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The Zen Canon: Understanding the Classic Texts [Kindle Edition]

Dale S. Wright , Steven Heine
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Bodhidharma, its first patriarch, reputedly said that Zen Buddhism represents "a special transmission outside the teaching/Without reliance on words and letters." This saying, along with the often perplexing use of language (and silence) by Zen masters, gave rise to the notion that Zen is a "lived religion," based strictly on non-linguistic practice and lacking a substantial canon of sacred texts. Even those who recognize the importance of Zen texts commonly limit their focus to a few select texts without recognizing the wide variety of Zen literature. This collection of previously unpublished essays argues that Zen actually has a rich and varied literary heritage. Among the most significant textual genres are hagiographic accounts and recorded sayings of individual Zen masters, koan collections and commentaries, and rules for monastic life. During times of political turmoil in China and Japan, these texts were crucial to the survival and success of Zen, and they have for centuries been valued by practitioners as vital expressions of the truth of Zen. This volume offers learned yet accessible studies of some of the most important classical Zen texts, including some that have received little scholarly attention (and many of which are accessible only to specialists). Each essay provides historical, literary, and philosophical commentary on a particular text or genre. Together, they offer a critique of the "de facto canon" that has been created by the limited approach of Western scholarship, and demonstrate that literature is a diverse and essential part of Zen Buddhism.

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About the Author

Steven Heine is at Florida International University. Dale S. Wright is at Occidental College.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4651 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 25, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0013PJIJU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,731 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting source June 10, 2005
By Hakuyu
Format:Paperback
Like its companion volume 'The Koan: Texts and Contexts' (eds.Heine, Wright), this book was not intended as a guide to Zen practice, but it should prove interesting to those who feel an affinity with Zen and wish to know more about its background.

It may seem a contradiction in terms that a spiritual tradition allegedly 'not depending upon words and letters' should yet lay claim to a collection of texts holding 'canonical' status. The contributors understand the irony involved. As the cover-blurb' states:

"during times of political turmoil in China and Japan,
these texts were crucial to the survival and success
of Zen, and they have for centuries been valued by
practioners as vital expressions of the truth of Zen.
This volume offers learned yet accessible studies of
some of the most important classical Zen texts,
including some that have received little scholarly
attention (and many of which are accessible only to
specialists).Each essay provides historical, literary
and philosophical commentary on a particular text or
genre. Together, they offer a critique of the 'de
facto canon' that has been created by the limited
approach of Western scholarship, and demonstrate
that literature is a diverse and essential part of
Zen Buddhism. "

Self-effacing remarks from the academic world - perhaps, but they also constitute a kind of sideways swipe at Zen Buddhists -reluctant to acknowledge the role that language and literature per has played in shaping their tradition. A list of chapter headings give an idea of the material at hand:

(Introduction by the eds. Heine, Wright)

1.Tsung-mi's Zen Prolegomenon. Introduction to an Exemplary
Zen Canon.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
All in all, this is an interesting and useful scholarly collection of articles. Most of the texts discussed in the articles originated in China (though their reception in Japan and to a lesser degree Korea is not neglected), so a more appropriate title may have been "The Chan Canon" but okay. The claim that the volume includes "learned yet accessible studies" is either deliberately misleading or else, as I suspect, the editors and contributors have been at this biz too long. Undoubtedly learned, yes, but these articles assume a great store of prior familiarity with the Chan/Zen tradition and its history and dive straight into the dry, nitty-gritty textual details; I suspect from personal experience that even the long-time Zen student/scholar will frequently find this book challenging and/or a strain on the attention span. The work is worth it, but don't tackle this little tome lightly.

My primary gripe with the book is this...Given the specialized, academic nature of the contents, it is utterly ridiculous that this book nowhere includes the Chinese characters for all the names, titles, and terms within--put them in parentheses after the transliterated version or put them at the end in a character glossary, I don't care, but put them somewhere. There were several spots where these would have been especially helpful.
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3 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Zen? Nothing to it. November 6, 2006
Format:Paperback
I lived in Europe for a number of years and one of my closest friends was a 'zen'monk. He would say..'Wolff, so many books in the west on Zen..Enlightenment..having made the leap.... They never speak about those that did not make it to the other side..went crazy. This book is no better or worse than the myriad of writings on this subject. To have a better understanding on the writing on the writings(almost all writing for the west is translation, and that is a big problem in itself.), I might recommend BUDDHIST HERMENEUTICS(Retrieval of meaning, especially from a text)Donald S. Lopez, Jr.
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