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zen history
These essays deal with historical aspects of Zen Buddhism and its teachers. If you want to know about the true history of Zen Buddhism, then this is the section for you. Generally, alphabetical by author.
Questions, broken links, suggestions, etc, please .
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Maseo Abe: Zen and Buddhism. The great Kyoto School philosopher looks at Zen and asks the question: "Is Zen Buddhism?" from: Journal of Chinese Philosophy, V. 3.3 (June 1976) pp. 235-252

Wendy L. Adamek: Robes Purple and Gold: Transmission of the Robe in the Lidai fabio ji (Record of the Dharma-Jewel Through the Ages) Adamek, of Columbia University, admits that the Lidai fabio ji is a 'self-promoting fiction' but perhaps the text can be used to better understand the contradictions of the 'Southern School' ideology, reflecting "hidden issues involved in Chan polemics of the late eighth century." from History of Religions, 2000

Karen Andrews: A Survey of 12thC Japanese Buddhism Andrews outlines the chaos of this era and how the Buddhist movement developed and then changed towards the end of the century. (Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley)

Martin Baumann: The Dharma Has Come West: a survey of recent studies and sources : The title pretty well tells it all. Here Baumann tries to “point out and discuss existing studies and sources which provide historical information of Buddhist developments in these Western, industrialized countries.” from Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Vol.4, 1997

Carl Bielefeldt and Lewis Lancaster: T'an Ching (Platform Scripture) Bielefeldt and Lancaster give an excellent overview of state of current (1975) translations and scholarship of the Platform Sutra. from Philosophy East and West Vol. 25, No. 2, 1975

G. Buhler: The Discovery of Buddha's Birthplace, This 1897 from The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, February, 1897, is presented as an historical record of the Western exploration of Buddhism in India. original source

Wing-Tsit Chan: Transformation of Buddhism in China Chan looks at the humanistic changes that Buddhism underwent in China: "The Chinese transformation of Buddhism has been a long and complicated process, but it can be summed up in one sentence, namely, "from an Indian religion of non-ego, it has become in China a humanistic religion." from Philosophy East & West, V. 7  No. 3/4 (October 1957 - January 1958) pp. 107-116

Chun-Fang Yu: Ta-hui Tsung-kao and Kung-an Ch'an A useful look at the biography of Ta-hui (Dahui) and his use of koans and hua-t'ou as a Zen practice. Chun-Fang gives quite a good, concise description of the role of koan practice in Zen. Easy reading. from Journal of Chinese Philosophy V. 6 (1979) pp. 211-235

Roger Corless: The Enduring Significance of T’an-luan Corless looks at the neglected Pure Land teacher T'an-luan and discusses how his use of Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophy makes him a great teacher not only in Pure Land, but also in Mahayana. An interesting exploration of T'an-luan philosophy. from Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Henry Cruise: Early Buddhism: some recent misconceptions Cruise looks at how early Buddhists thought about nirvana and causation and criticises some modern scholars about their understanding of these important concepts. An interesting, if a bit dense, article. from Philosophy East and West Volume 33, no.2, 1983

Heinrich Dumoulin: Early Chinese Zen Reexamined: This is a supplementary essay to Doumoulin's seminal work, Zen Buddhism: A History and gives an overview of the Tung-Huaung manuscripts of the early years of Bodhidharma and the beginnings of Zen in China which Dumoulin didn't include in the early editions of his book.
see also: two Introductions to Dumoulin's opus, Zen History — one written by Victor Hori and the other by John McRae

Faxian: Faxian (Fa-hsien) on Buddhist Kingdoms, ca. 400 translated by James LeggeThis is a very short excerpt that talks about some of the places Faxian (4th-5th C), one of the earliest Chinese to visit India, visited. from UCLA Center for East Asian Studies

Andy Ferguson: Zen Ancestors in China Lineage Chart Author of Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings includes this lineage chart of the 5 Houses of Chinese Zen in his book.

Matthew Gindin: Keeping It Real:Chan and The Pursuit of Experience Gindin looks at early Chinese Chan: "...[the] desire to “keep it real”, to avoid the traps of ossification, mere intellectuality, or worldly enchantments, is one of the main driving forces behind the historical developments of the Chan tradition."
The Bright Field of Spirit: The Life and Teachings of Chan Master Hongzhi Zhengjue: Gidin explores the life and teachings of one of the giants of the Caodong (Soto) school and he discusses Honghzhi's relationship with his critic, Dahui Zonggao of the Linji school.

