drafty mountain hut

always at home, forever on the way

Category: ch’an

The Heze School: Guifeng Zongmi

by tendo zenji

Linage

Dajian Huineng (Sixth Patriarch)
Heze Shenhui
Cizhou Zhiru
Yizhou Nanyin
Suizhou Daoyuan
Guifeng Zongmi

Zongmi had no dharma heirs and the Heze lineage faded away soon afterwards. However the impact of his theory of Chan was monumental and the form of his critique became canonical.

Biography

GUIFENG ZONGMI (780–841) is remembered as the disciple of the Sichuan school Zen master Suizhou Daoyuan. However, Zen history also regards him to belong to the Heze Zen school of Heze Shenhui. He is widely respected as the leading Buddhist scholar of the late eighth and early ninth centuries. He possessed an intimate understanding of various Buddhist schools and doctrines, and made important contributions to the advancement of Buddhism in China. He was also the fifth ancestor of the Buddhist Huayan school, which based its teachings on the Huayan (“Flower Garland”) Sutra.

Andy Ferguson,. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 269).

Zongmi on Chan

Zongmi sought to ground the practice of the myriad Chan schools, in the canonical Buddhist teachings. He surveyed the schools, summarizing them as having both an ‘idea’ (theory) and a praxis. That is the root Buddhist notion that they are rooted in and the form of their practice. He offered a critique of these schools even as he showed how they were all rooted in core Buddhist thought. He was both a transmitted master of the Heze lineage as well as considered a patriarch in the Huayan lineage. He was a scholar and a Chan master a rare combination.

His analysis of practice, derived from the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra, was in terms of awakening and practice. Awakening can be All-At-Once or Step-by-step. Likewise the practice can be All-at-Once or Step-by-Step. As per the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra All-At-Once awakening followed by Step-by-step Practice was the preferred approach. In this approach one comes to awakening all at once and then via continuous practice refine, deepen and mature the practice. In his critique of the seven major Chan Schools of his day he considered where the stood on this approach. It should be noted that this is the form that all Chan and Zen practice came to take where insight is all-at-once but then there is a long period of continued practice. While Zongmi and his Heze lineage may not have lasted long beyond him, his core notions became the defacto standard.

In our examination of Zongmi we read through Jeffery Broughton’s biographical sketch and examined the ideas that drove him. We followed this up by reading what Broughton refers to as the Chan Note which was a brief description of seven Chan Houses that he appended to a commentary on the Total Awakening Sutra. In the Chan Note, Zongmi looks at each houses in terms of theory and practice and summarizes them with a single slogan. We followed up our investigation of the Chan Note by reading through what Broughton terms the Chan Letter. This is a constructed essay taken from correspondence between Zongmi and the Chinese Official and serious lay Buddhist Pei Xiu. In this correspondence Zongmi examines four Chan Houses again in terms of theory and practice. He goes into a lot more detail with potted lineage histories and supported quotes. He utilizes as a metaphor the ‘Wishing Jewel’ which is a pure, bright jewel that absorbs whatever color is shined on it. Each house is described as missing the purity of the jewel in some way except for Zongmi’s own Heze. This piece is the most didactic of Zongmi’s where he hews closer to the the founder of the Heze School, Shenhui, whose relentless attacks defined and undercut what he labeled as the Northern School. Here Zongmi dismisses out of hand the Northern and Oxhead Schools and undercuts the dominate Hongzhou school in order to dissuade Pei Xiu from his interest in that house. There is though much of value in these pieces as they provide descriptions of early Chan thought that died out and Zongmi is an astute, if partisan, critic.

We concluded our survey of Zongmi by considering Broughton’s analysis of his attacks on the Hongzhou school. Broughton sees more in it than partisanship and that his primary concerns are more about forms of practice. In Zongmi’s magnum opus, which Broughton has dubbed the Chan Prolegomenon, Zongmi is much more ecumenical granting the Hongzhou School status with the Heze and noting that these are from Buddhist teachings just with their own angle and emphasis. The Prolegomenon was not thoroughly examined but it contains a wealth of information on the Chan teachings and practice of the day and Zongmi roots them all in traditional Buddhist teachings. We concluded our survey of Zongmi’s writings by considering his influence in China, Korea and Japan. As noted above, this influence is significant and the essence of his notions persists in the Zen, Son and Chan teachings of today.

Bibliography

1)  Zongmi on Chan
Translation and commentary by Jeffery L. Broughton
Columbia University Press, 2009
ASIN: B0092WV78Q

2) Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

The Hongzhou School: Baizhang

by tendo zenji

Linage

Dajian Huineng (Sixth Patriarch)
Nanyue Huairang
Mazu Daoyi
Baizhang Huaihai

Baizhang had numerous dharma heirs including Hunangbo, teacher of Linchi from when the dominate Linchi school formed.

Baizhang in the Record of the Transmission of the Lamp

 

Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings(p. 85)

A FOREMOST DISCIPLE of Mazu, Baizhang Huaihai (720–814) was originally from the city of Changle in Fuzhou. He took his vows as a monk under the Vinaya master Fachao on Mt. Heng. Brilliant and learned as a young man, he traveled to study under the great teacher Mazu Daoyi. The Wudeng Huiyuan ranks him, along with Xitang Zhizang and Nanquan Puyuan, as one of the three most illustrious disciples of Mazu.

Baizhang represents how Bodhidharma’s Zen tradition put down roots and matured in China. From the perspective of spiritual practice, Baizhang’s teachings hewed to the tradition attributed to Bodhidharma of not relying on scripture but instead on “turning the light inward.” While this approach naturally led to a de-emphasis or outright rejection of religious symbolism and to iconoclastic tendencies, Baizhang kept Zen firmly grounded with his emphasis on ethical behavior and his “pure rules” for the monastery. This also reinforced the centrality of the home-leaving tradition. Here was a Zen teacher of clarity, who recognized that understanding the nature of the mind and observing the wheel of birth and death is not the final goal of Zen practice, but its source. He demonstrated that while the nature of consciousness is that it is not in the domain of the individual, the physical body is its vehicle—and he taught that overemphasis on “mind” while degrading the role of body leads to unethical behavior and nihilism. Here, Buddhism’s emphasis on the “middle way” takes complete form in a tradition too susceptible to philosophical idealism and metaphysics.


Practice in the Present.

 
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings(p. 86-7)

Baizhang’s “practice in the present” is how Zen follows Bodhidharma’s instruction about “observing” mind. It is the observation that the present is the only context for life and practice, yet not imbuing that observation with ideas of existence, nonexistence, etc. The “nature” of which Bodhidharma taught and Baizhang spoke is not a metaphysical substrata of the observable world, but an undefinable quality of consciousness that, as Shitou said, lies outside the perspectives of “temporary” or “everlasting.” To Baizhang, all such views fall short of what can be directly observed.

The idea of “overcoming spurious doctrines” again reveals the contrast between Zen and the Buddhism of Emperor Wu. It draws a clear line between Zen and the parts of Mahayana Buddhism that idealized the faith and expounded it in grand metaphysical terms. This grounding of Zen in the present and in ordinary life characterized Bodhidharma’s Zen tradition from its early times to the present.

