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The Wisdom of Laotse April 16, 2008 9:45 AM

The Wisdom of Laotse translated by/>/>

Lin Yutang, 1948

To say too much about Taoism can interfere with another’s own direct experience of intuitive understanding.  Having read this piece many times in the past, I see how often it takes multiple readings to reveal deeper insights.  There is the one level where we are reading as if we’re viewing a historical text written long ago reflecting the culture and times it was written in; another level is where we merge with the students who were listening to the discourse and hear as if we are their contemporaries.


With another step of understanding, we actually merge with the writing as if we can feel the writer/speaker and can experience the depth of their wisdom. In the piece above there is yet another possibility revealed.  At first reading it seems to paint a picture of a person of Tao, an ideal, a way to recognize those who have dedicated their lives to pursuing spiritual development.  With a slight shift of awareness we can experience ourselves having already attained this way of experiencing the world.  Rather that read it as something we are aiming for, read it from the perspective of having already attained natural mind; we can enter into this state and BE that wise one of now.

In other words, instead of living from an attitude of someday I’ll be that wise one of old, start living from the endpoint of having already finished your training. Live from that state and act from that place sharing the light of awareness.

With Enthusiasm,


 [ send green star]
October 29, 2007 #2 October 29, 2007 10:06 AM

Keep your mindfulness from leaving buddha, and buddha from leaving your mindfulness. When your mindfulness of buddha peaks, your mind empties: you will get a response and link up with the Path, and buddha will appear before you. According to the inner pattern, it must be so.

Master Chu-hung (1535-1615)
Taken from Pure Land Pure Mind
translated by J.C. Cleary

Many masters from the time of 10th century China practiced a synthesis of Zen and Pure Land teachings.  For many Western Buddhist practitioners, Pure Land practice is much less known. In the above selection one can see the similarity of koan practice and the question asked with buddha-name recitation, “Who is the one reciting the buddha-name?” The one mindful of buddha is buddha within us.

Buddha has given us many teachings in response to the varied temperaments of people to allow a way into realization.

“Pure Land people focus on buddha in the form of Amitabha, the buddha of infinite life and infinite light. Reciting the buddha-name functions as a powerful antidote to those great enemies of clear awareness that Buddhists have traditionally labeled “oblivion” and “scattering.”

The simplicity of Pure Land practice is not as simple as first appears and deserves closer attention. One very attractive aspect of Pure Land practice is its democratic approach. There is no dependence on teachers, gurus, roshis or other mediating authority figures. Its teachings are based on compassion, and the actual method of practice is easy to begin.

Yours along the Way,


This post was modified from its original form on 29 Oct, 10:08  [ send green star]
October 29, 2007 October 29, 2007 10:02 AM

Daily Zen
October 29, 2007
On The Way          

         Pure Land Teachings of Master Chu-hung             

          Master Chu-hung (1535-1615)

Break Through Delusion                

This is the way people are in the world. When they encounter pleasing situations, they feel happy and content. When they encounter situations that go against them, they feel worried and endangered.

Nevertheless, pleasing things should not be considered lucky, and adversity should not be considered unlucky. If you are sunk in things that your conceptual mind considers convenient, the intention of transcending the world will never arise. If you are sad and do not get what you aim for, then you will grow weary of the fetters of the world of physical existence, and therefore seek to transcend the world.

Thus, when myriad sufferings extend before you, just contemplate them with correct wisdom.

Ask yourself: Where does the suffering come from? It is born from physical existence. Where does physical existence come from? From karma. Where does karma come from? It is born from delusion. On the basis of delusion, you create karma. On the basis of karma, physical existence forms. On the basis of physical existence, you incur suffering. Just manage to break through delusion, and all of this is empty and still.

You may venture to ask, “What is the method for breaking through delusion?”

Just go to the fundamental meditation point and understand: Who is reciting the buddha-name? Who is mindful of the buddha?

 Take hold of your doubts over this, take hold and defeat them: then all delusion will be smashed. Think this over! Don’t neglect it!

                 Pure Land and Zen Methods

There are many ways to enter the Path, but for directness and simplicity, none matches reciting the buddha-name.

