Passions are the bodhi

In his Discourses at Eihei Temple, Zen master Dogen says: ‘When the clay is plentiful the Buddha is big.’ By clay he means the raw passions. The mental operations in the mind within us which seethe and rage unbridled—these are the clay. And the more abundant it is, the greater the Buddha into which it comes to be moulded. The stronger the force of attachment, the greater the Buddha which is made. ‘Do you ever get angry?’ ‘No, I’m never angry’—such people have nothing to them. When the time of anger comes, when the whole body is ablaze with it, then it is that the form of the Buddha must be seen. By coming to the taste of Emptiness in the midst of illusion of the five skandhas, we really grasp the meaning of what Emptiness is. In the Vimalakirti Sutra is the phrase: In the soil of the high …

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The true character of the human Self

The Buddha did not have the loneliness of being deserted; he knew the loneliness of having a million friends. It is said that he renounced his home when he was twenty-nine—in one tradition, nineteen. Before that he rejoiced in his beautiful queen and his lovely child. He excelled in learning and wisdom and was a master of all the sciences and arts. As the heir to the throne of the emperor, he was held in great honour. At no time were the circumstances ever lonely. He was one who had satisfaction in all the desires of human life. There was no outward isolation. Inwardly it was that he felt extreme loneliness. In spite of all the wealth and talents and accomplishments, when he considered that the self could rely on none of these things, he was overwhelmed by unspeakable loneliness, and this was the loneliness of the Buddha. So his …

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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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Awakening to the character of our individuality

He saw all the five aggregates to be Emptiness, and passed beyond suffering. This is illumined vision, seeing things as they really are. Satori is when the real character of everything is seen. When renunciation of self is complete, the absolute, the state free from all conditions, in which at present we are putting our faith, will actually be realized. The world of faith is to act entrusting all to Kannon. Religion is not logic and all that. To entrust all to Kannon means to have merged self in the state of Kannon. By the power of my self I can do nothing, not even check one tear or one impulse to anger, but when I have pierced to the truth at the bottom of that self, the holy form of the Bodhisattva Kannon appears, which rescues the I into the absolute unconditioned. Surely this is the true world of …

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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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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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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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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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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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Zen has a totally unrestricted and universal outlook

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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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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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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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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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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The Original Face

“THE ORIGINAL FACE” is a sermon delivered to the Empress Hanazono by Zen master Myocho, who is best known under the name bestowed upon him by the emperor: Daito Koku- shi. Kokushi means literally ” teacher of the nation ”. Daito (1281-1337) was one of the great lights of the Rinzai sect in Japan. He hid himself for some time, disguised as a beggar, to evade fame. The picture by Hakuin  shows him in this role. ALL ZEN students should devote themselves at the beginning to zazen (sitting in meditation). Sitting in either the fully locked position or the half-locked position, with the eyes half-shut, see the original face which was before father or mother was born. This means to see the state before the parents were born, before heaven and earth were parted, before you received human form. What is called the original face will appear. That original face …

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WHAT WAS it that Buddha wished to teach?

Was it sagacity? Was it brilliant academic understanding? Was his aim to encourage the reading of the sutras, or asceticism or austerities? In reality it was none of these. He simply wished to show all living beings how to set in right order the body and mind. The method of doing this is given in the classic on meditation called Zazen-gi: “Think the unthinkable. How to think the unthinkable? Be without thoughts—this is the secret of meditation.” Being without thoughts is the object of Zen meditation; the control of body and mind is only a method of reaching it. When body and mind are controlled, from the ensuing absence of thoughts are born spontaneously brilliant understanding, perfect Buddha- wisdom, reading of the sutras and devotion, asceticism, and austerities. There are some who have too hastily assumed that holy reading, devotion, or austerities have a value in themselves, but this is …

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The Seller of Pears

An Abbot of the Buddha-Heart sect was preaching in the open air to a large crowd. The Abbot spoke of making life harmonious by mutual aid and concession, but added that the aim of life is to realize the Buddha-Heart within man, without which life has no real meaning. A seller of pears, pushing his cart by its two long wooden handles, drew near and interrupted: `What will it bring us? These are only words!’ The Abbot explained that realization would bring an end of all sufferings and a new life beyond life-and-death, but the pearseller shouted: `Big talk! Big talk! But you have to show us something!’ The Abbot said that gains in the world of dreams were themselves illusory; they were no true gains but had to be paid for somehow. The pear-seller only shouted again and again: `Show us something! You have to show us something!’ Others …

