A Zen Luminaries conversation hosted by Point Reyes Books and Pacific Zen Institute

Jon Joseph Roshi is joined by author, poet, and translator David Hinton for a conversation about his recent book of translations, The Way of Ch’an: Essential Texts of the Original Tradition.

About David Hinton’s The Way of Ch’an

This sweeping collection of new translations paints a brilliant picture of the development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, China’s most radical philosophical and meditative tradition.

In this landmark anthology of some two dozen translations, celebrated translator David Hinton shows how Chan—too long considered a perplexing school of Chinese Buddhism—was in truth a Buddhist-inflected form of Daoism, China’s native system of spiritual philosophy. The texts in The Way of Ch’an build from seminal Daoism through the “Dark-Enigma Learning” literature and on to the most important pieces from all stages of the classical Chan tradition.

Through this steadily deepening and transformative reading experience, readers will see the profound and intricate connections between native Chinese philosophy, Daoism, and Chan. Contemporary Zen students and practitioners will never see their tradition in the same way again.

A national treasure . . . Hinton cracks open the cosmos and takes you into the depths of the mind.

—Lion’s Roar

(summary from Point Reyes Books event page)

Notes from David Hinton’s The Way of Ch’an: Chinese Buddhism expressed in Daoist terms

The ideogram for “Buddha” 佛 is made of the two elements: “person”人 + “loom” 弗. 

This loom was a central concept in early Chinese philosophy, where it was a mythological description for an origin-place that weaves out the fabric of reality, a ‘loom-of-origins.’ Chuang Tzu, the seminal Taoist writer, describes it like this: ‘The ten thousand things all emerge from a loom-of-origins, and they all vanish back into it.’

The Cosmos is female in nature:

Understood with empirical clarity, [the source of Ch’an] is instead simply the Cosmos itself recognized as a single generative tissue that is female in nature and is constantly reconfiguring itself: the ten thousand things in perpetual transformation.

Ch’an reintegration is the deepest form of love:

Ch’an’s central project is the reintegration of consciousness with that source-tissue, a reintegration that represents a return to our deepest roots in the Paleolithic with its reverence for the generative female nature of reality. This reintegration is also our deepest form of love, a kindred love at primordial levels for the loom’s ten thousand things in their vast transformations.

About David Hinton

David Hinton has published numerous books of poetry and essays, and many translations of ancient Chinese poetry and philosophy—all informed by an abiding interest in deep ecological thinking.

This widely acclaimed work has earned Hinton a Guggenheim Fellowship, numerous fellowships from NEA and NEH, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award (Academy of American Poets) and the PEN American Translation Award. Most recently, Hinton received a lifetime achievement award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.