The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

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Dgj
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The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:56 am

What is the scholarly concensus on the historicity of the gong an cases of the Blue Cliff Record, Gateless Gate, etc.?










Sorry for the repost! I meant to post it in this forum as this seems to be the most correct place for it and just noticed I had posted it in the wrong one. I tried to delete the other but there is no option to do so.
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.

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Astus
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Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:06 pm

Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:56 am
What is the scholarly concensus on the historicity of the gong an cases of the Blue Cliff Record, Gateless Gate, etc.?
First of all, consider Yuanwu's words found in the commentary to the first case in the Blue Cliff Record:

'According to tradition, Master Zhi died in the year 514, while Bodhidharma came to Liang in 520; since there is a discrepancy of several years, why is it said that the two met? This must be a mistake in the tradition. But I will not discuss the matter of what is recorded in tradition now; all that is important is to understand the gist of the matter.'
(The Blue Cliff Record, BDK ed, p 15)

So, historicity is not really an issue, especially not in the case of a gongan collection. Apart from that, gongan collections took their stories from other works, primarily the transmission of lamp records. About them Heine notes:

'The anecdotes about momentous interactions in addition to sayings and doings of Tang Chan ancestors were collected and incorporated into a wide variety of voluminous Song writings in which the narratives were significantly enhanced or altered in order to serve as an adroit means for evoking an indirect pathway to the attainment of awakening. Chan literary activity of the eleventh and twelfth centuries was marked by a veritable explosion of texts produced with strong government backing, as well as supervision and oversight with regard to the process of editing and publication. This sometimes greatly affected or skewed the results by leading to a distinctive sectarian outlook or stylistic emphasis based on divisions among the Five Houses of Chan according to their local variations.'
(Chan Rhetoric of Uncertainty in the Blue Cliff Record by Seven Heine, p 49)

Finally, in order to see the difficulty of tracing to such stories, read The Making of a Chan Record: Reflections on the History ofthe Records of Yunmen by Urs App.
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"

Dgj
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:59 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:06 pm
Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:56 am
What is the scholarly concensus on the historicity of the gong an cases of the Blue Cliff Record, Gateless Gate, etc.?
First of all, consider Yuanwu's words found in the commentary to the first case in the Blue Cliff Record:

'According to tradition, Master Zhi died in the year 514, while Bodhidharma came to Liang in 520; since there is a discrepancy of several years, why is it said that the two met? This must be a mistake in the tradition. But I will not discuss the matter of what is recorded in tradition now; all that is important is to understand the gist of the matter.'
(The Blue Cliff Record, BDK ed, p 15)

So, historicity is not really an issue, especially not in the case of a gongan collection. Apart from that, gongan collections took their stories from other works, primarily the transmission of lamp records. About them Heine notes:

'The anecdotes about momentous interactions in addition to sayings and doings of Tang Chan ancestors were collected and incorporated into a wide variety of voluminous Song writings in which the narratives were significantly enhanced or altered in order to serve as an adroit means for evoking an indirect pathway to the attainment of awakening. Chan literary activity of the eleventh and twelfth centuries was marked by a veritable explosion of texts produced with strong government backing, as well as supervision and oversight with regard to the process of editing and publication. This sometimes greatly affected or skewed the results by leading to a distinctive sectarian outlook or stylistic emphasis based on divisions among the Five Houses of Chan according to their local variations.'
(Chan Rhetoric of Uncertainty in the Blue Cliff Record by Seven Heine, p 49)

Finally, in order to see the difficulty of tracing to such stories, read The Making of a Chan Record: Reflections on the History ofthe Records of Yunmen by Urs App.
Okay, so it's not that they were composed as complete, 100% fiction, but rather that they were drawn from other sources, altered and enhanced and so are impossible to see as reliable historical documents. It's not that they contain zero historical accuracy, but that whatever history may be in them is nearly impossible to discern because of the enhancing and alteration. Correct?
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.

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Astus
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Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:09 pm

Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:59 pm
whatever history may be in them is nearly impossible to discern because of the enhancing and alteration. Correct?
It depends on available sources to compare them with.
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"

Dgj
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:11 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:09 pm
Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:59 pm
whatever history may be in them is nearly impossible to discern because of the enhancing and alteration. Correct?
It depends on available sources to compare them with.
And what have scholars found when they make these comparisons? Do they find the Gong Ans accurate, or highly fabricated?
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.

