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Do Not Say That You Have Forgotten King and Father: Yunqi Zhuhong’s Chan Realism

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This essay examines the late Ming-dynasty Chan master Yunqi Zhuhong’s commentary on the Brahma Net Sutra (Fanwangjing), which it takes up in order to explore his discourse concerning both Chan realism and his ensuing rejection of mainstream Chan gongan rhetoric. The Brahma Net Sutra contains a list of major and minor precepts governing proper morality for monastic and lay Buddhists. Zhuhong’s interpretation of the Twenty-First Minor Precept, which prohibits revenge, offers insight into his sense of political realism regarding the relationship between gradual teachings, provisional truths, and ultimate truth. His interpretation of the Tenth Minor Precept, which prohibits storing weapons, demonstrates his moral realism in contrast to Chan’s traditional use of pedagogical violence. Zhuhong’s realist discourse, influenced by the teachings of the Buddhist Vinaya as well as by engagement with Confucian ethics, presents an overlooked counter-narrative shift that contrasts with the emphasis on sudden enlightenment and antinomianism in Chan gongan discourse typical of the Tang and Song dynasties.


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