drafty mountain hut

always at home, forever on the way


by tendo zenji

Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp – Talks Dec 2020

by tendo zenji

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
Download pdf: here
Purchase: here

For the 2020 Autumn Training period we are studying The Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp by Torei zenji. This is primarily through dharma talks at sesshin and other opportunities held via Zoom due to the pandemic and thus are being recorded. Periodically these will be posted here along with the basic information on each talk and the material covered.

Previous Talks

Part 1: Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp – Talks July-Oct. 2020

Part 2: Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp – Talks Oct/Nov 2020

14) December 1st, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 1
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  16-17 p. 63-67
Northern and Southern Schools, Hui-neng, Nanyue. Considered myth, history, teaching value of archetypes. The archetype of the unlearned zen master. The teaching value of tearing down support.
this talk wasn’t recorded.

15) December 2nd, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 2
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  18-19 p. 67-71
Baizhang, Huangbo, Linji
Began by talking about Rohatsu and lineage, how the great effort is put into Rohatsu ala the historical Buddha. The debt owed to the lineage. Not worshiping the ancients but gratitude. Considered the Baizhang Monastic Regulations and sam and the great succession of Matsu, Baizhang, Huangbo and Linji. With the Linji note how essential his teachings are, both in how we function but also directly as koans. Read from the Linji Lu on the costume a teacher puts on and discussed his core teachings such guest and host, person of no-rank and so on.
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 14

16) December 3rd, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 3
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  19-21 p. 71-73
Wrapped up Linji section and continued on with the lineage through Koke and Nanin. It is vital to grasp the importance that the Recorded sayings of Linji has to all of Chan and the very conception of Zen. Capped the Linji section with a selection from a Hisamatsu lecture on the True Person of No Rank.
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 15

17) December 4th, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 4
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  23 & 24 p. 73-75
Sekiso Soen, Yogi Hoe
 Read Practicing Mu at 27 Degrees Below Zero ( Sheng Yen, Shattering the Great Doubt p. 98) and noted the privations and suffering in practice and how we have experienced that at Tahoma and Sogenji. Commitment can be simulated by a stressful schedule, giving one no choice. In a virtual sesshin, like all sesshin, that commitment has to be genuine. If one genuinely sits even for one sitting it is far more fruitful than hours of artificial commitment.  This lead into the text, where I read through the lineage so far with the Chinese names I had dug up (see here: Linji Lineage). Then read the entries on Sekiso Soen, Yogi Hoe. Sekiso Soen was the fellow who kept himself up stabbing himself with an awl. This story related in the Chan Whip inspired Hakuin to keep on the Zen path.  Yogi (Yangqi) was the founder of the two main lines of Linji Chan from Sekiso Soen. All Linji and thus Rinzai lines descend from him. Read a little from Zen’s Chinese Heritage on Yogi to flesh out his contributions to the line. Talked about the use of poetic language to arose some of the feelings that can arise from the ineffable. Concluded with an exhortation to sit severely and experience “The clear moon of the universe. The clear wave of the blue ocean.”
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 16

18) December 5th, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 5
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  25-28  p. 75-80
Haku’un (White Cloud), Goso Hoen, Engo Kokugon (BCR Biyan Lu)
This talk delved into mediation, the Social Construction of seeing past the self which is this construction. Mediation in texts and mediation in how the practice is done. At first it was direct, then it was increasingly mediated. That is at first teachers confronted students directly, then they began to use the words of previous teachers, then they collected those encounters and then we worked with those collections. In Japan this became systematized and further mediated.  Talks are on this past events and original nature is seen through that lens.Examined the three lineage holders concluding with Kokugon who was like a sleeping tiger, but beware of his claws and fangs. Noted that this is the way of a master, they may seem meek and compassionate but they are uncompromising where it counts. Pushing students toward awakening their commitment is total.  Zen in the west is often compromised, But our own commitment doesn’t have to be.
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 17

19) December 5th, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 6
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  29, 30  p. 80-81
Kukyu Shoryu, Oan Donge, Mittan Kanketsu, Dahui, Huatou Chan. The literary period had another peak surrounding the development of the koan collections and Huatoa. Last real devices created. Looked at the mediation with Dahui though where Chan masters mostly reference older Chan Masters. How much more so today!  Considered the complicated issue of the lineage surround Kukyu Shoryu, Oan Donge, Mittan Kanketsu and Dahui. These students worked with teachers of multiple generations, Dahui had gotten “the robe” from Engo Kokugon and gave it to Oan for safekeeping and then allowed it to pass on to Mittan. Is there a straight lineage here? Does that even matter much. Considered Dahui and the impact of Huatoa.
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 18

