Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China
Its History and Method [*]
By Hu Shih

Philosophy East and West
V. 3, No. 1 (January, 1953)
pp. 3-24

Copyright 1953 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA



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    For more than a quarter of a century, my learned friend. Dr. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, formerly of the Otani University, Kyoto, Japan, has been interpreting and introducing Zen Buddhism to the Western world. Through his untiring effort and through his many books on Zen, he has succeeded in winning an audience and a number of followers, notably in England.

    As a, friend and as a historian of Chinese thought, I have followed Suzuki's work with keen interest. But I have never concealed from him my disappointment in his method of approach. My greatest disappointment has been that, according to Suzuki and his disciples, Zen is illogical, irrational, and, therefore, beyond our intellectual understanding. In his book Living by Zen Suzuki tells us:

If we are to judge Zen from our common-sense view of things, we shall find the ground sinking away under our feet. Our so-called rationalistic way of thinking has apparently no use in evaluating the truth or untruth of Zen. It is altogether beyond the ken of human understanding. All that we can therefore state about Zen is that its uniqueness lies in its irrationality or its passing beyond our logical comprehension. [1]

It is this denial of the capability of the human intelligence to understand and evaluate Zen that I emphatically refuse to accept. Is the so-called Ch'an or Zen really so illogical and irrational that it is "altogether beyond the ken of human understanding" and that our rational or rationalistic way of thinking is of no use "in evaluating the truth and untruth of Zen"?

    The Ch'an (Zen) movement is an integral part of the history of Chinese Buddhism, and the history of Chinese Buddhism is an integral part of the general history of Chinese thought. Ch'an can be properly understood only in its historical setting just as any other Chinese philosophical school must be studied and understood in its historical setting.

*. This essay, substantially with little change but without the Chinese characters, will be included in a volume entitled Vision and Action: Essays in Honor of Horace Kallen on His Seventieth Birthday, soon to be published by the Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N. J.

1. Suzuki, Living by Zen (Tokyo: Sanseido Press, 1949), p. 20.



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    The main trouble with the "irrational" interpreters of Zen has been that they deliberately ignore this historical approach. "Zen," says Suzuki, "is above space-time relations, and naturally even above historical facts." [2] Any man who takes this unhistorical and anti-historical position can never understand the Zen movement or the teaching of the great Zen masters. Nor can he hope to make Zen properly understood by the people of the East or the West. The best he can do is to tell the world that Zen is Zen and is altogether beyond our logical comprehension.

    But if we restore the Zen movement to its "space-time relations," that is, place it in its proper historical setting, and study it and its seemingly strange teachings as "historical facts," then, but not until then, an intelligent and rational understanding and appreciation of this great movement in Chinese intellectual and religious history may yet be achieved.



    What follows is a new history of the Chinese Ch'an (Zen) movement which I have reconstructed on the basis of authentic records [3] hitherto neglected or distorted but now clarified and strongly supported by eighth- and ninth-century documents hidden away for over a thousand years in a scaled-cave library in the desert region of Tunhuang 敦煌 in modern Kansu and only recently edited and published in China and Japan. [4] Both Suzuki and I have

2. Essays in Zen Buddhism (London: Luzac and Company, 1927), Second Series, p. 189.

3. These records include the following:
A.    Wang Wei
王維 (699-759), Liu-Tsu Neng-Ch'an-Shih Pei 六祖能禪師碑 ("Biographical Monument of the Ch'an Master Hui-neng") in T'ang Wen Ts'ui 唐文粹 , section 63.

B.    Tsung-mi 宗密 (died 841), Yuan-Chiao-Ching Ta-Shu Shih-I Ch'ao 圓覺經大疏釋義鈔 (A Detailed Commentary on the Yuan-Chiao-Ching, Suutra of Perfect Enlightenment) in the Kyoto Supplement of the Tripi.taka, I. xiv. 3b, containing biographical notes on Hui-neng and Shen-hui.

C.    Tsung-mi, Ch'an-Yuan-Chu-Ch'uan-Chi Tu Hsu 禪源諸詮集都序 (General Preface to the Collection of Source-Material of the Ch'an Schools -- The Fountainheads of Ch'an") in Taishoo Tripi.taka, 2015, 48.

D.    Chan-ming 贊寧 (918-999), Sung Kao-Seng Chuan 宋高僧傳 (The Sung Series of Biographies of Eminent Monks), Book 8, containing the biographies of Hui-neng and Shen-hui.

4. Of these newly discovered materials -- the Tunhuang Manuscripts -- I wish to mention here only the following published ones:

A.    Shen-Hui Ho-Shang I Chi 神會和尚遺集 (The Surviving Works of the Monk Shen-Hui), consisting of three Tunhuang MSS. nos. 3047a, 3047b, and 3488, of the Paul Pelliot Collection at the Bibliotheque National in Paris and one MS. no. S.468, of the Sir Aurel Stein Collection at the British Museum. Edited, and published with a new biography of Shen-hui by Hu Shih, Shanghai, 1930. They are referred to in this paper as Shen-hui's Discourses.

    A complete French translation of Hu Shih's edition of these four MSS. has been published by Jacques Gernet under the title "Entretiens du Maitre de Dhyana Chen-houei du Ho-tso," in publications de l'ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient, Vol. XXXI, Hanoi, 1949. Gernet has also published "Biographie du Maitre Chen-houei du Ho-tso," in Journal Asiatique, Tome CCXXXIX, 1951.

B.    Ho-Tse Shen-Hui Ch'an-Shih Yu-Lu 荷澤神會禪師語錄 (Discourses of the Ch'an Master Shen-Hui of Ho-tse), consisting of another Tunhuang MS. more or less corresponding to the Pelliot MS. no. 3047a published by Hu Shih. This MS. came to the possession of Mitsui Ishii of Japan, who, in 1932, made a collotype reprint of it for private circulation. In 1934, Suzuki collated the Ishii MS. with the Hu Shih edition and published a new edition in movable type under the above title. This MS. lacks the beginning parts (pp. 97-103 of Hu Shih ed.), but contains additional material at the end (pp. 49-67 of Suzuki ed.), including a sketch of the life-story of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng (pp. 60-64).



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taken part in the editing and publishing of some of the newly discovered materials.

    The story will begin with the year A.D. 700, when the Empress Wu 武后 (who reigned as "Emperor" from 690 to 705 ) invited an old Ch'an monk of the La^nkaa School 伽宗 [5] to pay her a visit at the capital city of Changan. The monk was Shen-hsiu 神秀, who was then already over ninety years old and had long been famous for his dhyaana (meditation) practice and ascetic life at his hilly retreat in the Wutang Mountains 武當山 in modern Hupei. The imperial invitation was so earnest and insistent that the aged monk finally accepted.