House Wind

 
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings(p. 89)

Baizhang taught and resided as abbot and taught on Daxiong (“Great Hero”) Mountain, which was also known as Mt. Bai Zhang in what is now Fengxin County in Jiangxi Province. Besides being a Zen master of the first order, Baizhang established the monastic rules of Zen monasteries, partly on the model of the Fourth Ancestor, Dayi Daoxin. Prior to Baizhang’s times, many Zen monks lived in temples constructed by other branches of Buddhism. Influenced by Baizhang’s instructions, Zen temples evolved to be more self-supporting and independent

Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings(p. 91)

In the everyday work of the monastery, Baizhang always was foremost among the assembly at undertaking the tasks of the day. The monks in charge of the work were concerned about the master. They hid his tools and asked him to rest. Baizhang said, “I’m unworthy. How can I allow others to work in my behalf?” He looked everywhere for his tools but was unable to find them. He even forgot to eat [while looking for his tools], and thus the phrase “a day without working is a day without eating” has become known everywhere.

 

Bibliography

I
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

II
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 1: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary
Thomas Cleary
Shambhala (April 12, 2005)
ISBN-10: 1590302184

III
The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism in Eighth Through Tenth Century China
by Jinhua Jia
SUNY Press; Annotated edition edition (June 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0791468240

IV
Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism
by Mario Poceski
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 13, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0195319966

Golden Age of Ch’an Sources and References

by tendo zenji

Bibliography

I
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

II
Master Ma’s Ordinary Mind: The Sayings of Zen Master Mazu Daoyi
by Fumio Yamada (Author), Nick Bellando (Translator), Andy Ferguson (contributor)
Wisdom Publications (April 11, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1614292817

III
The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature
Mario Poceski
Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 13, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0190225750

IV
Sun-Face Buddha: The Teachings of Ma-Tsu and the Hung-Chou School of Ch’an
Mario Poceski,
Jain Pub Co (April 1, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0875730221

V
Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism
by Mario Poceski
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 13, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0195319966

VI
The Infinite Mirror: Commentaries on Two Ch’an Classics

Master Sheng Yen
Shambhala (October 10, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1590303989

VII
The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism
John R. McCrae
University of Hawaii Press (February 1, 1987)
ISBN-10: 0824810562

VIII
Zongmni on Chan
Jeffery Broughton
Columbia University Press (May 14, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0231143923

Web Resources

W.I
Sheng-yen
 Wikipedia page.

W.II
Inquiry into Matching Halves (Sandokai) Web page with text and references.

The Golden Age of Ch’an: Heze Shenhui

by tendo zenji

LINEAGE

Dajian Huineng (Sixth Patriarch)
Heze Shenhui

Heze Shenhui

Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 66):

HEZE SHENHUI (670–762) was an eminent disciple of the Sixth Ancestor. He strongly supported and promoted Huineng’s place in Chinese Zen history. Shenhui championed the Southern school of Zen, and vociferously attacked what became widely known as the Northern school, the school associated with Yuquan Shenxiu. Shenhui put forward two reasons for his attack on the Northern school. The first was, “The (ancestral) succession is spurious.” Attacking Shenxiu’s legitimacy as the Dharma heir of Hongren was an extension of Shenhui’s proposition that that honor belonged exclusively to Huineng. Obviously, the argument was self-serving as well, since Shenhui could thus make a claim to be the true Seventh Ancestor of the Bodhidharma line. The second reason for attacking Shenxiu was, “(His) Dharma gate is gradual.” By this, Shenhui meant that the various “gradual” spiritual practices employed by Shenxiu, as well as other disciples of Hongren, were fundamentally at odds with what Shenhui regarded as the genuine Zen of his teacher, Huineng.

Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teaching (p. 66-68):

Zen master Heze Shenhui of the Western Capital came from Xiangyang. His surname was Gao, and he became a novice monk at the age of fourteen. At their first meeting the Sixth Ancestor asked Shenhui, “You have come on an arduous journey from afar. Did you bring what is fundamental? If you have what is fundamental then you can see the host. Let’s see what you have to say.” Shenhui said, “I take no abode as the fundamental. What is seen is the host.” The Sixth Ancestor said, “This novice is talking nonsense!” He then took his staff and struck Shenhui. As he was being beaten, Shenhui thought, “[This master] is such a great and wise sage. It is difficult to meet such a person even after many kalpas of time. Having met him today how can I lament my life?” From this time forward Shenhui served as Huineng’s attendant. Once, the Sixth Ancestor addressed the congregation, saying, “I have something which has no head or tail. It is nameless and can’t be described. It has no back and no front. Do any of you know what it is?” Shenhui came forward and said, “It is the source of all things. It is the buddha nature of Shenhui.” The Sixth Ancestor said, “I said that it has no name and no description. How can you say it is the source of buddha nature?” Shenhui bowed and retreated. The Sixth Ancestor said, “In the future if this youngster heads a monastery, it will certainly bring forth fully realized disciples of our school.” ([Later,] Fayan said, “The record of that time was indeed excellent. Today, if we point to a greatly awakened school, it is the Heze school.”) Before long, Shenhui traveled to the Western Capital [Changan], where he received ordination.

Shenhui is a particularly problematic figure in Ch’an, who could be regarded as more a polemicist than a serious teacher.  In The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism John McCrae considers Shenhui’s attacks on the so-called Northern School (which was Shenhui’s designation for it) and finds most of his criticisms specious.

The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism (p,3):

“On critically important omission [in the Platform Sutra], however, indicates that the Platform Sutra, was not merely echoing history, but rewriting it. This is the complete absence of any reference to the role played by Shen-hui who carried the banner of Hui-neng during an extended, energetic campaign against Shen-hsiu’s [the founder of the so-called Northern School] disciples and the Northern School in general. The whole point of the narrative , in fact, is to validate Shen-hui’s claims about Hui-neng without reference to Shen-hui himself.  That is the Platform Sutra wished to adopt and build upon Shen-hui’s  teachings without identifying itself with his sometime acrimonious and self-serving campaign” 

Indeed if you look at the writings of Zongmi (780-841) who wrote several critical essays on the approaches the various Ch’an schools he both refers to Shen-hui as the “Seventh Patriarch” and completely dismisses the Northern School out of hand.

The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism (p. 5):

“Zongmi’s works contain a comprehensive systematization of the various interpretations of Ch’an, within which the teachings of the Northern School are regulated to the very lowest position. According to Zongmi, Shen-hsiu’s verse [in the Platform Sutra] and the supposed teachings of the Northern School fail to recognize the ultimate identity of enlightenment and the affiliations and illusions by which it is apparently obscured. As a result the long years, or liftimes of religious cultivation required to clean  away those illusions were all in vain.”

For more on Shenhui’s propaganda efforts and a more historically accurate view of the Northern School see McCrae’s The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism. For more on the Heze school and classical period Ch’an’s assessment of the various branches of Ch’an see Broughton’s Zongmni on Chan.

