Origin Of Zen In India
To-day Zen as a living faith can be found in its pure form only among
the Japanese Buddhists. You cannot find it in the so-called Gospel
of Buddha anymore than you can find Unitarianism in the Pentateuch,
nor can you find it in China and India any more than you can find
life in fossils of bygone ages. It is beyond all doubt that it can
be traced back to Shakya Muni himself, nay, even to pre-Buddhistic
times, because Brahmanic teachers practised Dhyana, or
Meditation,[FN#15] from earliest times.
[FN#15] If a wise man hold his body with its three parts (chest,
neck, and head) erect, and turn his senses with the mind towards the
heart, he will then in the boat of Brahman cross all the torrents
which cause fear.
Compressing his breathings let him, who has subdued all motions,
breathe forth through the nose with the gentle breath. Let the wise
man without fail restrain his mind, that chariot yoked with vicious
Let him perform his exercises in a place level, pure, free from
pebbles, fire, and dust, delightful by its sounds, its water, and
bowers; not painful to the eye, and full of shelters and eaves.
When Yoga, is being performed, the forms which come first, producing
apparitions in Brahman, are those of misty smoke, sun, fire, wind,
fire-flies, lightnings, and a crystal moon.
When, as earth, water, light, heat, and ether arises, the fivefold
quality of Yoga takes place, then there is no longer illness, old
age, or pain for him who has obtained a body produced by the fire of
The first results of Yoga they call lightness, healthiness,
steadiness, a good complexion, an easy pronunciation, a sweet odour,
and slight excretions (Cvet. Upanisad, ii. 8-13).
When the five instruments of knowledge stand still together with the
mind, and when the intellect does not move, that is called the
This, the firm holding back of the senses, is what is called Yoga.
He must be free from thoughtlessness then, for Yoga comes and goes
(Katha Upanisad, ii. 10, 11).
This is the rule for achieving it (viz., concentration of the mind
on the object of meditation): restraint of the breath, restraint of
the senses, meditation, fixed attention, investigation,
absorption-these are called the sixfold Yoga. When beholding by this
Yoga, be beholds the gold-coloured maker, the lord, the person,
Brahman, the cause; then the sage, leaving behind good and evil,
makes everything (breath, organs of sense, body, etc.) to be one in
the Highest Indestructible (in the pratyagatman or Brahman) (Maitr.
Upanisad, vi. 18).
And thus it has been elsewhere: There is the superior fixed
attention (dharana) for him-viz., if he presses the tip of the tongue
down the palate, and restrain the voice, mind, and breath, he sees
Brahman by discrimination (taraka). And when, after the cessation of
mind, he sees his own Self, smaller than small, and shining as the
Highest Self, then, having seen his Self as the Self, he becomes
Self-less, and because he is Self-less, he is without limit, without
cause, absorbed in thought. This is the highest mystery--viz., final
liberation (Maitr. Upanisad, vi. 20).
Amrtab. Upanisad, 18, describes three modes of sitting-namely, the
Lotus-seat (Padmasana), the sitting with legs bent underneath; the
mystic diagram seat (Svastika); and the auspicious-seat
(Bhadrasana);--while Yogacikha directs the choice of the
Lotus-posture, with attention concentrated on the tip of the nose,
hands and feet closely joined.
But Brahmanic Zen was carefully distinguished even by early
Buddhists[FN#16] as the heterodox Zen from that taught by the Buddha.
Our Zen originated in the Enlightenment of Shakya Muni, which took
place in his thirtieth year, when he was sitting absorbed in profound
meditation under the Bodhi Tree.
[FN#16] The anonymous author of Lankavatara-sutra distinguishes the
heterodox Zen from the Hinayana Zen, the Hinayana Zen from the
Mahayana Zen, and calls the last by the name of the Buddha's Holy
Zen. The sutra is believed by many Buddhists, not without reason, to
be the exposition of that Mahayana doctrine which Acvaghosa restated
in his Craddhotpada-castra. The sutra was translated, first, into
Chinese by Gunabbadra, in A.D. 443; secondly, by Bodhiruci in A.D.
513; and, thirdly, by Ciksanada in A.D. 700-704. The book is famous
for its prophecy about Nagdrajuna, which (according to Dr. Nanjo's
translation) is as follows:
After the Nirvana of the Tathagata,
There will be a man in the future,
Listen to me carefully, O Mahatma,
A man who will hold my law.
