A First Zen Reader

A FIRST ZEN READER Extract All Japanese know of the great painter Kano Tanyu, whose work exists even today. This is the story of the time when he painted the great dragon on the ceiling of the main hall at the temple. It was his masterpiece and is one of the art treasures of the world. At that time, the master of the temple at Myoshinji was the celebrated Gudo, famous as the teacher of the Emperor. He had heard that the dragons painted by Tanyu were so realistic that when a ceiling on which one had been painted fell down by chance, some said it had been caused by the movement of the dragon’s tail. When the painting of the dragon at Myoshinji was mooted, Gudo went to the painter’s house and told him: ‘For this special occasion I particularly want to have the painting of the dragon done from life.’ Naturally the painter was taken aback, and saying: ‘This is most unexpected. As a matter of fact, I am ashamed to say that I have never seen a living dragon,’ would have refused the commission. The Zen teacher, however, agreed that it would be unreasonable to expect a …

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In whatever age, the problem of name and money has always been the worst. It is on this point that we go astray or are enlightened, that we sink or swim. There are only two alternatives: to be a king who can use name and money, or to be a slave rushing about in pursuit of them. Many people are entirely the latter. The illustrious Emperor Kiso of the T’ang Dynasty in China once made a visit to the Kinzanji temple on the Yangtze River. At the temple the scenery is exceptionally fine, and the throne was set at the top of the temple tower, giving the best view of the river. The emperor was conducted to his seat. He saw on the great river countless boats, some going up and some going down, some to the right and some to the left, so that it might almost have been mistaken for the sea. He was overjoyed to see the prosperity of the country he ruled: trade and commerce thus flourishing-what we should call today a fully developed country. At his side was standing the abbot of the temple, Zen master Obaku, and the emperor remarked to him: ”How many …

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A Second Zen Reader

A SECOND ZEN READER The Tiger’s Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings Extract 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 …

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YASENKANNA by Hakuin When as a beginner I entered on the Way, I vowed to practise with heroic faith and indomitable spirit. After a mere three years of strenuous effort, suddenly one night the moment came, when all my old doubts melted away down to their very roots. The age-old Karma-root of birth-and-death was erased utterly. I thought to myself: ‘The way is never distant. Strange that the ancients spoke of twenty or thirty years, whereas I …’ After some months lost in dancing joy, I looked at my life. The spheres of activity and stillness were not at all in harmony; I found I was not free to either take up a thing or leave it. I thought: ‘Let me boldly plunge again into spiritual practice and once more throw away my life in it.’ Teeth clenched and eyes aglare, I sought to free myself from food and sleep. Before a month had passed the heart-fire mounted to my head, my lungs were burning but my legs felt as if freezing in ice and snow. In my ears was a rushing sound as of a stream in a valley. My courage failed and I was in an attitude of …

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Jewels from the Indranet extract

Though one has to practise on a definite line, we revere all the great traditions and schools; my teacher often used to refer to the great Moslem mystic, Rumi, and this is a little poem on the subject. You will see that the presentation is slightly different, but you will see the light, the water and the living stream which is below the desert. It is presented in the terms of Islamic mysticism. A certain man was crying “Allah!” all night until his lips grew sweet in praise of him. The devil said: “Oh garrulous man, what is all this ‘Allah!’ Not a single response is coming from the throne. How long will you go on crying ‘Allah’ with grim face?” The man became broken hearted and lay down and slept. In a dream he saw the prophet Elijah in a garden, who said to him: “Hark! You have held back at praising God, why do you repent at having called on him?” The man replied: “No ‘Here Am l’ is coming in response, hence I fear I have been turned away from the Door.” Elijah said: “Nay. God saith that ‘Allah!’ of thine is my ‘Here Am I’, and …

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Realization of the Supreme Self

REALIZATION OF THE SUPREME SELF Extract “One evidence is that texts like the Gita present us with graded practical experiments. Do these, it says, and you can have direct experience of a God who is not simply your own idea. The experience is no illusion, because it is fruitful in life; it gives not only calm inner clarity, but also inspiration and energy for action. You will come to know the divine purpose in outline, and your own proper part in it in detail.” “In deep meditation one experiences how everything is dying: body, mind and every thought. But one can find something that does not die – the immortal in the mortal. And when death comes there is the awareness in the meditator: “I have been here before.” Synopsis The Bhagavad Gita (‘Sung By The Lord’, about 500 BC) is a mystical section of the huge verse epic Mahabharata, and it is often called the Bible of India. Much of the religious instruction in the epic, like that of the still more ancient Vedas themselves, is concerned with how to worship and act so as to bring about rewards in the form of an ideal social order, individual prosperity, …

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Chapter VIII Yoga-Power Strength of Yoga The practice of the eighth chapter presents mainly meditations on the Lord felt as within the body. First the mind and the prāṇa currents of vital energy are focussed at a centre in the heart. Then the focussed attention moves up with them to a point on the forehead roughly between the eyebrows. People who try this soon find that the concentration becomes confused. They are not sure when they have enough concentration to begin the move upward, and become indecisive. The Gītā explains that it is done, and can only be done, by what it calls the ‘strength of yoga’. Śaṅkara explains that this strength is in fact the after-effects of long practice, repeated till the saṃskāra-impressions have been formed strongly in the causal part at the root of the mind. The process is then accomplished spontaneously, so to speak, independent of the discursive mind. Repeated practice has laid down impressions which now hold the samādhi completely steady. It becomes a luminous movement, rising of itself, as it were. It is stronger than any interruption because the meditation is based on a natural current, latent in the ordinary man, but now showing itself. It …

