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How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China (Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism) Hardcover – July, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

How Zen Became Zen takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote. In this fascinating study, Morten Schlütter shows that Dahui's target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlütter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents' arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago.

Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlütter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes. He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlütter terms it) in the Chan School.

From the Back Cover

"This is an important book that will significantly contribute to our knowledge of Song-dynasty Buddhism. It joins a growing body of work that seeks to place the development of Buddhism (and particularly Chan) within its broader social and cultural history. Schlütter's research into a wide range of source materials is meticulous and thorough. Because of the important connections he draws among the state, independent (or local) literati, and Buddhist monks, this work has the potential to appeal to a wide audience of scholars beyond the field of Buddhism, including social, institutional, and intellectual historians of the Song." --Ellen Neskar, Sarah Lawrence College

"Scholars have been telling each other for years that it was during the Song dynasty in China (960-1279) that Zen, or Chan, Buddhism achieved its true `golden age,' but it is only with Morten Schlütter's wonderful new book that we get an explanation of how this was actually so. Based on very thorough and in many ways groundbreaking new research, Schlütter weaves an intricate and convincing fabric of relationships between Chan approaches to meditation and self-cultivation, styles of lineage transmission and monastic administration, and interaction with lay leaders and political systems. This book is a delightful read book that will form a cornerstone of Chan studies for years to come." --John McRae, author of The Northern School and the Formation of Early Chan Buddhism and Seeing through Zen

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Product Details

  • Series: Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism (Book 22)
  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824832558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824832551
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,475,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ted Biringer on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

by Morten Schlutter

Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No. 22
Published in association with the Kuroda Institute

In this masterpiece of modern Zen scholarship, Morten Schlutter presents a vastly important and astonishingly thorough account of the historical evidence of How Zen became Zen. While a number of studies in recent decades have revealed that the "traditional history" of Zen's (Chan's) "Golden Age" in Tang era China was actually retrospectively created in the Song Dynasty, Morten Schlutter's "How Zen became Zen" is the first book to offer a thorough explanation, complete with a detailed analysis on how and why this occurred.

By gathering together all of the various groundbreaking discoveries of Zen scholarship in recent decades, augmented by an extensive range of previously ignored source materials and weaving it together with his own profound insight and knowledge, Schulutter offers a rich tapestry that is both meticulous and accessible.

In a meticulous, step by step presentation, Schlutter offers the reader all of the recent discoveries and reveals the wide range of influencing factors. Drawing on a vast array of original sources, Schlutter leaves no rock unturned. By exploring sources from competing `schools' to governmental policies, from monastic institutions, to Chinese literati, from recently unearthed texts in Northern China to epithets of Zen masters, readers are shown how and why Chinese Buddhism culminated in the astonishingly original and distinctive form of Buddhism known as "Zen" (Chan).

This book is essential reading (as well as reference) for all serious Zen students/practitioners.
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