A First Zen Reader

The main body of the book consists of two translations: A Tongue-tip Taste of Zen, by Primate Takashina Rosen, who was the head of the whole Soto sect in Japan, with its over 10,000 temples; Hakuin’s Song of Meditation, as commented on by Amakuki Sessan; these last were in fact a series of broadcasts over the Kyoto Radio in 1936. When Zen Buddhism crossed from China to Japan in the twelfth century, it entered a phase of development that was not only to inspire a magnificent range of artistic achievement but also to exert a tremendous influence upon Japanese life itself and, eventually, to bring to the attention of the West a religious philosophy both unique and challenging in its power. ‘Yet’, as one of the contributors to this book (first published in 1960) expresses it, ‘if asked what Zen is, to reply is very difficult.’ It is the purpose of this anthology to suggest an approach to such a reply. The texts here translated will give a general idea of Zen theory and practice, and are outstanding selections from the treasury of Zen literature. To these, the anthologist has added a valuable ‘Note on the Ways’, in which he …

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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

The Tiger’s Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings 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 …

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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

“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.” 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, and a future in Heaven. The basis …

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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

This book presents an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with self-realization, God-realization and yoga, aiming at a radical and permanent change of the individual consciousness, which as it stands is limited by a sort of illusion. It is the kind of illusion experienced by a man dreaming of a terrifying lion whose roars are in fact his own snoring, or by people who faint at ‘Dracula’, or grip their seats in panic at a Cinerama. The texts of realization may not dispel illusion if the mind that receives them is clouded and only partially attentive; the methods of making it clear and effortlessly one-pointed are called, collectively, yoga. Realization is its own goal, but yoga is a means. As a means, yoga can be used fractionally to acquire some imagined advantages in life as it now is, But these are temporary, and do not confront the ultimate problem. They correspond to improving the circumstances of a dream. Isolated yogic methods can be used to give some calmness, or improve health, or produce vigour. One who is prepared to practise hard can make the mind and memory brilliant. But if these seeming advantages are in the service of a fundamental illusion, there …

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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

Contents Part I Warrior Zen. Introduction Selected Koan riddles from translation of Shonan-katto-roku (Record of Koans given at Kamakura) Part II Feudal Zen Introduction Translation of Master Torei’s ‘The Good Steed’ Part III Introduction Translation of the autobiography of the late Master Tsuji Somei’s ‘Treading the Way of Zen’ The translations in this text illustrate three phases of Zen in Japan: Warrior Zen of crisis, when Japan faced and repulsed Kublai Khan’s naval attacks in the thirteenth century; feudal Zen for officials in the 250 largely peaceful years up to the Western naval attacks in the mid-eighteenth century; and twentieth-century Zen, before, through, and after World War II. The three parts are concerned mainly with laymen’s Zen. Mahayana Buddhism has always had a close connection with the world. It is indeed possible that it began with groups of laymen in India. In the first text, the warriors remained in fact laymen, taught mostly by monks. It is to be noted that some of them were women. There was no prejudice in Zen, as there sometimes was in other branches of Buddhism. But there were no concessions either. The second part is an essay written for a samurai official by abbot …

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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

Expression of Zen inspiration in everyday activities such as writing or serving tea, and in knightly arts such as fencing, came to be highly regarded in Japanese tradition. In the end, some of them were practiced as spiritual training in themselves; they were then called “Ways.” This book includes translations of some rare texts on Zen and the Ways. One is a sixteenth- century Zen text compiled from Kamakura temple records of the previous three centuries, giving accounts of the very first Zen interviews in Japan. It gives the actual koan “test questions” which disciples had to answer. In the koan called “Sermon,” for instance, among the tests are: How would you give a sermon to a one-month-old child? To someone screaming with pain in hell? To a foreign pirate who cannot speak your language? To Maitreya in the Tushita heaven? Extracts are translated from the “secret scrolls” of fencing, archery, judo, and so on. These scrolls were given in feudal days to pupils when they graduated from the academy, and some of them contain profound psychological and spiritual hints, but in deliberately cryptic form. They cannot be understood without long experience as a student of a Way, and the …

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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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