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1. Attaining the Way: A Guide to
2. Chan Buddhism (Dimensions of Asian
3. The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text:
4. Han Shan, Chan Buddhism and Gary
5. Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism
6. How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute
7. Linguistic Strategies in Daoist
8. Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context
9. The Northern School and the Formation
10. Seeing through Zen: Encounter,
11. Enlightenment in Dispute: The
12. Subtle Wisdom:Understanding Suffering,
13. Monks, Rulers, and Literati: The
14. Ordinary Mind as the Way: The
15. The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism
16. Learning True Love: Practicing
17. Practical Buddhism: Application
18. The Syncretism of Ch'an and Pure
19. The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical
20. Orthodox Chinese Buddhism: A Contemporary

1. Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism
by Master Sheng Yen
Paperback: 192 Pages (2006-10-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$9.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1590303725
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This is an inspiring guide to the practice of Chan (Chinese Zen) in the words of four great masters of that tradition. It includes teachings from contemporary masters Xuyun and Sheng Yen, and from Jiexian and Boshan of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Though the texts were written over a period of hundreds of years, they are all remarkably lucid and are perfect for beginners as well as more advanced practitioners today. All the main points of spiritual practice are covered: philosophical foundations, methods, approaches to problems and obstacles—all aimed at helping the student attain the way to enlightenment. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Accept No Substitute
Sometimes in a dream you're in some familiar place, at home, at a friend's, at work, and you suddenly notice a door that was never there before. You go over to it (and you're there very quickly), you open it, and beyond is some entirely unexpected space, maybe a public swimming-pool with ropes of light dancing on the blue ceiling.
This book looks like a typical product of the modern mass-production printing-press. But then you open it up and suddenly you're in the realm of Ch'an/Zen.

The writings left by the great T'ang and Sung Dynasty Masters are unsurpassable but at times too much for us.This book presents writings closer to us: by two 17th century Masters, Po-shan and Yüan-yün Chieh-hsien; then by Hsü-yün, perhaps the greatest Ch'an Master of the 20th century; lastly by living Master Sheng-yen. Without departing by a hair from the truth of Ch'an/Zen they expand and enlarge just enough to make it clear for us, us latecomers who will never be Enlightened on hearing one word, or enter the Inconceivable after one blow or shout. Yüan-yün's specification of the qualities of a Zen Master should be essential reading today when anything and everything is taught as "Zen". Hsü-yün's careful account of Zen meditation, what it is and what it isn't, should also be a touchstone.

All these writings come from a Chinese perspective, so those involved in Rinzai or Sôtô Zen may have to adjust a little. But it's hard to imagine a more directly, practically useful book for the current Zen practitioner: because these are the voices of people who didn't just "practise" but achieved the aim of practice, who broke through Birth and Death and realised their True Nature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent, practical guide for helping with Zen practice
I must have good "karmic roots" to have found this book. It is an excellent guide to help with Chan (Chinese Zen) practice.

I was already aware of how exceptional Master Sheng-yen is as a teacher, having read his books
Faith in Mind: A Commentary on Seng Ts'an's Classic
There Is No Suffering: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra
It was on the strength of these two books that I ordered "Attaining the Way", but I still didn't expect anything this helpful. I completed my first reading of this book a month ago and it has been helping me with my practice.

I found "Faith in Mind" more than a decade ago, sometime after I began my Buddhist (and Zen) practice. It is quite impressive but it does not go into details about Chan practice whereas in the section of this book by Master Sheng Yen (also entitled "Attaining the Way"), he provides considerable help in both Chan concepts and methods of practice. As he says, concepts and methods are the "twin pillars" that Chan relies on, without both which "your practice with lack a firm foundation". He provides help with both in his section of this book.

The book also includes sections by other Chan masters:
1) "Exhortations on Investigating Chan" by Master Boshan (1575-ca.
2) "Discourse on Chan Teaching" from the records of Master
Yuanyun Jiexian (1610-1672)
3) "The Essentials of Chan Practice" by Master Xuyun (1839-1959)

None of these works are "fillers" although Master Sheng-yen's section is certainly useful in itself. But so are the others. Master Yuanyun Jiexian's section, however, is addressed to teachers of Chan, so although it was (and will be) of use to me, it seemed advanced and answering many issues that have not become pertinent for me yet. All of these works emphasize and are informative about the role of the "doubt sensation" for Chan practice and the use of the huatou (the Chan method that uses a "baffling question" such as "Who is reciting the Buddha's name?" with the intent of arousing the doubt sensation). As helpful as zazen (meditative sitting), also known as silent illumination, has been to me, I'm finding a benefit in mixing in other methods. This book was the first that led me to strongly appreciate the possible value of either the use of koans or huatous.

Master Sheng-yen's teachings on such subjects as impermanence, faith, relaxation, silent illumination ("just sitting"), the expressing of gratitude and how to regard enlightenment are among those also included in his section. Unlike other Zen teachers such as Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
who I found difficult to follow, at times paradoxical as many Zen teachers can be, I find Master Sheng-yen to be surprising clear on a subject whose attainment can be said to perhaps "take lifetimes".
Similarly, with this book I feel I am just now beginning to deepen my practice in a way I had not from traditionally esteemed books that focused on concepts or lacked guidance on practice such as
The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 1,
Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei,
or a koan collection such as
Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan.
All of these works, of formidable reputation, despite how inspiring they can be for me, have overwhelmed me. But "Attaining the Way", especially Master Sheng-yen's section, seems accessible and I will keep using his advice.
... Read more

2. Chan Buddhism (Dimensions of Asian Spirituality)
by Peter D. Hershock
Paperback: 196 Pages (2004-11-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0824828356
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Chan Buddhism has become paradigmatic of Buddhist spirituality. Known in Japan as Zen and in Korea as Son, it is one of the most strikingly iconoclastic spiritual traditions in the world. This succinct and lively work clearly expresses the meaning of Chan as it developed in China more than a thousand years ago and provides useful insights into the distinctive aims and forms of practice associated with the tradition, including its emphasis on the unity of wisdom and practice; the reality of "sudden awakening"; the importance of meditation; the use of "shock tactics"; the centrality of the teacher-student relationship; and the celebration of enlightenment narratives, or koans.

Unlike many scholarly studies, which offer detailed perspectives on historical development, or guides for personal practice written by contemporary Buddhist teachers, this volume takes a middle path between these two approaches, weaving together both history and insight to convey to the general reader the conditions, energy, and creativity that characterize Chan. Following a survey of the birth and development of Chan, its practices and spirituality are fleshed out through stories and teachings drawn from the lives of four masters: Bodhidharma, Huineng, Mazu, and Linji. Finally, the meaning of Chan as a living spiritual tradition is addressed through a philosophical reading of its practice as the realization of wisdom, attentive mastery, and moral clarity. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Introudction to Chinese Buddhism
This book is a general survey of Chan Buddhism written by a respected scholar.It is that simple.It is well written and easy to follow.The author uses images and analogies in relating buddhist teachings, some drawn from the buddhist tradition, others are more secular and contemporary.It is an accessible book for the general reader, though it could also be useful to those more advanced in religious studies.

With all the different "Buddhisms" out there, it was nice to find a book that stuck to the Chinese version of the tradition.So often Chinese, Japanese, and Korean forms of buddhism get lumped together.What I liked most about this book were the distinctions he presented between Indian Buddhism and Chan, making clear how they were different and why they were different.His honest accounting of the influence of Taoism and Chinese culture on a foriegn religious tradition was educating and helpful and answered many growing questions in my own study of this tradition.His discussion of the development of Buddha-nature, interdependence, creativity, and energy work--especially as they are unique to the Chan tradition--provide the reader with a good grounding in the basic teachings of the Chinese tradition.I am, however, still a little fuzzy in my thinking about karma and reincarnation, and perhaps this is an area of the book that is lacking.It is the only criticism I would offer.

If you are looking for an outstanding introduction to this subject, I would recommend this book.The University of Hawai'i Press offers many fine books on this subject.Further reading can be found there.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the Best
Out of an extensive library of western philosophy and Buddhist thought this is one of my favorites. I have read some of the negative comments here and could not disagree more. You have to read this book several times to piece together Hershocks vision. But his is a vision I feel accurately explicates the poetic abstractions of Ch'an (Zen). Unlike at least one commentor, I did not find the writing to be dry, distant or confusing. I thought the writing was exemplary, to the point, and strung together a picture of Ch'an that very few others have done.

