The Buddhist Roots of Chan

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<ul><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 1/63</p><p>&amp;f\V\ ~v0dlA ~Yhqek t V \\ ,( vr:' t A O u \ L\ A V \ ' N ' of \:0\tJA\~ ~ ( sC ;</p><p>c ; / o C ) .</p><p>CHAPTER 1The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p>Buddhism originated in northern India some 2,500 years ago as aresponse to the suffering inherent in the human condition. Beginningin his own lifetime, the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama-the Bud-dha, or "Awakened One" -were quickly spread throughout India,and, over a period of fiveor six centuries, they were carried across theentire continent of Asia. With the rise of transoceanic commerce andpolitics from the seventeenth century onward, Buddhist teachings andpractices spread into Africa, Europe, and the Americas and now exer-cise a truly global reach.Unlike the other major world religions, Buddhism is Iilotorganizedaround a universally shared core textJi!</p></li><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 2/63</p><p>8 CHAN BUDDHISM</p><p>between the meaningful and complex life stories ofboth persons andpeoples. In the case of Buddhism and especially the Chinese develop-ment of Chan, this interweaving and eventual interpenetration of his-tories has been particularly complex and deep.</p><p>T he In dia n B irth o f B u dd hist T ho ug ht a nd P ra cticeIn the sixth century H.C.E., the subcontinent of India was in the midstof a cultural and intellectual tidal shift. Between eight hundred and athousand years earlier, nomadic Aryan peoples from Central Asiahadcrossed the Khyber Pass to settle on the Ganges plain. For reasons thatremain unclear, the powerful urban centers that had characterized theindigenous Harappan culture from the middle of the third millenniumB.C.E. had for the most part already been abandoned. Aided by theadvent of iron tools and weaponry, large agricultural communitieswere gradually consolidated under Aryan rule, and there developedthe distinctive social, political, economic, and religious institutions</p><p>e./\" '\'" that would dominate the life of the subcontinent for centuries there-IJ .1). , i ( after. By the sixth century, however, the pressures resulting from'..\.' r.,~.l.". .expanding political states, increasing urban development, and the riseIv ~ l\ v,l;\ v ' c . .. of a monetary economy were opening deep fissures in the authority of</p><p>the dominant aristocratic and religious elites. In particular, criticismbegan circulating of the beliefs and ritual practices derived from thecollection of Indo-Aryan religious hymns known as t I</p></li><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 3/63</p><p>thus immaterial godhead or divine force. Instead, they insisted thatn~ su~ves :_he~eath of the body.thar good and evil are humanconstructs,_anathat reality isessentially and thoroughly material. Likemany present-day scientists, such proponents of materialism gener-ally argued that real l iberat ion was not some imagined release fromthe world, but the power of making and acting on choices in it. Themost extreme of these advocated indulgLng sense desires withoutrestraint or restriction in a hedonistic celebration of individual free-dom, with no thought of future l ives and consequences that would infact never come.Arrayed between these extremes Werevarious traditions more con-</p><p>cerned with fin~~_ t l 1 ~ _or:ect_pr~ctice for realizing moksha ratherth~~~solute doctrin:~ a~~,t&gt;,"reality." Most often~-thes;;;-ups</p><p>1, advocated the immediate rejection of family life, material comforts, familia] andcommunal duties, caste identification, and the concerted'. / cti f thI :)1:;'hv/ pra lee 0 one or ano er form of ascet ic self-discipline and lor con-</p><p>a ;: S~?1'(..: : '~ t~~plati~n. Through a process of literal abstraction, many such tra-Uditions aimed to cut the pract it ioner ,f reeof all but the most tenuous</p><p>th_read~of connection with worldly life and experience~freedomfrom VIrtually any cause of perceived bondage. Other traditions, likethose that found fullest expression in the epic philosophical drama ofthe Bhagavad-Gita , were more explicitly conservative and advocatedunion or yoga simply through doing one's own duty, without regardto conseq~ences and the appearance of ri.~htand wrong.-:--It was I.nto a world of such complexlyfco_m~tIn[ vi</p></li><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 4/63</p><p>12 CHAN BUDDHISM</p><p>together illan altern~:tive, monastic community organized to promotefI:\'ft 'li\I"'--\\~-i~t:nsifiedpr~ctioe. For those who diose to rema_iIlliouseliolders~(dN\)01Io\Vllf\~l:aKing,m some ways, the steeper approach to the Middle Way-he</p><p>provided guidelLnes for revising the meaning of their social relation-I_\- . ._~ A ships in ways conducive to the realization of full liberation from. suf-</p><p>f , \ " \ e v V 1 ~ : V - - feri Th' hasi al d_ -\ ( enng. IS emp asis on mUhl._ypport an the relevance of rela-\NI /, '\ V " / I V ! ' hi al i f -1' h --U . hOE_~_It'~'tO:_:_l~~on 0 en Ig tenment would later be central to the</p><p>.; 1 ) c : : . t tt:\ - freely admitting women and the members of the lowest castes into hisr l) U communi ty, he not only denied the significance of elite status, he</p><p>et - ttl/' f J r ; ; , r denied the significance of any essential status whatsoever. What trulymattered were not one's "state of affairs" or "identity," but the direc-tion and_q_ll~i1:j'ofone' s_attentiOIillillcl50nduct..