Chapter

The Riddle of Encounter Dialogue

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520237971.003.0004
The Riddle of Encounter Dialogue

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Classical Chan refers to a particular style of behavior displayed by Chan masters in the course of their interactions with students and other masters. Rather than explaining the Dharma in straightforward expository language, such masters are depicted as being more inclined to demonstrate it by means of paradoxical replies and inexplicable counterquestions, gestures and physical demonstrations, and even the shocking and painful tactics of shouts and blows. Precisely when this classical style of religious practice emerged is not clear. Curiously, no clearly stated definition of encounter dialogue appears in the scholarship on Chinese Chan. The encounter-dialogue style of religious behavior is well known in the literature on Chan Buddhism and Zen in every language. This chapter shows how Chan encounter dialogue implies a paradigm of spiritual cultivation that is profoundly different from earlier Chinese Buddhist practice. It also discusses the story of Mazu Daoyi's enlightenment, the eightfold path to the emergence of transcribed encounter dialogue, “questions about things” in the Northern School, and the use of ritualized dialogue between Chan teachers and students.

Keywords: Chan Buddhism; classical Chan; encounter dialogue; Zen; Mazu Daoyi; enlightenment; Northern School; teachers

Chapter.  11451 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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