A Second Zen Reader


The Tiger’s Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings


From Yasenkanna: to remedy cases of over-tension:

I said : May I hear of the use of the So cream? Hakuyu said : If the student finds in his meditation that the four great elements are out of harmony and body and mind are fatigued, he should rouse himself and make this meditation. Let him visualize placed on the crown of his head, that celestial So ointment, about as much as a duck’s egg, pure in colour and fragrance.

Let him feel its exquisite essence and flavour, melting and filtering down through his head, its flow permeating downwards, slowly laving the shoulders and elbows, the sides of the breast and within the chest, the lungs, liver, stomach and internal organs, the back and spine and hip bones. All the old ailments and adhesions and pains in the five organs and six auxiliaries follow the mind downwards. There is a sound as of the trickling of water. Percolating through the whole body, the flow goes gently down the legs, stopping at the soles of the feet.

Then let him make this meditation: that the elixir, having permeated and filtered down through him, in abundance fills up the lower half of his body. It becomes warm, and he is saturated in it. Just as a skilful physician collects herbs of rare fragrance and puts them in a pan to simmer, so the student finds that from the navel down he is simmering in the So elixir. When this meditation is being done, there will be psychological experiences, of a sudden indescribable fragrance at the nose-tip, of a gentle and exquisite sensation in the body. Mind and body become harmonized, and far surpass their condition at the peak of youth. Adhesions and obstructions are cleared away, the organs are tranquillized and insensibly the skin will begin to glow. If the practice is carried on without relapse, what illness will not be healed, what power will not be acquired, what perfection will not be attained, what Way will not be fulfilled? The arrival of the result depends only on how the student performs the practice


The meditator becomes gradually aware of the bodhisattva within him


The first part, a commentary on the Heart Sutra, is illustrated by incidents from behind-the-scenes in modern Japanese Zen monastery life. What happens, for instance, when a terrible mistake is made during a solemn ceremony?




On the Heart Sutra a commentary by Abbot Obora of the Soto Zen sect


1 The Immutable Scripture

2 The Circle of Life

3 Awakening to the Character of our Individuality

4 The True Character of the Human Self

5 Transcendence

6 The Experience of Emptiness

7 The Bodhisattva Spirit

8 The Experience of Nirvana

9 The Power of Prajna


Yasenkanna (method of physical and spiritual rejuvenation) – an autobiographical narrative by Zen Master Hakuin (18th century)

1 Introductory Note by the Translator

2 The Preface, by Cold Starveling, a disciple in Poverty Temple

3 Yasenkanna, by Hakuin


The Tiger’s Cave and other pieces

1 The Tiger’s Cave

2 The Lotus in the Mire

3 Poems by Zen Master Mamiya

4 The Dance of the Sennin Immortals Maxims of Saigo


Zen by Takashina Rosen, Primate of the Soto Zen sect (contemporary)

1 The Sermon of No Words

2 Stillness in action


From a Commentary on Rinzai-roku classic, by Omori Sogen, Zen master, fencing master, and master of the brush (contemporary)

Every page of this profoundly erudite book is written with compelling insight…There are five sections, each reflecting in depth a different Zenic emphasis of a particular Master or School of Zen …The most important section is the first, an inspired and inspiring commentary on the Heart Sutra … the very kernel of Mahayana Buddhism.

Theosophical Journal

… one of the few really good books on Zen …

Friends of the Western Buddhist Order

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Zen is a Japanese approximation to the Sanskrit dhyana, which has in Yoga the technical meaning of stilling and focussing the mind. When after long practice all associations have dropped away and the mind is identified with the subtle constituents of the object, the state is called Samadhi of a particular kind. In that Samadhi there finally comes a flash of intuitive knowledge or Prajna, which reveals the truth of the object of meditation. Prajna is knowledge not coming by the routes of sense-perception, inference or authority: it is immediate and invariably correct.

Buddhism adopted Yoga methods, and dhyana discipline was the final step before realization. The Zen sect, founded in China by the Indian patriarch Bodhidharma, lays special emphasis on meditation practice, and claims a special tradition handed down ‘from heart to heart’ from the Buddha himself. The main tenets of Buddhism and of Zen be found in Abbot Obora’s Heart Sutra commentary in book, and they need not be summarized here.

In Zen as in other mystical schools there are spiritual crises, and the teacher has a very important role in resolving them. The teacher does not normally take on a student unless the latter displays great resolution and energy in his inquiry. This is technically called Great Faith. After some time the disciple’s hidden doubts and reservations appear in the form of a crisis, generally centring round some point of the teaching or some action of the teacher. When the problem fills all the waking hours without a moment’s forgetfulness the stage is called the Great Doubt. The working of the mind ceases. Finally there is a flash which is called in Japanese satori or Realization.

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