Saturday, April 22, 2017

One Vehicle Zen

Personally, the one most important point about the history of Chan/Zen that I think is most under recognized, understated, and undervalued is that Bodhidharma was said to teach the Lankavatara Sutra "depending on the One Vehicle Lineage of Southern India" (依南天竺一乘宗).  This comes from Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, Scroll 25, in the section on the Lankavatara teacher Fachang    I learned of this reference in two places, first in D.T. Suzuki's Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, pages 54-55, in a discussion of how Huike, and those who learned from him, taught the Lankavatara Sutra differently from the teachers who taught the sutra in a Yogacara style, and second in Philip Yampolsky's book The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, on page 29 in footnote 87, and it opened my eyes to what had been the missing dimension of the historical unity of Chan/Zen that explained so many things, such as why Guifeng Zongmi said that the One Vehicle of Manifesting the Nature was the most profound level of Buddha Dharma, why Mazu said “Mind is Buddha,”  why Chan/Zen was known as the Buddha Mind School or Lineage, etc.   

D.T. Suzuki wrote, “The line of Hui-k’e belonged to the Ekayana school (一乘教) of Southern India which was also the one resorted to by Dharma himself when he wanted to discourse on the philosopphy of Zen Buddhism.  To this Ekayana school belong the Avatamsaka and the Sraddhotpanna as well as the Lankavatara properly interpreted.”  According to Suzuki, and I agree, if taught according to the Yogacara style the Lankavatara is improperly interpreted, because such teaching does not stand on the One Vehicle lineage/school of interpretation brought from Southern India by Bodhidharma.  Once we realize that Bodhidharma was a teacher of the One Vehicle Lineage of Southern India, then the Mind-only, One Mind, Buddha Mind, and One Buddha Vehicle emphasis of Chan/Zen makes perfect sense.

The Fifth Ancestor Zen Master Hongren, Huike’s “great-grandson” in the Dharma, wrote the Discourse on the Most Supreme Vehicle in which he said that we know that keeping the original (root) true mind is the lineage of the twelve divisions of the scriptures because in teaching the multitude of beings, “the Tathagata accords with the gate of the true mind to lead them to enter the One Vehicle.”  And he also says, “This discourse shows the One Vehicle to be the lineage, so that they who live in confusion arrive at the meaning of the Way.”

In the Platform Sutra of The Sixth Ancestor, Great Master Huineng, who was Hongren’s Dharma son, taught a reciter of the Lotus Sutra about the correct One Vehicle from the Chan/Zen perspective in Chapter 7:  

"The Buddha articulated the root for ordinary men, he did not articulate it for Buddhas.   If there were those who were not willing to have faith in this principle, then they withdrew from the sitting mats to follow another.  The difference is from not knowing that, while already sitting in the cart of the white ox, still you are involved in seeking the three carts outside the gate. Compare the clear language of the Sutra that says to you, ‘There is only One Buddha Vehicle, without having extra vehicles that seem to be two or seem to be three.’
"From beginning to end, the numberless expedient means by every kind of causes and conditions, illustrations and metaphors, words and phrases, were because in all cases the Dharma is for the One Buddha Vehicle.  Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time."

Also, at the beginning of Section 9 of the Platform Sutra, the Emperor and his Queen say to the two resident masters residing in the Imperial Palace that they wish to inquire into the One Vehicle, The two masters defer from the task and say the Imperial majesties should ask Chan Master Neng.  Thus, whether or not the account is historical, it shows that Zen master Huineng was considered by the authors of the Platform Sutra to be the preeminent teacher of the One Vehicle (Ekayana). 

As Yampolsky muses in his footnote, the reference to Bodhidharma teaching the One Vehicle Sect/School/Lineage of Southern India may be the real source for Shenhui's calling the lineage-school (宗 zong) of Huineng "the Southern School or Lineage" (南宗 Nanzong), and that name may not be just a reference to the geography of China.

So while it has been said by some that the One Vehicle school died out in India, the truth is that Ekayana (One Vehicle) Buddhism came to China with Bodhidharma, and the Chan/Zen lineage is the quintessence of One Vehicle (Ekayana) Buddhism and the continuation of the One Vehicle Lineage of Southern India brought to China by Bodhidharma..

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