McRae: Rethinks the Early History of Chan Buddhism

Rethinks the Early History of Chan Buddhism

Professor John McRae

February 4, 2010

Professor John McRae, a well-known scholar of Chinese Chan Buddhism, presented a lecture on early Chan history entitled, “Rethinking Bodhidharma and the Beginnings of Chinese Chan/Zen Buddhism,” at the Asian Centre on February 4, 2010. The lecture drew around 50 students and faculty. Professor McRae kept all on their toes, combining careful text analysis with his characteristic wit. Audience members were taken on a journey through Buddhist translation temples, revolts and banditry, and the multiple meanings of Huike’s lost arm.
As a student of East Asian Buddhism, John R. McRae is especially interested in ideologies of spiritual cultivation and how they interact with their intellectual and cultural environments. His earliest research on the earliest period of Chinese Chan or Zen Buddhism, was conducted under the guidance of Professor Stanley Weinstein (Yale), with direction from Yanagida Seizan in Kyoto. He has published as The Northern School and the Formation of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism (1986), and a companion volume, Evangelical Zen: Shenhui (684-758), Sudden Enlightenment, and the Southern School of Chinese Chan Buddhism, is now in the final stages of preparation. His work, Chinese Chan tradition: Encounter and Transformation: Genealogy, Self-cultivation, and Monastic Tradition in Chinese Zen Buddhism (2003), has changed how scholars think about the Chan tradition.

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