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Chan and Change in China

Updated: Sep 11




Cultural change is the movement of thought, action, and technology that replaces other normative ways of behaving in a culture.


Buddhist monks traveled to China as early as 100 CE. They offered new and novel teachings regarding the cosmos and the role of individuals and caste systems. Taoism and Confucianism were well established along with ancestor-worship as the mainstays of daily life. In essence, Buddhism did not influence many people to follow new teachings.


In the Li Song Dynasty, three hundred years later, the legendary Bodhidharma was said to have arrived from the West (possibly India or perhaps the middle east). In the early fifth century, conditions and variables in China were more favorable to change. Buddhism had now shifted into two schools, one aligned with monks along being able to reach awakening and the other teaching that everyone was enlightened put needed to awaken to that experience. The second branch would be called the Mahayana school (awake).


In his book Chan Buddhism, Peter D. Hershock described the propinquity of this teaching to take hold in China:


Established values are being fundamentally questioned -- and often abandoned and replaced at -- dizzying rates...and (people) still stumbling headlong from crisis to crisis with no end in sight. Chan (the name given to the evolving Chinese Buddhism) opens breaks in the (old) pattern: a new way of liberating all beings with tireless virtuosity, resolving the trouble in any situation whatsoever, especially when there is nothing at all that we can rely on.


Note the similarity between cultural/social change and personal change. Many people come to Zen (Chan) when "stumbling" over what might be ill working practices in everyday life.


Impermanence is afoot in the United States today testing cultural and social norms and expectations. What do you see in all of this cultural, social, and personal dizziness?


108 bows,

Sangaku

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