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Reviews 433 Peter D. Hershock. LiberatingIntimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Ch'an Buddhism. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1996. vii, 236 pp. Hardcover $62.50, isbn 0-7914-2981-4. Paperback $20.95, isbn 0-7914-2982-2. Peter Hershock's book is a serious scholarly work about the fundamentals of Ch'an Buddhism; in particular, his reference point is the great Ch'an masters of the T'ang dynasty.1 It is a careful, detailed study of their teachings, especially the fundamentals ofpractice and its relation to enlightenment. Those already familiar with the basics of Ch'an thought through the writings of Dogen, Hakuin, Heinrich Dumoulin, Philip Kapleau, Shunryu Suzuki, and others will find a familiar ring to what Hershock says. He is certainly in agreement with the insights of the great Ch'an masters and scholars of the tradition. However, the significant thing about Hershock's book is his very thorough exposition ofhow indebted the Chinese masters ofthe T'ang dynasty were to the Chinese view of "self and "personhood ." For example, he looks very carefully at pre-Buddhist meditation in China to show its profound influence on Ch'an meditation (pp. 156 ff). He examines closely the classic Chinese graphs used by the T'ang masters. Terms such as the Tao jË, ch'i M·, wu wei MM, and even jen \ZL appear frequendy in their writings. Ma-tzu says, "A buddha is capable oíjen" (p. 162). All agree that Ch'an is a unique indigenous Chinese expression of Indian Buddhism. At times Hershock's interpretation of the data drawn from the T'ang masters is refreshingly novel and downright brilliant. His imaginative way of covering familiar territory invites us to enter into further conversation with him. He sees his work as "an unapologetically improvisational endeavor" (p. xv). In what follows, I will highlight how Hershock states and defends his thesis, and at the end I will briefly discuss three items that helped to clarify my own understanding. This book makes an important contribution not only to our understanding of the T'ang masters, but more importantly to the enduring fundamentals ofthe tradition, essentials that are at the core ofpractice and are as relevant today as they were in T'ang times. Hershock faces all the serious questions raised about Ch'an practice and straightforwardly answers them, often in an unusual way. For example, he takes up at length the question ofwhy, ifthe daily life ofa Ch'an monastery is highly organized and formal, Ch'an espouses a doctrine ofradical spontaneity and freedom from all forms of societal constraint (pp. 149 ff). Or,© 1997 by University mere ¡s rjögen's searching question aboutwhyit is necessaryto practice ifwe alofHawai 'i Press, ,. , t . . . , ready possess enlightenment in our original nature. Hershock begins by reminding us that Ch'an enlightenment should not be seen as something private and experiential in nature, but as irreducibly and inti- 434 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 mately social (p. x). In his characteristic manner, however, he adds that practice entails "a radical exposure to risk. Practice entails unreservedly endangering one's 'self" (p. 112). Hershock says his conclusion about the irreducibly and intimately social dimension of Ch'an is bound to raise eyebrows (p. x), but perhaps he has overlooked the last of the Ten Oxherding Pictures presented by the Ch'an master K'uo-an Shih-yuan (ca. 1150 ce.) to express the stages of a person's spiritual journey . In the eighth picture, both ox and self are forgotten. The ninth is titled "Returning to the Source," but the tenth is called "Entering the Market Place with Helping Hands." After enlightenment, according to an already prominent tradition , it's back to the world to help others. To demonstrate the profoundly social and relational dimension of Ch'an enlightenment , Hershock takes up the theme of suffering in the teachings of the Buddha. Given the Western and Indian predilections to universalize, we end up focusing on the universal abstract truth of suffering. Hershock's contention is that the suffering that the Buddha sought to resolve was not an abstract or theoretical construct, but rather the actually...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 433-438
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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