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 Laughing Buddha

The "Laughing Buddha", the most popular depiction of Buddha in China

Northern School of Ch'an versus Southern School of Ch'an Controversy

The East Mountain School (falsely labeled as the Northern School) of Dayi Daoshin (580–651) the Fourth Patriarch of Ch'an and Daman Hongren (601–674) the Fifth Patriarch of Ch'an made remarkable contributions to Buddhism from its development in China to its spread to Tibet and East Asia. Although it is no longer a living tradition, its influence continues to the present day.

Leshan Buddha

The Leshhan Giant Buddha of China is the largest carved Buddha in the world

Buddhism first came to China during the first century AD through missionaries from India during the Han dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 漢朝; pinyin: Hàncháo; 206 BC–220 AD). The White Horse Temple (Traditional Chinese: 白馬寺; pinyin: Báimǎ Sì; Wade–Giles: Pai-ma Szu), the first Buddhist temple in China was built in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming near the Eastern Han dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 東漢; pinyin: Dōnghàn; 25 AD–220 AD) capital of Luoyang in Henan Province.

The White Horse Temple lies 12–13 kilometers (7.5–8.1 miles) east of Luoyang. Though small compared to many other temples in China, the White Horse Temple is honored as "the cradle of Chinese Buddhism." It is ringed in on the south by the Manghan mountain and Lucoche River.

Several versions of the legend of the foundation and naming of the temple exist.

According to 'The Chapter on the Western Regions' of the Hou Hanshu (Traditional Chinese: 後漢書; pinyin: Hòu hànshū; Book of Later Han or History of the Later Han), which was based on a report to the Emperor c. 125, (compiled in the 5th century):

Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha

"Tradition is that Emperor Ming dreamt that he saw a tall golden man the top of whose head was glowing. He questioned his group of advisers and one of them said: "In the West there is a god called Buddha. His body is sixteen chi tall [3.7 meters (12 ft)], and is the colour of gold." That is why the Emperor sent envoys to Tianzhu [South or Central India] to inquire about the Buddha's doctrine, after which paintings and statues [of the Buddha] appeared in the Middle Kingdom [China]."

According to the Book of Later Han History, Emperor Ming was said to have dreamed one night in the year 64 of a golden person standing 20 meters tall and with a radiating white aureola flying from the West. The next day he told his ministers, and the minister Zhong Hu explained to him that he had probably dreamed of the Buddha from India. The emperor then sent a delegation of 18 emissaries led by Cai Yin, Qin Jing, and Wang Zun to seek out Buddhism.

In Central Asia, Emperor Ming's emissaries met two Indian monks named Kasyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna or Gobharana. They persuaded the monks to return with them to China, bringing their books of Buddhist scriptures, relics, and statues of Buddha with them on two white horses.

One year after their arrival, Emperor Ming king built a Buddhist temple, China's first, in their honor three li east of the capital Luoyang and named it the White Horse Temple or Baima Temple in appreciation of the white horses that had carried the monks.

The monks resided at the new temple, where they translated the Buddhist scriptures they had brought with them into the Chinese language. The most notable of these was the Sūtra of Forty-two Chapters (四十二章經), which was translated by Matanga. It was the first Buddhist sutra to be translated into Chinese, giving it a special place in the history of Chinese Buddhism. Gobharana translated the Dasa Bhumi or the Ten stages of Perfection as well as five other texts.

Matanga and Gobharana died in the temple precincts and were buried in the courtyard of the temple. Following the establishment of the temple, 1000 monks resided there and practiced Buddhism.

Temple Gate

White Horse Temple Gate

Over the next four centuries following the establishment of the White Horse Temple, many ācāryas (preceptors or instructors) journeyed from India and Central Asia to disseminate Buddhism to the Chinese people, impacting morals, thought, and ethics in China. Buddhabhadra (circa 5th century AD), the first Shaolin Temple abbot, and Bodhidharma (483–540), the first Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an, were two such. Ch'an (Chinese Zen) can be regarded as the high point of the process of Sinicization of Indian Buddhism that began with the early Chinese Buddhist teachers Dao'an (312–385) and Huiyuan (334–416).

