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

Piya Tan dharmafarer at gmail.com
Thu Apr 17 20:23:50 MDT 2008

Thanks, Dan,

for a list of great readings on Zen.

Also thanks Franz for your helpful remarks. And yes I do occasionally check out
the Zensite.

And, I do have an old copy of Miura & Sasaki "The Zen Koan," and the
new reprint with its glossy cover has an enticing way of deluding me
into thinking it is a new venture. How often I've ordered retitled
books from India thinking they are new works! Ah, old wine in new
bottles; the problem is that I don't drink.

Anyway, time for me to step out of the early Buddhist time warp for a
moment and re-read "The Zen Koan." And also Faure's "Chan Insights and

I do enjoy a diverse read occasionally, too. In fact, I had just
finished reading David N Hempton's delightful "Enchantment and
Disenchantment in the Evangelical tradition" (Harvard Divinity
Bulletin, 36,1 WInter 2008) on George Eliot and the English Methodists
et al. I'm trying to understand more of the evangelical psyche, as
they are still very powerful and intolerant in affluent Singapore.

Anyway, I have digressed. More on Chan. How right would I be in saying that the
koan specifically, and Chan in general, work best in a Sinic ambience:
Chan is best
taken Chinese (or East Asian). The main reason is that the Chinese
language, being pictorial or iconic, tend to reify abstract concepts,
or conversely, it is difficult to think abstractly in Chinese (as say
one of the ancient Indian languages, such as Sanskrit or a Prakrit).

Are there any articles, monographs or books specifically addressing this issue?
Sort of a psychodynamics of Chinese language and its expression of Buddhism.
Perhaps I need to browse and explore through those titles you, Dan and
Franz, have listed.

Gassho (the silence of two palms).

Piya Tan

On Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 3:58 AM, Dan Lusthaus <vasubandhu at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Franz et al.,
>  > Dan, is it really true the Chan/Zen has outstripped Huayan in sheer
>  > quantity of letters?
>  Certainly in English (you don't need all your fingers to count the books on
>  Huayan available). Keep in mind that the Huayan Sutra was itself embraced as
>  a Zen text.
>  > 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.
>  Koan as literary diversion and occasion for displaying one's literary
>  cleverness was indeed one its important historical phases, at its apex
>  during the Song dynasty (Dahui [Ta-hui], et al., being the best studied
>  practitioners). This trend, a game among the literati, many not even
>  Buddhist, was severely criticized by some Buddhist contemporaries (including
>  Dogen) as idle play. The Heine/Wright book has material on this (plus
>  bibliography). There is some good literature on it (by Buswell and others).
>  There is a much vaster literature on Chan/Zen literature that one could
>  ite  -- translations of Wumenguan (Jp: Mumonkan; Gateless Gate) and the Blue
>  Cliff Record (and comparable material); the enjoyable and informative works
>  of Lu Kuan-yu (a.k.a. Charles Luk) such as his Chan/Zen series and Practical
>  Buddhism; discussions of houtou (related to Gong'an/Koan), etc. -- but
>  unless others have their favorites that they want to share, I imagine the
>  list I gave, and Franz's supplements, are a good starting place.
>  Dan
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