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Heshang Moheyan (和尚摩訶衍; Wade-Giles:Ho-shang Mo-ho-yen; Héshang Móhēyǎn or Hvashang Moheyan in Tibetan sources) was a late 8th century Chan monk associated with the Northern School. He became famous for representing Chán in the socalled "council of Lhasa," a debate between adherents of the Indian teachings of "gradual enlightenment" and the Chinese teachings of "sudden enlightenment," which according to tradition was won by the "gradual teachings."
Hva-shang is a Tibetan approximation of the Chinese hoshang, meaning monk. Hoshang in turn comes from the Sanskrit title upadhyaya.[web 1]
Whilst the East Mountain Teachings (pejoratively known as the "Northern School" Chan) were in decline, having been attacked by Heze Shenhui (a student of Dajian Huineng) as a supposed "gradual enlightenment" teaching, Moheyan traveled to Dunhuang, which at the time belonged to the Tibetan Empire, in 781 or 787. For Moheyan, this was a new opportunity for the spread of (Northern) Chan.
Council of Lhasa
After teaching in the area of Dunhuang, Moheyan was invited by King Trisong Detsen of Tibet to settle at Samye Monastery, then the center of emerging Tibetan Buddhism.[web 2] Moheyan promulgated a variety of Chan and disseminated teachings from Samye where he attracted a considerable number of followers.
However, in 793 Trisong Detsen resolved that Moheyan did not hold the true Dharma. Following intense protests from Moheyan’s supporters, Trisong Detsen proposed to settle the matter by sponsoring a debate.[note 1] The most famous of these debates has become known as the "Council of Lhasa", although it may have taken place at Samye, a considerable distance from Lhasa. For the famed Council of Lhasa, an Indian monk named Kamalaśila was invited to represent Indian Buddhism, while Moheyan represented Northern School Chán and Chinese Buddhism.
While Moheyan took a subitist approach to enlightenment, his position was weakened when conceding that practices such as the perfection of morality, studying the sutras and teachings of the masters, and cultivating meritorious actions were appropriate. These types of actions were seen as part of the "gradualist" school, and Moheyan held that these were only necessary for those of "dim" facility and "dull" propensity. Those of "sharp" and "keen" facility and propensity do not need these practices, as they have "direct" access to the truth through meditation. This concession to the "gradualists", that not everyone can achieve the highest state of meditation, left Moheyan open to the charge that he had a dualistic approach to practice. To overcome these inconsistencies in his thesis, Moheyan claimed that when one gave up all conceptions, an automatic, all-at-once attainment of virtue resulted. He taught that there was an "internal" practice to gain insight and liberate one-self, and an "external" practice to liberate others (upaya, or skillful means). These were seen as two independent practices, a concession to human psychology and scriptural tradition.
Most Tibetan sources state that the debate was decided in Kamasila’s favour (though many Chinese sources claim Moheyan won) and Moheyan was required to leave the country and that all sudden-enlightenment texts were gathered and destroyed by royal decree. This was a pivotal event in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, which would afterward continue to follow the late Indian model with only minor influence from China.
Nevertheless, Chan texts were produced until the 10th century in Tibet, which casts doubt on these Tibetan sources.[web 2]
Mo-ho-yen's teaching in Tibet as the famed proponent of the all-at-once gate can be summarized as "gazing-at-mind" (k'an-hsin... = sems la bltas[note 3] and "no examining" (pu-kuan... = myi rtog pa) or "no-thought no-examining" (pu-ssu pu-kuan... = myi bsam myi rtog). "Gazing-at-mind" is an original Northern (or East Mountain Dharma Gate) teaching. As will become clear, Poa-t'ang and the Northern Ch'an dovetail in the Tibetan sources. Mo-ho-yen's teaching seems typical of late Northern Ch'an. It should be noted that Mo-ho-yen arrived on the central Tibetan scene somewhat late in comparison to the Ch'an transmissions from Szechwan.
The dichotomy of the gradual north and sudden south is a historical construction, as both Northern and Southern Schools contained "gradualist teachings"[note 4] and "sudden teachings"[note 5] and practices.
Liberation from vikalpa-citta
Gōmez gives a detailed account of the doctrinary differences that were at stake at the "council of Lhasa", based on Bu-ston's Chos-'yun, which in turn may have been based on Kamasilá's Third Bhāvanākrama. Bu-ston had chosen two points to summarize the conflict, which entails complex doxtrinal and historical issues.
Most of what is known of Moheyan’s teaching comes from fragments of writings in Chinese and Tibetan found in the Mogao caves at Dunhuang, Gansu, China. The manuscript given the appellation IOL Tib J 709 is a collection of nine Chan texts, commencing with the teachings of Moheyan.[web 2]
According to Bu-ston, the conflict centered around two theses set out by Moheyan:
- "As long as one carries out good or evil acts, one is not free from transmigration."
- "Whoever does not think of anything, whoever does not reflect, will be totally free from transmigration. Not thinking, not pondering, non-examination, non-apprehension of an object - this is the immediate access [to liberation]."
yet, a principal point of Moheyan's teaching is that according to Moheyan, the root cause of samsara is the creation of false distinctions, vikalpa-citta. As long as these false distinctions are being created, one is bound to samsara.
