well be expressed by Ma-tsu in his dictum, ‘Tao lies in ordinary human mind,’ or by Lin-chi in his aphorism, ‘be the subject everywhere you go, be truthful any situation you are placed (隨處作主 立處皆眞).’ A stanza for the transmission of the Buddhist dharma by the venerable Manara, the 22th Patriarch of the Ch’an Buddhist school, was produced based on the practical spirit of the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism:

The mind is shifted as the objectives shift

And the juncture of the shift is truly mysterious

If one realize the true nature following the stream of the objectives,

he would not hindered by joy or sorrow.

As the Liu-tsu t’an-ching says, the true nature of mind would not be colored by the objects of the external world. This stanza recites the same idea as the patriarchal Ch’an Buddhism. So to speak, in every situation, one should not forget original mind in order not to be attached to the objective world, such as joy, sorrow, or discriminative dispositions.

3) Duty and labour in the monastery life

This is a Ch’an practice in daily activities, the evolution of the original mind.

In fact, the labour of monks was prohibited in the Indian Buddhist precept, whereas in the Chinese Ch’an Buddhist monastery, it was a duty for monks to do daily labour under the regulation of the Ch’an monastery (禪院) since it was branched out of the Precept monastery (律院).

Pai-chang (百杖, 749-814), in his Ch’an-men kui-shih (禪門規式), prescribes that ‘the universally required labour (普請) should be adopted by all the members of the community for co-operation.’ The same rule is found in the Tai-sung-seng shih-hueh (大宋僧史略) compiled by Ts’uan-ning (贊寧), and in the autobiography of Pai-chang in the Sung kao-seng chuan (宋高僧傳). The universally required regulations is a responsibility of labour for all, from the elder to novice, to co-operate in the daily chore as well as productive labour to run the monastery. In a sense, it is a Ch’an practice through which the original mind is cultivated. The practice of labour is, along with Ch’an dialogue, the Ch’an practice composed of daily activities to sustain mindfulness. It is, therefore, called cultivation within things and events.

This feature of the Chinese Buddhism differs, in a large amount, from that of the Indian Buddhist tradition where Buddhist practice consists of mortification, meditation in a retreat, or mendicant wandering. There are lots of episodes concerning labour in monastery: Hung-jen, the 5th Patriarch of the Chinese Ch’an school, participated in labour during daytime; Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch, laboured in the mill of the monastery for several years From these legendary episodes, it is supposed that the labour was a part of the Ch’an practice. The chapter for Pai-chang in the Ch’uan-teng lu, records following dialogue on the labour:

Yun-yen (雲巖); For whom are you working so hard?

Pai-chang; For the single person.

Yun-yen; Why don’t you have him work?

Pai-chang; He is not able to make a living.

The single person is a true personality with no ranks (無位眞人), that is, the self-enlightened one. In this context, it is clear that the labour is another form of the Ch’an practice. Ch’an means the life of the Tao – the life living with the original mind in all the activities. Here, the discrimination between labour and Ch’an practice does not make sense.

The patriarchal Ch’an is not so much as the negative practice of mere elimination of kle?a and discriminative dispositions as the practice within everyday activities awakening original mind to the enlightenment. As the Buddha-nature is universally granted to all sentient beings regardless their race or status, according to the idea of the S?tras, there should not be any discrimination on either the kinds of activities or on varying ranks of the member of the community.

Both the dignity of human beings and the ideal of the original mind can not be reified by means of mere speculative reasoning; Only through the practice of mental or physical activities may the ideal be realized by the practitioner. Due to the universally required regulations, the Ch’an school of the T’ang Dynasty could, both economically and orderly, secure its survival. This trend is well informed by the maxim of Pai-chang, ‘no work, no meal (一日不作 一日不食).’ It stands for a harmony of daily life and Ch’an practice. In this manner, the Chinese Ch’an Buddhism put its root into the daily life of the Chinese society.

As the universally required labour consists of cutting wood, plowing land, practitioners always interact with the nature. This aspect also colored the Chinese Ch’an Buddhism. The record of activities in the Lin-chi lu shows an anecdote where Huang-po and Lin-chi have a talk during the universally required labour:

At the universally required labour, Lin-chi was working behind Huang-po. Looking back Lin-chi, Huang-po noticed that the former doesn’t have a hoe in his hand.

“What is the matter with your hoe?”

“The single person took it with him,” answered Lin-chi.

“Come on, let us talk about on this matter.”

When Lin-chi neared, Huang-po, raising his hoe, said, “No one ever cannot take this one.”

