Bookmark and Share
go back to Zen Essays: Historical Zen


Attitudes Towards Canonicity and Religious Authority in Tang Chan

Mario Poceski
University of Florida

Chan's formative period is typically discussed in terms of a gradual shift away from the canonically-sanctioned traditions of Indian and Chinese Buddhism.1 Although the connections between early Chan and the mainstream of Tang Buddhism are too obvious to deny, most Chan/Zen scholars have interpreted that relationship as a temporary stage in Chan's irreversible move towards complete independence. Even at that point, we are led to assume, it is possible to discern the latent forces that fueled Chan's strive towards religious and institutional autonomy. Those predispositions were a driving force in the construction of Chan's distinct self-identity, which lead to the repudiation of scriptural authority and subversion of established norms and mores.

Within this interpretative schemata, the Hongzhou school plays a crucial role and its emergence marks a turning point in the incipient growth of Chan as a uniquely Chinese form of Buddhism. Under the leadership of Mazu and his followers, Chan supposedly took an unmistakably iconoclastic turn that was predicated on a wholesale rejection of the ideals, doctrinal tenets, spiritual practices, and institutions of earlier Chinese Buddhism. According to this interpretation, the classical Chan tradition that grew out of the Hongzhou school was a culmination of a prolonged process that involved construction of Chan's identity in terms of its repudiation of canonical authority and location of its source of religious legitimacy in the timeless experience of enlightenment, as realized by the Buddha and the great Chan patriarchs.

The examination of Chan's attitudes towards scriptural authority presented in this chapter serves as an implicit critique of such one-sided interpretations, and presents an alternative explanation of the evolution of Chan's relationship with the canonical tradition. I start by situating the formation of early Chan attitudes towards canonicity within the larger religious context of the Tang era, and in reference to other major Buddhist schools that emerged during the Sui-Tang period, especially Huayan 華嚴宗 and Tiantai 天台宗. That is followed with a brief survey of the ways in which the various groups that during the eight century constituted the heterogeneous Chan movement appropriated scriptural authority in their search for spiritual authenticity and socioreligious legitimacy. The next two sections consist of an examination of the Hongzhou school's use of scriptural sources and its subtle shift in outlook towards canonical texts and traditions, which involved an innovative rapprochement with scriptural authority rather than an outright repudiation of it. The chapter ends by drawing attention to parallel developments in Confucian scholarship, which reflected significant changes in intellectual orientations that occurred during the mid-Tang period in the aftermath of the An Lushan rebellion.

Scriptural Authority in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

In medieval Chinese Buddhism the scriptures functioned as chief sources of religious authority and standards for adjudicating the authenticity and orthodoxy of different doctrines and practices. Canonically-sanctioned traditions shaped virtually all aspects of Buddhist life, including rituals and other forms of religious praxis, ethical observances, and monastic mores and institutions. The gradual Sinification of Buddhism brought about transformation of doctrinal and other elements that constituted the religion brought to China from the "Western regions," but such changes were generally justified by reinterpreting canonical texts and traditions rather than by subverting them or by openly challenging their authority. That was made easier by the sheer size of the Buddhist canon, which included a wide range of texts that dealt with broad array of subjects and were written from diverse doctrinal standpoints. It was thus relatively easy to find canonical passages that could lend credence to novel interpretations of existing doctrines, or to claim scriptural support for completely new ideas introduced by Chinese monks. The task was made even easier with the emergence of numerous apocryphal texts composed in China, many of which became part of the canon. Such native texts often initiated novel developments in the evolution of Buddhist beliefs and doctrines, and addressed issues and concerns that were absent from or glossed over in the Indian texts. Throughout the period of division, and into the Tang, the translation and exegesis of Indian scriptures and treatises remained a main concern for Chinese Buddhists, and the leading translators and exegetes were among the most esteemed members of the clergy.

The exalted status of canonical texts did not preclude their creative use (and not infrequently misuse) by Buddhist thinkers who were eager to lend scriptural support to the uniquely Chinese forms of religious and philosophical discourse they were creating as participants in the ongoing Sinificiation of Buddhist doctrines and practices. The emergence of new Buddhist schools during the Sui-Tang period brought about different attitudes towards canonicity. That included a tendency to interpret the scriptures in terms of personal religious experiences and viewpoints, which often reveled lack of concern if the interpretations were in accord with the religious standpoints expressed in the canonical texts. As it has been noted by Stanley Weinstein, during this period Indian canonical texts "were often little more than pegs to which the (Chinese) patriarchs could attach their own ideas," which stood in contrast with the efforts on part of earlier exegetes to interpret canonical texts in ways that retained fidelity to their authors' original intents.2 Starting with Zhiyi 智顗 (538-597), the emphasis in scriptural exegesis shifted from literal interpretation towards exploration of the canonical text's "recondite/essential meaning"( xuanyi 玄義). 3

A good example of this tendency is Zhiyi's Fahua xuanyi 法華玄義, a seminal Tiantai texts supposedly provides exegesis of the Lotus Scripture. In fact, much of Zhiyi's lengthy discussion consists of exhaustive interpretation of the five characters that constitute the title of the Chinese translation of the Lotus Scripture (Miaofa lianhua jing 妙法蓮華經). In his explanation of the scripture's sublime/subtle meaning, Zhiyi enters into all sorts of philosophical speculations that, although of great significance in the intellectual history of Chinese Buddhism, have little direct connection with the original text of the scripture.4 The same can be said of much of the prodigious literary output of Zhiyan 智儼 (602-668) and Fazang 法藏 (643-712), the great systematizers of Huayan philosophy. Although most of Zhiyan and Fazang's writings are supposed to explore the profound mysteries and sublime teachings presented in the Huayan Scripture, their detailed and complex formulation of Huayan doctrines such as the "ten profound mysteries" (shi xuanmen十玄門) and "nature origination" (xingqi 性 起) have only tenuous connections with the actual contents of the scripture.

But even as they were formulating original doctrinal tenets that reflected native intellectual concerns and patterns of thinking, leading Chinese monks such as Zhiyi and Fazang still felt compelled to bolster their interpretations and arguments with copious quotations from canonical texts. They made considerable efforts to find scriptural support for their highly original and creative philosophical formulations, despite the fact that they were moving into directions not envisaged by the Indian texts, and even in instances when their views did not accord with the meaning of the canonical sources. In light of this predisposition, it is not surprising that during the Sui-Tang period Buddhist scholiasts turned away from reliance on Indian philosophical treatises that presented systematic and clearly argued expositions of Mādhyamika (Zhongguan 中觀) and Yogācāra (Yuqiexing瑜伽行 ) philosophies. Careful exegesis of key Mahayana treatises was one of the hallmarks of Chinese Buddhism during the fifth and sixth centuries. The main exegetical schools that were formed during this era-including Shelun 攝論, Dilun地論, and Sanlun 三論—were based on specific translations of treatises or scriptural commentaries composed by noted Indian scholars/monks. In contrast, the founders of the Huayan and Tiantai traditions turned towards key Mahāyāna scriptures that were open to diverse interpretations and much more malleable to creative forms of exegesis.