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The case of the White Hare

AS Zen has a totally unrestricted and universal outlook, among the ` cases ‘, reputedly seventeen hundred in number, there are stories about kittens and puppies, about turtles and about water-buffaloes. The 56th Case of the Ju-Yo-Roku (of Wanshi) is the story called the White Hare of Mi-shi.    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, all are pressed into service to teach.    The great truth of Zen manifests itself, filling the earth and filling the heaven. There was nothing which the ancients could not pick up and say:  ”This is it “. They made their Zen riddles 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 ‘ there is …

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The Essentials for Entering the Way

Extract from The Spur, by Torei, chief disciple of the Japanese Zen Master Hakuin (1685-1768). IN WHAT is called in Zen the ascent from the state of the ordinary vulgar man to the state of Buddha, there are five requirements. First is the principle that they have the same nature. Second is the teaching that they are dyed different colours. Third is furious effort. Fourth is the principle of training. Fifth is the principle of returning to the origin. These five are taught as the main elements of the path. 1. The principle of Same-nature The true nature with which the people are endowed, and the fundamental nature of the Buddhas of the three worlds, are not two. They are equal in their virtue and majesty; the same light and glory are there. The wisdom and wonderful powers are the same. It is like the radiance of the sun illumining …

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Categories Zen

Life in a Zen Training Temple

There are many thousands of Zen temples in Japan, where there is a priest who ministers to his parish, consisting of the local families which are registered as belonging to the Zen sect. It is families which are registered, not individuals, and this illustrates that in many cases his services are connected with social occasions. Some Buddhists say ruefully that Japanese only see the family Buddhist priest on the occasion of a funeral. Though there are so many local temples, there are only a score or so of training temples; these are places where would-be priests (and some mature priests also) go to take some training towards Zen realization. A young aspirant might stay in a training temple three to five years-he would not expect to have attained the final realization which is the end of the training, but he would have had some metal put into him, as the …

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Categories Zen

A Visit to a Zen Temple

HALF an hour from Tokyo, in the suburb of Tsurumi, is a wooded hill on which stands the Zen monastery of Sojiji.    It is the headquarters of the Soto branch of the Zen sect of Buddhism, and has numbered some famous Zen masters among its Abbots.    The Soto branch is some what larger than the other branch, the Rinzai.    The masters of Soto and Rinzai agree on fundamental principles, and both of them are lineal descendants of the Zen brought to China by Bodhidharma in the 7th century.    Both of them trace their spiritual pedigree back to Hui-neng, the famous Sixth Patriarch, and from him through Bodhidharma to Buddha himself.    The basis of the Zen instruction is the transmission ” from heart to heart ” of the spiritual realization of Reality. The basic tenet is: ” To know one’s real nature is to be Buddha.” The main difference between the …

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Categories Zen


IN HER last work, Interior Castle, St. Teresa remarks that instability of spiritual states is often a cause of bewilderment to spiritual aspirants. They felt sure that what they experienced at times of devotion in favourable circumstances would be with them for ever; when they found later that somehow it had gone, they were liable to lose confidence and give up. A Zen master, discussing the same point, compares the spiritual path to a journey in a rowing boat along a coast where there is a strong tide. Half the time it helps, and half the time the tide is against. Beginners usually enter on the practice when things are favourable, and they make rapid progress up to a point, but when they find the “tide” has changed, many of them become discouraged because they find they can hardly advance any further, and they stop trying. So the contrary tide …

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THE Zen sect of Buddhism developed in China and still flourishes in Japan. It is a path of knowledge (prajna) rather than devotion, and the goal is realization (Satori in Japanese). Before Satori can be attained, the deep-seated convictions of the absolute reality of the world ordinarily experienced, and consequent doubts as to practicability of realization, have to be dissolved. During training, they come to the surface in spiritual crises of great intensity. In the 13th century in China, certain schools of Zen developed a system of confronting the disciple with the core of a spiritual crisis experienced by a master of the past. It is presented as a sort of riddle. All elements of the personality have to be brought into play and focused on it; when the concentration finally attains Samadhi, the meditator and the riddle are no longer two. The Samadhi must be repeated till it becomes …


Categories Zen
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