Bibliography

I
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

II
The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism
John R. McCrae
University of Hawaii Press (February 1, 1987)
ISBN-10: 0824810562

III
Zongmni on Chan
Jeffery Broughton
Columbia University Press (May 14, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0231143923

 

The Golden Age of Ch’an – Qingyuan Xingsi and Shitou Xiquan

by tendo zenji

Lineage

Dajian Huineng (Sixth Patriarch)
Qingyuan Xingsi
Shitou Xiquan

From Shitou the Caodong, Fayen and Yunmen schools descended (Yunmen also has connections to Mazu Daoyi).

Qingyuan Xingsi

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 56):

QINGYUAN XINGSI (660–740) was an eminent student of the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng. Three of the five traditionally recognized schools of Chinese Zen trace their origins through Qingyuan and his student Shitou Xiqian. Little is known with certainty about Xingsi’s life. He lived in relative obscurity at Quiet Abode Temple on Mt. Qingyuan, near the old city

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 57):

One day, Qingyuan asked his disciple Shitou, “Where have you come from?” Shitou said, “From Cao Xi.” Qingyuan then held up his whisk and said, “But does Cao Xi have this?” Shitou said, “Not just Cao Xi, but even India doesn’t have it.” Qingyuan said, “You haven’t been to India, have you?” Shitou said, “If I’d been there, then it would have it.” Qingyuan said, “No good! Try again.” Shitou said, “Master, you must say half. Don’t rely on your disciple for all of it.” Qingyuan said, “Me speaking to you isn’t what matters. What I fear is that there will be no one to carry on my Dharma.”

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 58):

After the master had passed Dharma transmission to Shitou, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth lunar month in [the year 740], he went into the hall and said goodbye to the congregation. Then, sitting in a cross-legged posture, he passed away. The emperor Xi Zong gave the master the posthumous name “Zen Master Vast Benefit.” His burial stupa was named “Return to Truth.”

Shitou Xiquan

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 79-80 ):

SHITOU XIQIAN (700–90) was a disciple of Qingyuan Xingsi. He is a key figure of early Zen development. Three of the five traditional schools of Chinese Zen traced their origins through Shitou and his heirs. Shitou’s Zen lineage is sometimes remembered as the “Hunan school.” Along with Mazu’s Hongzhou school (in an area corresponding to modern Jiangxi Province), these two comprise the root of all subsequent Zen schools and lineages down to the present day. Many facets of Shitou’s life are obscure or lost. Historical records made little or no mention of a formal “Hunan school” during the years following Shitou’s death. He is connected to other great masters of the era mainly through believable anecdotes and claimed succession. Shitou taught that “what meets the eye is the Way.”

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 80):

In the first year of the Tian Bao era [742–55] of the Tang dynasty, the master took up residence at South Temple on Heng Mountain. East of the temple there was a stone outcropping. The master built a thatched hut on top of this spot and was thereafter referred to as “Monk Shitou” (Shitou translates as stone or rock).\

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 80-81):

Shitou is recorded to have had a great revelation while reading the Zhao Lun.54 In that text he came upon a passage that said, “The one who realizes that the myriad things are one’s own self is no different from the sages.” Shitou thereafter dreamed that he, along with the Sixth Ancestor, was riding on the back of a great tortoise that was swimming in the sea. Waking up, he surmised that the tortoise symbolized wisdom and that the sea was the sea of existence. Shitou took the dream to mean that he, together with the Sixth Ancestor, sat upon wisdom’s back, swimming in the sea of existence. This realization inspired Shitou to write a verse entitled Realizing Unity (in Chinese, Cantongqi, Japanese, Sandokai), an ode that is widely known and chanted in Zen temples down to the present day.  The Wudeng Huiyuan offers examples of Shitou’s teachings., J

II. The Infinite Mirror: Commentaries on Two Ch’an Classics

During the course of this program we read extensively from Chan Master Shen Yang’s commentary on Inquiry into Matching Halves (II) (in Chinese, Cantongqi, Japanese, Sandokai).

About Sheng-yen from his Wikipedia page

Sheng Yen (聖嚴; Pinyin: Shèngyán, birth name Zhang Baokang, 張保康) (January 22, 1931 – February 3, 2009) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, a religious scholar, and one of the mainstream teachers of Chan Buddhism. He was a 57th generational dharma heir of Linji Yixuan in the Linji school(Japanese: Rinzai) and a third-generation dharma heir of Hsu Yun. In the Caodong (Japanese: Sōtō) lineage, Sheng Yen was a 52nd-generation Dharma heir of Dongshan Liangjie (807-869), and a direct Dharma heir of Dongchu (1908–1977).[1]

Sheng Yen was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan. During his time in Taiwan, Sheng Yen was well known as a progressive Buddhist teacher who sought to teach Buddhism in a modern and Western-influenced world. In Taiwan, he was one of four prominent modern Buddhist masters, along with Hsing Yun, Cheng Yen and Wei Chueh, popularly referred to as the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Taiwanese Buddhism. In 2000 he was one of the keynote speakers in the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held in the United Nations.

Bibliography

I
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

II
The Infinite Mirror: Commentaries on Two Ch’an Classics
Master Sheng Yen
Shambhala (October 10, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1590303989

Web Resources

III
Sheng-yen
 Wikipedia page.

IV
Inquiry into Matching Halves (Sandokai) Web page with text and references.

The Golden Age of Ch’an – Nanyue and Mazu Daoyi

by tendo zenji

Linage

Dajian Huineng (Sixth Patriarch)
Nanyue Huairang
Mazu Daoyi

From Mazu the Lin-chi, Kuei-Yang and Yunmen schools descended (Yunmen also has connections to Shi’tou Xiquan).

Nanyue

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (p. 56)

NANYUE HUAIRANG (677–744) was the senior student of the Sixth Ancestor, Dajian Huineng. He came from ancient Jinzhou. Two of the five traditional “houses” of Chinese Zen traced their origin to the Sixth Ancestor through Nanyue Huairang and his famous student, Mazu Daoyi. Nanyue left home at the age of fifteen to study under a Vinaya master named Hongjing.38 After his ordination he studied the Vinayapitaka, but he became dissatisfied, and then traveled to see a teacher named Hui An on Mt. Song.  Although Nanyue made some spiritual progress with Hui An, he soon continued on to Cao Xi in Shaozhou, where he met and studied under the great teacher and Sixth Ancestor of Zen, Dajian Huineng. Their first encounter is described in the Wudeng Huiyuan.

Huineng said to Nanyue, “Where did you come from?”
Nanyue said, “From Mt. Song.”
Huineng said, “What is it that thus comes?”
Nanyue couldn’t answer. After eight years, Nanyue suddenly attained enlightenment. He informed the Sixth Ancestor of this, saying, “I have an understanding.”
The Sixth Ancestor said, “What is it?”
Nanyue said, “To say it’s a thing misses the mark.”
The Sixth Ancestor said, “Then can it be made evident or not?”
Nanyue said, “I don’t say it can’t be made evident, but it can’t be defiled.”
The Sixth Ancestor said, “Just this that is undefiled is what is upheld and sustained by all buddhas. You are thus. I also am thus. “Prajnadhara has foretold that from beneath your feet will come a horse which will trample to death everyone in the world.40 Bear this in mind but don’t soon repeat it.” 

