The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen

by John Kieschnick
The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen
John Kieschnick
Journal of the American Oriental Society
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 Reviewed work(s): The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen by Jeffrey L. Broughton The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen. By JEFFREY L. BROUGHTON. Berkeley and Los Angeles: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 1999. Pp. 186. The Bodhidharma Anthology is a collection of texts attributed to Bodhidharma, the "first patriarch" of the Ch'an lineage in China, and to his immediate disciples. The collection, found in several recensions at Tun-huang, contains seven distinct pieces: a brief biography of Bodhidharma, a short doctrinal treatise (the "Two Entrances"), two letters, and three lengthy "records" containing expositions and exchanges between different monks on various doctrinal subjects. These texts are generally considered the earliest Ch'an writings, or perhaps more accurately, "proto-Ch'an" writings. Their value lies chiefly in their importance for reconstructing the roots of the later Ch'an tradition. The seven texts of the Bodhidharma Anthology have previously appeared in a Japanese translation with detailed annotation by Yanagida Seizan, in a French translation with annotation and a long introduction by Bernard Faure, and in an English translation as a Master's thesis by John Jorgenson. [1] The first four of the seven texts have also appeared in an English translation by John McRae as part of his book-length study of the formation of early Ch'an. [2] Broughton's book is hence the first readily available English translation of the entire collection of seven texts. If these texts can be reliably dated to the eighth century or earlier, then they provide us with clues to the origins of vocabulary and motifs of later Ch'an writings, as well as to elements the later tradition chose to leave out when writing its history. At various points in the commentaries and appendices that appear at the back of the book, Broughton gives information on the dating of the texts. The Tun-huang manuscripts on which the translations are based are not dated, but analysis of the paper used suggests that they were probably completed in the mid-to-late eighth century. Additional textual evidence suggests that the texts may be much older. The brief biography of Bodhidharma, for instance, is attributed to a sixth-century monk named T'an-lin and seems to have been the chief source for the biography of Bodhidharma written in the seventh century by Tao-hsuan, Similarly, Taohsuan seems to have drawn on the letters to write his biography of Bodhidharma's disciple Hui-k'o. The "Two Entrances" contains p hrases referred to by Tao-hsuan and has internal links to a scripture in which T'an-lin specialized, suggesting that all of this material may well date to the sixth century, and may even reflect in part the teachings of a historical Bodhidharma, a figure about whom we know next to nothing.  Broughton gives especial importance to the "Three Records," and in particular the Records Two and Three as precursors of the yu-lu genre of Ch'an writings. These texts may be no earlier than the tentative eighth-century date of the Tun-huang manuscript, though a reference in Tao-hsuan to a "scroll of the oral injunctions" of Bodhidharma may be an allusion to one or more of these records, in which case the date of the texts could be pushed back to the mid-seventh century. Structurally, Broughton's book attempts to appeal to both the specialist and to a more general audience. Hence, Broughton follows a seven-page general introduction summarizing the seven texts and their discovery at Tun-huang with the translation. Text 1, the brief (one page in translation) biography of Bodhidharma tells us little more about the monk than that he came from India, had two Chinese disciples, and taught something called "wall-examining" (pi-kuan) and the "four practices." The slightly longer (three-page) treatise entitled "Two Entrances" (erh-ju), presumably intended to be read as the teachings of Bodhidharma, again encourages the practice of "wall-examining" and introduces the "two entrances" and "four practices' which involve the recognition of the workings of karma and the cultivation of non-attachment. These are followed by texts 3 and 4, two letters of obscure provenance that briefly discuss the importance of cultivation and of nonduality. Finally, texts 5-7 contain sermons and dialogues, i ncluding sayings attributed to Bodhidharma and his disciples. Broughton is clearly familiar with the scholarship on these texts and with the texts themselves, having worked on them for some time (in his 1986 French translation, Faure already acknowledged consulting an English translation of the texts by Broughton). As part of the attempt to reach both the specialist and a more general reader, Broughton provides glosses at the foot of the page (basic terms like "Dharma," for instance, are glossed), while providing technical material in the endnotes, including quotation in Tibetan of parallel passages from a ninth-century Tibetan translation of the text. Unfortunately for scholars, Chinese characters are not provided in the notes or bibliography. In style, Broughton adopts a more literal approach than previous translations. For instance, for the phrase [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in "Record One," Broughton gives: "Discrimination is a void dharma, but common men are broiled by it." Faure renders the same phrase with the more felicitous "La discrimination n'est qu'un dharma