Welcome admin !

It is currently Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:23 am
Pathway:  Board index Zen Discussion Forum Zen Practice & Philosophy Zen Buddhism

Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Discussions of Zen Buddhism in all shapes and sizes.

Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Humbaba on Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:44 pm

Hi,

According Zen, Hui-neng is supposed to have introduced the idea of sudden enlightenment into Buddhism; however, when we look at the Lankavatara, the sutra already teaches both sudden and gradual enlightenment.

The questions:

- Is the idea of sudden enlightenment started by Hui-neng a myth?
- Does the Lankavatara teach the one over the other?
(It's been some time since I looked at the text, but I have a recollection that this point was somehow not quite clear (at least not to me)).
- Are there earlier precedents for the teaching of sudden enlightenment?

Cheers
Humbaba
 
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:50 pm

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Lunarious1987 on Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:09 pm

I believe sudden enlightenment is for Warriors. They transform not from darkness (or darkness upon darkness) but from light upon light, not simply light. They reduce their fullness.

Peace
- Don't be thankful to be righteous. Be righteous to be thankful.
- Shia: "We are the friends/owners of proof, wherever it bends we bend."
- Imam Hussein was once asked: what is affluence? He said : Decreasing your wishes , and being satisfied with what is enough for you.”
Lunarious1987
 
Posts: 315
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:24 pm

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:42 pm

Humbaba wrote:Hi,

According Zen, Hui-neng is supposed to have introduced the idea of sudden enlightenment into Buddhism; however, when we look at the Lankavatara, the sutra already teaches both sudden and gradual enlightenment.

The questions:

- Is the idea of sudden enlightenment started by Hui-neng a myth?
- Does the Lankavatara teach the one over the other?
(It's been some time since I looked at the text, but I have a recollection that this point was somehow not quite clear (at least not to me)).
- Are there earlier precedents for the teaching of sudden enlightenment?

Cheers



Who said Hui-neng introduced the idea of sudden enlightenment to anything? I simply have never heard this before. I think it fair to say that few Buddhists would say Hui-neng introduced new concepts into Buddhism.
Perhaps you could define how you are using this term to better understand your questions.
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun Nov 06, 2016 1:07 am

The Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, awakened suddenly. He awakened under the tree in the dawn on seeing the Morning Star. So goes the account.

Thus, Shakyamuni pre-dated everybody when it came to awakening suddenly, did he not? :heya:

In Ch'an Buddhism, the Sudden School (Southern School: easy to remember: Southern for Sudden), and the Gradual School both have their ways. And gradual (or further progressive) cultivation following awakening is common to both.

--Joe
User avatar
desert_woodworker
 
Posts: 7226
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:09 am
Location: southern Arizona, USA

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby TigerDuck on Sun Nov 06, 2016 2:44 am

The main issue is this gradual and sudden, refer to which one?
1. Realising the true nature of reality?
Or
2. Getting used to that new realisation?

No. 1 is possible

No. 2, no idea.

Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.

[Nagarjuna]
User avatar
TigerDuck
 
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:38 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Sun Nov 06, 2016 3:59 am

There is a long standing discussion in Zen that can be better characterized as sudden enlightenment/gradual cultivation vs. sudden enlightenment/sudden cultivation. However, this does not mean that sudden enlightenment/sudden cultivation proponents suddenly stop zazen after "awakening." It does involve the nature of awakening on which both sides agree. It is a very live debate in the higher reaches of Korean Buddhism, but has little practical importance to anyone here (if you'd like to participate, simply become a recognized, highly respected Zen master in the Korean tradition, learn classical Chinese in addition to Korean, master all the commentaries and sutras and Godspeed).

There is a separate historic debate in Chinese Buddhism as a whole about whether or not gradual cultivation is needed over many life times for awakening (which occurs in a moment). As several Chinese Buddhists pointed out, since you don't know how many lifetimes for preparation you have had or others have had before it is kind of pointless to worry about that. Far better to just start doing the work!

There is yet a third sudden/gradual debate about whether or not prepatory practices are essential, useful, or a waste of time. Usually people come down on not essential, useful for some, but a waste of time for others.