When it comes to these kind of books, there are tons of them written by very good practioners who do not have the background in western philosophy or as writers to adequately paint a lucid picture in non-poetic terms. Unravelling the poetic language of Ch'an can be a challenge, and Hershock does a masterful job of it.

I highly recommend this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This is one of the required readings in my Buddhism training. A great book which gives us some application, history and information. It's not the easiest book to get through, but it isn't hard either. If you're looking for layman's terms on Buddhism, you might check out Buddhism Plain and Simple, or the Complete Idiot's Guide to Buddhism, or Buddhism for Dummies.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not for the novice or historically challenged!
I should start by saying that I am not, clearly, an expert on Chan, Zen, or Buddhism. As a lay reader, my main area of interest is history, which is to say, I am exceedingly interested in the cultural mileau in which Buddhist schools developed. That said, I have to admit that the first time I read this book (about one year ago) I was, like the most recent reviewer, exceedingly disappointed. To be honest, I found that Prof. Hershock too often attributed the growth or decline of certain Buddhist schools to the socio-political atmosphere of dynasties in power at the time without adequately explaining why.

Further, Prof. Hershock's tone and writing style came off as cold and a tad snobby. You see, Prof. Hershock's fine effort does, in fact, read like a dry as dust thesis paper (at times) written for a college philosophy course, which is not bad in and of itself, but there does seem to be a hint of condescention here and there. That is a minor flaw, I admit, but every now again he alludes to his own Buddhist practice, as if that had some kind of connection to the task at hand. To be fair, it is tough to combine the wonderfully blithe spiritual impulse and passion of Buddhism with History, but that is what Herschock tried (but failed to, in my opinion) deliver.

However, I returned to this book after reading copious texts on Chinese and Indian history. With a second reading, then, I was able to pick up on many fascinating connections that I had missed (out of ignorance, I know) the first time, such as this nugget about the rise of Buddhism in India: "The contemplative and ascetic practices undertaken by these strivers toward spiritual freedom may in part represent a resurgence of indigenous traditions from pre-Aryan India." WOW! This book needs a slow read, I think, which is, after all, the point of Zen - that is, concentration on the task at hand (I have a bad habit of zipping through books too quickly).

Thus, I would recommend this book to readers with some reasonably detailed knowledge of Indian and Chinese history (obvious, I know), as the the strength of this text is the clarity in which Pro. Hershock articulates key points, e.g., the "middle path" of Buddhism between Confucianism and Taoism.

Finally, I will say that if you have a good knowledge of Buddhism or Asian history, this book is a great choice. For those readers who are just dipping their big toe into the sea of Buddhist thought and history, I might look elsewhere, such as Heinrich Dumoulin's well-received history of Zen Buddhism.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not an objective historical examination.
The title of this book is misleading and should be renamed to fit the content more accurately. I originally bought this book because of the above review and because I am finishing a college degree in a Prior Learning experience program. Because I spent 6 years as a Zen buddhist monk I am writing huge essays on my learning for credit. So here I am reading several books on the history of Buddhism trying to put together a history based on several sources. I am not writing my own book, but an essay. I buy this book under the impression that it would contain an in depth history of chan buddhism, instead I find its not written by a scholar but reads like a college thesis paper written by someone with a huge cultural chip on their shoulder. Skip the introduction , do yourself a favor on that one if you buy this book. Sure, there is some history in the book but 50% of the book is really just really poorly written personal philosophy. The book is history interwoven with the authors personal beliefs about what buddhism represents in a cultural, anthropological view. But Peter Hershock writes it as if he thinks he's a Dharma master.
If you want a book on Buddhist philosophy then buy one on that,If your looking for a book on Buddhist history then buy one for that. Thisbook attempts to be both but is not. One of the highlights for me was reading the authors explanation of how and why Indians cremate their dead. As I spent many months in India and weeks in Varanasi I have witnessed the burning ghats where people are cremated 24 hours a day. If you've been to India and seen this, when you come to this part in the book you'll know this author has no idea what hes talking about and has never seen it with his own eyes. Not a useful book in any form. No philosophical gnosis and at the same time no evidence of strong intellectual mastery over the history of Buddhism. Try Ayya Khema if you want real Buddhist dharma, John Snelllings Buddhist Handbook if you want something more accurate and scholarly than the complete idiots guide but just as easy to read. If youwant serious history of Chan try Heinrich Dumoulin or Noble Reat or learn
Japanese, chinese and Sanskrit. ... Read more

3. The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text: History, Philosophy, and Gung Fu of Shaolin Ch'an
by Order of Shaolin Ch'an
Paperback: 304 Pages (2008-02-15)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$16.83
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0975500929
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text is a one-of-a-kind volume discussing the history, philosophy and Gung Fu of Shaolin Ch'an, one of the most misunderstood schools of Ch'an Buddhism.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (28)

4-0 out of 5 stars Shaolin Cha'an Grandmasters Text Review
I waited for the Grandmasters Text with great anticipation and was not disappointed. I found the discourse on philosophy of Shaolin Buddhism very interesting (8-fold path is a quality path). The discussion of the communist regime's hijacking of Kung-fu and the Temple in particular is entirely unsurprising. As a decade long practitioner of Wing Chun, I found great interest in the dissertation of styles. Grading Systems were a minor point of interest. The focus on Bruce Lee as No.1 Wing Chun proponent seems a deliberate attempt to get the westerner interest. I would find great difference between the limited wing chun of Bruce Lee (though no doubt a proficient martial artist in his own right) and and historical patrons/heroes such as Leung Jan, Leung Bik (Fatshan). Whilst i understand the modesty and rejection of ego of the grandmasters, the absence of an author is always going to cast doubt over the accuracy/validity of the work. In academic circles it is a drawback but if you're after a good read that rings true philosophically, overall its a good resource.

4-0 out of 5 stars good book!
It is a good book that review many aspects of shaolin kung fu, including buddhism and many other philosophical issues.

1-0 out of 5 stars Huge Disappointment!!
This book is a gigantic disappointment! Full of historical and philosophical errors. If you are over twelve and have ever read a book on Shaolin martial arts you will be able to smell the phoniness of this book a mile away. Save yourself some money and get a different book.

4-0 out of 5 stars A fine book on Shaolin Zen Buddhism
I bought this book because I have a keen interest in Kung Fu, and wanted to gainmore insight into the historical and philosophical background of the Chinese martial arts.

Initially, I was rather sceptical of the book because it was from a group based in the pacific NW in the US. I though, "uh, oh - what have I just bought?" However, after reading several pages I began to realise that I had just bought a gem. The book gives a good insight both into Shaolin Zen (Ch'an) philosophy, and into the historical reasons of why the "authentic" Shaolin now reside in the US and not in China. There is also some discussion of some basic techniques and training, although this is not the focus of the book. What I like about the book is that it iswell-written in a non-evangical tone. The underlying principles of self-knowledge and respect, as follow by Zen Buddhists, comes though in the text.

If you are interested in some philosophical background to the Chinese martial arts (specifically Shaolin Gong Fu) and wish to know more about Shaolin Zen Buddhism, then this book is for you. If you are looking for a "how-to" Gong Fu book, then look elsewhere.

5-0 out of 5 stars Articulate, Useful Text of Rare Insight
Looking at previous reviews, one tends either to love or simply not think much of this text. I fall into the former category, and thus thought to lend weight in favor of the Order of Shaolin Ch'an's efforts.

The authors write to us from Oregon. This mere fact seems to be a big deal for some, who prefer that their scribes intone only from Henan Province on high, and preferably from centuries ago. But, if the lineages presented in this text are true (Li En Huo, Ben Ch'i Lo, etc.) -- and I'm sure they are -- the authors could write from anywhere they well pleased and represent, if not de facto, at least legitimately, Shaolin's rich heritage. To have qualms with their current locale and perhaps skin tone is to possess unexamined and misdirected stereotypes, racial and otherwise, regarding this particular branch of the martial arts. And to possess such stereotypes is antithetical to the most basic principles of Chan Buddhism. Best then seek your lessons from that commando instructor in the Karate Kid. I suppose one day he might author a book just for you.

