East Asian Buddhist Meditation

East Asian Buddhist Meditation

Meditation was of ultimate importance in early Buddhism, and has remained so in East Asian Buddhism. Although not all Buddhists in East Asia have meditated on a daily basis, they have always recognized meditation as one of the three trainings (śīla, samādhi, and prajñā) leading to buddhahood. Śīla (morality), samādhi (concentration), and prajñā (wisdom) are mutually supportive and indispensable, though achieving buddhahood ultimately depends more on prajñā.

In theory, the importance of meditation became less certain in East Asian Buddhist intellectual positions emphasizing inherent buddhahood (Chan/Zen or Tiantai/Tendai Buddhism) or utter reliance on Amitābha's grace (Pure Land Buddhism). In practice, however, meditation retained its central place in monastic life. Laypeople were not expected to meditate in early Buddhism, but in East Asian Buddhism there have always been male and female laypersons seeking buddhahood through meditation.

The distinction between śamatha (calming meditation) and vipaśyanā (insight meditation), or between samādhi and prajñā, can be helpful for analyzing the various forms of meditation, but most East Asian forms of meditation combine both aspects. Even theorists such as Zhiyi (538–597) who explicitly mention the distinction between śamatha and vipaśyanā, say that the two aspects are inseparable.

Meditation in The Formative Period

Chinese Buddhism has been Mahāyānist for nearly all of its history, but the earliest Buddhist teachings brought to China included both Nikāya and Mahāyāna Buddhist teachings, which the Chinese did not initially distinguish as separate vehicles. (The term Nikāya Buddhism is preferred to the term Hīnayāna Buddhism.)

One of the earliest translators, the Parthian An Shigao (active from 148), translated texts from the Sarvāstivāda tradition of Nikāya Buddhism. An Shigao translated materials on dhyāna (concentration) meditation, including the Scripture of Mindfulness of Breathing (T 602), which teaches counting the breaths as a preparation for entering concentration. This was an important text in Chinese Buddhism for the next several hundred years, and mindfulness of breathing was one of the main forms of meditation in early Chinese Buddhism. Another early translator, the Kushan Lokakṣema (fl. 166–180s), translated the Pratyutpanna samādhi sūtra (T 418), a sūtra containing both Pure Land and prajñāpāramitā ideas (see Harrison, 1988). This sūtra teaches a form of samādhi called the "meditation of direct encounter with the buddhas of the present age," a form of buddhānusmṛti (keeping a buddha in mind, Ch. nianfo). In this practice, the meditator concentrates on a cosmic buddha such as Amitābha Buddha for a whole day and night, or a whole week, day and night, until the buddha appears to the meditator and preaches the dharma to him or her, and establishes the meditator as a nonreturning bodhisattva, a buddha-to-be. While this appearance is a sacred revelation and not a mere hallucination, it is at the same time "empty" of ultimate reality. This practice is recommended for monks, nuns, and laypeople. Other figures important for the development of Buddhist meditation in China during this period include Dao'an (312–385) and his disciple Huiyuan (334–416), who taught mindfulness of breathing and buddhānusmṛti; and Kumārajīva (350–409), who translated texts on meditation important in the Tiantai tradition and other traditions.

Because many of the earliest Buddhist translations were related to meditation, Henri Maspero (1971/1981) has argued that the translators were meeting the needs of a Chinese audience with an especial interest in meditation, perhaps an audience already familiar with Daoist meditation (pp. 400–412).

Meditation in Tiantai/Tendai Tradition

Tiantai Buddhism, founded by Zhiyi of Mt. Tiantai (in present-day Zhejiang province, southeast China), synthesizes the earlier theory-oriented Buddhism of south China with the practice-oriented Buddhism of north China. Zhiyi's greatest work on meditation is the Mohe zhiguan (Great calming and contemplation, T 1911; see Donner and Stevenson, 1993). The Mohe zhiguan discusses four kinds of samādhi, and ten modes and ten spheres of discernment. The four kinds of samādhi provided the ritual structure for all later Tiantai meditative practice in East Asia, whereas the ten modes and ten spheres of discernment involve mental exercises to be carried out within that structure. Tiantai Buddhism attempts to find a place for all Buddhist teachings within its systems (in contrast to the single-minded and exclusivist perspective of traditions such as Chan), and the framework of the four kinds of samādhi could encompass any form of Buddhist meditation. Even so, in the Mohe zhiguan the four categories are identified with six specific ritual meditation regimens. Tiantai monasteries were built with halls especially for these meditation regimens.

