China

  • Consider the Source: Origins of the Wild Goose Pagoda Paid Member

    Tourist groups that visit the Terra Cotta Warriors inevitably visit Xian’s other famous landmark, the Wild Goose Pagoda, an icon central to the development of Chinese Buddhism. In this post I will explore why the Wild Goose Pagoda is such an object of pride for the city of Xian, and its role in Chinese Buddhism’s development. For centuries, Buddhism entered China along the Silk Road, the legendary trade route that stretched from ancient Rome to Xian. This trade route passed directly through the region where Mahayana Buddhism developed, serving to convey Mahayana teachings to China. More »
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    Did Bodhidharma Invent the “Mu!” Koan? Paid Member

    A monk asked Zen master Zhaozhou, “Does a dog have buddha-nature?” Zhaozhou replied, “Mu!” “Mu!” is one of a handful of Zen stories from ancient China that have become famous. This koan has served as the “Gateless Gate” into Zen for countless students in China, Japan, and elsewhere. Though it is often attributed to Zen master Zhaozhou (Japanese: “Joshu”), the story’s origins stretch further back into history. As I point out in my book Tracking Bodhidharma, there is some evidence that the story goes back to the nominal founder of Chinese Zen, the first ancestor Bodhidharma himself. The connection between Bodhidharma and the "Mu!" koan can be found in an old Chinese ditty of unknown origin that goes More »
  • Buddha Buzz: Birthday Celebrations for HHDL Draw Teargas and Gunfire in Tibet Paid Member

    Celebrations honoring the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday were disrupted on Saturday in the Ganzi prefecture in Tibet when Chinese paramilitary forces fired on a crowd of 500 Tibetans, leaving at least six injured. More »
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    Consider the Source: Are Baizhang’s Famous “Pure Rules” a Fake? Paid Member

    The ancient Chinese Zen master Baizhang established “pure rules” for the regulation of his monastery on Great Hero Mountain in China. The rules have served as the basis for monastic organization and practice for centuries, and their influence has extended to Zen monasteries throughout China and beyond. The Chinese Zen tradition acknowledges that The Pure Rules is a reconstruction written about 400 years after Baizhang lived. The original text of Baizhang’s regulations was lost in the chaos of war as Chinese dynasties rose and fell in the centuries following his death. Many take on faith that the current version of Baizhang’s rules was reconstructed to accurately reflect the original text based on available evidence. But this view may be entirely mistaken. More »
  • Buddha Buzz: The Face of Buddhist Terror & The Face of the Dalai Lama (in Tibet) Paid Member

    Buddhist-led anti-Muslim violence and persecution has received unprecedented mass-media attention in the past couple weeks. Images of Wirathu—monk-leader of the “969” movement, recognized for its hate speech and for inciting violence against Burma’s Muslims—have now graced both the cover of TIME and the front page of The New York Times. More »
  • Consider the Source: Why is Bodhidharma Credited as the "First Ancestor" of the Chan (Zen) School? Paid Member

    Although Bodhidharma is honored as the “First Ancestor” of Zen Buddhism in China, historians know well that Zen not only preceded Bodhidharma, it was also widely practiced centuries before his arrival. So how did Bodhidharma acquire the honored title of “The First”? The foreign Parthian monk An Shigao is credited with introducing Zen to China in the 2nd century, roughly 300 years before Bodhidharma arrived in China. Plenty of evidence indicates that Zen gained popularity soon thereafter, with historical records indicating that Zen flourished in China’s Northern Liang Dynasty at least 50 years before Bodhidharma came on the scene. More »