Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

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mzaur
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Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by mzaur » Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:12 am

Hi everyone,

I was just listening to a Dharma Ocean podcast (130: Pure Awareness) and Reggie Ray said some things which he said may be a bit heretical to some but actually are historically accurate. To me it sounds very odd, and I haven't heard these things before. I was hoping someone with more experience can comment about the points he makes? I typed up the relevant stuff. Is any of it true? Is there any evidence of Chan influence on Mahamudra?

What we call Mahamudra tradition is result of profound interaction of Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and Dzogchen. Mahamudra came out of that. There’s a lot of Daoism in Mahamudra, and a lot of Chan Buddhism in Mahamudra.

In the 8th century in Tibet, there was a very famous conversation about what is the best Buddhism for Tibet, and an edict which has been found in the Dun Huang documents buried and survived. The edict says the most important tradition for Tibet and the meditative tradition everyone should practice is Chan Buddhism. What happened later was the Indian crew showed up and they took over the power in Tibet. This was like in the 11th/12th century and they made it illegal to practice anything that was from China. So all of the records were rewritten to show that everything that was good in Tibet came from India but actually this was a complete fabrication. There is extensive evidence that Mahamudra is the result of the confluence of Chan Buddhism, Daoism, and Dzogchen. They were part of the same tradition. Well you can say what is that tradition? It’s the practice of pure awareness. They were all doing it, and they were talking to each other.

There’s a tradition called Sutra Mahamudra taught by Gampopa which has now been more or less proved was a Chan lineage in Tibet but because of the politics they could not acknowledge their source.

I called up my friends and academic friends, and they said, yeah that’s how it is. The history of Tibetan Buddhism promoted in Tibet is a complete fabrication.

It’s often said that Chan Buddhism is Daoism in a Buddhist form . . . What happened was, the Buddhists saved Daoism in China. Because Daoism after the Han Dynasty began to become very conventional religion. The Buddhists showed up from India and realized like holy shit, these people understand more about awareness than we do. And they incorporate the depths of Daoism, and they gave Daoism the container and practice and gave Daoism a way to survive.

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Tsongkhapafan
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:59 am

This is nonsense. The common Mahamudra lineage was taught by Buddha Vajradhara and passed down in an unbroken lineage from Tilopa and Naropa to Marpa, Milarepa and his disciples. Marpa went to India three times to receive teachings from Naropa.

The uncommon Gelugpa lineage of Mahamudra was passed from Buddha Vajradhara to Buddha Manjushri and then to Je Tsongkhapa and passed down in an unbroken lineage, again uninfluenced by Chan, Daoism or anything else.

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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Dec 12, 2015 4:07 am

Chan influencing Mahamudra/Dzogchen is a tired old theory from an older generation of Tibetologists, Tucci etc.

We have the word of Tibetans themselves who received teachings on Chan, tantra and Dzogchen like Nubchen Sanggye Yeshe who very clearly lays out their differences, and we have more and more Dunhuang documents that show that Chan was a pretty separate tradition from tantra/Dzogchen.

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mzaur
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by mzaur » Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:03 am

What Dunhuang text is Reggie referencing and how is it relevant? I heard that there maybe was a Tibetan Chan lineage that died out. if there was such a text proclaiming that Chan was superior, couldn't that just indicate that there were Chan supporters during that time? I don't see how he uses that as evidence that Chan influenced Mahamudra just because Chan existed in Tibet concurrently with Mahamudra

tingdzin
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by tingdzin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 10:02 am

Moderators, or people interested in the subject who know how to properly use a computer (not me) might bring up some of the many older threads that have discussed this situation, as a starting point. Otherwise, I fear it will just devolve into clichetic, often-repeated arguments.

Until, this happens, though, I will state that any two- or three-sentence summary of the historical situation (including Ray's) is certainly going to be to be an oversimplification.

He is correct, however, in saying that a lot of the received "history" of Buddhism in Tibet definitely reflects various agendas, rather than being simple factual accounts.