I particularly enjoyed (and continued to enjoy) this book for its broad overview of Shaolin's long history. As the authors frequently mention, much of this heritage was (and is) passed down orally, by individuals who were (and are) largely unconcerned with the "written word" and "posterity." The authors are honest and upfront when treating areas of Shaolin history that are hazy, and much is, for the above-mentioned reasons. I really laughed at and love the passage that says something along the (paraphrased) lines of: "Given these competing versions, we are content to say that he lived a long time ago." You have to appreciate such honesty. What is particularly important here is that, where there are competing names, dates, or interpretations regarding Shaolin history, the authors unfurl the nuances of each version. This amounts to a historiographical exercise, and that is something that is missing all-too frequently from most books on gong fu. Having read more than a few such books in the last year or so, which is not to say that I am an expert, you will find here, in one place, the absolute best overview of Shaolin history, dating from Tamo, and earlier, to the present. Period. You could, of course, read the rich source material found in the bibliography. But good luck finding many of these texts, and then not going broke acquiring them. The Order of Shaolin Ch'an has accomplished this for you, while supplementing that material with oral traditions you simply won't find anywhere else. I, for one, am especially thankful. Other authors that provide useful supplements to this OSC text (and vice-versa) are Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming ("Shaolin White Crane" and "Chinese Qigong"), plus Wong Kiew Kit ("The Complete Book of Shaolin"). Yang provides some history, but is more attuned to actual practice and forms. For this his DVDs are especially useful, although his writing on theoretical concepts are exceptionally strong, although he is not so much interested in the "Buddha-aspect" gong fu, which is not a drawback. The efforts of Wong Kiew Kit are also very good, in general.

"The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text" is not concerned with teaching forms much beyond the most basic rudiments of training concepts, such as stances and the like. They do, however, provide a nice compendium and history of the various styles and sub-styles associated with Shaolin gong fu. Generally speaking, their work is concerned with Shaolin history, philosophy, and important gong fu concepts, both ethical and otherwise. Actual forms are best acquired from a live instructor, or so I am repeatedly told. I do not have one. The best book I've found for acquiring the basics of kung fu is Shifu Shi Yan Ming's "The Shaolin Workout." Its multitude of color photographs and detailed textual explanations accomplish things that a few grainy black-and-white photographs found in numerous other manuals just cannot. Ming's work, too, is beyond excellent, I find.

But to return to "The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text," I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of the Shaolin Temple, gung fu, or Buddhism. You will not find this much quality material in one place anywhere else. It is that simple. The writing style is exceptionally articulate and well-crafted. The writers clearly possess a strong background and training in the history of philosophy (as gong fu practitioners should). Their materials on the philosophical aspects of the Shaolin heritage are first-rate. They boil these things down to their essence, in prose that is clean and deft.

I particularly suggest getting the hardcover version, because, if you are like me, you will want this book to last a long time. And your standard paperback will look rather ratty after the repeated consultations you will want to make. Having read this text once all the way through, I frequently return, open at random, and lose myself between the covers. Now, if I could only unravel the koan-like question found on page 130 -- "Something is intentionally amiss with the the photograph below" -- I would be much happier. My guess is "no thing."

If you are sincerely interested in gong fu -- and not just in learning how to hurt somebody on a Friday night -- add this book to your library and you will NOT be disappointed.

... Read more

4. Han Shan, Chan Buddhism and Gary Snyder's Ecopoetic Way
by Joan Qionglin Tan
Paperback: 299 Pages (2009-08-30)
list price: US$37.50 -- used & new: US$29.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1845193415
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This book is a comparative study of the ninth-century Chinese poet and recluse Han Shan (Cold Mountain) and Gary Snyder, an American poet and environmental activist. Joan Tan explains how Chan Buddhism has the potential to be recognized as an important voice in contemporary ecopoetry. Mountain-seeing Chan/Zen theory and the nature - Chan mirror are employed as aesthetic criteria to explicate the dual discourses - spiritual and aesthetic - which exist in Han Shan and Snyder's poetry and life work. Snyder's goal of establishing one ecosystem for all communities encouraged him to adopt Han Shan as an ideal (albeit Chinese mythical) model and Chan Buddhism as a global subculture representing environmental values. This book investigates how Snyder interweaves Chinese cultural sources in an eclectic way to impose a sense of place, a sense of mission and a sense of energy in his ecopoetry. His unique ideogrammatic method - riprapping - developed as a result of his literary indebtedness to the Oriental tradition, makes for a forceful statement on contemporary ecology.Through Snyder's successful translation, Han Shan has been revived as an immortal Beat Poet (Jack Kerouac features prominently in the chapters), while Cold Mountain has emerged as synonymous with enlightenment. Snyder himself has become an exemplary representative of an American Han Shan. The poetic line extending from Han Shan through to Chan/Zen to contemporary ecology is considered here as a continuum - a continuum profoundly enhanced by Snyder's remarkable achievement of eco-wholeness - the original goal of Han Shan in his ecopoetry. This title is complemented with full Chinese character text and Glossary. ... Read more

5. Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism
by Chang Chung-Yuan
 Paperback: Pages (1995-01-15)
list price: US$14.00
Isbn: 0679758240
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Translation for Westerners
This hard-back edition is extremely rare. I believe the paperback is an exact copy in different binding.

This is a book of selections from the Transmission of the Lamp, a collection of Ch'an writings that was put together in the 11th Century, a centurybefore the teaching arrived in Japan.

The stories in this collection are spared quaintness by their very authenticity. You can hear the speakers, see the actions. What emerges is aninsistence on a kind of apprehension that disavows subject/object and mind/mindless distinctions. Professor Chang's translation is just right (he got his degree at Columbia) and his metaphor of intuition as the ordinary mental act that brings us closest to no-mind is brilliant. The goal of immersion in direct reality seems, if not exactly at hand to be fluttering about the room, just out of reach.

If you would know the difference between teachers and theologians, here's the book for you, immediate and real.

Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine

5-0 out of 5 stars The Metaphor of Intuition
It's old hat by now to remark (or joke) about the impenetrability of Zen Buddhism. Its defiance of logic and customary subject-object relationships has been both a barrier and an enticement to Westerners.
This is a book of selections from the Transmission of the Lamp, a collection of Ch'an writings that was put together in the 11th Century, a centurybefore the teaching arrived in Japan.

The stories in this collection are spared quaintness by their very authenticity. You can hear the speakers, see the actions. What emerges is aninsistence on a kind of apprehension that disavows subject/object and mind/mindless distinctions. Professor Chang's translation is just right (he got his degree at Columbia) and his metaphor of intuition as the ordinary mental act that brings us closest to no-mind is brilliant. The goal of immersion in direct reality seems, if not exactly at hand to be fluttering about the room, just out of reach.

If you would know the difference between teachers and theologians, here's the book for you, immediate and real.

Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine ... Read more

6. How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China (Studies in East Asia Buddhism)
by Morten Schlütter
 Paperback: 289 Pages (2010-04-30)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$25.31
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0824835085
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"How Zen Became Zen" takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote.In this fascinating study, Morten Schlutter shows that Dahui's target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlutter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents' arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago.Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlutter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes.He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlutter terms it) in the Chan School. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Modern Zen Scholarship --- AAAA++++
How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

by Morten Schlutter

Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No. 22
Published in association with the Kuroda Institute

In this masterpiece of modern Zen scholarship, Morten Schlutter presents a vastly important and astonishingly thorough account of the historical evidence of How Zen became Zen. While a number of studies in recent decades have revealed that the "traditional history" of Zen's (Chan's) "Golden Age" in Tang era China was actually retrospectively created in the Song Dynasty, Morten Schlutter's "How Zen became Zen" is the first book to offer a thorough explanation, complete with a detailed analysis on how and why this occurred.

By gathering together all of the various groundbreaking discoveries of Zen scholarship in recent decades, augmented by an extensive range of previously ignored source materials and weaving it together with his own profound insight and knowledge, Schulutter offers a rich tapestry that is both meticulous and accessible.

In a meticulous, step by step presentation, Schlutter offers the reader all of the recent discoveries and reveals the wide range of influencing factors. Drawing on a vast array of original sources, Schlutter leaves no rock unturned. By exploring sources from competing `schools' to governmental policies, from monastic institutions, to Chinese literati, from recently unearthed texts in Northern China to epithets of Zen masters, readers are shown how and why Chinese Buddhism culminated in the astonishingly original and distinctive form of Buddhism known as "Zen" (Chan).

