Origin Of Zen In India


To-day Zen as a living faith can be found in its pure form only among

the Japanese Buddhists. You cannot find it in the so-called Gospel

of Buddha anymore than you can find Unitarianism in the Pentateuch,

nor can you find it in China and India any more than you can find

life in fossils of bygone ages. It is beyond all doubt that it can

be traced back to Shakya Muni himself, nay, even to pre-Buddhistic

times, because
rahmanic teachers practised Dhyana, or

Meditation,[FN#15] from earliest times.

[FN#15] If a wise man hold his body with its three parts (chest,

neck, and head) erect, and turn his senses with the mind towards the

heart, he will then in the boat of Brahman cross all the torrents

which cause fear.

Compressing his breathings let him, who has subdued all motions,

breathe forth through the nose with the gentle breath. Let the wise

man without fail restrain his mind, that chariot yoked with vicious


Let him perform his exercises in a place level, pure, free from

pebbles, fire, and dust, delightful by its sounds, its water, and

bowers; not painful to the eye, and full of shelters and eaves.

When Yoga, is being performed, the forms which come first, producing

apparitions in Brahman, are those of misty smoke, sun, fire, wind,

fire-flies, lightnings, and a crystal moon.

When, as earth, water, light, heat, and ether arises, the fivefold

quality of Yoga takes place, then there is no longer illness, old

age, or pain for him who has obtained a body produced by the fire of


The first results of Yoga they call lightness, healthiness,

steadiness, a good complexion, an easy pronunciation, a sweet odour,

and slight excretions (Cvet. Upanisad, ii. 8-13).

When the five instruments of knowledge stand still together with the

mind, and when the intellect does not move, that is called the

highest state.

This, the firm holding back of the senses, is what is called Yoga.

He must be free from thoughtlessness then, for Yoga comes and goes

(Katha Upanisad, ii. 10, 11).

This is the rule for achieving it (viz., concentration of the mind

on the object of meditation): restraint of the breath, restraint of

the senses, meditation, fixed attention, investigation,

absorption-these are called the sixfold Yoga. When beholding by this

Yoga, be beholds the gold-coloured maker, the lord, the person,

Brahman, the cause; then the sage, leaving behind good and evil,

makes everything (breath, organs of sense, body, etc.) to be one in

the Highest Indestructible (in the pratyagatman or Brahman) (Maitr.

Upanisad, vi. 18).

And thus it has been elsewhere: There is the superior fixed

attention (dharana) for him-viz., if he presses the tip of the tongue

down the palate, and restrain the voice, mind, and breath, he sees

Brahman by discrimination (taraka). And when, after the cessation of

mind, he sees his own Self, smaller than small, and shining as the

Highest Self, then, having seen his Self as the Self, he becomes

Self-less, and because he is Self-less, he is without limit, without

cause, absorbed in thought. This is the highest mystery--viz., final

liberation (Maitr. Upanisad, vi. 20).

Amrtab. Upanisad, 18, describes three modes of sitting-namely, the

Lotus-seat (Padmasana), the sitting with legs bent underneath; the

mystic diagram seat (Svastika); and the auspicious-seat

(Bhadrasana);--while Yogacikha directs the choice of the

Lotus-posture, with attention concentrated on the tip of the nose,

hands and feet closely joined.

But Brahmanic Zen was carefully distinguished even by early

Buddhists[FN#16] as the heterodox Zen from that taught by the Buddha.

Our Zen originated in the Enlightenment of Shakya Muni, which took

place in his thirtieth year, when he was sitting absorbed in profound

meditation under the Bodhi Tree.

[FN#16] The anonymous author of Lankavatara-sutra distinguishes the

heterodox Zen from the Hinayana Zen, the Hinayana Zen from the

Mahayana Zen, and calls the last by the name of the Buddha's Holy

Zen. The sutra is believed by many Buddhists, not without reason, to

be the exposition of that Mahayana doctrine which Acvaghosa restated

in his Craddhotpada-castra. The sutra was translated, first, into

Chinese by Gunabbadra, in A.D. 443; secondly, by Bodhiruci in A.D.

513; and, thirdly, by Ciksanada in A.D. 700-704. The book is famous

for its prophecy about Nagdrajuna, which (according to Dr. Nanjo's

translation) is as follows:

After the Nirvana of the Tathagata,

There will be a man in the future,

Listen to me carefully, O Mahatma,

A man who will hold my law.

In the great country of South,

There will be a venerable Bhiksu

The Bodhisattva Nagarjuna by name,

Who will destroy the views of Astikas and Nastikas,

Who will preach unto men my Yana,

The highest Law of the Mahayana,

And will attain to the Pramudita-bhumi.

It is said that then he awoke to the perfect truth and declared: All

animated and inanimate beings are Enlightened at the same time.