The method of buddha-remembrance through reciting the buddha-name brings salvation to those of the most excellent capacities, and reaches down to the most stupid and dull. In sum, it is the Path that reaches from high to low. Do not be shaken or confused by vulgar views that Pure Land is only for those of lesser abilities.

Since ancient times, the venerable adepts of the Zen school have taught people to contemplate meditation topics (koans), to arouse the feeling of doubt, and thus to proceed to great awakening. Some contemplate the word “No.” Some contemplate “The myriad things return to the one: what does the one return to?” The meditation topics are quite diverse, and there are quite enough of them.

Now I will try to compare Zen and Pure Land methods.

Take for example the koan “The myriad things return to one: what does the one return to?” This is very similar to the koan “ Who is the one reciting the buddha-name?” If you can break through at this “Who?” then you will not have to ask anyone else what the one returns to: you will spontaneously comprehend.

This was precisely what the ancients meant when they said that those who recite the buddha-name and wish to study Zen should not concentrate on any other meditation topic but this.

Recite the buddha-name several times, turn the light around and observe yourself: who is the one reciting the buddha-name? If you employ your mind like this without forgetting, without any other help, after a long time you are sure to have insight.Fall Leaves

If you cannot do this, it is also alright simply to recite the buddha-name.  [ send green star]

The Mirror of Zen Part3 September 18, 2007 8:34 AM

The tradition regarding the Buddha’s words holds that he taught his disciples for forty nine years. This tradition is sometimes viewed with regard to five kinds of teaching: the teachings that lead to good rebirth in human or celestial form; the Hinayana teaching; the Mahayana teaching; the teaching of Sudden Enlightenment; and the complete teaching on the Bodhisattva Way. The Buddha’s cousin and faithful attendant, Ananda unleashed this ocean of sutra teachings.

Zen meditation employs the wordless to reveal what is beyond words, whereas sutras rely on words to express what is beyond words. So mind itself is the Zen teaching, and speech is the Sutra teaching. Dharma has but one taste, yet the difference between realizing it and merely understanding it conceptually is as vast as that between heaven and earth.

If you become attached to words and speech, then even the Buddha’s silently raising a flower or Mahakashyapa’s wordless smile will be only another trace of the sutras. However, when you attain the truth within your own mind, even all the base chatter or elegant speech of the mundane world become nothing less than this same “special transmission outside the sutras.”

Dharma has no name, and so it cannot be grasped through words. It has no form, and so it cannot be understood through thinking. The instant you open your mouth to speak it, you have already departed from your original mind. When you lose this original mind, then even the story of Buddha silently lifting a flower overhead and Mahahashyapa wordlessly smiling is, in the end, no better than dead speech to you.

If you attain the truth within your own mind, then even the senseless chitchat in the streets and markets are like the Dharma speech of a great teacher, and even a chirping bird or the wail of an animal express truth. For this very reason, when Zen Master Pao-chi heard the crying of bitter mourning, he awakened to his own mind and danced joyfully!

This teaching expresses the depth and shallowness of the Zen meditation and scriptural traditions, respectively.

My hope is that all practitioners of the Way completely believe in their true self. You should neither lack confidence nor give rise to pride.

Mind is fundamentally equal and the same, and thus there is no real distinction between “ordinary people” and “sages.” Nevertheless there are, in reality, those who wander in darkness and those who have been awakened to their true nature, thus distinguishing “ordinary people” from “sages.” Following the instruction of a teacher, a practitioner may attain, in an instant, his true self, thereby realizing that he is ultimately no different from the Buddha. Hence it is said, “Originally, there is nothing,” which means simply that one must not underestimate oneself, and lack confidence. This is the teaching of “sudden enlightenment.”

Even after attaining some realization, however, one must always strive to cut off lingering mind-habits so that one can be fully transformed from an “ordinary person” into a “sage.” This is the teaching of “gradual cultivation,” emphasizing that we must “polish the mirror from moment to moment.” This is why pride can be such a hindrance. Lacking faith in one’s own nature is the sickness of those attached to scriptural authority, whereas pride is the disease of those who practice Zen meditation.

