On Chinese Ch'an in Relation to Taoism[1]
By Wu Yi

Journal of Chinese Philosophy
V. 12 (1985)
pp. 131-154

Copyright 1985 by Dialogue Publishing Company

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To discuss the relationship between one school and another in the history of thought is a very subtle topic in which it is hard to draw an obvious conclusion. Moreover, to discuss the influence of one school on another will entail many difficulties, because schools have similar styles, always pose similar questions, and have similar ideas and similar methods. So it is difficult to say who influences whom. Moreover among some opposite schools, even if one school is influenced by the other or if the philosopher of one school quotes from the classics of the other, they never say who they are quoting. Therefore it is not easy to judge who has influenced whom. For example, in the Book of Chao[a][2], it is very obvious that Seng-chao[b] (384-414) was influenced by the thought of Lao Tzu[c] and Chuang Tzu[d], because he used the terms of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu everywhere in his book. But he still did not say where he was quoting from.

    For this reason, this paper, concerning the relationship between the Ch'an[e] School and the thought of Taoism and Confucianism is just a suggestion for discussion, not a dogmatic conclusion.

    In the beginning, the Ch'an School had a closer relationship to Taoism than to Confucianism. However, the position was later reversed; after the T'ang[f] Dynasty (618-907), the influence that the Ch'an School had on Confucianism was very important. When Indian Buddhism was transmitted into China, the first Chinese School to welcome it was Taoism. At that time the school of "Ke I"[g][3] explained the Buddhist teachings by means of Taoist terms, and the thought of many Dharma Masters such as Seng-chao, Hui-yuan[h] (523-592), Tao-sheng[i] (360-434) was intermingled with the thought of Taoism. Moreover Taoist "learning of the mystery" (hsuan hsueh[j]) was flourishing during the period from the Wei-Chin[k] to the North and South Dynasties (220-581), and it was natural that Taoist thought influenced the formation of the Ch'an School. Further the period between Hui-neng[l] (637-713) and when the five schools[4] were formed was the golden age




of the Ch'an School. At that time Confucianism was in decay, and Taoism became united with the Ch'an School. Then in the Sung[m] Dynasty(l960-1279) there were many Neo-Confucianists who were influenced by the Thought of the Ch'an School. For example, Chou Tung-yi[n] had friendly relations with Ch'an Masters Ho Lin Shou-yee[o], Huang Lung Hui-nan[p] Hui Tang Tsu-hsin[q]. and Lu Shan Fu-in[r]. At the same time, Chou Tung-yi and Chang Heng-chu[s] learned from Ch'an master Tung Lin Chang-tsung[t], Cheng Ming-tao[u] confessed that he had studied the thought of Lao Tzu and Buddhism for several decades, Ch'eng Yi-chuan[v] had asked Ch'an Master Huang Lung Lin-yuan[w] about Tao, and had a friendly relationship with Ch'an Master Hui Tang Tsu-hsin. Chu Hsi[x] had studied under Ch'an Master Ta Hui Tzung-kao[y]. Thus most of Confucianists in the Sung Dynasty drew a good deal of their thought from the Ch'an School. However these interactions also influenced the Ch'an School. For example the Ch'an Masters Miao-hsi[z] and Chu-an[aa] in the Sung Dynasty edited a famous book named "Valuable Instructions in the Forest of Ch 'an." which adopted many of the moral norms of Confucianism.

    We will now look at these subtle relationships by means of the four characteristics of the Ch'an School. They are "not depending upon words and letters", ''meditation", "kung-an[ab]", and "sudden enlightenment".[5]


I.    Not Depending upon Words and Letters

The Lankavatara and Vajra Sutras set forth the idea "not depending upon words and letters", but why did this idea not turn into a movement and become a great school? The Lankavatara and Vajra Sutras themselves consisted of words. The idea of "not depending upon words and letters" only refers to a high state, but the actual texts are very repetitive.

    Therefore the movement of "not depending upon words and letters" was achieved slowly after Indian Buddhism had been transmitted to China.

    I use the qualification "slowly" with a special connotation, because an external historical condition was needed for the development of a school around the idea of "not depending upon words and letters"

    The original schools of Taoism and Confucianism claimed that profound thought should be expressed in simple words and deep meanings.




Both of them had the tendency of "not depending upon words and letters". For example, in the "Appended Remarks" of the Book of Changes it is said, '"Through ease and simplicity, the principle of the world will be obtained." Confucius said, "I wish to say without speaking." Lao Tzu said, "The sage practices the teaching of no speech." Chuang Tzu emphasized, "The perfect words are without words". But all of these are just theories which needed an external cause to be turned into a movement.

    The external cause was the arising during the T'ang Dynasty of a reactionary movement which claimed to return to the original simple state of the ancients. It arose in response to the change of Character style and the invention of printing after the Ch'in[ac] Dynasty (221-206 B.C.). Language become more adorned, and the commentaries on the classics turned into linguistic analysis. Therefore many scholars and writers brought out a movement to revive the ancient writing style. For example, the simple poetry of T'ang Dynasty took the place of the long fu[ad] (one kind of rhymed composition) of the Han Dynasty[ae] (206B.C.-220AD.); the clear writing of the ancient style replaced the overadorned pien-li[af] writing (one kind of antithesis) in the Six Dynasties (222-589). The development of Chinese Buddhism came with the movement of returning to ancient ways of thought.