Shaolin Temple

The Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, the birthplace of Ch'an Buddhism

Ch'an developed slowly during its first 100 years in China. It appealed first to Chinese intellectuals and elites as an alternative to Confucianism and Taoism. Its emphasis on morality and ritual appealed to Confucianists and the desire to gain inner wisdom drew Taoists. By the early fifth century, Buddhism had established itself as one of China's Three Teachings. The growth and maturation of Ch'an was spurred, though, when the Shaolin Temple (Shàolín Sì 少林寺) and the other Buddhist monasteries of China were cut off from the great monastic centers of India and Central Asia due to the revival of Hinduism and the emergence of Islam in the seventh century. In these circumstances, the Buddhist monasteries of China had to rely on themselves. Ch'an responded with a development in thought and expansion in China that led to the Golden Age of Buddhism in China during the T'ang dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Tángcháo), which reigned from 618–907.

According to the official Ch'an lineage proposed by both the Northern (i.e. East Mountain) and Southern schools: Bodhidharma taught Huike (487–593), Huike taught Sengcan (496?–606), Sengcan taught Daoxin, and Daoxin taught Hongren. Ch'an began to blossom creatively with the creation of a new style of teaching, created by Daoxin and carried on by Hongren and his disciples.

The first patriarchs and their disciples lived solitary, wandering lives. Daoxin created the first communities of monks and nuns in China. Daoxin developed the "East Mountain" Teaching (Dongshan 東山), which received its name from the East Mountain Temple (Dōngshān Sì 東山寺) on Shuanfeng (Traditional Chinese: 雙峰縣; pinyin: Shuāngfēng Xiàn; literal: "Twin Peaks") in Hunan Province, China.

This style of monastic Ch'an continues today and is summarized in a list of rules known as the "pure regulations."

The "pure regulations" include four major points of practice that sets Ch'an apart from other Buddhism sects.

These points include:

1. Scriptures were to be studied for their deeper spiritual meaning and not to be taken literally.
2. Ch'an was a spiritual practice for everyone.
3. Activity of any kind is dhyāna (meditation).
4. The community is independent – creating its own resources, such as growing food.

During Daoxin's lifetime, the argument about "sudden" enlightenment (dun jiao 頓教) or "sudden path" (Sanskrit: yugapad; युगपद्) versus "gradual" (jian jiao 漸教) enlightenment or "gradual path" (Sanskrit: karamavrittya; क्रमवृद्धि) first emerged. Daoxin himself was a proponent of what would later be labeled as gradual enlightenment. His position is summed up in his work Five Gates of Daoxin:

Let it be known: Buddha is the mind. Outside of the mind there is no
Buddha. In short, this includes the following five things:
First: The ground of the mind is essentially one with the Buddha.
Second: The movement of the mind brings forth the treasure of the
Dharma. The mind moves yet is ever quiet; it becomes turbid and yet
remains such as it is.
Third: The mind is awake and never ceasing; the awakened mind is always
present; the Dharma of awakened mind is without specific form.
Fourth: The body is always empty and quiet; both within and without, it is
one and the same; the body is located in the Dharma world, yet is
unfettered.
Fifth: Maintaining unity without going astray – dwelling at once in
movement and rest, one can see the Buddha nature clearly and enter
the gate of samādhi (union of individual soul with infinite spirit).

With Ch'an practice codified, and the emergence of the unified and prosperous T'ang dynasty, the next generations of students were given a platform on which to base their own ideas and teachings.

Hongren marked the beginning of a new period of Ch'an that featured strong master-disciple relationships and the expanding of spiritual practice beyond the Indian dhyāna meditations. Hongren's spiritual practice was based on the Indian teaching of "gradual enlightenment," taught by his predecessor, Daoxin.

