Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp
by tendo zenji
For the 2020 Autumn Training period we are studying The Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp by Torei zenji. This is primarily be through dharma talks at sesshin and other opportunities but also through a number of planned open discussions. All of these talks and discussion will be held via Zoom due to the pandemic and thus can be recorded. Periodically these will be posted here along with the basic information on each talk and the material covered.
1) August 10th, 2020
Talk for the monthly Virtual Watermoon Dojo gathering
Read through the Forward by Myokkyo-ni of the London Zen Centre
and the Forward by Master Daibi
Began the Preface by Torei Enji reading the initial comments by Daibi
Discussed the translation, which is basically an amateur production with some questionable choices. This is especially seen in the choice to unformly render 心 (hsin/shin) as Heart. As David Hinton notes while there is no distinction in classical Chinese between Heart and Mind it should almost universally be translated as mind as it refers to the mind empty of all conceptual content, not specially the emotional content that just using heart implies.
“…in Ch’an 心 should almost always be translated as “mind” because the emphasis is on consciousness empty of all contents, rather than emotions.”David Hinton, China Root, p. 140
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 1
2) Sept 15th, 2020
Reading for the monthly Virtual Watermoon Dojo gathering
Continued Preface by Torei Enji & Master Daibi, p, 12-18
In the preface Torei somewhat obliquely describes the content of the ten sections of the book, which Daibi much more explicitly lays out at length. Topics that come back throughout I discussed as embodying realization, bringing our practice off the cushion. Discussed ‘Great faith, Great determination, Great Doubt’ as how this wasn’t an ideological stance but and actual description of the practice of working with Huatoa (Jp: Wato)
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 2
3) Sept 22nd, 2020
Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 1
Reintroduced the text and the plan for reading it this autumn. Reiterated the Heart/Mind translation issue and read a bio of Torei Enji from Zen Masters of Japan by Richard McDaniel (p. 254-6, 259-60)
Began Preface by Torei Enji & Master Daibi
Only made it through the first part where Daibi goes over the ten sections.
Note that Gasan Jito was a Dharma heir of Torei Enji though he began with Hakuin. Torei became abbott of Rutaku-ji – the Japanese monastery of the lineage I ordained in which has life-sized statues of Hakuin and Torei in their ancestor hall. Consider Torei’s dedication to his Great Vow even beyond death.
The preface briefly summarizes the ten sections of the book and noted its emphasis on embodying our realization. This is the fundamental orientation of Mahayana Buddhism.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 3
4) Sept 23rd, 2020
Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 2
Preface part 2 to p. 21Continued Preface by Torei Enji & Master Daibi Discussed zeal, Great faith, Great determination, Great doubt similarly to as before: that is as an actual practice technique. Torei goes through Koan study, advanced practice and maturity in the text, in the sections that we read about. Some of the fundamentals of Linji and Rinzai practice such as All at once awakening vs. Step by Step practice and how those are used together.
Advanced Practice – Nanto Koans and the final koans one does after completing the regular koan curriculum.
Different teaching lines appear to use it in different ways. Some employ it from the early stages of koan training, combining Kattōshū koans with those from better-known works like the Wumen guan [Gateless barrier], Biyan lu [Blue cliff record], and the Linji lu [Record of Linji]. Others use it at a more advanced stage, subsequent to work with the other koan collections. According to monastic friends who have worked extensively with the Kattōshū as an advanced-level text, the emphasis—even more than in the other collections is on eliminating the last attachments to dualistic thought. The koans are thus often approached in ways quite unexpected even to experienced Zen students. As one monastic friend commented, “If there’s anything you can say about the Kattōshū koans, it’s that your first response is certain to be wrong.”Entangling Vines by Thomas Yuho Kirchner
On Advanced practice and maturity, note his use of the Prison Barrier which I first read of in Sheng Yen. In Ch’an they saw three stages in practice: the initial barrier, the multiple barriers and finally the prison barrier where the last vestiges of self are let go of. Very few get past the prison barrier.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 4
5) Sept 24th, 2020
Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 3
Finished Preface (p.21-26) and Started Introduction (27-32) by Torei Enji & Master Daibi
Strength of breakthrough – noted how depth of awakening clears away more conditioning and gives us strength.
Long Maturation — Very few get past the prison barrier, even less engaging in the Long Maturation. This is ‘returning to the Village with helping hands. Traditionally this would be the 30 years after enlightenment. Daito Kokusho in the example is from our opening chant. There have been many masters who worked with people, became doctors, lived with the homeless, and so forth. This is where you hone and mature your practice in the real world. You practice responding to all circumstances until this is your natural way of being. Rarely done now anywhere.