Regardless of how innovative and idiosyncratic their philosophical speculations might have been, it is important to bear in mind that medieval Chinese monks still piously presented them as systematic expositions of ideas and insight originally expressed in the scriptures. In the case of the Huayan school, its complex doctrinal system was supposedly meant to elucidate the essential meaning of the Huayan Scripture, while the Tiantai school made similar claims in regard to the Lotus Scripture. In both cases (and the same was generally true for the rest of Sui-Tang Buddhism), the scriptures continued to be perceived as precious repositories of timeless truths, unequaled wellsprings of inspiration and guides for spiritual praxis, and ultimate sources of religious authority.

Early Chan's Attitudes Towards the Canon

In contrast to the doctrinal orientation of Huayan and Tiantai, systematic scriptural exegesis was not an area of major concern for the Chan school. Nonetheless, similar reverential and accommodating attitudes towards the scriptures were also characteristic of early Chan. Notwithstanding the differences among the various Chan groups, one of the key characteristics of the early Chan movement, which goes back to its origins, was an unmistakable tendency to legitimize Chan practice by recourse to the canonical tradition. Let me give a few examples that illustrate this point. Early Chan's eagerness to co-opt scriptural authority can be seen in the appropriation of the Lankāvatāra Scripture (Lengqie jing 楞伽經) as a symbol for the transmission of Chan, which was initially advanced by the followers of Hongren 弘忍 (601-674), the putative "fifth Chan patriarch." Lankāvatāra's transmission was also retroactively imputed back to Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who came to be recognized as the "first patriarch" of Chinese Chan. The connection between Bodhidharma and the Lankāvatāra might have been real, as can be seen from the biography of his main disciple Huike 慧可 (487-593). There Bodhidharma singles out this scripture and hands it to his charge with the instruction that he should "practice in accord with [its teachings]" (yixing 依行).5 In light of such connection, the choice of this text as a symbol for the transmission of Chan enlightenment can be seen a logical next step in Chan's initial search to secure authority that was traditionally associated with the Buddhist canon. Lengqie shizi ji 楞伽師資記, compiled by Jingjue (683-750?), the earliest text that makes such connection, even goes as far as to recognize Gunabhadra, the Indian monk who produced the first Chinese translation of the scripture, as a Chan patriarch who directly preceded Bodhidharma. 6 Gunabhadra had no connection whatsoever with the Chan school, which at any rate did not exist at the time. His induction into the Chan's patriarchal lineage was solely due to the fact that he was Lankāvatāra's translator, which in itself points to the important role the scripture played in Chan's early search for legitimacy.

Another example from the same period is Shenhui's 神會 (684-758) use of the Diamond Scripture (Jingang jing 金剛經) as a source of religious legitimacy, when he employed this popular text to buttress his partisan notions about Chan orthodoxy. As part of his sectarian diatribes against his Northern school opponents, Shenhui's recourse to the Diamond Scripture as a symbol for the transmission of Chan was a direct response to the Northern school's appropriation of the Lankāvatāra. According to him all Chan patriarchs, from Bodhidharma until Huineng, advocated and transmitted the Diamond Scripture, not the Lankāvatāra.7 In one of his transcribed discussions Shenhui proclaimed the cultivation of the perfection of wisdom, the central theme of the Diamond Scripture, to be the fundamental source (genben 根本) of all practices.8 He then went on to proclaim to his audience that "If you wish to attain comprehension of the most profound dharmadhātu and enter directly into the Samādhi of Single Practice, you must first recite the Diamond Scripture and cultivate the Dharma of the perfection of wisdom."9 Similar emphasis on the perfection of wisdom is evident in the Platform Scripture, which might be an evidence of Shenhui's influence on this text. There Huineng is recorded as saying: "With only the one volume of the Diamond Scripture you may see into your own nature and enter the samādhi of prajñā" (但持金剛般若波羅蜜經一卷。即得見性。入般若三昧).10 In these instances we can see how during the mid-eight century specific scriptures were at the center of sectarian battles over orthodoxy and religious supremacy waged by competing Chan factions.

Similar attitudes towards canonical texts and related traditions are also discernable in the extant records of the Niutou 牛頭 school, which had its largest following during the middle part of the eight century. Niutou's teachings were influenced by the philosophical tenets of the Mādhyamika or Middle Way tradition, as mediated by Chinese doctrinal formulations produced by the Tiantai and Sanlun schools. The teachers of Farong 法融 (594-657), the putative founding patriarch of the Niutou school, were all associated with the Sanlun school (which at the time was regarded as the main Chinese representative of the Mādhyamika tradition).11 In light of that connection, it is not surprising that the concept of "emptiness" plays a prominent role in Farong's Jueguan lun 絕觀論,12 or that in his writings on Chan Zongmi describes the Niutou school as advocating a Mādhyamika-type of apophasis that reveals the emptiness of all phenomena.13

The Chan penchant for evoking canonical authority is also evident in Lidai fabao ji 歷代法寶記, the main record of the Baotang school, which gained notoriety as the most radical faction of early Chan. Notwithstanding the conventional view of Wuzhu, the leader of the Baotang school, as an iconoclast who repudiated all traditional doctrines and practices, the text starts with a list of Buddhist works that were popular at the time (37 titles in total). The list includes popular canonical texts such as the Nirvana, Lotus, and Diamond scriptures, as well as Chinese apocryphal texts such as Faju jing法句經and Chanmen jing 禪門經.14 These and other canonical works are frequently quoted in the Lidai fabao ji, which also cites a number of non-Buddhist works, including Laozi, Zhuangzi, and other Taoist texts, as well as various historical works.15

Early Chan was not only using texts that were already part of the canon, but it also took the additional step of creating apocryphal texts that were presented as scriptures attributed to the Buddha. In doing so, Chan was participating in an establish practice, whereas new religious developments were provided with added canonical legitimacy by the creation of apocryphal scriptures that expressed the same (or similar) ideas. One such example, probably originating in Korea, was the Vajrasāmadhi Scripture. This text was composed during the seventh century in order to lend scriptural support to the novel doctrines of the early Chan school. 16 At the time Chan was still in the process of formulating its self-identity, and it was also entering the Korean peninsula for the first time, where it faced a backlash from the already-established doctrinal schools.

Finally, there is the use of "symbolic exegesis," which exemplifies the tendency to legitimize Chan practice by recourse to key concepts and passages from canonical texts. 17 This practice is mainly associated with the Northern school, but as it can also be found in texts produced by other schools of Chan, and it can perhaps be viewed as an exegetical strategy that was popular throughout the early Chan movement. The origins of symbolic exegesis can be traced back to Zhiyi's commentary of the Lotus Scripture. Within early Chan literature examples of it can be found in diverse texts such as the Platform Scripture, various Northern school manuscripts, the records of Shenhui, and the Lidai fabao ji. Its employment as an exegetical tool involved redefining traditional Buddhist practices and rubrics, which were reinterpreted as metaphors in a manner peculiar to the nascent Chan movement. One of the key objective of this procedure was the establishing of close connection between Chan mediation and key ideas found in the scriptures. Let me give a couple of examples. The first one comes from the Lidai fabao ji, where Wuzhu correlates the three propositions taught by Wuxiang (no remembering, no thought, and no forgetting) with the traditional Buddhist rubric of the three trainings (observance of the precepts, concentration, and wisdom), and then collapses them all into the Chan formula of "no thought."


