The Sermon of No Words

There is an ancient saying: ‘Better an inch of practice than a foot of preaching.’ It refers to the sermon preached by the body itself, through action and without speaking. The sermon of words and phrases is the finger pointing to the moon, the fist knocking at the door. The object is to see the moon not the finger, to get the door open and not the knocking itself; so far as these things do achieve their objects they are well. The object of the Buddha’s life of preaching was not to turn words and phrases. The Diamond Sutra compares his sermons to a raft, which is only an instrument for reaching the far shore. The sermon which is an instrument can be discarded after a time, but the real preaching—which is not discarded—is the preaching by the body itself. As to what that preaching may be, the truth of …

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Stillness in action

Stillness in the midst of action is the fundamental principle of Zazen (sitting in meditation). Some people think of Zazen as a sort of monopoly of the Zen sect, but the sect certainly has no monopoly of it. Zazen is the basis of the universe. Heaven and earth sit in meditation, every object sits in meditation. Knowing nothing of the Zen sect, all things are performing their meditation. What is called Zazen means to live at peace in the true basis of the universe, which is stillness. Movement is a secondary attribution: stillness is the real condition. Out of stillness comes all activity. For instance, the water of the ocean, when disturbance of wind ceases, at once goes back to the state of calm; the grass and trees, when the cause of agitation dies away, become as it were calm These things always return to rest in the stillness which …

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From a commentary on Rinzai-Roku

Translator’s Note: Omori Sogen is a well-known Zen Roshi, who was formerly a master of Kendo, Japanese fencing. He is also an expert calligrapher. This commentary is on the recorded sayings and doings of the Chinese Zen Master Rinzai, who taught in the middle of the ninth century A.D. Chinese words and names are rendered as the Japanese pronounce them. The old Zen master’s name is rendered in modem Chinese Lin-chi, but this is no nearer to how he himself would have pronounced it than the Japanese approximation Rinzai. In this translation I have omitted some Chinese places and names, and some references to Japanese works, which mean nothing to a modem Western reader. It is a peculiarity of Zen style, ancient and modern, that they deliberately juxtapose classical phrases with colloquialisms and even slang; the reader has to be prepared for this.) RINZAI TEXT The Governor and his officers …

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TPL BS talks

On Attitudes – Views – Mind 26-8-1997 Poem – On the Sea Shore of Endless World 26-8-1990 Robes of Honour 11-12-1996 Short Stories & Teachings 28-9-1996 Smacking Down the Waves 14-6-1989 Songs & Stories of the Ways Sparks from the Heart Flint 1-9-1982 Stars and Comets Study Class – Fragments of Stories 19-9-1989 The Breeze Hammering at the Door 25-8-1999 The Five Hindrances 15-8-1987 The Flower of the Heart 11-9-1986 The Mind Twitches 2-9-1997 The Obstacles Created by the Intellect in Understanding the Teachings – Mindfulness 26-8-1990 The Soft and the Hard 28-8-1980 The Spur 10-10-1990 The Stone Sermon 11-8-1985 The Ways 1974 Thus I Have Heard 28-10-1998 Time for Listening, Time for Learning Aug 1990 Tips and Icebergs 3-9-1983 Tokusal on Sword and Mind 15-3-1993 Tradition of the Ways 3-9-1976 Traditions of the Ways Zen and the Ways Zen Buddhism (4) A Hundred Hearings Not like One Seeing 22-1-1990 …

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Categories Zen

Zen master Hakuin on the Lotus Mantra

The Sutra called “The Lotus of the Wonderful Law “ (Sad Dharma Pundarika) is one of the fundamental scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. A commentary on it was written by Prince Shotoku, who used it to introduce Buddhism into Japan in the sixth century. Since his time, the chief Buddhist teachers of Japan have given this text an important place. Dengyo Taishi, founder of the Tendai Sect in Japan, made it the centre of his doctrine ; his great contemporary Kobo Daishi, of the Shingon or Mantra Sect, wrote his own commentary on the Lotus Sutra. There are introductions to the sutra by Honen, founder of the Pure Land sect, by the famous Zen master Dogen, and many others. Then in the thirteenth century, the saint Nichiren began to teach his followers the practice of repetition of the mantra of the Lotus, which runs: ” Namu Myoho Ren ge-kyo “, ” …