In the great country of South,
There will be a venerable Bhiksu
The Bodhisattva Nagarjuna by name,
Who will destroy the views of Astikas and Nastikas,
Who will preach unto men my Yana,
The highest Law of the Mahayana,
And will attain to the Pramudita-bhumi.
It is said that then he awoke to the perfect truth and declared: All
animated and inanimate beings are Enlightened at the same time.
According to the tradition[FN#17] of this sect Shakya Muni
transmitted his mysterious doctrine from mind to mind to his oldest
disciple Mahakacyapa at the assembly hold on the Mount of Holy
Vulture, and the latter was acknowledged as the first patriarch, who,
in turn, transmitted the doctrine to Ananda, the second patriarch,
and so till Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth[FN#18] patriarch. We have
little to say about the historical value of this tradition, but it is
worth while to note that the list of the names of these twenty-eight
patriarchs contains many eminent scholars of Mahayanism, or the later
developed school of Buddhism, such as Acvaghosa,[FN#19]
Nagarjuna,[FN#20] Kanadeva,[FN#21] and Vasubhandhu.[FN#22]
[FN#17] The incident is related as follows: When the Buddha was at
the assembly on the Mount of Holy Vulture, there came a Brahmaraja
who offered the Teacher a golden flower, and asked him to preach the
Dharma. The Buddha took the flower and held it aloft in his hand,
gazing at it in perfect silence. None in the assembly could
understand what he meant, except the venerable Mahakacyapa, who
smiled at the Teacher. Then the Buddha said: I have the Eye and
Treasury of Good Dharma, Nirvana, the Wonderful Spirit, which I now
hand over to Mahakacyapa. The book in which this incident is
described is entitled 'Sutra on the Great Brahman King's Questioning
Buddha to Dispel a Doubt,' but there exists no original text nor any
Chinese translation in the Tripitaka. It is highly probable that
some early Chinese Zen scholar of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1126)
fabricated the tradition, because Wang Ngan Shih (O-an-seki), a
powerful Minister under the Emperor Shan Tsung (Shin-so, A.D.
1068-1085), is said to have seen the book in the Imperial Library.
There is, however, no evidence, as far as we know, pointing to the
existence of the Sutra in China. In Japan there exists, in a form of
manuscript, two different translations of that book, kept in secret
veneration by some Zen masters, which have been proved to be
fictitious by the present writer after his close examination of the
contents. See the Appendix to his Zen-gaku-hi-han-ron.
[FN#18] The following is the list of the names of the twenty-eight
The first twenty-three patriarchs are exactly the same as those given
in 'The Sutra on the Nidana of transmitting Dharmapitaka,' translated
in A.D. 472. King Teh Chwen Tang Iuh (Kei-toku-den-to-roku), a
famous Zen history of China, gives two elaborate narratives about the
transmission of Right Dharma from teacher to disciple through these
twenty-eight patriarchs, to be trusted without hesitation. It would
not be difficult for any scholar of sense to find these statements
were made from the same motive as that of the anonymous author who
gives a short life, in Dirghagama-sutra, of each of the six Buddhas,
the predecessors of Shakya Muni, if he carefully compare the list
given above with the lists of the patriarchs of the Sarvastivada
school given by San Yin (So-yu died A.D. 518) in his Chuh San Tsung
Ki (Shutsu-san zo-ki).
[FN#19] One of the founders of Mahayana Buddhism, who flourished in
the first century A.D. There exists a life of his translated into
Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409. The most important of his
works are: Mahayanacraddhotpada-castra, Mahalankara-sutra-castra,
[FN#20] The founder of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism,
who lived in the second century A.D. A life of his was translated
into Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409. Twenty-four books are
ascribed to him, of which Mahapraj˝aparamita-castra, Madhyamika-castra,
Prajnyadipa-castra, Dvadacanikaya-castra, Astadacakaca-castra, are
[FN#21] Sometimes called Aryadeva, a successor of Nagarjuna. A life
of his was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409.
The following are his important works: Cata-castra, 'Castra by the
Bodhisattva Deva on the refutation of four heretical Hinayana schools
mentioned in the Lankatvatara-sutra'; 'Castra by the Bodhisattva Deva
on the explanation of the Nirvana by twenty Hinayana teachers
mentioned in the Lankavatara-sutra.'
[FN#22] A younger brother of Asamga, a famous Mahayanist of the
fifth century A.D. There are thirty-six works ascribed to
Vasubandhu, of which Dacabhumika-castra, Aparimitayus-sutra-castra,
Madhyantavibhaga-castra, Abhidharma-koca-castra, Tarka-castra, etc.,
are well known.
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