Sudden vs Gradual Enlightenment Essay

894 WordsDec 2, 20124 Pages
Sudden vs. Gradual Enlightenment In the history of Buddhism, the issue of gradual and sudden enlightenment has been controversial for centuries. Debates arose on numerous occasions, but one of the more significant occurrences took place in the eighth century between the Northern and Southern schools of Ch'an Buddhism in China. The Southern School of Ch'an gave full support to sudden enlightenment, for they believed that genuine realization was a whole experience that could not occur gradually. The Northern branch, on the other hand, led by Shen-hsiu only recognized gradual enlightenment. Debate arose again later between the Indian and Chinese parties at the Council of Lhasa in Tibet where an Indian monk defended the traditional Indian gradualist position towards enlightenment. Because the Chinese couldn’t fully accept the earliest Buddhist view which saw Samsara as impure and Nirvana as pure, the Chinese integrated the Mahayana teachings into their traditional perspectives of life. Once the Chinese integrated the Mahayana teachings they became fully aware of the inconsistency between non-duality and Gradual Enlightenment. This awareness became more and more amplified by the fact that Taoism, which also held to a non-dual view of reality, was more sympathetic to the sudden enlightenment approach. For this reason, sudden enlightenment went on to dominate Chinese thought. Though sudden enlightenment isn’t seen as superior to gradual enlightenment, it does represent an opposing style of thought; where the Southern position can be characterized as sudden enlightenment followed by gradual cultivation and the Northern position can be characterized as gradual cultivation followed by sudden enlightenment. The Southern Schools of Ch'an Buddhism in China gave full support to sudden enlightenment. Although Hui-neng was the most prominent figure in the entire

More about Sudden vs Gradual Enlightenment Essay

Open Document