Yin-yang To Zong Mi (Guifeng Zongmi, Tsung-mi) (Buddhism)


Yin/yang is a philosophic concept deeply embedded in Chinese thinking, especially Daoism. The two terms signify the fundamental forces in nature, the yang and yin. Yin and yang are not comparable to dualistic ideas such as good/bad. in fact, each force cannot exist without the other; the one force by its existence creates a space for the other. Yin and yang interact throughout all matter and in their multiplicity create all phenomena. They are polar extremes around which all other forces and phenomena cluster.

Yang phenomena are male, light, brightness, sky, action, husband, ruler, father, rational, hot, the living.

Yin phenomena are female, darkness, shade, cloudiness, water, wife, subject, mother, mysterious, cold, the dead.

The concept of yin-yang first surfaced in the thought of Zhou Yan, a third-century b.c.e. philosopher associated with the school of naturalism, and the idea was eventually absorbed into other philosophical schools, including Confucianism. The concept meshed well with the Daoist creation narrative: "The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things" (Daodejing, Ch. 42; based on Legge).

Yogacara Buddhism

The Yogacara is one of the two major schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhism—that is, Buddhist thought that developed in distinction to such earlier schools as Theravada. Its fundamental doctrine is cittamatra, "mind only." Because of this, Yogacara is often known as the "mind only" school. In Yogacara thinking, the world experienced is simply an extension or by-product of mind.

The school’s writers delineated a theory of consciousness that spelled out eight types of consciousness: in addition to the original six found in most early schools (those consciousnesses associated with the six senses, including "mind" as a sense organ), the Yogacara added two more consciousnesses. These were manas and alaya-vijnana, the storehouse consciousness. The school also built upon the Madhyamika idea of two truths to include three "natures" that make up reality: the parikalpita, or imagined level; the parantantra, or relative reality; and the parinispanna, or ultimate reality.

While the other great Mahayana school, Madhyamika, is associated with a thinker about whom little is known—Nagarjuna—we know quite a bit about the founders of Yogacara. The school’s founding is attributed to two brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, who lived in northwest India in the fourth century c.e. While the older brother, Asanga, had earlier become a monk and tried to interest his younger brother in the Mahayana, Vasubandhu was originally an advocate of the Sarvastivada (Sarvastivadin) school. During this time he wrote the great Abhidharma-kosa, a commentary and compilation of basic Sarvastivadin doctrine. Soon after this, however, he joined his brother in advocating a form of Buddhism that emphasized the role of the mind in creating all the reality we experience.

The Yogacara was not simply a philosophical movement. Its thinkers spelled out a detailed path of cultivation, stated most clearly in Asanga’s Yogacarabhuma-sastra. Other important Yoga-cara texts include the Mahasayanasamgraha, the Abhidharmasamuccaya by Asanga, and the Vim-satika and Trimsika by Vasubandhu. The school’s name indicates an emphasis on the "practice" (cara) of "union" (yoga). Practice centered on the Yogacara school was most influential at such centers as Nalanda. Yogacara ideas were influential in East Asia and led directly to the establishment of the Faxiang and Hosso schools in China and Japan, respectively.

Yonghegong (Yung-ho kung, Palace of Harmony and Peace)

The lamasery Yonghegong (the Palace of Harmony and Peace) in Beijing, first built in the late 1600s, is today the main center of Tibetan Buddhism in China (outside Tibet), serving as both a ritual center for prominent celebratory events and a welcoming center for visiting dignitaries. on a day-to-day basis, it is one of Beijing’s most popular tourist stops and the home to a large collection of Tibetan Buddhist artifacts and manuscripts.

The palace dates to 1694, when it was built as a palace for the then-prince and future ruler of China, Yong Zheng (r. 1722-35). However, by the middle of the 18 th century, the Manchu Qing dynasty was at its height, and the emperor Qian Long (1711-99) wished to provide a place for visiting Tibetans (and Mongolians), whose territory had been incorporated into his kingdom. Thus in 1744 the palace was transformed into a Buddhist temple complex and a royal guesthouse in which to receive Mongolian and Tibetan officials.