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The Buddha can write a masterpiece and since then I felt a strength holding me and peace within

 A Japanese master of calligraphy retired to the country and he took an interest in the schoolchildren in their education and there was one boy there who was being brought up by his grandmother because both his parents had died and the teacher of calligraphy saw this boy and saw his schoolwork and he told the grandmother, he said: ‘when the time comes he ought to go to college in the capital and sure enough the grandmother made great sacrifices for bringing up the boy and made it clear that she was making great sacrifices and that she did not have very many friends. People complain a lot if they don’t have many friends. When the time came, the teacher said: well now, he should go to the capital to study, and the president of one of the main universities is a friend of mine and I can write you …

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Categories Zen

What is your true face, your original face which you had before your parents were born

The original face is a well-known Zen riddle where the pupil is asked, when you were born, just when you were born, your face was covered with little wrinkles. When you were young your skin was smooth. When you get old your skin is covered with wrinkles again. Now what is your true face, your original face which you had before your parents were born? It’s quite easy to work out a philosophical answer to this. We can say, well, of course the true self has no attributes. These wrinkles or absence of wrinkles, they are all attributes. True self, they aren’t attributes, and so the original face is the true self. The teacher never accepts such things. If the pupil persists in them he hits him quite hard. Now he has to go and find the original face. He can think well, I know it, Hakuin quite easily said. …

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Categories Zen

Life is the teacher: if we do not waste time in complaining, but try to learn from it

In the 1950’s it was difficult for Japanese to get the foreign currency to travel. Japanese travellers sometimes helped each other out, and sometimes they were helped by acquaintances in the foreign countries. I did a little service to the head of a big Tokyo hospital, who was a Judo man like myself. He himself on another occasion had done a similar service to the travelling Primate of the Soto Zen sect, the largest of the Japanese Zen sects, with well over 10,000 temples affiliated to it at that time. (There are now more.) The Tokyo doctor wanted a chance to re-pay my own little service, and similarly the Primate had told the doctor to ask freely if there was anything the Zen priest could do for him. When I was in Tokyo a bit later, I looked up the doctor who took me out to lunch. In the course …

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Taoist thought gives warnings against trying to teach the unteachable

There are certain rules for the transmission of the Holy Truth. One set of traditions is concerned with the passing on from teacher to pupil in a face-to-face relation, and another set is concerned with what might be called broadcasting it to groups. The face-to-face relationship was in India called Upanishad, which means literally “sitting near”. The implication is that the teachings were passed on to one person only, in privacy where no one else could hear. The passing on of the secrets often took place without any formality, and was not dependent on outward circumstances. This meant that there were no fixed centres where alone the instruction could be given. It could be given in ceremonial form but that was not essential. In times of persecution under some fanatical ruler such as the blood thirsty Aurangzeb of 17th century India, it was not possible for the ruler to find …

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See, Hear, Understand, and Sit On

The huge body of Chinese Buddhist scriptures, which include not only translations of many Indian texts which have disappeared in India but also many texts which originated in China, are sometimes put together in the form of an enormous revolving book-case, in the form of a great drum. There is a belief that modern man – beginning presumably with the modern men in China of the first century AD when Buddhism arrived there – cannot be expected to study them all. Or even half, or even a quarter, or even a fraction of them. But if he has the faith, and stands before that great drum of the scriptures, and simply turns it round a complete revolution – why then, he will get the same merit as if he had studied them. It is a bit like the Tibetan prayer-wheel, though that has only one scripture, or sentence from a …

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Categories Zen

I have felt a strength holding me, and peace within.

An old lady in a country village brought up her little grandson, both of whose parents had died. She had little money and had a hard time doing it; the village were made aware of the extent of her sacrifices, and she did not have many friends. Living near by was a retired master of calligraphy, a man far advanced on the Way. He took an interest in the education of the village children, and told the old lady that her grandson was bright and should go on to a university. When the time came he said, ‘If you and he are willing, I will give you an introduction to the head of a university in the capital whom I know well, where they have a hostel for country students.’ The grandmother told him, ‘Of course I shall be very lonely, but for the boy’s sake I agree.’ As the …

