Friday, July 22, 2011

Three Classic Zen Masters on Joshu’s Mu Koan: Rujing, Torei, & Mumon

Three Classic Zen Masters on Joshu’s Mu Koan
While contemporary sectarians continue to debate the distinctions between the “various” lineages, schools, sects, traditions, etc. of Zen, the classic masters continue to express the authentic Buddha-Dharma with the one-voice of Buddha.
A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have Buddha Nature?"
Joshu said, "Mu."
(Note: The literal meaning of the Japanese “mu” [Chinese “wu”] is “no,” “does not have,” “is without,” etc.)

Here is Tendo Nyojo (Dogen’s Chinese Teacher) on how to apply this koan in practice:

"When thoughts are flying around your mind in confusion, what do you do? 'A dog’s Buddha-nature? No (Mu).' This one word No (Mu) is an iron broom: Where you sweep there is a lot of flying around, and where there is a lot of flying around, you sweep. The more you sweep, the more there is. At this point where it is impossible to sweep, you throw your whole life into sweeping. Keep your spine straight day and night, and do not let your courage flag. All of a sudden you sweep away the totality of space, and all differentiations are clearly penetrated, so the source and its meanings become evident."
~Unlocking the Zen Koan
, Thomas Cleary

Here is Master Torei (Hakuin’s Primary heir) on how to approach the “mu” koan:

If thoughts are flying around, consider this story: “Does a dog have buddha-nature? No.” Bring it to mind directly, and don’t interpret it logically. Don’t interpret it as flavorless, don’t interpret it as nothing. If you conceive any logical understanding, you’ll never complete the work. But don’t develop an illogical mind either. Logic and no logic are after all random ideas. Just bring it up and look at it. It has nothing to do with interpretations; it is the real way of practice of the Buddhas. Continue moment to moment, whether speaking or silent, active or quiet, walking, standing, sitting, and lying down—do not forget it! Or if you occasionally forget, don’t lose power.
This is like learning archery—it takes a long, long time to hit the bull’s-eye. Just develop the will to persevere; be careful not to flag and slack. If you give up this teaching, by what teaching will you attain liberation?
~The Undying Lamp of Zen, Thomas Cleary

Finally, here is Mumon (Compiler of the Zen classic “Mumonkan”) on this koan:

"In order to master Zen, you must pass the barrier of the patriarchs. To attain this subtle realization, you must completely cut off the way of thinking. If you do not pass the barrier, and do not cut off the way of thinking, then you will be like a ghost clinging to the bushes and weeds.
Now, I want to ask you, what is the barrier of the patriarchs? Why, it is this single word 'Mu.' That is the front gate to Zen. Therefore it is called the 'Mumonkan of Zen.' If you pass through it, you will not only see Joshu face to face, but you will also go hand in hand with the successive patriarchs, entangling your eyebrows with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears. Isn't that a delightful prospect? Wouldn't you like to pass this barrier?
Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate on this word 'Mu.' Carry it continuously day and night. Do not form a nihilistic conception of vacancy, or a relative conception of 'has' or 'has not.' It will be just as if you swallow a red-hot iron ball, which you cannot spit out even if you try. All the illusory ideas and delusive thoughts accumulated up to the present will be exterminated, and when the time comes, internal and external will be spontaneously united. You will know this, but for yourself only, like a dumb man who has had a dream.
Then all of a sudden an explosive conversion will occur, and you will astonish the heavens and shake the earth. It will be as if you snatch away the great sword of the valiant general Kan'u and hold it in your hand. When you meet the Buddha, you kill him; when you meet the patriarchs, you kill them. On the brink of life and death, you command perfect freedom; among the sixfold worlds and four modes of existence, you enjoy a merry and playful samadhi.
Now, I want to ask you again, 'How will you carry it out?' Employ every ounce of your energy to work on this 'Mu.' If you hold on without interruption, behold: a single spark, and the holy candle is lit!'
~Two Zen Classics,
Katsuki Sekida
It seems there is only one Buddha Dharma after all…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Three Enlightenment Stories: Dogen, Rujing, Ejo - Denkoroku

