[Buddha-l] Tozan's blue mountain and white cloud

Franz Metcalf franz at mind2mind.net
Thu Apr 17 12:54:08 MDT 2008

Piya et al.,

Dan has given you great references, Piya. I hope some are available to  

Dan, is it really true the Chan/Zen has outstripped Huayan in sheer  
quantity of letters? I wonder how one might count up such production.  
In any case, exceeding the Avatamsaka is one seriously dubious honor!  
And there's no question Zen is challenging Vajrayana as most  
loquacious form of Buddhism in contemporary teaching. Sheesh.

Dan has given the references to, as he says, the essential books for  
understanding actual koan practice. I just want to add another  
perspective and a website.

First, there is another sort of historically situated koan practice:  
koan work as literary production. This came to fruition in China in  
the Song dynasty. Dan, you know this far better than I do and I invite  
you to correct me, but I would make a distinction between the sort of  
koan-as-transcending-language thinking of the 20th century (from D.T.  
Suzuki and the Kyoto School) and the koan-as-transcendent-literature  
thinking of the Song. They both emphasize the play of language, but in  
far different ways. And one might argue that they both are legitimate  
forms of Buddhist practice, though for far different reasons. Other  
than the books Dan has recommended, I'm not sure what reading to  
recommend on this form of Zen literature. Perhaps there's something in  
John McRae's _Seeing through Zen_? <Amazon link: http://tinyurl.com/694c5s 
 >. And Bernard Faure covers the development and rhetoric of Chan's  
many words in his own playfully magisterial way in chapters seven and  
eight of _Chan Insights and Oversights_ <Amzon link: http://tinyurl.com/4x3ps4 

I also wanted to mention the website <http://www.thezensite.com>. It's  
a very mixed bag, but it holds a wealth of material on Chan/Zen  
history and on koan practice. On their "Historical Zen" page I  
recommend the essays by Victor Hori (you can get the introduction to  
_Zen Sand_ here), John McRae, Robert Sharf, and Dale Wright.

Good wishes,


Franz Metcalf, PhD.  323.467.3267  http://mind2mind.net
Buddhist Author, Teacher, Scholar, Husband, Dad, Beginner

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