The 66,000 square meters that the lamasery inhabits includes six main halls, seven courtyards, and a number of additional buildings. in each of the main halls are spectacular statues of major Buddhist figures such as Sakyamuni Buddha, the bodhisattvas Guan Yin and Maitreya, and Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug sect (the dominant school of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia). Notable among the statues is one of Sakyamuni Buddha in the Hall of Infinite Happiness (Wan-fu-ge), made of a single piece of sandalwood and standing 18 meters high, the largest such Buddha in the world. Among the more unique items to be found at Yonghegong is the Mountain of Five Hundred Arhats, a carved wooden landscape housing hundreds of small statues of the enlightened ones.

Wanfodian (Hall of 10,000 Buddhas), Yonghegong, Beijing

Wanfodian (Hall of 10,000 Buddhas), Yonghegong, Beijing

Much of the history of Yonghegong has been written in the visits of its prominent guests. For example, the Ordination Altar Pavilion (Je-tai-lou) was erected in 1780 for the visit of the Sixth Bain-qen Erdeni (or Panchen Lama), when Qian Long accepted ordination from him. The pavilion has served as a site for many ordinations of Tibetan monks in the years since. An adjacent hall, the Panchen Pavilion, now houses a silver statue of the Bainqen Erdeni as part of the main collection of artifacts now on view for visitors.

In the decades after its building, Yonghegong served as a vehicle for the spread of the Gelug school. Not only did the emperor Qian Long identify with it, but he also saw it as an instrument for uniting the many different peoples in his empire. He subsequently sponsored the building of numerous Tibetan Buddhist temples, especially in those areas in which various minority groups resided. The erection of these temples then encouraged the relocation of many Mongolian and Buddhist priests.

During the Cultural Revolution, Yonghe-gong suffered some damage, but as were other religious sites in the capital was protected by the government from the Red Guard. Most recently, in 1996 it hosted the young boy accepted within the People’s Republic of China as the 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, born in 1990.

Yoshida Shinto (Genpon Sogen Shinto)

Yoshida Shinto is also known as Genpon Sogen ("one-source") Shinto, and Yui-itsu ("unique") Shinto. This form of Shinto, which incorporated magical practices, was developed by the priest Yoshida Kanetomo. He established the school that dominated Shinto thought until well into the Edo period (1600-1867), Yoshida Shinto.

Yoshida Kanetomo

(1423-1511) was a priest at the Yoshida Shrine in Kyoto, which today sits near Kyoto university. Kanetomo was also a member of the powerful Yoshida clan, a family who in the 14th and 15th centuries became important interpreters of the ancient text the Nihonshiki. Yoshida Kanetomo was the culmination of his clan’s great attainments in research and religious authority.

From the age of 39 Kanetomo began to promote a reinterpretation and scholarly investigation of the kami, the Shinto gods. He built the Taigenkyu, a hall for abstinence and purification, in the Yoshida Shrine. This was a replica of the Hall of the Eight Imperial Kami in the imperial palace. Kanetomo also lectured frequently on the Nihonshiki, especially the Age of the Kami section.

Kanetomo’s concepts of Shinto contrasted with the popular Ryobu Shinto, or Shrine Shinto, of his day. He saw Shinto as present everywhere, in the manifest and the hidden. Shinto was a divine principle. He insisted that Shinto was unique and different from Confucianism and Buddhism. Shinto, he argued, was in fact the true root of the ideas of Confucianism and Buddhism.

In terms of ritual Kanetomo borrowed much from Shingon Buddhist practice, which emphasized esotericism (secret knowledge passed from master to pupil). Kanetomo made many of the Shinto rituals more complex than they had been previously.

One major factor in the growth of this form of Shinto was the practice of giving ranks to kami, or spirits of the dead. The bestowing of ranks, with official honors, had been an established practice for the living. Starting in the late 1400s Kanetomo applied for official rank for several local kami. Eventually the authority to grant rank was given to the Yoshida clan itself. This meant that Kane-tomo’s descendants held the same authority previously held by the imperial family. The document used to bestow rank and title on kami was a sogen Senji (announcement of the original source). In this way the Yoshida clan itself began to dominate the governance of Shinto shrines.

Inevitably many Shinto priests went to the Yoshida to ask for recognition and certification with Yoshida Shinto. Some 121 priests and shrines were granted titles between 1482 and 1569. The Yoshida clan also gave out amulets for protection, and they were authorized to relax such regulations for Shinto clergy as those proscribing certain garments or prohibiting meat eating.

Yoshida Shinto grew in influence after Yoshi-da’s death in 1511. His grandson and great-grandson were important leaders. The influence of Yoshida Shinto began to wane in the 19th century as newer strands of Shinto—Kokugaku (National Learning) and Fukko Shinto—became more popular. When the Meiji Restoration government centralized shrine ranking functions in the government the power of the Yoshida system was spent.