Three Enlightenment Stories from the Denkoroku: Dogen, Rujing, Ejo

Rujing (Dogen’s Chinese teacher) studied with Zen master Zhijian. Zhijian asked him, “How can you purify what has never been defiled?” After more than a year Rujing was suddenly awakened and said, “I’ve hit upon that which is undefiled.”
One day Rujing was suddenly enlightened. He went to the abbot’s quarters and said, “I can say it.” Zhijian said, “This time say it.” Rujing said, “I’ve hit upon that which is undefiled.”
Although he was given a purple vestment of honor and a master’s title by the emperor of China, he formally declined them. Furthermore, he kept his succession a secret, not revealing it all his life; only at the end did he formally acknowledge the teacher from whom he had inherited the teaching. This was not only to put off worldly craving for fame, but also out of deference for the good name of Zen. Truly his virtue was unequaled in his time, his discipline peerless in ancient and modern times.

He used to declare of himself, “The Way of the Zen founders has died out this last century or two. Thus there has not appeared a teacher like me for the last hundred or two hundred years…” He used to say, “Since I made up my mind to go travelling at the age of nineteen, I have found no one imbued with the Way. Many of the monastery abbots just deal with visiting officials and pay no mind to the monks’ hall. They always say, “Each of you should understand on your own,” and so saying they do not develop the people. Even the abbots of great monasteries now are like this. They think having nothing on the mind is the Way, and don’t demand intensive Zen concentration in association with a teacher. Where is there any Buddhism in that? If it is as they say, why would there be old-timers persistently seeking the Way? What a laugh—they haven’t so much as dreamed of the Way of the Zen founders.”
Keizan (4th generation successor of Dogen), Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary, p.214-216
Once, during meditation sitting late at night Rujing said to the assembly, “Zen study is the shedding of mind and body.” Hearing this, suddenly Dogen was greatly enlightened.
Keizan (4th generation successor of Dogen), Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary, p.219
Ejo studied with Zen master Dogen. One day in the course of inquiries he heard the saying, “One hair goes through myriad holes,” and all of a sudden realized enlightenment.
Keizan (4th generation successor of Dogen), Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary, p.227


Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Fallacies about Zazen

As all Dogen students know, Dogen frequently praises the merit of sitting meditation (zazen); imploring us to wholeheartedly practice zazen and consistently affirming the nondual relationship of practice and enlightenment. He also goes to great lengths to define his terms, often by contrasting his meaning of zazen with popular “wrong notions” about zazen.
In his most detailed account of zazen, Shobogenzo, Zazenshin,  Dogen outlines two common fallacies about prevalent in his era. One is the teaching that zazen is “just sitting” and letting things be (thoughts, sounds, smells, etc.); he deplores the notion that any of the six streams of experience (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking) should just be allowed to come and go, that there is “nothing special” to realize, and that “just sitting and attaining peace of mind” is the “right method” of zazen. For example:

In recent years, however, stupid unreliable people have said, “In the effort of Zazen, to attain peace of mind is everything. Just this is the state of tranquility.” This opinion is beneath even scholars of the small vehicle. It is inferior even to the vehicles of men and gods. How can we call such people of the Buddha-Dharma? In the Great Kingdom of Buddha-Dharma today, people of such effort are many. It is lamentable that the Patriarch’s truth has gone to ruin.
Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Nevertheless, popular books and teachers continue to espouse variations of this very notion today. One popular teacher (Joko Beck) asserts that, “The natural state is what practice is about,” and, “Our essential task is not to try to achieve something. Our true nature is always there, always undisturbed.”
This is very different from Dogen’s teaching which exhorts us to, above all, “achieve the bodhi mind” (attain enlightenment), frequently reminding us that:
“This Dharma is abundantly present in each human being but…if we do not experience it, it cannot be realized.”
Bendowa, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


Unless you arouse a mind comparable to this, how will you accomplish the great task of the Buddha-Way, which cuts off the turning round of birth and death in a single instant of thought? If someone has such a mind, we do not talk about whether he has inferior wisdom of degenerate faculties, we do not discuss whether he is a stupid and ignorant evil man; he will definitely attain enlightenment.
Shobogenzo, Zuimonki, Thomas Cleary