In the ninety-day constantly-sitting samādhi, the meditator contemplates the visionary body of the Buddha in emptiness, or indeed any other dharma (any thing), in order to identify the mind with the dharmadhātu, and realize the interpenetration of all dharmas.

The constantly walking samādhi is the "meditation of direct encounter with the buddhas of the present age" of the Pratyutpanna samādhi sūtra (see Harrison, 1988). The meditator circumambulates an altar to Amitābha for ninety days, chanting Amitābha's name and visualizing his form. The meditator will gain enough merit to be reborn in Amitābha's realm, or he or she may receive a personal visitation from Amitābha during the meditation period.

The category of part-walking and part-sitting includes the vaipulya repentance and the lotus samādhi. In the vaipulya repentance, the meditator installs a set of twenty-four deities in the meditation chamber, confesses his or her transgressions "with utmost sincerity and tears of lament" (Donner and Stevenson, 1993, p. 254), and then alternates between circumambulating while chanting dhāraṇīs and doing seated meditation. This regimen lasts only seven days, and laypersons may participate. The lotus samādhi involves confession before an altar to the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, circumambulation while reciting the Lotus Sūtra, and seated meditation.

For the category of neither walking nor sitting, Zhiyi offers the example of a repentance focused on the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), involving ritual offerings, confession, chanting dhāraṇīs, sitting, and sūtra recitation. This category also includes the "samādhi of freely following one's thoughts" (sui ziyi sanmei), which became especially important for some later Tiantai Buddhists who wished to rid Tiantai practice of its ritual aspect and pursue formless practices. In this approach, the meditator can use any form of physical activity or sense-perception as a basis for cultivating samādhi, including "evil" activities or sense-perceptions.

These practices have a double salvific effect. In each of these practices (except the last one) the meditator invokes the blessing of buddhas or bodhisattvas who may aid the meditator along the path to buddhahood with teachings and support. However, each practice is also an exercise in cultivating a buddha's vision of reality. In this vision, all ten dharma-realms, from the realm of hell-beings to the realm of perfect buddhahood, are mutually coextensive in all of their aspects, resulting in a "middle" state that synthesizes both existence and emptiness. This is what is meant by Zhiyi's famous phrase "three-thousand realms in an instant of thought" (yinian sanqian). For Zhiyi, nirvāṇa is not different from the world of common experience: it is this world seen through a refined pair of eyes. While the four kinds of samādhi are practiced in order to invoke the blessings of holy beings, they also are used to cultivate this prajñā (wisdom). The ten modes and ten spheres of discernment also discussed in the Mohe zhiguan make up a system of mental exercises that may be carried out within the four kinds of samādhi.

Later developments

Tiantai subitism, as it developed in Japanese Tendai Buddhism from the twelfth century on, has been termed hongaku shisō (original enlightenment thought). Hongaku texts emphasized that all people are perfect buddhas already—in fact, all things possess perfect buddhahood, even insentients such as plants or trees. Some hongaku texts rejected the idea of "attaining" buddhahood at all, and argued that buddhahood is none other than worldly experience. Hongaku thought has been criticized as rejecting religious practice, but some hongaku texts did give instructions for contemplative practice, and Habito has argued that hongaku texts were studied in a context of meditative practice.

Meditation in Chan/ZenTradition

The name "Chan" comes from the word dhyāna, known in China as channa. Chan is the "meditation" school of Buddhism, yet Chan Buddhists have sometimes been critical of meditation. After the eighth century, the sudden approach to enlightenment became dominant, and the idea of gradually cultivating the mind over time through meditation became problematic. Seated meditation—known in China as zuochan and in Japan as zazen—itself became a problem. However, it is unlikely that those who criticized seated meditation ceased doing it.

Early Chan

The first record of Chan meditation comes from the end of the sixth century, where monastics and laypeople in north China compiled the Erru sixing lun (Treatise on the two entrances and four practices), recording teachings on mental cultivation attributed to Bodhidharma and his student Huike. This text teaches that one must discover the buddha-nature, which is within oneself but is obscured by false sense-impressions. The text teaches a form of meditation called "wall contemplation" (biguan) that dispenses with all stages of progress and aims at pacifying the mind and achieving a state in which all things are one and the same. The term "wall contemplation" is not explained in the text, but may refer to śamatha (McRae, 2003, p. 31). Some of the teachings of the Erru sixing lun, such as striving to realize one's inherent buddhahood through seated meditation, dispensing with stages of progress, and turning everyday activity into an exercise in mental cultivation, also are characteristic of later Chan/Zen meditation.