Young Men’s Buddhist Association

The Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) provides Dhamma-based education and examinations for young people who want a traditional grounding in Dhamma (Dharma) knowledge. The first association was founded in Colombo, Sri Lanka, around 1899 by D. D. Jayatilaka. Jayatilaka was a lay leader in the movement to strengthen Buddhism through an emphasis on Western-style education. The YMBA functions today in more than 3,000 centers throughout Sri Lanka. Parallel but separate YMBA organizations were later established in other countries, such as Burma (1906) and the United States (1974).


The Yuzu-Nembutsu subgroup within the larger world of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism emphasizes group chanting and obtaining of formal promises from people to continue daily chanting. Yuzu-Nembutsu is traced to Ryonin (1072-1132). An early student of Tendai Buddhism, he adopted a common practice at their main center on Mt. Hiei of reciting the Lotus Sutra in the morning and the Nembutsu, or name of the Buddha, in the evening. He also absorbed a key Tendai belief of the connection of all things: each individual incorporates the whole and the whole is shown in each thing. From this insight, he developed the idea of interrelatedness and communication as applied especially to good deeds and chanting. When one does a good deed, he suggested, it communicates with other good deeds and even calls forth further good deeds. in like measure, when one chants the nembutsu, it communicates with the chanting of others, and the merit of the group’s chanting reverberates on the individual who chants.

From his insights Ryonin made two proposals. First, he advocated chanting the nembutsu in group settings, in unison with all present, in the knowledge that such chanting permeates all beings. Second, on the basis of a dream in which a bodhisattva appeared to him, he began to call for pledges from people, both nobles and commoners, to recite the nembutsu daily and sign their name in a pledge book verifying their commitment.

During the last seven years of his life, Ryo-nin traveled the land promoting Yuzu-Nembutsu practice, accepting pledges from people, and organizing recitation groups. From this activity a new sect of Pure Land Buddhism emerged.

Although the Yuzu-Nimbutsu group was never large, its practice reverberated through the entire Pure Land community. it remains active in Japan, especially in ise and iga Provinces.


Zazen, sitting meditation, is a form of meditation distinctive to Zen Buddhism practice. It consists of both proper posture and breathing and a state of mind. Clothing should be loose and nonbinding.

There are several options in positioning the body. Most commonly, the practitioner sits on the floor with the legs crossed. The rear end is raised slightly with a small pillow called a zafu. Practitioners may also sit in the yogic positions called the lotus or the half-lotus. For those who cannot sit cross-legged, sitting in a chair with the soles of the feet on the floor is permitted. The important aspect of the position of the body is the straightened back, which allows proper, natural breathing. Breathing is normally through the nose. The tongue rests against the upper palate.

Once the body is in place, the head and arms are positioned. The chin is lowered and the eyes focused on the ground in front of the body. The hands are placed in what is termed the cosmic mudra. The hands rest in front of the body, one hand holding the other, palms up. The ends of the thumbs lightly touch. Attention is placed in the hara, a place within the body slightly below the navel believed to be the body’s physical and spiritual center.

Meditation, especially for the beginner, often begins with counting breaths, a technique to assist the mind in concentration, termed joriki. Thus the first goal of Zen meditation is unifying the mind and taking it to one point so that it no longer freely wanders.

The second goal of zazen is kensho, discovering one’s Buddha nature, which occurs as a sudden realization that one is complete and perfect and has the power to realize full enlightenment. Kensho then leads to mujodo no taigen, the unfolding of one’s Buddha nature in one’s daily life and in one’s beingness. Different Zen traditions place differing relative emphases on the three goals of joriki, kensho, and mujodo no taigen.

Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is the meditational school of Buddhism as it has developed in Japan. it differs from other form of Buddhism in its emphasis on a particular form of meditation, the object of which is to practice present-mindedness and to reach a level of awareness or enlightenment. Through the practice of meditation one learns to know the truth about one’s own nature.

In emphasizing meditation, Zen also tends to reduce the attention paid to Buddhist sutras and other holy writings, the study of which is important in most other Buddhist traditions, and downplays the role of bodhisattvas, almost a distinguishing aspect of the larger Mahayana Buddhism tradition out of which Zen developed.