    After the Han Dynasty, most of the Indian Buddhist sutras were translated into Chinese, and all schools strived with one another for bringing out a new theory. Then they caused the repetitive Sutras more complicated and less significant. During the period of Wei and Chin, such intelligent and honorable monks as Seng-chao and Tao-sheng claimed to go "beyond words" a concept which they absorbed from the thought of Taoism. But during this period the external conditions were not mature, and their claims drew no response. But the T'ang Dynasty, when Hui-neng lived, was a period of change in thought, and, aided by the external conditions, he started the movement of "not depending upon words and letters"

    During Hui-neng's time, many monks misunderstood "not depending upon words and letters" as "not using words and letters". Hui-neng's criticism was very reasonable. He thought that "not depending upon words and letters" simply meant not becoming attached to words and letters, and not establishing the obstruction of words and letters. In fact "not depending upon words and letters" is just a slang, Hui-neng's real intention was to advise us to meditate in our mind, and to practice by ourselves. After




Hui-neng, in the Ch'an School, many monks took a wrong path, throwing away the sutras and not reading them. But there were also a lot of Ch'an Masters who were good students of the sutras. For example, Hui-neng's disciples, Fa-ta[ag] recited the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (the Louts Sutra), Chih-tung[ah] in the beginning read the Lankavatara Sutra more than a thousand times, Chih-tao[ai] studied the Mahaparinirvana Sutra for more ten years, In-tsung[aj] was versed in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Yung-chia[ak] studied all the Sutras and versed in the very subtle Dharma-door of concentration and contemplation according to the T'ien-tai[al] school. Ch'an Master Pei-chang[am] gives a good explanation of reading sutras:

"When you read the sutras and study scriptures, you must take all words as returning to yourself. All words and teachings just bring out your own awakening nature. If you are not moved by the state and Dharma which are existent or non-existent, it is called the teachers. If your wisdom can illuminate and break through all states and Dharmas which are existent or non-existent, it is called Vajra. This means that you have the nature of freedom and independence. If you fail to do this, even you have recited the twelve Vedas Sutras it just add to your arrogance of superior knowledge. This is like slandering the Buddha it is not a cultivation. To read sutras and to study the scriptures are good things for the common people. If you over-emphasize on reading sutras and studying scriptures for those who have understood the principle, you will block them."[6]

This is a proper explanation of "not depending upon words and letters", and it is in accord with Hui-neng's thought.

    Afterward, the Confucianists of the Sung and Ming[an] Dynasties (960-1644) also responded to this thought. For example, Ch'eng Ming-tao (1032-1085) said:

"Although my learning comes from the ancients' teachings, the idea 'Heavenly principle' is just awakened by myself"[7]

Lu Hsiang-shan[ao](l139-1192) said:




"In learning, if I know the original, then all of the Six Classic Books are my footnotes."[8]

Wang Yang-ming[ap] (1472-1528) said:

"There is no matter outside mind; there is no affair outside mind; there is no principle outside mind; there is no righteousness outside mind; there is no goodness outside mind".[9]

All of these are quoted from the School of Mind in Neo-Confucianism, which is commonly acknowledged to have a close relationship with the Ch'an School. Actually, most of Neo-Confucianists emphasized on cultivation in their own mind, and experience of the principle of Heaven. Moreover, they claimed to not depend upon words and letters just as did the Ch'an School. They did not seek for the explanation of words and sentences in the ancient sage's classics. It is obvious that they took this course in response to the Ch'an School.


II.    Meditation

Meditation, originally, was a practice common to Indian Buddhism and all Indian religions. Although the Ch'an School takes the word "ch'an" as its name, its primary meaning is not meditation. Therefore Hui-neng explained meditation with a special meaning, and emphasized it as a cultivation of understanding the mind and seeing the original nature.

The "Great Learning"[10] which is a Confucianist classic says: "After knowing where to rest on, one can be calm. After being calm, one can be tranquil. After being tranquil, one can be peaceful. After being peaceful, one can be thoughtful. After being thoughtful, one can attain the end."

This passage uses the terms "rest", "calm", and "tranquil" which seem like the Dharma-door of concentration and contemplation. But its contents are different from meditation.




    The close relation with meditation is Chuang Tzu's "sitting in forgetfulness" and "mind fasting". For example:

"Destroying the limbs and body, renouncing cleverness and intelligence, departing from form and knowledge, one can be in accord with the great universality. This is called sitting in forgetfulness."[11]
"Being concentrated, one should not hear with one's ears, but with one's mind; one should not hear with one's mind, but with one's breath. Hearing stops with the ears, mind stops with the symbol, but the breath is empty and waits for all things. Only Tao gathers in emptiness. The emptiness is mind fasting''[12]

D.T. Suzuki said:

"The most distinctively characteristic hallmark of Zen is its insistence on the awakening of pratyatmajna which is an inner perception deeply reaching the core of one's being ...... This corresponds to Chuang Tzu's mind fasting or mind forgetting or clear as the morning."[13]

This is not sufficiently clear and needs more explanation. First we must know the difference between meditation that Hui-neng emphasized and the Dhyana of India. Dhyana emphasizes sitting in meditation and Samadhi, but the meditation that Hui-neng emphasizes as its primary meaning the understanding of the mind and the seeing of the nature. and the awakening to the original face. The "sitting in forgetfulness" which Chuang Tzu emphasizes is to see the true master. and "mind fasting" is to understand the true mind, so in this point, the Ch'an School's thought is as same as Chuang Tzu's. Although we cannot say that Hui-neng's explanation of meditation is completely influenced by Chuang Tzu, we can at least say that the idea of meditation in the Ch'an School after Hui-neng is very close to Chuang Tzu's thought.