Shenxiu and Shenhui

In the seventh century, Chan Buddhism came to the public eye in the persons of Shenxiu (606–706) and Shenhui (684–758). Shenxiu's teachings relentlessly emphasized contemplation of the mind in seated meditation and throughout daily life. He taught his many students to contemplate their minds with perfect equanimity, make their minds penetrate all realms of the cosmos, realize nonbeing, and achieve the consciousness of a buddha in this lifetime. After Shenxiu's death, Shenhui attacked Shenxiu's students' legitimacy and teachings on meditation. Shenhui criticized seated meditation as an obstruction to enlightenment, and exhorted students to achieve enlightenment immediately, as opposed to becoming distracted by a gradualistic regimen of meditation. Shenhui did not invent the teaching of sudden enlightenment or the critique of seated meditation: his innovation was the critique of purifying and concentrating the mind. Shenhui probably did not intend for meditation to become taboo, and meditation continued to be taught by Shenhui's students. However, after Shenhui, Chan Buddhists could no longer admit to a concern for purifying the mind or speak of meditation as a gradualistic process. Chan/Zen Buddhists hardly dared to commit instructions on seated meditation to writing until the twelfth century.


Kōans, perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Chan/Zen Buddhism, were first composed in the ninth or tenth centuries. Kōan practice involving meditation was systematized in China during the Song dynasty (960–1279), and further systematized in Japan thereafter.

Steven Heine (2002) defines a kōan, known in China as gong'an, as "a brief, enigmatic anecdote or dialogue between two contesting parties" (p. 1), usually recording an encounter between Chan master and student. Kōan literally means "public case," and the underlying image is of a legal case: the master interrogates the student like a magistrate interrogating the accused. Scholars such as D. T. Suzuki have presented kōans as authentic records of the irrational, spontaneous behavior of enlightened masters, ultimately incomprehensible to Western readers. Rather than viewed as authentic records of the ancient masters, however, kōans should be recognized as literary products with their own literary patterns, cultural themes, and social functions. Although kōans are intentionally enigmatic and have special uses within the context of Chan/Zen training, they need not be regarded as fundamentally impenetrable to a reader standing outside the tradition.

Kōans sometimes appear to reject meditation per se, but they are actually only warning against attachment to meditation, or criticizing a particular approach to meditation. In a famous eleventh-century kōan about an encounter between Nanyue Huairang (677–744) and Mazu Daoyi (709–788), Huairang chides Mazu for his attachment to seated meditation, telling Mazu that achieving buddhahood by practicing seated meditation would be as impossible as grinding a tile to make a mirror.

Mazu said, "How does one do it right?" Huairang said, "Are you training in seated meditation, or training in sitting as the Buddha? If you are training in seated meditation, then meditation is neither seated nor lying down.… Your sitting as the Buddha is to kill the Buddha; if you are attached to the characteristic of sitting, you have not penetrated the principle involved." When Mazu heard this teaching he felt ecstatic. (Jingde chuandeng lu, T 2076, 51:240c; translation from McRae, p. 87, with alterations)

This anecdote, more likely a legend than the record of an actual event, was composed and reworked not to deny that meditation has a place in Chan training, but to warn the meditator against a subtle attachment to meditation. In a typical Chan move, "meditation" is redefined as a way of being, rather than a formal practice. Here, encountering a master, rather than meditation, is presented as the primary means to enlightenment.

Kōan Meditation

Kōans themselves were used as a focus of meditation. Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163), from the Linji Chan lineage, developed a training method called kanhua,"contemplating the [critical] phrase," which he taught to monastics and laypersons alike. According to this method, the student zeroes in on the huatou, the punch line of a kōan, which may be only a single word. The student concentrates upon the huatou, both in seated meditation and throughout all daily activities. Abstracted from its original context, the huatou is inscrutable, and the student becomes sorely troubled by doubt and frustration. Eventually, the student is consumed by doubt, "becoming" the doubt, and his or her dualistic thinking is replaced by one-pointedness of mind. Finally this great doubt shatters, bringing great enlightenment and recapturing the enlightened state of mind of the master in the kōan. Although kanhua meditation is a distinctively Chan form of meditation with its use of kōans and doubt, it also can be understood as a combination of śamatha and vipaśyanā.

