Chan Buddhism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The Chan School (Chan zong, 禪宗) is an indigenous form of Chinese Buddhism that developed beginning in the sixth century CE and subsequently spread to the rest of East Asia (Japanese: Zen; Korean: Sôn; Vietnamese; Thiền). Although the Sinograph “chan” (禪) transliterates the Sanskrit dhyāna or “meditation”, and Chan zong can thus be translated as the “Meditation School”, Chan was not distinctive within Chinese Buddhism in its use of meditative techniques. What distinguished Chan were its novel use of language, its development of new narrative forms, and its valorization of the direct and embodied realization of Buddhist awakening. In contrast with the epistemic, hermeneutical and metaphysical concerns that shaped other schools of Chinese Buddhism, Chan’s defining concerns were experiential and relational—concerns that fit most comfortably, perhaps, within the horizons of philosophical anthropology. Appreciating the philosophical dimensions of Chan thus requires some familiarity with Buddhist thought and practice, and the dynamics of their infusion into Chinese culture.
- Chan Buddhism. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017.