Author Affiliation: Department of Languages and Cultures, University of Ghent
early Chán; internal visual processes; meditation; visualization practices; 看心; 觀心
In the analysis of processes of sensory perception in the framework of Buddhist contemplation practices, the visual sense faculty has played a crucial role. In this paper, references to Chinese Buddhist terminology referring to visual processes will be analyzed in their historical context, with a focus on the interpretations of guān 觀 and kàn 看 by proponents of the early Chán School. Crucial questions include the notions of the “agent” (i.e., the entity engaging in the process of visualization or viewing), as well as the ontological status of the “object” to be viewed, in addition to the nature of the process of viewing and the bodily preconditions for engaging in visualization practices. The creative reinterpretations of terms such as guānxīn 觀心 “contemplate the mind” and kànxīn 看心 “view the mind” were also important devices to create a distinctive identity for this newly emerging Chinese Buddhist school. As will be shown, despite the fierce attacks on “gradualist” meditation practices by proponents of the “Southern School” of Chán during the 8th century, the concepts of guānxīn and kànxīn by no means disappeared from the discourse on meditation but continued to play an important role at least until the 10th century and beyond.
Abstract 853 1 Background 855 1.1 “Visualization sūtras” 855 2 Remarks on the Guān Fó sānmèi hăi jīng 觀佛三昧海經 857 3 Traditional meditation practices and the term guān 觀 859 4 Guān in early Chán 861 4.1 Guānxīn 觀心(“observe/contemplate the mind”) 861 4.2 Kànxīn 看心(“view the mind”) 863 4.3 Kànxīn in early Chán texts preserved in Dūnhuáng manuscripts 864 5 Kànxīn beyond the Northern School: A few notes 872 6 Final observations 874 Bibliography 877