Kumārajīva and Sengzhao ended the period of Geyi Buddhism, marking the beginning of a new era in which Buddhist teachings would be passed down, reflected upon, and applied using standard Chinese.
Sengzhao expressed with great precision the necessity of avoiding the two extreme positions with teachings such as “not grasping to being or non-being,” a notion directly applicable to meditation practice and realization. Moreover, the Chan principle of “sweeping words away as soon as they have been spoken,” i.e., the non-reliance on texts for the attainment of awakening, is the embodiment of prajna. Consequently, the Chaolun (“Sengzhao’s Treatise”) became part of the Chan records of words and deeds (gongan) that would be consulted by later masters.
This article will explore Sengzhao’s reinterpretation of Zhuangzi’s sayings with concepts such as “present yourself through all things” and “The heaven and earth are of the same source and all things are one,” exploring how these were developed into gongans. Four gongans are illustrated: “Chan Master Stone reads the Chaolun,” “Chan Master Nanquan points to a flower,” “Chan Master Fayan realizes that everything is naturally self-existent,” and “Chan master Huitang strikes the table to scare the dog.” This paper shows how Zhuangzi’s sayings have been reinterpreted in the light of the Buddhist concept of prajna, revealing the relationship between Chan keen words and prajna. The spread and influence of the Chaolun in the Chan School will also be explored.
Sengzhao, Chan School, Shitou Xiqian, Nanquan, Geyi Buddhism