So define your terms, pick your debate, and then go back to the cushion to ignore it all!
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Humbaba on Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:33 am

Lunarious1987 wrote:I believe sudden enlightenment is for Warriors.

That's too bad, I'm a pacifist.

Caodemarte wrote:Who said Hui-neng introduced the idea of sudden enlightenment to anything? I simply have never heard this before.

I was referring to the poetry contest between Shenxiu and Huineng ("polishing the mirror" versus "there is no mirror")

Caodemarte wrote:Perhaps you could define how you are using this term to better understand your questions.


The Lanka has: 淨非。 I.e. gradual (漸) purification, not sudden (頓), and then goes on to compare it to various natural processes that occur gradually.

The text then states that 譬如明鏡現一切無相色像。I.e., it is like a mirror indiscriminately and suddenly reflecting forms and images.

From this I conclude that that Lankavatara teaches both sudden and gradual enlightenment. But I'm no scholar.

desert_woodworker wrote:The Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, awakened suddenly.

I know. I was looking for textual references about gradual versus sudden as those I cited above.

desert_woodworker wrote:In Ch'an Buddhism, the Sudden School (Southern School: easy to remember: Southern for Sudden), and the Gradual School both have their ways.

Perhaps the two always coexisted, or take turns in which is more predominant.

TigerDuck wrote:The main issue is this gradual and sudden, refer to which one?
1. Realising the true nature of reality?
Or
2. Getting used to that new realisation?

It boggles the mind.
Humbaba
 
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:50 pm

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Sun Nov 06, 2016 3:38 pm

Humbaba wrote:
Caodemarte wrote:Who said Hui-neng introduced the idea of sudden enlightenment to anything? I simply have never heard this before.

I was referring to the poetry contest between Shenxiu and Huineng ("polishing the mirror" versus "there is no mirror")

Caodemarte wrote:Perhaps you could define how you are using this term to better understand your questions.


The Lanka has: 淨非。 I.e. gradual (漸) purification, not sudden (頓), and then goes on to compare it to various natural processes that occur gradually.

The text then states that 譬如明鏡現一切無相色像。I.e., it is like a mirror indiscriminately and suddenly reflecting forms and images.

From this I conclude that that Lankavatara teaches both sudden and gradual enlightenment. But I'm no scholar.

desert_woodworker wrote:The Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, awakened suddenly.

I know. I was looking for textual references about gradual versus sudden as those I cited above.

desert_woodworker wrote:In Ch'an Buddhism, the Sudden School (Southern School: easy to remember: Southern for Sudden), and the Gradual School both have their ways.

Perhaps the two always coexisted, or take turns in which is more predominant.


The poetry contest may be a literary invention, but the perhaps mythical winning poem seems to be more about a more refined re-statement of basic Madhyamaka (and hence Zen) if you want a philosophical reading. It does not introduce any new idea. The doctrinal dispute between the Southern and Northern schools was largely invented by Shenhui and the actual "rivalry" seems mostly about lineage. Modern scholars point out that there was little actual doctrinal or even teaching difference. If we take Shenhui's partisan accusations as accurate after we boil out the insults, we get the impression that his school was more Sudden Cultivation than his more successful contemporary rivals, at worse, were more Gradual Cultivation, but both were Sudden Enlightenment. However, modern scholars do not take the accusations seriously as they are not supported by the remaining teachings of that school which seem more or less identical with its rival.

So the Sutra of the 6th Patriarch is a great religious document (it may have been cobbled together from Hui-neng's preachings), but a lousy historical one. Even as that, it does not claim that Hui-neng introduced any new idea (that would be a serious criticism; innovation was usually considered corruption). The idea of sudden enlightenment seems baked in since the Buddha got the Wheel of Teaching going that long ago morning. So if you are looking for the earliest textual references you could start with the Nikayas or Agamas.

The Lanka (and the Zen school is the Lanka school) may be read to teach gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment, but I don't see how it would support gradual enlightenment (assuming you are using the word enlightenment as a description for awakening events, like Hui-neng's or the Buddha's).