Thereupon, Lin-chi snatched the hoe from Huang-po’s hand and said, “How did I have it in my hand?”

“I have seen one who did the universally required labour pretty well,” then Huang-po returned to the monastery right away.

This dialogue shows that labour is not mere a labour but an experimental station where the original pure mind is perpetually put into a trial. As mentioned above, the interaction with nature is a feature of the Chinese Ch’an Buddhism. And this interaction in the long run leads to the integration of subject and object. The stanza of Su Tung-po (蘇東坡) pictures this integration;

The sound of the stream is the lengthy sermon of the Buddha.

How is the form of the mountain not the body of the Buddha?

(溪聲便是廣長舌 山色豈非淸淨身)

Su Tung-po, well versed in the Ch’an philosophy, sees in the objects of the nature the manifestation of the truth, i. e., the Buddha-nature or the original pure mind, whatever it may be called. All the objects of nature found in the Ch’an literature is not mere objects but reified truth that is emptiness, or oneness of all the existences.


So far, we have surveyed the system of Ch’an practice in terms of Tso-ch’an, Ch’an dialogue and Ch’an as a daily labour. As a matter of fact, they are classified as such for the convenience’ sake. The basic spirit common to all is the living Ch’an cultivating the original pure mind in any circumstances. In the patriarchal Ch’an, the life of Ch’an is called Ts’an-ch’an (參禪) which signifies the life living with the original mind that is not to be defiled by the external world. The Cheng-tao ke (證道歌) resounds the Ts’an-ch’an as follows:

Wandering over the rivers and the sea,

Crossing the mountains and the streams,

(I) sought the masters and the Tao, practicing Ts’an-ch’an.

Since I found the path of the Ts’ao-hsi (曹溪, referring to Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch),

I have been fully convinced that there is nothing to worry about birth and death (transmigration).

Going is the practice of the Ch’an, and sitting is also the practice of Ch’an.

Whether speaking, keeping silence, moving, or being still, the original entity is in peace.

This stanza of Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh (靈嘉 玄覺, 675-713) recites the life of the Ch’an practitioner who wanders about to seek masters all over the country, and, at the same time, it presents the spirit of the patriarchal Ch’an free from all fetters of transmigration. This absolute freedom is obtained through Ts’an-ch’an, the sincere effort to resolve the question of life and death in this world of impermanence.

The lines of the stanza, ‘whether speaking, keeping silence, moving, or being still, the original entity is in peace,’ relate the stage of the sage who lives daily life with absolute freedom and full self-enlightenment. As he transcends all hindrances, he can live leisurely in peace under the light of the original pure mind. Both of the phrase in the Li-tai fa-pao chi (歷代法寶記), ‘Ch’an is cultivated all the time,’ and the phrase in the Tun-wu yao-men (頓悟要門), ‘to those who understand, either one of the going, staying, sitting, or reclining is the Tao,’ delivers the same idea.

The practice of Ch’an is self-practice of the original mind immanent in the practitioner, the the practice restoring the original pure mind by removing the cloud of delusive mind through practice of Ch’an. So, it consists of self-questioning process. The episode of the venerable Jui-yen (瑞巖) tells us the the way of self-questioning practice of Ch’an Buddhism:

He always calls himself, “host!.”

Then, he himself replies, “yes!”

“Are you awakened?” he again asks himself, and adds, “Anywhere, by anyone, you should not be deceived at all.”

He always resolved not to be hindered by the external objects which covers the light of the original pure mind.

The place where practitioners seek after the Tao should be the original pure mind. If one pursues the Tao in the hope of finding it in the external world, he would never realize the Buddhahood. This is why Ma-tsu and Lin-chi emphasized the introspection into the original mind, saying, ‘Do not search for (the Tao) outward.’ The Buddhist truth in general, letting aside the practice of the Ch’an, call for the exertion of a practitioner himself; as though he seems to inquire the Tao of his master, he virtually inquires it of himself. The purport of the Ch’an Buddhism is, as Lin-chi advanced in the Tsung-men tung-yao (宗門統要, vol. 5), ‘to achieve the Buddhahood and to make the Patriarch’ by elucidating the original mind immanent in all beings. Summing up, deliverance of all sentient beings, which is the final goal of the Buddhism, is initiated by the Ch’an practice centered on the cultivation of the original mind.