    The special meaning of meditation which Hui-neng developed obviously influenced the Neo-Confucianists' thought in the Sung and Ming Dynasties.(960-1644)




    There was no method of meditation in the field of Pre-Ch'in Confucianism. Although there was mention of meditation on similar terms in the first chapter of the Great Learning, it did not draw more Confucianists' attention before the Sung Dynasty. But afterward having been influenced by the Ch'an School, the Neo-Confucianists learned sitting meditation. In order to establish a difference from the meditation of Buddhism, they took the first chapter of the Great Learning as the foundation of their meditation, and explained that their meditation was for making mind sincere, not for becoming a Buddha.

    The Neo-Confucianists were always interested in the sitting in stillness. For example, Chu Hsi said:

"Ming-tao teaches people the sitting in stillness, and Mr. Lee[aq] also teaches people sitting in stillness, because if one's mind is not firm, then one cannot find a place to cultivate the Tao[ar] and virtue."[14]

Chu Hsi himself taught people how to sit in stillness. He said:

"To begin in learning, the first method is the sitting in stillness. If one sits in stillness, one's basic source (mind) is firm. Although one's mind cannot be free from seeking for outside things, when one returns to oneself, there is a peaceful place for oneself."[15]

But they worried that the other people would mistakenly think that they had learned to meditate, So Chu Hsi specially explained:

"Sitting in stillness is not like meditation and Samadhi which are beyond thought. It simply causes the mind return and not to do any useless things. Then the mind is clear, without anything to do, and it is naturally concentrated, when there is something to do, the mind can respond to it. But when the matter is done, the mind will return to its stillness."[16]

Wang Yang-ming had practiced sitting in stillness with his students, he feared that his students did not understand the meaning of sitting in stillness as




taught in Confucianism, so he immediately sent a letter to his students, which says:

"The sitting in stillness in the temple which we have talked about is not meditation or Samadhi. Since we are always confused by things and affairs, and do not know how to cultivate ourselves, we practice this in order to complete the effort which can take our wandering mind back."[17]

Although the Neo-Confucianists denied it, it is obvious that the sitting in stillness which they practiced was influenced by the Ch'an School. Both of them cultivate in the mind, one to understand the mind and see the original nature, the other to take the wandering mind back.


III.    Kung-an

The Kung-ans of the Ch'an School are very complicated, but if we analyze them in detail, we will find that they have a certain pattern. I have written a paper about the method of Kung-an. According to their different dialogues. I divided them into ten kinds. Maybe there are more than ten, but at least we must acknowledge that many Kung-ans have the same method of expression. the meanings they manifest are the same. It shows us that Kung-ans have certain patterns. If we study these patterns. we find the foundation of these patterns lies in the "opposite Dharmas" which are described in the Sixth Patriarch Platform Sutra. It says:

"When someone asks you question, if he asks about being, answer by non-being; if he asks about non-being, answer by being; if he asks about the common, answer by the sagely; if he asks about the sagely, answer with the common. The two paths depend on each other and produce the middle way. If the other dialogues are like this, you will not lose the principle."[18]

The Kung-ans which the later Ch'an Masters created and used were transformed from this pattern of dialogue. Hui-neng had in fact used it by




himself. For example:

"A monk asked Hui-neng, Who knows the meaning of Huang-mei?[as] The Master answered,' Those who understand Buddha can know.' Then the monk asked,' Do you understand?' The Master answered, 'I do not understand Buddha Dharma'."[19]

If we agree that the method of "the opposite Dharmas depending on each other" which was emphasized by Hui-neng is a basic pattern of Kung-an, then we will find its source in Lao Tzu's statement that" Reversal is the movement of Tao". Lao Tzu said:

"The bright Tao looks dim, the advancing Tao seems to be retreating, the level Tao looks rough, the high virtue looks like a valley, the great whiteness looks spotted, the abundant virtue looks deficient, the vigorous virtue looks like a coward, the pure substance looks changeable, the largest square is without corners, the great vessel is completed lately, the great music is without sound, the great image is without form"[20]

From this chapter, we find that Lao Tzu's teaching is expressed by the pattern which he said "The real words sound the opposite." Although the Kung-an was created by the Ch'an School, its basic pattern had a close relationship with Taoist thought.