Hongren had as many as eleven students who he confirmed as mastering the teachings. Three of these students: Yuquan Shenxiu (606?–706), named first of his disciples; Zizou Zhixian (609–702), named second of his disciples; and Daman Huineng (638–713), named eighth of his disciples are credited with founding major Ch'an schools based on variations of his teachings.

Hongren's first dharma heir was said to be Luzhou Faru (638–689), who studied with Hongren for 16 years at the Twin Peaks. He was supposedly not officially appointed because he had left the East Mountain Temple to journey through southern China before heading north to teach the dharma at the Shaolin Temple. He reportedly recommended Shenxiu to his students for continuing their studies before his death.

The official dharma heir of Hongren was recorded by the Confucian scholar Chang Yueh (667–730) as being Shenxiu. Shenxiu was a very famous, highly educated teacher who continued the teachings of his late master Hongren.

Shenxiu emphasized sūtra (scripture) study, chanting, and receiving the precepts. The precepts were values shared with other Buddhist schools and Chinese society. The East Mountain School maintained that these were necessary to maintain the purity of mind that is realized in enlightenment but that is not separate from it. Pure mind is obstructed by corrupt thoughts and intentions and so these delusive thoughts obscure the required clarity of the mind that is needed to realize the natural state that is Buddha mind. Shenxiu's method of practice was based on sitting meditation using a four-fold formula:

1. Concentrating the mind in order to enter dhyāna
2. Settling the mind in that state by watching its forms of purity
3. Arousing the mind to shine in insight
4. Controlling the mind for its inner verification

Shenxiu's teachings were revered during his lifetime. In 701, when he was well over ninety years old, Shenxiu was invited to the eastern capital of Luoyang, or Dongdu (东都), the "Eastern Capital", by the infamous Empress Wu who had usurped the T'ang dynasty and was seeking the support of prominent Buddhist clergy to bolster her hold on power. He was named National Teacher (Kuo Shih 国史) and was kept at the imperial court against his wishes. During Shenxiu's last years, the seat of East Mountain Teaching was transferred away from the East Mountain Temple to the dual capitals of Luoyang and Chang'an (the "Western Capital" or Xijing (西京)), where three successive emperors became his disciples.

Meantime, Huineng spent 37 years at the Baolin Temple (Bǎo lín Sì 宝林寺) in Caoxi (the present-day Nanhua Temple (Nánhuá Sì 南華寺) in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province) spreading and teaching Ch'an Buddhism. Huineng was little known during his lifetime. It is almost impossible to separate fact from fiction in the biographies written about him. Very little is known about him and most of what is known comes from the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch. Though popular, it has been invalidated by modern scholars.

It is known that Huineng was a younger contemporary to Shenxiu, who lived the normal mundane life of a Ch'an teacher. Huineng's actual teachings are believed to be no different from those of Shenxiu. American Buddhist scholar John McRae wrote: "Chengkuan of the Huayen school, for example, was unable to see any significant difference between the teachings of Northern (Shenxiu's) and Southern (Huineng's) Ch'an."

Up to this period, there was no reference to Northern (Beizong 北宗) or Southern (Nanzong 南宗) schools and there was little or no conflict between methods of spiritual practice. This harmonious time between the lifetime of Hongren and the deaths of Shenxiu and Huineng was the most creative period of Ch'an. However, this range of creativity led to doctrinal conflict. German scholar Heinrich Dumoulin wrote: "The rich diversity of spiritual and intellectual elements that flowed together during this early period of Zen Buddhism were the harbinger of conflicts to appear in the following two or three generations." These conflicts began with the dubious claims of a monk named Heze Shenhui (684–758).

It is with Shenhui and his successors that the colorful and fictional legends of Ch'an are created and developed. Before Shenhui, there had been no Northern and Southern schools, gradual or sudden enlightenment, or even a conflict over lineage.

