Early Masters.

Translated by Sohaku Ogata
Foreword by Paul F. Schmidt Wolfeboro

With a Review by
Ding-hwa E. Hsieh

Philosophy East and West

Vol.44 No.1

Pp.180-183 Copyright by University of Hawaii Press


The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

Yuan, Tao (compiler)
ISBN 0893415626
May 1, 1990
Published by Hollowbrook Pub

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

by Yuan, Tao(compiler)
ISBN 0893415650
May 1, 1990
Published by Hollowbrook Pub

In the abundant Ch'an literature of the Sung period (960-1279)in china, the Ching-te Ch'uan Teng-lu (Record of the Transmission of the Lamp, compiled during the Ching-te era and hereafter cited as CTL) is the oldest and historically most influential of the "transmission of the lamp" (teng-lu)texts. Compiled by Tao-yuan of the line of Fa-yen Wen-I (885-958), the text was presented to Emperor Chen-tsung of the Northern Sung in 1004, the first year of the Ching-te era, and published under imperial partonage in 1011. Its thirty fascicles narrate chronologically the lives and teachings of the significant figures associated with Ch'an Buddhism, from the legendary Buddhas and ancient patriarchs to the heirs of the Fa-yen lineage in the tenth century--altogether 1,701 persons of about 52 generations. The CTL consists of about 1,700 "public cases" (kung-an),each containing the encounter dialogues (chi-yuanwen-ta) between Ch'an masters and their disciples. For the later "public cases" anthologies such as The Blue Cliff Record and the Mumonkan, the sayings and doings of the eminent Ch'an masters recorded in the CTL were the main sources.

Sohaku Ogata (1901-1973), of Chotokuin, Shokokuji, of Kyoto, had been engaged in the translation of Tao-yuan's text, but he did not finish the whole task before his death. The present translation, which was made from the Taisho Tripitaka(1928), based on the Yuan edition of 1317, is therefore of only the first ten tascicles, one-third of Tao-yuan's text. Preceded by a translation of the preface written by Yang I (974-1020), Ogata's book is divided into ten parts:

  • 1. the seven ancient Buddhas and the early Fourteen Patriarchs of India;

  • 2. the late Thirteen Patriachs of India;

  • 3. the Patriarchs of China, from Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth patriarch of India, to Hung-jen(600-674) , the Fifth Patriarch of China;

  • 4. the Enlightened masters of the Niu-t'ou School founded by Fajung (594-657) and of the Northern School led by Shen-hsiu (606?-706) ;

  • 5. Ch'an masters of the Southern School, beginning with the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng (638-713)and ending with Ho-tse Shen-hui (684-758) ;

  • 6--10. Dharma heirs of Nan-yueh Huai-jang (677-744),from Ma-tsu Tao-i (709-788) and his followers to the heirs of Ma-tsu's disciples--Po-chang Huai-hai (749-814) and Nan-ch'uan P'u-yuan (748-834), and so forth.


CH'AN (ZEN) BUDDHISM: Outside the Scriptures



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.







Review by Ding-hwa E. Hsieh:

Ogata does not provide his readers with a detailed introduction to the CTL and its author, Tao-yuan. There are no notes or scholarly apparatus which might indicate Ogata's own critcal research on the text. The accompanying annotation to certain specific Ch'an terms or expressions is insufficient and hence further hinders the reader's understanding or appreciation of this significant Ch'an text. In addition, there are misprints and mechanical errors and many words are mistranscribed by Ogata. To mention just a few of them: Fa-yung of the Niu-t'ou School (p.89) should be read as Fa-jung; Shen-hui of Ho-che(p.184) should be Shen-hui of Ho-tse; Master Yu Chuan of Shao(p.278) should be Ju-yuan of Shao(see T 2076.51.260c29) ; Ch'ien-wei of Ch'ien(p.322) should be Ch'u-wei of Ch'ien (T 51.269a8); Mount Ch'un-nan should be Mount Chung-nan; of(the Buddha) is misread as fu; hung(red) is misread as kang; ta (big or great) is sometimes mistaken as t'ai; chueh (Enlightenment) is mispronounced as chiao; and so forth.

In the Thirtieth Chapter of the celebrated Ch'an Buddhist collection Ching-te Ch'uan Teng-lu one finds a number of short texts of the gatha composed by various Ch'an masters. Among these often highly abstruse "songs" is included one called "Hsin-ming" (Mind Inscription), which is attributed to Niu-t'ou Fa-yung (Gozu Hoyu, Niutou Farong, Fa-jung) 594-657, the First Patriarch of the early Ch'an Buddhist denomination commonly known as the Niu-t'ou School after the name of the mountain where the master dwelt and famous throughout Zen lore for the following discourse:

"There once was a sage named Niu-T'ou Fa-Yung who lived in a lonely temple high in the mountains. He was visited one day by a wandering monk, T'ao Hsin, the Fourth Patriarch of the Chinese Lineage of Ch'an. As the two were talking a wild animal roared close by, T'ao Hisn, a fully Enlightened monk, jumped. "I see it is still with you," said the Fa-Yung...refering, of course, to the instinctive "passion" of fright. Shortly afterwards, while he was unobserved for a moment, T'ao Hsin inscribed the Chinese character for the Buddha on the rock Fa-Yung was accustomed to sit. When the sage returned to sit down he saw the sacred Name and hesitated to sit. "I see," said T'ao Hsin, "it is still with you!" (see)

Fa-Yung's biography in the "Ching-te Ch'uan Teng-lu", most of which is taken up by a dialogue between the master and a certain Prince Po-ling; we find the same clear San-lun/madhyaamika teaching as the "Hsin-ming" and the "Chueh-kuan lun". However it is not possible to assert whether the "Ching-te Ch'uan Teng-lu" presentation of Fa-jung's teaching really is by him or whether it is a later composition. When seen in the light of the "Hsin-ming", the "Chueh-kuan lun" and the dialogue with the Prince in "Ching-te Ch'uan Teng-lu" we might say that the description and criticism of the Niu-t'ou School's rather extreme Sunyata view is partly justified. However it is quite clear the criticism tends to over-look the fact that Fa-Yung and his followers included a wide range of standard Mahaayaana doctrines in their Teachings too. (source)