This book is essential reading (as well as reference) for all serious Zen students/practitioners.

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How Zen Became Zen takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote. In this fascinating study, Morten Schlütter shows that Dahui's target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlütter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents' arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago.

Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlütter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes. He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlütter terms it) in the Chan School.

Table of Contents

1. Chan Buddhism in the Song: Some Background
2. The Chan School and the Song State
3. Procreation and Patronage in the Song Chan School
4. A New Chan Tradition: The Reinvention of the Caodong Lineage in the Song
5. A Dog Has No Buddha-Nature: Kanhua Chan and Dahui Zonggao's Attacks on Silent Illumination
6. The Caodong Tradition as the Target of Attacks by the Linji Tradition
7. Silent Illumination and the Caodong Tradition
Caodong Lineage
Linji Lineage

... Read more

7. Linguistic Strategies in Daoist Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism: The Other Way of Speaking
by Youru Wang
Hardcover: 264 Pages (2003-09-10)
list price: US$180.00 -- used & new: US$148.06
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Asin: 0415297834
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As the first systematic attempt to probe the linguistic strategies of Daoist Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism, this book investigates three areas: deconstructive strategy, liminology of language, and indirect original texts, placing them strictly within soteriological contexts.Whilst focusing on language use, the study also reveals some important truths about these two traditions and challenges many conventional understandings of them.Responding to recent critiques of Daoist and Chan Buddhist thought, it brings these two traditions into a constructive dialogue with contemporary philosophical reflection.It discovers Zhuangzian and Chan perspectives and sheds light on issues such as the relationship between philosophy and non-philosophy, de-reification of words, relativizing the limit of language, structure of indirect communication, and use of paradox, tautology and poetic language. ... Read more

8. Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context
by Bernard Faure
 Paperback: Pages (2010-11-12)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$39.95
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Asin: 0415600189
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The essays in this volume attempt to place the Chan and Zen tradition in their ritual and cultural contexts, looking at various aspects heretofore largely (and unduly) ignored. In particular, they show the extent to which these traditions, despite their claim to uniqueness, were indebted to larger trends in East Asian Buddhism, such as the cults of icons, relics and the monastic robe. The book emphasises the importance of ritual for a proper understanding of this allegedly anti-ritualistic form of Buddhism. In doing so, it deconstructs the Chan/Zen 'rhetoric of immediacy' and its ideological underpinnings. ... Read more

9. The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism (Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No 3)
by John R. McRae
Hardcover: 393 Pages (1987-01)
list price: US$42.00 -- used & new: US$28.90
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Asin: 0824810562
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding scholarship again in print!
I don't know why it hasn't made it into Amazon's inventory yet, so I thought I'd mention that this much cited and excellent piece of scholarship by Indiana University's John McRae is again in print: available in cloth for 42 USD online from University of Hawaii Press. (Sorry, but Amazon does not permit URLs in reviews--just Google to the press's website.)

McRae has a "Southern School" book in the works to look forward to--Zen Evangelist: Shenhui (684-758), Sudden Enlightenment, and the Southern School of Chinese Chan Buddhism. ... Read more

10. Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism (Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies)
by John R. McRae
Paperback: 224 Pages (2004-01-19)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$16.45
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Asin: 0520237986
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The tradition of Chan Buddhism--more popularly known as Zen--has been romanticized throughout its history. In this book, John R. McRae shows how modern critical techniques, supported by recent manuscript discoveries, make possible a more skeptical, accurate, and--ultimately--productive assessment of Chan lineages, teaching, fundraising practices, and social organization. Synthesizing twenty years of scholarship, Seeing through Zen offers new, accessible analytic models for the interpretation of Chan spiritual practices and religious history.

Writing in a lucid and engaging style, McRae traces the emergence of this Chinese spiritual tradition and its early figureheads, Bodhidharma and the "sixth patriarch" Huineng, through the development of Zen dialogue and koans. In addition to constructing a central narrative for the doctrinal and social evolution of the school, Seeing through Zen examines the religious dynamics behind Chan's use of iconoclastic stories and myths of patriarchal succession. McRae argues that Chinese Chan is fundamentally genealogical, both in its self-understanding as a school of Buddhism and in the very design of its practices of spiritual cultivation. Furthermore, by forgoing the standard idealization of Zen spontaneity, we can gain new insight into the religious vitality of the school as it came to dominate the Chinese religious scene, providing a model for all of East Asia--and the modern world. Ultimately, this book aims to change how we think about Chinese Chan by providing new ways of looking at the tradition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

3-0 out of 5 stars Informative, but a slow read
In this book John McRae intends to write a history of Chan Buddhism in a manner different from his predecessors.He begins with a short list of rules he has come up with for studying Zen.These rules involve reading stories for content instead of truth, being untrusting of lineage assertions, taking facts and details as tell-tale signs of inaccuracy, and reading stories through realism.These rules create the basis for how he will write the rest of the book, and help lead him to his conclusion and main point at the end of the work.He takes the entire book to lead up to his main point, which is finally stated in full in the last chapter, "Climax Paradigm".In this chapter he pieces together all of the history and stories he has told throughout the book to claim that it was in fact the Song-dynasty instead of the Tang (which most writers assert) that was the climax and ultimate stability of Chan.

Not being a scholar on Chan or really any other Asian history, I cannot evaluate McRae's conclusions and assertions based on historical accuracy.I wish to merely look at whether he follows his own rules which he laid out before the book began.For this we will need a good break-down of what he does in his first five chapters, the ones leading up to his argument and conclusion.In chapter one he discusses Chan lineage and how to properly use it to view Chan history.One of his biggest claims in this section is that we must avoid the "string of pearls fallacy" (McRae 9), which means not telling simply in terms of a list of important people and what they did.He says we need to look at the bigger picture of ideas and overall changes.

In the second and third chapters he talks about Chan in different historical time periods and the developments and changes made during those times.He discusses which people were important to that time and what they did.The fourth chapter diverges from this slightly, in that it follows one type of structure in Chan, which is encounter dialogue.He follows this type of practice through the people who developed it, and the ways it was used with each person and time period.In the fifth chapter he discusses "Zen and the Art of Fund-Raising", which really turns out to be a discussion of the political connections that allowed Chan to flourish above other forms of Buddhism in the Song-dynasty.

I think McRae's final chapter did a great job of showing Chan Buddhism and a different light than previous writers (at least based on what he says other writers did).He shows reasons why the Song-dynasty was the peak of Chan's influence, power, and stability with specific reason as well as larger concepts.His argument is well-formed and coherent.My problem, however, is with the first five chapters of the work.For the most part, he does not even follow his own rules when writing.He repeatedly gives specific details in his stories, which he originally claims implies inaccuracy.In addition, he takes the time to explain the "string of pearls fallacy" and then commits this very crime throughout the book.The simple fact is that there is no way to tell a history without talking about the individual important people involved.It seems that he was simply trying to make his book appear different from others at the beginning in order to make his argument at the end stronger.This is unnecessary; his argument is already strong, and he does not to prove himself to anyone by trying to make the rest of his book appear new and innovative as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Example of a Middle Way
As a Zen priest who is also an academic, I am frequently frustrated both by scholarly books on religion that dismiss practitioners' perspectives, and by religiously oriented books that accept religious claims uncritically. In Seeing Through Zen, John McRae synthesizes a great deal of recent scholarship on Ch'an (Zen) and shows that many of its central claims -- an unbroken lineage of patriarchs, the biographies of key figures such as Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, a "golden age" of iconoclastic masters during the Tang Dynasty -- are not "true" in the modern historical sense. At the same time, McRae's first rule of Zen studies is: "It's not true, therefore it's more important." His careful scholarship is balanced bysensitivity to the religious meanings and the institutional value of these myths for Ch'an/Zen practitioners. I highly recommend this book to academic students and religious practitioners of Zen.
The book opens with four axioms for Zen studies that can be applied usefully to almost any historical study. The subsequent analysis focuses on the Ch'an lineage and the literature of "encounter dialogue" (koans). McRae helps readers to understand the content of Ch'an myth and doctrine, the process by which it developed, and the ways it shaped the religious identities of institutions and individual practitioners.
He cautions readers not to accept portrayals of heroes or villains at face value, but to look beneath the rhetoric to what's at stake in their portrayals: whose interests are being served, and how? He also cautions against assuming that the more precise a Zen story is, in details of place and time, the earlier it is likely be. In fact, the opposite is more likely. The details of Bodhidharma's life, for example, accumulated gradually over a thousand years. His identity was continually reinvented by successive generations of practitioners, according to their religious identities and ideals. Likewise, the teachings of many great Tang Dynasty masters were attributed to them retrospectively by later generations of students. This does not mean, however, that the mytho-poetic accounts are worthless. They tell us about the concerns and aspirations of the people who developed them, and help us to think more carefully about the religious claims of our own era and institutions.
Western Zen is often built on misunderstandings of the tradition, in part because of the vast divide between our culture and that of Song Dynasty China, when many elements of Zen tradition took shape. For modern practitioners, it is not possible to do a careful and thoughtful job of interpreting Zen tradition for our own circumstances if we accept traditional stories unquestioningly in a literal, fundamentalist way. McRae offers helpful resources for re-thinking the tradition.
The book does have some limitations: it pays almost no attention to gender; and it focuses almost entirely on texts, rather than on, say, archaeology, religious objects, or art, all of which tell us something about how religious traditions were actually lived. The focus on texts is a bias of western Buddhist studies that has been critiqued in recent decades, because religious literature may tell us more about what elites thought practitioners should do and believe, than about what practitioners actually did. McRae also might have drawn more connections between Indian and Chinese traditions: the question-and-answer format of koan literature, for example, seems reminiscent of The Questions of King Milinda.
Despite these constraints, Seeing Through Zen is an engaging, accessible, highly informative book that demonstrates both rigorous scholarship and sympathy for the people he studies. This is a difficult balance, and McRae accomplishes it with flair.