Peter Gregory: The Sudden/Gradual Polarity: A Recurrent Theme In Chinese Thought Gregory summarizes the papers presented at on "The Sudden/Gradual Polarity: A Recurrent Theme in Chinese Thought" during the weekend of May 22-24, 1981. from Journal Of Chinese Philosophy Vol.9 1982

Victor Soren Hori: Zen Sand - Introduction This is the entire 97-page introduction to Hori's book. It deals with the use of koans and capping phrases in Rinzai practice. This is fabulous! Well worth reading if you're interested in koan study. Highly recommended. Victor Hori's personal account of translating Zen Sand is also of interest and was written before the book was published. My review of this book is here.
Introduction --- Zen History, Vol. 2: This is Hori's introduction to Dumoulin's second volume of Zen History. An interesting essay.

Linda Brown Holt: From India to China: Transformations in Buddhist Philosophy Holt examines how Buddhism transformed when it left India and entered China. The two diverse languages had a significant role in the transformation.

Scott Hurley: The Doctrinal Transformation of 20th Century Chinese Buddhism: Master Yinshun's interpretation of the tathagatagarbha doctrine Hurley looks at Master Yinshun's (b. 1906) understanding of the tathagataharbha and concludes that this doctrine is 'expedient means' teaching. Hurley gives a good explanation of the doctrine and contrasts it with Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika doctrine of emptiness. Well worth reading. from Contemporary Buddhism, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2004

Takasaki Jikidõ: The Tathāgatagarbha Theory Reconsidered: Reflections on Some Recent Issues in Japanese Buddhist Studies A quite technical brief investigation into the contoversial Tathāgatagarbha Theory and some of its historical antecedents. from Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2000, 27/1-2

James E. Ketelaar:  The Non-Modern Confronts The Modern: Dating The Buddha In Japan This paper examines the emergence of a distinctively "modern" style of history and some of its uses as applied to Buddhism by Buddhist scholars within the early Meiji Period in Japan. By showing the methods and accomplishments of modernist historians, and the concomitant slippage of non-modern categories in their  work, this paper sketches a method of analysis particularly applicable to the intersection of  religion and history. from History and Theory, Theme Issue 45 (December 2006), 62-79

Livia Knaul: Chuang-Tzu and the Chinese Ancestry of Ch'an Buddhism Knaul looks at the Chinese influences on Ch'an, such as Taosim an Confusionism. "In regarding the development of Ch'an Buddhism much emphasis has traditionally been placed on its Indian background. Of course, it has been recognized that the Indian sources passed through a process of translation and adaptation to the Chinese, but what exactly the native soil was in which the Buddhist seeds fell has not been analyzed all too clearly." from Journal of Chinese Philosophy Vol.13 (1986) p.411-428
Legends in Ch'an: the Northern/Southern Split, Hui-neng and the Platform Sutra Was there ever a verse-writing competition between Hui-neng and Shen-Hsiu? This crucial story, related in the Platform Sutra, is at the heart of the Northern/Southern school split and established Hui-neng as the Sixth Patriarch. My essay looks at the historical record. (Browse this page to find more about the Northern/Southern teachings and history)

Yasutani Hakuun Roshi - a biographical note. This is an excerpt from a M. A. thesis in Asian Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Gives a brief outline of Yasutani Roshi, an important Japanese Zen teacher who promoted lay practice in Japan and America.

Whalen Lai Buddhism in China: a Historical Survey I think the title says it all.
Ch'an metaphors: Waves, water, mirror, lamp Lai looks at three key metaphors used in Zen and finds them in the Lankaavataara Suutra, the Awakening of Faith and the Platform Sutra. Excellent essay for those wondering where some key metaphors began. Ma-Tsu Tao-I And The Unfolding Of Southern Zen: here Lai looks at the influence of Ma-tsu in Zen and the dynamics of mind-to-mind Zen as perfected by this great master.