    When he arrived in 701, he had to be carried in a chair to the imperial audience. The Empress was said to have done him the unusual honor of curtsying and making him a guest in one of her palaces. Her two emperor-sons (whom she had deposed successively in 684 and 690 ) and the whole Court worshipped him and sat at his feet. For four years he was honored as "the Lord of the Law at the Two National Capitals of Changan and Loyang, and the Teacher of Three Emperors." When he died in 705, he was mourned by the Court and hundreds of thousands of the populace. By imperial order, three monasteries were built in his memory, one at the Capital, one at his birthplace in Honan, and one at the place of his ch'an life. A brother of the two emperors and Chang Yueh 張說, the great prose writer of the day, wrote his biographical monuments.

    In Chang Yueh's text, this genealogical line of Shen-hsiu's Buddhist descent was made public:

1. Bodhidharma 菩提達摩 [6] 4. Tao-hsin 道信 (died 651)
2. Hui-k'o 慧可 5. Hung-jen 弘忍 (died 674)
3. Seng Ts'an 僧粲 6. Shen-hsiu 神秀

5. The School of La^nkaa was named after the La^nkaavataara Suutra which its founder, Bodhidharma, was said to have told his followers to regard as "the only translated Scripture which, if followed in conduct, may lead to salvation." The school was noted for the ascetic (t'ou-t'o, dhuuta in Sanskrit) life of its followers, each monk allowing himself only one dress, one bowl and two needles, and begging one meal a day, and living under trees or in caves or hills faraway from human dwelling places. See Hu Shih, "Leng-Chia Tsung K'ao" 楞伽叢考 (A Study of the La^nkaa School) in Hu Shih Lun Hsueh Chin Chu 胡適論學近著 (Shanghai: The Commercial Press, 1935), pp. 198-238.

6. For a traditional account of Bodhidharma, see Suzuki, Essays, First Series, pp. 163-178. For a more critical account, see Hu Shih, "Development of Zen Buddhism in China," The Chinese Social and Political Science Review, Vol. XV, no. 4, 486-489.
    According to my studies, Bodhidharma arrived in South China about 470-475 A.D. and lived in China for about fifty years, mostly in the North. This view differs radically from the traditional story which says that he arrived in China in 520 or 527 and that he returned to India after only nine years of sojourn in China.



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After Shen-hsiu's death, two of his disciples, P'u-chi 普寂 (died 739) and I-fu 義福 (died 732), continued to be honored as National Teachers of the Empire. In their biographical monuments after death, the same genealogical line was mentioned.

    This list remained unchallenged for thirty years. It was probably accepted as one of the several lines of descent in the La^nkaa school since the days of Bodhidharma.

    But in the year 734, when P'u-chi was still at the height of his power and prestige, a southern monk by the name of Shen-hui 神會 stood up at a large gathering in a monastery in Huatai 滑臺 in modern Honan and openly challenged the line of descent claimed by Shen-hsiu and his school as not true and not historical.

    "Bodhidharma," said this strange monk, "gave to Hui-k'o a robe (chia-sha 袈裟 ) as testimonial of the transmission of the true Law. This robe was handed down by Hui-k'o to his chosen successor, and in four generations it came to Hung-jen. But Hung-jen gave it, not to Shen-hsiu, but to Hui-neng 慧能 of Shaochou 韶州 in the South." And he went on to say: "Even Shen-hsiu himself always said that the robe of transmission had gone to the South. That is why he never claimed in his life-time that he was the sixth successor. But now the Ch'an master P'u-chi claims that he is the seventh generation, thereby falsely establishing his teacher, Shen-hsiu, to be the sixth successor. That is not to be permitted."

    One monk at the meeting raised this warning: "You are attacking the Ch'an master P'u-chi who is nationally known and nationally honored. Are you not risking your own life?" To this Shen-hui replied: "I have called this solemn gathering for the sole purpose of determining the true teaching and settling a great question of right and wrong -- for the benefit of all who desire to learn the Truth. I do not care for my own life."

    And he declared that the teaching of Shen-hsiu and P'u-chi was false, because it recognized only Gradual Enlightenment, while "the great teachers of the School, throughout six generations, have all taught 'the sword must pierce directly through,' directly pointing to the sudden realization of one's nature: they never talked about gradations of enlightenment. All those who want to learn the Tao (Way) must achieve Sudden Enlightenment to be followed by Gradual Cultivation. It is like child-birth, which is a sudden



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affair, but the child will require a long process of nurture and education before he attains his full bodily and intellectual growth."

    And he condemned the formula of dhyaana practice taught by P'u-chi and his fellow students of the great Shen-hsiu -- a fourfold formula of "concentrating the mind in order to enter dhyaana, settling the mind in that state by watching its forms of purity, arousing the mind to shine in insight, and finally controlling the mind for its inner verification." Shen-hui said all this is "hindrance to bodhi (enlightenment)." And he swept aside all forms of sitting in meditation (tso-ch'an 坐禪, Japanese, zazen) as entirely unnecessary. He said: "If it is right to sit in meditation, then why should Vimalakiirti scold Saariputta for sitting in meditation in the woods?" "Here in my school, to have no thoughts is meditation-sitting, and to see one's original nature is dhyaana (ch'an)."

    Thus Shen-hui proceeded from denunciation of the most highly honored school of the empire to a revolutionary pronouncement of a new Ch'an which renounces ch'an itself and is therefore no ch'an at all. This doctrine of Sudden Enlightenment he does not claim as his own theory or that of his teacher, the illiterate monk Hui-neng of Shaochou, but only as the true teaching of all the six generations of the school of Bodhidharma. [7]

    All this, according to the newly discovered documents, took place in 734 in a monastery in Huatai, which was a provincial capital fairly far away from the great cities of Changan and Loyang. In 739, the Ch'an master P'u-chi died. In his biographical monument written by the famous Li Yung 李邕 (678-747), the genealogical line from Bodhidharma to Shen-hsiu was repeated with the significant statement that, before his death, he told his disciples, "I was entrusted by my deceased Master with the transmission of the Secret Seal of the Law," which had come down from Bodhidharma. Was this an indirect reply to Shen-hui's attack by "deliberately emphasizing that the genealogical line was the only line of secret apostolic succession?

    In 745, the heretic monk Shen-hui was called to the Ho-tse Monastery at Loyang, the eastern capital of the Empire, from which monastery was derived the title "The Master of Ho-tse 荷澤大師 " by which Shen-hui has been known to posterity. He arrived at Loyang at the advanced age of seventy-seven and remained there more than eight years. From his exalted pulpit in a great monastery, he now repeated his open challenge that the line of transmission claimed by the school of Shen-hsiu, I-fu, and P'u-chi was not historical, and that their teaching of Gradual Enlightenment was false. He was an eloquent preacher and a dramatic storyteller. Many apocryphal stories about Bodhi-

7. The doctrine of Sudden Enlightenment was first taught by the philosophical monk Tao-sheng 道生 who died in A.D. 434. See Hu Shih, "Development of Zen Buddhism in China," The Chinese Social and Political Science Review, Vol. XV, no. 4, 483-485.



