Yongming Yanshou and the Complexities of Chan Identity

Albert Welter

in Yongming Yanshou’s Conception of Chan in the Zongjing lu

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199760312
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897322 | DOI:
Yongming Yanshou and the Complexities of Chan Identity

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This chapter explores the hagiographical records of Yanshou’s life, reflecting on these not so much for the information they provide about Yanshou, but as indications of the aspirations and motives associated with the worlds that the compilers lived in. The contours of Yanshou’s “life” are the products of these aspirations—whatever we know about Yanshou is predicated on the shape these contours provide. The way Yanshou’s thought is interpreted, the thrust of his mission, has often been reduced to patterns these hagiographical works substantiate. Rather than reduce Yanhou’s emphasis on Buddhist practice to the aims of Pure Land cultivation, however conceived, this chapter contends that Yanshou was essentially an advocate of Chan bodhisattva practice and the multiplicity of cultivational aids that such practice entails.

Keywords: Yongming Yanshou; hagiography; Chan identity; Pure Land; bodhisattva practice

Chapter.  14608 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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