Shenhui had first taught at Longxing Temple (Lóngxīng Sì 隆興寺) in Nanyang, where he was unknown. Shenhui determined to raise his status and create his own school of Ch'an, though. He is supposed to have studied first with Shenxiu in his teens and then with Huineng in his early 20's for about seven years until Huineng's death in 713 at Caoxi.

In 732, Shenhui held a conference in Huatai at the Great Cloud Temple (Dàyùn Sì 大運寺). There he attacked the school of Shenxiu, referring to Shenxiu's school as the Northern School, substituting Shenxiu for Huineng in the lineage, attacking Shenxiu's school on doctrinal points, and stressing his connection to Huineng and declaring himself Huineng's successor. He also denounced Shenxiu and his disciples for selling out to enjoy court life and the patronage of the imperial government.

Shenhui's first line of attack was to create a broader difference between the schools of Huineng and Shenxiu. He did this by calling Shenxiu's teachings "The Northern School." At the time in China, sudden enlightenment was considered the true teaching, and everyone identified their school with the practice of sudden enlightenment. Therefore, Shenhui calling Shenxiu's school "The Northern School" was an insult, insinuating that Shenxiu's school had inferior teachings.

Heinrich Dumoulin wrote: "According to the mainstream of later Zen, not only is sudden enlightenment incomparably superior to gradual enlightenment but it represents true Zen – indeed, it is the very touchstone of authentic Zen."

The resulting controversy over what was the Northern School and what was the Southern School was based both on geography (the "Northern School" was in the North) and the Chinese expression nan-tun pei-chien (nán-tún pèi-chí ēn 男-屯沛-池恩), which meant "suddenness of the South, gradualness of the North." It was said that the artificial southern movement was one in which the Chinese mind asserted itself against the Indian mind upheld by its northern counterpart.

Shenhui was not the first person in China to argue over sudden versus gradual enlightenment. The fifth century teachers Xie Lingyun (385–433), Sengzhao (374–414) and Daosheng (360–434) argued the same position, using Taoist terminology and sources as well.

Shenhui's substitution of Huineng as the true successor utilized a series of invented stories and teachings, including rewriting the line of succession, and campaigning that Hongren named Huineng to be his dharma heir.

Shenhui claimed that from the time of Bodhidharma, each master has given his robes to his successor. This continued with Hongren, who, Shenhui claimed, gave his robes to Huineng.

Shenhui wrote:

The robe is proof of the Dharma, and the Dharma is the doctrine
(confirmed by the possession) of the robe. Both Dharma and robe are
passed on through each other. There is no other transmission. Without
the robe, the Dharma cannot be spread, and without the Dharma, the robe
cannot be obtained.

Up to this time, the idea of a single line of succession did not exist. When Shenhui first told this story at the conference in Huatai, a representative from Shenxiu's lineage expressed puzzlement: "Confused, Chongyuan asked why there could be only one succession in each generation and whether the transmission of the Dharma was dependent on the transmission of the robe."

Shenhui created another story to support his falsified stories. In this story, Shenhui created a fictional dialogue: "During his lifetime the Ch'an Master Shenxiu stated that the robe, symbolic of the Dharma, as transferred in the sixth generation, was at Shaozhou (near Huineng's temple)."

The most important invented story is the following dialogue that between Shenxiu and the Empress Wu. American scholar Philip Yampolsky recounts the story from one of Shenhui's texts titled "Nanyang Monk Asks Questions and Answers" (Nányáng héshàng wèndá zá zhēngyì 南陽和尚問答雜征義):

...when the Empress Wu invited Shenxiu to court, in the year 700 or 701, this
learned priest is alleged to have said that in Shaozhou there was a great master
[Huineng], who had in secret inherited the Dharma of the Fifth Patriarch.

This story appears in almost every account of Ch'an in this period, including the Platform Sūtra.