    During the period of Wei and Chin (220-420 A.D), Taoist thought became a metaphysical studies which was called "learning of the mystery" (hsuan hsueh). At that time the "pure talk" (ch'ing t'an)[at] of "learning of the mystery " is sometimes like the dialogue of Kung-an, for example;

"A guest asked the magistrate Yueh[au] about the meaning of 'The point cannot touch the thing itself. Yueh did not analyze the sentence; he just touched the table with the end of a duster and said, 'Does it touch the table?' The guest answered, 'It has touched.' Yueh, then, raised the end of the duster and asked, 'If it has touched it, how could it leave it?' Then the guest was awakened and admired him. Yueh's speech is simple and pene-




trating. All of his sayings are like this."[21]

"The general Ying[av] asked, 'Nature creates all things without mind. Why are there few good men and many bad men in the world?' None of the guests could answer. Only Liu Yuan[aw] replied. 'It is as when water is poured upon the earth. It flows everywhere and has many forms but few of them are completely square or circular.' Everyone praised the answer as perfect and penetrating".[22] "The magistrate Ying asked, 'What is the substance of the Change?' Hui-yuan answered. 'The response is the substance of the Change.' Ying asked, 'The mountain of copper collapses in the west, the spiritual bell responds in the east. Is it the Change?' Hui-yuan just laughed without answering."[23]

If the above stories were interpolated into the Records of the Transmission of the Lamp, they would become wonderful Kung-ans. Therefore I believe that there was the expression as Kung-an in the development of Taoist thought.

    Because many Neo-Confucianists were friends with Ch'an masters, they sometimes treated them as teachers. Thus many Neo-Confucianists became actors in Kung-an stories. For example:

"Lee Ao[ax] joined his palms and asked. 'What is Tao? Yo-shan [ay] pointed up and down with his finger and asked, 'Do you understand?' Ao answered. 'l do not understand.' Yao-shan said. 'The cloud is in the sky, the water is in the bottle.' Ao was very happy and bowed to Yao-shan, then wrote a gatha,' Having cultivated his body as a crane, he was reading Sutras among thousands of pine tree. I went to ask him about Tao. He did not speak any words besides.' The cloud is in the sky and the water is in the bottle."[24]

So it is natural that the Neo-Confucianists unintentionally used the witty words of the Kung-ans when they talked with students. For example:

"Yuan Yeh-ming[az] asked Cheng Tzu[ba], 'What is Tao?' Ch'eng Tzu answered. 'It is that which you practice."[25]




"When Ch'eng Tzu was going to die, his students said, 'You must now use what you have learned,' Ch'eng Tzu answered 'To be used is not the Tao.' "[26]

"I-ch'uan [bb]asked,' We are now going to say good-bye forever, would you teach me more?' Shao k'ang-chieh[bc] raised his hands to show him. I-ch'uan asked, 'What is the meaning?'  K'ang-chieh answered, 'You must make the road broad before you. If the road is narrow, then you yourself cannot traverse it. How could you lead other people?' "[27]

The last dialogue was included in The Valuable Instructions in the forest of Ch'an. Just the names of two men were changed. Thus:

"Huang-lung Hui-nan told Wang An-shih, [bd]'In whatever you want to do, you should always make your road broader and make it easy for everyone to pass. This is the function of the great man's mind. If the road is narrow and blocked, not only others can not pass, but you yourself cannot pass either.' "

Later, Wang Yang-ming sometimes intentionally used the witty words of Kung-ans to awaken students; for example:

''A student asked Wang Yang-ming about the learning of a sage. He answered, 'You now just know the common things. After you have really understood how to make up your mind to become a sage, I will tell you.' "[28]

"Wang Yang-ming always visited the temples of Nan-ping[be] Hu-pao[bf]. There was a monk who had sat in a locked room and has not seen anyone or spoken for three years. Wang Yang-ming yelled at him, 'You, monk! What do you say when you open your mouth all day? What do you see when you open your eyes all day?' "[29]

The pattern of these dialogues is of the kind usually used in kung-an. So we can say that there is a close relationship between kung-an and the dialogues




of the Neo-Confucianists.


IV.    Sudden Enlightenment

As for sudden enlightenment, we cannot find the same idea in the thought of the Pre-Ch'in Confucianists. In Taoism, Lao Tzu often used the word ming[bg]; for example: "To know eternity is called ming", "Those who know themselves are ming''. The ming is as same as enlightenment, but not then same as sudden enlightenment. In the Book of Chuang Tzu, there is a similar description of sudden enlightenment:

"After three days, I can be beyond the world. After seven days more, I can be beyond outside things; After nine days more, I can be beyond life; After being beyond life, I can be enlightened in the morning. After being enlightened in the morning, I can see Oneness; After seeing Oneness, I can be beyond the ancient and modern. Being beyond the ancient and modern, I can attain the state of no-death and no-birth."[30]

"Enlightenment in the morning" means the clear state of morning. Why do I say that it is the same as sudden enlightenment? Because after being enlightened in the morning, one can see Oneness. The Oneness means the absolute one, or the substance of the Tao. In Buddhist terms, it is to see the self-nature or to see one's original face. Therefore enlightening in the morning to see the absolute Oneness is like the state of sudden enlightenment.

    D.T. Suzuki has said that Chuang Tzu's "enlightenment in the morning" is as same as the Ch'an School's "seeing the nature", but he just drew this conclusion from the words. In fact there was an external cause to make them have a close relationship.

    During the period of Wei and Chin, the first two monks who brought out the idea of sudden enlightenment and had a close relationship with the thought of Chuang Tzu were Chih Tao-lin[bh] and Tao-sheng.