Zen entered Japan from China, where this school emphasizing meditation was known as Chan Buddhism. Its development in Japan can be traced to Dosho (629-700), a Japanese priest who had spent eight years studying under Xuan Zang (602-664) and the Chan master Hui Man in China. Dosho is best known as the founder of the Hosso (Dharma Marks) sect of Buddhism, but he also taught some of the Chan doctrine he had learned in China. A century later, Saicho (767-822), the founder of Tendai Buddhism, introduced a form of Zen into Tendai, and it has continued to be practiced to the present, though as one among many practices in Japanese religion. And while Zen Buddhism developed in Japan, Chan Buddhism underwent substantial changes in China.

Chan in China seems to have reached its height in the decades prior to the brief but devastating persecution of Buddhism in 845 under Emperor Wuzong (r. 841-846). This period saw the beginning of the use of the Koan, the questions and stories presented to the individual practitioner that confound the intellect and lead it to make intuitive jumps toward realization of truth. it is in the generation after the persecution that the two main divisions of Zen, Linji Chan and Caodong Chan, emerged, the latter rejecting the use of koans. Both schools developed out of the southern Chan movement that emphasized sudden as opposed to gradual enlightenment. Linji is most important to Japanese Zen, as it would be the first Zen school formally introduced to the island nation. Linji also separated into a number of different schools, each with slightly different teachings and approaches to meditation and a distinctive lineage through which authority would be passed.

In the generations following the original transmission of Zen, teachers would go to China and receive credentials from the different Chinese schools of Linji and establish those schools as distinct Rinzai Zen groups in Japan. Each Rinzai group would be built around a head temple/ monastic complex, with a number of subtemples established around the country. Today in Japan there are no fewer than 18 separate Rinzai schools (denominations).

Eisai (1141-1215), raised a Shintoist and drawn to Tendai Buddhism as a young man, went to China in 1168 and there initially encountered Zen. He saw in the movement the answer for Japanese Buddhism. After his return to Japan in 1187, he finally received the seal of enlightenment in 1191 from the Huanglong Rinzai school. Meeting opposition from his former Tendai colleagues, he found favor with the shogun. In 1200, the shogun allowed him to establish Jufuku-ji in Kamakura; two years later he established Kinnin-ji. Both temples sought to reform Tendai along Zen lines.

A generation after Eisai, Enni Bennen (120280) traveled to China. Upon his return in 1241, he began to propagate the Yangqi school of Linji from his new temple, Tofuku-ji in Kyoto. A contemporary of Enni, Muhon Kakushin (1207-98) also traveled to China and upon his return in the 1260s founded Kokoku-ji, the lead temple of what became the Saiho school.

As Japanese practitioners traveled to China to learn, so a few Chinese adepts went to Japan to teach. Among them, Lanji Daoling (1213-78) would found Kencho-ji at Kamakura, the head temple of the Daikaku school of Rinzai. Another Chinese priest, Wuxue Zuyuan (also known as Mugaku Sogen) (1226-86), became the founding abbot of Engaku-ji, the famous monastic complex immediately north of Kamakura. Wuxue was a dominant influence in the city for the seven years he resided there, just enough time to establish the Bukko school of Linji.

As Rinzai Zen was growing through its various schools, Caodong Zen was introduced to Japan by Dogen (1200-53). As did Eisai, Dogen started as a Tendai practitioner. His own religious questions led him away from Tendai to Einnin-ji, the Rinzai center founded by Eisai in Kyoto, and then on to China. At Mt. Tian Tai Tong he discovered Caodong Chan, and upon his return to Einnin-ji began to promote zazen (sitting meditation) as the essential act of Zen practice. His new approach led to his dismissal from Einnin-ji and he eventually settled in the remote Echizen Province, where he founded Eihei-ji, the center of what would become Soto Buddhism. For a variety of reasons, Soto avoided the many divisions into which Rinzai fell.

Rinzai and Soto remain the two primary schools of Zen, thought a third form was introduced by the Chinese priest Yin Yuan (or Ingen) (1592-1673) in the middle of the 17th century. Obaku Zen differed from the other schools in that, along with use of the koan, practitioners recited the nembutsu, calling upon the name of Amitabha (Amida) Buddha, considered the Buddha spirit in everyday life. Obaku was able to establish itself with the encouragement of the shoguns of the era.