Good and evil acts
According to Bu-ston, Moheyan taught that carrying out good or evil acts binds one to transmigration. Moheyan's point is that the concept of good or false is itself still conceptual thinking, which obscures enlightenment. If all thought, good or bad, obscures enlightenment, then all actions must be based on the simplest principles of conduct. To achieve proper conduct, all conceptions, without exception should be seen as false:
Sam van Schaik notes that Moheyan "didn’t advocate the suppression of thoughts," but rather advised, in his own words:
[Y]ou should not suppress concepts. Whenever they arise, if you do not fabricate anything but instead let them go, then they will stay as they are and come to rest by themselves; thus you will not pursue them.[web 4]
By practicing dhyana, awareness should be reverted toward this awareness itself:
To turn the light [of the mind] towards the mind’s source, that is contemplating the mind [...] one does not reflect on or observe whether thoughts are in movement or not, whether they are pure or not, whether they are empty or not.
By turning the attention inward, one discovers that no "self-nature" can be found in the movements of the mind. Eventually, dhyana leads to the realisation that awareness is empty, and cannot be grasped by concepts:
When he enters a state of deep contemplation, he looks into his own mind. There being no-mind, he does not engage in thought. If thoughts of discrimination arise, he should become aware of them [...] Whatever thoughts arise, one does not examine [...] He does not examine any dharma whatsoever. If he becomes aware in this way of the arising (of thoughts, he perceives) the absence of self-existence [...] After sitting (in this manner) for a long time, the mind will become tame, and one will realize that his awareness is also discriminating mind [...] Awareness itself is without name or form [...] [T]he awareness and place where it occurs cannot be obtained by any search. There is no way of reflecting on the inconceivable. Not to cling even to this absence of thought is (the immediate access of) the Tathagatas.[note 6]
The teachings of Moheyan and other Chan masters were unified with the Kham Dzogchen lineages[note 7] through the Kunkhyen (Tibetan for "omniscient"), Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo. The Dzogchen ("Great Perfection") School of the Nyingmapa was often identified with the "sudden enlightenment"[note 8] of Moheyan, and was called to defend itself against this charge by avowed members of the Sarma lineages that held to the staunch view of "gradual enlightenmnent"[note 9]
He is usually depicted as a rotund and jovial figure and holding a mala, or prayer beads in his left hand and a sankha, conch shell in his right. He is often considered a benefactor of children and is usually depicted with at least one or more playing children around him.[web 1]
- Dialectic is an ancient aspect of the Indian and Chinese religions, as it is in Himalayan tradition.
- Chinese: 東山法門 tung-shan fa-men; given the appellation of "Northern School" Chan by Shenhui (670-762)
- IOL Tib J 468: (1v) //bsam gtan nyId du ‘jug pa’I tshe/ bdag gI sems la bltas na/ cI yang sems dpa’ myed de myI bsam mo/ rtog pa’I sems g.yos na tshor bar bya/ cI ltar tshor bar bya zhe na/ gang g.yos pa’I sems de nyId/ g.yos pa dang ma g.yos par yang myI brtag/ yod pa dang myed par yang (2r) myI brtag/ dge ba dang myI dge bar yang myI brtag/ nyong mongs pa dang rnam par byang bar yang myI brtag/ ste// chos thams cad cI lta bur yang myI brtag go// sems g.yos pa de lta bur tshor na rang bzhin myed pa yIn te/ /de nI chos lam spyod pa zhes bya’//[web 3]
- Chinese: tun-men
- Chinese: chien-men
- Cited in Paul Williams (1994), Mahayana Buddhism, p.195-196
- This may or may not be congruent with the Kahma (Tibetan: bka' ma) lineages
- Tibetan: cig car gyi ‘jug pa
- Tibetan: rim gyis ‘jug pa
- Barber, A. W. (1990), "The Unifying of Rdzogs Pa Chen Po and Ch'an", Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal. Vol.3 April 1990, retrieved November 30, 2007
- Broughton, Jeffrey (1983), "Early Ch'an Schools in Tibet", in Gimello, Robert M.; Gregory, Peter N., Studies in Ch'an and Hua-yen, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-0835-5
- Gōmez, Luis O (1983), "The Direct and the Gradual Approaches of Zen Master Mahayana: Fragments of the Teachings of Mo-ho-yen in Studies in Ch’an and Hua-yen", in Gimello, Robert M.; Gregory, Peter N., Studies in Ch'an and Hua-yen, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-0835-5
- Hanson-Barber, A.W. (1985), "'No-Thought' in Pao-T'ang Ch'an and Early Ati-Yoga", Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 8 (2): 61–73
- Powers, John (2004), History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-517426-7
- Ray, Gary L. (2005), The Northern Ch'an School and Sudden Versus Gradual Enlightenment Debates in China and Tibet
- Schaik, Sam van (2007), The Great Perfection and the Chinese Monk: rNyingmapa defences of Hwashang Mahāyāna in the Eighteenth Century, retrieved January 14, 2007
- Schrempf, Mona (2006), "Hwa shang at the Border: Transformations of History and Reconstructions of Identity in Modern A mdo", JIATS, no. 2 (August 2006): 1-32, retrieved August 18, 2008
- Yamaguchi, Zuihō (1997), "The Core Elements of Indian Buddhism Introduced into Tibet", in Hubbard, Jamie; Swanson, Paul L., Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-1949-1
- Chua, Ying (1998), Arhats. (accessed: January 14, 2008)]
- Sam van Schaik (2008), Tibetan Chan I: The Emperor's Chan
- Sam van Schaik (2008), ''Tibetan Chan II: the teachings of Heshang Moheyan (accessed: Saturday April 17, 2010)
- Sam van schaik (2008), Tibetan Chan III: more teachings of Heshang Moheyan
- Kaladarshan Arts
- Moheyan (undated). British Library IOL Tib J 709
- Moheyan (undated). British Library IOL Tib J 468
- Sam van Schaik (2008), Tibetan Chan II: the teachings of Heshang Moheyan
- Sam van Schaik (2008, Tibetan Chan III: more teachings of Heshang Moheyan
- Vladimir K., On Thoughts in Zazen