James Legge (transl.): A Record of Buddhistic KingdomsBeing an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his Travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline Translated and annotated with a Corean recension of the Chinese originally published by Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1886 Original Source

Michael P Levine: Can the Concept of Enlightenment Evolve? "...examines whether all evolution of the concept of enlightenment is best seen as interpretive variation rather than as embodying real notional change...It is implausible to suppose that... enlightenment has not evolved". Levine also argues that as literal interpretations of the Bible are incorrect, likewise a similar interpretation of Buddhist scriptures. from Asian Philosophy, Vol 13, Nos.2/3, 2001 pp115-129

Charles Luk (Upasaka Lu K'uan): This is Luk's translation of the Hsin Hsin Ming - Have Faith in Your Mind, a gatha written by of Seng T'san, Third Chan Patriarch of China. For a full discussion on this important text, see this site . Includes translations by Prof. Dusan Pajin, Daisetsu Teitarõ Suzuki and Richard B. Clark

John Maraldo: Is There Historical Consciousness Within Chan? Much of Ch'an history was written for reasons other than historical accuracy. Maraldo looks at some interpretations of modern historians of Ch'an and believes we should "identify the interests of the contemporary historian before seeking a direct answer [about historicity] in the sources being studied." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 12/2-3

John McRae: The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism McRae looks at where and how the dialogues between Zen master and student began. These dialogues often ended up being koans. Very interesting essay. See also book review: Seeing through Zen
McRae has also written an interesting Introduction to Vol. 1 of Heinrich Dumoulin's Zen History. Well worth reading.

Charles Muller: East Asian Apocryphal Scriptures: Their Origin and Role in the Development of Sinitic Buddhism Muller looks at apocryphal texts and their role in the development of Chinese Buddhism.

Michel Mohr: Japanese Zen Schools and the Transition to Meiji: A Plurality of Responses in the Nineteenth Century This article scrutinizes the lives of specific figures affiliated with the three main Zen traditions; it presents firsthand information on their activities from the end of the Tokugawa period through the first decades of the Meiji era.


Elizabeth Morrison: The Logic and Limits of the Genealogical Model for Chan History Morrison gives an overview of the historical writings of the Northern Song Chan monk Mingjiao Qisong (1007-1072) with the aim of analyzing the use of lineage as a device for organizing historical information and examining some of the assumptions implicit in Chan historiography. An interesting essay on the development of early Chan lineage writings.

Biswadeb Mukherjee: The Riddle of the First Buddhist Council - A Retrospection A highly academic article about "The historic nature of the Cullavagga XI account, specially the episode of chanting the dhamma and vinaya, [which] has been denied either because of the silence of the MPS about the chanting, or due to the internal contradictions supposed to be existing between the different episodes narrated in the Cullavagga XI. " from: Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, No.7, pp.449~473(1994)

Eshin Nishimura: Practical  Principle Of Hakuin Zen Examined in the Text By His Disciple Tourei-Enji : the title says it all.

Gudo Nishijima: Japanese Buddhism and the Meiji Restoration: Nishijima discusses the effects of the Meiji Restoration on Japanese Buddhism. Includes Nishijima's introduction to Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, which Nishijima claims is "identical to the theories of Dogen".

Kang-nam Oh: The Taoist Influence on Hua-yen Buddhism: A Case of the Sinicization of Buddhism in China . "The religio-philosophical system presented by the Hua-yen Buddhist school of China was characteristically "Chinese" in the sense that it was not merely extensions of Indian Buddhist ideas but the reinterpretations and restatements of Buddhist thought within distinctively Chinese modes of thought and expression.  Hua-yen, in this sense, was a "sinicized" Buddhism. The paper argues that the Taoist philosophy was one, possibly the most important, influence on this process.  The paper tries to prove this by exploring specifically four major Hua-yen concepts derived from the Taoist tradition: hsuan (mystery), "returning to the source," t'i-yung (essence and function), and li-shih (noumenon and phenomenon)." from Chung-Haw Buddhist Journal No.13.2 (May 2000)

Mario Poceski: Attitudes Towards Canonicity and Religious Authority in Tang Chan Poceski explores the use of standard Buddhist scriptures in early Chan which enabled Chan to take a central role in Chinese Buddhism. Poceski refutes the standard interpretation of Chan as being "outside the scriptures". Very interesting essay.