    Chin Tao-lin made a commentary on the first chapter of Chuang Tzu, "Roaming Carefree", so it is obvious that his thought had a close relationship with Chuang Tzu's. In the Commentary of the Book of Chao[31] it





"The meaning of the small sudden enlightenment as Chih Tao-lin saying,' On the seventh ground one can see the state of no-birth' "

In Buddhist terms, there are many kinds of ten grounds. It is unnecessary to describe the ten grounds in detail in this paper. But the no-birth which Chih Tao-lin speaks of is an obvious parallel to the state of no-death and no-birth which is described in the section of the enlightenment in the morning of Chuang Tzu.

    Later, Tao-sheng thought that since Chih Tao-lin's sudden enlightenment is just on the seventh ground, it is not the utmost. So he brought out the idea of the great sudden enlightenment. In The Commentary of The Book of Chao his thought was quoted as follows:

"Dharma Master Tao-sheng has described the idea of the great sudden enlightenment. He said: the word "sudden" means that the principle is beyond discrimination and the word 'enlightenment' means extreme illumination. The non-dual enlightenment is in accord with the principle of no-discrimination. Reason and intelligence are completely renounced, that is called sudden enlightenment. To understand by seeing is enlightenment, to understand by hearing is faith. Understanding by faith is not true, when enlightenment is attained, the faith will disappear. The way of principle is as natural as fruits falling down by themselves. Enlightenment can not be produced by itself; it must go through faith."

It is obvious that Tao-sheng's great sudden enlightenment is more complete than Chih Tao-lin's small sudden enlightenment. But Tao-sheng's idea about the great sudden enlightenment was not without relationship with Chuang Tzu's thought. For example, in the Biographies of Eminent Monks, he was described as follows:

"After Tao-sheng had thought for a long time, he awakened to the state which was beyond words, and sighed, 'The image is




used to exhaust the meaning; if one has obtained the meaning, one should forget the image; words are used to explain the principle; when one has attained the principle one should cease speaking. When the Buddhist Sutras were transmitted into China, the translators, because of the difficulty of the foreign language, always became attached to the words, and few of them knew the complete meaning. If one has gotten fish and forgotten the trap, one is able to discuss the Tao.' Then he observed the true and the common, and studied causes and conditions. He formed the theory that the good will not bring good retribution, and through sudden enlightenment one will become a Buddha."

What Tao-sheng sighed here simply responds to the words of Chuang Tzu:

"The trap is for fish. If one has got fish, one should forget the trap. The snare is for rabbits. If one has got a rabbit, one should forget the snare. The words are for expressing the meaning. If one has got the meaning, one should forget the words. Where can I talk with the man who has forgot the words?"[32]

I emphasize the relationship between Chih Tao-lin, Tao-sheng and Chuang Tzu with sudden enlightenment in order to explain the close relationship between the Ch'an School and Taoism at the source.

    Chuang Tzu's enlightenment in the morning which is able to see the absolute oneness and Tao-sheng's great sudden enlightenment which must come through gradual cultivation are definitions of Hui-neng's sudden enlightenment. In the Sixth Patriarch 's Platform Sutra Hui-neng emphasized again and again that sudden enlightenment was just seeing the nature and that it did not mean giving up gradual cultivation. Actually sudden enlightenment is just self-awakening. To add the word "sudden" means that the enlightenment is complete and pure, and the method simple and direct.

    If the Ch'an School is not a farce which plays in beating and kicking, but is the basic understanding of the mind and seeing the nature, penetrating throughout outside and within, then the Ch'an School's influence on the Neo-Confucianists is very deep and great.

    How deep is it? it touches the central idea of Confucianism, it is " jen",[bi]




(Humanity, benevolence etc.)

    The "jen" of Confucianism has no fixed definition. The Analects says, "Confucius seldom spoke of profit, and fate, and jen," Confucius did not give any definition for jen, when his students asked him about it, he simply told them, depending on their individuality, of the practical virtue of jen, such as "to love people", "filial piety and brotherly love", "loyalty and magnanimity", "respect, forgiveness, faith, cleverness, wisdom" and so on. Mencius thought that jen is a kind of love. Therefore the idea of jen before the Chen Dynasty means the practical virtues. But the Neo-Confucianists who were influenced by the Ch'an School thought of jen as a mental quality, and explained jen as awakening. For example, Chen Ming-tao said:

"The medical book says,'Paralysis of the hands and feet is called a lack of jen.' This is a good description. The man with jen accords with heaven and earth as the same substance. Nothing is not himself, and no place is beyond himself. If he does not take everything as himself, then nothing has a relationship with him. It is like the paralysis of the hands and feet; the energy cannot go through them, so they do not belong to him. Therefore, universally giving to and saving all beings is the merit and function of the sage. Jen is difficult to describe, therefore it is simply said, 'If you wish to stand, you should let other people stand: if you wish to develop, you should let other people develop. Take the example of the things which are around you: this is the way to attain jen.' If we contemplate jen in this way. we can obtain its substance."[33]

Here jen is explained as the awakening of mind. The later Confucianists afterward explained the mind as spiritual brightness. It is equal to say that Jen is the spiritual brightness of mind. Ming-tao further emphasized:

"The early sages and the later sages are the same. It is not to transmit the Tao of a sage, but the mind of a sage. It is not to transmit the mind of a sage, but your own mind. Your own mind is not different from the sage's mind. it is broad and boundless. It includes all goodness. if you wish to transmit the Tao of a




sage, what you have to do just expand this mind."[34]

This idea is not only, on the surface, like the Ch'an School's transmission of mind; but actually, it places the substance of Tao in the mind. Later, the ideas of Lu hsiang-shan's "The mind is same, the principle is same.[34]", and Wang Chi's[bj](Yang-ming's student) "An people in the street are sages."[35] were drawn from this thought.

