Constructing the Past

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A prominent Buddhist reformer, Ju Zan, and twenty-one other progressive monks sent a letter to Mao Zedong appealing to the congenial nature between the two parties at the dawn of the Communist takeover in China. Ju Zan took the opportunity to declare Buddhism's new emphasis on "shifting to productivity" in his letter, suggesting the religion's compatibility with the Communist Party. In fact, much of the Communist doctrine surrounding practical labor synchronized perfectly with the Buddhist school of Chan's teachings and tendencies, and, together with other monks, Ju Zan urged Buddhism to stray from its growing transcendentalist nature and back to its secular involvement in the human world. Alongside official orders of the Communist Party, progressives within the Buddhist sangha welcomed the shift to productivity, harkening back to Chan teachings to encourage the new outlook of secular Buddhism.