The Minister (Du Hongjian 杜鴻漸 [709-796]) asked: "Did Rev. Kim (Wuxiang) talk about no remembering, no thought, and no forgetting?" The Reverend (Wuzhu) relied: "Yes." The Minister also asked: "Are these three propositions one or three?" The Reverend relied: "They are one, not three. No remembering is [the observance of] precepts, no thought is concentration, and no forgetting is wisdom." He also said: "Not giving rise to thoughts is the precepts, not giving rise to thoughts is concentration, and not giving rise to thoughts is wisdom. No thought is the complete perfection of the precepts, meditation, and wisdom."18

The second example comes from the Dunhuang version of the Platform Scripture. In its discussion of meditation, the text offers the following peculiar explanations of "sitting meditation" (zuochan 座禪) and "meditative absorption" (chanding 禪定).


Now that we know that this is so, what is it in this teaching that we call "sitting in meditation" (zuochan)? In this teaching "sitting" means without any obstruction anywhere, outwardly and under all circumstances, not to activate thoughts. "Meditation" is internally to see the original nature and not become confused. And what do we call Chan meditation (chanding) ? Outwardly to exclude form is "chan"; inwardly to be unconfused is meditation (ding). Even though there is form on the outside, when internally the nature is not confused, then, from the outset, you are of yourself pure and of yourself in meditation. The very contact with circumstance itself causes confusion. Separation from form on the outside is "chan"; being untouched on the inside is meditation (ding). Being "chan" externally and mediation (ding) internally, it is known as Chan meditation (chanding). 19

The employment of symbolic exegesis as a kind of "expedient means" points to the fact that early Chan made strong efforts to trace its doctrines back to the scriptures. That was part of a strategy developed as Chan was moving from the margins and into the mainstream, aimed at convincing its audiences that its teachings were true expression of the Buddhadharma, perhaps even the most authentic one.20 If bizarre metaphors and forced interpretations could help to achieve that goal, Chan teachers apparently were quite willing to use them.

Use of the Scriptures within the Hongzhou School

As we turn to the Hongzhou school, it is conspicuous that in its records there is no evidence of the use of either symbolic exegesis or any other comparable strategies for bridging the gap between Chan and the canonical tradition. At the same time, there are also serious problems with the conventional interpretation of the Hongzhou school as the first Chan tradition to completely break away from the putative Indian character of Buddhism-which among other things involved repudiation of canonical authority-and pave the way for a completely new and uniquely Chinese form of Chan. The primary textual evidence that shapes such perception of the Hongzhou school consists of numerous stories that depict the idiosyncratic saying and doings of Mazu and his great disciples. In these short exchanges, which are by far the best-known part of Chan lore, traditional Buddhist discourse is completely forsaken and there is hardly any mention of conventional doctrines and practices. Instead, we are presented with brief accounts that depict Chan teachers' lively and unpredictable acts, with focus on the ostensibly spontaneous interactions with their disciples.

Examples of well-known stories that are readily identified with the iconoclastic attitudes and acts of Chan teachers include those about Nanquan killing a cat,21 Mazu kicking Shuilao and sending him down into a puddle of water,22 and the burning of a Buddha image by Danxia, who supposedly used the wood to warm himself on a cold winter day.23 As I have show in a recent publication, the problem with this interpretation is that it is based on untenable evidence.24 None of the stories that are responsible for Mazu's iconoclastic image were created before the mid-tenth century, some 160 years after his death. The same is true of all other Chan stories that feature his disciples and other monks from the Tang period. In effect, the accepted interpretation of the Hongzhou school's radical character and its repudiation of canonical traditions is based on later fictional stories that really have little to do with its actual teachings and practices.

If that is the case, then what kind of attitudes towards the scriptures and canonical authority do we find in the earliest sources, which include epigraphic evidence, transcripts of sermons and lectures, texts composed by Chan teachers, and additional materials from non-Buddhist sources (especially poetry and prose composed by noted literati)? In the records of the Hongzhou school there are very few instances where there is an explicit invocation of canonical authority. A rare exception is the following passage that opens one of Mazu's sermons.


The Patriarch (Mazu) said to the assembly, "All of you should believe that your mind is Buddha, that this mind is identical with Buddha. The Great Master Bodhidharma came from India to China and transmitted the One Mind teaching of Mahayana so that it can lead you all to awakening. Fearing that you will be too confused and will not believe that this One Mind is inherent in all of you, he used the Lankāvatāra Scripture to seal the sentient beings' mind-ground. Therefore, in the Lankāvatāra Scripture, mind is the essence of all the Buddha's teachings, no gate is the Dharma-gate."25

This passage is interesting because it indicates that Mazu advocated the association of Chan with the Lankāvatāra Scripture. As was already noted, such connection is usually associated with the Northern school. By extension, the passage can also be read as implying Mazu's rejection of the putative link between the "orthodox" Southern school and the Diamond Scripture that was invented by Shenhui and his cohorts.

Explicit acknowledgement of scriptural authority of the kind evident in the above quotation is atypical of the Hongzhou school. Direct references to specific scriptures are relatively rare in the records of Mazu and his disciples, but that does not mean that they rejected the canon or repudiated its authority. To the contrary, one of the striking features of their records is that they are filled with scriptural quotations and allusions, even though the full extend of their usage of canonical sources is not immediately obvious and its discernment requires familiarity with Buddhist literature. Here is an example from one of Mazu's sermons.


Those who seek the Dharma should not seek for anything. Outside of mind there is no other Buddha, outside of Buddha there is no other mind. Not attaching to good and not rejecting evil, without reliance on either purity or defilement, one realizes that the nature of offense is empty: it cannot be found in each thought because it is without self-nature. Therefore, the three realms are mind-only and all phenomena in the universe are marked by a single Dharma. Whenever we see form, it is just seeing the mind. The mind does not exist by itself; its existence is due to form. Whatever you are saying, it is just a phenomenon which is identical with the principle. They are all without obstruction, and the fruit of the way to awakening is also like that.

