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
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
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
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
"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