4-0 out of 5 stars Engaging Treatment of Chan
McRae is truly an engaging scholar.Not only are his topics intriguing, but his writing style is smooth, accessible, and clear.Seeing Though Zen was a solid treatment of commonly misunderstood aspects of Chan (chinese zen).He fills the reader in on important aspects of the development of Chan without an over-burdening assessment the factors involved (that's what the bibliography is for), but he also treats the major 20th-century scholarship on Zen which accounts for these misunderstandings.I would have liked more of a "step into the beyond" in the conclusion, but I guess I'll have to wait for the Shen-hui work.

4-0 out of 5 stars "There is no wisdom and no gain. " Heart Sutra
Studies of this type were perhaps inevitable. Following in the footsteps of Dr.Hu Shih, John McRae questions the 'orthodox' in-terpretation of Ch'an (Zen) history. Like many others, however, I feel that he has made too much of certain arguments. Some things may be less than clear, about the early Ch'an tradition and its geneologies etc. However, the primary sources which shaped the Ch'an tradition - the T'ang masters, were very real people - and, for the most part - what has come down to us today - in their records, is a faithful reflection of what they had to teach.

John McRae makes much of 'sectarian' identities - but, did the T'ang masters encourage people to cling to such things? Masters like Ma-tsu and Shih-t'ou used to send their disciples back and forth, between each other's temples. Like Hu-shih, John McRae is keen to make it known that figures such as Hui-neng were made to bolster an 'ideological' position but, in actual fact, Hui-neng's Altar Sutra includes the story of his encounter with Yung-chia, a joint T'ien-tai/Ch'an master. Given John McRae's position, we should expect to find a 'triumphalist' account of Ch'an here - but, it actually acknowledges that Yung-chia was enlightened - and that he could hold his own - with Hui-neng. So - where's the obsession with 'sectarian' identities? The Ch'uan Teng Lu (Transmission of the Lamp) - technically a 'Ch'an-school' document, contains the records of several T'ien-tai masters.

John McRae dismisses almost everything about Hui-neng as a fiction- but, if he cares to visit to Pao-lin temple one day, not far from Canton, he will find Hui-neng's body, seated in the meditation posture. It has been there since 713, interestingly enough - in proximity to the body of an Indian master, who had predicted Hui-neng's birth and future career. Are the Buddhists who venerate this place - misguided fools? When it comes to it, the Ch'an school has not occupied the narrow horizons suggested in John McRae's account. You will find people practicing 'Pure Land meditation in Ch'an temples - and Master Yung-Ming wrote his monumental 'Tsung Ching Lu' (Record of the Source-Mirror), helping to explicate how all Buddhist teachings - as 'upaya' can be harmonised in the 'One Mind.' This affords a perspective quite different to that presented in John McRae's account. By default, perhaps, people now discriminate - and cling to sectarian identities. But is there a single T'ang master - on record, telling us to 'cling' to anything?

5-0 out of 5 stars transforming Zen history
Separating fact from fiction in history is problematic at best. Religious history is especially difficult as there are many stakeholders propogating certain lines of belief and practice. McRae's book strips away much of the mythology of the development of Chan/Zen from the time of Bodhidharma through to the Song Dynasty (ca. 950-1300) in China. This demythologizing is sure to upset some Zen practioners and teachers whose faith in Zen Buddhism is intimately tied to an idealised version of Zen's history.
McRae not only presents a refreshing view of the Chan lineage charts and their role in the development of Zen's history, but also gives a detailed analysis of the Northern/Southern Schools split and the development of "encounter dialogues", which laid the foundation for koans.Along the way, he takes a swipe at Heinrich Dumoulin's interpretation of Zen history, the Platform Sutra as history (it never happened), and even the idea that Chan was a distinct and separate Buddhist school in ancient China. Forthose whose faith is based on these colourful but historically inaccurate myths, this book will be troubling and thought-provoking.
McRae and other academics in the field are providing a valuable service to Buddhism's migration from the East to the West and books such as this one should be required reading in Zen centres around the world. McRae tackles the issues with a light touch and even non-experts in the field should have little difficulty in reading this. I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in Zen's true history.
(...) ... Read more

11. Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China
by Jiang Wu
Hardcover: 457 Pages (2008-04-17)
list price: US$74.00 -- used & new: US$51.98
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Asin: 0195333578
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Enlightenment in Dispute is the first comprehensive study of the revival of Chan Buddhism in seventeenth-century China. Focusing on the evolution of a series of controversies about Chan enlightenment, Jiang Wu describes the process by which Chan reemerged as the most prominent Buddhist establishment of the time.He argues that the revival of Chan Buddhism depended upon reinventions of previous Chan ideals, which had been largely lost after the Song dynasty.

Wu investigates the development of Chan Buddhism in the seventeenth century, focusing on controversies involving issues such as correct practice and lines of lineage.In this way, he shows how the Chan revival reshaped Chinese Buddhism in late imperial China.Situating these controversies alongside major events of the fateful Ming-Qing transition, Wu shows how the rise and fall of Chan Buddhism was conditioned by social changes in the seventeenth century.

Examining the role of textual practice and the implication of dharma transmission in rebuilding Chan institutions, Wu argues that the Chan revival was actively coordinated to coincide with the transformation of Chinese culture and society. His study concludes by bringing the Chan revival to a larger historical context and reflecting on its legacies, ultimately establishing a general pattern of past Buddhist revivals. ... Read more

12. Subtle Wisdom:Understanding Suffering, Cultivating Compassion Through Ch'an Buddhism
by Ch'an Master Sheng-yen, Sheng-yen
Paperback: 160 Pages (1999-08-17)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.24
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Asin: 0385480458
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Master Sheng-yen, a dharma descendant from the founders of Buddhism in China, considers the concepts of suffering, enlightenment, and compassion; provides a glossary of key terms; and briefly recaps the history of Buddhism in China. But he goes beyond these issues to discuss contemporary matters and questions he has encountered in his years of teaching in the United States. Sometimes personal and always instructive, Sheng-yen's introductory work is perfect for those just coming to Buddhism, and for those who are already very familiar with the Tibetan and Zen schools. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars meditation time
I am practicing Nicherin Buddhism and am always looking for ways to augment the teachings. saw this book at the library and found it very interesting. it predates and blends in with the Daishonins's teachings. if anyone is interested in learning in learning more about the Nicherin Buddhism, please go to [...].