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Anders
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Anders » Sat Dec 12, 2015 10:49 am

I also think he is also wrong about the role of Daoism and Chan. The picture he paints isn't one I recognise.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Astus
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Astus » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:15 pm

There are a number of studies on Mahamudra's sutra sources. E.g. Klaus-Dieter Mathes: bKa’ brgyud Mahamudra “Chinese rDzogs chen” or the Teachings of the Siddhas?, or David Higgins: On The Development Of The Non-mentation (amanasikāra) Doctrine In Indo–tibetan Buddhism.

Although texts like the Vajrasamadhi Sutra (an early Chan text, likely from Korea) and the Lankavatara Sutra (often used as reference in early Chan) appear in Mahamudra teachings, not to mention the Prajnaparamita texts that are equally important in both Chan and Mahamudra, it does not mean that a direct connection between the two traditions can be established.

For instance, the same chapter of the Lankavatara Sutra (2.37 in Suzuki) is used in Chan, Yogacara and Mahamudra to set up their meditation system. But that only means that the sutra is a common basis.

And as Anders mentioned, the "Daoism+Buddhism=Chan" is fairly unfounded, plus oversimplified.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

Malcolm
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Malcolm » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:34 pm

mzaur wrote:Hi everyone,

I was just listening to a Dharma Ocean podcast (130: Pure Awareness) and Reggie Ray said some things which he said may be a bit heretical to some but actually are historically accurate. To me it sounds very odd, and I haven't heard these things before. I was hoping someone with more experience can comment about the points he makes? I typed up the relevant stuff. Is any of it true? Is there any evidence of Chan influence on Mahamudra?

What we call Mahamudra tradition is result of profound interaction of Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and Dzogchen. Mahamudra came out of that. There’s a lot of Daoism in Mahamudra, and a lot of Chan Buddhism in Mahamudra.

In the 8th century in Tibet, there was a very famous conversation about what is the best Buddhism for Tibet, and an edict which has been found in the Dun Huang documents buried and survived. The edict says the most important tradition for Tibet and the meditative tradition everyone should practice is Chan Buddhism. What happened later was the Indian crew showed up and they took over the power in Tibet. This was like in the 11th/12th century and they made it illegal to practice anything that was from China. So all of the records were rewritten to show that everything that was good in Tibet came from India but actually this was a complete fabrication. There is extensive evidence that Mahamudra is the result of the confluence of Chan Buddhism, Daoism, and Dzogchen. They were part of the same tradition. Well you can say what is that tradition? It’s the practice of pure awareness. They were all doing it, and they were talking to each other.

There’s a tradition called Sutra Mahamudra taught by Gampopa which has now been more or less proved was a Chan lineage in Tibet but because of the politics they could not acknowledge their source.

I called up my friends and academic friends, and they said, yeah that’s how it is. The history of Tibetan Buddhism promoted in Tibet is a complete fabrication.

It’s often said that Chan Buddhism is Daoism in a Buddhist form . . . What happened was, the Buddhists saved Daoism in China. Because Daoism after the Han Dynasty began to become very conventional religion. The Buddhists showed up from India and realized like holy shit, these people understand more about awareness than we do. And they incorporate the depths of Daoism, and they gave Daoism the container and practice and gave Daoism a way to survive.
There are so many inaccuracies and exaggerations here, it is hard to know where to begin.

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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by kirtu » Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:11 pm

The Daoist meditation I was taught is a form of pranayama and meditation combined. The Daoist view is essentialist (or materialist) in the sense that the energy (ch'i - and there are different forms of ch'i) actually exist. Furthermore it is claimed that this was the teaching from ancient times.