At first sight, if one is not familiar with classical Buddhist literature one might assume that this passage expresses a religious or philosophical viewpoint that is unique to the Chan school. After all, we are repeatedly told and led to believe that Chan teachings, especially those formulated by Mazu and his followers, are unique expressions of sublime wisdom and are unlike the teachings of the other Buddhist traditions. Now let us have a look at another translation of the same passage:

[The Vimalakīrti Scripture says] "Those who seek the Dharma should not seek for anything." [As it is taught in the Huayan Scripture,] Outside of mind there is no other Buddha, outside of Buddha there is no other mind. [ As taught in the Mahāsamnipata-sūtra and the Huayan Scripture,] Not attaching to good and not rejecting evil, without reliance on either purity or defilement, one realizes that [as explained in Foshuo Foming Scripture 佛說佛名經 and other Buddhist texts,] "the nature of offense is empty": it cannot be found in each thought because it is without self-nature. Therefore, [as explained in the Huayan and Lankāvatāra scriptures] "the three realms are mind-only," and [as stated in the Faju jing] "all phenomena in the universe are marked by a single Dharma." Whenever we see form, it is just seeing the mind. The mind does not exist by itself; its existence is due to form. Whatever you are saying, it is just [what Dushun's Fajie guanmen refers to as] "a phenomenon which is identical with the principle." [As it is said in Huayan texts,] they are "all without obstruction," and the fruit of the way to awakening is also like that. 26

Actually, it is the same translation. All I did was follow standard academic practice by adding quotation marks to quoted passages and supplying the original sources of the quotations and other passages that contain ideas borrowed from other texts. With that, what at first sight appeared to be a paragraph of distinctively Chan teachings turned out to be little more then a collection of canonical quotations accompanied by comments that explicate or draw connections between the scriptural passages. This passage is by no means unique in that regard. In fact, it is quite typical. Here is one more example from another sermon by Mazu:


[The Vimalakīrti Scripture says,] "Not obliterating the conditioned and not dwelling in the unconditioned." The conditioned is the function of the unconditioned, while the unconditioned is the essence of the conditioned. Because of not dwelling on support, it has been said [in the Huayan Scripture that it is] "like space which rests on nothing." [According to Dasheng qixin lun,] the mind can be spoken of [in terms of its two aspects,] "birth and death, and suchness." [As pointed out in early Chan texts,] The mind as suchness is like a clear mirror which can reflect images.27 The mirror symbolizes the mind, while the images symbolize the dharmas. If the mind grasps at dharmas, then it gets involved in external causes and conditions, which is the meaning of birth and death. If the mind does not grasp at dharmas, that is suchness.28

There is really very little in these passages that readily identifies them as teachings unique to the Chan school. On the contrary, the ideas presented in them represented mainstream doctrinal positions that were widely accepted in the world of Tang Buddhism. Having said that, I do not mean to imply that there is noting new in the teachings propounded by the Hongzhou school. Of course, Mazu and his disciples came up with some original and interesting ideas. But the main point, as far as the present discussion is concerned, is that the records of Mazu and his followers are full of quotations and allusions to a vide range of canonical texts. That clearly contradicts their stereotypical depiction as iconoclasts who repudiated the canonical tradition and whose radical Chan teachings harbored strong bibliophobic tendencies.29

Chan's attitudes towards writing in general, and the scriptures in particular, were never as simple as popular slogans seem to indicate. Such sentiments are readily discernable in the widely-quoted definition of Chan as "A special transmission outside of the teachings, which does not institutes words and letters," created during the Song period. 30 Notwithstanding the popularity of such mottos, it is questionable if the debasement of writing and denunciation of scripture were true of any mainstream Chan tradition. 31 But it is clear that it is completely mistaken to attribute such sentiments to the Hongzhou school.

Chan monks' reliance on the Buddhist canon should not come as that much of a surprise if one were to pay close attention to the biographical data that deals with their formative education, and if one were to take into account the general religious milieu of Tang Buddhism, including the prevalent attitudes and sentiments towards the scriptures. The leaders of the Hongzhou school were well-read monks conversant with the canonical texts and traditions. A number of them, including Mazu and Baizhang, came from upper class families, and they also received classical Confucian education during their youth. In many (probably most) instances Chan monks dedicated the early years of their monastic training to the study of Buddhist scriptures, a common pattern followed by the elite segments of the Tang clergy. A good example of such monk is Baizhang. Born in the Wang clan of Taiyuan, one of Tang's greatest aristocratic clans, after his ordination in 767 Baizhang dedicated himself to study of the scriptures.32 The records of Baizhang's late teachings reveal that the extensive knowledge of the canonical tradition he acquired during the formative years of his monastic vocation continued to inform his religious outlook until the end of his life. The transcripts of Baizhang's sermons and conversations with his disciples are full of scriptural quotations and allusions, and reveal a monk who was at ease with both the contemplative and doctrinal aspects of Buddhism.

If, like their earlier Chan predecessors, Mazu and his disciples made free and extensive use of canonical texts, are there any major differences in terms of the specific texts they used? The table presented below list some of the scriptures quoted or alluded to in three important records from the Hongzhou school's literary output: Mazu's sermons, 33 Dazhu's Dunwu yaomen, 34 and Baizhang's Baizhang guanglu.35 The list is not exhaustive since the three texts, especially Dazhu's treatise and Baizhang's record, quote a wider range of canonical works.

Table 1. Scriptural quotation/allusions in the records of the Hongzhou school {table1}


Mazu's sermons


Dunwu yaomen


Baizhang guanglu


Lotus Scripture 法華經




Huayan Sc. 華嚴經




Nirvana Sc. 涅盤經




Laṅkāvatāra Sc. 楞伽經




Prajñāpāramitā [36] 般若經




Mahāratnakūta Sc. 大寶積經



Mahāsamnipāta Sc. 大集經




Vimalakīrti Sc. 維摩經




Foming Sc. 佛名經




There is considerable overlap in the choice of scriptural texts that appear in the three Chan records. Sometimes the three records are even quoting or alluding to the same scriptural passages. Among all canonical texts the Vimalakīrti Scripture emerges as a clear favorite. That reflects the general popularity of this scripture during the Tang period, and its widespread acceptance within the Chan school as a canonical text whose teachings had close affinities with Chan. Each of the three monks also seems to have had other text(s) with which he felt greater affinity. In the case of Mazu, apparently he was fond of the Lankāvatāra Scripture, while Dazhu (and to a lesser extend Baizhang) show greater interest in scriptures belonging to the Prajñāpāramitā corpus, among which the popular Diamond Scripture is quoted most often by far.