vide, mais l'homme du commun est consume par elle." For the passage in "Record Two," [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]...Broughton twists the English to match the Chinese, rendering the passage: "As medicine to counteract existence, [the Mahayana] speak the medicine of voidness and nonexistence. To counteract the existence of an ego, it speaks the medicine of egolessness.... "Faure's translation is less awkward: "C'est pour enrayer la maladie de l'existence que l'on parle du remede de la vacuite et de la nonexistence. C'est pour contrecarrer [la croyance en] l'existence du moi que l'on preche Ic remede de l'absence de moi." In the "Two Entrances," for the crucial term [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Broughton gives "in a coagulated state abides in wall-examining." Similarly, McRae renders the phrase, "one resides frozen in 'wall contemplation.'" Both, evidently were trying to convey something of the etymology of the term ning [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Faure, on the other hand, gives the more straightforward "en se concentrant sur la contemplation murale." At times, Broughton's style of translation renders relatively simple passages difficult. In the "Biography," Broughton translates a passage describing the way in which Bodhidharma instructed his disciples, [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] follows: "The Dharma Master was moved by their pure sincerity and instructed them in the true path: thus quieting mind; thus giving rise to practice; thus according with things. ..." Broughton's note to the passage, explaining that the meaning of the term ju-shih is unclear here and that "It occurs in the opening lines of all sutras ('Thus by me it was heard.')" only makes the meaning more obscure. Yanagida, Faure, and McRae all take the passage to be part of a quotation, i.e., "The Dharma Master, moved by their sincerity, taught them the true path, [saying] 'In this way quiet the mind; in this way set about your practice; in this way act in accordance with things....'" The expression ju-shih is common enough, and it seems unlikely that its use in this pa ssage had any resonance with the opening phrase of sutras. Broughton gives an even more challenging reading for the following passage in "Record One," [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which he translates: "There are neither events nor causes. There is no taking joy or growing weary. The substance is Thusness. Since ultimately there is no is-not, who seeks is?" The term shih-fei is usually glossed as "true and false" or "correct and incorrect." The neologism "is-not" seems to add little to the passage. Here, Faure's rendition of the passage is easier to follow: "Lorsqu'il n'y a ni phenomenes ni causes, ni plaisir ni degout, que la nature corporelle est ainsite, et qu'en fin de compte il n'est pas de 'faux', qui chercherai le 'vrai'?" But though at times unwieldy, all of Broughton's translations are defensible and have the merit of attracting the reader to shades of meaning not apparent in previous translations. At the back of the book, Broughton provides discussion of the main themes of the texts and their significance for the history of Ch'an Buddhism, as well as two appendices outlining the stratigraphy of the Ch'an manucripts found at Tun-huang and an essay laying out the development of the yu-lu genre. In this back-matter, Broughton provides new information, discussing for instance, the interpretation of the elusive term "wall-gazing" (pi-kuan) in the Tibetan translation of the text, but does not always incorporate the discussions of McRae and Faure, McRae, for instance provides more detail on modern scholarship on the term pi-kuan, while Faure gives more discussion of how the term was interpreted by various figures, from admiring medieval monks to dismissive Jesuits. Nor does Broughton summarize or even allude to Faure's lengthy discussion of the nature and significance of the "Records." In sum, scholars will still want to consult McRae and Faure for their insights into the meaning and significance of various aspects of the Bodhidharma Anthology. Overall, Faure's version provides the clearest introduction to the texts and the smoothest translation. Nonetheless, Broughton has provided us with a reliable English translation of the texts as well as a concise discussion of their provenance and importance for understanding the history of Ch'an. All interested in the origins of Ch'an ideas, practices, and literary motifs will want to consult his book both for his translation of the text and for his analysis of its contents. When I was in graduate school, a modern lineage of textual transmission among American graduate students working on Chinese Buddhism circulated xeroxed copies of Broughton's unpublished translations of other early Ch'an texts, including the Li-tai fa-pao chi and the Leng-ch'ieh shih-izu cki. It is hoped that these too will soon see formal publication in, perhaps, a more polished, accessible style of translation. (1.) Yanagida Seizan [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Daruma no goroku [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Tokyo: Chikuma shobo, 1971); Bernard Faure, Le traite de Bodhidharma: Premiere anthologie du bouddhisme Chan (Paris: Le Mail, 1986); John Alexander Jorgenson, "The Earliest Text of Ch'an Buddhism: The Long Scroll" (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1979). I was unable to consult Jorgenson's thesis for this review. (2.) The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1986), 101-7. COPYRIGHT 2001 American Oriental Society 

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