It is not likely on this basis that the claims that Daoist masters "understood awareness better" made in the excerpt are correct. Nor is it likely that there was that much interaction between Daoist meditators and Chan meditators since their views of enlightenment are quite different.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Astus
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Astus » Sat Dec 12, 2015 6:14 pm

kirtu wrote:Nor is it likely that there was that much interaction between Daoist meditators and Chan meditators since their views of enlightenment are quite different.
Daoism, similarly to Hinduism, is not a single religion, and at the same time it encompasses all sorts of indigenous beliefs and practices. There are "Daoist" elements found all over Chinese Buddhism, but it could be equally called simply Chinese. When it comes to doctrines and methods, it seems to me that Buddhists were very much aware of the differences, just as today a Westerner would not confuse Christianity with Buddhism, even when certain terms are of Christian origin.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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mzaur
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by mzaur » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:39 pm

tingdzin wrote: He is correct, however, in saying that a lot of the received "history" of Buddhism in Tibet definitely reflects various agendas, rather than being simple factual accounts.
Could you say more about this or direct me to a resource?

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mzaur
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by mzaur » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:40 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies

crazy-man
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by crazy-man » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:29 pm

There’s a Chinese manuscript from Dunhuang (Pelliot chinois 4646) that tells another debate story. As in Testament of Ba, the Chinese side is represented by the Chinese monk Moheyan, but the proponents of the other view are only mentioned as “Brahmin monks.” This manuscript also talks about “discussions” by letter over several months, rather than a staged debate. And the biggest difference is that it ends with the Tibetan emperor giving his seal of approval to the Chinese teaching:

The Chan doctrine taught by Mahayana is a fully-justified development based on the text of the sutras; it is without error. From now on the monks and laity are permitted to practise and train in it under this edict.

But what is most relevant to us is that it mentions that Moheyan was invited by one of Tri Song Detsen’s queens, the one from the Dro clan. The Chinese author of the text makes this quite clear.
http://earlytibet.com/2010/03/31/tibetan-chan-iv/

References

Hugh Richardson wrote about the rivalry between Dro and Ba as a background to the debate in:
1. Hugh Richardson. 1998. “Political Rivalry and the Great Debate at Bsam-yas.” In High Peaks, Pure Earth. London: Serindia: 203-206. (Unlike most articles in this collection, this one had not previosly been published.)

This is the earliest extant version of the Testament of Ba is the Dba’ bzhed:
2. Pasang Wangdu and Hildegard Diemberger. 2000. The Royal Narrative Concerning the Bringing of Buddha’s Doctrine to Tibet. Wien: Verlag der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

That is, apart from a manuscript fragment from the 9th or 10th century:
3. Sam van Schaik and Kazushi Iwao. “Fragments of the Testament of Ba from Dunhuang”. Journal of the American Oriental Society 128.3 (2008 [2009]): 477–487.

The classic work on the Chinese text on the debate (or discussions), the Dunwu dacheng zhenglie jue 頓悟大乘政理決 is:
4. Paul Demiéville. 1958 (republished in 2006). Le Concile de Lhasa. Paris: Institute des hautes études chinoises.

Later Demiéville found another version of the text in the Stein collection, Or.8210/S.2647. As for the Tibetan Chan lineage in Pelliot tibétain 996, this was studied and published even earlier, in 1939, by Marcelle Lalou (surely the first person to discover the existence of Tibetan Chan among the Dunhuang manuscripts):
5. Marcelle Lalou. 1939. “Document tibétain sur l’expansion du Dhyāna chinois.” In Journal Asiatique October-December 1939: 505-523.

On the involvement of the Ba clan with the assassination of Ralpachen (or, if you follow his ingenious argument, actually of Langdarma) see:
6. Zuiho Yamaguchi. 1996. “The Fiction of King Dar-ma’s Persecution of Buddhism”. In De Dunhuang au Japon. Geneva: Librairie Droz. 231-258.

On the battle between two members of Dro and Ba in Amdo/Hexi, see:
7. Luciano Petech. 1994. “The Disintegration of the Tibetan Kingdom”. In Tibetan Studies, edited by Per Kværne. Oslo: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture.