5-0 out of 5 stars Einstein
Ah, he says Einstein is religious. I don't think that's true, is it? But, that little smudge aside, this book is, as has been said before, one of the best introductions to Ch'an buddhism you can buy. It outlines the major forms of zen practice, some you probably hadn't heard of (HuaTou, MoChao), as well as some autobiographical parts, explanations of core Buddhist belief, as well as a great chapter on compassion. In fact, the book gives an exercise in compassion you can practice each day to help you out with it. You don't find that much in Zen these days.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great intro to Chinese Buddhism.
I have studied Buddhism for over 20 years (mostly Zen), but was not all that familiar with authentic Ch'an Buddhism.Master Sheng yen was recommended by a friend and out of all his books I've found this the mostaccessible and most comprehensive.It's a great place to start if , likeme, you want profound wisdom at an understandable level. ... Read more

13. Monks, Rulers, and Literati: The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism
by Albert Welter
Hardcover: 334 Pages (2006-02-09)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$62.43
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Asin: 0195175212
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The Chan (Zen in Japanese) school of Chinese Buddhism began when, in the seventh century, a small religious community gathered around a Buddhist monk named Hongren. Over the centuries, Chan Buddhism grew from an obscure movement to an officially recognized and eventually dominant form of Buddhism in China and throughout East Asia. In this book Albert Welter presents, for the first time in a comprehensive fashion in a Western work, the story of the rise of Chan, a story which has been obscured by myths about Zen. Zen apologists in the twentieth century, Welter argues, sold the world on the story of Zen as a transcendental spiritualism untainted by political and institutional involvements. In fact, Welter shows that the opposite is true: relationships between Chan monks and political rulers were crucial to Chan's success. The book concentrates on an important but neglected period of Chan history, the 10th and 11th centuries, when monks and rulers created the so-called Chan "golden age" and the classic principles of Chan identity. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Scientific historical scholarship comes to Zen studies
It was bound to happen. Just as studies of the New Testament based on scientific historical scholarship transformed the field of Bible studies, so now it is transforming Zen studies. The same kind of critical scholarship that can be seen in Elaine Pagels' The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics to help understand how the construction ofNew Testament Gospel texts were shaped by historical events in the years following the death of Jesus has now been used to illuminate the rise of Chan Buddhism.

This is a outsider approach to Chan Buddhist history as opposed to the insider approach used by Heinrich Duomoulin in Zen Buddhism: A History : India and ChinaWith a New Supplement on the Northern School of Chinese Zen (Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture). It doesn't blindly accept what the Zen texts say but reviews them in light of other historical information. In doing so, it suggests possible motives for what is written.

Welter worked with historical documents heavily including the Chan transmission records. He looked at connections between Chan Buddhist leaders and Chinese political leaders, who provided key support to the Chan Buddhists. He shows how in the time from the Tang to the Song dynasty, Chan was able to gain dominance in China by presenting itself as iconoclastic, spontaneous and not dependent on doctrine and texts, all the while working closely with Chinese political leaders as it sold its story via the careful construction of its transmission records. Basing its appeal heavily on dharma transmissions, Chan tweaked history so as to construct first multi-lineage tranmissions which, over time, were reduced to a single lineage as the Linji school gained dominance. The prominance of Northern Chan Buddhism was challenged sucessfully by the Southern School, as documented by the Southern School in the The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Records of transmission became a tool within lineage to pass control from one master to another.

During the Song Dynansty, Chan was able to present itself as a new kind of Chinese Buddhism, free of the perceived failure of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty. While claiming to be free of reliance on text, it relied heavily on transmission records. The koan collections (some major ones are The Blue Cliff Record, No Barrier: Unlocking the Zen Koan - A New Translation of the Zen Classic "Wumenguan" (Mumonkan) and The Book of Serenity: One Hundred Zen Dialogues) that derived from these records were a unique literary production that seemed, unlike that of other Buddhist schools, somehow free of doctrine and narration ... and above all seemed spontaneous. Actually, as the historical records Welter examines reveals, they derived from considerable institutional and political influences. Chan's status as a "separate practice outside the teachings" was a creative solution to unify Chan branches which otherwise, like other Buddhist schools, might have appeared as just so many variations requiring a resort to the "time-honored" Buddhist appeal to "skillful means" to pull together. Although carefully constructed, stories of iconoclastic practices including beating and shouting were ideally suited to appeal to the religious longings of a Chinese elite increasingly caught up in bureaucratic activity.

What then of enlightenment? Was it simply a way of designating the passage of authority from one Buddhist leader to another? Such a suspicion might indeed explain the puzzling instant moments of awakening found in the transmission records. Like the Christian story of a physical resurrection, Chan stories of enlightenment might be just that, stories less intended to awaken an individual Chan practitioner than to pass control from one leader of a monastery to another, monasteries that depended on government support.

Just as the application of scientific scholarship to Christianity has enriched our understanding of how human beings construct and find meaning in a religion, so hopefully its application to Chan Buddhism will free us of misguided submission to false authority and the manipulation of "enlightenment" so that we may find the real value in Chan we may have otherwise overlooked. Ironically, as Welter points out, Chan may not have survived were it not for its political entanglements.

With eyes open, Chan practice still seems powerful, for which try Sheng Yen's Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master.

... Read more

14. Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism
by Mario Poceski
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2007-04-13)
list price: US$85.00 -- used & new: US$67.97
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Asin: 0195319966
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Under the leadership of Mazu Daoyi (709-788) and his numerous disciples, the Hongzhou School emerged as the dominant tradition of Chan (Zen) Buddhism in China during the middle part of the Tang dynasty(618-907). Mario Poceski offers a systematic examination of the Hongzhou School's momentous growth and rise to preeminence as the bearer of Chan orthodoxy, and analyzes its doctrines against the backdrop of the intellectual and religious milieus of Tang China. Poceski demonstrates that the Hongzhou School represented the first emergence of an empire-wide Chan tradition that had strongholds throughout China and replaced the various fragmented Schools of early Chan with an inclusive orthodoxy.

Poceski's study is based on the earliest strata of permanent sources, rather than on the later apocryphal "encounter dialogue" stories regularly used to construe widely-accepted but historically unwarranted interpretations about the nature of Chan in the Tang dynasty. He challenges the traditional and popularly-accepted view of the Hongzhou School as a revolutionary movement that rejected mainstream mores and teachings, charting a new path for Chan's independent growth as a unique Buddhist tradition. This view, he argues, rests on a misreading of key elements of the Hongzhou School's history.Rather than acting as an unorthodox movement, the Hongzhou School's success was actually based largely on its ability to mediate tensions between traditionalist and iconoclastic tendencies. Going beyond conventional romanticized interpretations that highlight the radical character of the Hongzhou School, Poceski shows that there was much greater continuity between early and classical Chan-and between the Hongzhou School and the rest of Tang Buddhism-than previously thought. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars "The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance."
Most varieties of Chan and Zen Buddhism around today trace their roots back to Mazu Daoyi and his Hongzhou School. Which, as usual, means that layer upon layer of hagiographical distortion has--with intents both pious and polemical--obscured his and their specific historical reality beyond all recognition. And this process continues today in countless introductory and scholarly books on Chan/Zen in English. If we've read any of these, we more or less know the story. We've all come across Mazu the eccentric and iconoclastic monk with crazy wisdom spurning official honors on the margins of China's southern frontier. We've also come across Baizhang, his equally oddball disciple and original formulator of Chan's institutional independence. These depictions are vastly fascinating, deeply inspiring, and immensely entertaining--and pretty much false, as Mario Poceski shows in this excellent study.

Which makes him seem like just another debunker, but actually the bulk of "Ordinary Mind as the Way" is rather devoted to a careful reconstruction of just who Mazu and his Hongzhou Schoolers were and what they were like, based on a meticulous and judicious analysis of select textual sources actually dating to the Tang Dynasty (around the time Mazu and company were alive or soon after)--some recently discovered, some long extant but ignored since they didn't jive with the standard narrative, and others otherwise consistently misread in light of what we thought we knew. Poceski's arguments are careful, nuanced, and convincing, demonstrating that overall Mazu's Hongzhou Chan was in a way simply one variant of Tang Buddhism in general. Very much based in official monasteries and involved with social elites both in South China AND in the northern capitals (i.e. hardly marginal), very much observant of formal monastic disciplines and hierarchies and highly conversant with the Buddhist scriptural canon. And yet possessed of a distinct sense of religious identity with their own particular spin on the mainstays of traditional Tang Buddhism--that is, Poceski doesn't fall into the opposite extreme of utterly collapsing them into their context and unfairly deconstructing them into undeserved oblivion. Indeed, the balance he brings to his discussion is exemplary and downright refreshing.

