This introductory chapter provides a background of the Buddhism that developed in the Song dynasty. Two developments in Song Buddhism are especially well known. The first is the growth of Chan Buddhism, which became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism in the Song. The other is the sectarian dispute that took place between the Linji and Caodong traditions of Chan in the twelfth century, involving competing approaches to enlightenment and practice known as “silent illumination” (mozhao) and kanhua Chan (literally, Chan of observing the word). Silent illumination is associated with a quiet meditation in which the inherent Buddha-nature that all sentient beings possess naturally shines forth, while kanhua Chan is associated with an intense focus on the punch line of a gongan that is meant to lead to a dramatic breakthrough experience of original enlightenment.
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