To back up his claim that the so-called "Northern School" taught gradual enlightenment, Shenhui used several additional invented dialogues. The most famous one is a dialogue between Master Yuan and Shenhui about two of Shenxiu's successors, Songshan Puji (651–739), Shenxiu's dharma heir, and Xiangmo (d.u.):

The Master Yuan said: "Puji of Songyue and Xiang Xiangmo of Dongshan, these
two priests of great virtue, teach men to "concentrate the mind to enter dhyāna, to
settle the mind to see purity, to stimulate the mind to illuminate the external, to
control the mind to demonstrate the internal." On this they base their teaching.
Why, when you talk about Ch'an, don't you teach men these things? What is
sitting in meditation (zuòchán)?"

The priest [Shenhui] said: "If I taught people to do these things, it would be a
hindrance to attaining enlightenment. The sitting (zuò) I'm talking about means
not to give rise to thoughts. The meditation (ch'an) I'm talking about is to see the
original nature."

This dialogue was Shenhui's best attack against the Northern School. Philip Yampolsky commented: "This attack was clever and effective; it may, however, have been quite unjustified."

The Northern School also taught a form of sudden enlightenment. Its teachings were an elegant mingling of practices attained from the Heart Sūtra, the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, and the teachings of HuaYen. Philip Yampolsky comments that the teaching may have been closer to the teachings of Hongren than what Shenhui promoted.

Though the descriptions of Shenhui's attacks seemed to indicate a pitched battle between the Northern and Southern schools, the "Northern School" ignored Shenhui. No reference is made to Shenhui in Northern School texts. John McRae wrote, "This failure to rebut Shenhui's criticism is indicative of the fictitious nature of the entity 'Northern School.'" The attacks gave Shenhui's school much needed attention, though, without which his school likely would have passed into obscurity.

The downside to this notoriety for Shenhui was that his oratorical attacks attracted the attention of the imperial censor, Lu Yi, who supported the Northern School. After an interview with T'ang Emperor Xuanzong in 753, government officials were convinced that Shenhui was a subversive person and banished him from the capitol, Luoyang.

Shenhui was sent to several places during his exile, which were all strongholds of Northern School teachings. He used this situation to his advantage, continuing to preach and garner influence through his attacks. The regime which banished Shenhui was driven into exile in 756, when a rebel army took the capital cities in the An LuShan Rebellion (753–763).

The new emperor Suzong began fund-raising efforts to support his armies, which included setting up ordination platforms to sell certificates of ordination. Shenhui, who was recalled from exile to help these efforts, proved to be extremely successful. In return for his service, the government awarded him patronage and support.

Heinrich Dumoulin commented: "It seems ironic that one who so relentlessly criticized masters of the Northern School for carelessly assuming honorific titles and so betraying the true spirit of Bodhidharma should spend his old age basking in the grace of the powers that be."

Scholars also doubt that Shenhui actually knew Huineng. Australian scholar John Jorgensen wrote: "It is unlikely, despite his claims, that Shenhui ever met Huineng or was his disciple… . As Shenhui had little information about the actual Huineng, he had to invent a biography of him… . It would seem that Shenhui invented the figure of Huineng, for his claims would make Shenhui the true heir of the single line of transmission from the Buddha in the Southern lineage."

In the wake of the An Lushan rebellion, northern China lay wasted and the capitals of Chang'an and Luoyang were reduced to ruins. Along with the imperial court, the Northern School was devastated as well.

Following Shenhui's death in 762, Ch'an history was rewritten with imperial T'ang approval. Huineng was declared as the Sixth Patriarch over Shenxiu and Shenhui was proclaimed as the Seventh Patriarch over Puji.