Chan has often been described as a form of Buddhism uniquely influenced by Daoism, but this is difficult to substantiate historically. It would be more accurate to say that Chan Buddhists drew upon a common literati culture already imbued with ideas from Daoist classics such as Laozi (Dao de jing), Zhuangzi, and Liezi. Chan Buddhists over the past millennium also have come to include Daoist qi-circulation (qigong) techniques among their meditation practices, as these techniques have become more widely practiced in Chinese society in general.

Japanese Zen

The two main schools of Zen in Japan are Rinzai, known in China as Linji, and Sōtō, known in China as Caodong. While Buddhists of each school have always both practiced zazen (seated meditation) and studied kōans, the Rinzai school is known for kōan training, and the Sōtō school for zazen.

Kōan training was first brought to Japan in the twelfth century. The language of Chinese Chan presented difficulties for many Japanese monks, who coped by developing kōan training systems. Students studied kōans in standard sequences and drew their answers to kōans from lists of approved capping-phrases (jakugo). The kōan training systems of the Rinzai school, as practiced today, were established by Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1769) and his disciples. A student in a Rinzai training monastery today practices kanna meditation, working on his kōan during zazen and other activities, and using jakugo to express his understanding to his teacher (rōshi) during daily interviews (dokusan). Women and laymen do not usually have access to this training. In China, kanna meditation (kanhua in Japan and Korea) is practiced in Chan monasteries. This approach also is practiced in contemporary Korean Sŏn monasteries.

The Sōtō school was brought to Japan by Dōgen Kigen (1200–1253). Although he also was a brilliant master of kōan literature, Dōgen emphasized zazen over kōan training and wrote one of the first manuals on zazen. In Dōgen's zazen, one sits fixedly and practices "nonthinking." Dōgen taught that zazen is not merely a method by which one reaches enlightenment, zazen is itself enlightenment. The monk must not practice zazen for the sake of becoming a buddha, because all beings are buddhas already. Instead, the monk must practice zazen without any thought of attaining enlightenment experience, "just sitting," merely expressing his inherent buddhahood. This is a creative resolution to Chan/Zen's perennial problem of harmonizing the doctrine of sudden enlightenment with the real need for meditation practice.

Meditation in Pure Land Tradition

Pure Land Buddhism involves devotion to Amitābha Buddha (Amitāyus)—known in China as Amituo Fo and in Japan as Amida Butsu, or other buddhas or bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin, Kannon). Most practitioners strive for rebirth in Sukhāvatī, Amitābha's paradisiacal world-system far to the west of our own world, though some practitioners believe that the Pure Land is an effect of enlightened consciousness rather than a place. A practitioner's rebirth in Sukhāvatī is made possible through Amitābha's infinite store of merit. Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia is based on four main texts, the Longer and Shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha sūtras, Amitāyur-dhyāna sūtra, and Sukhāvatī-vyūhopadeśa, all known in China by the sixth century.

With the exception of Japanese Pure Land denominations, Pure Land Buddhism in the East Asian cultural sphere has been more a style of religiosity than an independent school. Although there have been masters who taught Pure Land exclusively, monastics usually have practiced Pure Land together with other forms of Buddhism, such as Tiantai or even Chan. Pure Land has also been one of the most practiced forms of Buddhism among laypeople.

Pure Land practice may involve recitation, visualization, and ritual. The main Pure Land practice is nianfo (Jp. nembutsu, Skt. buddhānusmṛti), which means "keeping (Amitābha) Buddha in mind" or "reciting (Amitābha) Buddha's name." In China, Pure Land devotees began to claim that ten recitations of the phrase "Honor to Amitābha Buddha," or even one recitation, are enough to bring about rebirth in the Pure Land, though most devotees recite Amitābha's name millions of times throughout their lives. Devotees hope to be rewarded with a vision or visitation from Amitābha, a sign that their rebirth in the Pure Land is assured. Even as simple recitation, nianfo can become a form of meditation.

Nianfo practice may also include visualizing and contemplating Amitābha's physical body (rūpakāya) with its major and minor marks, or his abstract cosmic body (dharmakāya) as the ground of reality. One text, the Amitāyur-dhyāna sūtra, teaches a series of sixteen dhyāna meditations. In these meditations, the meditator develops an impossibly complex and detailed vision of Amitābha and his Pure Land, with its lotus throne, jewel-trees, and so on. Whereas practitioners reciting Amitābha's name hoped to be rewarded with a vision of the Pure Land, the meditator here builds this vision for him- or herself. Because the meditator gains insight into Amitābha as the ground of reality, this dhyāna meditation has the aspect of vipaśyanā as well as śamatha.