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dharma's life, such as his interview with the Emperor of Liang and the tale of the second Patriarch's cutting off his own arm to show his earnest desire for instruction, were first invented by him and later came to be further embellished and incorporated into the general traditional history of Chinese Ch'an.

    His Discourses (Yulu 語錄 ) (in my edition of Shen-Hui Ho-Shang I-Chi 神會和尚遺集 of 1930 and in Suzuki's edition of Ho-tse Shen-Hui Ch'an-Shih Yulu 荷澤神會禪師語錄 of 1934) shows that he was in friendly contact and discussion with a number of prominent literati and statesmen of the age. From this group he selected the poet Wang Wei 王維 (died 759) to be the biographer of his teacher, Hui-neng of Shaochou. In this, undoubtedly the earliest biography of Hui-neng (probably never cut on stone, but preserved in T'ang Wen Ts'ui 唐文粹 section 63), it was definitely stated that the Ch'an master Hung-jen regarded his Southern "barbarian" lay laborer as having alone understood his teaching and, when he was dying, gave him "the robe of the Patriarchs" and told him to go away.

    Meanwhile, Shen-hui's eloquence and popular teaching were attracting a tremendous following, so tremendous that in 753 the martyr-statesman Lu I 盧奕, Chief of Imperial Censors, memorialized the throne that the Abbot of the Ho-tse Monastery was "gathering large crowds of people around him and might be suspected of some conspiracy injurious to the interests of the State." The Emperor Hsuan-tsung 玄宗 (reigned 713-756, died 762) sent for Shen-hui and, after an interview with him, exiled him to live in Iyang 弋陽 in Kiangsi, whence he was transferred to three other places in the next two years.

    But at the end of his third year of exile (755-756), there broke out the great rebellion of General An Lu-shan 安祿山 which for a time threatened to overthrow the great T'ang Dynasty. The rebel armies, starting out from the northeastern provinces and sweeping across the northern plains, were able in a few months to capture the eastern capital (Loyang) and shatter all passes leading to Changan. The capital fell in July, 756. The Emperor hurriedly left the city in most pitiful and humiliating circumstances and fled to Chengtu, leaving the heir apparent in the northwest to take charge of affairs. The heir apparent was proclaimed the new sovereign and was able to organize a government and rally the loyal armies to fight the rebellion and save the Empire. In 757, both capitals were recovered. The rebellion was suppressed in the course of six years.

    When the new government was formed in 756, the great problem was how to raise money to carry on the war. One of the emergency measures was to sell an increased number of Buddhist "licenses" (tu-tieh 度牒 ) for ordaining new



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monks and nuns. To push the sales, it was necessary to hold preaching and proselyting meetings in the cities to open the hearts and the purses of men and women. The great eloquence and popularity of the exiled monk Shen-hui was remembered, probably by his Ch'an friends like Miao Chin-ch'ing 苗晉卿 and Fang Kuan 房琯 who had become leaders in the war government. So, at the age of 89, Shen-hui returned to the recaptured but ruined city of Loyang and preached to huge crowds. It was recorded that his preaching meetings were most successful in fund-raising, and made no mean contribution to the war effort.

    The new Emperor, in appreciation of his work, invited him to visit him at his restored palace and ordered the Department of Works to accelerate the building of his quarters at the Ho-tse Monastery. The banished heretic became the honored guest of the Empire. He died in 760 at the age of ninety-two.

    In 770, an imperial decree named his chapel "The Hall of Praj~naa (insight) Transmission of the True School." The learned Ch'an historian Tsung-mi 宗密 (died 841) reports that in 796 Emperor Te-tsung 德宗 asked the heir apparent to call a council of Ch'an masters to determine the true teaching of Ch'an and settle the controversy about the direct and collateral lines of transmission. Subsequently an imperial decree was issued establishing "the Master of Ho-tse" (Shen-hui) as the Seventh Patriarch. This seems to have implied that his teacher, the illiterate monk Hui-neng of Shaochou, was recognized as the Sixth Patriarch.

    In 815, at the request of the Viceroy of Lingnan, an imperial decree conferred posthumous honors on Hui-neng, who "had died 106 years ago" (which would date his death in 711 instead of the traditional date of 713 ). The decree designated him "The Master of Great Insight." The local Buddhists and lay public requested two of the great writers of the age, Liu Tsung-yuan 柳宗元 (died 819) and Liu Yu-hsi 劉禹錫 (died 842), to write two biographical monuments in memory of Hui-neng. In both texts, the authors unhesitatingly referred to Hui-neng as the Sixth Patriarch after Bodhidharma. The controversy had long been over, and the victory of Shen-hui's fight had been complete.



    What do we know of the illiterate monk Hui-neng, the established Sixth Patriarch?

    In an early fragmentary document known, as "Records of the Masters and the Law of the Lanka School" (Leng-Chia Jen Fa Chih 楞伽人法志 ) written shortly after the death of Shen-hsiu in 706 by one of the latter's fellow students -- which was quoted in another history of the La^nkaa School written



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a little later and preserved among the Tunhuang manuscripts -- it was stated that the La^nkaa Master Hung-jen (the so-called Fifth Patriarch, who died in 674) had said before his death that there were eleven disciples who could carry on his teaching. This list of eleven includes Shen-hsiu as number one, Chih-hsin 智詵 of Tzuchou 資州 in modern Szechwan as number two, Hui-neng of Shaochou as number eight, and seven other fairly well-known monks and one layman. The second man on the list, Chih-hsin (died 702), was a teacher of Ch'an in western China from whom descended two important schools which the historian Tsung-mi mentioned as two of the seven important schools of Ch'an of the eighth century. I am inclined to regard this list of eleven disciples of Hung-jen as fairly authentic, because it was probably made before Shen-hui put forth his dramatic challenges and long before the two schools descended from Chih-hsin became nationally famous.

    Therefore, we may conclude that Hui-neng was one of the eleven better-known disciples of the La^nkaa Ch'an Master Hung-jen. The claim that he alone was the secret transmitter of the true teaching and the inheritor of "the robe of the Patriarchs" was in all probability a myth of Shen-hui's invention.

