East Mountain Teaching

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Template:ZenBuddhism Template:Buddhism and China

East Mountain Teaching (Template:CJKV) denotes the teachings of the Fourth Ancestor Dayi Daoxin, his student and heir the Fifth Ancestor Daman Hongren, and their students and lineage of Chan Buddhism.Template:Sfn

East Mountain Teaching gets its name from the East Mountain Temple on the "Twin Peaks" (Template:Zh) of Huangmei (modern Hubei). The East Mountain Temple was on the easternmost peak of the two. Its modern name is Wuzu Temple (Template:Zh).

The two most famous disciples of Hongren, Huineng and Yuquan Shenxiu, both continued the East Mountain teaching.


The East Mountain School was established by Daoxin (Template:Lang 580–651) at East Mountain Temple on Potou (Broken Head) Mountain, which was later renamed Shuangfeng (Twin Peaks). Daoxin taught there for 30 years. He established the first monastic home for "Bodhidharma's Zen".

The tradition holds that Hongren (Template:Lang 601–674) left home at an early age (between seven and fourteen) and lived at East Mountain Temple on Twin Peaks, where Daoxiin was the abbot. Template:Quote


The East Mountain community was a specialized meditation training centre. The establishment of a community in one location was a change from the wandering lives of Bodhidharma and Huike and their followers.Template:Sfn It fitted better into the Chinese society, which highly valued community-oriented behaviour, instead of solitary practiceTemplate:Sfn

An important aspect of the East Mountain Teachings was its nonreliance on a single sutra or a single set of sutras for its doctrinal foundation as was done by most of the other Buddhist sects of the time.

The East Mountain School incorporated both the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras.

The view of the mind in the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana also had a significant import on the doctrinal development of the East Mountain Teaching.:[1] Template:Quote There were three main meditation techniques taught by this school. One was a meditation on śūnyatā "emptiness" in which one contemplates all dharmas of body and mind as empty. Another practice was the contemplation of some 'ultimate principle', this was associated with the 'one-practice samadhi' (Template:Zh) and in some texts such as the Lengqie shizi ji is achieved by meditating on a single Buddha. The third technique was the practice of concentrating the mind on one thing (guan yi wu) until the mind becomes fixed in samadhi. The goal of all of these practices was to suppress the stream of thoughts which clouds the mind and allow the practitioner to gain insight into the pure, radiant consciousness in everyone.Template:Sfn


Daoxin is credited with several important innovations that led directly to the ability of Chan to become a popular religion. Among his most important contributions were:

  1. The Unification of Chan practice with acceptance of the Buddhist precepts,
  2. The unification of the teachings of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra with those of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras, which includes the well-known Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra,
  3. The incorporation of chanting, including chanting the name of Buddha, into Chan practice.Template:Sfn


Hongren was a plain meditation teacher, who taught students of "various religious interests", including "practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, students of Madhyamaka philosophy, or specialists in the monastic regulations of Buddhist Vinaya".Template:Sfn

Following Daoxin, Hongren included an emphasis on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras, including the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, along with the emphasis on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.

Though Hongren was known for not compiling writings and for teaching Zen principles orally, the classical Chan text Discourse on the Highest Vehicle, is attributed to him.Template:Sfn This work emphasizes the practice of "maintaining the original true mind" that "naturally cuts off the arising of delusion."Template:Sfn

Split in Northern and Southern School

Originally Shenxiu was considered to be the "Sixth Patriarch", carrying the mantle of Bodhidharma's Zen through the East Mountain School. After the death of Shenxiu, his student Shenhui started a campaign to establish Huineng as the Sixth Ancestor. Eventually Shenhui's position won the day, and Huineng was recognized as the Sixth Patriarch.Template:Citation needed

The successful promulgation of Shenhui's views led to Shenxiu's branch being widely referred to by others as the "Northern School." This nomenclature has continued in western scholarship, which for the most part has largely viewed Chinese Zen through the lens of southern Chan.

