Zen Buddhism and its relation to art- PDF book by Arthur Waley

Zen Buddhism and its relation to art 

Zen Buddhism and its relation to art


Introduction:

Books on the Far East often mention a sect of Buddhism called Zen. They say that it was a ' ' school of abstract meditation ' ' and that it exercised a profound influence upon art and literature; but they tell us very little about what Zen actually was, about its relation to ordinary Buddhism, its history, for the exact nature of its influence upon the arts. 

The reason for this is that very little of the native literature which deals with Zen has yet been translated, perhaps because it is written in early Chinese colloquial, a language the study of which has been almost wholly neglected by Europeans and also (to judge by some of their attempts to translate it) by the Japanese themselves. The present paper makes no attempt at profundity, but it is based on the study of original texts I hope, some information not hitherto accessible.

Before describing the origins of Zen itself I must give some ^general account of Buddhism. At the time when it reached China- there were two kinds of Buddhism, called the Lesser Vehicle and the Greater. The former. Primitive Buddhism possessed scriptures

 Which in part, at any rate, were genuine; that is to say, they recorded words actually used by Shakya- muni. The ordinary adherent of this religion did not hope to become a Buddha; Buddhas indeed were regarded as extremely rare.

 He only aspired to become an Arhat, that is "an ascetic ripe for annihilation," one who is about to escape from the wheel of reincarnation — whose present incarnation is an antechamber to Nirvana. To such aspirants the Buddha gives no assistance; he is what children in their games call "home," and his followers must pant after him as best they can.


Author: Arthur Waley 
Publication Date:1922   

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