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Thread: 5 houses of Ch'an

  1. #1
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    5 houses of Ch'an

    from a historical (not secular or spiritual)perspective, when I read up on the history of Zen, it seems like authors shy away from Shaolin almost on purpose.
    for instance in the wikepedia article on Zen, which I know wikipedia isnt a good source all the time, its a popular one so its nice to see what "e-scholars" agree upon with certain topics......I looked deep into it and it doesnt reference Shaolin outside of a small segment in the "Zen Arts" paragraph. this segment speaks very briefly on gongfu ad qigong as zen arts developed in Shaolin Monastery.
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    its really irritating to have a big gap in the history like that. how can they say Zen was founded, rather transmitted to China via Bodhidharma, yet leave where he was, and to who he transmitted it to? It literaly jumps from Damo to the 4th and 5th patriarchs, and speaks of Hui Neng (6th patriarch) as if he had no affiliation with Shaolin. is this on purpose?

    also the 5 houses leave out Shaolin, which leads me to my next question, Shaolin is veiwed as its own school of Ch'an separate from the 5 houses? then how did we get from Shaolin to Guiyang and so on.....
    is anyone here familiar with the lineage?

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    whos writing this stuff?

    there should be a book or article called "From Shaolin to Dogen" , and detail how Ch'an was developed and cultivated at Shaolin, instead of saying it developed it "multiple locations in China" .....such a slap in the face.....yea multiple locations in and around Shaolin Temple in Songshan.

    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

  2. #2
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    this link has some info on some of the lineage,
    http://www.shaolin.org.cn/templates/...spx?nodeid=362
    theres also the writings on the steles/ pagoda forest that give the lineage and history.
    and the only other way to read it is the scroll of transmission, which records the lineage from Buddha to Damo, and Damo to present.
    theres a lot of history behind Buddha that isn't spoken on much either, like the 28 Buddhas (at least) who walked this planet before Shakyamuni.
    The migration of the Buddhas, what its relation is to "Hinduism" & Tantric meditation and yoga professing a lot of dhyana etc....

    good stuff. lol .....maybe its left in the air for good reason, and those students who like to look into it, can do on their own terms.

    the only thing, that just came to my mind, is how much spiritual misinformation and confusion I grew up around in America, religious division, etc...... and also how much is division sprouts globally from the same factors, or from religious separatism rooted in poor spiritual guidance. It would benefit the world to be able to link certain timelines, and lands, "nations", histories, as well as spiritual traditions, in to a unified scope thats comprehensible to all. pains me to watch some of this division and corruption, that comes from misleading people in that way. There have been a few people make the effort, and surprisingly (or not so much) they are usually students of Shaolin, one way or another.

    Buddhas teaching, still, prevails to this day, and thats the important part.


    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

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    The Caodong sect is said to have been founded by Dongshan Liangjie (洞山良价)(807869), you can google his name and find a lot of information. My initial frustration came from feeling like popular Zen history doesnt honor Shaolin properly in its glory, and in some cases, doesnt mention Shaolin at all. Even on wikipedia, you find articles on Zen, and Caodong Lineage, which dont mention Shaolin at all. So I was wondering if anyone wrote about the lineage specifically, and I found a decent book on it I'll share.

    heres a table which someone outlines the lineage, yet and still, each name has significance. Many of the monks attained full nirvana, becoming Luohans. Hui Neng is one great example, and it's said his martial skill, was second to none, yet we have no record of it, and when he's mentioned, usually it's not with Shaolin, nor having anything to do with his martial prowess.

    We have to look at it from the perspective of Buddhahood, thats why the lineage is kept, it's less about records or titles for historical or political purpose. If you are really studying the lineage, you are getting into transmission of Buddhahood, and Shaolin being the vanguard of the Dharmapala.
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    Here is a nice book on the topic:
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    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

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    more research going on....on my quest for the ultimate Ch'an (lol, sounds so cool) I run into two types, the Shaolin antagonist and the Shaolin protagonist. Though I say I am bias to Songshan Shaolin, my scope and understanding of how Buddhism was spread and represented in the past, developing years of Ch'an has been broadened beyond Songshan Shaolin, while Songshan still holds its significance and essence as the most influential Ch'an Temple and root of all Ch'an in China.

    case in point, I was reading a paper on the spread of Ch'an in Southern China, college level paper, and the author starts it out blasting shade at Shaolin. I will share the paper, and share my point of view on the topic as an intro to it.

