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Zen RitualStudies of Zen Theory in Practice$
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Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195304671

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195304671.001.0001

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 Chan Rituals of the Abbots' Ascending the Dharma Hall to Preach

 Chan Rituals of the Abbots' Ascending the Dharma Hall to Preach

(p.83) 2 Chan Rituals of the Abbots' Ascending the Dharma Hall to Preach
Zen Ritual

Mario Poceski (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 describes a ritual tradition that clearly goes back to the beginnings of Zen. These ritual occasions, sometimes daily and at other times less frequent, brought the entire assembly of monks together in a formal ceremony in which the abbot of the monastery would present a sermon on Zen doctrine or practice. Although these were the occasions most often valorized as expressions of the Zen master's spontaneity, in fact these sermons follow highly stylized and scripted patterns of Zen thought. Only certain doctrines and formats of delivery were appropriate for these sermons, and even the greatest of the early Zen masters rarely diverged from the “pre‐existing templates” that were bequeathed to them by their predecessors. Although the talks would sometimes involve transgressions or critiques of the ritual order, in fact they validated and maintained that order by carefully setting their remarks within the all‐encompassing sphere of Zen ritual.

Keywords:   early Zen, Zen spontaneity, Zen rigidity, Zen masters, sermons

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