20) December 7th, 2020
Virtual Rohatsu day 7
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part  31 and 32 p. 82
Sogen Sogaku, Unman Fugan,  Kido Chigu
Spoke about the practice of Chan at this time and the next period. Gongfu, the dominance of Huatoa Chan. The importance of koans to Rinzai zen, this independent practice that can be carried from place to place. Read from the Chan whip an example of a monk going from place to place and working on huatoa.  Koans infuse the Torei text embedded in these stories and then the focus of later chapters.  The direct encounter with a master becomes one with a text. Completed the Chinese lineage with Sogen Sogaku, Unman Fugan and Kido Chigu.
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 19

21) December 19th, 2020
Virtual Solstice Observance
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 33-35 p. 82-88 Nanpo Jomyo (Daio Kokushi), Shuho Myosho (Daito Kokushi), Kanzen Egan
Enmity between the Tendai and Zen sects. Kokushi means National Teacher. Hanazono – retired emperor who found Shuho under the bridge and brought Kanzan back from the farm to lead Myoshin-ji.These three founded the bedrock of Rinzai Zen: Daitokuji, Myoshinji and the “retired emperor” Hanazono, the Rinzai University was named after. Shuho – Wrote a Koan collection of 120 koans that evolved into Entangling Vines. Entangling Vines – contains koans involving Nanpo, Shuho and Kanzan
Download talk: Discourse Talk part 20


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)
ISBN: 0804830878
Download: here Purchase: here

2) The Record of Linji: A New Translation Of The Linjilu In The Light Of Ten Japanese Zen Commentaries
by Jeffrey L. Broughton
Oxford University Press, USA; (December 11, 2012)
ISBN: 0199936439

3) Critical Sermons of the Zen Tradition: Hisamatsu’s Talks on Linji
Edited by Christopher Ives and Tokiwa Gishin
Univ of Hawaii Press (January 1, 2002)
ISBN:  0824823842

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

5) Shattering the Great Doubt: the Chan Practice of Huatou
Ch’an Master Sheng YenShambhala, 2009
ASIN: B00C5KK738

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

Dewdrops on Stinging Nettles

by tendo zenji

The Dream Mountain Way is an approach to practice as fully integrated into every aspect of our lives. There is no separation between formal practice and everyday activities. While this is often the ideal, the Dream Mountain approach utilizes practices with which we can engage in throughout all aspects of our lives, whether walking, sitting, standing or lying down. Openness is cultivated in all of our activities and through questioning we directly probe into what is.

These practices and the essential principles that supports them have been collected into a pocket sized book. The format of this book is important for, as the subtitle notes, it is designed to be a companion for practice, always with us to be pulled out for immediate use. The first edition of this book is now available: Dewdrops on String Nettles.

The topics in this book have been the subject of many of the posts and recorded talks posted here. In these cases they often present references from the tradition, deeper explanations and specific examples. As a resource for those interested in the Dream Mountain Way and for those already engaged with it, this post will collect the posts that correspond with sections of the book. This reference will be updated as relevant posts are added.

On the Dream Mountain Way

Wayseeking Mind: Wayseeking Mind – a personal case study

Empty Awareness: Foundations, Cultivation

Cultivating the Still Pool: Cultivating the Still Pool

Outside Practice: Foundations, Summary

Gazing Practices: Engaging Complexity with Trees, Gazing in the Distance, Gazing at Motion

Questioning: The Practice of Questioning

Naturalness: Moving through the world without obstruction

Solitude: The Practice of Solitude

Pilgrimage: Searching for Solitude

Standing in Our Own Way

by tendo zenji

[Download or Listen to this talk: Standing in Our Own Way]

In our study of the lineage from Torei Zenji’s Record of the Transmission of the Lamp we are following a thread of men who have broken through to their original nature and then continued with the practice deepening and maturing. This presents to us the essence of the Buddhism of Zen, that is awakening to our Original Nature. This is continuously emphasized in Rinzai Zen where the talks, interviews and constant exhortations are to see past our small selves and confront reality as it is. Other approaches and sects have come to downplay awakening, to focus on other aspects of the practice. But it is the case that all methods, in fact practice itself, are merely upaya, skillful means, to assist us in this endeavor. To quote Dahui  “...in investigating the ultimate principle take awakening as the standard.” (Letters of Dahui, p. 288)

This continual exhortation toward awakening can create its own barrier.  That is it gets entangled in our egos and becomes reified.  “Break through” becomes an object that one must attain, an object to seek after, grasp and hold onto. The self employs many strategies in order to hold on and seeking after this shiny object in order to become an awakened ego is a prime example. Think of all the glory and benefits of being able to casually drop into idle Zen chatter ones attainment.  Then at other times it turns it around and rejects it.  “It ain’t no thing”, “it’s overblown,” “this is all just old talk” and so on. One can become sullen about the whole thing, one can rationalize it claiming that “I’m just here for the samdahi, resting in emptiness is TRUE meditation” and on and on.