The Reflection On The Metaphysical Presuppositions Of The Korean Buddhism

Ven. Chong-rim

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


Is the Korean Buddhism Metaphysically oriented?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Linchi-lu and the Korean seon Buddhist Tradition

Shim, Jae-ryong 

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

1. Preliminary Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2. Korean Imje seon Tradition and Transformations

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


1. Historical Root of Hakuin Zen Tradition

2. Self-confidence and its Practice

3. Evil state of illusion

4. Definite awareness of the Reality

5. Passing through the Patriarchal gates

6. Non-attachment to the ultimate

7. How to live the ordinary life

8. Succession of Buddha-Dharma

9. Breeding of the Seed of Buddha


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

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

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

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

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

1. Historical Root of Hakuin Zen Tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Self-confidence and its Practice

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

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

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

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

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

3. Evil state of illusion

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

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

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

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

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

4. Definite awareness of the Reality

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

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

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

5. Passing through the Patriarchal gates

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

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

Tourei writes in this Chapter as follows;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Non-attachment to the ultimate

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

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

7. How to live the ordinary life

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

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

8. Succession of Buddha-Dharma

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

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

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

9. Breeding of the Seed of Buddha

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

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

10. Currency

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

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

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

Critical Considerations on Zen Thought

Shiro Matsumoto (松本史郞)


Professor of
Komazawa University


Critical Considerations on Zen Thought


I. Zen thought and "cessation of thinking"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Yoga is the cessation of mental



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

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


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



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

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


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


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


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

[離一切諸相, 則名諸佛]

(Taisho, 8,750b)

[B] All "marks"(相) are false.

[凡所有相, 皆是虛妄]



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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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



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

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

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

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


Kumaarajiiva: 念·憶念

Paramaartha: 思惟·思量·觀

Hsüan-tsang: 作意·思惟·觀


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

If [one is] "yu-nien" (有念), he will

[無念卽是見佛. 有念卽是生死]


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


This teaching has established "wu-nien" as its



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


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

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

[停心意識之運轉, 止念想觀之測量]


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

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

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


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II. Zen thought and aatman / Buddha-nature


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

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

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


"the abode aatman" (bhavanam attano)

"the nirvana of aatman" (nibbaanam attano)

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

"possessing aatman uncovered" (abhinibbutatta)


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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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

[一切衆生皆有佛性, 在於身中.]



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

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


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

[衆生身中, 有金剛佛性]


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


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


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


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

[我者性也, 性者我也]


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

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


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



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


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

[赤肉團上, 有一無位眞人, 常從汝等諸人面門出入]


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

[非獨記人, 赤記草木]


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


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

[牆壁凡礫, 無情之物, 普是古佛心]


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


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

[我之佛性, 身心一如, 南方佛性, 身是無常,


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

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

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


Mountain is mountain. River is River.—

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

[山是山, 水是水…盡十方世界, 未有不是處]


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

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

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

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


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

They do not know the way of Buddhas and


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

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


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III. Conclusion


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


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


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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(13) Ueyama’s text,p.546.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(24) Hu Shih’s text,p.236.

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(25) Hu Shih’s text,pp.246-247.

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

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(27) Hu Shih’s text,p.241.

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

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

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(30) Yanagida’s text,p.170.

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

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

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(33) AKBh,p.54,1.23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(47) Hu Shih’s text,p.232.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Response to the Critical Buddhist Position on Zen

Charles Muller

Charles Muller

Toyo Gakuen University

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

General Observations

The Main Issues

Indigenous East Asian Thought: Essence and Function

Essence-Function and Innate Enlightenment Practicing Non-Abiding

Practicing Non-Abiding

The Meaning of No-Thought

The Korean Son Perspective

Ch’an as Buddhism


    General Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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    The Main Issues

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

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


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    Indigenous East Asian Thought: Essence and


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

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


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

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

    The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;

    The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.


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


    These two are the same–

    When they appear they are named differently.

    Their sameness is the mystery,

    Mystery within mystery;

    The door to all marvels.


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

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

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

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

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


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    Essence-Function and Innate Enlightenment

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

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


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    Practicing Non-Abiding


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

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

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

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

    Transfer interrupted!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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    The Meaning of No-Thought


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

    Again, in a later chapter of the sutra:


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


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

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


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    The Korean Son Perspective


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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    Ch’an as Buddhism


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

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



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

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    2) Pruning, King, p. 187.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    8) T 842.17.914a10.

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

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    10) T 2007.48.338c5-10.

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    11) T 842.17.914a15-19

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    12) T 842.17.914c2.

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

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    14) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 4.768a.

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

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

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

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    18) Hanguk pulgyochonso 7.12.c5-10.

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

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

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    21) Hanguk pulgyo chonso 7.42c21-43a5.

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    22) T 235.8.750a.15-16.

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

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

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

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    26) See especially, his Son’ga kwigam

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

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    28) Ibid., p. 244.

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