Re: Western Myth of Zen
Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:22 pm
Malcolm wrote: ↑Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:26 pmThe arrival of Bodhidharma to China corresponds with an increased incorporation of anatomical and medical understandings of the relation of the human body to practice in India. Depending on when you think he arrived, he arrived either slightly before or slightly after the fall of the Gupta empire. It must be the case that he carried these kinds of instructions with him, though whether they were passed on in any significant way is anybody's guess.Meido wrote: ↑Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:06 pmThe general approach to Zen practice as a yogic or wholly psycho-physical undertaking rather than something purely psychological and intellectual doesn't originate with Hakuin, as I have said before in other threads. The records of early (Kamakura) Zen in Japan clearly show that this emphasis existed strongly in the teachings of the late Song Chan masters (e.g. Bukko) who arrived in Japan.
I can't speak for other E. Asian Buddhist schools, except to say that my experience training with a modern Chan teacher revealed the same understanding.
In any case, sūtras like the Suvarnaprabhaṣa, the Nandagarbhavikranti, etc., exhibit a sophisticated knowledge of Ayurveda, and so on. As we know, these trends reached their apogee in the 10th century when Indian Vajrayāna grounded its entire practice in a specific understanding of the physiology and anatomy of the body. However, we also see an approach to this understanding in the so-called lower tantras which date to the 7th century.
In general, Mahayāna yogis began to incorporate these kinds of understandings into their practice, which in my opinion was first promulgated in the form of upadeśas to close disciples. Perhaps these Indian techniques never gained the popularity they experienced in India and the Himalayas because China already had a sophisticated medical system with an elaborate and functional anatomy and physiology. In any case, after the fall of the Gupta, In India we see the evolution of body-based systems of practice and trend away from the intellectual edifices of Madhyamaka and Yogacara, a trend away from intellectual analysis towards yogic experience. It is obvious to me, that this fusion of yogic praxis with local understandings of anatomy and physiology becomes a more prominent feature of Mahāyana practice as time moves on. For example, in Tibet, the vast intellectual edifice of Dzogchen Upadesha teachings (as opposed to the mind series and space series) serves merely to articulate the technical principles of the body-based experience which is crucial in Dzogchen Upadesha teachings, and without which there is no Dzogchen Upadesha practice to speak of. My point is that there is no reason to assume that Chan and Zen practice are not similarly influenced by body-based yogic experience, and that there has been very little translated yet into English that really speaks to such things — since academic scholars are generally more interested in intellectual analysis, even when they dress it up in poetry.
Indeed. I think that most of the physical and physiological instructions were passed only in private. I could never find for example any litrature records concerning breathing like tanden kokyu, kikai kokyu or most significant sennin kokyu, which are mostly given along growing samadhi experience, ability and power of practicing disciple. However one may hear them in dokusan/sanzen room at certain point of practice. There are many more concerning feet, palms and other anatomical parts. Since those experiences of samadhi were not uncommon in ancient times it is hardly possible that they were not passed since ancient times by experienced teachers. And indeed ancient medical knowledge goes together with it. Those theachings/instructions are still preserved in Japanese zen by some teachers. There is also very famous book by Hara Tanzan about energies of the body and the way to increase, control and preserve them. Hara Tanzan was a soto zen master with great samadhi powers, the abbot of Daiyuzan Saijoji. Short book on the subject by him is here http://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/836909 the title is JIKKEN KENKO HO
But the subject was extremly seldom picked up by any zen teacher in Japan. Hakuin and Tanzan were exceptions.
As for the breathing in the beginning of zazen practice is widely given teaching on fukushiki shin kokyu, however this kind of deep abdominal breathing is very initial instruction, which lasts for many years for most people. But even this instruction has many miscellaneous tips which are not given right away, like things concerning anus, retention, relaxation of inner and subtle muscles or tension of these muscles.