Ch'an is a Chinese term for a sect of meditative Buddhist (later called
Zen in Japan) traced to an Indian monk, Bodhidharma, of the dhyana, or
Pure Medication sect (Buddhist) who as the first Patriarch of the Shaolin
Monastery in China's Honen province is credited as the founder of Ch'an.
Ch'an traces its beginning to Buddha himself who according to legend transmitted
his doctrine to his pupil Ksashyapa not by words but by merely holding
up a flower and smiling. But Bodhidharma was not the only voice of meditative
Buddhism in China. The doctrine of sudden enlightenment had been advocated
by Tao-sheng as early (434 B.C.), and Shih kao (c. 150 A.D.) had also
practiced and taught the meditative doctrine. By the time of the sixth
Patriarch, Hui-neng at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD) Ch'an
became the leading form of Buddhism in Japan. Some maintain that Hui-neng
(others say his pupil Shen hui) ultimately perfected, or changed the doctrine
of Ch'an into a new form. The former practices of logic and use of logical
language and methods of meditation were abandond. Instead the new Ch'an
adopted doctrines of "absence of thought" and "seeing one's original nature"
and also used illogical question and answer methods - all aimed at developing
intuition, intuition itself seen as the true source of wisdom (prajna),
not rational thought. In Japan Cha'an became Zen, also known as hsin tsung,
or Mind Doctrine.