Hearing other peoples stories can inspire us or it can be disheartening. It’s one thing to hear about great Chan masters one after the other “crushing samsara,”  but as the years add up knowing that there are those who have had insight or deeper insights or more insights can lead to these negative thoughts.  There is always something more, some reason for our selves to use to desperately hold on.  But the question comes up again and again is why do some practitioners “break through” and others do not? The canonical answer would be that the causes and conditions are not ripe. We can’t of course really know for any given individual what the causes and conditions for awakening are, but there are some features that crop up again and again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wayseeking Mind

by tendo zenji

What is it that draws us to practice and why does it seem to be more effective for some and not others? No-knowing is the only answer to that. There is a long history of trying to understand and explain these questions but it is pretty hard to say there has been any definitive answer. I certainly don’t have one. When one considers those who have traversed the path and plumbed the depths there are some salient features.  Deep commitment, deep questioning and a certain flavor of skepticism. And yet there are so many outliers that it becomes difficult to make any claims of universality.  In the role that I find myself in these days, I am periodically asked questions that boil down to “why hasn’t this worked?”  No-knowing is the only honest answer. Sure one can suggest techniques, or practices, or even bodies of teachings, or one can point towards degrees of commitment, or issues of the self or various other blockages. But in the end there is only no-knowing.  

Whenever any of us on the path speaks about such matters it is incumbent upon us to speak within our experience.  If we stay within our experience we can provide some insight to others that are on the path.  Everybody’s path is unique, but again there are these commonalities.  One of these commonalities is what I’m going to refer to as Wayseeking Mind.  That combination of determined questioning and skepticism is how I’m defining Wayseeking Mind.  Many of those who have followed to the path to its outer reaches have this quality.  Following my own advice I’m going to speak about this in terms of my own experiences, which are certainly limited, but give an example of Wayseeking mind—but only only one man’s path, no claims of universality or even utility here. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Green mountains emptiness

by tendo zenji

At Manifold-Devotion Post-Station,
a Second Farewell to the Governor

Ending our distant farewell, separation 
begins here, green mountains emptiness

felt. We'll never again wander together 
sipping wine beneath last night's moon.

The whole country sings praises of you, 
radiant through three reigns. Me, I'll go 

home to my river village, nurture what 
life remains in isolate depths of silence.

-Du Fu
Translated by David Hinton in Selected Poems of Tu Fu

Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp – Talks Oct/Nov 2020

by tendo zenji

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
Download pdf: here
Purchase: here

For the 2020 Autumn Training period we are studying The Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp by Torei zenji. This is primarily through dharma talks at sesshin and similar 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.

The first series of talks from July through September 2020 can be found here:
Discourse Talks July-Sept.

The Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School
October and November 2020 Dharma Talks

9) October 13th, 2020
Reading for the monthly Virtual Watermoon Dojo gathering
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 7 & 8 p. 46 to 48
Discussed the value of knowing the ideas and history of early buddhism as well as the risks of attaching to these notions. As always it is a middle way. We don’t wish to wallow in this kind of material and in many ways it is immaterial to the direct practice. The issue of the self and how our orientation to practice needs to be for awakening for all things and not toward the self. Where traces of the self remain.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 9

10) October 16th, 2020
October Virtual KoSesshin day 1
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 9, 10 and 11 (Torei Only) p. 49 to 54
Spoke about the Prajna Paramita, the wisdom of emptiness. Talked about how there is this view from Torei and Daibi that you can look at the evolution of the Buddhist teachings as the course a practitioner takes: begins selfishly, sees into imperamance, needs encouragement, sees into emptiness then buddha nature.Talked a lot about teaching to mixed audiences, about the mythological “buddha eye” how to reach the whole audience in the teacher. Exposed teaching device of generalities and admonitions to practice. Talked about working one on one with a student giving them what they need. This can be seen as medicine for some simply expressing Buddhanature like in the Flower Sutra can suffice.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 10

11) October 17th, 2020
October Virtual KoSesshin day 2
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 11 – 13 p. 54 to 59
So this was on the Flower Sutra, transmission, working with koans, koan checking questions and so on. Embodying realization, seeing into original nature and working through the entire koan curriculum. The point of transmission is to know that a teacher has gone through this process. Working with the teacher in sanzen. Don’t attach to these talks.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 11

12) October 18th, 2020
October Virtual KoSesshin day 3
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 11, 12 & 13 p. 54 to 57
This talk is a condensed version of the previous talk coverage the same sections of the text. It was for a slightly different audience and is shorter thus more compressed. While there is some variance in examples and emphasis if one has listened to the previous it can be skipped.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 12