    According to Wang Wei's biographical account (written about 734 and already referring to Shen-hui's being persecuted for his "desire to present to his prince a precious pearl"), Hui-neng was born of a lowly family in an area in Lingnan where aborigines lived in peace with Chinese people. In Shen-hui's brief account of Hui-neng's life, and in the T'an-ching 壇經 -- the Suutra of Hui-neng -- he was called a "Ke lao" 獦獠, one of the aboriginal peoples of the southwest. He was a manual laborer, moving northward and finding work at the monastery where the master Hung-jen presided. He had a good mind and absorbed what was taught and practiced there. After the alleged transmission of the Patriarchal robe, he returned to the South where for sixteen years he lived among the poor and the lowly, the farmers and the small tradesmen. Then he was discovered by a teacher of the Suutra who ordained him and started him on his own teaching career.

    What did he teach? Wang Wei said that he taught forbearance, saying that "he who forbears (jen ) denies his own life and is therefore selfless." "This formed his first vow and his principal teaching." "He often said with a sigh: 'To give even all the Seven Treasures as alms, or to practice {ch'an} conduct for even myriads of years, or to write with all the ink in the universe -- none of these can compare with a life of non-activity (wu-wei 無為 ) and infinite love'."

    Liu Tsung-yuan's text, written in 816, says that "his teaching began with



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the goodness of human nature and ended with the goodness of human nature. There is no need of plowing or weeding: it was originally pure."

    From these and from Shen-hui's stressing of Sudden Enlightenment, we may infer that this Southern master of lowly and "Ke lao" origin probably was a "t'ou-t'o" 頭陀 (dhuuta) ascetic, as most of earlier members of the La^nkaa School were, whose first principle, according to Bodhidharma, was forbearance of all insult and suffering. [8]

    He probably learned from his life-experience among the simple folks that there was the real possibility of opening the hearts and minds of men through some act of sudden awakening. Shen-hui used the proverbial expression "the sword pierces directly through." The Chinese people to this day have translated the notion of sudden enlightenment into a simple proverb: "He lays down the butcher's cleaver, and immediately becomes a Buddha."

    That was probably the kind of simple and direct message which Hui-neng had for the poor and the lowly who understood him and loved him. He made light of "all the ink in the universe," and left no writing. [9]

    Thus the first Chinese School of Ch'an was established through Shen-hui's thirty years (730-760) of bitter fighting and popular preaching, and through the official recognition of Hui-neng as the Sixth Patriarch and Shen-hui as the Seventh Patriarch of "the True School."

    By the last quarter of the eighth century, there began a great stampede in the Ch'an schools -- a stampede of almost every teacher or school of Ch'an to join the school of Hui-neng and Shen-hui. It was not easy, however, to claim a tie to Shen-hui, who had died only too recently. But Hui-neng had died early in the eighth century, and his disciples were mostly unknown ascetics who lived

8. See Suzuki's translation of Bodhidharma's teachings in Essays, First Series, pp. 178-181.

9. A Note on the T'an-ching 壇經. The book called The Suutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liu-Tsu T'an-Ching 六祖壇經 ) or The Suutra of Hui-Neng which has been translated into English by Wong Mou-lam under the title of The Suutra of Wei Lang (London: The Buddhist Society, 1944) is a work of dubious authenticity. It was probably originally composed late in the eighth century. But the original text has been greatly revised and greatly enlarged by later interpolations throughout the ages so that the current edition (on which the English translation was based) is about twice the length of the oldest text preserved in the Tunhuang caves and brought to the British Museum by Sir Aurel Stein in 1907. This earliest text is now accessible in the Taishoo Tripi.taka, 2007, 48, and also in Suzuki's edition of 1934.

    This earliest text contains about 11,000 Chinese characters. The current edition contains about 22,000 characters. So about half of the current edition of the T'an-ching represents the interpolations and additions of the last ten centuries.

    Internal evidence shows that even the oldest text of Tunhuang is made up of two parts, the second half being apparently a later addition.

    What can we say of the first half -- the original text -- of the T'an-ching? Twenty years ago I suggested that Shen-hui was probably the author, because the major ideas contained in it were undoubtedly taken from Shen-hui's Discourses. I have since modified my earlier opinion. I now suggest that the original T'an-ching was composed by an eighth-century monk, most likely a follower of Shen-hui's school, who had read the latter's Discourses and decided to produce a Book of the Sixth Patriarch by rewriting his life-story in the form of factorized autobiography and by taking a few basic ideas from Shen-hui and padding them into Sermon of Hui-neng.



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and died in their hilly retreats. One could easily claim to have paid a visit to some of them. So, in the last decades of the century, some of those unknown names were remembered or discovered. Two of those names thus exhumed from obscurity were Huai-jang 懷讓 of the Heng Mountains 衡山 in Hunan, and Hsing-ssu 行思 of the Ch'ing-yuan Mountains 青原山 of Kiangsi. Neither of these names appeared in Shen-hui's brief sketch of Hui-neng's life-story (at the end of Suzuki's edition of the Discourses), which contains four names of his disciples, or in the oldest text of the T'an-ching, which mentions ten names.

    Ma-tsu 馬祖 (Baso in Japanese), one of the greatest Ch'an masters of the age, originally came from the Ching-chung School 淨眾寺 in Chengtu, which was one of the two Ch'an schools tracing their origin to the La^nkaa monk Chih-hsin, one of the above-mentioned eleven disciples of Hung-jen. But when Ma-tsu died in 788, his biographer wrote that he had studied under Huai-jang, and learned the truth of sudden enlightenment from him. Another great master of the age, Hsi-ch'ien 希遷 (died 790), generally known as "Shih-t'ou" 石頭 (the Rock), was said to have studied under Hsing-ssu.

    There was an old school of Ch'an, long known as the School of the Ox-head Hill 牛頭山 ( near the modern city of Nanking), which was founded by the monk Fa-yung 法融 (died 657), a contemporary of the Buddhist historian Tao-hsuan (died 667). Tao-hsuan wrote Fa-yung's biography in 2433 words without mentioning that he had any connection with the La^nkaa School of Bodhidharma. But in the eighth century, the monks of the Ox-head School were willing to acknowledge that their founder was at one time a student of Tao-hsin, "the Fourth Patriarch" after Bodhidharma. Therefore, the founder of the Ox-head School became the spiritual "uncle" of the Sixth Patriarch.

    So, the great stampede went on. In the course of a hundred years, practically all Ch'an schools came to be spiritually and genealogically descended from, or related to, Hui-neng, "the Sixth Patriarch of the True School of Ch'an."



