Origins

It should be noted that no texts of the time contain any record of Shitou or Mazu employing the encounter dialogue. The first record of its use is in the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, which appeared in 952. This anthology is also an early example of the Chan "transmission of the lamp" text; that is, it contains a list of all the patriarchs in a Chan lineage that began in India and continued to the time of the text. A number of these "transmission of the lamp" histories became part of the official Buddhist canon. They contained biographical information and records of the teaching of prominent monks, and also included many examples of encounter dialogues. Later, the dialogues were extracted and collected into separate anthologies, along with commentaries by others.

While serious gongan study is limited to the monastic setting, the publication of gongan anthologies has made them familiar to lay readers, and, for many, their characteristic enigmatic style has come to represent the uniqueness of Chan.


Study Questions:
1.     Describe the relationship between enlightenment and Zen scriptures.
2.     What sutras have influenced Zen, and how?
3.     What does it mean to “encounter dialogue"?

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