Early Ch'an in China and Tibet

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Lai, Whalen and Lewis R. Lancaster, eds.
Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series 5
1983. 450 pp.
ISBN 0895811529
$29.00

Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism was popularized in the West by writers such as D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts as a kind of "romantic abstraction" outside of history. The papers in this volume, originally presented as a unique conference sponsored by UC-Berkeley and the San Francisco Zen Center, go a long way towards revealing the complex historical development of Ch'an theory and practice both in China and Tibet.

The papers on China reveal Ch'an not as a single line of transmission from Bodhidharma, but as a complex of contending and even hostile factions. Furthermore, the view that sees Ch'an as the sinicization of Buddhism through Taoism is questioned through an examination of the Taoism that was actually prevalent during the establishment of Ch'an in China. The papers on Tibet take us to the heart of the controversies surrounding the origins of Buddhism in that country, based on exciting research into the Tunhuang materials, the indigenous rDzogs-chen system, and the "Sudden vs. Gradual Enlightenment" controversy.

Of particular note in this volume is the inclusion of several translations of papers by noted Japanese scholars who have led the way in this type of research, made available to the Western reader for the first time.


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