Zen was especially strong in Japan through the years of rule by the shogunate, first in Kamakura and later in Tokyo. As did other forms of Buddhism, it suffered under the Meiji Restoration. Zen Buddhism was introduced to North America in the person of Soyen Shaku (1859-1919), who spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. Soyen had studied with Imakita Kosen (1816-92), who had been a student of Western culture; another of imakita Kosen’s students, Sokatsu Shaku (1869-1954), who arrived in 1906, became the second Zen teacher in the United States. Meanwhile, Senyei Kawahara had erected a Zen temple in Honolulu, Hawaii, where many Japanese lived.

Through the first half of the 20th century, additional Japanese Zen teachers would enter North America (as well as following the Japanese diaspora to South America). In the years after World War ii, Americans would begin to travel to Japan to study, taking back both Soto and the various schools of Rinzai Zen. Zen would enjoy a certain popularity in the 1950s as the preferred religion of leaders in the Beat Zen movement— Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. After 1965, when anti-Asian immigration laws were rescinded, Zen would develop as a flourishing community.

Early in the 20th century, Zen found an initial advocate in England in the person of Christmas Humphreys, the founder and longtime president of the Buddhist Society in London. For many years, the small Zen group with which he practiced in London was the only Zen center in the country.

A significant boost to Zen in both Europe and the United States was provided by Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966). As a young scholar, Suzuki traveled to the United States to work on translating various Buddhist texts. He spent the years between the world wars writing his major books on both Jodo Shin-shu and Zen Buddhism. Then, beginning in 1949, he taught for a decade in various American universities and became a popular speaker for emerging Zen groups. on a trip to England, he prompted the first growth spurt of the small Zen group headed by Humphreys.

As the 21st century begins, Zen has permeated the Western world and Zen groups can be found in most countries, with a full spectrum of groups operating in the United States, England, and Germany. The Association Zen Internationale, based in Paris, is the largest Zen organization in Europe.

Zeng Yiguan (Tseng I-kuan)

(c. 1000) Quanzhen master who established Quanzhen Daoism in southern China’s Guangdong Province

An 11th-generation Quanzhen monk from Shandong in northern China, Zeng was asked by the provincial governor of Guangdong Province to perform a ritual to alleviate a severe drought. When rains followed the completed ritual, Zeng was considered a hero and enjoyed prestige for his spiritual efficacy. Zeng was easily able to extend his authority over the five Daoist temples (then called an) at Mt. Luofu and to send his own disciples to establish new temples and posts in nearby urban centers of Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Panyu.

Zhang Daoling (Chang Tao-ling)

(second century c.e.) founder of the Wudoumi sect of Daoism and first patriarch in the Zhengyi lineage of Daoism

The beginning of Daoism as an institutionalized religion is due to the efforts of one man in particular, Zhang Ling (later known as Zhang Daoling), a mysterious figure who was a hermit in the mountains in the far western regions of Sichuan. According to legend, Laozi himself (under the title Taishang Laojun, "The Most High Lord Lao") appeared to Zhang in a vision in 142, complaining of people’s failure to honor the true Way. Because of such degeneration, Lord Lao had withdrawn the Mandate of Heaven from the Han emperor and was bestowing it upon Zhang, along with the official title tian shi (heavenly master). He was also given a new covenant, which authorized him to subdue demons and spread the orthodox teachings. From this point onward, Zhang became the official heavenly master, serving as Laozi’s spokesperson on Earth.

Zhang quickly founded a movement dubbed the Dao of the Five Pecks of Rice, after the tax of grain levied on its followers. in exchange for this levy, followers were given registers listing the names of various spirits and deities whom they could call upon for assistance. This essentially meant that the original sect was composed entirely of ordained priests. The most senior and accomplished followers received the longest registers listing the most powerful deities.

The Five Pecks of Rice sect opposed the traditional practice of offering bloody sacrifices to ancestors, substituting cooked vegetables instead. Healing was usually done via the confession of "sins" in which the sick wrote down their transgressions while the priests offered prayers. The writings were then left on mountaintops (as offerings to heaven), buried (as offerings to earth), or drowned (as offerings to rivers).

One of the notable features of Zhang’s Five Pecks of Rice sect was its impressive organization. Zhang organized his many followers into various "parishes" headed by "libationers," male or female priests who conducted rituals, healed illness, drove out evil spirits, and taught others the religion’s message. The title heavenly master denoted the chief of these priests and became the hereditary property of the Zhang lineage. The movement flourished under the direction of Zhang’s eldest son and grandson, eventually establishing its own independent state in Sichuan. Although it eventually failed as a political movement, over the years the heavenly masters religious lineage has received official recognition by many imperial regimes, especially since the Song (960-1279) dynasty, and is still recognized as having unique authority.