Gary L. Ray: The Northern Ch'an School And Sudden Versus Gradual Enlightenment Debates In China And Tibet Ray trawls over the sudden/gradual debate and the famous debate in Tibet which resulted in Indian, as opposed to Chinese, Buddhism dominating. Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley

Tansen Sen: In Search of Longevity and Good Karma: Chinese Diplomatic Missions to Middle India in the Seventh Century Sen looks at some important Tang Dynasty missions to India, including the famous Xuanzang (Hsuan Tseng) 19-year mission.
from Journal of World History, Vol 12 No. 1

Robert H. Sharf: The Zen of Japanese Nationalism Sharf asks, "How was it that the West came to conceive of Zen in terms of a transcendent or "unmediated" personal experience? And why are Western[ers] so eager to embrace this distortion in the face of extensive historical and ethnographic evidence to the contrary?" A highly critical study of D. T. Suzuki and the transmission of Japanese Zen to the West. An important essay all Zen students should read. source: History of Religions
Related readings:
book review, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution
Sharf: Sanbõkyõdan Zen and the Way of the New Religions
Sharf: Whose Zen? Zen Nationalism Revisited
Sharf: Sanbõkyõdan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions

Morten Schlütter: Transmission and Enlightenment in Chan Buddhism Seen Through the Platform Sūtra (Liuzu tanjing 六祖壇經)Tthis paper discusses developments in the conceptualization of transmission and enlightenment in the Platform Sutra's main line of development, beginning with the earliest version found at Dunhuang leading down to the orthodox version included in the Taishō canon. source: Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, no. 20, pp. 379~410 (2007)

Hu Shih: Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China Shih reveals how Ch'an developed from a simple Buddhist religion to an iconoclastic sect. He explains the role of Shen-hui in making Hui-neng the sixth patriarch and discusses why some Ch'an rhetoric seems "illogical" and unfathomable. Very interesting essay from early Ch'an studies which laid a strong foundation for scholars who followed. from Philosophy East and West, Vol.. 3, No. 1, January, 1953

Ishii Shūdō & Albert Welter look at the formation and history of Mumonkan (Wu-men kuan) koan collection. The Wu-men kuan (J. Mumonkan) The Formation, Propagation, and Characteristics of a Classic Zen Kōan Text is an excellent essay for those interested in the history of this text.

Ven. Sheng-yen: The Platform Saatra of the Sixth Patriarch translated by Yu Chun-fang from: Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal no.5 July 1992 Chung-Hwa Insitute of Buddhist Studies . Sheng-yen offers an analysis of this seminal text “synthesizing the key points”. This translation is a little patchy.
see also Philip Yampolsky's translation of the Tun-hung text of the Platform Sutra
see also Wong Mou-Lam's translation (1929), updated 1952 by Christmas Humphreys

Koichi Shinohara The Kasaya Robe of the Past Buddha Kasyapa in the Miraculous Instruction Given to the Vinaya Master Daoxuan (596-667) Shinohara examines the passages on the robe Kaa`syapa Buddha handed over to `Saakyamuni in Daoxuan's visionary experience as written up in the Daoxuan lushi gantonglu and the Zhong Tianzhu Sheweiguo Zhihuansi tujing and discusses the soteriological discourses on the robe. He concludes with comments on the possible significance of this discussion in the light of the prominent role that the account of the transmission of Bodhidharma's robe played in early Chan. from Chung-Haw Buddhist Journal
No.13.2 (May 2000)


Charles W Swain: The Emergence of Ch'an Buddhism: a revisionist perspective "The purpose of this essay is to examine the emergence of Ch'an Buddhism as a separate and distinct sect in China . The argument is NOT that the traditions concerning this emergence are unreliable, but rather that attention to the historical context of their compilation may help to explain some of the distinctive features of Ch'an as a sect of Chinese Buddhism. I will attempt to distinguish the Ch'an traditions from the emergence of Ch'an as a separtate sect of Chinese Buddhism. It may be that some features of the traditional history of the Ch'an sect are a reconstruction, after the fact, for apologetic purposes." A rather simplistic outline of Ch'an history. from: Chung- Hwa Buddhist Journal vol.2/Oct, 1988 P.391-399

Paul Swanson: Ch'an and Chih-Kkuan: T'ien-T'ai Chi-i's View of "Zen" and the Practice of the Lotus Sutra . Swanson gives a nice thumbnail sketch of Bodhidharma's contemporary, Chi-i's method of Buddhist practice which sought a balance between zazen and contemplation leading to realization. Why They Say Zen Is Not Buddhism: Recent Japanese Critiques of Buddha-Nature. This is Part One of a series of essays The What and Why of Critical Buddhism.