According to the tradition[FN#17] of this sect Shakya Muni

transmitted his mysterious doctrine from mind to mind to his oldest

disciple Mahakacyapa at the assembly hold on the Mount of Holy

Vulture, and the latter was acknowledged as the first patriarch, who,

in turn, transmitted the doctrine to Ananda, the second patriarch,

and so till Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth[FN#18] patriarch. We have

little to say about the historical value of this tradition, but it is

worth while to note that the list of the names of these twenty-eight

patriarchs contains many eminent scholars of Mahayanism, or the later

developed school of Buddhism, such as Acvaghosa,[FN#19]

Nagarjuna,[FN#20] Kanadeva,[FN#21] and Vasubhandhu.[FN#22]

[FN#17] The incident is related as follows: When the Buddha was at

the assembly on the Mount of Holy Vulture, there came a Brahmaraja

who offered the Teacher a golden flower, and asked him to preach the

Dharma. The Buddha took the flower and held it aloft in his hand,

gazing at it in perfect silence. None in the assembly could

understand what he meant, except the venerable Mahakacyapa, who

smiled at the Teacher. Then the Buddha said: I have the Eye and

Treasury of Good Dharma, Nirvana, the Wonderful Spirit, which I now

hand over to Mahakacyapa. The book in which this incident is

described is entitled 'Sutra on the Great Brahman King's Questioning

Buddha to Dispel a Doubt,' but there exists no original text nor any

Chinese translation in the Tripitaka. It is highly probable that

some early Chinese Zen scholar of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1126)

fabricated the tradition, because Wang Ngan Shih (O-an-seki), a

powerful Minister under the Emperor Shan Tsung (Shin-so, A.D.

1068-1085), is said to have seen the book in the Imperial Library.

There is, however, no evidence, as far as we know, pointing to the

existence of the Sutra in China. In Japan there exists, in a form of

manuscript, two different translations of that book, kept in secret

veneration by some Zen masters, which have been proved to be

fictitious by the present writer after his close examination of the

contents. See the Appendix to his Zen-gaku-hi-han-ron.

[FN#18] The following is the list of the names of the twenty-eight


1. Mahakacyapa.

2. Ananda.

3. Canavasu.

4. Upagupta.

5. Dhrtaka.

6. Micchaka.

7. Vasumitra.

8. Buddhanandi.

9. Buddhamitra.

10. Parcva.

11. Punyayacas.

12. Acvaghosa.

13. Kapimala.

14. Nagarjuna.

15. Kanadeva.

16. Rahulata.

17. Samghanandi.

18. Samghayacas.

19. Kumarata.

20. Jayata.

21. Vasubandhu.

22. Manura.

23. Haklanayacas.

24. Simha.

25. Vacasuta.

26. Punyamitra.

27. Prajnyatara.

28. Bodhidharma.

The first twenty-three patriarchs are exactly the same as those given

in 'The Sutra on the Nidana of transmitting Dharmapitaka,' translated

in A.D. 472. King Teh Chwen Tang Iuh (Kei-toku-den-to-roku), a

famous Zen history of China, gives two elaborate narratives about the

transmission of Right Dharma from teacher to disciple through these

twenty-eight patriarchs, to be trusted without hesitation. It would

not be difficult for any scholar of sense to find these statements

were made from the same motive as that of the anonymous author who

gives a short life, in Dirghagama-sutra, of each of the six Buddhas,

the predecessors of Shakya Muni, if he carefully compare the list

given above with the lists of the patriarchs of the Sarvastivada

school given by San Yin (So-yu died A.D. 518) in his Chuh San Tsung

Ki (Shutsu-san zo-ki).

[FN#19] One of the founders of Mahayana Buddhism, who flourished in

the first century A.D. There exists a life of his translated into

Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409. The most important of his

works are: Mahayanacraddhotpada-castra, Mahalankara-sutra-castra,


[FN#20] The founder of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism,

who lived in the second century A.D. A life of his was translated

into Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409. Twenty-four books are

ascribed to him, of which Mahapraj├▒aparamita-castra, Madhyamika-castra,

Prajnyadipa-castra, Dvadacanikaya-castra, Astadacakaca-castra, are

well known.

[FN#21] Sometimes called Aryadeva, a successor of Nagarjuna. A life

of his was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 401-409.

The following are his important works: Cata-castra, 'Castra by the

Bodhisattva Deva on the refutation of four heretical Hinayana schools

mentioned in the Lankatvatara-sutra'; 'Castra by the Bodhisattva Deva

on the explanation of the Nirvana by twenty Hinayana teachers

mentioned in the Lankavatara-sutra.'

[FN#22] A younger brother of Asamga, a famous Mahayanist of the

fifth century A.D. There are thirty-six works ascribed to

Vasubandhu, of which Dacabhumika-castra, Aparimitayus-sutra-castra,

Mahapari-nirvana-sutra-castra, Mahayana-catadharmavidyadvara-castra,

Vidya-matrasiddhi-tridaca-castra, Bodhicittopadana-castra,

Buddha-gotra-castra, Vidyamatrasiddhivincatigatha-castra,

Madhyantavibhaga-castra, Abhidharma-koca-castra, Tarka-castra, etc.,

are well known.