Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition

Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition

by Bernard Faure
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press


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Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition

For many people attracted to Eastern religions (particularly Zen Buddhism), Asia seems the source of all wisdom. As Bernard Faure examines the study of Chan/Zen from the standpoint of postmodern human sciences and literary criticism, he challenges this inversion of traditional "Orientalist" discourse: whether the Other is caricatured or idealized, ethnocentric premises marginalize important parts of Chan thought. Questioning the assumptions of "Easterners" as well, including those of the charismatic D. T. Suzuki, Faure demonstrates how both West and East have come to overlook significant components of a complex and elusive tradition. Throughout the book Faure reveals surprising hidden agendas in the modern enterprise of Chan studies and in Chan itself. After describing how Jesuit missionaries brought Chan to the West, he shows how the prejudices they engendered were influenced by the sectarian constraints of Sino-Japanese discourse. He then assesses structural, hermeneutical, and performative ways of looking at Chan, analyzes the relationship of Chan and local religion, and discusses Chan concepts of temporality, language, writing, and the self. Read alone or with its companion volume, The Rhetoric of Immediacy, this work offers a critical introduction not only to Chinese and Japanese Buddhism but also to "theory" in the human sciences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691029023
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/11/1996
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 7.75(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Bernard Faure is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.

Table of Contents



Introduction 3

Chan as Secondary Orientalism 5

The Cultural "Encounter Dialogue" 9

Comparison, Counterpoint, Intertwining 10

Ch. 1 Chan/Zen in the Western Imagination 15

Missionary Accounts 15

Buddhism and Quietism 29

Chan and Indian Mysticism 34

The Apostle Bodhidharma 45

Claudel and Buddhism 50

Ch. 2 The Rise of Zen Orientalism 52

Suzuki's Zen 53

The Western Critics of Suzuki 67

Nishida and the Kyoto School 74

Ch. 3 Rethinking Chan Historiography 89

Places and People 92

The Rise of Chan Historiography in Japan 99

The Cost of Objectivism 110

The Teleological Fallacy 114

Writing Chan History 123

Ch. 4 Alternatives 126

The Structural Approach 126

The Hermeneutic Approach 135

Toward a Performative Scholarship 145

Ch. 5 Space and Place 155

Chan and Local Spirits 156

From Place to Space 159

Chan In-sights and Di-visions 167

Ch. 6 Times and Tides 175

Conflicting Models 177

Dogen and His Times 187

The Ritualization of Time 192

Ch. 7 Chan and Language: Fair and Unfair Games 195

On the Way to Language 199

Poetical Language in Chan 205

How to Do Things with the Koan 211

Ch. 8 In-scribing/De-scribing Chan 217

A Qualified Anti-intellectualism 217

Chan Logocentrism 220

Orality in Chan 228

Chan as a Kind of Writing 233

Another Differend 234

Chan Rhetoric 237

Ch. 9 The Paradoxes of Chan Individualism 243

The Western Configuration of the Self 243

Early Buddhist Conceptions 251

Chinese Conceptions 254

The Individual and Power 257

Solitaire/Solidaire 261

Epilogue 269

Glossary 275

Bibliography 281

Index 317

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