Northern and Southern School

The terms Northern and Southern have little to do with geography: Template:Quote

The basic difference is between approaches. Shenhui characterised the Northern School as employing gradual teachings, while his Southern school employed sudden teachings: Template:Quote

The term "East Mountain Teaching" is seen as more culturally and historically appropriate.[2]

But the characterization of Shenxiu's East Mountain Teaching as gradualist is argued to be unfounded in light of the documents found amongst Dunhuang manuscripts recovered from the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang.[3] Shenhui's Southern School incorporated Northern teachings as well, and Shenhui himself admittedly saw the need of further practice after initial awakening.Template:Sfn

Shenxiu (神秀, 606?-706 CE)

Yuquan Shenxiu's prominent position in the history of Chán, despite the popular narrative, is recognized by modern scholarship: Template:Quote

Kuiken (undated: p. 17) in discussing a Dunhuang document of the Tang monk and meditator, 'Jingjue' (靜覺, 683- ca. 750) states:

Jingjue's Record introduces Hongren of Huangmei 黃梅宏忍 (d.u.) as the main teacher in the sixth generation of the 'southern' or 'East Mountain' meditation tradition. Shenxiu is mentioned as Hongren's authorized successor. In Shenxiu's shadow, Jingjue mentions 'old An' 老安 (see A) as a 'seasoned' meditation teacher and some minor 'local disciples' of Hongren.[4]

Shenxiu wrote a treatise on meditation called the Kuan-hsin lun ("treatise on contemplating the mind"). It combines some of the meditation practices taught by Zhiyi with ideas from the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana.[5]


The story of Huineng is famously worded in the Platform Sutra, a text which originated after Shenhui's death. Its core may have originated within the so-called Oxhead school. The text was subsequently edited and enlarged, and reflects various Chán teachings.Template:Sfn It de-emphasizes the difference between the Northern and the Southern School.

The first chapter of the Platform Sutra relates the story of Huineng and his inheritance of the East Mountain Teachings.

Wider influence of the East Mountain Teachings

The tradition of a list of patriarchs, which granted credibility to the developing tradition, developed early in the Chán tradition: Template:Quote

Faru (法如, 638-689 CE)

Faru (法如, 638-689) was "the first pioneer" and "actual founder" of the Northern School. His principal teachers were Hui-ming and Daman Hongren (Hung-jen). He was sent to Hongren by Hui-ming, and attained awakening when studying with Hung-jen[6]

Originally Faru too was credited to be the successor of Hongren. But Faru did not have a good publicist, and he was not included within the list of Chan Patriarchs.[6] Template:Quote

Because of Faru, the 'Shaolin Monastery', constructed in 496CE, yet again became prominent.[6] [Faru] had only a brief stay at Shaolin Temple, but during his stay the cloister became the epicentre of the flourishing Chan movement.[6] An epitaph commemorating the success of Faru's pioneering endeavors is located on Mount Sung.[6]

Baotang Wuzhu

Baotang Wuzhu (Template:Zh, 714-774), founder and abbot of Baotang Monastery (Template:Zh) in Chengdu in Southwest China was a member of the East Mountain Teachings.

Moheyan (late eighth century CE)

Moheyan (late eighth century CE) was a proponent of the Northern School. Moheyan traveled to Dunhuang, which at the time belonged to the Tibetan Empire, in 781 or 787 CE.[7]

Moheyan participated in a prolonged debate with Kamalashila at Samye in Tibet over sudden versus gradual teachings, which was decisive for the course the Tibetan Buddhist tradition took: Template:Quote

Broughton identifies the Chinese and Tibetan nomenclature of Mohoyen's teachings and identifies them principally with the East Mountain Teachings: Template:Quote

The teachings of Moheyan and other Chan masters were unified with the Kham Dzogchen lineages {this may or may not be congruent with the Kahma (Tibetan: bka' ma) lineages} through the Kunkhyen (Tibetan for "omniscient"), Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo.[8]