    What I have sketched above -- Shen-hui's challenge and attack against the school of "the Lord of the Law at the Two National Capitals of Changan and Loyang and the Teacher of Three Emperors," his lifelong popular preaching of a new and simple form of Buddhism based on the idea of sudden enlightenment, his four-time banishment, and his final victory in the official recognition of his school as the True School -- was historically not an isolated event, but only a part of a larger movement which may be correctly characterized as an internal reformation or revolution in Buddhism, a movement that had been



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fermenting and spreading throughout the eighth century in many parts of China, especially in the great South, from the western cities of Chengtu and Tzuchou to the eastern centers of Buddhism in Yangchou, Kiangning (Nanking), and Hangchow, from the mountain retreats in Hunan and Kiangsi to the southern regions of Shaochou and Kuangchou. Shen-hui himself was a product of a revolutionary age in which great minds in the Buddhist and Ch'an schools were, in one way or another, thinking dangerous thoughts and preaching dangerous doctrines.

    Shen-hui was a political genius who understood the signs of the time and knew what to attack and how to do it. So he became the warrior and the statesman of the new movement and fired the first shot of the revolution. His long life, his great eloquence, and, above all, his courage and shrewdness carried the day, and a powerful orthodoxy was crushed. What appeared to be an easy and quick victory was probably due to the fact that his striking tactics of bold and persistent offensive attacks and his simple and popular preaching of more than two decades had already won for himself and his cause a tremendous following among the people and a large number of influential friends in intellectual and political circles. The poet Wang Wei, who wrote the earliest biographical account of Hui-neng at the time of Shen-hui's exile, said in most unmistakable language that Hui-neng received from his teacher "the robe of the Patriarchs" and that the persecution of Shen-hui was an injustice. And Tu Fu 杜甫 (712-770), a friend of Wang Wei and the greatest poet of China, already had spoken of "the Ch'an of the Seventh Patriarch" in one of his longest poems. The cause of Hui-neng and Shen-hui, therefore, was already won long before its official establishment.

    The time was ripe, therefore, for the success of the revolution. And the Stampede of the Ch'an schools to get on the band wagon was only further evidence that the victory was welcomed by the liberals, the radicals, and the heretics of the schools. To them, the victory must have meant a great liberation of thought and belief from the old shackles of tradition and authority.

    What do we know of the dangerous thoughts of the age?

    Before presenting the radical thinking of the Ch'an schools of the eighth century, it may be interesting to hear a severe critic who lived through the second half of that century and was greatly disturbed by the iconoclastic and revolutionary teachings of his day. I quote the following words from Liang Su 梁肅 (753-793), one of the prose masters of the age, and a devout follower of the old Ch'an of the T'ien-t'ai School 天台宗 which had had its heyday in the last decades of the sixth century under its founder, the great master Chih-i 智顗 (died 597), but which was burdened down by an ency-



p. 14

clopedic scholasticism and was a declining school by the eighth century. "Nowadays," said Liang Su, "few men have the true faith. Those who travel the path of Ch'an go so far as to teach the people that there is neither Buddha, nor Law (dharma) and that neither sin nor goodness has any significance. When they preach these doctrines to the average men or men below the average, they are believed by all those who live their lives of worldly desires. Such ideas are accepted as great truths which sound so pleasing to the ear. And the people are attracted by them just as the moths in the night are drawn to their burning death by the candle light. . . . Such doctrines are as injurious and dangerous as the devil (Maara) and the ancient heretics." [10] Such was an eyewitness testimony of the popularity of the dangerous thoughts of the Ch'an teachers of his time.

    The learned monk Tsung-mi (died 841) devoted a lifetime to collecting the writings and recorded sayings of nearly a hundred teachers of Ch'an from Bodhidharma down to his own age. Unfortunately, his great collection, which he called "The Fountainheads of Ch'an," has been lost. Only his "General Preface" containing his analysis and criticism of the schools has survived. In this preface (which is a little book by itself), he analyzed the "modern" Ch'an movement into ten principal schools, which he classified under three main movements: (1) Those that taught "the extinction of false thoughts by cultivating or controlling the mind" -- that is, the schools of the old or Indian dhyaana. (2) Those that taught that "nothing is real, and there is nowhere to abide," and that "there is neither Truth {Law} to bind us, nor Buddhahood to attain." These include the school of the Ox-head Hill and the school of Hsi-ch'ien (Shih-t'ou). (3) Those that discarded all older forms of Ch'an and taught "a direct appeal to the mind or the nature of man." This group includes the schools of Shen-hui and Ma-tsu.

    In a very voluminous commentary on a tiny "suutra" -- the Yuan-Chiao-Ching 圓覺經 (the Suutra of Perfect Enlightenment), which was most probably fabricated by Tsung-mi himself -- there occurs a lengthy passage in which Tsung-mi lists the Seven Great Schools of Ch'an and gives a concise summary of the teachings of each. It is very remarkable that, of the seven only three may be called the old Ch'an, while the other four are distinctly revolutionary. Without following his arrangement of the order of the schools, I shall present the older schools first:

    The three older schools were: (1) The Northern School of Shen-hsiu and his disciples, which Shen-hui had attacked as the Ch'an of gradual enlightenment. (2) A school in western China which practiced a peculiar way

10. Liang Su, "On the T'ien-t'ai School," in T'ang Wen Ts'ui, section 61.




of pronouncing the one word "Fu" (Buddha) as the method of simplified contemplation. (3) The school of Chih-hsin, a fellow student with Shen-hsiu and Hui-neng, and the later school founded by Chih-hsin's disciples at the Ching-chung Monastery 淨眾寺 in Chengtu. It was the tradition of these schools to simplify Ch'an to three sentences: "Don't recall the past; don't contemplate the future; don't forget the path of wisdom." It was from the last-named Ching-chung School that the famous Ma-tsu came.

    Even in this group of older schools, there was a clear tendency to break away from Indian dhyaana practice and work out their own simplified form of contemplation.

    (4)    The fourth school was that of the Pao-t'ang Monastery 保唐寺 at Chengtu, founded by the monk Wu-chu 無住 (died 774), who came out of the Ching-chung School and started a quite radical school of his own, in which "all forms of Buddhist religious practice -- such as worship, prayer, repentance, recitation of the sutras, painting the image of the Buddha, and copying Buddhist scriptures -- were forbidden and condemned as foolish." This school inherited the "three sentences" from the mother school, but changed the third to read: "Don't be foolish." And to them "all thought, good or evil, is foolish and idle." "No thought, no consciousness -- that is the ideal."

    (5)    The fifth school, to which Tsung-mi himself claimed allegiance, was that of Shen-hui, which, as already noted, renounced all Ch'an practices and believed in the possibility of sudden enlightenment. Tsung-mi was very fond of quoting Shen-hui's dictum: "The one word 'Knowledge' is the gateway to all mysteries." That sentence best characterizes Shen-hui's intellectualistic approach. In his Discourses, he frankly said: "Here in my place, there is no such thing as ting (samaadhi, quietude), and nobody talks of concentration of the mind." "Even the desire to seek bodhi (enlightenment) and achieve is foolish."