Nanyue then served the Sixth Ancestor for fifteen years.

Nanyue also said, “All dharmas are born of mind. Mind is unborn. Dharmas are nonabiding. When one reaches the mind-ground, one’s actions are unobstructed. Be careful when using this teaching with those not of superior understanding.” A great worthy once asked Nanyue, “If an image is reflected in a mirror, where does the light [of the image] go [when it’s no longer observed]?” Nanyue said, “It’s similar to remembering when Your Worthiness was a child. Where has your childlike appearance gone [now]?” (Later Fayan said, “What is the image that the worthy one cast in the mirror?”) The worthy one asked, “But afterward, why does the image not remain?” Nanyue said, “Although it is no longer reflected, it can’t be reproved even slightly.”

Six disciples entered Huairang’s room [to receive Dharma transmission]. He commended each of them, saying, “The six of you together will represent my body, each in accord with one part of it. One of you (the monk Chang Hao) inherits my eyebrows and their dignified appearance. One of you (Zhida) inherits my eyes and their stern glare. One of you (Danran) inherits my ears and their ability to hear true principle. One of you (Shenzhao) inherits my nose and its ability to perceive qi.41 One of you (Yanxuan) inherits my tongue and its ability for articulate speaking. One of you (Daoyi) inherits my mind and its knowledge of past and present.”

On the eleventh day of the eighth month in [the year 744] the master died on Mt. Heng. He received the posthumous name “Zen Master of Great Wisdom.” His stupa was named “Most Victorious Wheel.”

Mazu Daoyi

II. Sun-Face Buddha: The Teachings of Ma-Tsu and the Hung-Chou School of Ch’an (pp. 59-61):

This is a translation of the Chiang-His ma-tsu tao-i ch’an-shih ÿu-lu (Record of Ch’an Master Ma-tsu Tao-i of khans)

I. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (pp. 73-75):

MAZU DAOYI, “DAJI”(709–88) was a student of Nanyue Huairang. After Huineng, Mazu is the most famous of the ancient Chinese Zen masters. Two of the traditionally acknowledged major schools of Zen trace their lineage through this renowned Zen ancient. From his home in Sichuan Province, Mazu made his way to Zhongqing, where he initially studied under a second-generation teacher of Daman Hongren (the Fifth Ancestor). There he received ordination as a Buddhist monk. Later, he settled on Mt. Heng, where he met Nanyue Huairang. After ten years of study with Nanyue, he received Dharma transmission, then proceeded to travel as a yunshui the length and breadth of China, perfecting his understanding of the Buddha way. Eventually he settled at Zhongling (now Nanchang City), where students from every quarter came to study with him. Mazu’s Zen lineage is remembered as the Hongzhou Zen school. Located in what is now Jiangxi Province, it was the dominant Zen school of the later Tang dynasty (late ninth and early tenth centuries). Mazu was the first Zen teacher acknowledged to use the staff to jolt his students into awakening. The strident style of his Hongzhou school foreshadowed the uncompromising training methods of his famous Zen descendant, Linji Yixuan. Unlike some other Zen masters of his time, Mazu did not leave an extensive written record of his teachings. Instead, we know of him largely from imaginative legends that reflect the awesome sense of presence that he conveyed. Like the great Zen masters of all ages, Mazu emphasized the immediacy of Zen enlightenment. He emphasized the teaching that “mind is Buddha” and “This place is itself true thusness.” Mazu’s “sudden” approach moved the Chinese spiritual scales back toward “pointing directly at mind,” the essential teaching of Bodhidharma’s Zen.

The Wudeng Huiyuan provides the following account of Mazu’s life and teaching.

Zen master Mazu Daoyi of Jiangxi was from Shifang in Hanzhou [about forty kilometers north of the modern city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province]. His surname was Ma. He entered Luohan Temple in his home district. His appearance was most unusual. He strode like an ox and glared like a tiger. His extended tongue covered his nose. On the soles of his feet his veins formed two circles. As a youth he received tonsure under a monk named Tang in Zizhou. He was fully ordained under Vinaya master Yuan in Yu Province. During the Kai Yuan era [713–41] Mazu met Master Nanyue Huairang while practicing Zen meditation on Mt. Heng. Six others also studied with Nanyue but only Mazu received the secret mind seal. Nanyue Huairang and his student Mazu Daoyi can be compared with Qingyuan Xingsi and his student Shitou Xiqian. Though they came from the same source, they diverged into two branches. The brilliance of ancient Zen arose through these two masters. Liu Ke said, “In Jiangxi is Master Daji. In Hunan is Master Shitou. Anyone traversing the country seeking a teacher who doesn’t see these two will remain ignorant.” The record of Prajnadhara of India made a prediction about Bodhidharma, saying, “Although the great land of China is vast, there are no roads where my descendants won’t travel. The phoenix, with a single grain, nourishes the saints and monks in the ten directions.” The Sixth Ancestor [also citing an ancient prediction by Prajnadhara] said to Nanyue, “Hereafter, from the area to which you will go, a horse will come forth and trample everyone in the world to death.” Later, the Dharma of Nanyue’s spiritual heir was spread across the world. People of that time called him Master Ma. From Buddha Trace Mountain in Jianyang, Mazu moved to Linchuan. He then moved to Nankang at Gonggong Mountain. In the middle of the Dali era [766–79], Mazu lived at the Kaiyuan Temple in Zhongling. During that time the high official Lu Sigong heard of Mazu’s reputation, and personally came to receive instruction. Because of this, students from the four quarters gathered like clouds beneath Mazu’s seat.

Bibliography

I
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings
Andy Ferguson.
Wisdom Publications. Expanded edition (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780861716173

II
Sun-Face Buddha: The Teachings of Ma-Tsu and the Hung-Chou School of Ch’an
by Mario Pocesk
Jain Pub Co (April 1, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0875730221

III
Master Ma’s Ordinary Mind: The Sayings of Zen Master Mazu Daoyi
by Fumio Yamada (Author), Nick Bellando (Translator), Andy Ferguson (contributor)
Wisdom Publications (April 11, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1614292817

IV
The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature
Mario Poceski
Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 13, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0190225750

Golden Age of Ch’an

by tendo zenji

Introduction

Over the next few months during the Sunday Zazenkai at Tahoma Zen Monastery there will be readings and short talks from essential figures in the development of Ch’an.  This is a continuation of the early Ch’an readings and talks and will be in two parts. The first will examine how Ch’an developed from Hui-neng (the Sixth Patriarch) whose teachings still reflected the Indian Buddhist Madhyamaka philosophies into what we have come to think of as idiomatic Ch’an.

The second part will examine the Five Houses of Ch’an two of which, the Lin-chi and Caodong, survive today as Rinzai and Soto Zen.  This part will examine surviving teachings of all five of the schools and look at how they gradually winnowed down to just the Lin-chi and Caodong schools by the time Ch’an transmitted to Japan.