Nianfo is often practiced in a ritual context. In everyday lay practice, this may involve incense offerings, prostration, and circumambulation of an image of Amitābha or another deity. One example of a Pure Land ritual meditation historically practiced by monastics is the constantly walking samādhi described in the above section on Tiantai Buddhism. Monastics and laypeople alike also may take part in Pure Land repentance rites. In these rites, Amitābha and other buddhas are invited to the ritual space to receive the worshipers' veneration and hear their confession of sins. Following this, the worshipers dedicate the merit gained from the rite to all beings, and vow their intent to be reborn in the Pure Land.

Hōnen and Shinran

In Pure Land Buddhism, as in Chan, meditation became problematic in light of doctrinal developments. Pure Land masters in medieval China taught that a single sincere recitation of Amitābha's name was sufficient to guarantee rebirth in his Pure Land. However, for many practitioners they still recommended meditation; that is, formal visualization practices. The situation changed in Japan, where the two most influential Pure Land masters, Hōnen (1133–1212) and Shinran (1173–1263), taught that the difficult meditation practices were not only not necessary, but could even threaten a practitioner's salvation. Japanese Pure Land Buddhism teaches that the practitioner must rely completely on the "other-power" (tariki) of Amitābha, but that a meditator might develop the false belief that he or she could achieve salvation based on the "self-power" (jiriki) of meditation.

Meditation in Esoteric Tradition

Esoteric Buddhism, also called Tantric or Vajrayāna Buddhism, was a relatively late form of Indian Buddhism transmitted to China in the Tang (618–907) and Southern Song (1127–1279) dynasties. Although Esoteric Buddhism as an institution flourished only briefly in China, Esoteric rituals and symbols can still be found in Chinese Buddhism and Daoism. Esoteric Buddhism was first established in Japan by Kūkai (774–835) and Saichō (767–822). Kūkai founded the esoteric Shingon school, and Saichō incorporated Esoteric Buddhism in his Tendai school. Although the following account describes Shingon meditation, the same general description also would apply to Tendai esoteric practice.

In Shingon practice, the three human activities of body, speech, and mind manifest the three sacred "secrets" of mudrā, mantra, and visualization samādhi. Shingon practices involve physical actions, chanting, and visualization, and thus straddle the categories of ritual and meditation. While Shingon practices cannot be pigeonholed into two exclusive categories of ritual and meditation, some practices are relatively more communal and ritual, and some are more individual and meditative. Ajikan, contemplation of the syllable A, is one such meditative practice, set within a ritual framework.

Today, Ajikan is practiced by monks, as well as male and female laypeople. In one version of Ajikan, as described by Zōei in the seventeenth century, the practitioner begins with prostrations, protective mantras, the Five Great Vows (such as to save all sentient beings), and a mantra to invite the cosmic buddha Mahāvairocana, known in Japan as Dainichi, to attend the ritual. He or she then visualizes the Sanskrit letter A resting on a white lotus flower, within a full moon, within the heart. The letter A is then visualized alternatively within the heart and before the eyes, and finally as expanding to fill the whole cosmos before contracting back into the heart. The syllable A represents the cosmos in its many aspects: A is the primary seed syllable, the origin of all existence, and the "ungraspable void" (as the negative prefix "a-"). After practicing these visualizations for between ten minutes and one hour, the practitioner bids Mahāvairocana return to his Pure Land and performs closing rites to finish the practice. If the practitioner is able to dwell in the thought of Great Compassion, visualize the syllable A in his or her heart at all times, and understand what is represented or manifested by this, he or she can achieve buddhahood in the present body. This practice combines aspects of both śamatha and vipaśyanā, and the practitioner appropriately forms a hand-position symbolizing the union of dhyāna and prajñā during the practice.

Modern Tendencies

Over the past millennium, Chan has become the dominant monastic Buddhist institution in the East Asian cultural sphere (as Chan in China, Zen in Japan, Sŏn in Korea, and Thiền in Vietnam), and Pure Land has remained the dominant form of lay Buddhist practice. Chan and Pure Land meditation as described above are now practiced equally by laypeople and monastics, and Chan and Pure Land are often combined. Chan/Zen meditation is now practiced worldwide, but so is Pure Land. The greater involvement of laypeople has led to an overall simplification of meditative techniques. In some cases, such as in Taiwan, monastics may now freely choose which form of meditation they wish to practice. Buddhists have more international contacts now, and laypeople and monastics alike may choose to practice Theravāda or Tibetan forms of meditation in addition to or instead of traditional East Asian forms.