-P~~haps no less radical was the Buddha's insistence that his ownspeech patterns and language not be considered crucial elements in</p><p>the spread of his teachings, or Dharma. Urging his students to uselocal patterns of speech and local.dialects in spreading the Dharma,the Buddha made it clear that &amp;.~~tlearning and intellectual sophisti-cation were not necessary for liberatio~O~~~did not ~eed the ability</p><p>!. to readsacredtexts, the talentforI1~citing and understanding convo-'/ ' .]luted doctrmes, or the means and institutional authority to performIi complex rituals, Neither did one need to be able to enter into winningdebate with the advocates of the hundreds of views on "ultimate truth"that were then current in India. One needed only to keenly attend!tohow things have come to be, just asthey are. This alone was needed tosee the way of fully and meaningfully resolving suffering.</p><p>The Buddha's Root teachingsAccording, to the Buddha, the first step in liberation-the firs t s tep onthe Middle Path of Buddhist practice-is to come fully to rest and</p><p>' &gt; &lt; ! f . . realize that s ome th in g i sw r o n g h e re .It may be that you are in the midst of the breakup of a love rela-</p><p>The Buddhist Roots of Chan 13tionship. A family member or friend might recently have passed away.Or it may be that you are worried about an upcoming interview orexam, dizzy with hunger after missing your last meal, or simply wornout to the verge of exhaustion by the demands of parenthood.Whether it is a matter of dreams evaporating before our eyes, effortsgoing unrewarded, or a shock wave of terrorism breaking altogethertoo close to home, right now, thL~g_s~ar~_g2in_gwry.Hearing this, there is a! compclsion to object. Having just eaten, youfeelfull and content. Having just received a long sought after raise or</p><p>succeeded in catching the eye of an attractive classmate or coworker,"something iswrong here" doesn't ring quite true. There is no doubtthat love relationships often fail and dissolve into spells of deepdepression and sharp self-doubt. But what could be more right ~anthe feeling of falling inlove?What could be more joyous than the birthofa first child or the moment of a dream come finally true? What wasthe Buddha's point?</p><p>'['HE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHSAshe traveled from village to village and from town to town, the Bud-dha was often asked what he taught and how itdiffered from the teach--ings of other homeless ascetics and contemplatives as well as fro~those given by local brahmin interpreters of the Vedas and Upam-shad's. Most often, he would reply that his Dharma, or teaching, wasvery simple, consisting of only fOUIsimple truths that he would invitehis audience to consider:</p><p>1. All this is duhkha ("troubled" or "suffering").2. There isa pattern inhow duhkha arises.3. There is a pattern in how duhkha is resolved.4. There isan Eightfold Path for turning duhkha towardmeaningful resolution.</p><p>Like many of the first translators to render Buddhist texts intoWestern languages, many of those who heard these Four Noble Truthswould dismiss the first truth as a statement of unlimited and finallyuseless pessimism: "everything is suffering," But the first noble truthactually makes no such universal claim. The Buddha said, "All this is</p></li><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 5/63</p><p>14 CHAN BUDDHISMtroubled or suffering." Hewouh] agree that wecan eat a chicken salador a hamburger and get rid of our hunger pains-at least for severa lhours: But aside from the fact that this "solution" isnot a last ing one,there IS the problem of perspective. Is eating a hamburger a trouble-free solution to the problem of hunger in our present situation as awhole?For example, how must this "solution" appear to chickens and</p><p>cows? How are Central American peasants affected bythe beef indus-~'s.forced. c~nversion of subsistence farmland to grazing-a cruciallmk in servxmg fast food cravings? The f irs t noble truth invi tes us tor_esista.:tin.~~~ifU~~.~~~Fe~:es in_p~erspectiv~do not r~ill~atter.They do. The fact that I m okay" does not necessarily entail that"you're okay." Realizing that all !! ri~:-our si tuat ion as a whole-is~o~ble9 or suffering. in~?_!vesH~peni~gour;elve;~e~t_9_~~;g._that,c ; : : = ? nght now, from some present perspective, thing~_ar~."