Tibetan Zen

Tibetan Zen

Discovering a Lost Tradition
By Sam van Schaik
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Snow Lion
ISBN: 9780834802841

Until the early twentieth century, hardly any traces of the Tibetan tradition of Chinese Chan Buddhism, or Zen, remained. Then the discovery of a sealed cave in Dunhuang, full of manuscripts in various languages dating from the first millennium CE, transformed our understanding of early Zen. This book translates some of the earliest surviving Tibetan Zen manuscripts preserved in Dunhuang. The translations illuminate different aspects of the Zen tradition, with brief introductions that not only discuss the roles of ritual, debate, lineage, and meditation in the early Zen tradition but also explain how these texts were embedded in actual practices.

News & Reviews

"After the Tibetan Emperor Tride Tsutsen (Me Agtsom, 704–55 CE) invited the Zen teacher Moheyan from Dunhuang to Tibet, the Zen teaching was widely spread in Tibet. Jingjue, the student of Xuanze, wrote Record of the Masters and Students of the Laṅka. Although this text, based on a gradual approach to the Zen teachings, was translated into the Tibetan language, the sudden enlightenment teachings of Zen were already widespread in Tibet, and they were the subject of the Samye debate. The Chinese character Zen (禪) has two parts that mean ‘symbolize the single’ or ‘inseparable meaning,’ while the great Kagyu master Phagmodrupa says nonduality is Mahamudra. Therefore, there is no essential difference between Zen, Mahamudra, and Dzogchen teachings." —His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, author of The Practice of Mahamudra

"Zen points directly to the heart mind, but it does so from within particular cultures, particular perspectives. This collection of the teachings of a long lost and now found Tibetan school of Zen gives us another of those perspectives. Master Moheyan and the other teachers of the Tibetan school of Zen are clearly our relatives on the Zen way. And I’ve found their unique perspectives enriching my own understanding, both encouraging and challenging. I was particularly taken with the Tantric influences on Tibetan Zen. This selection of some core texts of Tibetan Zen provides us another map through the mysteries of our human hearts and minds and helps us walk our own way to realization. How wonderful!" —James Ishmael Ford, author of If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break and Zen Master Who?

"Tibetan Zen is a title both provocative and evocative—provocative because such a tradition is supposed never to have existed, evocative because it invites its readers to imagine a lost world of profound religious exchange, a time before Buddhist sectarianism had set in, when monks along the ancient Silk Road explored innovative new practices across cultures. In this beautifully written book, Sam van Schaik guides his reader into this world, bringing the Dunhuang manuscripts to life through his careful analyses. The result is a comprehensive presentation of an extinct and in many ways unique Buddhist tradition, a study whose brilliant insights into early esoteric ritual, the bodhisattva precepts, and much more raise the field to new levels of sophistication, shedding light on the origins of both Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Chan/Zen." —Jacob P. Dalton, author of The Taming of the Demons

"Tibetan Zen is an unprecedented work. Van Schaik’s explanations expand our notion of just what Tibetan Buddhism was—and is—while his translations offer contemporary readers the opportunity to expand their own minds by engaging classic Zen writings from a deeply creative period of Buddhism." —Kurtis R. Schaeffer, University of Virginia

Reader Reviews