The texts listed in the above table represented the most popular Mahayana scriptures that were widely read by monks and laity during the Tang period (and, for that matter, throughout the history of Buddhism in China). Moreover, these same texts (along with the other Chinese texts mentioned below) are pretty much the same as the ones that are quoted in earlier Chan texts. For instance, the records of the Hongzhou school quote practically the same canonical texts as the records of Shehui,36 the Northern school, and Mahāyāna (Moheyan), the Chan teacher who was the Chinese representative at the Buddhist council in Lhasa (all of which were discovered in Dunhuang).37

Though most of the quotations that appear in the above three records come from Chinese translations of Indian scriptures, Mazu, Dazhu, and Baizhang also quoted other sources, including apocryphal scriptures and other Chinese texts that were popular during the Tang. Some of the most important Chinese sources quoted in the three records are listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Apocryphal scriptures and other Chinese texts quoted/alluded to in the records of the Hongzhou school

Text Title

Mazu's sermons

Dunwu yaomen

Baizhang guanglu

Chanmen jing 禪門經




Faju jing法句經




Fanwang jing 梵網經




Shoulengyan jing 首楞嚴經




Dasheng qixin lun 大乗起信論




Zhao lun 肇論




Fu dashi's 傅大士 records




Chinese apocryphal scriptures were apparently read by the Hongzhou monks, but as can be seen from the two tables they were less popular than the Indian scriptures. The inclusion of Dasheng qixin lun in the list is not surprising, considering the immense importance of this text in the doctrinal development of Tang Buddhism, including Chan. 38 Its importance within the Hongzhou school was probably greater then the number of quotations indicate. Chan monks apparently were also fond of reading the records of eminent Buddhist leaders from the period of disunity. Among them, the most popular were Kumārajīva's disciple Sengzhao 僧肇 (374?-414) and the popular lay sage Fu dashi, both of whom are often quoted in Chan texts from the Tang period.

From the above analysis it is evident that if there was anything new in the Hongzhou school's attitude towards the scriptures and canonical authority, it is not to be found in its rejection of the scriptures or in its turning towards a new set of canonical texts. Rather, the subtle but significant shift in the Hongzhou school's attitude towards scriptural authority can be located in the manner canonical texts were employed in the production of new knowledge and the creation of distinct religious identity.

Evolving Attitudes Towards Scriptural Authority

When we compare the Hongzhou school's use of canonical materials with that of the earlier Chan movement, there are notable similarities but also significant divergence between the two. Although the texts that are cited in the records of Mazu and his disciples are pretty much the same as those quoted in earlier Chan texts, they are used in a somewhat different manner. The difference in usage is subtle, but it has serious ramifications for our understanding of Chan's evolution as a distinct school of Chinese Buddhism. In the passages from Mazu's record that were introduced above we saw how Chan teachers seamlessly wove into their sermons numerous scriptural quotations and allusions, usually without identifying their sources. The same propensity to imbed canonical passages or images into Chan sermons without divulging their provenance is also characteristic of other Hongzhou school texts, including Baizhang's Guanglu and Huangbo's Chuanxin fayao. In these texts scriptural citations and metaphors are integrated into the overall narrative structure of Chan sermons, without delineating specific structural boundaries or explicit markings between the excerpts from scriptures and the teachings of Chan teachers.

The tendency to quote a scripture without identifying the source, or even without indicating that certain passage is a quotation, was not unique to the Hongzhou school. Examples of similar usage can also be found in the writings of earlier Buddhist scholiasts, such as Zhiyi.39 Furthermore, in the Hongzhou school's records occasionally a scriptural quotations is marked as such, usually by prefacing it with the phrase "a scripture says" (jing yun 經云). There are also rare instances where the text provides the title of the canonical source that is being quoted. In other cases the text indicates that an idea or passage comes from another source by using a phrase such as "it has been said," but without identifying the original source of the quotation. The following passage from Baizhang guanglu exemplifies some of the ambiguities that characterize the use of canonical quotations in this type of Chan texts (with references to original sources and quotation marks supplied by the translator).


As is stated [in the Vimalakīrti Scripture,]"The Dharma has nothing it can be equated with," because it cannot be compared [to anything].40 [Jizang's commentary of the Lotus Scripture says,] "The Dharma-body is unconditioned, and it does not fall into all categories."41 Therefore it is said [in a commentary on the Vimalakīrti Scripture and/or the Zhaolun?] that the essence of the sage is nameless and cannot be expressed in words.42 It is like the simile [from the Dazhidu lun] about insects that can settle anywhere except that they are unable to settle on the top of burning flames. Sentient beings are also thus: they can form connections anywhere, except that they cannot form connections with the perfection of wisdom.43

This short passage (and there are many like it) highlights the problems one encounters when trying to unravel the complex webs of canonical quotations and allusions that are embedded in Baizhang's record and other similar texts. In part, the difficulty arises from the peculiar (and frequently imprecise) ways in which Baizhang is using canonical texts. That was probably largely due to the fact that he was quoting from memory. It also seems that he was not unduly concerned with academic pedantry and scholarly accuracy. The situation is further exacerbated by the broad scope of his knowledge of the canon and the wide range of texts he was using. It appears as if Baizhang had internalized the contents of large sections of the Buddhist canon to such an extent that he spontaneously used copious scriptural quotations and allusions as part of his natural speech.

How about the audience to which Mazu's and Baizhang's sermons were addressed? Were they able to discern the infusion of scriptural imagery and exegesis in the sermons of their teaches? The exact sources do not directly address these sorts of questions, but they provide us with some indirect clues. We can presume that the sermons where delivered in front of larger audiences that included individuals with different levels of education and knowledge of the canon. Notwithstanding such qualifiers, it is apparent that at least rudimentary knowledge of the key scriptures and doctrines was taken for granted within the religious communities where these sermons were delivered. It is important to bear in mind that the sermons were primarily directed at monastic congregations, whose members were expected to have at least basic knowledge of the canon. The second key audience were the literati and officials who frequented Chan monasteries. They were the best-educated members of medieval Chinese society, and a good number of them were conversant with Buddhist literature and possessed rather sophisticated knowledge of Buddhist doctrines.

Familiarity with canonical texts is evident in the questions posed to Chan teachers by their disciples. Many of the questions found in the early sources contain quotations from scriptures or extra-canonical works, and a number of questions simply ask for explanation of well-known scriptural passages. Here are a couple of examples from Baizhang's record. The first question also appears in an identical form in the record of Baizhang's disciple Huangbo.


A monk asked: "How is it that Excellence of Great Universal Wisdom Buddha sat at the site of awakening for ten eons without the Buddhadharma appearing to him, and without him achieving Buddhahood [as is described in the famous passage from the Lotus Scripture]?"44


Question: "What is the meaning of [the well-known saying from the Śūrangama Scripture], 'Empty space is born within great awareness, like a bubble being formed in the ocean.'"45

Far from revealing the kind of iconoclastic sentiments and anti-doctrinal tendencies usual associated with classical Chan, the records of key Hongzhou school figures show an inventive sense of rapprochement between Chan and canonical Buddhism. The structure of the sermons reveals how the integration of the two was symbolically enacted by the dissolution of the boundaries between the words of the Buddha and the words of Chan teachers. This blurring of distinctions between scriptural authority and the authority of Chan teachers conveys a sense of self-confidence and maturity on part of the Hongzhou school. Such confident stand in stands out against the overtly assertive efforts on the part of early Chan to show that its teachings are in harmony with the scriptures.