On Dro Trisumjé, and other aspects of clan rivalry during the Tibetan empire, see pages 18, 21-22 of:
8. Roberto Vitali. 1990. Early Temples of Central Tibet. London: Serindia Publications

and this too:
9. Roberto Vitali. 2004. “The role of clan power in the establishment of religion (from the kheng log of the 9-10 century to the instances of the dByil of La stod and gNyos of Kha rag).” In The Relationship between Religion and State : (chos srid zung ‘brel), in Traditional Tibet, edited by Christoph Cuppers. Nepal, Lumbini International Research Institute.

And finally, Matthew Kapstein’s discussion of the attitude towards Chinese Buddhists in the Testament of Ba is on pages 34-35 of:
10. Matthew Kapstein. 2000. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism. Oxford University Press, 2000.References

Malcolm
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 22, 2016 2:37 pm

crazy-man wrote:There’s a Chinese manuscript from Dunhuang (Pelliot chinois 4646) that tells another debate story...
Since this is direct quote from SVS's website, it really out to be in quote brackets...

RBK
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by RBK » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:34 am

This recent-ish article from a French Tibetan Studies journal is interesting. The author emphasises the notion of convergence rather than influence, suggesting that their was some interplay/interaction between these schools within the cultural milieu of 8th-10th century Tibet.

http://www.academia.edu/34502820/Dzogch ... _Influence

PeterC
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by PeterC » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:55 am

From a historical perspective, Sam van Schaik's work on this is essential reading. He has a lot of articles on his website (earlytibet.com) and also published a book on this under the slightly provocative title of 'tibetan zen'.

However SVS is a textual historian interested in the Dunhuang texts, so he spends his time looking at the intersection of various different traditions. He is very explicit that he doesn't approach this from a practice perspective. I would recommend reading his last post on the topic from the website to put his work in context (https://earlytibet.com/2011/11/22/tibetan-chan-v/)
I’ve managed four posts on Tibetan Chan without mentioning the question of whether the Chinese meditation tradition known as Chan influenced the Tibetan meditation tradition known as Dzogchen. Or, to put it in the stronger version, whether Dzogchen is just a disguised form of Chan. Partly, I’ve left the question alone because it doesn’t seem that interesting to me. It seems evident that if you spend a while with Chan and Dzogchen texts from the time when the influence is supposed to have taken place (the 8th/9th centuries) that there is one clear difference between the two: they are in dialogue with two different kinds of scripture. That is to say, Chan is a tradition in dialogue with the sutras, while Dzogchen is in dialogue with the tantras.
...
The point is this – people who have said that there must be some kind of influence passing from Chan to Dzogchen have come to this belief because the texts look similar. However they justify the argument, it is the similarity in the language used in these two meditation traditions that caught their eye. (And this is surely true of the polemics in the Tibetan tradition itself as well as modern scholars like Guiseppe Tucci.) But, as we all know, apparent similarities can be misleading.
...
So, to sum up, the similarities that Dzogchen texts share with Chan texts are also shared with the sutras and tantras, while the differences show that the two genres come out of quite different environments. This is not to say that no Tibetan ever held transmissions of both Chan and Dzogchen texts; in fact it is highly likely that several did. There might have been some instances of cross-pollination. I’m not trying to hermetically seal Dzogchen away from Chan, but I hope I’ve shown why arguments based on the fact that they look similar are not going to take us very far.

RBK
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by RBK » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:40 am

That blog post seems to be a redacted version of the article I posted or part of a draft of it etc. I didn’t realise that he was the same figure as mentioned earlier in the thread.

PeterC
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Re: Chan, Mahamudra, and Tibet

Post by PeterC » Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:40 am

RBK wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:40 am
That blog post seems to be a redacted version of the article I posted or part of a draft of it etc. I didn’t realise that he was the same figure as mentioned earlier in the thread.
SvS is one of a few historians doing very, very interesting work in this area. His non-specialist book on the history of Tibet is also a great read even for those who know Tibet's history (or think they do)

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