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The Chapter of the Self

THE CHAPTER OF THE SELF Extracts   S’ankara in the 8th century AD founded four main monasteries, one in each of the four corners of India. The senior in status is at Sringeri in the south, and the late HH Abhinava Vidyatirtha was 35th in unbroken succession there from the founder; he took an active interest in the present book and the later translation of S’ankara’s Yoga Sutra commentary. Basic text, from a lost Upanishad: He is great, a mass of splendour, all-pervading, the Lord. The yogi who practises realization of that in everything, and always holds to firmness in that, will see that which is hard to see and subtle, and ejoice. And whoever sees the Self alone in everything, he is Brahman, glorious in the highest heaven. From the S’ankara commentary: The doshas are obsessive passions, fears, and convictions which obstruct the vision of the Self; the yogas are thepractices which overcome the doshas.   It may be asked, how are those who want freedom to put forth the tremendous efforts in the yogas of angerlessness and the others, which are opposed to the doshas, the cause of life itself? Yogas and doshas are mutually exclusive, like movement …

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 The Four Feelings The meditations on four feelings which are to be intensified through meditation are called bhavana, they are: friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the suffering, goodwill towards virtue, and overlooking sin. Shankara in his commentary explains that these are meditations which must actualize themselves. Until the reactions in ordinary life have begun to modify themselves along the lines of the meditations, the cultivation of intensity has only begun. Friendliness -maitri, a great word in Buddhism – is explained as a general gladness at the good fortune and happiness of another. The Mahatma Balarama Udasin, whom Dr Shastri knew and held in great regard, remarks that this friendliness must not be partisanship, what the world calls friendship. It has to be something like the friendliness of the Lord towards all beings – not taking the side of one against another. Shankara in his Gita commentary (to V. 29) stresses meditation on the Lord as the friend of all, who does good to them without expecting any return for it, and who lies in the hearts of all. Worldly friendship, on the other hand, is towards one person identified with body-mind, and involves hatred of those who are against …

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Three Ages of Zen

THREE AGES OF ZEN Extract From Part III, Autobiography of Zen Master Tsuji Somei 1. Master Gyodo used to say:   ‘Zen is something about which someone who doesn’t really know can still manage to write without giving himself away. But if you hear him speak just a couple of words, you know his inner state exactly.’   ‘In order to see the Nature, it has to be fierce as a lion; but after that realization, the practice has to go slow like an elephant.’   ‘If you get through the first barrier (the first koan) without much trouble, you get stuck afterwards and can’t get on. It’s as if you’d thrust your hand into a glue pot.’   ‘However much you go to Zen interviews, and however many koans you notch up, if you don’t get to the great peace …….’   ‘Going simply by the number of koans you pass – however many they may be, it’s no good unless you come to the samadhi of no-thought. In the samadhi of no-thought, there’s no soul, there’s no body, there are no objects of the senses, much less any koans.’   After the experience of profound enlightenment which I …

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 The bucket without a bottom Imai’s note: The nun Mujaku, whose lay name was Chiyono, was a woman of Akita who married and had one daughter. In 1276, when she was thirty-four, her husband died, and she could not get over the grief. She became a nun, and trained under Bukko. The story is that on the evening of a fifteenth day of August, when she was filling her lacquer flower-bucket where the valley stream comes down, the bottom fell out; seeing the water spilling she had a flash of insight, and made a poem on it to present to the teacher. Later he set her a classical koan, Three pivot-phrases of Oryu, and examined her minutely on it, and she was able to meet the questions. Again she continued interviews with him for a long time, and in the end he “passed over the robe and bowl,” namely, authorized her as a successor to teach. Uesugi, Nikaido, and others had built Keiaiji temple in Kyoto, and asked her to become the first teacher there. It was not unusual in Zen for a teacher to be a woman. After Bukko died, a hermitage called Shomyakuan was built for her at …

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Zen and the Ways

ZEN AND THE WAYS Extract One morning, Abbot Ekido of the Zen temple Tentoku-in heard the dawn bell being rung, and after a little he called his attendant from the next room and asked: ‘Who is ringing the bell this morning?’ The attendant said it was a newly entered boy. The abbot later called the boy and asked: ‘When you rang the dawn bell today, what were you thinking about? …. That was no ordinary ringing.’ Then the boy said: ‘I once heard that whatever you do, it must be service of the Buddha. I was told to meditate on the things as Buddha. So this morning I was thinking that the bell is Buddha, and that each time I rang it the Buddha’s voice was sounding out. Each time I was making a bow, and I felt I was ringing it as a worship.’ This boy later became the head of the great training temple of Eiheiji: his name was Dengo Morita. Synopsis In Japanese Zen, every activity in life, including the martial arts, is thought to be a field for practising inner control, meditation and inspiration. They are not separate, but even the techniques influence each other. The …

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Zen and the Ways extract

Shin and ki Shin is the technical word for ‘heart’, including all we call mind and more. Ki is something like ‘vital spirit’. An example is better than theory: in picking up a teacup or throwing an opponent, shin is the notion of doing it, including the emotional colouring, ki is the ‘feel’ of initiating and continuing the movement conformably to distances and timing. What is technically called strength is grasping the teacup or making the throw: ki is still functioning, but with untrained people it tends to be felt less clearly when strength is being exerted. These things may be pure and in conformity with the cosmic principle (ri), or impure and centred round an individual self. When shin is pure, thoughts do not arise from selfishness or passion, and inspiration passes through it. When impure, it is distorted and dark: everything has to pass through filters of ‘will this be good for me?’ ‘will this get me what I want?’ ‘how shall I look while I am doing it?’ ‘what shall I do if it does not come off?’ ‘how terrible that might be!’ and so on. It is tense (‘hard’) and cannot adapt to changing situations. When …

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