    Its safe to say I'm definitely a Shaolin Protagonist. Still I honor the truth in all fairness. It seems, because Shaolin is spoken so highly of and promoted to the degree it is in movies and pop culture, some zealots particularly the antagonists of martial arts and Ch'an come out hard against the legendary history of Shaolin. I was reading a paper on the spread of Ch'an in Southern China, college level paper, and the author starts it out blasting shade at Shaolin. I will share the paper, and share my point of view on the topic as an intro to it.

    Two points to focus on when researching or tracing the teachings of Buddha and Ch'an practices;
    1. The most important aspect will always be Dharma, and that is also the unifying factor.
    So eminent monks in Ch'an lineage and Buddhist history, would not care so much about what temple or sect they represent in the bigger scope of things.
    Don't mistake that fact for the monks completely having no wherewithal (knowledge of links and presence of Ch'an) in terms of lineage and the 'passing of the torch', or transmission of the lamp, there is close attention payed to this 'wherewithal' of meditation throughout history up to now, for the sake of making sure the purest form of the teaching is preserved and shared.
    However, to the extent of "my temple is better than yours" or "mine did it first", would not be how the notion of transmission is used or respected.

    For example, lets say
    2 abbots who were trained at Shaolin earlier in their practice, have attained full enlightenment, both see northern temples, and have also successfully transmitted the teaching to 4 students each within their temples,
    2 of each of their students stay in the temple
    and 2 leave to spread the Dharma to other regions,
    all of this taking place in a matter of 70 years.

    You have 2 Ch'an masters, the Abbots, and 8 enlightened students between them. I imagine at the height of Buddhism spreading, these numbers were much higher.
    Lets work this model to get an idea of how history writes itself. The all of these men would be recorded as factual Ch'an masters eventually, the 4 students who left would open temples themselves, all in the South, and in doing so, giving proper respect to their masters and their lineage. So you could say 2 sects of Ch'an would be born from each Abbot in that time. The students teaching Ch'an in the way they were taught, would emphasize certain aspects of Buddha and Damo's teachings, based on how their masters taught them.
    This is basically how it would look. Now draw that up over the course of 1500 years of fluctuating persecution, Temples being raided, burned, robbed, utterly destroyed and rebuilt countless times. We arrive at present time with the practice of Ch'an totally in tact, yet the stories can be fragmented and lost in history or designed to suit certain histories through time. The Shaolin antagonist uses these gaps in time to write their own versions, albeit to highlight other temples and masters other than Songshan Shaolin, and write away Shaolin's glory , ultimately they still fail and Dharma prevails. There was great joy in Shaolin monks from the north opening temples in the South, an the umbrella and ultimate BROTHERHOOD of Shaolin extends to every Ch'an and Zen temple in the world when we link all the dots.

    2. if you happen to actually practice Ch'an, especially as taught directly at Shaolin and its branches, you'll find the essence of the Buddhas teaching awakening within you and all around you like a slow blooming lotus. Genuinely practicing, it's an undeniable reality, so the transmission of the lamp occurred and I'd argure, didn't stop with Hui Neng, it kept going, thru all obstacles to be born in every age again.
    Theraveda, Mahayana, Hinayana, and Vajrayana temples from Thailand and Burma to Java and Japan, and all inbetween within the differences in interpreting sutra, always have another doctrine, yet and still , its in the practice of Ch'an (meditation) that they also are able to activate the actualization of Dharma and Buddhas teaching in practice.

    I'm not using this thread for specific meditation, sutra study, qigong or wugong practice, just generally stating, the transmission of the teaching through Shaolin has been preserved and spread with a pure heart, so what of it? Do the antagonist expect every monk to make sure it's recorded in history with a sword "REMEMBER MY TEMPLE, SONGSHAN SHAOLIN TAUGHT ME AND I TAUGHT YOU OR ELSE!!!!" LOL or what man? If you study the history without ANY bias, you'll see where Shaolin is a factor, how and why the teaching went south, and then also spread to Japan and Korea.

