Asian Philosophy 3 (2):113 – 124 (1993)
Abstract This essay attempts to articulate an understanding of the goal of ?freedom? in classical Ch'an Buddhism by setting concerns for ?liberation? in relation to the kinds of authority and regulated structure characteristic of Sung dynasty Ch'an monasteries. It begins with the thesis that early Western interpreters of Zen have tended to emphasise the dimensions of Zen freedom that accord with modem Western versions of freedom presupposing tension between freedom and authority as well as between individual autonomy and the demands of a communal setting. These dichotomies, assumed by modem Western interpreters, appear to have been absent from this medieval Chinese context, thus suggesting that their concepts of freedom and liberation must have differed significantly from our own. The essay examines classical Ch'an rhetoric and practices in an effort to reconceive what ?freedom? might have meant in this context and concludes with a proposal for this reconception
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