The legendary inventor of the kyozo, the custom-made building for housing sutras, Fu Ta-shih (also known as Bodhisattva Shan-hui) was a 6th century Chinese poet and lay master. Below are two translations of one of his famous short poems or gathas. Empty-handed, I hold a hoe. Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo. Passing… Continue reading Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe
"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?
Su Tung-P'o was a poet of the Song era who is also known as Su Shi, and who published under the name Dongpo Jushi. A prolific figure of his time, Su Tung-P'o was a statesman who was accomplished not only in literary terms, but also as a painter, calligrapher and cook. Influenced by his study… Continue reading Su Tung-P’o’s Rapt in Wine Against the Mountain Rains
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
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
Ch'eng Hao was one of the leading poets and teachers of neo-Confucianism in China in the 11th century and this poem reflects his philosophy that all things are an inextricable part of the Tao, which is also to say the mind. When I'm at peace, I let everything go I wake by the east… Continue reading Occasional Poem on an Autumn Day
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