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Ch'an Buddhism

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.


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