Many practicing Daoist priests today trace their lineage back to Zhang Daoling. His movement is officially known as Tianshi zhengyi Dao (The Way of the orthodox unity of the heavenly master), and the heavenly master still is the recognized source of orthodox ordination. it has continued to be especially popular in southern China. After the Communist takeover in 1949, the headquarters was moved to Taiwan, where it continues as a lineage.

Zhang Zai (Zhang Hengqu, Chang Tsai)

(1020-1077) Chinese philosopher who clarified the concept of qi

A native of Chang’an, the ancient capital of China, Zhang is the second leading figure in the "Succession of the Way" (Daotong) according to the Song philosopher Zhu Xi. In his youth he was deeply interested in military craft. Dissatisfied with traditional Confucian teachings, he explored Daoism and Buddhism for a number of years before returning to the classics and was especially fond of the Yijing and Zhongyong. He obtained his jinshi degree in 1057 and held various offices. In 1077 he resigned his post as director of the Board of Imperial Sacrifices and died of illness on his way home.

As was Zhou Dunyi, Zhang was deeply influenced by the teachings of the Yijing, the Book of Changes. According to Zhang, all things are united in their shared psychophysical substance, qi ("matter-energy"). They exist as productions of primal force emerging from the Supreme Ultimate in a constant process of change understood as a natural, orderly growth. Qi as a dynamic substance forms all creatures. over the course of time, the particular formations of qi disintegrate, thus returning all things to their primal, undif-ferentiated state. The primary task of human beings is to understand and harmonize with the changes, not transcend them. Zhou’s teachings are most fully articulated in Zhengmeng (Correcting youthful ignorance). However, his essay Ximing (western inscription, so named because it was inscribed on the west wall of his study) is his most celebrated work and remains one of the great works of Chinese literature. it is a concise, deeply moving statement of ontological and ethical unity and seems to be something of a Confucianized version of Buddhist Great Compassion (mahaka-runa). The final lines, "In life I follow and serve Heaven and Earth. In death I will be at peace," are a profound statement of Confucian faith and ideals. Zhu Xi described it as "perfect," and the greatest statement since Mencius.

Zhan Ran (Chan Jan)

(711-782) sixth patriarch of the Tian Tai school of Chinese Buddhism

Zhan Ran solidified the status of the Tian Tai school as a major strand of Chinese Buddhism. In his period, the late eighth century, Tian Tai competed with Hua Yan and Chan Buddhism. All of these set themselves up as schools (zong) with a founder (zu) and an unbroken lineage of masters. And all argued for the superiority of their own teachings. Zhan Ran recognized the danger that Tian Tai would become marginalized by the competition. He dedicated his life to clarifying and spreading Tian Tai teachings.

He was born to a Confucian family in Chang Zhou, in today’s Jiangsu Province, near present-day Shanghai. He was given a strict Confucian education. By his 20s he had become a monk and was attached to the master Xuan Lang (673-754), who lived on Mt. Zuoqi, near Wuzhou in modern Zhejiang Province. Xuan Lang taught Zhan Ran the Tian Tai meditative practice of zhiguan, "contemplation and insight." Zhan Ran stayed on Mt Zuoqi for 19 years, until he was finally ordained as a monk in 748, at the age of 38.

From this period Zhan Ran began a prolific writing career. His first major work was a commentary on Zhi Yi’s Mohe Zhiguan, the Zhiguan fuxing quanhong jeu (Extensive teachings in the form of a commentary as an aid to the practice of the great concentration and insight), completed between 755 and 765. This was the first commentary on Zhi Yi’s great book, one of the three foundational works of Tian Tai Buddhism. Zhan Ran went on to write commentaries on all of Zhi Yi’s major works. Thereafter Zhi Yi’s works were generally read together with Zhan Ran’s commentaries.

Zhan Ran spent most of his life after leaving Mt. Zuoqing at Fo Long, near Mt. Tian Tai, the home of Tian Tai Buddhism. He left for an extended trip in 769 and is said to have led 40 monks in a pilgrimage around 774 to Mt. Wutai, where he visited the Tantric master Han Guang (662-732). His last major work, the Jingang Bei (Diamond scalpel), was published near his death in 782. This work confirmed that Buddha nature is present in all things, including insentient objects, a theory that was later adopted by all East Asian Buddhists. In all Zhan Ran is credited with 33 works, 21 of which survive today. (But of those 11 are today considered suspect, not written by Zhan Ran.)