John M. Thompson: Particular and Universal: Problems posed by Shaku Soen's "Zen" Thompson looks at a significant but largely neglected Zen teacher. Soen was instrumental in introducing Zen to America at World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and was a teacher of DT Suzuki. Thompson explores Soen's 'mystical' side. Worth reading if you are interested in early Western Zen.

Albert Welter: The Disputed Place Of "A Special Transmission" Outside The Scriptures in Ch'an. “The purpose of the present investigation is to inquire into the origins of these slogans and the way they came to represent the Ch'an tradition of Bodhidharma, highlighting the disputed position of Ch'an as ’A special transmission outside the scriptures’ in Sung discourse.”
The Textual History of the Linji lu (Record of Linji): The Earliest Recorded Fragments "The story of the Linji lu is not the story of one man, Linji Yixuan. It is the story of a movement. The success of this movement contains the story of the success of Chan. In brief, my research on the Linji lu will not be set against the background of Linji the man and the style of Zen he represented, but will look at the Linji lu in light of the success of Chan." An interesting essay on a great master's legacy.
The Formation of the Linji lu: An Examination of the Guangdeng lu/Sijia yulu and Linji Huizhao Chanshi yulu Versions of the Linji lu in Historical Context Welter looks at the origins of the Linji lu and outlines how this text and the master became one of Chan's illustrious champions.
The problem with orthodoxy in Zen Buddhism: Yongming Yanshou’s notion of zong in the Zongjin lu (Records of the Source Mirror) Welter questions who/what determines what Zen is. "The study suggests how the definition of contemporary Zen orthodoxy has been dominated by representatives from the “rhetorical ” Zen tradition, creating a disjuncture between our intellectual understanding of Zen and the principles guiding its actual practice." Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuse Vol 31, 1, 2002

John C. H. Wu: Zen: its origin and its significance. This is the first chapter of John Wu's The Golden Age of Zen: Zen Masters of the T'ang Dynasty. original source: www.worldwisdom.com

Dale S Wright: Emancipation from what? The concept of freedom in classical Ch'an Buddhism Wright "attempts to articulate an understanding of the goal of ‘freedom' in classical Ch'an Buddhism by setting concerns for 'liberation' in relation to the kinds of authority and regulated structure characteristic of Sung dynasty Ch'an monasteries" and "examines classical Ch'an rhetoric and practices in an effort to reconceive what ‘freedom' might have meant in this context and concludes with a proposal for this reconception." from Asian Philosophy, Vol 3 No.2 1993
Rethinking Transcendence: The Role of Language in Zen Experience Wright questions whether enlightenment "stands altogether beyond the shaping power of language and culture". He also looks at the role language played in the origins and development of the monsastic community, a community that made the Zen experience of awakening possible. Very interesting essay for those that see the Zen experience "not dependent on language and texts". Is that true? from Philosophy East and West, vol 42, no 1, January 1992
Historical Understanding: The Ch'an Buddhist Transmission Narratives and Modern Historiography Wright discusses the differences between classical Ch'an's interest in hisory and compares it with modern historical practices. Wright finds that early Ch'an historians considered themselves participants rather than merely recorders of their history. from History & Theory,Vol 31, Issue 1, pp.37-46, 1992
The Hunag-po Literature: Wright analyzes the two major collections of Huang-po's teachings from a historical, literary and philosophical perspectiave and summarizes the teachings. An excellent study! from The Zen Cannon (2004) OUP

Robert B.Zeuschner: The understanding of mind in the Northern line of Ch'an (Zen) Zeuschner explores how early Ch'an of the so-called ‘Northern School' understood the nature of “pure mind” and “defiled mind”. An interesting essay from: Philosophy East and West V. 28, No. 1,1978