So Sahn (1520-1604)

Taken from The Mirror of Zen – The Classic Guide to Buddhist Practice by Zen Master So Sahn

Trans Boep Joeng

We are always searching for the most clear and clean translations to assist in deepening understanding.  This above excerpt is taken from the first complete version of a classic well known to practitioners in Korean Buddhism. Nuns and monks often ask old masters there to create a piece of calligraphy put the verses to hang on a wall for contemplation.

What Master So Sahn first did was to take the essence of Buddha’s teachings from over fifty volumes of sutras and shastras along with teachings from the Patriarchs. Later on he added the commentary you see followed by the original text in order to help his own students to get to the heart of the teachings.

Master So Sahn has attempted to bring us the best from many works, and I think he accomplished his mission.  I appreciate his heart and mind in bringing forth this valuable work.
     "I have cherished the old writings, and consider the sacred writings  from the great sutras to be my greatest treasures.  Still, these writings are too extensive, and the sea of sutras is so vast. I was afraid that fellow practitioners in the future might have to take unnecessary pains to weed through so many branches in order to gather the fruits that would truly nourish them.

So, in order to save students of the Dharma from such needless effort, I have selected here in one book a few hundred words from the  writings that are the most essential and inspiring of faith in practice.

 [ send green star]

The Mirror of Zen part 2 September 18, 2007 8:30 AM

All of this is just to say that when you correctly attain your original nature, both Buddhas and Patriarchs are no longer of any use to you.


Yet, dharma has many depths of meaning, and people have different capacities to receive it. Therefore it is necessary to adopt different kinds of skillful means.


Dharma refers to the one thing, and people refers to all sentient beings. Dharma has two aspects: it never changes, and yet it also follows conditions, cause and effect.  People also have two kinds of capacity: they always have the ability to awaken to themselves in an instant, where there is constant need to refine themselves through gradual practices as well. Therefore it is necessary to adopt different kinds of skillful means employing words and speech.

Sentient beings’ original nature is already complete, but they do not open their wisdom eye, and thus, of their own free will, fall into the cycle of rebirth. Without the gleaming sword of Wisdom transcending worldly matters, who could cut through the heavy veil of ignorance? Owing to the Buddha’s great kindness and compassion, we are enabled to cross the ocean of suffering and arrive on the other side.

You may call it “mind,” or “Buddha,” or “sentient being.” Yet you should neither become attached to the names nor make distinctions or understanding. The essence of things is just-like-this. If even one thought appears, that is already a mistake.

Sutra teachings rely on words such as these three names (mind, Buddha, sentient being) to express the one thing.  Zen meditation teaches that you must not become attached to any words or speech.

Picking it up or putting it down; creating or destroying. These are the actions of a Free Person who is without any hindrance.

The selection above demonstrates how Buddhas and Patriarchs have freely used myriad expedient means to convey their teachings.




            It’s like sweet rain falling after a long drought;

            Like encountering an old friend in a faraway,

                               foreign land.

The Zen meditation tradition descends from the three situations where the Buddha transmitted his insight wordlessly from mind to mind. The Sutra tradition derives from the occasions of the Buddha’s spoken teachings, delivered throughout his life. Therefore it can be said that Zen is the  Buddha’s mind, while the sutras are Buddha’s words.


The tradition regarding the Buddha’s words holds that he taught his disciples for forty nine years. This tradition is sometimes viewed with regard to five kinds of teaching: the teachings that lead to good rebirth in human or celestial form; the H  [ send green star]

The Mirror of Zen September 18, 2007 8:28 AM


    The Mirror of Zen -The Classic Guide to Buddhist Practice

                              So Sahn  (1520-1604)

There is only one thing, from the very beginning, infinitely bright and mysterious by nature.

It was never born, and it never dies. It cannot be described or given a name.


What is this “one thing?”


An eminent teacher wrote,


            Even before the ancient Buddhas were born,

            One thing was already perfectly complete.

            Even Shakyamuni Buddha could not understand it.

            How could he transmit it to Mahakasyapa?

 There is one “thing” that is never born, and never dies. For this reason it cannot be named in any way, or expressed, or depicted.


The Sixth Patriarch once addressed the assembly thus: “I have something that has no name and no form. Do any of you see it?” Zen Master Shen-hui immediately replied, “It is the essence of all Buddhas, and also my buddha-nature.” Due to this answer, Shen-hui cannot be considered a legitimate heir and descendant of the Sixth Patriarch.