    So with understanding those two points, my question is, why is it such a practice to exclude Shaolin from the story? I mean some authors will jump from Shakyamuni, straight to Dogen lol .....while others include China, only including the Southern schools of Ch'an that are closer on the timeline to Zen blossoming in Japan.
    Why such a bias against Shaolin when it's the most integral factor in linking the true teaching from Buddha, thats being Dhyana, to the later schools of Dharma?
    It retrospect, most all statues of Buddha have him seated in Dhyana practice, with a mediumistic-trance like gaze in the eyes. This is saying the meditation is aware, and to be present in all actions (thoughts words and deeds). This was held as some what of an esoteric teaching for a long time, meaning some people only studied, taught and practiced Buddhas teaching in text, through stura, granted it was translated in their language. Without Shaolin unlocking the "meditative chamber" of Buddha's teaching/practice through actual application of (still and moving) meditation, followers of Buddhas teaching would have been stuck for who knows how long, reading texts searching for enlightenment, fasting with frail weak bodies and unable to handle their own spiritual growth and blossoming.
    Of course I have to stamp that as my opinion though, if you agree, salute to you BROTHERS.

    Amituofo

    heres a link to the paper: Mount Wutai Ch'an Monks
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    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
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    just a thought..... we also have this discussion with Shaolin wugong.

    Hui Neng certainly took the teachings South. now whats so hard for these numbskulls to connect the dots?
    how does one go to say "legitimacy of ch'an comes from the south" .....????

    a blind person can see, if Shaolin started in the north, with Songshan....its safe to say the temple Fujian and Quanzhou, (for example) , who are regarded as Southern Shaolin Monasteries , are branch schools of Ch'an. so
    A. The Ch'an teachings, qigong and wugong, are all related to its origin, Songshan
    B. This makes the claim of legitimacy coming from the south obsolete because the southern temples are branches of Songshan.

    now I'm no history or religious scholar, but thats easy for me to see. why does the author have to go out of his way to dis Songshan? lol.....almost writes his work off as trash. I'd love to talk to him and hear where the motivation to disregard Songshan as the cradle of Ch'an stems.

    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

  6. #6
    Thanks for posting this interesting article. Just from the part you posted, though, the abstract, it seems a tad misrepresentative to interpret it as saying the author is dissing Shaolin. This because the author says he is describing the views expressed in the discourse within Chan historically. In other words, the author is reporting views held in the historical record, not making that claim himself. And even as far as reporting this discourse is concerned, he qualifies it with "probably". Again, that's just my impression based on the short summary you posted. It might be different in the main body of the article (which I plan to read or at least skim). Again, thanks for posting it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Djuan View Post
    Hui Neng certainly took the teachings South. now whats so hard for these numbskulls to connect the dots?
    how does one go to say "legitimacy of ch'an comes from the south" .....????

    a blind person can see, if Shaolin started in the north, with Songshan....its safe to say the temple Fujian and Quanzhou, (for example) , who are regarded as Southern Shaolin Monasteries , are branch schools of Ch'an. so
    A. The Ch'an teachings, qigong and wugong, are all related to its origin, Songshan
    B. This makes the claim of legitimacy coming from the south obsolete because the southern temples are branches of Songshan.

    now I'm no history or religious scholar, but thats easy for me to see. why does the author have to go out of his way to dis Songshan? lol.....almost writes his work off as trash. I'd love to talk to him and hear where the motivation to disregard Songshan as the cradle of Ch'an stems.

