Premonitions and Predictions of Future Events in the Chan Tradition of Chinese Buddhism

Mario Poceski

The project explores the numerous records of premonitions about impending events, such as death, and predictions of the near and distant future in the Chan 禅 (Zen) school of Chinese Buddhism. These are tied up with broader themes in the study of Chan history and literature, including prevalent conceptions of sanctity, notions about freedom, and anxieties regarding fate and destiny. The project's focus is on the classical Chan tradition that flourished in Tang 唐 (618–907) and (to a lesser degree) Song 宋 (960–1279) China, but I will also examine the depictions of analogous phenomena in other relevant sources, including the records of modern Chan masters such as Xu Yun 虛雲 (1840-1959). I will also contextualize and expand the analysis of this kind of tropes in the Chan tradition by adding comparative perspectives to my research. That will include comparison with similar developments in other parts of Chinese Buddhism, especially canonical texts such as the Lotus Scripture (Miao fa lianhua jing 妙法蓮華經) and the collections of hagiographies of prominent monks (Gao seng zhuan 高僧傳), which are filled with stories about monks having premonitions or foretelling upcoming events. Additionally, I will relate Buddhist conceptions and attitudes towards these peculiarities to those prevalent in other religious traditions, especially Daoism in China and Christianity in Europe.

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