Looking at Lineage

John R. McRae

in Seeing through Zen

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780520237971
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937079 | DOI:
Looking at Lineage

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Whenever we pretend to explain Chan in terms of lineal successions from one great master to another, we run the risk of committing the “string of pearls” fallacy, in which the evolution of Chan Buddhism is described in terms of a sequence of individual masters like pearls on a string. In terms of Zen studies, this tendency is starkly apparent in the way Dunhuang manuscripts have been used to supplement rather than radically transform the appreciation of Chan in many writings. A trove of cultural treasures similar to the Dead Sea scrolls, the Dunhuang manuscripts provided a cross-section of Chan documents from the eighth to the tenth centuries, just before the great editorial homogenization of the Song dynasty took place. Scholars have used Dunhuang manuscripts in conjunction with other evidence to devise more vivid portraits of Bodhidharma, Huineng, and others as individual figures. The picture of Song-dynasty Chan is not complete without looking closely at the style of meditative introspection advocated by Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157) and other members of the Caodong lineage.

Keywords: Chan Buddhism; Song dynasty; lineage; Zen; Dunhuang manuscripts; Bodhidharma; Huineng; Hongzhi Zhengjue

Chapter.  7436 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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