Bielefeldt, Carl. Dōgen's Manuals of Zen Meditation. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988. A study of Dōgen's teachings on zazen within the context of Chan history, with translation.

Buswell, Robert E., Jr. "The 'Shortcut' Approach of K'an-hua Meditation: The Evolution of a Practical Subitism in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism." In Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought, edited by Peter N.
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Gregory, pp. 321–377. Honolulu, 1987. The best discussion of kanhua Chan in a Western language.

Buswell, Robert E., Jr. The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea. Princeton, N.J., 1992. The best ethnography on contemporary Zen (Sŏn) monastic life, including chapters on meditation.

Donner, Neal, and Daniel B. Stevenson. The Great Calming and Contemplation: A Study and Annotated Translation of the First Chapter of Chih-i's "Mo-ho chih-kuan." Honolulu, 1993. A translation of the first quarter of the Mohe zhiguan, with a nearly one-hundred-page introduction.

Gregory, Peter N., ed. Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu, 1986. Includes articles on Tiantai samādhi, early Chan samādhi, Faxiang visualization of Maitreya, and so on.

Habito, Ruben L. Originary Enlightenment: Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japanese Buddhism. Studia Philologica Buddhica Occasional Paper Series XI. Tokyo, 1996. Argues that Tendai hongaku texts were studied in a context of meditative practice.

Harrison, Paul, trans. into English; Lokakṣema, trans. into Chinese. The Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sutra. Berkeley, Calif., 1988. The English translation of an important sūtra on meditation.

Harvey, Peter. "Buddhist Practice: Meditation and the Development of Wisdom." In An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices, pp. 244–279. New York, 1990. An overview of Buddhist meditation, including sections on East Asia.

Heine, Steven. Opening a Mountain: Kōans of the Zen Masters. New York, 2002. A study of cultural symbols in kōans, with translations and discussions of kōans concerning encounters with mountain spirits, "Zen grannies," and so on.

Hori, Victor Sōgen. Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice. Honolulu, 2003. The introduction offers the best discussion of contemporary Rinzai Zen kōan practice.

Hsing Yun. Only a Great Rain: A Guide to Chinese Buddhist Meditation. Boston, 1999. An overview of Chinese meditation teachings by a contemporary Taiwanese Chan master, with an introduction by John R. McRae.

Lü K'uan Yü (Charles Luk). The Secrets of Chinese Meditation. 1964; reprint, New York, 1969. Includes translations and discussions of Chan, Pure Land, and Tiantai meditation practices.

Maspero, Henri. Taoism and Chinese Religion. Paris, 1971; translated into English by Frank A. Kierman, Jr., Amherst, Mass., 1981.

McRae, John R. Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2003. A critical overview of Chan history with hermeneutical guidelines for studying Chan.

Payne, Richard K. "Ajikan: Ritual and Meditation in the Shingon Tradition." In Re-Visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism, edited by Richard K. Payne, pp. 219–248. Honolulu, 1998. A discussion of the history and practice of Ajikan.

Sheng-yen. Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master. New York, 2001. A handbook for practitioners by a contemporary Taiwanese Chan master, with a preface and introduction by Dan Stevenson.

Stevenson, Daniel B. "Pure Land Buddhist Worship and Meditation in China." In Buddhism in Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., pp. 359–379. Princeton, N.J., 1995. Translations with an invaluable introduction.

Stevenson, Daniel B. "Visions of Mañjuśrī on Mount Wutai." In Religions of China in Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., pp. 203–222. Princeton, N.J., 1996. Translation and discussion of the Tang monk Fazhao's nianfo practice and visions of the bodhisattva.

Stone, Jacqueline I. Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism, 12. Honolulu, 1999. A comprehensive and penetrating discussion of hongaku thought.

Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. New York, 1970. A Sōtō Zen master's informal talks to students in San Francisco; illustrates Sōtō Zen teachings on "just sitting."

Yamasaki, Taikō. Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Boston, 1988. An overview of Shingon Buddhism by a contemporary Shingon master of the Chūinryū lineage of Mt. Kōya. Includes a section on Ajikan.

Clarke Hudson (2005)

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