When practitioners of Zen fail to transcend the…

When practitioners of Zen fail to transcend the world of their senses and thoughts, all they do has no value. Yet, when senses and thoughts are obliterated all the roads to universal mind are blocked and there is no entrance. The primal mind has to be recognised along with the senses and thoughts. It neither belongs to them nor is independent of them. Don’t build your understanding on your senses and thoughts, yet don’t look for the mind separate from your senses and thoughts. Don’t attempt to grasp Reality by pushing away your senses and thoughts. Unobstructed freedom is to be neither attached nor detached. This is enlightenment.

Huang-Po

A student once asked master Bassui ‘Are you…

A student once asked master Bassui, ‘Are you saying that someone who sees his own nature and is free from delusion is innocent of error, even if he does something which breaks the Buddhist precepts?’ He replied, ‘If someone’s actions come from their essential nature, how could they be breaking the precepts?’

All verbal teachings are just to cure an…

All verbal teachings are just to cure an illness. Different illnesses require different cures. This is why sometimes it is said there is only Buddha and sometimes that there is no Buddha. True teachings cure the illness. If the cure works, the teachings are true. If they don’t cure the illness, the teachings are false. True teachings are false it they create opinions. False teachings are true if they destroy delusions. The illness is an illusion anyway, so all the cures are also illusions.

Baizhang

Quotes from Hsin Hsin Ming

If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.

In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.

Knock on the sky and listen to the sound.

The ten thousand questions are one question. If you cut through the one question, then the ten thousand questions disappear.

The ways to the One are as many as the lives of men.

Though the bamboo forest is dense, water flows through it freely.

To do a certain kind of thing, you have to be a certain kind of person.

To follow the path, look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master.

When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.

At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers.

If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.

Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.

“We gain enlightenment like the moon reflecting in…

“We gain enlightenment like the moon reflecting in the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew in the grass.”

Dōgen Zenji

The purpose of a fishtrap is to catch…

The purpose of a fishtrap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.
The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.
The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.

Chuang-Tsu

A man approached the Blessed One and wanted…

A man approached the Blessed One and wanted to have all his philosophical questions answered before
he would practice. In response, the Buddha said, “It is as if a man had been wounded by a poisoned
arrow and when attended to by a physician were to say, ‘I will not allow you to remove this arrow until I
have learned the caste, the age, the occupation, the birthplace, and the motivation of the person who
wounded me.’ That man would die before having learned all this. In exactly the same way, anyone who
should say, ‘I will not follow the teaching of the Blessed One until the Blessed One has explained all the
multiform truths of the world’ – that person would die before the Buddha had explained all this.”

Source: The Teachings of the Buddha by Jack Kornfield

Sound of one hand clapping

A Zen monk named Ichhi labored his whole life in the kitchen of the great monastery at Lake Hakkone.
He deemed himself a failed monk because he had been assigned the koan of “What is the sound of one
hand clapping?” since his earliest days in the congregation and had never been able to solve it. It was
now fifty-five years of seeming failure, and he was nearing the end of his lifetime.

But as he lay dying he suddenly realized that he cradled a great peace in his soul. Gone was the striving
for enlightenment, gone was the stridency of his loins, and gone was the haunting koan — for he had
found the stillness of no longer striving in this exquisite silence alone in the attic in the soft dark at the end
of his life.

It was only then, when there remained no more questions nor need for answers (or even the need for
breathing) that Ichhi heard at last the whooshing silence of one hand clapping

The golden begging bowl

The great Buddhist saint Nagarjuna moved around naked except for a loincloth and, incongruously, a golden begging bowl gifted to him by the King, who was his disciple.

One night he was about to lie down to sleep among the ruins of an ancient monastery when he noticed a thief lurking behind one of the columns. “Here, take this,” said Nagarjuna, holding out the begging bowl. That way you won’t disturb me once I have fallen asleep.”

The thief eagerly grabbed the bowl and made off – only to return next morning with the bowl and a request. He said, “When you gave away this bowl so freely last night, you made me feel very poor. Teach me how to acquire the riches that make this kind of light-hearted detachment possible.”

Moving to a New Village

There was a person coming to a new village, relocating, and he was wondering if he would like it there, so he went to the zen master and asked: do you think I will like it in this village? Are the people nice?

The master asked back: How were the people on the village where you come from? “They were nasty and greedy, they were angry and lived for cheating and stealing,” said the newcomer.

Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master.

Another newcomer to the village visited the master and asked the same question, to which the master asked: How were the people in the village where you come from? “They were sweet and lived in harmony, they cared for one another and for the land, they respected each other and they were seekers of spirit,” he replied.

Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master.

The Gates of Paradise

A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”

“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin. “I am a Samurai,” the warrior replied.

“You, a soldier!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar.” Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”

As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!” At these words the Samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.

“Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.

Nobody In The Boat

The Taoists have a famous teaching about an empty boat that rams into your boat in the middle of a river. While you probably would not be angry at an empty boat, you might well become enraged if someone were at its helm.

The point of the story is that the parents who did not see you, the other kids who teased you as a child, the driver who aggressively tailgated you yesterday – are all in fact empty, rudderless boats. They were compulsively driven to act as they did by their own wounds, therefore they did not know what they were doing and had little control over it.

Just as an empty boat that rams into us is not targeting us, so too people who act unkindly are driven along by the unconscious force of their own wounding and pain.

Until we realize this, we will remain prisoners of our grievance, our past, and our victim identity, all of which keep us from opening to the more powerful currents of life and love that are always flowing through the present moment.

Zen Story : Right and Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

Ensō

Ensō (円相) is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy even though it is a symbol and not a character. It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void; it can also symbolize the Japanese aesthetic itself. As an “expression of the moment” it is often considered a form of minimalist expressionist art.

In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create. The brushed ink of the circle is usually done on silk or rice paper in one movement (Bankei, however, occasionally used two strokes) and there is no possibility of modification: it shows the expressive movement of the spirit at that time. Zen Buddhists “believe that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an ensō. Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō. Some artists will practice drawing an ensō daily, as a kind of spiritual practice.”[1]

Some artists paint ensō with an opening in the circle, while others complete the circle. For the former, the opening may express various ideas, for example that the ensō is not separate, but is part of something greater, or that imperfection is an essential and inherent aspect of existence (see also the idea of broken symmetry). The principle of controlling the balance of composition through asymmetry and irregularity is an important aspect of the Japanese aesthetic: Fukinsei (不均斉), the denial of perfection.

The ensō is also a sacred symbol in the Zen school of Buddhism, and is often used by Zen masters as a form of signature in their religious artwork. For more on the philosophy behind this see Hitsuzendo, the Way of the Brush or Zen Calligraphy.

The ensō has also been co-opted as an advertising symbol by various companies, notably Lucent. No longer used since the Alcatel merger, the logo was often jokingly referred to as the “coffee cup ring”.