    (6)    The sixth school was the Ox-head Hill School, an old school based on the philosophy of the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutras and the Maadhyamika School of Naagaarjuna. Under its new leaders in the eighth century, notably Hsuan-su 玄素 ( died 752 ) and Tao-ch'in 道欽 ( died 792 ), the school seemed to have become openly nihilistic and even iconoclastic. Tsung-mi says this school taught that "there is neither Truth {Law} to bind us, nor Buddhahood to attain." "Even if there be a life better than, I say that that too is as unreal as a dream." Hsuan-su's biographer told this story: A butcher notorious for his great cruelty heard him speak and was moved to repentance. Hsuan-su accepted him and even went to his house and took meals with his



p. 16

family. Tsung-mi says this school holds that "there is neither cultivation, nor no-cultivation; there is neither Buddha, nor no-Buddha."

    (7)    The seventh school was the great School of Tao-i 道一 (called Ma-tsu because of his family name Ma, died 788). Ma-tsu taught that "the Tao is everywhere and in everything. Every idea, every movement of the body -- a cough, a sigh, a snapping of the fingers, or raising of the eyebrows -- is the functioning of the Buddha-nature in man. Even love, anger, covetousness and hate are all functionings of the Buddha-nature." Therefore, there is no need of a particular method of cultivation. "Let the mind be free. Never seek to do good, nor seek to do evil, nor seek to cultivate the Tao. Follow the course of Nature, and move freely. Forbid nothing, and do nothing. That is the way of the 'free man,' who is also called the 'super-man.'" According to Tsung-mi, this school also holds that "there is neither Law {Truth} to bind us, nor Buddhahood to attain."

    These are the schools of Chinese Ch'an as Tsung-mi knew them in the early years of the ninth century. The Pao-t'ang School was openly iconoclastic and even anti-Buddhistic. The three others were equally radical and probably even more iconoclastic in their philosophical implications.

    One of Ma-tsu's famous disciples, T'ien-jan 天然 (died 824) of Tanhsia 丹霞 (Tanka in Japanese), was spending a night at a ruined temple with a few traveling companions. The night was bitterly cold and there was no firewood. He went to the Hall of Worship, took down the wooden image of the Buddha, and made a comfortable fire. When he was reproached by his comrades for this act of sacrilege, he said: "I was only looking for the `sariira (sacred relic) of the Buddha." "How can you expect to find `sariira in a piece of wood?" said his fellow travelers. "Well," said T'ien-jan, "then, I am only burning a piece of wood after all."

    Such a story can be properly understood only in the light of the general intellectual tendencies of a revolutionary age. Professor Nukariya, in The Religion of the Samurai, twice quoted this story to show that Chinese Zen was iconoclastic. But Suzuki says: "Whatever the merit of Tanka from the purely Zen point of view, there is no doubt that such deeds as his are to be regarded as highly sacrilegious and to be avoided by all pious Buddhists. [11]

    Those pious Buddhists will never understand Chinese Ch'an. And they will never understand another disciple of Ma-tsu's, the lay scholar P'ang Yun 龐蘊, who left this famous dictum: "Do empty yourselves of everything that exists, and never reify anything that exists not." This is truly a wonderful saying which is as sharp and as destructive as the famous "Occam's razor":

11. Suzuki, Essays, First Series, p. 317.



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"Entities should not be unnecessarily multiplied." Old P'ang's dictum, "Never reify (shih) anything that exists not," may be called "P'ang's razor" or the razor of Chinese Ch'an, with which the medieval ghosts, the gods, the bodhisattvas and the Buddhas, the four stages of dhyaana, the four formless states of samaadhi, the six divine powers of the attained yoga practitioner, etc., were to be cut off and destroyed.

    That is the Chinese Ch'an of the eighth century, which, as I have said before, is no Ch'an at all, but a Chinese reformation or revolution within Buddhism.



    But this reformation within Buddhism itself, this internal revolution within a section of Buddhism, had not gone far enough or long enough to save Buddhism from a catastrophic external revolution. This external revolution came in August, 845, in the form of the greatest persecution of Buddhism in the entire history of its two thousand years in China.

    The Great Persecution was ordered by Emperor Wu-tsung 武宗 (841-846), who was undoubtedly under the strong influence of a few leading Taoist priests. But the persecution of 845-846, like those of 446, 574, and 955, also represented the deep-rooted centuries-long Chinese nationalistic resentment against Buddhism as a foreign and un-Chinese religion. Early in the ninth century, Han Yu 韓愈 (768-824), one of the greatest classical writers of China, published a famous essay in which he openly denounced Buddhism as un-Chinese, as a way of life of the barbarians. He frankly advocated a ruthless suppression: "Restore its people to human living! Burn its books! And convert its buildings to human dwellings!" Twenty-one years after his death, those savage slogans were carried out in every detail.

    The Great Persecution lasted only two years, but long enough to destroy 4,600 big temples and monasteries and over 40,000 minor places of worship and Ch'an retreat, confiscate millions of acres of landed property of the Church, free 150,000 male and female slaves or retainers of the temples and monasteries, and force 265,000 monks and nuns to return to secular life. Only two temples with thirty monks each were permitted to stand in each of the two capitals, Changan and Loyang. Of the 228 prefectures in the Empire, only the capital cities of the "first-grade" prefectures were permitted to retain one temple each with ten monks. Buddhist scriptures and images and stone monuments were destroyed wherever they were found. At the end of one of the persecution decrees, after enumerating what had already



p. 18

been accomplished in the policy of Buddhist persecution, the Emperor said: "Henceforth the affairs of monks and nuns shall be governed by the Bureau of Affairs of Foreigners, thereby to show clearly that they belong to the religion of the barbarians."

    The persecution, disastrous and barbaric as it was, probably had the effect of enhancing the prestige of the Ch'an monks, who never had to rely upon the great wealth or the architectural splendor and extravagance of the great temples and monasteries. Indeed, they did not have to rely even upon the scriptures. And at least some of them had been theoretically or even overtly iconoclastic.

    In one of the unusually frank biographical monuments of the post-persecution period, the biographer of the monk Ling-yu 靈佑 (died 853), a descendant of Ma-tsu and founder of the Kwei-shan 溈山 and Yang-shan 仰山 Schools of Ch'an, tells us that at the time of the Great Persecution, Ling-yu simply put on the cap and dress of the layman when he was ordered to return to secular life. "He did not want to be in any way different from the people," said the biographer. And when the persecution was over and the Buddhist religion was permitted to revive, the Governor of Hunan, who was a Buddhist and a friend of many leading Ch'an masters including Tsung-mi, invited Ling-yu to come out of his retirement and suggested that he should shave off his beard and hair. He refused to shave, saying with a smile: "Do you think that Buddhism has anything to do with my hair and beard?" But when he was repeatedly urged to shave, he yielded, again with a smile. [12] That was the way a great Ch'an master looked at the Great Persecution. He did not seem to have been much disturbed.