Zhan Ran’s major contribution to Tian Tai theory was the theory of the five periods and eight teachings (wushi bajiao), a form of panjiao (teaching classifications) that was originally attributed to Zhi Yi. Zhan Ran used this framework to explain all Buddhist teachings. He can thus be seen as a major syncretic thinker, in addition to being a strong advocate for the Tian Tai school.

Zhi Li (Chih Li)

(960-1028) Tian Tai advocate

Zhi Li was a Song dynasty (960-1279) Tian Tai school master and reformer who represents the later flowering of Tian Tai thought. He was also a vocal champion of his school and was especially critical of Dao Sui and Gan Shu’s interpretation of such Tian Tai concepts as the nonduality of matter (sixin buer).

Zhi Li advocated a lineage transmission from the Tian Tai master Zhan Ran through Xing Man to Guang Xiu, Wu Wai, Yuan Xiu, and Qing Song, followed by Xi Ji, Yi Tong, and, finally to Zhi Li himself in the Song dynasty. This lineage was at odds with the one championed on Mt. Hiei in Japan. The orthodox transmission was fixed by Zhi Pan, who reverted to using Dao Sui. The final line of figures included several previously unknown individuals who had resided on Mt. Tian Tai. The so-called shan jia tradition gave greater emphasis to those who championed values of mountain monasticism.

Zhi Yi (Chih Yi)

(538-597) founder of Tian Tai Buddhism

Zhi Yi was the founder of a major branch of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, the Tian Tai school, which places emphasis on the Lotus Sutra as the key sutra containing the essential knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings. Zhi Yi also developed a categorization structure for Buddhist teachings, the panjiao. Contemporary practitioners in China, Japan, and Korea also remember him for his development of the zhi guan ("cessation of contemplation") meditative technique. Zhi Yi himself left no writings. His teachings were recorded by his major disciple, Guan Ding (561-632), in the work Mohe Zhiguan.

Zhi Yi was born near present-day Nanjing, in central China, to a wealthy family. His first master was Hui Si (515-576), who instructed him in the Lotus Sutra and the Prajnparamita Sutras. Zhi Yi spent many years in the area of present-day Nanjing, where he enjoyed strong support from the Yang imperial family of the short-lived Sui dynasty (589-618). When Zhi Yi recounted a dream vision in which he was instructed to establish a temple near Mt. Tian Tai, he was quickly given imperial funds. The temple, Guoqing Si, is still in use. Zhi Yi remained at Mt. Tian Tai until his death.

Zhou Dunyi (Zhou Lianxi, Chou Lien-hsi)

(1017-1073) early Neo-Confucian thinker often regarded as the pioneering thinker of NEo-Confucianism, Zhou Dunyi has a high place in the history of Chinese thought. Although promoted by Zhu Xi as the first true Confucian sage since Mencius, he had only a tenuous connection to later Neo-Confucian thinkers.

During his lifetime Zhou had little influence on Song political and intellectual life. Born into a family of scholar-officials, Zhou himself only held minor posts and never obtained the jinshi degree, the highest rank in the Chinese imperial civil service system. For a short time, the brothers Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi were his students. Zhou is especially remembered for his warm, humane temperament and mystical insight into the Way of Heaven. According to later thinkers, he was the very embodiment of cheng ("sincerity," "authenticity"). Zhou was a deep admirer of natural beauty and allegedly loved life so much that he would not cut the grass outside his window. His student Cheng Yi is said to have referred to him as "poor Chan fellow," indicating he may have been perceived as being overly partial to Chan Buddhism.

Zhou’s teachings are found in two key texts, the Explanation of the diagram of the supreme ultimate (Taijitu shuo) and Penetrating the classic of changes (Tongshu). With them he established the basic metaphysical scheme of Neo-Confucianism. Zhou’s scheme is essentially a cosmological explanation of the world that also serves as a road map for spiritual cultivation. Beginning in ultimate nothingness (wuji), which also manifests as the Supreme Ultimate (taiji), there is mysterious movement of YIN and yang (two basic cosmic modes). These together generate water, fire, wood, metal, and earth (wuxing, "five phases"), which, in turn, become "pure yang" (qian, "Heaven," in the Yijing) and "pure yin" (kun, "Earth," in the Yijing). These two complementary qi stimulate each other, transforming and generating the myriad things without end. Zhou then takes this basic Daoist scheme and gives it a decided Confucian twist by emphasizing that humanity receives the purest qi, which must be developed through exercising moral virtue.

