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Thread: We are the Lanka school ! ... really... are we???

  1. #1

    We are the Lanka school ! ... really... are we???

    Hi everyone!

    I just finished a book about early Zen buddhism in china who emphasize on the role of the Lankavatara sutra in early Zen. You know the sutra who relates the teachings of the historical Buddha when he was in Sri Lanka ( :lol: ).
    I must confess I never read the sutra from the beginning to the end... and I don't want to analyze the sutra.
    But this sutra was an important part of early Zen teachings. Bodhidharma himself gave the sutra to his successor and emphasize on his importance.
    I also know in these times, especially in China, a lot of schools emphasizing on a single sutra emerged ( Ekayana - the one path, or vehicle- in opposition to other traditional schools who described themself as only or strictly Mahayana or Theravada). And it seems that in the beginning, Zen school ( or Lanka School) was one of them.

    Ekayana type of schools each emphasize on different teachings but with the same idea that the "buddhist path is One" and if I'm not wrong Dogen himself claimed that he wasn't teaching Zen but Buddhism.

    Of course, it was a long time ago and things are different now. Zen buddhism as spread over the world and has now a a lot of different flavors... even if they all have a lot in common ...

    I just wanted to ask : "What still remains of the Lankavatara sutra (or the Ekayana point of view - the One buddhist path ) in today's Zen Soto School?"


  2. #2

    Re: We are the Lanka school ! ... really... are we???

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis

    I just wanted to ask : "What still remains of the Lankavatara sutra (or the Ekayana point of view - the One buddhist path ) in today's Zen Soto School?"

    Oh boy! Big topic! I will be able to offer nothing more than a nutshell response.

    First off, the whole idea that there was a recognizable "Zen" teaching or school prior to the time of the 6th Patriarch is pretty unlikely, based on historical studies. While there was a "Bodhidharma" in all likelihood, the only writings which can be attributed to him and people near him from that time are basically general Mahayana practices (including, however, some described forms of meditation very similar to Shikantaza ... I will try to dig it up) ... but a lot of other things too. ... adigm.html

    Now, that being said, Zen (in later Japanese, Korean and Chinese forms) is Mahayana Buddhism, is based on Mahayana philosophy (don't let anyone tell you that, just because it is a "way beyond words and letters, outside the scriptures" it is not based through and through on traditional Mahayana philosophy and viewpoints). Those include the doctrines of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (such as the Diamond and Heart Sutras), Nagarjuna and the Madhyamaka school (the philosophy of "Emptiness"), as well as the Yog?c?ra (ideas of Buddhist psychology and Mind Only) and Tath?gatagarbha (Buddha Nature concepts) which are both represented in the La?k?vat?ra. Also, the One Vehicle and Expedient Means ideas of the Lotus Sutra ... all found in Zen. Zen has everything somewhere, and the kitchen sink!

    For example, I have sometimes discussed Thich Nhat Hanh's "Understanding Our Mind", which is a very good attempt to modernize and make relevant some traditional Buddhist ideas of how the mind works as found in the Lankavatara Sutra.


    If you download this large PDF, and find page 176, D.T. Sukuki has some discussion on the Lankavatara Sutra, although realize that his comments and translation from about 50 years ago are treated with a bit of skepticism now based on later historical understanding.

    Now, I am often asked: Is it necessary or good for beginners to read these Sutras? I say, "NO!" The concepts of Buddhist philosophy needed for Zen Practice are explained better in all the secondary sources. The Sutras themselves are a mish-mash and a minefield of concepts. I wrote on that recently too:


    However, at a certain point .... for the advanced practitioner who knows her way around Buddhist history and philosophy a bit ... yes, good to read.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: We are the Lanka school ! ... really... are we???

    Thanks a lot Jundo!
    I knew it will the quite difficult to answer to these kind of general question but you did very well! Now, we got a lot to read... I know some times I take the path too much from a intellectual point of view, but knowledge is also important isn't it!
    Now lets be simple, I'll drink some tea and sit!

    Thank you again sensei!


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