Transmission – Benefiting all beings is our great vow. While we can help people in the relative, the ultimate way that we help all beings is through helping them reach liberation. This is why we vow to liberate all beings, even though as the Diamond Sutra states there are no beings to liberate and nothing to be liberated from. Transmission is this process in action. A teacher has done everything they possibly can to support a student in reaching this liberation and then certifies them to do the same. This is Turning the Wheel of Dharma.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 5
6) Sept 25th, 2020
Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 4
Concluded Introduction (pp.27-32) and began Ch. 1 by Torei Enji & Master Daibi
The call to hermitage and polishing our insights. Talked about austerities and renunciation that renunciation is an important practice that it can be taken too far as Torei did causing physical injury
Chapter 1 – Lineage
Discussed words and their potential for hindrance and help. That they never get at reality. That there is always at least two meanings in a masters words.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 6
7) Sept 26th, 2020
Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 5
Chapter 1 p. 36 to p.42. Torei ended partway into section 6 – Four Noble Truths, Chain of dependent origination
Talked about words and their dual nature. That they never can get at it, yet it is all we have.
“Words, words! They’re all we have to go on”Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Chapter one goes through the lineage, began history of the buddha and his teachings. These are the foundations of Buddhism and understanding the original teachings allows you to better understand the Mahayana which gives the proper orientation for Ch’a and Zen.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 7
7) Sept 76th, 2020
Zazenkai / Autumnal Equinox Virtual Sesshin Dharma Talk 6
Chapter 1 p. 42-46. through part 6, Chain of dependent origination and Prajna Paramita
Also read this note from the editors that talked about the practitioners of greater and less abilities. It noted this was the heart of the so called Northern and Southern school splits. This is a way of looking at that that I hadn’t considered. But it makes sense, for the practitioners of great ability the sudden teachings are efficacious, for those of lesser the gradual. Read from Hui Neng on people who learn “fast or slow” and how Linji tackled students of different abilities.
The Master told Chih-ch’eng, “I’ve heard that when your Zen master teaches people, he only gives instruction in morality, meditation, and wisdom. Tell me, what does your master teach people about morality, meditation, and wisdom?”Red Pine. The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-nen
Chih-ch’eng said, “Concerning morality, meditation, and wisdom, Master Shen-hsiu says not committing evil is morality, doing good is wisdom, and purifying one’s thoughts is meditation. This is what he means by ‘morality, meditation, and wisdom.’ This is his explanation. What is the Master’s view?”
Hui-neng replied, “This explanation is wonderful, but my view is different.”
Chih-ch’eng asked, “How is it different?”
Hui-neng replied, “Understanding can be fast or slow.”
Chih-ch’eng then asked the Master to explain his view of morality, meditation, and wisdom.
The Master said, “Listen to my explanation, and you’ll see how I view them. When the land of your mind is free of error, this is the morality of your own nature. When the land of your mind is free of confusion, this is the meditation of your own nature. When the land of your mind is free of ignorance, this is the wisdom of your own nature.”
The Master continued, “The morality, meditation, and wisdom of your master are intended for small-minded people. My morality, meditation, and wisdom are intended for people of bigger minds. Once people realize their own nature, they don’t differentiate between morality, meditation, and wisdom.”
Chih-ch’eng said, “Could the Master please explain why they aren’t differentiated?” The Master said, “Our nature is free of error, free of confusion, and free of ignorance. Prajna shines in every thought and is forever free of attributes. What is there to differentiate? Our nature is something we cultivate directly. It doesn’t have any intervening stages, so we don’t differentiate any.”
Chih-ch’eng bowed and did not leave Tsaohsi Mountain. He became a disciple and was never far from the Master’s side.
(Note: failed to record this talk)
1) The Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School
by Zen Master Torei Enji with Commentary by Master Daibi of Unman
Translated by Yoko Okuda
Tuttle Publishing (September 15, 1996)
Download: here Purchase: here
2) The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng
Hui Neng, translated by Red Pine
Counterpoint (November 28, 2008)
3) Zen Masters of Japan: The Second Step East
by Richard McDaniel
Publisher : Tuttle Publishing (November 1, 2016)
4) Entangling Vines: A Classic Collection of Zen Koans
by Thomas Yuho Kirchner
Wisdom Publications; Annotated Edition (June 11, 2019)
5) China Root: Taoism, Ch’an and Original Zen
Publisher : Shambhala (September 29, 2020)