In the Tongshu Zhou focuses on the sage as a model person. Following the Zhongyong (Doctrine of the mean), Zhou maintains that sagehood, the actualizing of one’s cosmic-moral nature, occurs only through developing cheng (sincerity, authenticity).

Zhou has been regarded with suspicion by some more sectarian Confucians for his Daoist and Buddhist connections. Certainly Explanation of the diagram seems to have originated in Daoist circles and did make its way into the Daozang (Daoist Canon). In addition, he does seem to have been a great admirer of Buddhism. Nonetheless, his emphasis on social virtue and its development shows his deeply Confucian formation.

Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu)

The Zhuangzi is a major literary text in Chinese literature; its influence as literature far exceeds that of other religious texts such as the Laozi or the Analects. This is due to the vast imagination and broad use of literary techniques found within. The Zhuangzi is part fable, part poetry, part prose. It has provided images and themes for nearly all later Chinese writers. The Zhuangzi also includes many religious themes of interest, including meditation practices, transcendence, and ruminations on death. Because of the vividness of its contents the Zhuangzi has had an important impact on the later development of Shangqing Daoism, Buddhism, and especially Chan Buddhism.

The Zhuangzi, "Master Zhuang," is named for its author, Zhuang Zhou, a thinker said to have lived in the third century b.c.e. The existing version contains 33 chapters. it is apparent that more than one writer contributed to this work, over time. The original Zhuang would not have been expected to refer to himself as "Zhuangzi," for instance, but this happens in several places. However, it is safe to say that there was such a person as Master Zhuang, and that he was associated with a "school" active in the areas of Chu and Qi during the Warring States period.

In fact, textual analysis of the Zhuangzi has uncovered the influence of five separate "schools"or strands of thinking within the text: primitivists who followed Laozi and other older masters but who were active around the Qin dynasty; hedonist followers from around 200 b.c.e.; a syncretist group active in 180-130 b.c.e.; direct followers of Zhuang Zhou; and anthologists who collected materials and added sections later.

The main spirit of the Zhuangzi is an emphasis on "naturalness," ziran. This term today means "nature," but in ancient times it may have indicated doing what is natural. one who practices the Way is at all times ziran. In order to attain this state a person should calm the mind by sitting. As does Laozi, the Zhuangzi presents the Dao as the source of all in the universe. Because the sages of the past understood and embodied Dao, it makes sense for contemporary cultivators to do so also. in this way it was not necessary to mind moral codes or rules.

The Zhuangzi also presented a nuanced doctrine of relativity. The writers were adept at identifying the fallacies of rigid thinking. Because of the constant transformations of Dao, all phenomena are relative. This is, then, the Zhuangzi’s definition of freedom—becoming attuned to Dao.

The Zhuangzi also emphasized such innovative techniques as stilling the senses and circulating energy, called xinzhai (fasting the mind) and going into deep trance (zuo wang, "sitting in absorption"), both early forms of Chinese non-Buddhist meditation.

Zong Mi (Guifeng Zongmi, Tsung-mi)

(780-841) fifth patriarch in the Hua Yan school of Chinese Buddhism

Hua Yan Buddhism flourished briefly in the Tang dynasty (618-907), and there were a mere five patriarchs in the tradition. The final patriarch,Zong Mi, was in many ways the most brilliant. In addition to being a promoter of Hua Yan, he was also a patriarch of Chan Buddhism. His major work, the Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity (Yuanrenlun), is a concise summation of the teachings of various schools in his time. This work used the concept of panjiao, classification of doctrines, to analyze each school, a common practice in Buddhist teachings during the Tang. Zong Mi’s innovation was to include Confucianism and Daoism in his discussions of doctrine.

Zong Mi received a traditional Confucian education. Before he could take the official civil service exams he met a Chan monk, Dao Yuan, and soon after became a monk himself. He received full ordination as a monk in 807. He was later attracted to the teachings of Cheng Guan (738-839), a Hua Yan master. Zong Mi emphasized study of the Yuanjue jing (Scripture of perfect enlightenment), and he focused his teaching energy on this text for the next 20 years.

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