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Categories Zen

Primate of the Soto Zen Sect on controlling the Mind

Zen in China and Japan is divided into two main sects, Soto and Rinzai. Though they agree on fundamentals, the training differs a little, the Soto practising what may be called the original Zen, deriving from Buddha’s own meditation practice, whereas the Rinzai stress the importance of wrestling with certain riddles, technically called Koan. A famous one is the Sound of One Hand: ‘Two hands are clapped and there is a sound ; what is the sound of one hand ?’ When the riddle is solved—and it cannot be solved by the intellect—the disciple is enlightened, and not till then. The Soto practice is nearer to that of Vedanta ; the Buddha heart is already in man, and he has only to realise it. So also Shri Shankara teaches the doctrine of ‘ nitya-mukta’, ever enlightened ; the veiling and bondage of the Self are only apparent, not real. What …

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The inward lonliness

THE INWARD LONELINESS My prayer is for no great thing. I always pray just that, with the hundred-and-fifty-odd families to which I minister, I should live in peace in a state of no-I. But it does not turn out so. One family who were very hospitable to me—I say hospitable, but this is the country so it means a radish or a carrot from time to time—well, they were hospitable … Then the grandfather died and they asked me to perform the funeral rites. When the day came the rain was falling in torrents and the roads were flooded. A coolie came and told me he had been sent to take my things, including the ceremonial chair and the umbrella which are used in the rite. With kindly intention (and make a note of the kindliness of my intention) I said: ‘On a day like this they surely won’t have …

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The five skandhas have no fixed real nature

Delusive attachment to Self Consider for example a madman. He does not know he is mad: when he realizes it is madness, soon he recovers. These days there is an increase of the madness which affirms its own sanity. To be saying one is sane is already madness. He who says ‘I am mad’ is indeed the real man. I knew an abbot, extremely straightforward by nature, who, as it chanced from his karma, went out of his mind. He was so honest, it seemed that his very honesty drove him out of his mind. He was in a country temple in Mino, and the monks were anxious about him and came with him to Tokyo. I was at that time in charge of a school and they came to ask my help. I put him up in a little room in a small temple, and then took him to …

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Human life is always quivering with uncertainty

The true character of the Self What then is our life of endless circling? It may be the mind arising beautiful as heaven, it may be the mind springing up as a hungry ghost; but both equally uncertain, because we have still to circle in the worlds of good and evil. I am asked to speak before a congregation. I make my address just like a Jizo Bodhisattva, with the feeling that there is nothing in my hears. By the power of the knowledge of ultimate Emptiness, I speak in the Nirvana state, with nothing in the heart. And those who listen also are in the Nirvana state with noting in the heart. They are like Kannon Bodhisattvas. And yet—this Jizo of mine, and those Kannons of theirs, are surprisingly unreliable. One day, when roused by some association, this Jizo becomes furious and looks like a hell-mask, and those Kannons …

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The spirit of Mahayana Buddhism is to discover life’s real meaning

The real meaning of negation The Heart Sutra teaches us the method of training by which we can see Emptiness in each one of the steps which, whatever our attitude to life, we are being forced to make. At present we keep doing the same things over and over again in the endless round of mundane good and bad, built up on the ego illusion. We may happen to do good, we may happen to do evil. How could such a great man do something so strange, how could such a man do something so wrong! … This is all part of the round. Step by step retreading the same paths, impelled by the deep-rooted karma, such is our life. The spirit of Mahayana Buddhism is to discover life’s real meaning. Against our anger rises. To discover in the very midst of it the world of light is the meaning …

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The true world of Nirvana in the midst of life

The Life-Wheel The Bodhisattva Kannon, having practised the profound Prajna Paramita, penetrated to the true world of Nirvana in the midst of life, the life which cannot be evaded however we try. In Buddhism another word for life is the wheel of birth-and-death. A wheel once set going continues to turn, so it is a symbol of life. ‘Turning’ is an important idea in Buddhism, and there is no Sutra which does not refer to it. Our heart turns, impelled by some force, and that impelling force is very mighty. In a great flood, bridges, houses and everything are carried away, and the vaunted human strength becomes a tiny thing in the face of the power of nature. Admittedly in a certain sense man does conquer nature, but really the word ‘conquer’ is a complete misnomer. Man boasts that he conquers a mountain or something by his human strength, but …

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He saw all the five aggregates to be Emptiness