Another strong point of the book is the manner in which it tackles the issues from both historical and Buddhological angles. In the first half, Poceski traces what can more or less be known for certain about the life of Mazu, his disciples, and the Hongzhou School's early development. In the second half, he focuses more on the particular religious teachings and practices of Mazu and company, ingeniously relating them to the wider Tang Buddhist context in sensible though surprising ways. Perhaps my own favorite example can be found on pages 142 to 143, where he takes a passage from one of Mazu's recorded sermons that sounds like the usual freewheeling rambling Zen discourse and then shows it to be an incredibly erudite patchwork of sutra quotations peppered with Mazu's own comments elucidating and linking them. According to the usual Zen stereotypes this is startling stuff, but there it is, it all makes sense. And it's every bit a fascinating form of Buddhism in its own right, making Poceski's discussion throughout something of an exciting recovery operation.

In short, despite its title, this is an extraordinary book, bound to be pivotal in the study of Chan and Zen Buddhism and extremely important as well for the study of Chinese religious history in general. And a joy to read, a plus never to be taken for granted when it comes to academic titles. Highly recommended. ... Read more

15. The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism in Eighth- Through Tenth-century China
by Jinhua Jia
Paperback: 220 Pages (2007-06)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$21.80
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Asin: 0791468240
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A comprehensive study of the Hongzhou school of Chan Buddhism, long regarded as the Golden Age of this tradition, using many previously ignored texts, including stele inscriptions. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars A good reference, not much more.
If you want a history lesson, written in the style of an academic, with endless foot notes and references, this is the book for you.If you however are a layman seeking Chan information, I would pass.It was interesting, with a lot of history, but my search is far more personal so I walked away from it rather disappointed.The author has done his homework, but it is rather a boring read, It's more of a text book, and not a very interesting one at that.

5-0 out of 5 stars "But you shall shine more bright in these contents than unswept stone..."
What are the chances that two excellent books on the Hongzhou School would be published within months of each other? So it is, though. Jinhua Jia's "The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism" and Mario Poceski's "Ordinary Mind as the Way" (Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism) both add much to our knowledge of this otherwise relatively understudied but immensely influential aspect of Chan/Zen Buddhism in Tang China, and both came out just recently in 2007. Independently and spontaneously, no less, according to the inscrutable operations of some scholarly zeitgeist. Both too are indispensable in their own ways.

By rights I should be focusing more on Jia's book here. As happenstance would have it, though, I just finished reading Poceski's book about a week ago or so, and my impressions are still too fresh to make this anything but a rather comparative evaluation. Like Poceski, Jia convincingly undercuts the eccentric and iconoclastic images of Mazu, Baizhang, and the Hongzhou school, showing through careful and judicious use of reliably datable texts that they were very much conservatively monastic monks with a thorough grounding in the Buddhist scriptural canon. Jia's method is much more rigorously and thoroughly philological, and she leads the reader along in an intricate process of uncovering different layers in the encounter dialogues (sources ruled out by Poceski), bits of which seem to be authentic historically according to her. Sometimes this seems tedious at first, but then when Jia marshals all the details and makes her points, it all falls into place and the reader's patience is rewarded.

Also like Poceski, Jia first establishes what can be known historically about Mazu and his school, and then goes on to examine their characteristic religious doctrines and practices. In Jia's case, though, she gives more focus to the Hongzhou School's later attempts to achieve orthodoxy and explores within that process its supposed schism with the Shi-tou School [please pardon the hyphen], arguing in conclusion that this split was a retrospective narrative cooked up considerably later for clear polemical reasons. She also succeeds in shedding fascinating new light on an old tangle, the authorship of the monastic regulations attributed to Baizhang which supposedly initiated Chan's institutional independence. Jia compellingly examines the existing sources (including a few previously overlooked ones) and demonstrates clearly that these rules are neither the creation of Baizhang Huaihai himself as per the standard normative narratives nor a Song Dynasty invention from scratch as per the academic debunkers--and, a surprise for both sides, far from freeing Chan from reliance on the Vinaya rules, they originally reinforced that reliance.

If there is one thing that's annoying about this fine study, it's that Jia sometimes speaks in terms perhaps a bit too categorically certain--that something MUST be a forgery or MUST be authentic. Surely, despite Jia's considerable acumen here, we are dealing with high probabilities rather than absolutes. That said, I imagine few have done the requisite textual homework to call her bluff. In the end, too, it is highly instructive to read this book soon after Poceski's: both take off from very similar starting points and reach similar overall conclusions, and yet the details in their discussions diverge and their investigations branch off in differing directions. If nothing else, lots more interesting work awaits in this area, but a good start has been made with these two pivotal studies. Jia's is not nearly as smooth a read, but it makes up for that in methodological brass tacks. Highly recommended. ... Read more

16. Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War
by Sister Chan Khong
Paperback: 300 Pages (2007-04-26)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$8.91
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1888375671
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Sister Chan Khong's autobiography tells the story of her spiritual and personal odyssey through the many years of her life. The book’s centerpiece is her moving account of her return to Vietnam, her homeland, after 40 years of exile. She describes in refreshing detail her emotional reactions, the reunions with many old friends and fellow activists, and her impression of the “new Vietnam” where Buddhists still struggle for religious freedom. Often compared to The Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, this memoir connects to larger themes, especialy when the author discusses the life and teaching of her fellow exile, Thich Nhat Hanh, gives an overview of the development of the European and American peace and human rights movements, and introduces readers to the Vietnamese style of Buddhism. Learning True Love is a testament to the power of tenacity and faith.
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Customer Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, beyond words
Sister Chan Kong is truly a living bodhisattva.Her selflessness, generosity, and meritous actions shine through the words of her autobiography.In adversity, she tirelessly sought to improve the conditions of others and ease their suffering.The book left me wanting to know more of her life.Each picture that I have been able to find of her is a face of serenity, peace, and calm.I have a greater understanding of the suffering of the Vietnamese people.

5-0 out of 5 stars Satisfactory
I ordered the book for a class and it came on time and in good shape.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
I had the amazing pleasure to meet Sr. Chan Khong and her prescence and life has definitely been an inspiration to me.
The book is highly recommneded!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I totally disagree with the "library journal" review. Not only was this book inspiring, heartwarming, and unique, it told a tale of a woman who defied so many odds by transforming her suffering into the desire to help others move forward into peace. I have read many books by Buddhist scholars before, but none as simple and biographical as this. It was heartbreaking at times; hearing about killings, learning about lost loved ones, learning true love, all of this is conveyed in such a way that you feel you're actually there.

There is no broken English in this book, I don't know what the review is talking about. There's only one typo that I found in the entire book, and it was typing error, not a grammatical one. This book should be on your priority list: if you give it a try, you'll find that you want to keep it in your collection forever. It's a priceless concentration of thoughts that move and inspire you, both to touch suffering and not to despair when faced with challenges.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very fine autobiography
This is the autobiography of a Vietnamese Buddhist nun who spent her life trying to help people whose lives were devastated by the wars. Because of her close association with Thich Nhat Hanh, it is to some degree an informal history of his activities as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is her frustration with the American peace movement. Her life (and his) are both quite inspiring, so this is a challenging and uplifting book. I would happily recommend this book to anyone interested in Vietnamese Buddhism, the war and the peace movements, or Vietnam in general. ... Read more

17. Practical Buddhism: Application of Ch'an Teaching to Daily Life
by Kuanyu Lu
 Paperback: 167 Pages (1988-12)

Isbn: 0712617353
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This is a wide-ranging introduction to the main forms of Buddhist meditation and the meditational techniques of the Chinese Ch'an masters from whose teachings Zen developed. The author has also written "Taoist Yoga" and "The Secrets of Chinese Medicine". ... Read more

18. The Syncretism of Ch'an and Pure Land Buddhism (Asian Thought and Culture)
by Heng-Ching Shih
 Hardcover: 278 Pages (1992-07)
list price: US$51.95 -- used & new: US$47.50
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Asin: 0820416819
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19. The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism
by Bernard Faure
 Hardcover: 304 Pages (1997-12-01)
list price: US$57.95 -- used & new: US$57.43
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Asin: 0804728658
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Marking a complete break with previous scholarship in the field, this book rewrites the history of early Chan (Zen) Buddhism, focusing on the genealogy and doctrine of one of its dominant strains, the so-called Northern school that flourished at the turn of the eighth century.