    The Neo-Confucianists explained the mind of jen as spiritual awakening, and so naturally they took the sudden enlightenment of the Ch'an School as their method. The obvious example is Wang Yang-ming's saying:

"I teach by two methods. I cause those who are sharp in nature to be enlightened directly to the source, because the source of mind is originally clear without any obstruction, and it is originally an intermediate state which precedes action. Those who are sharp in nature awaken to the substance that is their effort to make other people and himself, outside and inside into one."[37]

This is completely the same as sudden enlightenment. Because this. he had a practical method like meditation on a kung-an; it is the Hua-t'ou[bk][38] of pursuing innate knowledge. For example? he said:

"If we see there is a little bit energy moving in our body, we must bring out the hua-t'ou of pursuing innate knowledge to help us to control the energy each other."[39]

"To be cautious and to cultivate is the effort of holding the hua-t 'ou and not letting it go."[40]

Both in his thought and in his practice in life, Wang Yang-ming is of complete Confucianist spirit, but his method of bringing out hua-t'ou was not used in the Pre-Ch'in Confucianists. It is obvious that he is influenced by the Ch'an School.

    I have been discussing a simple comparison. The more important thing is to understand through this comparison these three schools' development and their intermingling in the history of Chinese thought.




    Confucianism and Taoism have the same source, they matured together during the Period of Spring and Autumn and the Warring States (722-222 B.C.) Lao Tzu's thought influenced the governing of Huang-Lao[bl], and Confucianism was respected by Emperor Wu[bm] of Han Dynasty, but their thought did not go beyond the practice of politics, and had not great achievement in the realm of thought itself. During the Period of Wei-Chin, and North and South Dynasty, Taoist thought turned to "learning of the mystery" and "pure talk." Although Taoism was flourishing in that time, it was just a game of ideas without real vigor. At that time Indian Buddhism was transmitted to China, and Taoism was the first to welcome it. Neo-Taoists and Buddhists made an effort together to create the Ch'an School, which was basic on Chinese thought. It was a combination of the thought of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and the Prajna Teaching of the Great Vehicle. During this period, Taoist thought was twisted and became the religion of Taoism and the Study of Immortality. So there were no pure Taoists as transcendent as Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. But many Ch'an Masters in the T'ang Dynasty actually had the spirit of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Thomas Merton said:

"The true inheritors of the thought and spirit of Chuang Tzu are the Chinese Zen Buddhists of the T'ang period.''[41]

Actually, we can say that Taoists in the T'ang Dynasty were simply Ch'an Masters. The history of Chinese Ch'an between T'ang and Sung Dynasties was just a combination of the thought of Taoism and the Prajna of the Great Vehicle. For example, the thought of Bodhidharma's disciple Hui-k'e, [bn] the thought of Tao-sheng's[bo] disciple Fa-jung[bp], the thought of the sect of Neo-t'ou[bq] which was started by Fa-jung, and the thought of Hui-neng and his disciples Ma-tsu[br] Shih-t'ou[bs] Nan-ch'uan [bt] Chao-chou[bu] , were all intermingled with the thought of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.

    In the Sung Dynasty, Chinese thought entered into a period of a great harmonization. The three schools, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, each had the characteristic of harmonization. Thus the Neo-Confucianism adopted the thought of Buddhism and Taoism; the Ch'an School adopted the thought of Confucianism and Taoism; as to Taoism, sometimes it entered into Confucianism and led some Neo-Confucianists to adopt the thought of Taoism;




sometimes it permeated Buddhism and caused some Ch'an masters to adopt the thought of Taoism. Even in the religion of Taoism, the School of Ch'uan-chen [bv], which was created by Wang Ch'ung-yang[bw] adopted the thought of Confucianism and Taoism.[42]

    But generally speaking, Taoism has no clear development, except that it was twisted and became the religion of Taoism. Buddhism, after the Sung Dynasty. was in decay. Even the new School of Ch'an almost decayed into a crazy Ch'an, because it became attached to the four characteristics and departed from the simplicity of the thought of Hui-neng. Therefore, after the Sung Dynasty, the major school in the history of Chinese thought is Neo-Confucianism.

    Neo-Confucianism, whether the School of Ch'eng-Chu[bx][43] or the School of Lu-Wang[by][44]. always had a relationship with Buddhism. and involved the thought of Ch'an. The School of Lu-Wang, especially, was often criticized by the term "the man of Ch'an". Many ancient philosophers and modern scholars have an idea that one is Confucianist, one must be a complete Confucianist, and if one is a Buddhist. one must be a pure Buddhist. Because of this psychological problem. some philosophers and scholars dared not confess that the, adopted thought and method of other schools. Moreover, they criticized one another according to whether or not they had adopted the thought of other schools. An example was the conference of Goose Lake and the debate about Tai-Che[bz] and Wu-Che[ca] in Neo-Confucianism. Many later scholars have followed this and have taken it as a standard to distinguish among one another. It is a severe misunderstanding which obstructs the development of Chinese thought.

    The great master Han-shan[cb] of the Ming Dynasty wrote an easy called "To Contemplate the Shadow and Echo About Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu" to criticize this misunderstanding. He wrote:

"I always saw that many scholars were frightened and dared not go on. as if they were meeting a tiger in the road, when they read the quotations of other philosophers and historic books in the Sutras and commentaries. If you ask them to practice, they will say, 'These speak of an outside way', and they turn their backs to them. I also saw that some superior men who studied the thought of Chuang Tzu took the Buddhist teaching to




certify Chuang Tzu's meaning, and said 'All Buddhist Sutras come from here.' Thinking in this way, can we say they understand the principle? In fact, those who learn Buddhist teaching, but do not understand the thought of all other philosophers, not only do not understand the worldly Dharma, but also do not understand the Buddha Dharma. Those who explain the thought of Chuang Tzu, and say that Chuang Tzu's thought can exhaust the meaning of all Buddhist Sutras, not only do not know the Buddhist teaching, but also do not know Chuang Tzu's thought. This is the reason that truth is difficult to understand. Therefore it is said: 'From the standpoint of the large looking at the minute, one cannot understand the minute completely; from the stand-point of the minute looking at the large, one cannot understand the large clearly.' I have taken three things for self-discipline. There are: if one does not know the Annals of Spring and Autumn, one cannot govern the world; if one does not know Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, one cannot forget the world; if one does not investigate Ch'an, one cannot transcend the world. If one knows these things, one may be talked of as being learned."

    Han-shan's opinion is correct. In academic studies, I believe that if a Ch'an Master has one tenth of Taoist thought in his thought, he is one tenth a Taoist; if half his thought is Taoist, he is half a Taoist. It is as same with Confucianism and Taoism. What school he belongs to on the surface is just a title and a classification. What is most important is the substance of his thought. In fact, his absorption of the thought of other schools, far from decreasing his importance, simply demonstrates that his thought is large enough to include other schools.

    In my view, then, although the Neo-Confucianists adopted the thought of the Ch'an School, it did not vitiate their achievement when it was done correctly; rather it had the capacity to bring out a new state and a new development for both schools. For example, in the Sung Dynasty, the Ch'an School did not use in a proper manner the four characteristics which I have described; that caused many monks to stop studying the Sutras, to sit in deathlike meditation, to create kung-ans, and to seek for sudden enlightenment in a wrong way. During that time the Ch'an School lacked practical




moral rules. But the Neo-Confucianists achieved a great deal in ethical thought, thus they could have helped the Ch'an School in its decay. Therefore we should neither criticize Wane Yang-ming as a "man of poor Ch'an" from the viewpoint of Confucianism, nor say from the Buddhist viewpoint that he stole the Ch'an Dharma-door. Rather, from the Confucianism's standpoint, we should respect the openness of his mind in using Ch'an Dharma-door; and from the Buddhist standpoint, we should be glad to see Ch'an thought planted in a new field.

    It is a pity that the Neo-Confucianists did not take this view, and that the decaying Ch'an School failed to seek renewal through this view. Instead, Neo-Confucianism and the Ch'an School remained divided and went down a dead-end road.

    Today, when we discuss this matter from an objective standpoint, we should open the doors of the three schools wider. A monk asked Chao-chou, "What is Chao-chou?" Chao-chou answered," The east gate, south Fate, west gate, and north gate," This is the same as saying that we can attain tile Tao through any gate. Now we need to say also, "After attaining the Tao, all gates are open to one another." Having attained this state, we go beyond the academic field, and attain the state of practice. The topic which I have discussed will become useless talk.






1.    This article is from the forthcoming book, The Mind of Chinese Ch'an (Zen), subtitled * The Ch'an School Masters and Their Kung-ans.

2.    It was written by Seng-chao, who was a disciple of Indian monk kumarajiva. It includes four articles. They are: The Immutability of Things, Emptiness of the Unreal, Prajna Is Not Knowledge, and Nirvana Is Not Name.

3.    In The Kao Seng Ch'uan[cc] (Biographies of Eminent Monks), it says: "(Fa-ya)[cd] As a youth he was skilled in external (non-Buddhist) studies, but as he grew up he came to comprehend the concepts of Buddhism..... At that time his disciples were only versed in the non-Buddhist writings, but not in Buddhist principles, So Ya, with K'ang Fa-lang[ce] and others, equated the contents of the Sutras with the external writings, in order to establish examples that world create understanding. This was called the method of analogy (k'e I)." (Biography of Fa-ya)




4.    They are the Schools of Lin-chi[cf]. Kuei-yang[cg], Ts'ao-tung[ch], Fa-yen[ci] , and Yun-men[cj]

5.    I have discussed these four characteristics in one of my lectures named "Four Characteristics and Four Obstructions in the Ch' an School". The original is in Chinese and is included in my book Che Hsueh Yen Chiang Lu[ck] (Lectures on Philosophy), Taipei, Taiwan; San Min Bookstore, 1976.

6.    Ch'uan Teng Lu[cl] (Records of the Transmission of the Lamp) vol. 6, Pei-chang.

7.    Sung Yuan Hsueh An[cm] (Writings of Sung and Yuan Philosophers),Ch'eng Ming-tao.

8.    Lu Hsiang-shan Ch'uan Chi[cn](Complete Works of Lu Hsiang-shan), Records of the Conversations of Hsiang-shan.

9.    Wang Wen-ch'eng Kung Ch'uan Shu[co] (Complete Works of Wang Shou-jen)[cp] a letter with Wang Chun-pu[cq]

10.    It is one chapter of the Book of Rites, and now also included in the Four Books.

11.    Book of Chuang Tzu, chapter 6, The Great and Venerable Teacher.

12.    Book of Chuang Tzu, chapter 4, In the World of Men.

13.    Introduction to a new reprint (1957) of James Legge's Texts of Taoism.

14, 15, 16.    Chu Tzu Yu Lei [cr] (Classified Conversations of Chu Tzu).

17.    Yang-ming Nien P'u[cs] (Chronological Biography of Yang-ming), at the age of thirty nine.

18.    Chapter 10, Final Instructions.

19.    Chapter 7, Opportunities and Conditions.

20.    Chapter 41.

21, 22, 23.    Shih Shuo Hsin Yu[ct] (Contemporary Records of New Discourses).

24.    Ch'uan Teng Lu (Records of the Transmission of the Lamp) vo1.14, Yao-shan.

25, 26.    Sung Yuan Hsueh An (Writings of Sung and Yuan Philosophers), Ch'eng I.

27.    Sung Yuan Hsueh An (Writings of Sung and Yuan Philosophers), Shao Kang-chieh.

28.    Chuan Hsi Lu [cu] (Records of Instructions)

29.    Yang-ming Nien P'u(Chronological Biography of Yang-ming), at the age of thirty two .

30.    Book of Chuang Tzu chapter 6, The Great and Venerable Teacher.

31.    Chao Lun Su[cv] by monk Hui-ta[cw]

32.    Book of Chuang Tzu chapter 21, External Things.

33, 34.    Sung Yuan Hsueh An (Writings of Sung and Yuan Philosophers), Ch'eng Hao.

35.    Lu Hsiang-shan Ch'uan Chi (Complete Works of Lu Hsiang-shan), Records Conversations of Hsiang-shan.

36, 37.    Wang Yang-ming Chuan Hsi Lu (Records of Instructions).

38.    In the Primary Meaning of Meditation, Eminent Monk Hsu-yun[cx] said: "What is Hua-t'ou? Hua means speaking. T'ou means before speaking. For example, to recite the name of "Amitabha Buddha" is a phrase. Before reciting is Hua-tou (literally, the head of speaking). So Hua-tou simply means that it is without a single thought. As soon as a single thought is




rising, it is Huawei[cy] (literally, the tail of speaking)."

39.    Wang yang-ming Ch'uan Shu (Complete Works of Wang Yang-ming), a letter with Huang tsung-hsien[cz]

40.    Wang Yang-ming Chuan Hsi lu (Records of Instructions)

41.    Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, p. 15.

42.    The School of Ch'uan-chen was divided into two schools, north and south, and flourished in the Sung Dynasty. Wang Ch'ung-yang, the first patriarch of the first patriarch of the Northern School, emphasized that three schools, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism should be in harmonization. So he taught disciples with the Book of Filial piety, the Book of Lao Tzu, and the Heart Sutra.

43.    Ch'eng-Chu refers to Cheng I-ch'uan and Chu Hsi. This school includes I-ch'uan and Chu Hsi and their followers. It emphasizes principle, so it is also called the School of Principle.

44.    Lu-Wang refers to Lu Hsiang-shan and Wang Yang-ming. This school includes Hsiang-shan, Yang-ming and their followers. It emphasizes the mind, so it is also called the School of Mind.




a l 慧能
b 僧肇 m
c 老子 n 周敦頤
d 莊子 o 鶴林壽涯
e p 黃龍慧南
f q 晦堂祖心
g 格義 r 廬山佛印
h 慧遠 s 張橫渠
i 道生 t 東林常聰
j 玄學 u 程明道
k 魏晉 v 程伊川




w 黃龍靈源 av
x 朱熹 aw 劉伊
y 大慧宗[+本] ax 李翱
z 妙喜 ay 藥山
aa 竹庵 az 伊彥明
ab 公案 ba 程子
ac bb 伊川
ad bc 邵康節
ae bd 王安石
af 駢驪 be 南屏
ag 法達 bf 虎跑
ah 智通 bg
ai 志道 bh 支道林
aj 印宗 bi
ak 永嘉 bj 王畿
al 天台 bk 話頭
am 百丈 bl 黃老
an bm
ao 陸象山 bn 慧可
ap 王陽明 bo 道信
aq bp 法融
ar bq 牛頭
as 黃梅 br 馬祖
at 清談 bs 石頭
au bt 南泉




bu 趙州 ck 哲學演講錄
bv 全真 cl 傳燈錄
bw 王重陽 cm 宋元學案
bx 程朱 cn 陸象山全集
by 陸王 co 王文成公全書
bz 太極 cp 王守仁
ca 無極 cq 王純甫
cb 憨山 cr 朱子語類
cc 高僧傳 cs 陽明年譜
cd 法雅 ct 世說新語
ce 康法朗 cu 傳習錄
cf 臨濟 cv 肇論疏
cg 溈仰 cw 慧達
ch 曹洞 cx 虛雲
ci 法眼 cy 話尾
cj 雲門 cz 黃宗賢