Samurai Zen: The Warrior Koans

When the Chinese master Daikaku first came to Japan in 1246, neither he nor his Japanese samurai pupils could speak the other’s language, and there are many instances in old accounts of the difficulties he had in communicating. For instance, in an old record in Kenchoji there is a passage describing an interview between him and Toyama, Lord of Tango, and in it comes the phrase Maku-maa-sun, maku- maa-sun, nyu-su-ku-ri-i-fu-ya. This was Daikaku’s Sung dynasty Chinese taken down phonetically by a scribe who did not understand it. The priest Ki Zentoku, a man of Szechuan who had come with Shoichi to Kamakura, transliterated this into the proper Chinese characters, which a Japanese scholar could then read as Maku-mo-zo, maku-mo-zo, ji-ze-gan-rai- butsu-ya, and Endo Moritsugu, who could read Chinese, translated it into Japanese: ‘No delusive thoughts, no delusive thoughts! Surely you are yourself from the very beginning Buddha!’ Many such cases are reported where what was said by a Chinese Zen master was transcribed into Chinese characters and then translated into Japanese by a Japanese scholar of Chinese. (We can see that often the phrase is repeated by the Chinese, a characteristic found even today.) In these cases the translation was …

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Sankara on the Yoga Sutras

This is a ground breaking translation of a major work which surfaced only in 1952. It claims to be by S’ankara Bhagavatpada (700AD), India’s greatest philosopher and spiritual teacher. If accepted as authentic, which seems increasingly likely, it will transform S’ankara studies and parts of Indian philosophical tradition. There is a chapter on this text in Wilhelm Halbfass: Tradition and Relflection, which discusses the text and some main concepts, though not the yoga practices. It is a sub-commentary on the Vyasa commentary (about 500 AD) to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (about 200 AD). This text will entail a re-thinking of S’ankara and his presentation of the Advaita Non-dual doctrine and practice. In his Brahma Sutra commentary, S’ankara rejects two basic tenets of the Yoga school, but accepts yoga practice as authoritative for meditation, and indeed God-vision (sutra III.2.24). S’ankara’s Gita commentary has many of the technical terms of yoga as for instance samahita-citta (8 times); Madhusudana in his own later sub-commentary on the S’ankara, cites nearly all of the first 51 sutras of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra first part. Here in this massive newly discovered text, S’ankara comments exhaustively on the Sutras and the early Vyasa commentary, both of which …

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Sankara on the Yoga Sutras extract

Extracts from S’ankara on the Yoga Sutras In these extracts the translator proposes to give some idea of the original material which this sub-commentary provides for the study of the Yoga Sutras. Purely technical discussions are not included. It is intended that the meaning should be lucid and clear to the general reader.   May/June 2000 The Parallel with Medical Treatment Introductory Note At the beginning of his sub-commentary, S’ankara compares the yogic methods to the four-fold classification of medical treatment. This is familiar in even early Buddhist texts, and it had been assumed that Buddhists adopted it from medical texts. But, as Wezler has shown, the four-fold classification does not appear in medical texts before about 200 AD. Vyasa in the second extract below reproduces the Buddhist simile, and S’ankara echoes it in the first two but the simile in the third one is perhaps original to this text. We can note that S’ankara uses the term Samyagdarsana (right vision), a favourite word which appears repeatedly in the text, not so in Vyasa. Extract 1: Sutra I.1 (p51): No one will follow through the practices and restrictions of yoga unless the goal and the related means to it have …

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Yoga Sutras introduction for the general reader

The text translated here is an historical find: an unknown commentary on the Yoga sutra-s of Patanjali by Sankara, the most eminent philosopher of ancient India. Present indications are that it is likely to be authentic, which would date it about ad 700. The many references to Yoga meditation in his accepted works have sometimes been regarded as concessions to accepted ideas of the time, and not really his own views. If he has chosen to write a commentary on Yoga meditation, it must have been a central part of his own standpoint, although he was opposed to some of the philosophical doctrines of the official Yoga school. One would expect a tendency to modify those unacceptable doctrines, if this text is really by Sankara. This turns out to be the case. For those familiar with yoga meditation, who want to go straight into the text, here is the method of presentation: (1)    The basic text, the Yoga sutra-s of Patanjali (about ad 300), is displayed in large type thus: sutra I.1 Now the exposition of yoga (2)    Below each sutra is a (mostly brief) commentary by Vyasa (about ad 600). This is printed in italics, and set in from the left-hand margin. Sometimes this commentary is printed in separate paragraphs. …

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