The second common delusion manifests in various forms of the notion that “everything is Zen.” This is commonly touted by expressions like, “Everything you see and hear is the One-essence, it is nothing but the Buddha-dharma” or, “Allow whatever comes to come and, when it goes, just let it go, don’t suppress it or attach to it. Think of it as a bubble” (Genpo Merzel)
In Contrast, Dogen urged us to approach life as an eternal quest for meaning and experience—asserting that whole worlds existed in each moment, in each drop of water. Dogen’s disdain for “no goal or no purpose” notions of Zen practice was unabashed. Dogen constantly asserts that aspiration and effort are essential to genuine Zen practice and enlightenment:

It is pitiful that [such people] spend a lifetime passing in succession through the monasteries of the ten directions, and yet they have not experienced the effort of one sitting. Sitting is not in them; their effort does not meet with themselves at all. This is not because Zazen hates their own body and mind, but because they do not aspire to the genuine effort [of Zazen], and they are quickly deluded. Their collections seem only to be about getting back to the source or returning to the origin, about vainly endeavoring to cease thought and become absorbed in serenity. That is not equal to the stages of reflection on, training in, assuming the fragrance of, and cultivation of [dhyana]; it is not equal to views on the ten states and the balanced state of truth: how could [those people] have received the one-to-one transmission of the Zazen of the buddhas and the patriarchs?
Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Dogen’s work almost seems to consist of nothing but expounding the thought, practice, and continuous actualization of practice and enlightenment. He urges those who have already attained enlightenment to continue to go ever deeper attaining enlightenment upon enlightenment. Dogen repeatedly and consistently asserts that practice without enlightenment is not authentic practice.

Concentrating our resolve, we should just strive in pursuit of the truth. We should learn in practice that in pursuing the truth we are as if meeting life-and-death [itself]; it is not that we pursue the truth in life and death. People today imagine that they will set aside the pursuit of the truth when they reach fifty or sixty, or reach seventy or eighty: this is extremely stupid… If you do not single-mindedly strive to be saved, who will be inspired by whom? When we are vainly wandering in the wilds, skeletons without a master, we should realize right reflection—as if making an eye.

… The sixth Patriarch was a woodman in Shinshu district. It would be difficult to call him an intellectual. He had lost his father in infancy and had been brought up by his old mother; he made a living as a woodman in order to support her. After hearing one phrase of a sutra at a town crossing, he left his old mother at once, and went in search of the great Dharma. He was a man of great makings, rare through the ages. His pursuit of the truth was in a class by itself. To cut off an arm may be easy, but this severance from love must have been enormously difficult; this abandoning of obligation could not have been done lightly. Having devoted himself to the order of Obai, he pounded rice day and night, without sleep or respite, for eight months. In the middle of one night, he received the authentic transmission of the robe and the bowl. Even after getting the Dharma, he still carried the stone mortar on his travels, and continued his rice-pounding for eight years. Even when he manifested himself in the world and preached the Dharma to deliver others, he did not set aside the stone mortar. This was maintenance of practice rare through the ages.

Baso of Kozei sat in Zazen for twenty years and he received the intimate seal of Nangaku… Even into old age he did not let up.

Master Ungan learned in practice alongside Dogo in the order of Yakusan. Having made a pledge together, [Ungan and Dogo] did not put their sides to a bed for forty years; with one taste, they investigated the state in experience…

Great Master Kokaku of Ungo-zan mountain in former days resided in a hut on Sanpo mountain… The Great Master on one occasion, on visiting Tozan, decisively attained the great state of truth… No longer expecting heavenly cuisine, he saw the great state of truth as his sustenance. We should try to imagine his determination.

