Two poems

EARLY in the sixth century A.D., Bodhidharma carried Zen to China, where he became the First Patriarch. His successors handed it on to chosen disciples. There is a tradition, not found before the time of Shumitsu, that the Fifth Patriarch invited his hundreds of disciples to submit poems from which he could judge their attainment. The head monk Jinshu wrote a verse expressing the view of gradual progress and gradual realization. Against this Eno, an obscure servant in the monastery, composed a poem on sudden realization without stages. The Fifth Patriarch approved the first poem but gave the succession to Eno, who became the Sixth Patriarch. Jinshu’s school continued in the North for many years. Eno (637-713) moved to the South. The Northern school was not attacked by any of Eno’s disciples except Kataku Jinne, whose own line stressed sudden realization almost to the exclusion of the traditional zazen meditation sitting. Jinne,s school became purely philosophical, and with Shumitsu (779-641) became absorbed into the Kegon philosophical sect. The line of Jinne, called Kataku Zen, died out before the last remnants of the Northern school of Jinshu, which he had so bitterly attacked. The reader is already familiar with the concept …

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Categories Zen

The perfection of the fourfold wisdom

Wide is the heaven of boundless Samadhi, Radiant the full moon of the fourfold wisdom. THESE two lines express enlightenment and the perfection of the fourfold wisdom. There is the phrase “boundless Samadhi’ The word Samadhi is Sanskrit, and can be translated as “right thought” and sometimes as “evenness,” the meaning being a state where the mind is one and undisturbed, with no distracting thought. Boundless (muge) means without restraint, unobstructed by anything, absolute freedom. These lines read on from the previous lines ; bo Jt the form of no-form and the thought of no-thought. On the surface of a mirror, good and bad, right and wrong, for and against, absolutely all worlds are seen as the same. So it is said that all objects are reflected in the self and the self again is reflected in all objects, like two mirrors facing each other with nothing between. The heaven of freedom of boundless Samadhi extends below and above and on all sides, and in it the full moon of the fourfold wisdom is radiant in its splendour. The four wisdoms are these: the wisdom of the mirror, the wisdom of Sameness, the wisdom of spiritual vision, and the wisdom …

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Categories Zen

The peak of realization

What remains to be sought? Nirvana is clear before him, This very place the Lotus paradise, this very body the Buddha. THESE lines expressing the peak of realization conclude the Song of Meditation. After attaining the great freedom of limitless Samadhi and the wisdom of Buddhahood, there is nothing more to seek. Before Nirvana was revealed, while the view of illusory distinctions was not abandoned, there was the Buddha to seek and the passions to be repulsed. But after realization, there is no bodhi to be sought and no passions to be cut off. The three thousand universes become his own; he need not get out of Sansara; he need not pray for bodhi. Rinzai in a sermon says: “So long as the man intent on doing the practices still has any aims at all, he becomes bound again by those aims, and in the end cannot attain what is in fact easily attainable. In my own view, there is nothing at all to be sought. Once seated above the Buddhahood of the bliss-body and the body of manifestation, the completion of the Bodhisattva’s ten stages is only an imposture, and attainment of the rank of enlight- enment-of-sameness or enlightenment-of-holiness …

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Categories Zen

Jump beyond realization

Taking as form the form of no-form,  Going or returning, he is ever at home. Taking as thought the thought of no-thought, Singing and dancing, all is the voice of truth. LIKE THE previous lines, these describe the state of realization. It is perhaps comparatively easy to reach the state where cause and effect are one; the realization of the universe as Sameness comes from that knowledge which is fundamental to man from the beginning. But the important thing is to go on from there, and through the other knowledge, which manifests after satori, we are to see the differences of form once more, and undertake the salvation of all. It is not simply a question of having satori and waking up from a dream. The aim is to wake up and then be active. This is a specially important point which is frequently misunderstood. If Zen is practised to get realization for one’s own release from the sufferings of birth and death and right and wrong, it is not the Zen of Mahayana. The aim must be to take a jump beyond realization, or in the Zen phrase, to take one step more from the top of the hundred-foot …

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Categories Zen

Direct expression of Zen enlightenment

The gate opens, and cause and effect are one; Straight runs the way—not two, not three. THESE two lines are a direct expression of Zen enlightenment, the peace that comes from realization that cause and effect are one. The ancients spoke of a universal net from which nothing escapes, and indeed there is nothing in the world so rigid as the law of cause and effect, or karma. If there is a cause, an effect is inevitable; where there is an effect, there must also be a cause. The proverb says that seeds which are not sown don’t sprout, and you don’t get eggplant from a melon vine. The Buddha teaches in the sutra: “If you wish to know the past, then look at the present which is the result of it. If you wish to know the future, then look at the present which is the cause of it.” In the Kegon Sutra it is said that in each and every thing karma is clear to see. When in this way distinguishing cause and effect, when speaking in the ordinary way about karma from the point of view of distinctions, Buddhism has the doctrine of the Six Causes, Four …

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Categories Zen

Turning the light so it shines back

How much more he who turns within And confirms directly his own nature, That his own nature is no-nature— Such has transcended vain words. THESE four phrases make clear the confirmatory experience of one’s own nature, which is the aim of Zen meditation. The phrase “turn within” means turning the light so that it shines back. If the fight of self-consciousness is turned and shone back onto the nature of one’s own mind, then can be perceived one’s absolute nature; the self-nature suddenly becomes something absolute—it is in fact nonature. Even the word “no-nature” is not really right. The distinction of nature and no-nature is at an end; discussion of self-nature and other-nature is extinguished. This is the stage of actual experience, truth transcending the stage of discussion and absolutely beyond vain words. All words have become mere prattling and nonsense talk. Hearing about the great truth of the meditation of the Mahayana, praising it and rejoicing in it—even that brings wide and great merit. How much more to turn within and confirm directly one’s own nature, namely to turn the light and shine it back into one’s very self, to experience what one’s own nature is! This is not …

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Categories Zen

Money and fame

Real virtue is to feel  from the heart at all right actions. And the sin is not just a question of not doing right actions oneself, but being envious of them in others and wanting to spoil them, ending up as a mere tool of the passions arising from narrow selfishness, a mere slave to name and profit. The illustrious Emperor Kiso of the T‘ang Dynasty in China once made a visit to the Kinzanji temple on the Yangtze River. At the temple the scenery is exceptionally fme, and the throne was set at the top of the temple tower, giving the best view of the river. The emperor was conducted to his seat. He saw on the great river countless boats, some going up and some going down, some to the right and some to the left, so that it might almost have been mistaken for the sea. He was overjoyed to see the prosperity of the country he ruled: trade and commerce thus flourishing—what we should call today a fully developed country. At his side was standing the abbot of the temple, Zen master Obaku, and the emperor remarked to him: “How many flying sails on the river,I …

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