13) November 19th, 2020
Virtual WMD Visit
Continued Chapter 1 – Lineage part 14&15 p. 57 – 63
Concluded the Indian Lineage, Bodhidharma, 1-5 patriarchs, Hui-neng
Noted that the Indian lineage is largely mythological. Discussed the mythologies around Bodhidharma including martial arts and Qi Gong. Talked about Qi in Chan. The story with Hui’ko and commitment and also the mythological aspects. Discussed the self, the utility value of the self and not identifying with it. Some discussion of Sosan Kanchi and the lack of historical reference.  Chan teaching as about removal and the use of the historical record to remove supports.  What remains.
Download Audio: Discourse Talk Part 13


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)
ISBN: 0804830878
Download: here Purchase: here

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

The Heze School: Guifeng Zongmi

by tendo zenji


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.


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.


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

Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp

by tendo zenji

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
Download pdf: here
Purchase: here

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.
Bio Notes
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.

Preface Notes
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 

Some Notes
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?”
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.

Red Pine. The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-nen

(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)
ISBN: 0804830878
Download: here Purchase: here

2) The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng
Hui Neng, translated by Red Pine
Counterpoint (November 28, 2008)
ISBN: 1593761775

3) Zen Masters of Japan: The Second Step East
by Richard McDaniel
Publisher : Tuttle Publishing (November 1, 2016)
ISBN: 0804847975

4) Entangling Vines: A Classic Collection of Zen Koans
by Thomas Yuho Kirchner
Wisdom Publications; Annotated Edition (June 11, 2019)
ISBN: 1614296154

5) China Root: Taoism, Ch’an and Original Zen
David Hinton
Publisher : Shambhala (September 29, 2020)
ISBN: 1611807131


by tendo zenji


Searching for Solitude

In last months talk on Solitude I described it as a process of letting go. Of putting yourself into a place where you abandoned distractions, entertainments, modern life.  Pilgrimage is in one view “searching for solitude.” It is a way, in our world, in our culture to make that space for solitude. Consider  how it was in India for Buddhists:

It was common in ancient India for yogis to remove themselves from society to practice in solitude in the forests. There they would beg for alms and offerings from ordinary people who respected them. In China there was no such tradition. Someone who went around asking for alms was simply a beggar. Practitioners had to work to survive and sustain their practice. For this reason Chan has traditionally placed great emphasis on applying practice to daily work.

-Sheng Yen, The Method of No-Method (pp. 42)

Being a hermit in the West means that you are a bum, down and out, maybe crazy. Pilgrimage means you are a vagrant. But this can be worked with. There are activities we can engage in that have the veneer of respectability that allows us to engage solitude, to be on pilgrimage. 


The essence of pilgrimage is commitment. Being completely committed to the path. More than just traveling to sacred places this is a form of practice itself a way of life. It ties together individual and monastic practice.  The model is the method of practice in China.

Historical Precedence

Whip for Spurring Students Onward Through the Chan Barrier Checkpoints by Yunqi Zhuhong

“The Chan Whip was conceived by Zhuhong as a portable, convenient, no-nonsense “pocket companion guide” that addressed practitioners directly , providing not just method but morale. As such its selections deliberately eschew abstract discussions of theory in favor of sermons, exhortations, sayings, autobiographical narratives, letters, and anecdotal sketches dealing fankly—and encouragingly—with the concrete ups and downs of lived practice.”
–Jeffery L. Broughton, Chan Whip, p. 2

As an example of the life of practice (gongfu) incorporating the elements of pilgrimage  Xueyan’s story (Ch’an Whip, p. 17). In the recording of the talk below you can hear the whole story with commentary.

The story gives an outline of how Chan practice (gongfu)  was approached in the Song.  This is what I mean by pilgrimage.  In this story you can see that Xueyuan is completely dedicated to the path. He has his ups and downs–which are themselves instructive and part of the aim of the Ch’an Whip is to show the human side of these great teachers–but he stays with it and pushes pasts his low points.  This is further an exemplar of continuous practice. Where even as he travels, is on the pilgrimage practice is ongoing.

Xueyuan, like the other longer anecdotes in the Ch’an Whip, ordains and works with a particular teacher and then begins traveling from practice place to practice place.  This is the standard practice, typically one traveled after one has had an insight to test it and to push oneself deeper. Then seems to be an understanding that working with one teacher can be limiting. That is even a very awakened teacher has a style, a set of teaching devices and their own limits.  All of these masters-to-be came to deeper awakenings and into their own mastery under other teachers.  Not only these Ch’an Masters but all of the great Zen masters of Japan, Dogen, Hakuin Ekaku, Torei Enji, Gassan Jito, Bassui, Bankei all followed this path of pilgrimage.

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