Zen Master Nan-yueh came from Mount Seung Sahn to see the Sixth Patriarch, who asked, “What is it that comes here like this?” Nan-yueh was completely stuck, and could not answer anything. After eight years of practice, he finally said, “If you even call this a “thing” it is not correct.”

This answer is why Nan-yueh thus became the premier Dharma heir and successor of the Sixth Patriarch.

The appearance of all Buddhas and Patriarchs in this world can be likened to waves arising suddenly on a windless ocean.

The word Buddha refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, and Patriarch refers to the Venerable Mahakasyapa. Their coming into the world means that, out of great kindness and great compassion, they appeared in order to save all sentient beings from suffering.


In view of the “one thing,” however, everyone’s original nature is already complete, just as it is. Why have we come to depend on others, always wanting to dress up this simple matter with more powder and rouge? Therefore, their coming into this world can be viewed in just the same way you would if waves were to somehow arise on a sea without wind.

 [ send green star]
August 2007 3 August 24, 2007 10:12 AM

It is said in India that no inferior trees grow near a forest of sandalwood, so Buddhists use the name as a symbol of ultimate wisdom. In this stanza birds and beasts represent fame and glory. Monks are indifferent to these in any form in any age. Only the lion cubs can follow the older lions, and even they have learned to roar while still young. A yelping fox may fool some with his imitations, as a false teacher will use the words and rituals of true teachings, but when he meets a real lion he will be helpless.


Zen doctrine is no subject for sentiment.

Doubts cannot be cleared by argument.

I stubbornly demand your silence

To save you from the pitfall of being and non-being.

Zen allows no student to waste time even for a second. If you have a koan, work on it; if you have no koan, just count your breath. Doubt? What is it? Just keep on meditating. This is the only means of learning to walk the Middle Way.

Yoka-daishi  (d.713)

Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki


Excerpted from Buddhism and Zen

Compiled, edited and translated by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Stout McCandless 1953



The stanzas italicized above were translated from a copy of the original by Nyogen Senzaki, and the commentary following the stanzas was from Senzaki’s own instructions to his students. The Sho-do-ko is a rich teaching in the history of Zen, hence this second part stays with Yoka-daishi a while longer to allow us to continue the rhythm of this work.

Sometimes in practice there seems to be nothing to hold onto. One feels stripped of concepts and goals in training. It’s as if one holds onto this pull inward, being unable to name it, but trusting that to stay true to its directive will bring realization. Trust in the Way seems to be all that carries us in times of challenge. We experience the full range of emotions, questions, and doubts, and yet, still we continue meditating. Meditating without a goal, just because it is part of our nature to do so, has become what we do.


“Carry your meditation as the eternal present, and saturate your everyday life with it.”

No one’s explanations or theories about what Is will ultimately satisfy. Zen is meant to be experienced directly beyond words and letters. Of course, the most crafty person we have to be aware of is the one inside. One can often recognize the teachers who can be seductive in their knowledge and appearance of transcendence, but what about

questioning the one inside who seems at times above questioning? That is where we have to be most sharp.

“Doubt? What is it? Just keep on meditating.”


Questioning again,


 [ send green star]
August 2007 2 August 24, 2007 10:08 AM

Who knows how many generations will carry the teaching

In the future?

Buddhism is the teaching of self-enlightenment. No God or gods will help you to realize the truth. The power of realization within you is called Mahaprajna, meaning great wisdom. This is the root of the teaching, the source of all streams of Buddhistic thought. Those who speculate, reading scriptures or clinging to creeds and dogmas, wander far from realization. Ethical deeds and kind actions may be praised, but they are without real value until they spring from Mahaprajna. The brilliancy of Mahaprajna illumines all beings; Buddhas and Patriarchs reflect this brilliance one to the other.


The true does not stand by itself,

And the false never exists alone.

When the idea of existence and non-existence

Vanishes, the idea of emptiness and non-emptiness


The Sutra gives twenty names to emptiness, each showing

You the one body of Buddha-nature.


