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Zen Buddhism, Volume 1: A History (India & China) (Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture) Paperback – 31 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: World Wisdom Books; Revised and expanded ed edition (31 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0941532895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941532891
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.3 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 458,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 11 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
A detailed survey that begins in India with the historic Buddha, Sakyamuni, and finishes with the decline of Zen in China. The amount of detail would be overwhelming if Dumoulin hadn't digested it so well and hadn't written so well. Packed no only with historical events and persons, there are many observations and insights that reveal not only how Zen developed but the extent of diversity and challenges within it.

There were some highlights for me: the roots of Zen in yoga (hence the emphasis on the lotus pose for zazen), the importance of the Mahayana sutras with all the work to translate them into Chinese, the interplay of Buddhism with Taoism in China that led to Zen, the persecution of Buddhism in China that only Zen and Pure Land survived, and the settling down into the methods of regular zazen and koan practice. The differing views on enlightenment and other key Buddhist concepts as well as on meditation practice reveals that Zen was ever exploratory and many things to many of its masters and those who followed them.

Remarkably NeoConfucianism eventually gathered strength so as to be able to successfully push Zen into decline. This volume closes with Chinese Zen in a decline from which it never recovered. Dumoulin explains how NeoConfucianist scholars were able to weaken the hold of Zen upon the Chinese such that Zen only was able to progress outside of China. Thar Zen later prospered in Japan did not lead to its rehabiilation within China so one is left wondering if Japanese Zen largely succeeded due to not facing a NeoConfucian challenge within Japan: all the more reason to read carefully Dumoulin's history of why Zen declined in China.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
a wonderful introduction to the history of Zen 21 Jan. 2006
By Wyote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Basically the book is just what it claims to be: a history of Zen Buddhism in China (it says "India" because it discusses the precursors to Zen in the Mahayana tradition and yoga). It is perfect for students interested in the topic.

I've heard from a few people (and the preface of the book admits it as well) that this book is somewhat dated because scholarship in this field has ballooned in the past decade or two. However, there is no equivalent introduction to all of Zen history. Thus, if you plan to study Zen history in depth, this is still the best place to start and you can move on to more recent books covering more specific movements and time periods. On the other hand, if you're not going to study in depth, then the new developments are not so radical as to render this unhelpful. Within ten years a better, up to date history of Zen is bound to come out. If you can wait...

On the other hand, I believe that a background in Chinese religion would be helpful, since Dumoulin really doesn't provide the background that a student needs in that area. But he does refer to them--Taoism and other strands of Chinese Buddhism--enough that perhaps he ought to have given a bit of introduction to them. He does give an interesting coverage of Neo-Confucianism, although not in much depth and only discussing their relationship to Zen. I was glad I had some familiarity with Taoism, but I found myself wishing I'd had more familiarity with Chinese Buddhism.

For that reason, if you are a beginning student, I'd strongly recommend some other books first.

If you're new to Zen, start with "An Introduction to Zen Buddhism" by D. T. Suzuki.

If you don't know much about Taoism, I recommend Livia Kohn's "Daoism and Chinese Culture."

If you don't know much about Chinese Buddhism, I recommend "Buddhism in China" by Kenneth Ch'en.

I think, at that point, if you want to get into the history of Zen Buddhism in greater depth, then you'll be ready to get a lot out of Dumoulin's fine book.

Of course, if the history of Zen really is the ONLY thing you're interested in, not how it interacted with Taoism or other kinds of Chinese Buddhism, then go ahead and just jump straight into this one.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Formidable 11 Nov. 2007
By calmly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A detailed survey that begins in India with the historic Buddha, Sakyamuni, and finishes with the decline of Zen in China. The amount of detail would be overwhelming if Dumoulin hadn't digested it so well and hadn't written so well. Packed no only with historical events and persons, there are many observations and insights that reveal not only how Zen developed but the extent of diversity and challenges within it.

There were some highlights for me: the roots of Zen in yoga (hence the emphasis on the lotus pose for zazen), the importance of the Mahayana sutras with all the work to translate them into Chinese, the interplay of Buddhism with Taoism in China that led to Zen, the persecution of Buddhism in China that only Zen and Pure Land survived, and the settling down into the methods of regular zazen and koan practice. The differing views on enlightenment and other key Buddhist concepts as well as on meditation practice reveals that Zen was ever exploratory and many things to many of its masters and those who followed them.

Remarkably NeoConfucianism eventually gathered strength so as to be able to successfully challenge Zen for the Chinese heart. This volume closes with Chinese Zen in a decline from which it never recovered. Dumoulin explains how NeoConfucianist scholars were able to weaken the hold of Zen upon the Chinese such that Zen only was able to progress outside of China. Thar Zen later prospered in Japan did not lead to its rehabiilation within China so one is left wondering if Japanese Zen largely succeeded due to not facing a NeoConfucian challenge within Japan: all the more reason to read carefully Dumoulin's history of why Zen declined in China. I find it impossible to wonder if Japanese Zen, however much it flourished there, did so to some extent by avoiding the challenges that Zen faced in China. Any such questions may be answered by a careful reading of both this Volume 1 and the companion but consensus seem less to be found than a struggle by many that shaped the tradition without bringing it closure.

