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Zen And Esoteric Buddhism

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Chapter Summary

Zen and esoteric Buddhism can be seen either as two complementary expressions of a single underlying Buddhism, or as two fundamentally separate entities that have overlapped due to historical and social proximity. Traditional accounts of Zen history assert that the orthodox Buddhist lineage was brought from India to China by Bodhidharma in the fifth century and then successfully transplanted to Japan several times beginning in the late twelfth century. This chapter surveys a few historical examples to illustrate the many ways that Zen and esoteric Buddhism have and continue to overlap in Japan. It discusses the esoteric aspects of the Zen tradition inherited from China and the roles they play in Japan. The chapter examines the influence of Japanese esoteric Buddhist traditions within Zen, and concludes with a brief overview of secret initiations in Zen.

Keywords: Bodhidharma; Buddhist lineage; China; Esoteric Buddhism; India; Japan; Zen Buddhism



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