    Amituofo

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    Quote Originally Posted by rett2 View Post
    Thanks for posting this interesting article. Just from the part you posted, though, the abstract, it seems a tad misrepresentative to interpret it as saying the author is dissing Shaolin. This because the author says he is describing the views expressed in the discourse within Chan historically. In other words, the author is reporting views held in the historical record, not making that claim himself. And even as far as reporting this discourse is concerned, he qualifies it with "probably". Again, that's just my impression based on the short summary you posted. It might be different in the main body of the article (which I plan to read or at least skim). Again, thanks for posting it.
    well to be fair, the argument is totally irrelevant, in the perspective of Dharma, Dhyana, and transmission of the teaching of Buddha, it literally does not matter. I have to say that as a big disclaimer. all after that statement, all is up to opinion, preference, and then historical facts.

    the thing I was pointing out in my post is the notion of Shaolin being attacked by the academic world without even the slightest common sense reflection on the subject of Ch'an having actual roots in Songshan Shaolin. also, there is some deep introspect I felt the author of that article should go through with himself in bringing forth a story on the topic. Namely, approach the subject from the angle of sharing information, not debunking, or re-writing the story of Buddhism. Shaolin catches so much flack because of the "aura" attributed to all of the so called legends and stories of the temple, from real folk history, all the way to hong kong cinema, hollywood, mcdojo lore and everything in between.
    for example Studying Zen anywhere in the USA you might not hear a thing about Shaolin, and thats fine. .....I just have my zeal about it.

    Technically, Dhyana, as a word, comes from india, as does the historical Buddha. The tribe he was from also have a story of their own, and so on and so forth the further you go back into the history of earth. So the point is never to argue about who a thing belongs to, or where the 'legitimate' teaching of Ch'an is from. In application at least, it doesnt matter. .Mediation (dhyana).. cannot be claimed or owned in that way, only practiced, experienced.

    Now for story telling purpose, and record keeping, tracking of the "pure teaching of Buddha", its wise to know the truth. if you're into that sorta thing,
    In Buddha's words, take nothing on face value.

    So if dhyana made its way into China via India, then how do we get to Zen in Japan, and the western world later in time? Thats where scholars like to make up stories, and play the debunking role on Shaolin. The blessing is, as much as Shaolin has been ransacked and burned, the Thousand Buddha Hall (Pilu Pavillion) in Shaolin and Pagoda forest are still in tact. The stories in the Pilu Pavillion alone allude to a deep transmission happening within Songshan the temple.

    Relative to the article, I felt it was academically sloppy to try and attribute the transmission of Ch'an to WuTai Temple. ....... then jump to the southern temples, and attribute the spread of Ch'an through China, and out to Japan and Korea, to the Southern temples was also a tacky stretch. The story of Hui ke and Hui Neng hold true to the facts and are more than enough proof, even in location of the allegory, if you approach the stories as a Zen Koan.

    Thankfully the story of Hui Ke and Hui Neng are not Koans and their lineage can be traced. Just like Buddha traced his lineage to (at least) 28 Buddhas before him (that the academic world also conveniently ignores) we have a clear map of the teachings which is essential to those who hold it as their path to spread and share the teachings. Western scholars think they have the authority to tell people where they came from, or where their practices come from, ironically people of nations with much older schools.
    and usually much richer history.
    So to answer your post, what I wrote about in the post you quoted, and the post with the article linked, was more relative to the entire thread itself, than just the article. I was adding the article to the study, and also using the article as an example of how academics, ever so casually, attempt to re-write the story of Buddhism, putting Shaolin where ever they feel fit, rather than where Shaolin actually belongs, by historical facts.

    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Djuan View Post
    well to be fair, the argument is totally irrelevant, in the perspective of Dharma, Dhyana, and transmission of the teaching of Buddha, it literally does not matter.
    Yes, I think we'd both agree that the methods and aims of academic history are very different from those of Buddhist practice. I'm inclined not to worry if academics arrive at a different story than the tradition. I don't even see them as contradicting each other, because they have completely different purposes. Anyhow, interesting reflections, thanks for posting them.

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    None of this matters that is correct. These are the tedious attempts at chasing understanding of something you can't chase to understand.
    You either do it and carry on, or you don't do it and carry on.
    There is no "better" no "worst" no "best" or "greatest knowledge" in regards to sitting and meditating.

    You simply either do or don't and the understanding you come to will be your own reckoning each and every time.

    Pomp, ceremony, lineage etc. None of that matters in context and in relation to Chan and if that is the pursuit, enjoy it.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Jamieson View Post
    None of this matters that is correct. These are the tedious attempts at chasing understanding of something you can't chase to understand.
    You either do it and carry on, or you don't do it and carry on.
    There is no "better" no "worst" no "best" or "greatest knowledge" in regards to sitting and meditating.

