Sunday, 11 December 2016


68. Zen is said to be 'a special transmission outside the sutras'. And yet Nagarjuna, the great second century patriarch and pivotal link between Shakyamuni and Zen, developed his Madhyamika  philosophy out of the Prajnaparamita Sutras. The teaching found in these sutras with its emphasis on the negative, the use of paradox, a religious experience flowing from intuitive cognition, and the grasping of things in their thusness, found its way via Nagarjuna's Madhyamika into Zen and embedded itself there. The Chinese Zen masters were able to use paradox and the comprehension of things in their thusness to bring disciples to enlightenment in their ordinary everyday lives. This is what they called 'enlightenment in daily life'. And so the sutras were translated and transformed and realised in that which lay outside them. A simple fact or event in a disciple's ordinary life could be offered as the answer to some deep inquiry, and this frequently led to a sudden insight on the part of the disciple. Thus it is that Zen can and does claim to be 'a special transmission outside the sutras'.

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