Prajna Paramita Thought and Chinese Ch’an
By "Bhiksuni Shih Hui Wen
3. The Development of Chinese Ch'an
Discussion of Chinese Ch'an must not be reduced to the history of the Ch'an School and begin with the Prajna paramita and T'ien T’ai thought, too. Only thus fallacious distortion by losing sight of the whole can be avoided. This view is corroborated by Master Kui-feng's stress on the identity of Tathagata Ch’en and patriarch ch'an.
The translation of Prajna paramita texts exerted tremendous Influence on the establishment of Buddhist schools in China. We can clearly discern three periods of this process:
1) The Great Master Hui-yuan (,334-416) who became the Buddhist central figure of South China founded the Pure Land School, attained an enlightenment when he heard Master Tao-an (,314-385) lecture on the Prajna paramita. (4) In 405, after Kumarajiva had completed the translation of the Ta chih-tu-lun, the emperor Yao Hsing sent the treatise to Hui-yuan and entreated him by a letter to compose a preface because the other monks declined. This fact proves the general recognition of Hui-yuan's mastery in the Prajna paramita. The practice of the White Lotus Society , which was founded by Master Hui-yuan on Mt. Lu and later continued as the Pure Land School, was characterized by its combination of ch'an and the recollection of the
2) During the Northern Wei dynasty (,386-534), Master Hui-wen () developed the important teaching of the three fold truth and contemplation that was handed on through Master Hui-szu to the Great Master Chih-i. The latter firmly established the T'ien-T’ai system of samatha-vipasyana as well as the tenet of equally important doctrine and cultivation.
4 v. T 2059, 358a2-3
3) The Great Master Seng-t’san (,?-606) was the third patriarch of the lineage of Bodhidharma who had brought the ch'an teaching o direct pointing to China and used the Lankavatara Sutra in transmission. His famous "Confidence in the Mind"() proves how be blended the gist of the Lankavatara Sutra with Prajna Paramita thought. His successor, Master Tao-Hsin (,580-651) cultivated even more evidently prajna paramita. Ch’an and advised people to be mindful of "Maha prajna paramita" The ch'an teachings of the Niu-t'ou branch which then split from the mal stream of tradition and was spread by masters like Fa-jung (592-656) and Hui-chung (682-769) were also not beyond the transcending realm of contemplative prajna and real mark prajna, and the fifth patriarch Hung-Jen (682-679) transmitted the Dharma to Hui-neng by means of the Diamond Sutra. When Hui-neng heard the line, "One should produce that thought, which is nowhere supported," he awoke to the essential meaning of wonderful existence in emptiness. This development o^ the absolute emptiness of the Prajna-paramita marks the independence of the Chinese Ch'an School.