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How Zen Became Zen

The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

Morten Schlütter

Publication Year: 2008

How Zen Became Zen takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote. In this fascinating study, Morten Schlütter shows that Dahui’s target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlütter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents’ arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago. Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlütter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes. He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlütter terms it) in the Chan School.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-12

This book is about a set of crucial developments that took place within Chinese Buddhism in the Song dynasty (960–1279) that had a defining impact on the evolution of Zen Buddhism in all of East Asia and that came to permanently shape conceptions about the nature of Zen and the issues it is concerned with...

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Chapter 1 Chan Buddhism in the Song: Some Background

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pp. 13-30

In 1101, shortly after he had ascended the throne, the young emperor Huizong (r. 1101–1126) wrote a preface for an important Chan Buddhist transmission history and ordered the work included in the Buddhist canon. In his preface to this work, the Jianzhong Jingguo xudeng lu (Continuation of the record...

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Chapter 2 The Chan School and the Song State

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pp. 31-54

In 955, the Latter Zhou (Hou Zhou, 951–960) began a vigorous suppression of Buddhism when the emperor Shizong (r. 954–959) ordered all monasteries in his realm that lacked an imperially bestowed name plaque destroyed. 1 Records indicate that 30,336 monasteries were dismantled, while only 2,694...

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Chapter 3 Procreation and Patronage in the Song Chan School

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pp. 55-77

In the previous chapter, I demonstrated that state policies, particularly in the Northern Song, had a profound impact on the development of monastic Buddhism, creating an environment that facilitated and encouraged the growth of the Chan school, enabling it to flourish and evolve...

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Chapter 4 A New Chan Tradition: The Reinvention of the Caodong Lineage in the Song

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pp. 78-103

Thus far, I have argued for the great influence certain government policies had on the formation of the Chan school in the Song. I have also shown that the individual Chan lineages were highly dependent on government officials and other members of the educated elite for crucial political and economic support...

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Chapter 5 A Dog Has No Buddha-Nature: Kanhua Chan and Dahui Zonggao’s Attacks on Silent Illumination

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pp. 104-121

The Caodong tradition underwent, as we have seen, a remarkable revival and reinvention beginning in the late eleventh century that propelled it onto the national stage and made it one of the leading groups of elite Buddhism. The dharma brothers Furong Daokai and Dahong Baoen were the coarchitects of this new Caodong tradition...

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Chapter 6 The Caodong Tradition as the Target of Attacks by the Linji Tradition

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pp. 122-143

Dahui did not leave his audience in any doubt about his views on silent illumination. It has long been a question in the study of Song Chan, however, who exactly Dahui was condemning when he raged at “heretical teachers of silent illumination Chan,” since he rarely mentioned any names or other specifics...

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Chapter 7 Silent Illumination and the Caodong Tradition

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pp. 144-174

In the previous chapter, I argued that Dahui meant to target the entire new Caodong tradition of the twelfth century, including Hongzhi Zhengjue, with his attacks on silent illumination. There are also strong indications that before Dahui, Zhenjing Kewen, too, criticized the teachings of the new Caodong tradition...

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pp. 175-182

Beginning in the late eleventh century, the religious genius of the masters of the Caodong revival created what was essentially a whole new tradition of Chan, with a complete hagiography, a robust literature, and a distinctive style of instruction and meditation. The Linji tradition, which was well established...


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pp. 183-235

Caodong Lineage

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pp. 236

Linji Lineage

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pp. 237-238


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pp. 239-250


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pp. 251-276


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pp. 277-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862886
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824832551

Publication Year: 2008