The mind rises and contacts the outer world,

Thus, delusions appear.

Subjectivity and objectivity are like dust on the

Surface of a mirror.

When the mirror is free of dust,

It shines brightly.

If no mind rises, there is no contact,

No delusion; only the true nature appears.

Yoka is warning us not to postulate true and false. Without dualism many can easily reach the truth, but they must experience it in their meditation. The goal of meditation is beyond words and ideas The names of emptiness are like lists of drugs. If you are well and strong, you are not interested in them. Many teachers seek to hold or to mystify a student by using the various designations of good or evil built up through the ages. If you wish to make a business of teaching, then memorize the names, but if you want emancipation for yourself and others, give up the drug business and practice Zen meditation.

No other trees grow in the forest of sandalwood;

For countless ages only lions have lived there,

Roaming freely in the silent, dark grove.

No birds and no other animals enter the forest,

Only the lion cubs follow the older beasts.

Even the three year old cub roars loudly.

How can a yelping fox imitate the kind of Dhamma?

Even though hundreds of monsters open

Their mouths, it will be in vain.

 [ send green star]

Daily Zen Journal for August August 24, 2007 10:00 AM

Daily Zen

                              August 2007

       Sho-do-ka – Song of Realization

                         Part II        

                     Yoka-daishi  (d.713)

          Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki 1953


You cannot praise nor blame realization.

Like the sky, truth has no bounds.

Wherever you stand, it surrounds you.

When you seek it, you cannot reach it;

Your hand cannot hold it,

Nor your mind exclude it.

When you no longer seek it, it is with you.

In silence, you speak it loudly;

In speech you manifest its silence.

Thus the gate of compassion opens wide

To the benefit of all beings.

When you begin to study Zen, you aim to attain realization. Your motive is good in so far as motive is concerned, but in your meditation you should aim at nothing. You may aim at realization to encourage yourself when you are not meditating, but beware of clinging entanglements. Encouragement is one thing, meditation is another. Do not mix them up. Carry your meditation as the eternal present, and saturate your everyday life with it.


When a person asks me what branch of

Buddhism I studied, I tell him about

Mahaprajna, the root of the teaching.

Without Mahaprajna, though you know right and wrong,

You are beyond the truth.

With the root of the teaching,

Wherever you go it is the land of truth.

The teaching came from Buddha through the generations.

The lamp of wisdom was first transmitted to Mahakasyapa,

Then genealogically through twenty eight patriarchs.

Bodhidharma, the Patriarch of India, came to

This country across the seas.

My teacher, who works in So-kei,

Received his robe to become the Sixth Patriarch

Who knows how many g  [ send green star]

 July 31, 2007 10:30 AM

 and spring to life all in its own time.


Encouraging the Journey ahead,


Daily Zen Inspirational Quotes — Daily quotes from Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism and original zen art offer a meditation haven with a humorous and global touch.
 [ send green star]

 July 31, 2007 10:12 AM

But admit an entity of emptiness.

To escape drowning, they have thrown themselves into the fire.


To “see emptiness onesidedly” is to give another name to relativity, phenomenality or nothingness. When Buddhism denies the existence of anything, this of course includes the existence of emptiness. There is order; there is the law of causation. The use of the word “emptiness” implies that which cannot be spoken.

One who rejects delusions to search for truth,

May achieve skill in discrimination,

But such a student will never reach enlightenment

Because they mistake the enemy for their own child.

Some Christians admire an angel but hate a devil. Some Confucians pine for the ancient kingdom but complain of the present government. All of them attempt to take hold of the true by abandoning the false. They struggle endlessly, but never attain true peacefulness. Zen students who try to reach truth by rejecting delusions are making the same mistake. Learn silence and work on constantly in silence, to see clearly what the mind is.

People miss the spiritual treasure and lose merit

Because they depend on dualistic thinking

And neglect the essence of mind.

To pass through the gate of Zen,

One must correct this error.

Then one can attain the wisdom

To enter the palace of Nivana.

Buddhists often refer to the ‘seven treasures’ (paramitas), which are faith, perseverance, listening, humility, precepts, self surrender, and meditation and wisdom. Meditation and wisdom are considered as one, inner cultivation and outer illumination. To acquire these seven treasures one must first of all see Mind-Essence clearly, just as Aladdin had first to find the lamp before he could produce other wonders.

