This book offers a provocative rereading of the early history of Chan Buddhism (Zen). Working from a history-of-religions point of view that asks how and why certain literary tropes were chosen to depict the essence of the Buddhist tradition to Chinese readers, this analysis focuses on the narrative logics of the early Chan genealogies—the seventh-and eighth-century lineage texts that claimed that certain high-profile Chinese men were descendents of Bodhidharma and the Buddha. This book argues that early Chan's image of the perfect-master-who-owns-tradition was constructed for reasons that have little to do with Buddhist practice, new styles of enlightened wisdom, or "orthodoxy," and much more to do with politics, property, geography, and, of course, new forms of writing.
Fathering Your Father The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism
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Healthy Skepticism, and a Field Theory for the Emergence of Chan Literature
Part One: The Art of Zen
In the wake of twentieth-century popular and scholarly writings, Chan (Zen) typically appears as a charming and inscrutable mix of Buddhist wisdom and sagely ease. Moreover, it is regularly associated with a kind of über-authenticity: Chan is completely Buddhist and yet unfettered by tradition, basking, so it seems, in the sunshine of being the religion beyond religion, with a truth that uniquely transcends right and wrong and a philosophy that, conveniently, has only ineffable tenets. And yet when we look closely at the history of Chan, and its gradual emergence in Tang dynasty (618–907) literature, we see a very different and troubling profile—troubling, that is, for those who like to think of religion and politics as separate activities, and imagine that truth, and the literature that purveys it, comes from truth and not a host of other less