Below I will include excerpts from the Wikipedia pages on the Golden Age and on the Five Houses. These articles are a good introduction to these topics and, with the usual Wikipedia caveats, worth reading. The various texts and online resources that are used throughout the series will eventually be collected into a single resources page.

In the introductory talk we also read from The Infinite Mirror: Commentaries on Two Ch’an Classics by the contemporary Ch’an Master Sheng Yen. In his introduction to Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi he compares the more philosophically-oriented Caodong and action-oreiented Lin-chi schools and the pitfalls that lies in either extreme.

Part 1: The Golden Age of Ch’an

Hongzhou school
The Hongzhou school was a Chinese school of Chán of the Tang period, which started with Mazu Daoyi (709–788). It became the archetypal expression of ch’an during the Song Dynasty.

Shítóu Xīqiān (700-790) was an 8th-century Chinese Ch’án Buddhist teacher and author. All existing branches of Zen throughout the world are said to descend either from Shitou Xiqian or from his contemporary Mazu Daoyi.

Part 2: The Five Houses of Ch’an

During the Song the Five Houses of Ch’an, or five “schools”, were recognized. These were not originally regarded as “schools” or “sects”, but based on the various Chan-genealogies. Historically they have come to be understood as “schools”.

The Five Houses of Chan are:

  • Linji school (臨濟宗), named after master Linji Yixuan (died 866), whose lineage came to be traced to Mazu, establishing him as the archetypal iconoclastic Chan-master;

Early Ch’an Sources

by tendo zenji

For the last three months or so during the Sunday Zazenkai at Tahoma Zen Monastery we have been reading and examining various early Ch’an texts along with supportive material. These are the sources and references used in this series along with some commentary and notes.

Core Indian Buddhist Philosophies

Mahayana

Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. The advent of the Prajnaparamita teaching in the second century B.C. signaled the beginning of Mahayana Buddhism, with its emphasis on the attainment of enlightenment rather than nirvana and its greater inclusion of laity in the pursuit of such a goal. Maha is Sanskrit for “great,” and prajnaparamita can mean “perfection of wisdom” or “transcendent wisdom.” In either case, this refers to the wisdom by means of which we see what is real, the way things really are. The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra is the title of an encyclopedic collection of Perfection of Wisdom texts translated into Chinese by Hsuan-tsang in the middle of the seventh century.  from The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng by Red Pine.

Madhyamaka

Emptiness oriented, Nagarjuna the principle figure.
from Wikipedia: According to Madhyamaka all phenomena (dharmas) are empty (śūnya) of “nature,” a “substance” or “essence” (svabhāva) which gives them “solid and independent existence,”because they are dependently co-arisen. But this “emptiness” itself is also “empty”: it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality.

Yogācāra

The ‘Mind Only’ school, Asana one of the principal figures.
From Wikipedia: Yogācāra; literally “yoga practice”; “one whose practice is yoga”) is an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing phenomenology and ontology through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It was associated with Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism in about the 4th century CE, but also included non-Mahayana practitioners of the Dārṣṭāntika school.

Lankavatara Sutra

The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary
by Red Pine
Counterpoint Press 2012

The core Yogacara text used in China. The translation by Guṇabhadra had a “mystery cult” like group in China and in some early linages he is thought of as the first patriarch before Bodhidharma. It has numerous elements that were part of the core character of Ch’an:

Personal realization

“The teaching known and passed down by the sages of the past is that projections are nonexistent and that bodhisattvas should dwell alone in a quiet place and examine their own awareness. By relying on nothing else and avoiding views and projections, they steadily advance to the tathagata stage. This is what characterizes the personal realization of Buddha knowledge. ”  from section LVI, p. 163 pp. 3

One path

“Mahamati, what characterizes the one path? When I speak of the one path, I mean the one path of realization. And what does the one path to realization mean? Projections, such as projections of what grasps or what is grasped, do not arise in suchness. This is what the one path to realization means.”  from section LVI, p. 163 pp. 4

 Beyond Words and Letters

“Thus, Mahamati, you should focus your efforts on true meaning. The true meaning is subtle and silent. It is the cause of nirvana. Words are linked to projections, and projections are tied to birth and death. Mahamati, the true meaning is learned from the learned. Mahamati, those who are learned esteem meaning and not words. Those who esteem meaning don’t accept the scriptures and doctrines of other schools. They don’t accept them for themselves, nor do they cause others to accept them. Thus they are called ‘learned and virtuous’. Hence, those who seek meaning should approach those who are learned, those who esteem meaning. And they should distance themselves from those who do the opposite and who attach themselves to words.” from Section LXXVI, p. 221 pp. 1

Bodhidharma

The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen
Jeffrey L. Broughton
University of California Press; First edition (September 21, 1999)
ISBN-10: 0520219724

Two Entrances
Most likely written by T’an-Lin references the Madyhamaka favored sutra the Śrīmālā Sūtra which T’an-lin was expert on. “The key to the Two Entrances lies not in Bodhidharma but in the Śrīmālā and Armless Lin’s commentary on it. See page 68-74 for more on this as it’s an extensively developed point.

Letter 1 and 2
Most likely to Hui-k’o (the second patriarch). A longer version of the second letter is part of Hui-k’o’s entry in Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (by Tao Hsüan), the earliest source on these figures.

Record I
Record I is heavily cited in Record of the Mirror of the Thesis by Yen-Shou as Method for Quieting Mind by Bodhidharma.

“What of the teachings of Record I? They are overwhelmingly of the Śūyavāda, the school of sunyata or voidness. Two Śūyavāda texts weave their way through Record I, the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa, a sutra, and the Middle Treatise (Chuing-lun), which consists of Nāgārjuna’s Middle Verses (Madhyamaka-kārikā) and a commentary by the Indian Madhyamika Pińgala. Not only are these two texts quoted numerous times; their teachings informalities a good deal of Record I.” page 80-81

Record II
Record II truly constitutes the beginnings of the recorded-sayings genre of Ch’an literature. There is a direct line from this work to the vast literature of Ch’an recorded sayings, and neglect of Record II has led us to place the beginnings of the recorded-sayings genre much too late in the history of Ch’an literature–usually in the ninth century.

“Dharma Master Chih saw Dharma Master Yüan on the street of butchers and asked: “Do you see the butchers slaughtering the sheep?” Dharma Master Yüan said: “My eyes are not blind. How could I not see them? Dharma Master Chih said: “Master Yüan, you are saying you see it!” Master Yüan said: “You are seeing it on top of seeing it!” p. 39

While Record II fell out of general Ch’an usage is at least a model, if not a direct referent for the later A Treatise on the Ceasing of Notions (see below).

Record III
A collection of sayings as opposed to the dialogs of Record I and II. It contains quite a few sections devoted to Hui-k’o which Broughton describes thusly: “Given that the content of those sayings is in fact Madhyamaka in flavor, Record III might be called, at least in its first portion, a repository of the Madhyamaka legacy of Hui-k’o.

