Book Excerpts, Chinese Texts

Those Who Seek the Way Must Enter it With the Suddenness of a Knife-Thrust

"If you would only rid yourselves of the concepts of ordinary and Enlightened, you would find that there is no other Buddha than the Buddha in your own Mind," wrote master Huang Po in 9th century China. As the master of Linji Yixuan, founder of the Rinzai school, Huang Po is in many ways considered… Continue reading Those Who Seek the Way Must Enter it With the Suddenness of a Knife-Thrust

Chinese Texts, Japanese Texts, Texts

When One Can Know What is the Truth of the Heart

The most effective religious or philosophical texts are the ones that transcend time and culture and get to the core of the human situation which is timeless, no matter where and when in the world we live. Daikaku Zenji (Chinese name - Lanxi Daolong) was a monk and master who traveled from his birthplace in Western China… Continue reading When One Can Know What is the Truth of the Heart

Chinese Texts, Texts, Zen Stories

Bodhidharma, Hui-k’o and Hui-k’o’s Arm

One of the most popular chapters in Zen lore, this scene between Bodhidharma, the first Zen ancestor in China, and the student who eventually became his successor, Hui-k'o, is a demonstration of the potential intensity and determination of a bonafide teacher-student relationship. Hui-k'o famously tracked Bodhidharma down to the Shao-lin Temple where he was residing… Continue reading Bodhidharma, Hui-k’o and Hui-k’o’s Arm

Chinese Texts, Indian Texts, Texts

The Awakening of Faith

The Awakening of Faith (the Mahāyāna śraddhotpādaśāstra) is a text that summarizes the major tenets of Mahayana Buddhism and gives hands-on advice for transcending our finite lives to participate in the infinite life while living in the midst of phenomena. The origin of the text is shrouded in mystery: it has for a long time… Continue reading The Awakening of Faith

Chinese Texts, Texts

In the Beginning was the Tao

The Tao Te Ching - whose name translates as something like The Book of the Way - was written in China at about the same time as Buddha was teaching in India. The tenets of Taoism were deeply ingrained in Chinese life by the time Buddhism spread there centuries later, and when the two world… Continue reading In the Beginning was the Tao

Chinese Texts, Koans

Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind

"Strange words and extraordinary actions" were the hallmark of 8th century Ch'an master Ma-tsu (also written as Mazu Daoyi) whose teaching methods involved the kind of unorthodox actions that became associated with certain forms of Zen, especially Rinzai. Ma-tsu was particularly fond of holding up his fly whisk, shouting and hitting his students, in order… Continue reading Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind

Book Excerpts, Chinese Texts

Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?

With great power also comes great responsibility, but not always great wisdom. Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, whose writings form one of the pillars of Taosim, took a dim view of much of human activity and the accumulation of power and knowledge, recommending instead the cultivation of a kind of wisdom in tune with the Tao,… Continue reading Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?

Chinese Texts, Texts

Host and Guest

The theme of host and guest is popular within Chinese Zen, broadly used to illustrate the interplay between relative and absolute. One of Zen's major tenets is that our personalities and beliefs are not absolute, but rather 'guests' within an impenetrable 'host'. This relationship then becomes more complex when we talk about guests within hosts… Continue reading Host and Guest

Chinese Texts, Sutra Excerpts, Sutras

From Huineng’s Platform Sutra: What Does Maha Mean?

Huineng was an illiterate woodcutter who became a Zen master and the sixth patriarch of Ch'an in China. His defining work is the Platform Sutra which emphasizes the importance of direct experience over intellect and learning in the study of Zen. In this extract from the second chapter of the sutra, entitled 'Prajna', he talks… Continue reading From Huineng’s Platform Sutra: What Does Maha Mean?

Chinese Texts, Texts

Alive Without Being Born

Master Hongzhi Zhengjue was a 12th century Chinese monk and author of the famous collection of koans, the Book of Serenity. Like Eihei Dogen, he was also resident on Mount Tiantong (close to present-day Shanghai), but preceded the Japanese master by about a century. Nonetheless, Dogen was inspired by Hongzhi's writings and quoted him a lot… Continue reading Alive Without Being Born