Join the University of Arizona Center for Buddhist Studies for our
Pu Yin Lecture Series Fall 2021 No. 2 [Zoom event]
TRUTH IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: SEDUCTIVE WRITING AND THE BIRTH OF CHAN (ZEN) BUDDHISM IN THE TANG DYNASTY
Dr. Alan Cole, Independent scholar
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 at 4:00 PM Arizona Standard Time
Other time zones include:
4:00 PM (PST) (Los Angeles)
7:00 PM (EST) (New York)
11:00 PM (GMT) (London)
7:00 AM (Thurs. Sept. 30) (CST) (Beijing)|
8:00 AM (Thurs. Sept. 30) (JST) (Tokyo)
Please verify the time in your area via a time zone calculator as Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Zoom link for the event: https://arizona.zoom.us/j/81909763760
This talk reconsiders the origins of Chan (Zen) Buddhism through a critical reading of surviving textual evidence. Most modern historians of Chan assume that Chan Buddhism emerged in China in the 5th or 6th century after the “semi-legendary” Bodhidharma and his disciples began sharing their wisdom and meditation styles with a select set of “practitioners,” out in China’s hinterland. Modern historians also assume that these proto-Chan groups subsequently came to the capitals Luoyang and Chang’an where they promoted a whole new style of practicing Chinese Buddhism that came to be known as the “Chan school” (禪宗).
The surviving textual evidence, when read critically, suggests a much more complicated historical process behind the emergence of Chan Buddhism. This talk briefly explores four early Chan texts to reveal how they work as seductive literary gambits, designed to win public support for the claim that this or that master was really a descendent of the Buddha. In this view, it was the Chan historians who invented Chan, and not the various masters who are celebrated within these various Chan genealogies. The final section of the talk will briefly explore parallels between early Chan genealogies and the oldest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, to show how, in both cases, images of patriarchy were woven into seductive historical narratives to make it seem as though perfect truth and tradition were fully available in the present, provided one properly engages the designated authorities.
Alan Cole received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Michigan with a dissertation titled “Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism,” which was later published by Stanford University Press (1998) under the same title. Dr. Cole has taught at Lewis & Clark College, the University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana), the University of Oregon, and Harvard University. His most recent book is Patriarchs on Paper: A Critical History of Chan Literature (University of California Press, 2016).