Hsin Hsin Ming

Attributed to Chien-chih Seng-ts’an (Third Patriarch) though scholarship has determined that to be unlikely. There are a number of translations of this text. The one I read was from the Dai Bai Zan Chobo Bo Zen Ji Sutra book which can be downloaded here: Chobo-Ji Sutra Book (pdf). However there are better translations including this one: Hsin-Hsin Ming: Verses on the Faith-Mind. That translation as well as D.T. Suzuki’s, the original Chinese and a literally translation plus historical information and commentary can be found on this essential site: Faith Mind Inscription.

A Treatise on the Ceasing of Notions

A good website on this early text can be found here: Jue Guan Lun. During the series we used two different translation.

The Ceasing of Notions: An Early Zen Text from the Dunhuang Caves with Selected Comments
by Martin Collcutt (Introduction), Myokyo-ni (Translator), Michelle Bromley (Translator)
Wisdom Publications (December 17, 2012)
ASIN: B00APDASHC

A Dialogue on the Contemplation-Extinguished,
translated by Gishin Tokiwa
The Institute for Zen Studies, 1973.

The first translation includes embedded commentary and is a bit more difficult to just read the text.  It can also be ready on the Jue Guan Lun. website along with some selected commentary and additional information.  The second translation was the text primarily used. It is more academic and is a bit stiff, but is more readable and contains the Chinese as well.

This text is a dialog between a teacher (Master Nyuri/Attainment, whose name means “Entrance into the Principle”) and his disciple Emmon/Gateway (“Gate of Affinities”) and follows more in the Madhyamaka tradition. Especially note the way that emptiness is discussed in this text. It is though a late enough Ch’an text that it has elements of Yogacara as well as Chinese Taoist thought in it as well.

Buddhist scholar, John McRae, attributes this text to the Ox-head School of early Chan.
Circa 750. More of McRae’s scholarship on early Ch’an can be found here: The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.

On Emptiness

 

Codependent arising / Dependent Origination

The Buddhist notion of emptiness is that there is nothing that exists independently of anything else. When you examine anything, thoughts, objects, emotions, you can always find conditions and causes that preceded it. If you eliminate all of those what remains? Nothing. There isn’t anything that exists intrinsically of its own accord. This is emptiness and this emptiness is the only thing that has no causes or conditions. This emptiness is ultimate reality.

Nagarjuna from Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way Ch. 24

24.18: Whatever is dependently originated
is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
is itself the Middle Way.

24.19 There does not exist anything
that is not dependently originated.
Therefore, there does not exist
anything that is not empty.

Nothing exists that is not dependent on others. “Emptiness means absence of intrinsic or independent existence.”

Barry Kerzin, Nagarjuna’s Wisdom
excerpted in The Wisdom Journal, p;. 5 Wisdom Publications Spring 2019

While sitting in a cross-legged position on a comfortable seate, contemplate for a while as follows: There are two kinds of entities, material and nonmaterial. In this regard, material entities are collections of minute particles. When these are closely examine and broken up according to their directional parts, not even the most subtle part remains and they are completely without appearance. Nonmaterial is the mind. In regard to this, the past mind has eased and perished. The mind of the future has not yet arisen or occurred. Even the mind of the present is extremely difficult to examine: it has no color and is devoid of shape; since it is similar to space, it is not established; and since it is free of unity and multiplicity, unproduced, and having a luminous nature and so forth, when it is analyzed and examine with the weapon of reasoning, one realizes that it is not established.

In this way, when those two are not established as having any nature at all and do not exist, the very wisdom that individually discriminates in not established either. … “… when all specific and generally characterized things are established as nonexistent, wisdom itself, without appearance and luminous, is not established with any nature at all. All faults such as laxity and excitement and so forth are eliminated. In this interval of meditation, consciousness does not conceptualize, does not apprehend anything at all. All recollection and mental engagement are eliminated. Consciousness would reside in this way for as long as the enemies or thieves of phenomenal marks and conceptual thoughts do not arise.

Jewels of the Middle Way by James Apple. p. 277-278
excerpted in The Wisdom Journal, p;. 29 Wisdom Publications Spring 2019

The Ceasing of Notions: An Early Zen Text from the Dunhuang Caves with Selected Comments
An Instructive Talk between Master Nyuri and Disciple Emmon
Translated by Myokyo-ni (Irmgard Schloegl) and Michelle Bromley

Master Nyuri (whose name means “Entrance into the Principle”) Attainment
Emmon (“Gate of Affinities”) are discussing the truth. Gateway

VII

1 Emmon asks, “As for the principle of ultimate emptiness, how can it be proven and verified?”
Master Nyuri answers, “Seek it in all forms, confirm it in your own words.”

2 Emmon: “How does one seek it in all forms and confirm it in one’s own words?”
Nyuri: “Emptiness and forms are one. Words and confirmation are not two.”

3 Emmon: “If all existing things are empty, why can only buddhas see this and not ordinary people?”
Nyuri: “It is obscured by the working of error but becomes clear in the stillness of truth.”
Value judgments give rise to arbitrary notions motivated by self-centeredness, and so they are contrary to the natural harmony.

4 Emmon: “If all forms are really empty, how can they get perfumed? Conversely, if they do get perfumed, how can they be empty? Or realize emptiness?”
Nyuri: “Speaking of what is false at once gives rise to the ordinary delusion and its workings. In true emptiness there is nothing that can attract perfumes.”

5 Emmon: “If all forms are really empty, then surely there is no need to train in the Way. Is this because sentient beings are already by nature empty?”
Nyuri: “Once the principle of emptiness is realized, there is indeed no need for training. Delusions about existence arise only because emptiness has not been penetrated completely.”

6 Emmon: “In that case, to drop all delusions is to unite with the Way. Do you mean that all have gone astray?”
Nyuri: “By no means. Delusions are not the Way, but neither is letting go of delusions the Way. Why? For example, one who is drunk is not sober. And, if sober, he is not drunk. Though the state of being drunk and being sober do not exist without each other, yet being drunk is not, at the same time, being sober.”

7 Emmon: “Where is the drunkenness after one has become sober?”
Nyuri: “It is like turning over the palm of one’s hand. After having turned it over, why ask where it is?”

 

Taoist Emptiness

Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China
by David Hinton
New Directions; May 30, 2005
ISBN-10: 0811216241

No-Gate Gateway: The Original Wu-Men Kuan,
by David Hinton
Shambhala (February 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 161180437X

“Tao originally meant “way,” as in “pathway” or “roadway,” a meaning it has kept. But Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu redefined it as a spiritual concept by using it to describe the process (hence, a “Way”) through which all things arise and pass away. We might approach their Way be speaking of it at its deep ontological level, where the distinction between presence (yu) and absence (wu) arises. Presence can be understood in a fairly straightforward way as the empirical universe, the ten thousand living and nonliving things in constant transformation; and absence as the generative void from which this ever-changing realm of being perpetually arises.” (p.  xiv)

“The mechanism by which being burgeons forth out of nonbeing is tzu-jan. The literal meaning of tzu-jan is “self-ablaze.” From this comes “self-so” or “the of-itself,” hence “spontaneous” or “natural.” But a more revealing translation of tzu-jan might be “occurrence appearing of itself,” for it is meant to describe the ten thousand things emerging spontaneously from the generative source, each according to its own nature, independent and self-sufficient, each dying and returning into the process of change, only to reappear in another self-generating form.”  (p.  xiv)

“The vision of  tzu-jan recognizes earth to be a boundless generative organism, and this vision gives rise to a very different experience of the world. Rather than the metaphysics of time and space, it knows the world as an all-encompassing present, a constant burgeoning forth that includes everything we think of as past and future. It also allows no fundamental distinction between subjective and objective realms, for it includes all that we call mental, all that appears in the mind. And here lies the awesome sense of the sacred in this generative world: for each of the ten thousand

The Platform Sutra

The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng
by Red Pine
Counterpoint; November 6, 2006
ISBN-10: 1593760868

Direct and indirect
And what is the origin of “direct” and “indirect”? Although there is only one kind of Dharma, understanding can be fast or slow. When understanding is slow, we say it’s “indirect.” And when understanding is fast, we say it’s “direct.” The Dharma isn’t direct or indirect, it’s people who are sharp or dull. This is why we have the terms “direct” and “indirect.”