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE When the Bodhisattva Kannon was practising the profound Prajna Paramita wisdom, he saw all the five aggregates to be Emptiness, and passed beyond suffering. Now we begin the text. The Bodhisattva mentioned is generally known as Kannon, though sometimes as Kanjizai. In either case the first character of the name, Kan, is seeing, and it means to see things as they really are. To see things as they are gives freedom, and so the Bodhisattva is called Kanjizai, the one whose sight is freedom If asked what Buddhism is, I say: ‘Buddhism is seeing everything as it really is.’ Seeing the real form of everything is Buddhism We don’t see the real forms; we think we do, but in fact we don’t. When we consider the I, whether it is something lasting or not, outside Buddhism they always presume that the self must have a form …

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Introduction on the Heart Sutra

  The load of ignorance makes footsteps of evil When the Bodhisattva Kannon was practising the profound Prajna Paramita wisdom he saw all the five aggregates to be Emptiness, and passed beyond suffering. ‘O disciple Shariputra, form is not different from Emptiness, Emptiness is not different from form; form is Emptiness and Emptiness is form; and so also with sensation, thinking, impulse and consciousness. All these things, Shariputra, have the character of Emptiness, neither born nor dying, neither defiled nor pure, neither increased nor lessened. ‘So in Emptiness there is neither form nor sensation, thinking, impulse nor consciousness; no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body nor mind; no form, sound, smell, taste, touch nor object of mind; no element of eye, nor any of the other elements, including that of mind-consciousness; no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance, nor any of the rest, including age-and-death and extinction of age-and-death; no suffering, …

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Categories Zen

Zen is a Japanese approximation to the Sanskrit dhyana

Zen is a Japanese approximation to the Sanskrit dhyana, which has in Yoga the technical meaning of stilling and focussing the mind. When after long practice all associations have dropped away and the mind is identified with the subtle constituents of the object, the state is called Samadhi of a particular kind. In that Samadhi there finally comes a flash of intuitive knowledge or Prajna, which reveals the truth of the object of meditation. Prajna is knowledge not coming by the routes of sense-perception, inference or authority: it is immediate and invariably correct. Buddhism adopted Yoga methods, and dhyana discipline was the final step before realization. The Zen sect, founded in China by the Indian patriarch Bodhidharma, lays special emphasis on meditation practice, and claims a special tradition handed down ‘from heart to heart’ from the Buddha himself. The main tenets of Buddhism and of Zen be found in Abbot …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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.” …

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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 …

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Categories Zen

The merit of Hearing the Law

When in reverence this truth is heard even once, He who praises it and gladly embraces it has merit without end. THESE lines are still concerned with the virtue of the practice of zazen, but here, in particular, the merit of Hearing the Law. In the writings of Zen master Sho-ichi it is said: “This truth is the path to supreme liberation, and when once it has entered a man’s ear, he is a candidate for Bodhisattvahood.” The Mahayana is being spoken of, but the merit of Hearing the Law may be taken to apply to all the Law of the Buddha. In general, hearing the preaching of the Law is a most noble thing, and from ancient times it has been laid down that to acquire peace one must first hear the Law. There is a poem by one of exalted rank: We should pass through flames to hear …

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Repentance and the destruction of sins

By the merit of a single sitting He destroys innumerable accumulated sins. How should there be wrong paths for him? The Pure Land paradise is not far, THESE lines speak of the virtue of sitting-in-meditation, and especially in regard to repentance and the destruction of sins. The Sixth Patriarch, explaining the word zazen or sitting-in-meditation, says: “In the outer world of good and evil, when not a thought arises in the mind, that is called za (sitting); inwardly, to see one’s own nature and not be moved, that is called Zen (meditation) / ’ The ‘ ‘wrong paths’ ’ of the verse are those which lead ultimately to reincarnation as a dweller in hell, as a ghost, or as an animal. If the meditation practice is really done, then the merits are as great as declared in the Song. The important thing in practising Zen is not so much the …

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Zen meditation of the Mahayana

Giving and morality and the other perfections, Taking of the Name, repentance, discipline, And the many other right actions, All come back to the practice of meditation. IN THESE lines the right actions are reviewed, and it is taught that the Zen meditation of the Mahayana is the highest of them. It is the peak of the Mahayana, so great, so profound, that all merit comes back to it. The master of the Zuiganji temple at Matsushima, famous for its scenery, wrote a poem which became well-known: Beneath the skies there are mountains and streams; Each has one kind of beauty for its own. But those beauties all come back to the beauty of Matsushima— Beneath the skies there are no other mountains and streams. It is like this with the Mahayana Zen meditation. To say that all other right actions come back to it may seem like a vulgar …

