Prajna Paramita Thought
and Chinese Ch’an
From issue, #114
By Bhikshuni Shih Hui Wen
As early as the Eastern Han dynasty, texts on meditation had been translated into Chinese, notably by Dharma Master An Shih-kao.
The practices described therein in series of fixed numbers, like the thirty seven factors of enlightenment, the twelve types of ch'an, etc. belong to Theravada Ch'an. "The History of the Indian and the Chinese Ch'an School" distinguishes between the following stages of development:
1) Lesser vehicle like breathing mindfulness in the wake of An Shih-kao's translation work;
ch'an of visualization and mindfulness of the Buddha as described in the
translated by Lokaksema
3) a mixture of Theravada and Mahayana teachings which was presented in several texts Kumarajiva translated;
4) the Theravada cultivation system of Dharmatrata's Yoqacarabhumi Sutra.
Translated by Buddhabhadra in 410, which contains also a few Mahayana contemplation methods;
5) the style of ch'an particular to China which developed from the rejection of all Theravada teachings and the synthesis of Prajna paramita, Madhyamika, philosophical Taoism, and so called ch’ing-t'an .5
Texts which pro vide a fusion of prajnaparamita thought and tantric teachings had been translated during the T'ang (,618-907) and, for the roost part, the early Northern Sung dynasty ( 960,1127). However, the Esoteric School flourished only for a very short period in China and because of several factors like the persecution of 845, the only school to substantially survive as such was the Ch'an School. Those translations therefore had not the slightest impact on Chinese Buddhist thought.
of the later Ch'an masters deserve special mention. One is Master Huai-hai(
720-814) whose "Pure Rules Composed by Pai-chang"
and the spirit of "One day without work is one day without food"
became the general basis of Chinese monasticism. The other Master is Yen-shou
who vigorously promoted the simultaneous practice: of cultivation methods
of both the Pure Land and the Ch'an School.
FASTING AS A DHARMA DOOR
-by Dharma Master Heng K'ung
Removing the doer from
a fast for those of us still within the sway
of desire can only be done when we
center our interest in other work rather than
the fast itself. Because the demon of
appetite is so powerful, to dwelt in a
mind devoid of the concept of fasting is
most difficult. An interest must be
developed in one's work or devotional
activity such as meditation or sutra study that
smothers out the concept of fasting. No
thoughts of the fast itself can be
entertained. If this is not done, we wi11 defeat
our main purpose which is spiritual
development and wi11 only receive the
benefits of physical purification. Since
physical health is not necessary for the
boon of enlightenment to be one, and it is
not uncommon in fact for a monk to become enlightened in the midst of a serious
illness, or for an ascetic to win the
fruit after many years of extreme bodily
deprivation, let those of us who are
cultivating the Path not dwell in the attitude
that is usually dwelled in by
bent on health nor observe the same rules
by which they conduct their activities white
fasting. Rather, let us apply the
additional effort that is necessary for
loosening of the mental barriers that are
obstructing our self-realization.
Aside from the negative aspect of preventing undesirable ill to fall one's way, the positive aspect of effortlessness, which results if the above method is properly employed, should be mentioned. A point should be reached when a conscious effort need not be applied. The mind when peaked to its extreme limit should absorb body and world into itself with an uncanny feeling of lack of separation. When the interest that one CREATED to avoid fatting Into the dark realms that fasters frequently fall into becomes real, all bodily movements and acts of mind will be natural, effortless, and without calculation.
The sacrifice and discipline of fasting is applicable to cultivation only when done as a devotional exercise as described above. The notion of body as self is a false view and cultivators should not in conducting their fasts do so in the same manner as those who regard body as self.