Pine, Red. The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng . Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

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?” 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.”

 

Three Crows

by tendo zenji

Unsui

 

Three Crows Dialog on the Paramita of Zeal

Midnight: suddenly forgot moon and finger;
Filing the sky, the solar disk—red!
— Chan Master Jiefeng Yu

The sun sank between the peaks dusk falling like a hood slipped over one’s head. A small, rocky stream flowed down from the north, alongside which there was a trail. It split, one fork running west the other east, a narrow path alongside each.  Where the three roads met there was a shrine to travelers and a small hut for those following the way. In the gloaming the dancing steam, echoed off the valley walls, augmented by the clacking of an occasional crow.  A jingling sound up from the west fork punctuated this soundscape. A moment later it was echoed by a duplicate sound up from the east. For a time there was a jingle from the west, shortly followed by its twin from the west.  When yet another similar jingling began to be heard coming from the north, the pattern was broken.

Around the bend, following the river from the north a conical straw hat bobbed into view, shortly revealing a grey robe on a man carrier a staff with seven rings.  The crows that flew up as he rounded that corner would have seen coming up from the rise to the east a figure that could have been confused for his brother. The hill descends a little sharper to the west, which perhaps accounts for the delay, but shortly thereafter a third monk hove into view again hat first.  The three met at the travelers’ shrine.  They bowed to each other. They bowed to the Bodhisattva of Travelers. They made their way into the small hut, and the soundscape of the valley returned to the chatty creek and the twilight birds.

Inside there was a single room the only feature was a central brazier above which hung a battered kettle. The three men took off their packs and sat cross-legged each in a corner of the tiny space. After some time one of them got up and built a modest fire.  Taking the kettle that hung over the fire pit he exited the hut and made his way to the river. Shortly he reentered the hut and hung the kettle over the fire on a blacked iron hook.  He returned to his seat. When the kettle began to sing he again rose and silently made a pot of tea.  While it steeped he retrieved a bowl from his pack and his companions did likewise.  The three of them placed the bowls in front of them and bowed.  Getting back to his feet the monk picked up the kettle and with a bow filled each bowl with tea. He returned to his seat and with a final bow they picked up their bowls and drank.

Another of the monks rose, retrieved a small pot from his pack and poured water from the kettle and hung it from the hook over the fire.  When it had reached a boil he threw in a handful of rice, raised the hook and covered the pot.  He kneeled by the fire frequently stirring the pot, occasionally adding more water from the kettle. After some time he removed it from the flame and let it stand covered.  When the rice had cooled sufficiently he arose and efficiently distributed it amongst the three bowls in front of each of the monks.  He sat, again the three bowed and deliberately ate every grain of rice in their bowl.  Again the first monk rose and prepared tea. He poured a measure into each bowl which, with a bow, they drank.  They set their bowls down together and made a final bow.

A few minutes later the third monk rose, gathered the bowls and made his way outside to the river.  He washed each bowl, drying it on a cloth he had tucked in his sleeve and returned to the hut placing the bowls and cups behind the monk who had used them.  He returned to his seat.   The monks sat in silence. The fire grew low until it was only a red glow outlining three still forms.

After some time one of the monks stirred and reaching into his sleeve pulled out a small book.  He opened it toward the back and with head bowed over the book read.  Raising his head he began to close the book, paused and read again.  With a slight shake of his head he closed the book and returned it to his sleeve. The monk who had previously cleaned the bowls, stirred and spoke.

“You did not seem to have found much solace in your reading, brother Jisha. What was it that so confounded you?”

With a quick glance at the speaker, the monk sighs and says:

Carry out a detailed investigation of dharma principles, taking awakening as your sole standard.” (1)

“Ahh the Whip. Master Guishan’s words are well worth heeding. What brought you to turn to that specific entry and what difficulty did you encounter?”

“At times during zazen when my mind is assailed by divergent thoughts I will turn to a page by chance. Often the words will give me renewed vigor and allow me to return my mind to a single point. What Master Guishan says is all well and good, but how?”

“Just a few entries beyond the one you stumbled upon, is it not written:

“Redouble the whip to practice zeal. Diligently seek without stopping. This is called the faculty of zeal.” (2)

Brother Monks, these are all the words we truly need. Those who have roused the aspiration for awakening, must hold on to that spark that lit the fire within. Our task is merely to rekindle that fire time and time again until we are entirely consumed. When you find yourselves distracted, unable to concentrate, that is when you bear down, doubling your efforts. This is the water that feeds all of your practices. Recall that

“The first three of the six perfections are contained within morality training. Dhyāna is contained within mind training; and prajñā is contained within wisdom training. Only zeal pervades all six perfections.” (3)

The monk bows, pauses a moment, and then asks, “How is it though that we maintain such zeal? I remember well when my head was first shaved you couldn’t keep me off my cushion. I sat and sat, and sometimes my mind would settle; I’d calm down and seem to merge into my surroundings. But then the thoughts creep in, the distractions slipped past my breath and rarely would I lose myself.”

“Dear Brother Jisha it sounds as if you have not heeded Master Puyan Duan’an instructions to the sangha. Let me refresh your memory:

“Do not do “dead” cross-legged sitting where you fail to keep your eye on the cue (4), where you maintain a “solitary stillness.” And do not do cross-legged sitting where you are minding the cue but have no sensation of indecision-and-apprehension (5). If you have torpor and distraction, no need to give a thought to thrusting them away. Quickly lift the cue to full awareness, shake off the defilements of body and mind—and be ferociously tenacious.” (6)

“Brother monk it is not a matter of “merging with our surroundings” or “settling our minds” or forgetting our feelings in silence and illumination! We are involved in the investigation of this great matter.   In order to see into this matter you must relentlessly pursue this investigation. Great Master Daihui makes quite clear how to undertake this great endeavor:

“Just keep on at all times pulling the cue into full awareness. Even when conceptualization arises, it is not necessary to employ the mind to stop it—just keep your eye on the cue. When walking, pull the cue into full awareness; when sitting, pull the cue into full awareness. Continuously keep pulling the cue into full awareness. When the cue no longer has any tastiness for you at all, you’ve hit the good spot. You must never release the cue.” (7)