That self-confidence on part of the Hongzhou school especially stands in sharp contrast with the attitudes discernible in the records of earlier monks who found themselves on the margins of the Chan movement. Perhaps the best example of such monk is Shenhui. One generation Mazu's senior, Shenhui was best-known for his involvement in the sectarian debates between the so-called "Northern" and "Southern" schools of Chan. His desire to become a representative of the orthodox faction of Chan led to Shenhui's trenchant critique of the Northern school and his construction of a fictional patriarchal tradition.46 Like his Northern school adversaries, Shenhui was favorably inclined towards the use of the scriptures, and he promoted the unity of Chan and the canonical teachings. But his use of scriptures to lend legitimacy to his ideas went even further, and he was quite prepared to misuse scriptural quotations to score a point. In some cases scriptural passages were either misquoted or used merely as props for justifying ideas that were not at all present in the original texts, even if in the process of doing so the canonical teachings were manifestly misinterpreted.47 Such tendency can be seen in a dialogue between him and Dharma teacher Yuan, where he defends his outrageous claim that he is a tenth stage bodhisattva with a quotation from the Nirvana Scripture.48 (It is interesting to note that Shenhui's brazen boast that he is a tenth stage bodhisattva constitutes a pārājika offense, the most serious form of monastic transgression that leads to automatic exclusion from the order).

In contrast to Shenhui, in the records of Mazu and his disciples there is little to suggest that they were overly anxious to prove the orthodoxy of their teachings, nor is there any indication that they were willing to manipulate and misuse scriptural quotations to accomplish their objectives. The Hongzhou school had enough self-confidence to simply present its teachings as a genuine expression of authentic Buddhist religiosity. There is nothing to indicate that they felt compulsion to prove that their teachings were in accord with the canonical tradition, or that they were superior to those of other schools of Chan. The attitude evidenced in their records is not that of an outsider group trying to break into the mainstream religious establishment and position itself as part of it, or create an alternative to it. Effectively, their basic stance can be interpreted as implying: This are the essential teachings of Buddhism as understood and experienced by us; we invite you to consider them carefully.

To some extent, such attitudes reflected the religious personalities and communal ethos of Mazu and his followers. But in a more general sense, such confident stance reflected important changes that marked the transition from early to classical Chan. By the early ninth century the Hongzhou school's meteoric rise to preeminence led to its total eclipsing of all other schools of Chan . As we saw in Part 1 of the present volume, its success was reflected in its establishment of strong presence in the two capitals and all major provinces of the vast Tang empire, the widespread popularity of its teachers and teachings, and in its procurement of recognition and support from the Tang state and the ruling elites. All of that signaled the fact that the Hongzhou school had become an integral part of the Buddhist mainstream. As they felt secure in their positions as leaders of a respectable Buddhist tradition, Mazu's disciples probably did not feel strong pressure or need to bolster their status and reinforce their group legitimacy by aggressively appropriating the religious authority of the Buddhist canon, even as they made free use of the scriptures in their expositions of the path to spiritual awakening.

In that sense the Hongzhou school's usage of scriptural images and narratives, and in a more general sense its attitudes towards canonical authority, represent an important new development in the evolution of Chan attitudes towards the scriptures and the normative doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism. In the course of the formation of the Hongzhou school's identity, Mazu and his disciples adopted a stance of active yet somewhat low-key engagement with the canonical tradition. Rather than rejecting the scriptures and repudiating canonical authority, they appropriated them and present their Chan teachings as their very essence. In doing so, they struck a balance between acknowledging the authority and charisma of the hallowed traditions represented by the Buddhist canon on one hand, while at the same time they were able to adopt an independent stance and present they own teachings as expressions of genuine religious insight. The two were not necessarily in conflict because, from their point of view, their insights resonated with the deepest truths of Buddhism. While that implied the Chan teachers' role as transmitters of essential truths and insight, it also presented implicit critique of other established traditions that failed to grasp and communicate those truths. In that sense, their teachings were partially meant to serve as correctives to partial visions of the Path that were accepted in the world of Tang Buddhism.

As pointed out in Chapter 6, Mazu and his disciples reformulated religious ideas that were perceived as the crowning truths of the Buddhist canon, expressing them in ways that resonated with monks and literati interested in meditative praxis. Such approach can be understood in terms of the already-noted dialectic of iconoclasm and traditionalism, which informed the Hongzhou school's construction of its religious identify. The Hongzhou school's balancing act involved appropriate responses to two contrasting requirements. On one hand, Mazu and his disciples demonstrated their mastery and fidelity to hallowed Buddhist traditions that were largely identified with the canon. At the same time, they were able to construct for themselves a new religious identity by rejection and/or reformulation of important aspects of those traditions. The success of the Hongzhou school was largely due to the fact that they proved themselves more capable of meeting both challenges than their predecessors and potential competitors within the Chan movement.

Chan teachings such as Baizhang's "three phases" (discussed in the last chapter) combined an impression of intellectual sophistication with a sense of spiritual exigency, and conveyed the prospect of actualizing the immediacy of awakening within the context of everyday life. While Baizhang's teaching was an engaging new description of the path to spiritual awakening, at the same time it also conveyed deep insights about the nature of religious practice and experience that were at the core of Sinitic reformulations of Mahayana Buddhism. Baizhang framed his thoughts with the help of copious quotations from and allusions to canonical texts, while blurring the boundaries between his own ideas and those of the canonical tradition. The inclusion of scriptural quotations in Chan sermons conveyed a sense of rapprochement between Chan and the canonical tradition, and acknowledgment/respect for traditional religious authority. However, the dissolution of the boundaries between the words of the Buddha and the words of Chan teachers also suggests a new source of religious authority: the enlightened Chan teacher whose words and deeds embodied the truths of Buddhism.

It is possible to argue that later, especially during the Song period, Chan adopted more radical and sectarian approaches to defining spiritual authenticity and religious authority. But as far as the mid-Tang period is concerned, Chan was in the process of becoming an integral part of mainstream Buddhism, not a replacement for it. In the same vein, Chan teachers such as Mazu and Baizhang were becoming spokespersons for Buddhism, especially for its contemplative branch, rather then alternative foci of religious authority that existed outside of the main monastic order. In a sense, the emergence of the Hongzhou school and the transition to classical Chan represents a beginning of new chapter in the historical development of Chan. For the first time, Chan came to occupy a position that from that time onward became characteristic of its place within Chinese Buddhism. Namely, Chan was moving away from being one among the various Buddhist schools and was rejecting the proposition of acting as an alternative to established orthodoxies. Instead, Chan positioned itself at the very center of Chinese Buddhism, simultaneously representing its very core and essence, but also reaching outwardly and embracing other key elements of elite Buddhism, which of course included the scriptures and the canonical traditions.

Confucian Parallels

Before concluding this exploration of Chan attitudes towards canonicity, let me briefly note an interesting parallel in intellectual developments outside of Buddhism that took place during the same period. The preliminary observations introduced here are only meant to suggest an interesting topic for further scholarly research, rather than propose an interpretation of these events. The Hongzhou school's appearance on the Tang religious landscape took place during the years following the An Lushan rebellion. That was a fascinating historical period that among other things was marked by momentous changes in Tang intellectual life.49 In reference to the present subject, it is interesting to note that the subtle but significant shift in the Hongzhou school's attitudes towards the Buddhist canon paralleled changes in the attitudes towards Confucian canonical scholarship evidenced among scholars active during the post-rebellion period.