The Dzogchen ("Great Perfection") School of the Nyingmapa was often identified with the 'sudden enlightenment' (Tibetan: cig car gyi ‘jug pa) of Moheyan and was called to defend itself against this charge by avowed members of the Sarma lineages that held to the staunch view of 'gradual enlightenmnent' (Tibetan: rim gyis ‘jug pa).[9]

See also


  1. Zeuschner, Robert B. (1978). "The Understanding of Mind in the Northern Line of Ch'an (Zen)." Philosophy East and West, Volume 28, Number 1 (January 1978). Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press, pp. 69-79
  2. Ray, Gary L.(2005). The Northern Ch'an School and Sudden Versus Gradual Enlightenment Debates in China and Tibet. Source: [1] Template:Webarchive (accessed: December 2, 2007)
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Dumoulin 1988 p.107
  4. Kuiken, Kees (undated). The Other Neng 2: Part Two Sources and Resources. Source: [2] (accessed: August 6, 2008) p.17
  5. Gregory, Peter N; Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism, 106.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Dumoulin, Heinrich (author); Heisig, James W. (trans.) & Knitter, Paul (trans.)(1988). Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1 India and China. New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company. Template:ISBN (2 vol. set; paper) p.108
  7. Ray, Gary L.(2005). The Northern Ch'an School and Sudden Versus Gradual Enlightenment Debates in China and Tibet
  8. Barber, A. W. (1990). The Unifying of Rdzogs Pa Chen Po and Ch'an. "Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal". Vol.3 April 1990. Source: [3] (accessed: November 30, 2007)
  9. van Schaik, Sam (2007). The Great Perfection and the Chinese Monk: rNyingmapa defences of Hwashang Mahāyāna in the Eighteenth Century. Source: [4] (accessed: January 14, 2007)


Further reading


  • Matsumoto, Shiro (松本史郞) (undated). Critical Considerations on Zen Thought. Komazawa University. Source: [5] (accessed: January 25, 2008)
  • Poceski, Mario (undated). Attitudes Towards Canonicity and Religious Authority in Tang Chan. University of Florida. Source: [6] (accessed: January 25, 2008)
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (author); Heisig, James W. (trans.) & Knitter, Paul (trans.)(1988). Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1 India and China. New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company. Template:ISBN (2 vol. set; paper)
  • McRae, John R.(1983). The Northern School of Chinese Chan Buddhism. Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University.
  • Faure, Bernard (1997). The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism. Translated by Phyllis Brooks, Stanford, Stanford University Press.
  • Adamek, Wendi L. (2007). The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and its Contents. New York, Columbia University Press. Template:ISBN
  • Cole, Alan,(2009). Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism. Berkeley, University of California Press. Template:ISBN


  • Zeuschner, Robert B.(1978). "The understanding of mind in the Northern line of Ch'an (Zen)" in Philosophy East and West, Vol.28, No.1. Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press. Source: [7] (accessed: August 6, 2008)
  • Poceski, Mario (2007). Patterns of Engagement with Chan Teachings Among the Mid-Tang Literati. Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Boston 2007. “Intersections of Buddhist Practice, Art, and Culture in Tang China” Panel. University of Florida. Source: [8]Template:Dead link (accessed: January 25, 2008)
  • Kuiken, Kees (undated). The Other Neng 2: Part Two Sources and Resources. Source: [9] (accessed: August 6, 2008)
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (1993). "Early Chinese Zen Reexamined ~ A Supplement to 'Zen Buddhism: A History'" in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1993 20/1. Source: [10] (accessed: August 6, 2008)
  • Schlütter, Morten (2007). 'Transmission and Enlightenment in Chan Buddhism Seen Through the Platform Sūtra (Liuzu tanjing 六祖壇經).' Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, no. 20, pp. 379–410 (2007). Taipei: Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies. Source: [11]Template:Dead link (accessed: Saturday April 11, 2009)


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