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The direct pointing to the heart of man

The Zen meditation of the Mahayana Is beyond all our praise. These two lines are the central pivot of the Song of Meditation. Mahayana is a Sanskrit word meaning “great vehicle’ Hakuin here refers to meditation, which is the peak of the Mahayana, or Buddhism of the Great Vehicle. When it is experienced, the darkness of ignorance clears up of itself, the spiritual light of realization of truth appears, and endless blessings are manifested. There are four famous phrases attributed to Bodhidharma: Direct pointing to the human heart; Seeing the nature and becoming Buddha; Not standing on letters; A separate transmission outside the scriptures. The direct pointing to the heart of man leads to seeing the nature and becoming Buddha. It cannot be written in letters or taught in scriptures; transmission from heart to heart is the basis of Bodhidharma’s Zen. An important point to notice first is that though …

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The path of liberation, of ascension, must be sought

The cause of our circling through the six worlds Is that we are on the dark paths of ignorance. Dark path upon dark path treading, When shall we escape from birth-and-death? These lines urge the necessity of thinking of liberation. We must not be satisfied with the present condition, living and dying, rising and falling. The path of liberation, of ascension, must be sought. In the Buddhist cosmology there are ten worlds, and the six worlds referred to in the text are the middle and lower ones, namely the worlds of hell, of hungry ghosts, of animals, of demons, of men, and of heaven. The demon world is well known in our folk tales as a place of endless fighting. The four upper worlds are those of Shravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. The Buddha world is the peak of enlightenment, and our ideal is to reach that Buddha world. …

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Categories Zen

All living beings are from the very beginning Buddhas

Not knowing it is near, they seek it afar. What a pity! It is like one in the water who cries out for thirst; It is like the child of a rich house who has strayed away among the poor. These three lines explain further the great declaration that all living beings are from the very beginning Buddhas. The relation between Buddha and ordinary man is so close, so intimate, that it is not noticed, as the eyebrow, being so close to the eye, is not visible. The sage Confucius has remarked how pitiable are those who seek afar the Way which is near. The Christian Bible too has “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and similar phrases. The Amitayur Dhyana Sutra, describing paradise, says clearly it is no long journey. A man came to see Muso Kokushi, the Zen master who founded Tenryuji temple in …

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Hakuin’s Song of Meditation

  ZEN MASTER HAKUIN.This self-portrait, painted in 1768, shortly before Hakuin’s death at eighty-three, shows the master in ceremonial robes and carrying a hossu. ABBOT AMAKUKI delivered these lectures over the Kyoto Radio early in the 1930’s, and soon afterwards revised them for publication. There are certain peculiarities of style for which the reader should be prepared. To illustrate the Zen principle that sacred and everyday are not distinct, he sets the sonorous Chinese monosyllables of the sutras against light Japanese colloquialisms; compassion and irony, sublimity and familiarity, are deliberately juxtaposed. He has a special technique of repetition of a key phrase in different contexts; this is a hint for working on the koan. Another well-known feature of Zen style is to punctuate a narrative with short comments, sometimes no more than ejaculations, to point the incidents of the story. Hakuins Song of Meditation All beings are from the very …

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Categories Zen

Zen is the practice of the Buddha way

One objectof Zen is of course to see one’s nature and be enlightened, but that is not the final resting-place. Zen embraces Buddhism and it is the practice of the Buddha way. What is Buddhism then, and what is the Buddha way? Many people have an idea that Buddhism is just tales about heaven and hell, and how to lay out the body for a funeral, or maybe some little old man talking about resignation. So young people especially tend to turn away as from something that has not any value for them. They do not understand what real Buddhism is. It is the truth of the universe; it is grasping the absolute; it is the great enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha. That truth is universal–so fine it can be contained on the tip of a cormorant’s feather, so vast that it transcends space into infinity. Truth absolute is the life …

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The White Hare of Master Misshi