Wobaku, a Chinese Zen master, once said, “Buddhas and sentient beings both grow out of One Mind, and there is no reality other than this Mind…Only because we seek it outwardly in a world of form, the more we seek, the farther away it moves from us. To make Buddha seek after himself, or to make Mind take hold of itself, this is impossible to the end of eternity. We do not realize that as soon as our thoughts cease and all attempts at forming ideas are forgotten, the Buddha is revealed before us.”

Yoka-daishi  (d.713)

Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki


Excerpted from Buddhism and Zen

Compiled, edited and translated by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Stout McCandless 1953



The stanzas italicized above were translated from a copy of the original by Nyogen Senzaki, and the commentary following the stanzas was from Senzaki’s own instructions to his students.

I realize some of these readings are a bit challenging for us.  In some ways we have much in common with students of the past; there are qualities we all share in the journey. However, we live in times of rapid change; a planet that is beginning to feel our impact much more intensely; and often we find ourselves in cultures that seem to be going in the opposite direction to a life of sincere practice. This only gives our search a kind of intensity that students of old found in other ways.

We are the embodiment, each day, of the code and values of a different vision of life here on this planet. Even if everything around us seems to be spinning out of control, each day, we sit, we give our best to each situation that we encounter, and realize we are the thread of seekers that continues down through the ages since the time of Buddha and way before that.


So, even if the readings at times seems to be too heady or difficult even to comprehend, let them wash through you and rest confidant that you, too, are a student of the Way. The impact of each teaching is like a seed that will put down roots and  [ send green star]

Elana's Daily Zen Journal July 31, 2007 10:09 AM

Daily Zen

On The Way          




           Sho-do-ka – Song of Realization


                     Yoka-daishi  (d.713)

          Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki 1953


An ideal Zen student neither seeks the true

Nor avoids the untrue.

They know that these are merely dualistic ideas

That have no form.

Non-form is neither empty nor not empty.

It is the true form of Buddha’s wisdom.

To assist you in the interpretation of this stanza I shall paraphrase a portion of Shin-jin-mei, a poem written by the Third Patriarch in China.

“Truth is like vast space without entrance or exit. There is nothing

more, nor nothing less. Foolish people limit themselves, covering their eyes, but truth is never hidden. Some attend lectures trying to grasp truth in the words of others. Some accumulate books trying to dig truth from the pile of trash. They are both wrong. A few of the wiser ones may learn meditation in their effort to reach an inner void. They chose the void rather than outer entanglements, but it is still the same old dualistic trick. Just think non-thinking if you are a true Zen student.

“There you do not know anything, but you are with everything. There is no choice nor preference, and dualism will vanish by itself. But if you stop moving and hold quietness, that quietness is ever in motion. If children make a noise, you will scold them loudly so that the situation is worse than before. Just forget and ignore the noise, and you will attain peace of mind. When you forget your liking and disliking, you will get a glimpse of oneness. The serenity of this middle way is quite different from the inner void.”

The mind mirror illuminates all ingenuously.

Its penetrating, limitless rays reach everywhere

In the universe.

Without exception everything is reflected

In this mirror.

The whole universe is a gem of light

Beyond the terms of in and out.

Here is another portion of the Shin-jin-mei to interpret the preceding stanza:

“Zen transcends time and space. Ten thousand years are nothing but a thought after all. What you have seen is what you had in the whole world. If your thought transcends time and space, you will know that the smallest thing is large and the largest thing is small; that being is non-being and non-being is being. Without such experience you will hesitate to do anything. If you can realize that one is many, and many are one, your Zen will be completed.

“Faith and mind-essence are not separate from each other. You will see only the ‘not two.’ The ‘not two’ is the faith. The ‘not two’ is the mind essence. There is no other way but silence to express it properly. This silence is not the past. This silence is not the present. This silence is not the future.”

When a Zen student sees emptiness one-sidedly,

They are likely to ignore the law of causation,

Then live aimlessly with impure thoughts and wrong actions.

This idea is morbid as they deny the existence of anything,

 [ send green star]
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