Bridging the Gap: Zongmi's Strategies for Reconciling Textual Study and Meditation Practice

Professor Peter N. Gregory (Smith College and Stanford University)

Friday, May 15, 2015
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
11377 Bunche Hall

There is a long-standing and deep-rooted tension between what could be characterized as meditative practice and textual study that runs through the Buddhist tradition. It emerges with the early communities, is manifested in different forms throughout the history of the tradition, and is very much alive today. This lecture will examine some of the ways in which this tension plays out in Zongmi’s most ambitious, original, and systematically articulated work, The General Preface to the Collected Writings on the Source of Chan (禪源諸詮集都序), written in 833. This work is most famous for its multifaceted attempt to reconcile what Zongmi describes as two camps pitted against one another: textual scholars and Chan practitioners. In this lecture I will look at two unexplored dimensions of Zongmi’s project: (1) his account of his own “enlightenment experience” that allows him to claim to speak authoritatively on the issue and (2) his account of how the transmission of the canonical teachings and the mind divide into separate traditions in Indian Buddhism.




Peter N. Gregory recently retired from Smith College, where he served as the Conway Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies. He is currently the Shinnyo-en Visiting Professor at Stanford University. His research has focused on medieval Chinese Buddhism, on which he has written or edited seven books, including Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism (1991). He is currently completing an annotated translation and study of Zongmi’s General Preface to the Collected Writings on the Source of Chan, a ninth-century work on the historical and doctrinal origins of the Chan tradition.

Image for Calendar ButtonImage for Calendar Button