    You simply either do or don't and the understanding you come to will be your own reckoning each and every time.

    Pomp, ceremony, lineage etc. None of that matters in context and in relation to Chan and if that is the pursuit, enjoy it.
    Indeed. you know thats the jist of Ch'an, forgetting all that stuff anyway. Its another world, academics. Ch'an on one side is its own world as a practice, as is the practice of scholarly pursuits, especially on the history side of academics. The kid in me still loves a great story, and I suppose the history of earth, cultural, spiritual, martial, medical etc all make for great stories lol ......the catch with that is, ego.
    detaching the ego, from these stories, especially relative to practice, is a must (detaching the self/ego from anything really). If practicing Ch'an, some would argue to forget the (his)stories all together. depending on the student and teacher, this might be the best way.

    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

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    Wu Zu temple and Hui Neng

    One thing I just found out and also find VERY interesting is that the temple where Hui Neng supposedly received his transmission of Dharma and inherited the cotton robe at "Wuzu Si (五祖寺)" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuzu_Temple is still active and can be visited today.
    This raises my eyebrow more in the story of Shaolin's ancestral courtyard and why the story of Zen's origins in China, especially surrounding Shaolin in Songshan and the spread of Ch'an into the south, is always obscured to the point of key figures like Hui Neng and his disciples being left out of mention with Shaolin.

    One recorded account is At the great Dharma Assembly at Shaolin around year 732/731, eminent monk Shenhui made the claim that, Shenxiu tried to usurp the lineage from Hui Neng, and Shen Hui himself is the real successor to Hui Neng. Though it is commonly accepted that Hui Neng had many disciples who went on to spread Ch'an, it is not recorded to whom he gave Damo's robe to. Shen Hui and Shen Xiu made their argument based on this.

    Nevertheless the Southern court of Shaolin was found and is real, so SOME sort of transmission took place, and HAD to be by one of Hui Nengs ordained disciples.

    There's also little to no written history in popular academia, telling the story of Hui Neng at Shaolin, so it almost seems true that Shen Xiu or Shen Hui was part of a coup to usurp the lineage, probably for political reasons at the time.
    Most of what we have about the story, is in folklore.
    One of my all time favorite Shaolin movies "The Holy Robe of the Shaolin Temple" (1985) , also called Shaolin vs. Wutang 2, details the story, however it's a hero's story, so it doesn't get too specific beyond a certain point. Hui Neng DOES return to Songshan with Damo's Robe to become abbot, what happens after this, it doesn't say.
    What history, and Ch'an footprint around China tells us, is that at some time, probably for political reasons, Hui Neng, and a significant amount of his disciples went to the South and temples opened.
    It's becoming a project of mine, and I might actually publish a work on the topic, to put all the pieces of the story together with facts, and link it to the modern sites etc.
    for now, I'll keep researching the topic and studying the sutras. I'm finding it's not a matter of the story not being told, it's more a matter of the story being told in fragments, and scattered around, and Shaolin doesn't get mentioned as it should due to popular methods of sloppy academics, or some convenient overlooking of the link to Shaolin.

    One scholar on Zen here in the bay literally said, when he finds a link to Shaolin in the Zen lineage study, he ignores it and leaves it out of his work because if he includes it in his study presentations, it doubles the amount of explanation he would have to give in class, with just debunking the doubt that 'themepark culture' has created around Shaolin, and then proving trivial things like Damo's presence and activity.
    he also said all of his professors treat Shaolin like fantasy no matter how dense the facts he presented were, and that broke my heart, because if you have a hard time doing that in school, where you SHOULD be clearing the picture up it makes it harder for those looking for answers to find them if you dont share the story you know. Anyhow, I will share what I find for sure. I'm not going to school for anything related, but I graduate this year, and this will remain a strong topic of study and research for me, and when I get it together, I will publish a work that aims to share the Shaolin Ch'an research journey.
    Amituofo


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    Last edited by Djuan; 05-31-2020 at 02:22 PM.
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
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