Zen Masters Book

Heine, S, Wright, D. (2010). Zen Masters . 1-304. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195367645.001.0001

cited authors

  • Heine, S; Wright, D



  • Zen Masters contains ten articles by prominent scholars about the most significant 'product' of the Zen tradition-the life and teachings of the masters or patriarchs who have made this kind of Buddhism the most renowned in the world. In contrast to most other forms of Buddhism, sacred literature in Chan or Zen primarily consists of religious biographies, or stories about the lives of Zen masters. The emergence of these narratives, often in anecdotal style, concerning the practices and teachings of the patriarchs in the late Tang and early Song dynasties in China provided new and vivid models for what it meant to be awakened. Iconic images of these often irreverent, blasphemous patriarchs spread quickly, and became the basis of a new school that rose to prominence throughout East Asia. The focus of these collected essays is a critical examination of the 'image' of the Zen master as it has been projected over the past millennium, in both classic literature and the lives of modern examples, in order to capture a sense of the history and evolutionary quality of narratives about Zen patriarchs. What it means to be a Zen master is something that changes over time and is related to social context. The masters are selected from different historical periods and geographical areas, ranging from medieval China to early modern Japan and contemporary America. Essays in this volume highlight which elements of Zen identity came into focus during various periods of history, and attempt to show how each of these factors stands in relations to earlier and later Zen personalities. The audience for this volume will include both specialists and more general readers. The potency of the Zen master's image is so far-reaching that there will be an enthusiastic readership from all quarters of interest in Buddhism and in the image of sainthood more generally. Teachers of comparative religion, those analyzing diverse images of spiritual practice, and instructors of the history of the Buddhist tradition will be able to use this volume for classroom purposes. Practitioners of Zen will find the volume particularly helpful in their efforts to imagine and engage what Zen enlightenment means for understanding human behavior and comportment.

publication date

  • May 1, 2010

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) 13

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 304