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Venerable Shengyan’s Self-Representation in Relation to His Formulation of Chan Buddhism

  • 불교학리뷰
  • Abbr : Critical Review for Buddhist Studies
  • 2023, (33), pp.99-120
  • Publisher : Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Buddhist Studies
  • Published : April 30, 2023

Jimmy Yu 1

1Florida State University

Irregular Papers

ABSTRACT

This paper takes a narrative approach, looking at Chan master Shengyan’s (1931-2009) autobiographies, and historicizing his response to life and the circumstances of Chinese Chan Buddhism in the zeitgeist of the twentieth century. The time-honored Chan Buddhist tradition, in the tumultuous sociopolitical transition, struggled for a space in the age of reason and rationality; this perceived struggle on the larger religious and sociological scale was encapsulated in Shengyan’s own narration of his life, forming his personal and religious identities. My basic argument is that his Chan teachings were contingent on both his personal crisis and his perceived global crisis of a war-torn China. Against the backdrop of his individual struggles, the sociopolitical transformations of twentieth century China, the internal crisis of orthodoxy, and the external threat of non-Chinese forms of Buddhism in Taiwan, Shengyan envisioned Chan Buddhism as the doctrinal culmination and experiential fulfillment of the whole of Buddhism, manifested through creating the Dharma Drum Lineage.

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