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Exploring Chan: An Introduction to the Religious and Mystical Tradition of Chinese Buddhism
Chuan Zhi. Songlark, $16.99 trade paper (474p) ISBN 978-1-7333143-0-5
In this illuminating introduction to Chan Buddhism—a Chinese sect of Mahayana Buddhism and precursor to Zen—Zhi, a monk in the Linji lineage, offers a sprawling overview of its history and practice. The institutional history of Buddhism takes up the first half of the book, focusing primarily on historical developments in China, India, and Japan. In the second half, Zhi explains various aspects of practice, including instructions for Chan meditation, a typology of meditation practices, models for making sense of the meditation experience, and individual and institutional dangers that one may encounter (such as cults of personality). Zhi’s overarching concern is to look behind the teachings of Chan (as an authoritative tradition or as a state-sponsored religion) and to position it as “a mystical discipline” concentrated on self-knowledge rather than “a vehicle for transcending suffering.” Zhi presumes readers will have knowledge of Buddhist traditions, and his idiosyncratic use of Jungian psychology may lose newcomers. Zhi’s robust presentation of the basics of Chan Buddhism isn’t for everyone, but those with an avid interest in the faith would do well to pick this up. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 11/20/2020

Release date 11/01/2019