As Zen has a totally unrestricted and universal outlook, among the “cases” or koan, reputedly seventeen hundred in number, there are stories about kittens and dogs, about turtles, and about water buffaloes. The fifty-sixth case of the Chinese anthology of Abbot Wanshi, the Shoyoroku, is the story called “The White Hare of Master Misshi.” In such stories everything in the world–sun, moon, and stars, the voice of the valley stream and the colours of the mountain, the wind in the pines and the rain on the bamboos– is pressed into service to teach. The great truth of Zen manifests itself, filling the earth and filling the heaven. The ancients could pick up anything at all and say: “This is It.” They made their Zen koan out of anything that came to hand. The inmost spirit of Zen is that everything is treasure in our own home. Among the Zen cases, …

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Awakening people to themselves

Since the war the state of the Japanese people has changed. Under the new Constitution, the attitude to the family, which before was the centre of Japanese life, has been altered, and the Emperor, previously regarded as supremely sacred, has become a symbol. It is easy to see that politically this democratization, by transferring to the people the sovereignty hitherto vested in the Emperor, has made the responsibilities of the people much greater. In brief it means that rights and duties must be properly observed, and the individual’s position vis-à-vis his township or village, and also vis-à-vis the country, must be rightly understood and accepted. It is a mistake to think of democracy as a sort of present from America; it means an awakening of the people to themselves. In such an awakened community each exerts himself for the good of all. The Bodhisattva path, where the individual labours for …

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Categories Zen

The Buddha is everywhere

IN WESTERN philosophy and theology there are various theories about the existence of God, and attempts are made to prove His existence. Leaving aside the rightness or wrongness of the arguments and the whole question of whether there is a God-in-heaven, what is certain is that He has not been seen with any physical eyes. In Buddhism, when the eye of the heart is opened and the universe viewed, the Buddha is everywhere. To Shakyamuni at the moment of enlightenment, things animate and inanimate, all together became the Truth: grass, trees, and earth–all, all, became Buddhas. In all the phenomena of the world the Buddha spirit is active. The courses of the sun, the moon, and the other heavenly bodies, the cycle of the seasons, in the spring the willows and flowers and in the autumn the red maple leaves and the clear moon–every year it is so and will …

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Categories Zen

What is the aim of religion?

WHAT IS the aim of religion, and what is its raison d’être? People with a modern education clearly seem to be in doubt as to the answers. The trend of religion most obvious in society (particularly that of the so-called Revivalist sects) is chiefly towards healing, fortune-telling, and rituals. These are made out to be the very essence of religion. Such things are, it is true, phenomena associated with religion, but they are not its essence. Mere alleviation of sickness and misfortune, absurd dreams of wealth and success–if to realize these is true religion, then it is indeed opium. The real religious quest is never on the plane of fulfilling such empirical desires. It is to penetrate deeply into daily life, into the world before us, and to seek practical experience of the life of Reality. This we call the heart of religion. When we think over everyday life, we …

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Categories Zen

Posture is the first step in Zazen

FOR THE serious student, posture is the first step in zazen or sitting in meditation. It is a peculiar fact that for spiritual practice, first of all the posture of the body must be made just right, whereas in physical training we always have to make sure that it is approached in the proper “sporting” spirit, getting that right first. In zazen, then, we have to see that the body is in the posture laid down as correct. Zen master Dogen, in the Fukan Zazen-gi classic on meditation, gives full details. As to place, a thick mat is spread, the small round meditation cushion put on it, and the seat taken on that. If there is no meditation cushion, an ordinary cushion doubled over may be used. The rear half of the buttocks is placed on the cushion, and the seat made firm. There are two main postures, the fully …

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Categories Zen

A tounge tip taste of Zen

TAKASHINA Rosen  is kancho or primate of the Soto Zen sect in Japan. He is reverenced not only by the followers oj this sect; as president of the Japan Buddhist Association he is looked up to by the other sects as one of the great Buddhist figures of present-day Japan. Zetto Zemmi or A Tongue-tip Taste of Zen is a collection of his discourses on Zen, and can be taken as an authoritative exposition by a very eminent contemporary Zen master.TAKASHINA ROSEN. WHAT I AM going to say about Zen is not an adaptation of formal lectures, but intended as a talk to people who wish to have a correct knowledge of Zen and to understand it. The influence exerted on Japanese life by Zen doctrines and spirit is very great. The miso soup, takuan pickled radish, tofu beancurd, and other things which are the mainstay of our people’s daily …

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Categories Zen
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