From issue 110:
PRAJNA-PARAMITA AND CHINESE CH’AN
-by Bhikshuni Shih Hui Wen
The T'ien-t'ai School centers its doctrine on the Lotus Sutra. Based on the Maha-prajna-paramita Sutraand the commentary Ta Chih-Tu Lun, it developed its meditation system during the Sui dynasty(581-618) regarding practical cultivation and doctrinal study as of equal importance and admitting no difference between the rules and Ch'an. Its practice of the six paramitas actually transcends them and therefore corresponds to the four modes of perfecting beings. As the Ta Chih-Tu Lun states: "Again, the Buddha spoke this Prajna-paramita Sutra because he intended to declare the absolute mode of perfecting beings. There are four modes of perfecting beings: first, the mode of worldly truth; second, the mode individually adapted to each being; third, the mode of counteracting and healing; and fourth, the absolute mode. " The Lotus Sutra is an exposition of these four modes wherefore it embodies true emptiness as well as wonderful existence.
About 500 years (from the Eastern Han Dynasty(), 25-220, to the great Master Chih-i(), 538-597, of the Sui Dynasty) after the transmission of original prajna-paramita and fundamental prajna-paramita, China developed "Tathagata ch'an, (dhyana)." According to the Great Master Kui-feng, Chinese ch'an can be categorized as non Buddhist ch'an, worldling ch'an, lessor ch'an, greater vehicle ch'an, and ultimate vehicle of Tathagata ch'an. Because the "Mahayana Samatha Vipasyana" of the second T'ien-t'ai patriarch Hui-szu(, 511-574)provided a thorough elucidation of Tathagata-garbha, the whole meditation system of this school is also called "Tathagata ch'an) or, due to its scriptural foundations, "parajna-paramita ch'an."
The six generation tradition handed down from Bodhidharma(?-528) developed incessantly on the lines of the Lankavatara Sutra() and the prajna-paramita. Only the five or seven schools respectively which split after Hui-neng, began to neglect the aspect of "wonderful existence" though they continued to emphasize emptiness. "The tradition of (Ch'ing-yuan and) Shih-t'ou which sprang from Ts'ao-hsiwas extraordinarily closely related to the Niu-t'ou () branch. In the beginning, both were considered to belong to the same brand of total negation and non dependence...It arose from a mergence with philosophical Taoism. Fiercely rejecting knowledge and seeing no need for activity, it became the Chinese Ch'an School which heeded only self-benefit and paid no attention to benefitting others." The result of this development from the Greater Vehicle to the lessor one may well be likened to a sighted person without feet.
DHARMA FLOWER SUTRA, vol. 3 contains chapter 2, Expedients. In this chapter the Buddha emerges from samadhi to praise the profundity of the Buddha's wisdom which is beyond the understanding of both the Sound Hearers and Conditioned-Enlightened Ones. He also states that Dharma Skillfully, gladdening the hearts of all.
DHARMA FLOWER SUTRA, Vol. 4 contains chapter 3, A parable. This chapter is an elaborate but simply spoken parable of children trapped in a burning house and of the devices their father uses to help them escape. It is a treasury of Buddhist doctrine elucidated through this intricate parable and the book promises to be a classical text of Buddhist Studies.
SONGS FOR AWAKENING. Songs that praise the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, spell out the sufferings of the Saha world, and ring with truths on how to learn to transcend sorrow into bliss. A beautifully soft-bound book, each individually seal-wrapped, SONGS FOR AWAKENING is available now at Gold Mountain, 1731 15th Street, San Francisco. Ca.