Shobogenzo, Gyoji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

The requirement of wholehearted effort and focused, dedicated practice is basic to Buddhism, and a hallmark of Zen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Religion Versus Science by Ron Frost - Book Review by Ted Biringer

Book Review

by Ted Biringer

Religion Versus Science by Ron Frost is the best, most comprehensive study and analysis of the debate between evolution and creationism available.
Science is usually regarded as a strictly objective approach to truth, employing exacting, and universally verifiable methodology; religion, more often than not, is portrayed as a dogmatic and inflexible set of revealed doctrines and laws that are either to be accepted or rejected only. Professor Ron Frost shows just how misleading our common views of science and religion are by providing an in-depth overview of both from that perspective where the interaction of the two has been fiercest: the great evolution debate.
As immortalized by the 1960 film, “Inherit the Wind,” the confrontation between fundamental Christianity and Science was forcefully thrust into the national spotlight when a Tennessee school teacher, John Scopes, was brought to trial for violating a state law (enacted in 1925) that prohibited teaching the theory of evolution. While Scopes lost the trial (receiving a $100 fine – later overturned), it ultimately demonstrated that the majority of Americans viewed the law as ludicrous – the so-called “Monkey Trial” was treated to widespread ridicule and contempt. However, as Frost reveals in detail, the “Scopes Trial” marked the real beginning of the debate, rather than the end.
Professor Frost begins his study by introducing the reader to an overview of the history of the debate and the central issues involved. He then goes on to present a clear, comprehensive analysis of the true state of science today, including a remarkably readable account of the latest scientific discoveries as well as the methodologies employed by the various fields of science involved.
Finally, in harmony with the title of his book, “Religion versus Science” Religion Versus Science by Ron Frost is not only highly recommended for everyone interested in the evolution debate, but to anyone interested in an overview of the present “state of science” including the methodology of the various sciences. In his effort to provide a comprehensive account of the topic, Frost presents an astonishing, in-depth account of most of the major theories and methods of modern science. Included in this account are clearly elucidated explanations of the “Big Bang” theory; the nature, dynamics, and biological implications of DNA and RNA, the discoveries and significance of quantum mechanics, the method of “carbon dating,” myths and truths about the “fossil record,” and much more.
Literally packed with information, Ron Frost’s “Religion versus Science” Religion Versus Science will continue to serve as a great “reference” book long after its first reading.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood (Prajna: Wisdom, Cognition, Etc.)

The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood
Hui Hai: On the Four Buddha Wisdoms

Q: Regarding the quotation ‘Transform the eight states of consciousness (parijnana) into the four Buddha-wisdoms and bind the four Buddha-wisdoms to form the trikaya, which of the eight states of consciousness must be combined to form one Buddha-wisdom and which of them will each become a Buddha-wisdom in itself?
A: Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are the five states of consciousness which together form the perfecting wisdom. The intellect, or sixth state of consciousness, alone becomes the profound observing wisdom. Discriminative awareness, or the seventh state of consciousness, alone becomes the universal wisdom. The storehouse of consciousness, or eighth state, alone becomes the great mirror wisdom.
Q: Do these four wisdoms really differ?
A: In substance they are the same, but they are differently named.
Q: Yet, if they are one in substance, why do their names differ’? Or, allowing that their names are given according to circumstances, what is it that, being of one substance (with the rest), is (nevertheless called) ‘the great mirror wisdom’?
A: That which is clearly void and still, bright and imperturbable, is the great mirror wisdom. That which can face defilements without love or aversion arising and which thereby exhibits the nonexistent nature of all such dualities is the universal wisdom. That which can range the fields of the senses with unexcelled ability to discern things, yet without giving rise to tumultuous thoughts, so that it is fully independent and at ease, is the profound observing wisdom. That which can convert all the senses with their functions of responding to circumstances into correct sensation free from duality is the perfecting wisdom.
Q: As to ‘binding the four Buddha-wisdoms to form the trikaya’, which of them combine to form one body and which of them each becomes a body in itself?
A: The great mirror wisdom singly forms the Dharmakaya. The universal wisdom singly forms the Sambhogakaya. The profound observing wisdom and the perfecting wisdom jointly form the Nirmanakaya. These three bodies are only named differently to enable unenlightened people to see more clearly. Once the principle is understood, there will be no more three bodies with functions responding to various needs. Why? Formless in substance and by nature, they are established in the basically impermanent which is not their own (true basis) at all.
~ The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