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Astus
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Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:00 pm

Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:11 pm
And what have scholars found when they make these comparisons? Do they find the Gong Ans accurate, or highly fabricated?
One can only compare one written source with another. There is fairly little from the Tang era to use, and much less of what can be compared with the stories used in Song era collections. In any case, it is hardly controversial to say that most of the accounts are fictional. Here are two opinions on Zen stories:

'It has been noted that Zen was essentially associated with the literati and the means of dissemination of Zen, such as Recorded Sayings, history of lamp transmission, collections of koan stories, and so on, was highly literary and textual. Zen is basically a literary tradition and a high level of literacy is necessary for understanding the meaning of Zen.'
(Leaving for the Rising Sun by Jiang Wu, p 34)

'Unfortunately, the majority of the exchanges or anecdotes composed in the encounter dialogue format are not very good stories, in any meaningful sense. In fact, a huge number of Chan stories or exchanges, included in texts such as Jingde chuan deng lu and Bi yan lu, can be viewed as little more than nonessential ramblings, a peculiar type of religious gibberish. Basically, we are confronted with countless examples of mass-produced textual materials that tend to be highly formulaic, numbingly repetitive, and ostensibly pointless. One of the things that keeps amazing me is how otherwise intelligent or sincere people can take this sort of stuff seriously, although the history of religion is filled with blind spots of that sort.'
(The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature by Mario Poceski, p 170-171)
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"

Dgj
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:45 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:00 pm
Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:11 pm
And what have scholars found when they make these comparisons? Do they find the Gong Ans accurate, or highly fabricated?
One can only compare one written source with another. There is fairly little from the Tang era to use, and much less of what can be compared with the stories used in Song era collections. In any case, it is hardly controversial to say that most of the accounts are fictional. Here are two opinions on Zen stories:

'It has been noted that Zen was essentially associated with the literati and the means of dissemination of Zen, such as Recorded Sayings, history of lamp transmission, collections of koan stories, and so on, was highly literary and textual. Zen is basically a literary tradition and a high level of literacy is necessary for understanding the meaning of Zen.'
(Leaving for the Rising Sun by Jiang Wu, p 34)

'Unfortunately, the majority of the exchanges or anecdotes composed in the encounter dialogue format are not very good stories, in any meaningful sense. In fact, a huge number of Chan stories or exchanges, included in texts such as Jingde chuan deng lu and Bi yan lu, can be viewed as little more than nonessential ramblings, a peculiar type of religious gibberish. Basically, we are confronted with countless examples of mass-produced textual materials that tend to be highly formulaic, numbingly repetitive, and ostensibly pointless. One of the things that keeps amazing me is how otherwise intelligent or sincere people can take this sort of stuff seriously, although the history of religion is filled with blind spots of that sort.'
(The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature by Mario Poceski, p 170-171)
Wow! Eye opening, thank you. Do you happen to know of a book where it is flatly stated that most of the accounts are fictional? Or something along those lines?
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.

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Astus
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Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:07 pm

Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:45 pm
Do you happen to know of a book where it is flatly stated that most of the accounts are fictional? Or something along those lines?
That is a bit simplistic approach. Consider family stories, how they can become quite colourful, expanded, reduced, changed, or even overwritten by time, and by intentional editing if they were to become novels or films. The stories of teachers can be similar, but it needs to be looked into one by one. I recommend you read some of the studies regarding the various recorded sayings.
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"

Dgj
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:14 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:07 pm
Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:45 pm
Do you happen to know of a book where it is flatly stated that most of the accounts are fictional? Or something along those lines?
That is a bit simplistic approach. Consider family stories, how they can become quite colourful, expanded, reduced, changed, or even overwritten by time, and by intentional editing if they were to become novels or films. The stories of teachers can be similar, but it needs to be looked into one by one. I recommend you read some of the studies regarding the various recorded sayings.
Thank you. Do you know of a book where the author explains that most of the accounts are fictitious? That is the only massive news flash that would draw me to it. I know most of surprising modern Chan history scholarship, but haven't seen that specific issue put in such stark wording or similar wording. If another author hints at this, but doesn't flatly say it, I've already read such and so don't see value in a repeat.
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.

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Astus
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Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Astus » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:43 pm

Dgj wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:14 pm
Do you know of a book where the author explains that most of the accounts are fictitious?
Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism
Patriarchs on Paper: A Critical History of Medieval Chan Literature
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"

Dgj
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: The Historicity of the Gong An Cases

Post by Dgj » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:42 pm

Astus wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:43 pm
Dgj wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:14 pm
Do you know of a book where the author explains that most of the accounts are fictitious?
Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism
Patriarchs on Paper: A Critical History of Medieval Chan Literature
You're an encyclopedia of knowledge. Truly impressive! I really appreciate it!
Don't assume my words are correct. Do your research.


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