    It is no wonder, therefore, that the two greatest Ch'an teachers of the decades immediately following the persecution were the iconoclastic Hsuan chien of Teshan 德山 and I-hsuan of Linchi 臨濟 (Rinzai in Japanese).

    Hsuan-chien 宣鑑 (died 865), the spiritual ancestor of the Yunmen 雲門 (Ummon in Japanese) and Fa-yen 法眼 (Hoogen in Japanese) Schools of the tenth century, taught a doctrine of "doing nothing" which harks back to Ma-tsu and reminds us of the philosophy of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. "My advice to you," said he, "is, take a rest and have nothing to do. Even if that little blue-eyed barbarian, Bodhidharma, should come back here and now, he could only teach you to do nothing. Put on your clothes, eat your food, and move your bowels. That's all. No life-and-death [cycle] to fear. No transmigration to dread. No to achieve, and no bodhi to acquire. Just try to be an ordinary human being, having nothing to do."

12. Cheng Yu 鄭愚 "Biographical Monument of Ling-yu," in T'ang Wen Ts'ui, section 63.



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    He was fond of using the most profane language in speaking of things sacred in Buddhism. "Here, there is neither Buddha, nor Patriarchs. . . . The bodhisattvas are only dung-heap coolies. and bodhi are dead stumps to tie your donkeys to. The twelve divisions of the Sacred Teaching are only lists of ghosts, sheets of paper fit only for wiping the pus from your boils. And all the 'four fruitions' and 'ten stages' are mere ghosts lingering in their decayed graves. Have these anything to do with your salvation?"

    "The wise seek not the Buddha. The Buddha is the great murderer who has seduced so many people into the pitfalls of the prostituting Devil." "That old barbarian rascal {Buddha} claimed that he had survived the destruction of three worlds. Where is he now? Did he not die after eighty years of life? Was he in any way different from you?" "O ye wise men, disengage your bodies and your minds! Free yourselves from all bondages."

    While Hsuan-chien lived and taught in western Hunan, his contemporary and possibly his student, I-hsuan 義玄 (died 866), was opening his school in the north -- in the western part of modern Hopei. His school was known as the Lin-chi School, which in the next two centuries became the most influential school of Ch'an.

    The greatness of I-hsuan seems to lie in his emphatic recognition of the function of intellectual emancipation as the real mission of Chinese Ch'an. He said: "The mission of Bodhidharma's coming to the East was to find a man who would not be deceived by men." "Here in my place, I have not a single truth to give you. My work is only to free men from their bondage, to heal their illness, and to beat the ghosts out of them." "Inwardly and outwardly, do try to kill everything that comes in your way. If the Buddha be in your way, kill the Buddha. If the Patriarchs be in your way, kill the Patriarchs. If the Arahats be in your way, kill them. If your father and mother be in your way, kill them too. . . . That is the only path to your liberation, your freedom."

    "Be independent, and cling to nothing. . . . Even though Heaven and Earth are turned upside down, I doubt not. Even though all the Buddhas appear before my eyes, I have not the slightest gladness at heart. Even though the hell-fire of all the three underworlds burst open before me, I have not the slightest fear."

    "Recognize yourself! Wherefore do you seek here and seek there for your Buddhas and your bodhisattvas! Wherefore do you seek to get out of the three worlds? O ye fools, where do you want to go?"

    All this from Hsuan-chien and I-hsuan, written in the plain language



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(pai-hua 白話 ) of the people, is Chinese Ch'an, which, I repeat, is no Ch'an at all.

    But the pious Buddhists insist on telling us that all this was not naturalism or nihilism and was certainly not meant to be iconoclastic! They tell us that those great masters never intended to convey the sense which their plain and profane words seem to convey. They, we are told, talked in the language of Zen, which "is beyond the ken of human understanding"!



    The age of Ch'an as an epoch in the history of Chinese thought covered about four hundred years -- from about A.D. 700 to 1100. The first century and a half was the era of the great founders of Chinese Ch'an -- the era of dangerous thinking, courageous doubting, and plain speaking. All authentic documents of that period show that the great masters, from Shen-hui and Ma-tsu to Hsuan-chien and I-hsuan, taught and spoke in plain and unmistakable language and did not resort to enigmatic words, gestures, or acts. Some of the famous enigmatic answers attributed to Ma-tsu and his immediate disciples were undoubtedly very late inventions.

    But as the Ch'an schools became respectable and even fashionable in intellectual and political circles, there arose monks and lay dilettantes who talked and prattled in the language of the Ch'an masters without real understanding and without conviction. There was real danger that the great ideas of the founders of the Ch'an schools were deteriorating into what has been called "ch'an of the mouth-corners" (k'ou-t'ou ch'an 口頭禪 ). Moreover Ch'an was rapidly replacing all other forms of Buddhism, and prominent Ch'an masters of the mountains were often called to head large city monasteries. They had to perform or officiate at many Buddhist rituals of worship demanded by the public or the State even though they might sincerely believe that there were no Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Were they free to tell their powerful patrons, on whom the institution had to rely for support, that "the Buddha was a murderer who had seduced many people into the pitfalls of the Devil"? Could there be some other subtle but equally thought-provoking way of expressing what the earlier masters had said outspokenly?

    All these new situations, and probably many others, led to the development of a pedagogical method of conveying a truth through a great variety of strange and sometimes seemingly crazy gestures, words, or acts. I-hsuan himself was probably the first to introduce these techniques, for he was famous for beating his questioner with a stick or shouting a deafening shout at him. It was probably no accident that his school, the Lin-chi school,



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played a most prominent part during the next hundred years in the development of the peculiar methodology of Ch'an instruction to take the place of plain speaking.

    But this methodology with all its mad techniques is not so illogical and irrational as it has often been described. A careful and sympathetic examination of the comparatively authentic records of the Ch'an schools and of the testimony of contemporary witnesses and critics has convinced me that beneath all the apparent madness and confusion there is a conscious and rational method which may be described as a method of education by the hard way, by letting the individual find out things through his own effort and through his own ever-widening life-experience.

    Broadly speaking, there are three stages or phases in this pedagogical method.

    First, there is the basic principle which was stated as pu shuo p'o 不說破, "never tell too plainly." It is the duty of the teacher never to make things too easy for the novice; he must not explain things in too plain language; he must encourage him to do his own thinking and to find out things for himself. Fa-yen 法演 (died 1104), one of the greatest teachers of Ch'an, used to recite these lines of unknown authorship:

You may examine and admire the embroidered drake.
But the golden needle which made it, I'll not pass on to you.