In the more decentralized scholarly world of the mid-Tang period, which was no longer dominated by the kinds of imperial commissions of large scholarly works that were prevalent during the early Tang, unofficial Confucian scholarship flourished. In their writings, Confucian scholars moved away from interpreting the canon in ways consistent with the state's concern with its legitimacy. Instead, they presented new ideas in which the classics were primarily utilized to justify their views about a wide range of issues with which they were concerned, including questions of religious beliefs.50 The development of such independent critical tradition in Confucian canonical learning led to what David McMullen has called the "deep interiorization" of the post-rebellion Confucian tradition.51

The guwen 古文 ("old-style writing") movement, whose best-known representatives were Han Yu 韓愚 (768-824) , Li Ao李翱 (772-841), and Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元 (773-819), represented an attempt to relate traditional intellectual concerns to the actualities of life in mid-Tang China. As they were attempting new ways of reading the Confucian classics without recourse to established commentarial traditions, but in light of the issues and problems that were relevant to their own time, in their writings guwen proponents adopted an activist tone and self-conscious reflectiveness that evoked similarity with the attitudes of Chan monks.52 For them appropriate course of action was based on personal acquisition of proper ideas, rather than on knowledge and imitation of normative cultural forms.53 Yet, while cultivated man were supposed to the able to think by themselves, values had to be grounded in "the way of the [ancient] sages" (shengren zhi dao 聖人之道).54 Like in the case of the Hongzhou school, the new attitudes towards canonicity involved formulation of new responses to received traditions, which at their core involved personal insights into the essential principles revealed by the scriptures/classics. That implied bringing new life into hallowed traditions by recapturing their substance and making them relevant to contemporary concerns and issues of vital import.

Obviously more research needs to be done before we can draw any firm conclusions about possible connections between Chan and Confucian scholarship during this period. In that respect, it is also interesting to note that there are examples of personal connections between Mazu's disciples and noted Confucians.55 Presently, we can simply consider that although the Hongzhou school's redefinition of canonical authority was shaped by other aspects of the internal development of Chan, at least to some extent it also reflected broader changes in the intellectual and social climates that defined the post-rebellion period.


1. The conference "paper" evolved into a chapter for a forthcoming volume on the Hongzhou school I am currently working on, which is how I am presenting it here. Although I have not made an effort to change the text's structure and deal with the cross-references, on the whole it can be read on its own as an independent study of the subject matter. return

2. Stanley Weinstein, "Imperial Patronage in the Formation of T'ang Buddhism," in Arthur F. Wright and Denis Twitchett, eds., Perspectives on the T'ang, p. 272. return

3. Ibid, p. 284. return

4. See Paul L. Swanson, Foundations of T'ien-t'ai Philosophy: The Flowering of the Two Truths Theory in Chinese Buddhism, pp. 123-56. return

5. Gaoseng zhuan 16, T 50.552b. return

6. T85.1283c-84c. return

7. See Philip B. Yampolsky, trans., The Platform S(tra of the Sixth Patriarch, p. 34. return

8. Yang Zengwen, ed., Shenhui heshang chanhua lu, p. 34. return

9. Ibid, p. 35; translation from John R. McRae, Evangelical Zen: Shen-hui (684-758), the Sudden Teaching, and the Southern School of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism (forthcoming). return

10. T 48.340a; Yampolsky, trans., The Platform S(tra, p. 149. return

11. Hirai Shunei, "The School of Mount Niu-t'ou and the School of Pao-T'ang Monastery" (translated by Silvio Vita), East and West 37/1-4, p. 14. For more information about the connections between early Chan and Sanlun see Suzuki Tetsuo, Chūgoku zenshūshi ronkō, pp. 93-116. return

12. The term jueguan (obliteration of contemplation or cognition) that appears in the title of Farong's treatise originally comes from Jizang's 吉藏 (549-623) Dasheng xuanlun. See John R. McRae, "The Ox-head School of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism: From Early Ch'an to the Golden Age," in Robert M. Gimello and Peter Gregory, eds., Studies in Ch'an and Hua-yen, p. 209. For discussion of parallels/connections between the contents of Jueguan lun and teachings associated with Bodhidharma see Sekiguchi Shindai, Daruma no kenkyū, pp. 321-31. return

13. Chanyuan zhuquanji duxu 2, T 48.402c, and Zhonghua chuan xindi chanmen shizi chengxi tu, XZJ 110.436a-b; see also Jan Yun-hua, "Tsung-mi: His Analysis of Ch'an Buddhism," in T'oung Pao 58 (1972), pp. 38-39, and Peter N. Gregory, Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism, pp. 234-36. return

14. Yanagida Seizan, trans., Shoki no zenshi II: Rekidai hōbōki, p. 39. return

15. See Yanagida, "The Li-tai fa-pao chi and the Ch'an Doctrine of Sudden Awakening," p. 36. return

16. For a study and translation of this text see Robert Buswell, The Formation of Ch'an Ideology in China and Korea: The Vajrasamādhi-Sūtra, A Buddhist Apocriphon. return

17. The expression "symbolic exegesis" comes from the work of Bernard Faure; see Faure, The Will to Orthodoxy, p. 41. McRae uses the term "contemplative analysis," which is a translation of guanxhin shi 觀心釋; see McRae, The Northern School, pp. 201-02. return

18. T 51.189a, and Yanagida, trans., Shoki no zenshi II, p. 200. Similar idea can be found in the records of Shenhui. See Hirai Shunei, "The School of Mount Niu-t'ou and the School of Pao-T'ang Monastery," pp. 360-61, and Yanagida, "The Li-tai fa-pao chi and the Ch'an Doctrine of Sudden Awakening," pp. 29-30. return

19. T 48.339a; translation from Yampolsky, trans., The Platform S(tra, p. 140. Note that Yamposky uses a different rendering for chanding that the one suggested by me above. return

20. McRae, The Northern School, p. 198. McRae makes such assertion in reference to the Northern School. I think the same can be said of the authors/editors of Shenhui's records and the Platform Scripture. return

21. CDL 8.133 (T 51.258a), Chang Chung-yuan, trans., Original Teachings of Chan Buddhism, p. 156. return

22. MY, XZJ 119.408a; and Cheng Chien, Sun-Face Buddha, p. 16. There is a different version of this story in Gu zunsu yulu; see XZJ 118.80d, and Cheng Chien, Sun-Face Buddha, p. 92, n. 58. return

23. ZTJ 4.96-97; CDL 14.262. The story is illustrated in a painting by Yintuolou, with an inscription by Chushi Fengqi (1297-1371), painted during the Yuan dynasty and now in the possession of Nanzenji temple in Kyoto. return

24. Mario Poceski, "Mazu yulu and the Creation of the Chan Records of Sayings," in Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, eds., The Zen Canon (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2003). return