The traditional interpretation of the Northern school was heavily influenced by the polemics of one of its opponents, the monk Shenhiu, who characterized the Northern school’s teaching as propounding the belief that enlightenment occurred gradually, was measurable, and could be expressed in conventional language. To all this, Shenhiu and his teaching of “sudden enlightenment” were opposed, and Shenhiu’s school and its version of history would later prevail. On the basis of documents found at Dunhuang, this book shows how the traditional view is incorrect, that Shenhiu’s imposition of a debate between gradual and sudden conceals the doctrinal continuity between the two schools and the diversity of Chan thought in the period. The author buttresses his conclusions by placing the evolution of early Chan in the intellectual, political, social, and economic context of the mid-Tang.

The book is in three parts. The first part treats the biography and thought of the “founder” of the Northern school,Shenxiu, the nature of his followers, and his affinities for Buddhistic scholasticism. The second part studies the way in which the Northern school, after Shenxiu, adapted to new circumstances: changes in imperial policies, the rise of rival schools, and changes in the natureof its followers. The third part focuses on the internecine struggles around the genealogy of Chan as reflected in the Lengqie shizi ji (Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lankavatara [School]) by the monk Jingjue. A close reading of this work reveals that it foreshadowed many of the themes and issues that would later come to the forefront in Zen, and contributes significantly to our reassessment of the teachings and practices of “pre-classical” Chan.

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Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars re: surpassed long ago
Although it is true that McRae produced an excellent work on early Chan, the decided lack of literature on the subject of pre-Hui neng Chan/Zen makes anything quite welcome. However Faure is unquestionably one of the best in the field, and, unlike McRae, who is "dry", Faure gives valuable insight in an entertaining and informative manner (not an easy task given the acedemic quality of the book). As an aspiring academic in the field of early Chan myself, I have found this book to be profoundly helpfull, and would recommend anyone interested in the subject to read both Faure and McRae.

1-0 out of 5 stars surpassed long ago
I think that someone must have thought "Lets take this old thesis, dress it up, and maybe we can make some money". There is really no reason for this book to exist. Almost all of the ideas and topics in this book (and more) are presented in much more depth in John R. McRae's "The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism". In the acknowledgements, the author seems to describe his book as a phase in the historical progression of his thought. While admitting there is considerable overlap between his book and John McRae's, the author says "Unfortunately I was unable to rework my entire book to take into account all of the new data contributed by McRae. I only hope that by tossing this piece into the hopper of Chan history I may provide elements for some future synthesis." So basically, he just reprinted an old, outdated piece of research!? If you're interested in the Northern school of Chan, take your money and check out "The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism". It's a bit dry, but it is by far the best book on the topic. ... Read more

20. Orthodox Chinese Buddhism: A Contemporary Chan Master's Answers to Common Questions
by Master Sheng Yen
Paperback: 280 Pages (2007-08-07)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.46
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Asin: 1556436572
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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As a well-known scholar and meditation master—His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama called him “extremely modest, a true spiritual practitioner of deep and broad learning”—Sheng Yen is uniquely qualified to guide Western seekers into the world of contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Written while the author was secluded in solitary retreat in southern Taiwan, Orthodox Chinese Buddhism provides a wealth of theory and simple, clear guidelines for practicing this increasingly popular form of spirituality. One of the most influential Buddhist books in the Chinese language, the book explores a wide range of subjects, from distinguishing core teachings from outdated cultural norms to bridging the gap between Western and Chinese traditions. In the process, it addresses such questions as “To what extent should Buddhism be Westernized to fit new cultural conditions?” and “Does Westernization necessarily lead to ‘a dumbing down’ of Buddhism?” In addition to the translation of the complete original text, this edition includes new annotations, appendixes, and a glossary designed for the Western reader. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Understanding Why Chinese Buddhism Will Not Survive in Redland
This is as competent a guide as you'll ever find of Chinese Ts'ao-t'ung Chan Buddhism. It is not high-flown, and should be easy for Americans to use as a guide. The question/answer format is perfect for a subject like this.

Yet it also shows the orthodox staleness of most Chinese clerics' minds.

This book, if one reads deeply enough, will amply show why Buddhism was dying in China even before the commies killed it off...and even though I cannot recommend against this book, I'd say buy a nice Japanese Zen book instead. Maybe Nichiren the old rogue was onto something when he said Zen was hell on earth, and this book deals with orthodox original Zen, which in Chinese is "Chan".

Somehow the book lacks virtue, is pompous and stale. Ben Franklin said religion is finished when it puts orthodoxy ahead of virture.

As a general guide, read perhaps as if it were a glossary, it's really quite thorough...but do not expect any actual Chinese terminology, custom or description of practice. Here, the master was many wonderful things, but he just doesn't translate into print as well as, say, Thich Nhat Hanh. Then again, the master didn't write 'his own' book at all: this is a book of transcripts, duly edited and presented for the average American Dopey-type.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for New and
This book is essential reading for anyone new to Buddhism or even an accomplished Buddhist practitioner.

In "Orthodox Chinese Buddhism," Chan (i.e. Zen) Master Sheng Yen answers many fundamental questions such as:

What are Orthodox Buddhist Beliefs and Practices?

Do Buddhists Believe in the Existence of God?

Do Buddhist Worship Idols?

Is Buddhism Against Birth Control?

And many others...

Regardless of your level of practice, you may find that some of the answers to these and other questions surprise you.

Whereas the purpose of book is not only to answer fundamental questions, but to re-emphasize "orthodox" Buddhist beliefs and practices, readers may find that some misconceptions about their own religion have creeped into their thoughts and actions.

Taiwanese Buddhist practitioners will also find this book particularly helpful to distinguish between the traditional Daoist (Taoist) rituals and practices with which they were raised, and what are, in fact, the quite different beliefs and practices of Buddhism. Western visitors to Taiwan will also quickly learn there is a huge difference between Daoism and Buddhism. For example, just because a temple has a Guanyin or a Buddha image does not mean that activities therein represent "orthodox" Buddhist practices. (This reviewer speaks from first-hand experience, as he has visited Taiwan on numerous occasions, and recently visited Dharma Drum Mountain, an impressive embodiment of Sheng Yen's teaching.)

[...]The title of Master Sheng Yen's book is not `Orthodox Chan,' therefore, it should be no surprise that it did not focus on that subject. It was also complained that this book "does not seem to offer much to anyone already familiar with Buddhism in any form, particularly Mahayana Buddhism." In fact, Master Sheng Yen discusses in this book the fundamentals of Mahayana Buddhism, its history, and differences with the many other schools. Those discussions are short and to the point, and notations are provided for those who wish to learn more.

This book is consistent with its title, "Orthodox Chinese Buddhism." It provides great insight for Taiwanese Buddhist practitioners and Western practitioners alike. Even for those who have a greatly developed practice, this book is a useful tool to compare one's own developed practice to tried and true practices of a Master. As Master Sheng-yen has often said, we should always consider ourselves beginners in the Dharma.

2-0 out of 5 stars Notmuch about Chan Buddhism
Although Sheng Yen is a Chan Master and has many excellent books teaching Chan meditation, this book, as the name suggests, is not focused on Chan. It also does not seem to offer much to anyone already familiar with Buddhism in any form, particularly Mahayana Buddhism. The questions that Sheng Yen answers seem to me to be ones that might occur to anyone reasonably familiar with popular Buddhism, as might the gist of the answers: although Sheng Yen's answers are more elaborate they too often veer into the speculative or the supernatural.

If you are not familiar with any form of Buddhism, I'd recommend skipping this book and looking for a primer on Buddhism: Sheng Yen's own There Is No Suffering: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra would be a good place to start. If you know something about Buddhism but want to begin learning about Chinese Buddhism, Tom Lowenstein's The Vision of the Buddha (Living Wisdom) does have a section on Chinese Buddhism, including Chan, and provides an excellent overview of Buddhism.

For Sheng Yen's own works, I would recommend for a thorough teaching on Chan meditation Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master and for a less thorough but, practically speaking, probably sufficient and perhaps better focused teaching Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism, especially the chapter by Sheng Yen himself.
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