Prajna Paramita Thought and Chinese Ch'an

by Bhikshuni Shih Hui Wen


      During the one hundred odd years from Chu Shih-hsing's promotion of the Prajna-Paramita to Master Kumarajiva's translations, the Buddhist doctrines most flourishing in China were those of the Prajna-paramita. A list of famous monks and scholars of the Western and Eastern Chin dynasties ( , 265-420) who specialized in the Prajna-paramita may be given here:

Chu Shih-hsing who lectured on the Astasahasrika Prajna-paramita and left China in 260 in 

order to obtain more complete texts,

Wei Shih-tu who composed an abstract of Lokaksema's version of the Astasahasrika

Po Fa-tso , ?-306) from Northern Honan, who wrote a commentary on the Fang-Kuang

Chih Hsiao-lung who revised the Fang-kuang ching in 303 together with Chu
Shu-lan (),

Chung-shan Chih he-shang  who copied the Fang-kuang ching. K'ang Seng-yuan who specialized in the exegesis of the smaller and larger . versions of the
in the first half of the fourth century,

Chih Min-tu  who developed the teaching of the non-existence of mind.
Chu fa-ya of the early fourth century who began to explain. Buddhist texts by

Taoist terminology,

Chu Tao-ch'ien (,286-374) who expounded the larger Prajna-Paramita,

Chu Fa-yun , a student of Chu Tao-ch'ien who was well-versed In the Fang-kuang ching,

Chih Tun ( , or Tao-lin  .314-366) who specialized In the Tao-hsing ching

YU Fa-K'ai ( , ca.300-370) who lectured on the Fang-Kuang ching and disputed with 

Chih Tun on the theory of the emptiness of matter as such,

Shih Tao-an who explained the larger and smaller versions of the Prajna-paramita, 

Chu Pa-t'ai ( , 320-387) who lectured on the Fang-Kuang chinq and disputed with 

Hsi Ch'ao.
Chu Seng-fu (, ca. 300-370) who specialized in the exegesis of the larger and 

smal1er Prajna-paramita.

Shih Tao-li , a disciple of tao an who gave lectures on the Fang-kuang ching,

YU Fa-tao ()who expounded the Fang-kuang ching,

Shih Hui-yuan who devoted much energy to the study of the Prajna-paramita,

Tao-i ni'() Hui-yuan's aunt who lectured also on the smaller Prajna paramita,

Hsi Ch'ao (,336-377) who support ed the teachings of Chih Tao-lin,

Ho Mo who agreed with Yu Fa-kai's teachings,

Yin Hao (?-356) who devoted  several years to the study of the Prajna-paramita,

"The Monk from the North" () who met Chih Tun at Wa-kuan Monastery ()and 

explained the smaller version of the Prajna-paramita,

Fa-wei , a student of Yu fa-kai's who disputed with Chih Tun.6

      Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva's extraordinary importance is obvious since he executed two of the "four great translations"  during the Eastern Chin dynasty (317-420), viz. that of the Prajna-paramita sutras and related works like the Ta chi-tu lun, and that of the Lotus 

The most comprehensive translation of a Prajna-paramita sutra is that in 600 fascicles by Hsuan-tsang (,600-664) but several parts of it had been translated before. (The Chinese text of this paper adds a "Comparative Chart of the Maha-prajna" paramita Sutra and Its Partial Translations.")


      I have tried u show how Chinese Ch'an developed from Prajna-paramita thought because Prajna-paramita texts provide the basis of the Mahayana school of emptiness, Some aspects of traditional Chinese philo sophy approximate the Buddhist teachings, too, wherefore true emptiness and wonderful existence came to flourish 1n this country. As to non-emptiness in
emptiness, the gist of Buddha's spirit of wisdom and compassion, and the four Immeasurable attitudes of benevolence, compassion, joy over the good done by others, and equanimity, she could not only equal, but even surpassed the corresponding State of development in India.

      Living in the last decades of the 20th Century, while we are making great strides in terms of material progress, we shou1d promulgate the Prajna-paramita thought of true emptiness and wonderful existence in order to teach humankind  compassion and wisdom. This influence of  Prajna-paramita thought hopefully intensifies the emphasis on the right thought of compassion
and, wisdom and helps to deve1op this twofold concept so that not only the survival of  humankind may be secured, but also life in peace be attained.

Right wisdom, right confidence, and right thought are aspects of the Buddhist view of human life. May all people concerned cooperate full of vigor and create a happy future for humankind along these lines!

5 v. Shih Yin-hai tr.: Chung-yin Ch'an Tsunq shih Taipei 1972, p. 94.

6 cf. T'ang Hsi-yu: Liang-han wei chin nan-bei-chao fo-chiao shih,

 , Ting-wen shu-chu, Taipei 1976, 2nd ed., pp. 155-157.