25. MY, XZJ 119.405d-06a; Cheng-chien, trans., Sun-Face Buddha, p. 62. return

26. MY, XZJ 119.406a; translation adapted (with minor modifications) from Cheng-chien, trans., Sun-Face Buddha, p. 62. return

27. For a discussion of the metaphor of a mirror see McRae, The Northern School, pp. 144-46. As McRae points out, the metaphor was connected to the Yogācāra doctrine of the "great perfect mirror wisdom," one of the four wisdoms that emerge when ālaya is transformed at its basis with the realization of enlightenment. Baizhang seems to have been aware of this connection, as in a number of passages in BGL he refers to the mirror wisdom. return

28. MY, XZJ 119.406d; translation adapted (with minor modifications) from Cheng-chien, trans., Sun-Face Buddha, p. 67. return

29. A representative visual representation of such attitude is the painting of the Sixth Patriarch destroying a sūtra (六祖破經) by Liang Kai (Southern Song), in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum. return

30. The verse of which these two lines are a part first appeared in Zuting shiyuan, XZJ 113.66c. For the origins of the individual lines of this verse see Yanagida, Shoki zenshū shiso no kenkyū, pp. 461-62, 470-77. return

31. I think that the "special transmission outside of the teachings" motto did not really represent the attitudes of the mainstream Chan movement at any historical period, nor does it reflect the manner in which canonical literature was used by the Chan school. The statement should perhaps best be read as an example of the strategies that the early Song advocates of sectarian Chan identity developed during the ideological battles waged in order to assert the uniqueness and superiority of Chan vis-à-vis the other competing Buddhist traditions. return

32. See the discussion of his life in Chapter 3. return

33. This includes all five extant sermons of Mazu, which do not appear together as a single text. For a useful presentation of the Chinese texts of the extant versions of each sermon that lends itself to easy comparison see Yanagida, "Goroku no rekishi," pp. 484-89, 496-98, 504-07, 512. return

34. Because of the large number of quotations from diverse sources that appear in Dunwu yaomen, in this and the following table I have not included a number of less known texts which are only quoted once or twice by Dazhu. Examples of such texts include Fangkuang jing and Fo shuo jiuzhi jing. For a listing of texts quoted by Dazhu see Scott Dennis Peterman, "The Legend of Huihai" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1986), pp. 369-71. return

35. Because of the lack of critical editions and studies of Baizhang's text, and the manner in which it quotes canonical sources (see below), it is highly plausible that I have not been able to identify all quotations from the sources listed in the table; the actual number of quotations/allusions that appear in BGL is probably higher then it is indicated in the table. return

36. For a useful summary of the canonical sources quoted in Shehui's records see the table in Suzuki, Chūgoku zenshūshi ronkō, p. 128. return

37. See Paul Demiéville, Le concile de Lhasa: une controverse sur le quiétisme entre bouddhistes de l'Inde et de la Chine au VIIIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne, p. 160. For more information about Mahāyāna see Luis O. Gómez, "The Direct and Gradual Approaches of Zen Master Mahayana: Fragments of the Teachings of Mo-ho-yen," in Gimello and Gregory, eds., Studies in Ch'an and Hua Yen, pp. 69-167, and Yamaguchi Zuihō, "Makaen no zen," in Shinohara Hisao and Tanaka Ryōshō, eds., Tonkō butten to zen, pp. 379-407. return

38. See Kamata Shigeo, "Ch(goku zen shisō keisei no kyōgakuteki haikei: Daijō kishinron o ch(shin to shite," in Tōyō bunka kenky(jo kiyō 49 (1969), pp. 98-109. return

39. See Paul Swanson's discussion in his "Apocryphal Texts in Chinese Buddhism: T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's use of Apocryphal Scriptures," in A. van der Kooij and K. van der Toorn, eds., Canonization and Decanonization, p. 249. return

40. Weimojie suoshuo jing 維摩詰所說經, T14.0540a; Burton Watson, trans., The Vimalakīrti Sūtra, p. 38. return

41. Fahua youyi 法華遊意, T34.640b. The first part of the sentence, "The Dharma-body is unconditioned," also appears in Sengzhao's commentary of the Vimalakīrti Scripture; see Zhu weimojie jing 注維摩詰經 T38. 355a, 360a, 412a. I suspect Baizhang is conflating (or confusing) the two commentaries. return

42. Alternative translation could read "the sagely essence..." I have been unable to find any text where the exact sentence appears. The closest is a sentence from a fragmentary commentary of the Vimalakīrti Scripture, which reads: "the essence of the true nature of reality is nameless and cannot be expressed in words." Weimojie jing shu 維摩經疏 3, T85.381c. Similar ideas are also expressed in the "Nirvana is Nameless Treatise" in Zhaolun (see T45.157a-58b), which is probably the text Baizhang is referring to. In addition, similar statement, which reads "the self-essence is nameless" (ziti wuming 自體無名), appears in Baozang lun 寶藏論, T45.144b. return

43. BGL, XZJ 118.83c-d; cf. Cleary, Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang, p. 35 (note the unidentified quotations and misplaced quotation marks). The last two sentences allude to a passage in Dazhidu lun 大智度論 94, T25.717a. return

44. BGL, XZJ 118.86b; Cleary, Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang, p. 52. For the original passage in the Lotus Scripture see Miaofa lianhua jing 3, T 9.22b, and Watson, trans., The Lotus Sutra, p. 119. return

45. BGL, XZJ 118.86c; Cleary, Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang, p. 53. return

46. As pointed out by Faure, sectarian activities like those engaged in by Shenhui represented a lack of richness of tradition and a sense of personal insecurity on part of him and his followers. Faure, The Will to Orthodoxy, p. 9. return

47. For a discussion of Shenhui's ingenious (mis)use of scriptural quotations see Suzuki Tetsuo, Chūgoku zenshūshi ronkō, pp. 132-34. return

48. Yang Zengwen, ed., Shenhui heshang chanhua lu, p. 24. return

49. The intellectual changes that occurred during this period have been studied by a number of scholars, starting with Pulleyblank's seminal article, and more recently by McMullen, Bol, Hartman, and others. See Edwin Pulleyblank, "Neo-Confucianism and Neo-Legalism in T'ang Intellectual Life, 755-805," in Arthur F. Wright, ed., The Confucian Persuasion, pp. 77-111; David McMullen, State and Scholars in T'ang China; and Peter Kees Bol, "This Culture of Ours": Intellectual Transitions in T'ang and Sung China, pp. 108-47. return

50. David McMullen, State and Scholars in T'ang China, pp. 69-70. return

51. See Ibid., p. 70. return

52. See Charles Hartman, Han Yü and the T'ang Search for Unity, pp. 5-8. return

53. Peter Bol, "This Culture of Ours," p. 109. return

54. Bol, "This Culture of Ours," p. 125. return

55. The connections between Li Ao and Mazu's disciples are noted in Chapter 3. return