Wholesome Remembrance and the Critique of Memory—From Indian Buddhist Context to Chinese Chan Appropriation

  • Youru WangEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 9)


Although the major part of the chapter’s investigation is on the mode and acts of remembering in Chan Buddhism, Wang opens with a survey of the traditional Indian Buddhist context of remembering, its differentiation of wholesome and unwholesome acts of remembering, and its critique of unwholesome and discursive modes of memory, as Buddhism evolves from Theravada to Mahayana. This context is a necessary condition under which the interaction between Indian and Chinese Buddhist ideologies, or between the inherited tradition and its Chinese Chan appropriation, becomes possible. Wang then examines how Chan masters, from early to classical period, appropriate and develop the traditional distinction of wholesome and unwholesome remembrance and its affirmation of the former and critique of the latter in a Chinese context. As opposed to the widespread Chan hierarchy of forgetfulness over remembrance that has shaped much of our modern understanding, Wang presents a rediscovery of Chan teachings on remembrance, disclosing how remembrance is related to the internal tension between the positive attitude towards the traditional cultivation and the iconoclastic attitude towards it in various Chan ideologies. The approach of these examinations is a combination of textual/contextual inquiry, conceptual analysis and philosophical interpretation. The part of “summary and reflections” includes a review of the uniqueness of the Chan mode of remembering, an analysis of its ethical dimension by using, and comparing it with, Ricoeur’s ethics of memory, and an exploration of the paradoxical relationship between remembering and forgetting.


Chan Buddhism Wholesome remembrance Mindfulness Critique of memory Ricoeur 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rowan UniversityGlassboroUSA

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