Zen in riddling form

This is an almost unknown but very important text recording Zen incidents from the first stages of Zen in Japan. It survived in tiny editions. It would appear that Dr D.T. Susuki did not know it directly though he refers vaguely to a collection of koans given to warriors by the first immigrant Zen teachers from China. It contains some important material in their lives as is now recognized in the official history of the founder of Kenchoji temple in 1253. Below are given a few extracts from this recently published history. EXTRACTS FROM THE OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY OF DAIKAKU (1988) Kenchoji, founded 1253, is one of the oldest purely Zen temples in Japan. In 1988 this large and wealthy temple produced a handsome, massively researched 700-page biography of its first Master, the Chinese monk known in Japan by his honorific title Daikaku. After the materials on China the first text for his activity in Japan is the Shonan-katto-roku, which I have translated as The Warrior Koans. The official Kenchoji historian, Priest Takagi Sokan, on pages 18–21 introduces it as follows: The second source for Daikaku is the 55th Koan, Daikaku’s One Word Sutra, in the Shonan-katto-roku collection of 100 warrior …

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Samurai Zen

The Warrior Koans unites 100 of the rare riddles representing the core spiritual discipline of Japan’s ancient samurai tradition. Dating from the thirteenth-century records of Japan’s Kamakura temples, and traditionally guarded with a reverent secrecy, they reflect the earliest manifestation of pure Zen in Japan as created by Zen Masters for their warrior pupils. Unlike the classical Chinese koan riddles, the Japanese koans used incidents from everyday life – a broken teacup, a water-jar, a cloth – to bring the warrior pupils of the samurai to the Zen realization. As key preparatory tests, they were direct attempts to waken the sleeping wisdom in each man, found in the region of conscious meditation that is without thought. Their aim was to enable a widening of consciousness beyond the illusions of the limited self, and a joyful inspiration in life – a state that has been compared to being free under a blue sky after imprisonment. Hokusai: The war-god Marishi (from India) using bow, spear, sword and fan with his various arms without confusion, while balancing on the back of his ‘vehicle’, a wild boar. This is to illustrate ki filling the whole body and each single function without being concentrated to …

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