This is so important that Chu Hsi 朱熹 (1130-1200), the greatest Confucianist thinker and teacher of the twelfth century, once said to his students: "The school of Confucius and that of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu left no great successors to carry on the work of the founders. But the Ch'an Buddhists can always find their own successors, and that is due to the fact that they are prepared to run the risk of explaining nothing in plain language, so that others may be left to do their own pondering and puzzling, out of which a real threshing-out may result." One of the great Ch'an masters often said: "I owe everything to my teacher because he never explained anything plainly to me."

    Secondly, in order to carry out the principle of "never tell too plainly," the Ch'an teachers of the ninth and tenth centuries devised a great variety of eccentric methods of answering questions. If a novice should ask some such question as "What is truth?" or "What is Buddhism?" the master would almost surely box him on the ear, or give him a beating with a cane, or retire into a stern silence. Some less rude teacher would tell the questioner to go back to the kitchen and wash the dishes. Others would answer questions with seemingly meaningless or strikingly meaningful paradoxes.



p. 22

    Thus, when the master Wen-yen 文偃 (died 949), founder of the Yun men School, was asked "What is the Buddha like?" he answered: "A dried stick of dung." (This is so profanely iconoclastic that Suzuki probably deliberately mistranslates it as "A dried-up dirt-cleaner," which, of course is incorrect and meaningless.) Such an answer is not nonsensical at all; it harks back to the iconoclastic teachings of his spiritual grandfather, Hsuan chien, who had actually said: "The Buddha is a dried piece of dung of the barbarians, and sainthood is only an empty name."

    Thus Liang-chia 良价 (died 869), one of the founders of the Ts'aoshan-Tungshan School 曹山, 洞山, when asked the same question, said quietly: "Three chin (about three pounds) of hemp," which, too, is not meaningless if one remembers the naturalistic thinking of some of the masters of the earlier era.

    But the novice in all probability would not understand. So, he retires to the kitchen and washes the dishes. He is puzzled and feels ashamed of his failure to understand. After some time, he is told to leave the place and try his luck elsewhere. Here he begins the third stage of his education -- the third and most important phase of the pedagogical method, which was called hsing-chiao 行腳 "traveling on foot."

    Those critics who call the Ch'an method irrational and mystical and, therefore, "absolutely beyond the ken of human understanding," are men who fail to appreciate the great educational value of this third phase, which consists of sending the learner traveling from one hill to another, from one school to another, studying under one master and then another. Many of the famous Ch'an masters spent fifteen or twenty or thirty years in traveling and studying under many well-known masters.

    Let me cite what Chu Hsi said in deep appreciation of the value of "traveling on foot" in the Ch'an schools. The great leader of the Neo-Confucianist movement was sick in bed and was approaching his death, which came only a few months later. One of his favorite mature disciples, Ch'en Ch'un 陳淳 had come to visit him and spend a few days at his school. One evening, Chu Hsi in his sickbed said to the visitor: "Now you must emulate the monk's method of hsing-chiao (traveling on foot). That will enable you to meet the best minds of the empire, to observe the affairs and conditions of the country, to see the scenery and topography of the mountains and rivers, and to study the historical traces of the rise and fall, peace and war, right and wrong, of the past and present governments. Only in that way may you see the truth in all its varied respects. . . . There was never a sage who knew nothing of the affairs of the world. There was never a sage who could not



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deal with novel and changing situations. There was never a sage who sat alone in meditation behind closed doors. . . ."

    Let us return to our traveling novice, who, as a monk, travels always on foot carrying only a stick, a bowl, and a pair of straw sandals. He begs all the way for his food and lodging, often having to seek shelter in ruined temples, caves, or deserted houses by the roadside. He suffers the severities of nature and sometimes has to bear the unkindness of man.

    He sees the world and meets all kinds of people. He studies under the great minds of the age and learns to ask better questions and have real doubts of his own. He befriends kindred souls with whom he discusses problems and exchanges views. In this way, his experience is widened and deepened, and his understanding grows. Then, one day, he hears a chance remark of a charwoman, or a frivolous song of a dancing girl, or smells the quiet fragrance of a nameless flower -- and he suddenly understands! How true, "the Buddha was like a piece of dung"! And how true, "he is also like three pounds of hemp"! All is so evident now. "The bottom has dropped out of the bucket": the miracle has happened.

    And he travels long distances back to his old master, and, with tears and with gladness at heart, he gives thanks and worships at the feet of his good teacher, who never made things easy for him.

    This is what I understand as the pedagogical method of Chinese Ch'an. This was what Chu Hsi understood when he sang:

Last night the spring floods swelled the water in the river.
Today the huge ship floats, as if it were feather-weighted.
What could not be pulled or pushed before,
Now moves on freely in the middle of the river.

    Was this Ch'an illogical and irrational and beyond our intellectual understanding? I shall let Fa-yen, the great Ch'an master of the eleventh century, answer this question. Fa-yen one day asked his audience, "What is the Ch'an in my place?" And he told this story, which both Nukariya and Suzuki have translated before, and which I now render as follows:

    There was a man who made his livelihood by being an expert burglar. He had a son who saw his father growing old and decided that he should learn a trade, so that he might support his parents in old age. One day the son said, "Father, teach me a trade." The father said, "Good."

    That night, the expert burglar took his son to a big house where he made an opening in the wall, and both entered the house and came to a large cabinet.

    The father opened the lock of the cabinet, and told his son to get inside. As soon as the son got in, the father closed the door of the cabinet and replaced the lock securely.



p. 24

    The father now made quite a noise to arouse the people in the house. He then left the house by the same way he had come in, and went home.

    The men and women in the great house were aroused from their sleep. They searched the house and found the big hole in the wall. But nothing apparently had been stolen.

    Meanwhile, the boy in the locked cabinet was puzzled: "Why did father do this to me?" Then he realized that his problem was to get out. So, he imitated the sound of mice gnawing and tearing clothes. Very soon a lady heard the noises and told a maid to open the cabinet and look into it with a candle.

    As soon as the cabinet was opened, the boy put out the light, pushed the maid away, and rushed to the hole in the wall. He got out and ran for his life.

    He was pursued by the men from the house. On the way, he picked up a stone and threw it into a pond, making a noise as if a body had fallen into the water. The men stopped to search the pond for the burglars body. The boy took a bypath and ran home.

    When he saw his father, he shouted: "Father, why did you lock me in that cabinet?" The father said: "Don't ask silly questions. Tell me how you got out." When the son had told him how he escaped and got back, the father nodded his head and said: "Son, you have learned the trade."

"That," added the Master Pa-yen, "is Ch'an in my place."

That was Chinese Ch'an at the end of the eleventh century.