From Chinese Chan to Japanese Zen: A Remarkable Century of Transmission and Transformation

ISBN : 9780190637491

Steven Heine
304 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Oct 2017
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This work provides a survey and critical investigation of the remarkable century that lasted from 1225 to 1325, during which the transformation of the Chinese Chan school of Buddhism into the Japanese Zen sect was successfully completed. The cycle of transfer began with a handful of Japanese pilgrims, including Eisai, Dogen and Enni, who traveled to China in order to discover authentic Buddhism. They quickly learned that Chan, with the strong support of the secular elite, was well organized in terms of the intricate teaching techniques of various temple lineages. After receiving Dharma transmission through face-to-face meetings with prominent Chinese teachers, the Japanese monks returned home with many spiritual resources. Foreign rituals and customs met with resistance, however, and by the end of the thirteenth century it was difficult to imagine the success Zen would soon achieve. Following the arrival of a series of emigre monks, who gained the strong support of the shoguns for their continental teachings, Zen became the mainstream religious tradition in Japan. The transmission culminated in the 1320s when prominent leaders Daito and Muso learned enough Chinese to overcome challenges from other sects with their Zen methods. The book examines the transcultural conundrum: How did this school of Buddhism, which started half a millennium earlier as a mystical utopian cult for reclusive monks, gain a broad following among influential lay followers in both China and Japan? It answers this question by a focusing on the mythical elements that contributed to the effectiveness of this transition, especially the Legend of Living Buddhas.



Part One. Transnational Studies of Maritime Transfers
1. Traditions: Shifts in East Asian Society Affecting the Formation and Reception of Zen
2. Transitions: Social Influences on Zen's Legend of Living Buddhas

Part Two. Troubling At First, Then Turning Into the Establishment
3. Transmissions: When Dogen Attained Enlightenment in China in 1225
4. Transplantations: How Emigre Monks Overcame Mid-Century Challenges
5. Transformations: Why Daito Did Not Go to China, Yet Won a Debate in 1325

Part Three. Techniques for Attaining and Maintaining Enlightenment
6. Teachers: Testing the Authenticity and Authority of Zen Masters
7. Temples: Training Disciples While Mitigating Transgressions
8. Tones: Triggering Spirituality Through Literary and Fine Arts

Glossary of Names, Titles, and Terms
Recommended Readings

About the author: 

Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History at Florida International University and author and editor of numerous OUP titles, including Dogen:Textual and Historical Studies.

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