Character and personality can be improved gradually or suddenly, but that is not enlightenment in the Buddhist sense.

Anyway, those are my current views which may turn out to be ill informed.
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:34 pm

On a side note, if anyone is interested in how debates on sudden or gradual approaches to enlightenment (which itself is sudden) played out in China you might want to see " Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought"
Ed. by Peter N. Gregory
Motilal Banarsidass Publ., Jan 1, 1991
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Michaeljc on Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:28 pm

Zen Buddhism is purely about practice in which regular Zazen is the only indispensable component

We cannot know where this will take us: gradual, sudden, if or if not, are just useless preconceptions that just muddy the water

As I see it right now

m
User avatar
Michaeljc
 
Posts: 3670
Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 3:36 pm
Location: Raglan New Zealand

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:07 pm

I agree that speculation and philosophy can become a rabbit hole that we fall down. However, it also can be useful, especially as the discussion has practice implications.
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:29 am

This is Master Sheng-Yen on the topic of sudden enlightenment followed by gradual cultivation:

Ch'an expressions refer to enlightenment as "seeing your self-nature". But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen your experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enlightenment experience again and again and support them with continuous practice. Even though Ch'an says that at the time of enlightenment, your outlook is the same as of the Buddha, you are not yet a full Buddha.
https://books.google.com/books?id=lNG46 ... ha&f=false
Sadaparibhuta
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:50 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby jundo on Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:49 pm

And what if one just sits, embodying such free of all human judgments of "gradual" or "sudden", "good v. bad" "now" and "then", beyond "gain" or "loss", "full" and "lack"? A Peace and Wholeness which sweeps in all the round and sharp broken pieces of life.

And what if, rising from the cushion, one lives gently in a world of now and then, good and bad, gain and loss, full and lack, seeking as best one can to do good and repair what needs fixing in this life and world (not two, by the way) ...

... yet with a heart beyond time and judgment, still, with nothing to gain and nothing broken to repair ...

... even as we grab our tools and set to fixing what's broken!

It is not rocket science. :buddha:

Gassho, J
Founder Treeleaf Zendo, Japan. Member SZBA. Treeleaf is an online Sangha for those unable to commute to a Sangha, w/ netcast Zazen, interaction with other practitioners and teachers & all activities of a Soto Sangha, fully online without charge (http://www.treeleaf.org) Nishijima/Niwa
User avatar
jundo
Teacher
 
Posts: 297
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2017 5:47 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Dan74 on Thu Jun 29, 2017 3:20 pm

The trouble with it, as I see it, is that it is much easier to imagine living like this, than actually sincerely doing it. We can and do imagine ourselves to be all sort of things and doing all sorts of things. If we are lucky, life brings us back to earth with a nasty thud and a splash. If not, we can be lost like this for a long time. And without the thud and the splash or a very wise guide, to tell the difference between imagining and sincerely doing is far from easy, isn't it?

Who has never deluded himself, speak, speak!
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2672
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:26 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:03 pm

"Roger", Sadaparibhuta.

I speak as a NASA guy (retired), and a disciple of Chan Master Shen Yen, his 13th disciple, he told me. I'm a lucky ducky.

--Joe

Sadaparibhuta wrote:This is Master Sheng-Yen on the topic of sudden enlightenment followed by gradual cultivation:

[snip]
User avatar
desert_woodworker
 
Posts: 7226
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:09 am
Location: southern Arizona, USA

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Humbaba on Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:11 am

Caodemarte wrote:So the Sutra of the 6th Patriarch is a great religious document (it may have been cobbled together from Hui-neng's preachings), but a lousy historical one. Even as that, it does not claim that Hui-neng introduced any new idea (that would be a serious criticism; innovation was usually considered corruption). The idea of sudden enlightenment seems baked in since the Buddha got the Wheel of Teaching going that long ago morning. So if you are looking for the earliest textual references you could start with the Nikayas or Agamas.


I think your argument is full of good sense. The one point I don't agree with is that you object to the platform sutra on the grounds that it is not a "historical document" while at the same time referring to earlier Indian documents which are even less historical documents. I don't really think it matters who composed the platform sutra and what Shen Hui's contribution was, just like we can't really say much about the historical person of the Buddha.