Zen Buddhism, Volume 2: A History (Japan) (Treasures of the World's Religions)
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Zen bones 23 Aug. 2009
By Jai - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I name this review after Paul Reps' book, "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones."
The flesh can be found in Suzuki (DT or Shonru), or Cleary's koan collections, or the contemporary works of Red Pine, Thich Nhat Hanh, John Daido Loori etc etc. Herein are the bones--a Zen shorn of life, a dead imitation of living Ch'an, a merely historical collection of names and lineages.
Throughout, DT Suzuki is the authors' foil, as he argues that it *is* feasible to study and understand Zen from the outside--that is, historically--rather than from the inside, which is the view of a scholar/practitioner like Suzuki.
The book itself was first published in German in 1959; this text is a 2005 reprint. It is an idealized history of teachers and lineages and philosophical perspectives, but with unfortunately little real feel for the subject matter. He did seem to be genuinely interested in Zen. But he wrote from the perspective of a Jesuit theologian confronting an alien, even "pagan" religion, from which only so much sympathy--let alone understanding--should be expected. His goal was to ascertain the facts of what happened and put them in proper context, to understand the phenomenon of Zen by exploring its origins and historical roots [p. xx]. According to John McRae, a contemporary scholar of Zen (who wrote the 2005 Preface) even this historical study is only of historical interest, a record of how academics *used* to study Zen: As he quips. "By reading this book, we may be able to learn how the field of Zen studies developed over the course of the 20th century [p, xl]." But (and I quote): "it is actually *not* a guide to the historical development of Zen...[and] *not* a reliable source for understanding Zen Buddhism in India and China [p. xxxix]."

I offer this rather negative review because anyone who comes to this text expecting something other than what it is may, like me, be sorely disappointed.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Recommended for advanced students and scholars of Buddhism and religious history 9 Dec. 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Zen Buddhism: A History India And China is a new edition of volume 1 of the classic two- volume history by Heinrich Dumoulin (1905-1995), one of the world's most renowned Zen scholars. Covering the emergence of Zen through India and China, the new edition also includes additional notes by James W. Heisig of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture; a new introduction by John R. McRae of Indiana University exploring recent developments in the study of Zen; and the complete original text. An excellent, thoroughly researched, in-depth history especially recommended for advanced students and scholars of Buddhism and religious history.
An essential reference for all Zen students/practitioners 29 Aug. 2008
By Ted Biringer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book along with its companion volume (Zen Buddhism, Volume 2: A History - Japan), also by Heinrich Dumoulin, is a unique offering among the many fine books of Zen. As the only extensive single-set history of Zen Buddhism available it is an essential reference for all Zen students, teachers, and practitioners. It also has plenty to offer students of Buddhism of all traditions, especially those of Mahayana.

Zen Buddhism, Volume : A History - India and China, begins by offering an extensive examination of the rise and development of Buddhism in India. Starting with an introduction to the pre-Buddhist spiritual traditions, including discussions of the major ideas informing the various philosophies, literature, and practices of those traditions.

After furnishing the reader with a solid grasp of the cultural and spiritual landscape of the India of Shakyamuni's (the historical Buddha) time, Heinrich Dumoulin examines the life of the Buddha. Though brief, he gives a well-rounded explanation of the various facts, as well as the theories and legends surrounding both the historical and mythological significance of the birth, quest, enlightenment, teachings, and death of the Buddha (after teaching for nearly 50 years!).

Next, Dumoulin traces the developments of the major schools of Buddhism arising in the wake of the Buddha's death. He provides readers with solid insight of these schools by highlighting their various points of contention, and unique interpretations of the Buddha's teachings.

Heinrich Dumoulin also examines the development of the major sutras (scriptures) and shastras (treatises) offering the reader not only an outline of the main ideas informing this literature, but also highlighting how the various Buddhist schools related to and were influenced by it--focusing, of course, primarily on Ch'an (Zen).

By providing both, historical as well as legendary (or traditional) information each of the Indian Zen "ancestors", Dumoulin allows readers to "see through" the traditional accounts, without losing sight of the "mythic" elements that served to distinguish Ch'an from other Buddhist schools.

The book then presents an overview of the transmission of Buddhism to China through the Indian Buddhist master, Bodhidharma, the semi-legendary founder of Ch'an (Zen) in China. Dumoulin again offers both historical and traditional accounts of how the teaching slowly took root and over several generations of development and adaptation with Confucian and Taoist elements of Native China.

Next Heinrich Dumoulin describes how Ch'an (Zen) finally came into its "own" distinctive, and specifically "Chinese" flavor with the teachings of the revered Sixth ancestor of China, Huineng. Extensively covering the great masters of Ch'an history, Dumoulin describes how the various "schools" came to be identified through a number of factors including the "styles" of great master, the development of specific techniques or doctrines, emphasis on particular aspects of the path, etc.

Finally, this book explains how later generations of Ch'an teachers, students, and practitioners came to collect, and systemize the teachings of the "Seven schools and Five houses" of Zen in efforts to preserve, maintain, and transmit the teachings of Buddhism in light of the uniquely vivid, liberating, humorous, and powerful tradition Ch'an.

While this book, in offering such an extensive overview, does not go into great depth, it does deliver the goods. Even though some of the material is not up-to-date with recent scholarship, all in all, most of the "out dated" content is of minor significance.

With all the trimmings, front and back matter of quality scholarship (notes, detailed index, glossary, etc) this two-volume history of Zen offers plenty of unique material that will be welcomed by Zen students for many generations to come.
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