STUDY HISTORY 2021.09.02

The History of Zen: Discovering the Roots of Sōtō Zen (20)

From Prof. KAGAMISHIMA Genryū’s Zengaku gairon kōgi nōto
(Introduction to Zen Studies Lecture Notes)

 The rivalry between Kōan Zen and Silent Illumination Zen was represented by Dahui and Hongzhi. Dahui derided Silent Illumination Zen as “the wicked Zen of Silent Illumination黙照の邪禅,” and in response to that attack Hongzhi criticized Kōan Zen as the “reckless winds of kōans看話の妄風.” They began to attack each other. At the time of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng there was rivalry between the Northern and Southern Schools, with the Southern School lineage of Huineng competing with the Northern School lineage of Shenxiu. In the Song Dynasty within the same Southern lineage of Zen, a rivalry arose concerning Kōan Zen and Silent Illumination Zen.
 The aim of Zen was to gain wisdom regarding life and society through zazen, and in this respect Kōan Zen and Silent Illumination Zen are in agreement. The rivalry was born from a difference in viewpoint regarding the method leading to such wisdom, wherein one said that zazen comes first and wisdom follows, while the other claimed wisdom comes first and zazen after.
 Kōan Zen aimed at attaining awakening through working on kōans, so gave more importance to wisdom over zazen. No matter how much Kōan Zen might emphasize wisdom over zazen, wisdom must be based on zazen so long as it was Zen. On the other hand, even though Silent Illumination Zen emphasized zazen over wisdom, if that zazen is not accompanied with wisdom it is meaningless.
 Accordingly, the attack on Silent Illumination Zen by Kōan Zen was a criticism of zazen that is not accompanied with wisdom, and the rejection of Kōan Zen by Silent Illumination Zen was a criticism of wisdom not accompanied with zazen. When taken from the fundamental viewpoint integrating zazen and wisdom, there was really no reason for either Kōan Zen or Silent Illumination Zen to criticize or attack each other.
 That is why even though Dahui and Hongzhi were rivals concerning the teaching methodology of Zen, it seems that privately they were close friends. Kōan Zen and Silent Illumination Zen both are within the tradition of the Southern School of the Sixth Patriarch. Their disagreement was not over what Zen teaches, but only over how it should be taught.