Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China by Morten Schlütter, 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.

“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

Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No. 22
Published in association with the Kuroda Institute
June 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3255-1 / $48.00 (CLOTH)