The Platform Sūtra, which was first written by Fahai (d.u.), an obscure disciple of Huineng's, to promote Huineng as the Sixth Patriarch became wildly popular in China, perhaps due to its paradoxical "Daoist" air, and numerous copies were published. The traditional version, compiled about five hundred years after the oldest version, is almost twice the length of the original due to later additions and expansions. The portrayal of an idiosyncratic discussion of the sūtras credited to Huineng, less of a critical explanation and more a performance of their message, a practice known as tichang (提倡; a presentation by a Ch'an master during an intensive meditation) set the standard for a Ch'an "dharma talk," a public discussion on Buddhism by a Buddhist teacher. Stories of Huineng are scattered throughout the various gong'an (公安; paradoxical anecdotes or riddles) collections within the text of the Platform Sūtra.

The early draft of the Platform Sūtra coupled with Shenhui's sermons vilifying the Northern School and the teachings of Shenxiu and his disciples were indicative of the fact that Shenhui's chosen lineage with Huineng, which didn't come through Shenxiu, had to be promoted at the expense of Shenxiu, whose teachings were distorted.

During the time of Hongren and Shenxiu, Ch'an teachings became established in monasteries. With them the first examples of what Ch'an monastic rituals looked like are seen. It is with Shenxiu, or at the earliest with Hongren, that the teaching method of breaking down ordinary conceptual thinking with questions first appears. Shenxiu's teachings in the Masters of the Lanka overlap with the Five Skilful Means and his other known works.

For example, at one point in the latter text, the preceptor, or teacher, strikes his wooden sounding board and asks the participants, "Do you hear the sound?"

In the Masters of the Lanka, Shenxiu is quoted as asking his students:

When you hear a bell being struck, does the sound exist when it is struck?
Does it exist before it is struck? Is sound really sound?

Shenxiu played a significant part in popularizing the gong'an, which took form in this particular type of question and answer teaching style and developed into the kōan tradition in Japan.

When the Five Skilful Means is read next to the Platform Sūtra, both have much in common. Both are intended for the bodhisattva precepts ceremony and they share a similar structure. Shenxiu's "precepts of purity" are alike to Huineng's "formless precepts": both use the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras ("Perfection of Wisdom") as their source for a nonconceptual realization, and both praise an immediate access to one's own buddha nature, the nature of mind.

This analysis undermines the characterization of Shenxiu's teachings by Fahai and other Huineng advocates in the Platform Sūtra as conventional, gradual and indirect. Criticism of Shenxiu does not appear in Huineng's sermon itself, but in the material before and after, which was added afterwards. For example, before the sermon in the Platform Sūtra, in the biography of Huineng, there is the famous 'poetry battle' in which Huineng is said to have bested Shenxiu – though this never happened since the two were not studying with Hongren at the same time. And after the sermon, there is a story of Shenxiu sending one of his students to spy on Huineng: the student sees Huineng, receives instruction, and realizes the latter's superiority.

Dunhuang Grotto

Carvings in the Mogao Grottoes, dating to 366 AD

However, this is only part of the larger story. Manuscripts recovered in 1900 in the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang, Gansu Provice (a cultural and religious crossroads on the Silk Road) indicate that by the tenth century the teachings of Shenxiu and his disciples were being transmitted alongside those of Huineng and his disciples. The disputes of the eighth century were no longer relevant by that time. The so-called "Northern School" of Shenxiu had not yet died out; its texts were still being transmitted and its practices were still being followed. Some two centuries after the controversies, the distinction between the "Northern" and "Southern" schools was insignificant in the context of teaching and practicing meditation.

Mogao Caves

The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province

For Buddhist practitioners, lineage is important, and differences do exist between separate teaching lineages. But a teacher may be part of more than one lineage and the most important principle in Buddhism is to "use what works." The teachings are, in the end, only a means to an end. Splits between religious schools, which are attributed to doctrinal differences are often caused by local political situations. The distinction between the Northern and Southern schools of Ch'an was largely made by a single influential monk, Shenhui, who took his critical sermons across China when he went on tours in which he administered the bodhisattva precepts ceremony to large audiences.

Longmen Grottos

Buddhist deities sculpted at the Longmen Grottoes

The differences between Shenxiu and Huineng's teachings are minor, and the Platform Sūtra chronicles a particular time period when some students of the latter were attempting to distinguish their own doctrines from those of the more dominant students of Shenxiu. Afterwards, there was little interest in continuing to insist on a distinction that made no difference. A passage in the Platform Sūtra expresses this view, going in the opposite direction from some of the other critical passages in the text. Here, the text explains that the names "Northern" and "Southern" are only used because Shenxiu was at Yuquan monastery, and Huineng lived some twelve miles to the south. In this passage, the Platform Sūtra is dismisses the notion that the teachings of the Southern School are "direct," and those of the Northern School "indirect."

And what is the origin of 'direct' and 'indirect'? Although there is only one kind of
dharma, understanding can be fast or slow. When understanding is slow, we say
it's 'indirect'. And when understanding is fast, we say it's 'direct'. The dharma isn't
direct or indirect, it's people who are sharp or dull. This is why we have the terms
'direct' and 'indirect'.

A third faction belonging to the Oxhead School (Niutouzong 牛頭宗) of Ch'an worked to erase the divide between the Northern and Southern Schools during the last decades of the eighth century. It was founded by Niutou Farong (594–657), a student of Daoxin's. Its last known patriarch is Ching-shan Tao-ch'in (714–92). The Oxhead School appears to have died out after eight generations, but not before Oxhead monks contributed to the earliest version of the Platform Sūtra, which dates from about 780, and wrote a number of other texts.

For example, the poet-monk Jiaoran (730–799) wrote "Eulogy on the Two Patriarchs Huineng and Shenxiu":

The minds of these two men
Were like the moon and sun.
With no clouds in the four directions,
They appear in space.

The Three Vehicles share the same path;
The myriad teachings are one.
The "division in Northern and Southern schools"
Is an error of speech.

Mogao Grottoes

Buddhist statue in the Mogao Grottoes

Jiaoran composed eulogies to Bodhidharma, Zhiyi (founder of the Tiantai School), the "Northern School" monks Lao'an (d. 708) and Puji, Huineng, and Shenxiu, the legendary Baozhi (418?–514?; a contemporary of Bodhidharma's), Shenxiu (individually), and Xuansu (688–752) of the Oxhead School. Jioran wrote none to Huineng individually.

An unnamed Oxhead School figure stated in the following dialogue:

A lay supporter asked: "Are you a follower of the Southern school or the
Northern school?"
He [Oxhead master] answered: "I do not belong to either the Southern school or
the Northern school. The mind is my school."

Shenhui was soon forgotten, but his stress of sudden enlightenment over gradual enlightenment and Huineng's placement as the Sixth Patriarch remains to the present day. The Northern School and metropolitan Ch'an died out in China by the ninth and tenth centuries. The Hongzhou School, founded by Mazu Daoyi (709–788), soon emerged in Jianxi province far away from the capitals of China and became dominant. The Hongzhou School traced itself to Huineng and was the forerunner of present day Ch'an. From it arose the "five families of Ch'an" (two of which, the Linji and Caodong schools, later emigrated to Japan as Sōtō and Rinzai Zen).

Though Ch'an is seen today through the lens of Shenhui's artificial Southern School, the emphasis between sudden and gradual enlightenment isn't completely resolved as indicated in the differing emphases between Sōtō and Rinzai. The former stresses seated meditation only while the latter favors kōan introspection during seated meditation in order to experience enlightenment.

Thousand Buddha Caves

The Bezeklik Grottoes along the Silk Road

Notwithstanding the turmoil that the development of Ch'an experienced, the ācāryas who journeyed outward from India and Central Asia about two thousand years ago accomplished their task of seeding Buddhism in China. With India as its Father and China its Mother, the other nations of the world became its children.

The tradition of Ch'an Buddhism and Shaolin martial arts are continued in martial arts classes for men, women, and children offered by the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple.

 

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