!!Q._t_S2Pgell.. The second noble truth suggests that i fwelook closely enough, we</p><p>~Isco~er that there is a pat tern in things going wrong and that we aremvar~ably at least part of the reason whrwe are led by our usual per-spec~ve on the s~ffer ing and trouble all about us to see their originsaslymg well outside of us. Suffering and trouble are caused by others,or b y fate, or byjust plain bad luck. The second noble truth insists onour seeing things otherwise.v"Unlike pain, duhkha does not arise because of any single cause but</p><p>through a network of situation~specific, interdep~l1.dent conditions.Consider two chi ldren racing across a playground. The boy is a stepbehind the gir l and reaches out to catch hold ofher shir t, She loses herbalance and goes down in a rol ling tangle. Sit ting up, her knees andelbo~s sc~aped.and bleeding, she cries. One can explain the pain she~eelsm stnctly linear, causal terms. Her limbs hit the ground at aveloc-ity great enough that the impact tears the skin. Nerve endings in the~rea s~nd si~n.als to the brain announcing this violation of bodilyintegrity ..ThIS IS experienced aspain. With some antibiotic gel, a fewba~dages, and a warm hug, the pain can be eased enough for her tosmile and go on playing.But what if the boy is her best friend? As she stares at the blood</p><p>welling up out of her scraped knees, the girl suffers from much morethan bodily damage. She iswondering how he could have cheated just</p><p>The Buddhist Roots of Chan 15to wi n a playground race. Best f riends are not supposed to do that.Days, months, even years later, she will be affected by this betrayal ofbasic trust. The relationship, perhaps, will never be the same.In this example, the girl's suffering arises not only through the</p><p>impact of her l imbs on hard ground. Itarises depending, as well, oncertain values regarding friendship and what it can and cannotinclude. It depends on her personal history and how sh e interprets herfr iend's act of catching. hold of her shirt and causing her to fall .Per-haps he was only trying to s lowher down, not pul l her down. Or per-haps hewas trying to make a point to her: "You have been making thehighest test scores in math because you cheat , and cheat ing alwayshurts someone." Suffering arises, in other words, through a complex Iset of conditions thaiincll!d_e_e~gy_oj&gt;~e~ed "facts"butalso broadly ~/\...shared cultural vcJ~es, personal histories, a~;idiVidual_belief~!bout I ~j""wh~t things can and cannot mean. .- Suffermgisffius not a s - e a s y - f o t reat as s imple pain. Dealing with</p><p>suffering requires unders tanding exact ly what kind of cul tural andpersonal impasse has been reached, what "normal" expectations havebeen violated, and which par ts of the s ituation are taken to be nego-t iable and which are not . When a chi ld dies inearly infancy, the trag-edy "naturally" seems much greater than when a grandparent dies.This isnot because there isany objective dif ference in the process ofdying or because there isany good time for death to occur. Tj1~illffer-r '</p><p>r r .enc~ is,.~!_~~!!~'!p',u!.!!:!:ral.When an older person passes awaywemay (" ~-~"1 '0fi~dite; :y . h~velivedafull. life. :her~._~. t t _ "" ~death of an infant seems premature-a VIOlatIOnof the way things J \ f+~(~should be. But we could just as well think that the death of an older (/ l t v . , y - , . . _ I. . d I' hi h I I c? ' d (_( " -person leaves behind many more severe re atI~nS_lps, a muc (..fI. l"d. '~r{.greater emotional vacuum than does the death of an mfant. In cultures \ Jwhere being human is considered an achievement, and persons are .understood as irreducibly ~elational in~ature, a miscarr iage may 110t ~-~~~warrant either soul-searching or suffe r ing, For a woman who con- .ceived a child in a short-lived, extramarital affair, a miscarriage mayeven be experienced with a sad measure of relief.from this, Buddhism does not conclude that suffering is not t ruly</p><p>real. It isreal. But like al l things, suffering arises conditionally a~partof a ~!!ern of interdep~ndence in~hi~h- ;;(and our perspe~ves, )</p></li><li><p>8/6/2019 The Buddhist Roots of Chan</p><p> 6/63</p><p>16 CHAN BUDDHISMalways play ~part . In explaining the second noble truth, the Buddhaoftenmad~~s~ of a heuristic or learning device called the twelvefoldchain of interdependent origination, The origin of suffering, he said,can be seen as a wheel-like constellation of interconnected conditionsincluding ignorance, habit formations, consciousness, name and form,the six sense organs, sensory contacts, feelings, cravings, and attach-ments. That is, suffering cannot be dissociated fr0IJl_Ratterns in what</p><p>I w: ignore, fromy'att~Ts in how "'!,eLIlteract,l,nd froJ!l!our . s ense ofself-identity. At the core of all our troubled and troubling situationsareourbeliefs about who weare and who weare not. Underlying theseare more or lessconscious senses of what should and should not hap-</p><p>I pen, our particular wants or desires, and the limits these project forwhat we are responsible for and!what we are not.</p><p>In summarizing a_llhis, the Buddha.often remarked that the rootof al l our suffering is the conceit t h "I am~the arrogance of think-ing that weare essentially independentbeings and not intimately con-nected with and a part of all things. "Is and is-not," he said, "are thetwin barbs on which al l humankind is impaled." The aiTogance ofindependence and the degradation of dependence are two si'd;~~~fthe,samecoiii There isnever one without the oth~r. Insistingonour inde-pendent existence o...</p></li></ul>


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