"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
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?
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
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?
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
The Hsin Hsin Ming, known as the Shinjinmei in Japan, is attributed to Master Sengcan (Kanchi Sosan in Japanese), the third ancestor in China. One of the earliest Zen teaching poems from China, the Hsin Hsin Ming emphasizes that the Great Way is not involved in the game of opposites, and that in order to… Continue reading The Hsin Hsin Ming
Dayi Daoxin was the fourth ancestor in China: the student of Jianzhi Sengcan and the teacher of Daman Hongren, he was the founder of the Sizu temple in China's Hubei district which is still an active monastery today. Daoxin did a lot to popularize the practice of Chan, and his was the first monastic community… Continue reading The Five Gates of Daoxin