“This my brothers is the paramita of zeal: never releasing the cue. When stray thoughts arise, it isn’t a matter of squashing them down, it is a matter of returning to the cue. When you are distracted by pain, feelings, sense objects and so on, you return to the cue. As you become more mindful you will notice these wanderings before they have gone too far afield and without mental commentary return to the cue. This requires a deliberate effort for quite some time and this effort both depends upon and cultivates zeal. I am reminded of Master Guzhuo admonishing his sangha:

Great Worthies! Why is it that you don’t produce the great zeal, and deeply generate the solemn vow before the three treasures? If birth-and-death is not clear to you, and you have not yet passed through the barrier checkpoints of the patriarchs, make a vow not to come down from the mountain. Face your seven-foot sitting portion on the long platform, hang up your bowl and bag, and assume a cross-legged sitting posture like a wall thousands of feet high. For the whole of this single birth, practice the Way until you penetrate. If you do your utmost with this mind-set, you’ll never get taken in.” (8)

Silence descended over the room. The fire burned low suffusing the room with a low red glow. The only sounds are the ever-present babbling of the stream beyond the hut, and occasional pop or hiss from the fire. The monks are just shadows in the room, indistinguishable from sacks abandoned in three corners of the room. With a start one of the monks jerks his head and blinks rapidly.

“Brother Tenzo, what is the matter?”

With a hangdog expression the monk replies, “I have become overwhelmed by drowsiness and am unable to maintain focus. I’ve pushed myself for years, never slacking off, but for all my efforts I still succumb.”

For a spell the monk said nothing. He scratched the back of his head. “Hmmm”, he finally said. “Hmmmmmm.” Looking toward the sky, he continues, “Your statement brings to mind the tale of Master Xueyan Qin and his long struggle for awakening. Like you he spent years and years devoted to his practice, engaging in myriad austerities:

“…for two years I hadn’t slept with my body in a horizontal position, and I was suffering from being dazed and fatigued. Thereupon in one fell swoop I gave up all of these painful practices. Two months later my prior state of health was restored due to this giving up—I was in full vigor.”

There is a lesson here that has come down all the way from the World Honored One to the present day. To penetrate this great matter requires dedication, zeal, forbearance and letting go of many things. But we must always stay on the middle path between austerity and excess. Too far in either direction and you will not see into this great matter. Each monk must find the middle path for himself; some will require greater austerity, some less. After recovering his health Master Qin recounts an encounter with Head Monk Xiu:

“Xiu said, “The true practitioner of the Way doesn’t even bother cutting his fingernails. So why would I find time for a useless conversation with you!” At that I raised an issue: “Right now I’m trying to clear up my torpor and distraction, but with no results.” Xiu said, “It’s because you’re still not fierce enough. Make you sitting cushion high, straighten up your backbone, and merge your whole body into oneness with a single cue—what torpor and distraction will there be to make into a problem?” (9)

“Heed well these words Brother Tenzo! You need to be fierce, you need to not be led astray by externalities. Start with ‘Straighten your backbone’—recall Master Guzhuo instructs us thusly: ‘…assume a cross-legged sitting posture like a wall thousands of feet high’. If you feel yourself nodding off sit even straighter! Sit wide eyed if need be and when torpor fades into the background raise your cue. “

“Is there not also a comment in the Whip that a certain monk stabbed his leg with an awl to keep himself awake?”

“Thus so! Some may need to go to such extremes, yet many have not had to resort to such methods. In our investigation into this great matter we must do what is required. Both of you now take heed: Your struggles are not just your own; Followers of the Way in every land throughout every time have faced the same issues, have faced the very same problems and have surmounted them.   The records of the Masters of old have addressed these issues time and again. Consider well their words. Your efforts fortify your zeal and it should always be increasing. This then is how you practice: fully engaged, entirely immersed in your inquiry. This is how you shake off torpor and distraction: rouse all your zeal, put in all of your effort, be fiercely tenacious. Master Puyan Duan’an describes the fruits of such unrelenting, uncompromised practice:

“If you practice in this tenacious manner, suddenly, where before the cue was not raised without your effort, not it is raised of its own accord; where before the indecision-and-apprehension did not arise without your effort, now indecision-and-apprehension arises of its own accord. When walking, you won’t know you are walking; when sitting, you won’t know you are sitting. There will only be the probing of the sensation of indecision-and-apprehension—solitary and distant, clear and bright. This is called “the locus of cutting off the defilements.” It is also called “the locus of the loss of self.” (10)

He clapped his hands once and with that the three of them bowed and resumed sitting with no further interruptions.

The sky was a slate grey, matching the weathered wood of the travelers’ hut. Slowly the grey lightened and edges became more defined. A beam of light from the sun broke between two hills touching color to the scene. Atop the hut three crows roused themselves, spread their wings and flew off, each following a different path into the mountains.


 Notes

The Chan Whip Anthology: A companion to Zen Practice
Jeffery L. Broughton with Elise Yoko Watanabe
Oxford University Press 2015 New York, NY
ISBN: 0190200723

  1. p. 166, Guishan’s Warning Whip
  2. p. 167, Sequence of the Boundaries of the Dharma [Gates: First Gate]
  3. p. 163, Yogacārabhūmiśāstra

  4. Cue is a translation of huatau, or the critical phrase usually from a gong’an (koan). In Gongfu, or Zen Practice, the dominant form became cue practice. The core of the practice is to relentlessly focus solely on the cue. Daihui first explicated this practice, see note 7 for further explanation.
  5. Indecision-and-Apprehension is the translators rendering of the third of Gaofeng’s Three Essentials of Chan: the “faculty of great confidence,” the “determination of great fury,” and the “sensation of great indecision-and-apprehension” (p. 7). This is often rendered as “Great Doubt” The word in Chinese is yiwhich can be translated as doubt, puzzlement, perplexity, uncertainty and so on.  This word would have these meanings in an overlapping sense.  Gaofeng’s describes it thus: “it is as if you have in secret committed an atrocious act, and it is the very moment when you are about to be exposed but you are not yet exposed.”  That sort of state is far beyond doubt, though doubt would certainly be part of what you are feeling.  One writer on Dahui’s use of yi said that if you consider doubt in the Christian tradition where it lies in opposition of faith, specifically in times of deep existential crisis and anxiety (think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane), would convey a similar meaning.
  6. p. 118, Preceptor Puyan Duan’an of Mt. Dasheng Instructs the Sangha
  7. p. 78 Chan Master Dahui Gao of Jingshan Answers Questions
  8. p. 120, Chan Master Guzhuo Instructs the Sangha
  9. p. 89, General sermon of Chan Master Xueyan Qin of Yuanzhou
  10. p. 118, Preceptor Puyan Duan’an of Mt. Dasheng Instructs the Sangha

 

some sand

by layman k

Unfortunately, my dwelling has become known by the world.
I will move my hut again deeper into seclusion

from Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice
by Victor Sōgen Hori
University of Hawaii Press; Bilingual edition (July 30, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0824835077 | ISBN-13: 978-0824835071