If we compare the version of the platform that was used throughout the history of Zen with an earlier version discovered at Dunhuang, we find that there are substantial textual differences. If such differences occurred in the few years between these two versions, it would be naive to assume that the earlier Indian texts didn't suffer even greater modifications during that last 2,500 years, especially in view of multiple translations and centuries of oral transmission.

This scientific age of ours likes to believe in the myth of an objective history. I don't believe there is any such thing. The past is simply reinterpreted by each generation in view of its own ideological preferences or political objectives, or, in the case of religion, in view of claiming lineage, as you observed.

Thus, even if we may detect the seeds of sudden enlightenment in early Buddhism, I think it would be surprising not to find differences between Indian and Chinese Buddhism due to the difference in culture. The Indian cast system requires the idea of merit acquired during innumerable past incarnation, while the Confucian bureaucracy in China admitted the possibility of everybody rising to the very top in this incarnation.

I think a system of thought like Buddhism is the totality of its religious tradition, not just its mythical starting point, and I still believe that the sudden awakening of an illiterate kitchen help by the simple hearing of the heart sutra marks an important turning point in the history of Zen and sudden enlightenment.
Humbaba
 
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:50 pm

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby Caodemarte on Tue Jul 04, 2017 2:58 pm

Humbaba wrote:
I think your argument is full of good sense. The one point I don't agree with is that you object to the platform sutra on the grounds that it is not a "historical document" while at the same time referring to earlier Indian documents which are even less historical documents. I don't really think it matters who composed the platform sutra and what Shen Hui's contribution was, just like we can't really say much about the historical person of the Buddha.

If we compare the version of the platform that was used throughout the history of Zen with an earlier version discovered at Dunhuang, we find that there are substantial textual differences. If such differences occurred in the few years between these two versions, it would be naive to assume that the earlier Indian texts didn't suffer even greater modifications during that last 2,500 years, especially in view of multiple translations and centuries of oral transmission.

This scientific age of ours likes to believe in the myth of an objective history. I don't believe there is any such thing. The past is simply reinterpreted by each generation in view of its own ideological preferences or political objectives, or, in the case of religion, in view of claiming lineage, as you observed.

Thus, even if we may detect the seeds of sudden enlightenment in early Buddhism, I think it would be surprising not to find differences between Indian and Chinese Buddhism due to the difference in culture. The Indian cast system requires the idea of merit acquired during innumerable past incarnation, while the Confucian bureaucracy in China admitted the possibility of everybody rising to the very top in this incarnation.

I think a system of thought like Buddhism is the totality of its religious tradition, not just its mythical starting point, and I still believe that the sudden awakening of an illiterate kitchen help by the simple hearing of the heart sutra marks an important turning point in the history of Zen and sudden enlightenment.



Than you for your kind words. I fully agree that the religious value of the sutras is independent of their historical origin (so I love the Platform Sutra). I do think we have a pretty good idea of the Buddha's teachings, if not his exact words.

There are differences in cultural adaption of Buddhism in the many Indic and Central Asian countries as well as in East Asia. There different emphasis on different things and developments, for sure, but always well rooted in earlier Buddhism and Buddhist practices. There are even a few examples of "sudden enlightenment" in the early suttas. I just don't think you can that this concept Is an East Asian innovation or was introduced by the 6th Patriarch.

P.S. The caste system was rejected by the Indian Buddhists. The Confucian bureaucracy did not quite allow the idea of anyone rising to the top, but rather to middle management.
Caodemarte
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 am

Re: Gradual versus sudden enlightenment

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:34 am

Undarkening.

(the awakened-state is characterized by what's happily missing. And what original Human inheritances are thereby fully restored, uncovered).

--Joe
User avatar
desert_woodworker
 
Posts: 7226
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:09 am
Location: southern Arizona, USA


Return to Zen Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

 
RocketTheme Joomla Templates

Who is online

In total there are 3 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 3 guests (based on users active over the past 5 minutes)
Most users ever online was 157 on Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:44 am

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests