Sunday, April 21, 2013

Buddho-Daoism

Scott Bradley


In his Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen, a commentary on the Chan poem Trust in Mind (Xinxinming; Seng-ts'an ?, 6th cent.), Mu Soeng begins by emphasizing its roots in Daoism, going so far as to call it "Buddho-Taoist". This connection is what has made this poem especially attractive to me since I find myself much more at home in the simplicity of proto-Daoist philosophy than in the admittedly rich, but overwhelmingly complex and relatively religiously bound philosophy of Buddhism.

Thus, when his introduction begins by ascribing to Zhuangzi the seeds of the Chan revolution, I am hopeful of learning still more how the Trust in Mind can lead me to a better understanding of Zhuangzi: "Chan was born out of what might be described as a nuanced sensibility of the absurdity of the human condition. This was the gift of Zhuangzi to Indian Buddhism in China."

He goes on to quote Grigg (The Tao of Zen): "Zen is Taoism disguised as Buddhism. When twelve hundred years of Buddhist accretions are removed from Zen, it is revealed to be a direct evolution of the spirit and philosophy of Taoism. Indeed, the literature known as the Laozi and Zhuangzi begins a continuous tradition that can be followed through the Chan of China to the Zen of present-day Japan. The formative writings of early Taoism are essentially the teachings of Zen."

Mu Soeng takes a more balanced view, however. He suggests that the Trust in Mind, though it does demonstrate fewer "Buddhist accretions", is still a synthesis of Indian Buddhism, Chinese Chan as it already existed, and Daoism. To each he dedicates a chapter demonstrating in what way this is so.

Thus, will I get my Chan exposition of Zhuangzi, even if in moderation; and I suspect I will be sharing some of that here.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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