Huineng: On the Three bodies and Four Wisdoms

Bhikshu Chih-tung, a native of Shao-chou of An-feng, had read the Lankavatara-sutra a thousand times, but he could not understand the meaning of trikaya and the four prajnas. Thereupon, he called on the patriarch for an interpretation. “As to the three bodies,” explained the patriarch, “the pure dharmakaya is your [essential] nature; the perfect sambhogakaya is your wisdom; and myriad nirmanakayas are your actions. If you deal with these three bodies apart from the essence of mind, there would be bodies without wisdom. If you realize that these three bodies have no positive essence of their own [because they are only the properties of the essence of mind] you attain the bodhi of the four prajnas. Listen to my stanza:
The three bodies are inherent in our essence of mind,
By development of which the four prajnas are manifested.
Thus, without shutting your eyes and your ears to keep away from the external world
You may reach buddhahood directly.
Now that I have made this plain to you
Believe it firmly, and you will be free from delusions forever.
Follow not those who seek enlightenment from without;
These people talk about bodhi all the time [but they never find it].
“May I know something about the four prajnas?” asked Chih-tung.
“If you understand the three bodies,” replied the patriarch, “you should understand the four prajnas as well; so your question is unnecessary. If you deal with the four prajnas apart from the three bodies, there will be prajnas without bodies, in which case they would not be prajnas.”
The patriarch then uttered another stanza:
The mirrorlike wisdom is pure by nature.
The equality wisdom frees the mind from all impediments.
The all-discerning wisdom sees things intuitively without going through the process of reasoning.
The all-performing wisdom has the same characteristics as the mirrorlike wisdom.
The first five vijnanas [consciousness dependent respectively upon the five sense organs] and the alayavijnana [storage or universal consciousness] are transmuted to prajna in the buddha stage; while the klishtamanovijnana [soiled-mind consciousness or self- consciousness] and the manovijnana [thinking consciousness], are transmuted in the bodhisattva stage.
These so-called transmutations of vijnana are only changes of appellations and not a change of substance. When you are able to free yourself entirely from attachment to sense objects at the time these so-called transmutations take place, you will forever abide in the repeatedly arising naga [dragon] samadhi.
[Upon hearing this], Chih-tung realized suddenly the prajna of his essence of mind and submitted the following stanza to the patriarch:
Intrinsically, the three bodies are within our essence of mind.
When our mind is enlightened the four prajnas will appear therein.
When bodies and prajnas absolutely identify with each other
We shall be able to respond [in accordance with their temperaments and dispositions] to the appeals of all beings, no matter what forms they may assume.
To start by seeking for trikaya and the four prajnas is to take an entirely wrong course [for being inherent in us they are to be realized and not to be sought].
To try to grasp or confine them is to go against their intrinsic nature.
Through you, sir, I am now able to grasp the profundity of their meaning,
And henceforth I may discard forever their false and arbitrary names.
~The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui-Neng, A. F. Price & Wong Mou-lam
The Three Bodies of Buddha and The Four Wisdoms of Buddhahood
Question: The Buddha has three bodies—how are they attained?
Answer: The three bodies of Buddha are attained from the eight consciousnesses, by transforming the eight consciousnesses into the four wisdoms. When you reach these four wisdoms, you soon achieve the three bodies. Proceeding from cause to effect, we distinguish the three bodies like this. The five consciousnesses of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body become the subtle observing wisdom. The sixth consciousness, the conceptual consciousness, becomes the accomplishment of action wisdom. The seventh consciousness, manas, becomes the wisdom of inherent equality. The eighth consciousness, alaya, becomes the great mirror wisdom.
Question: What is the meaning of the “four wisdoms” that you can make this statement?
Answer: The first five consciousnesses are also called the five sense faculties. In this case the five sense faculties are the gates of wisdom through which wisdom is aware of the objects present, but without any falsity or defilement. Thus we take these five consciousnesses and make them into subtle observing wisdom. The sixth consciousness is also called the conceptual mind faculty. Here in the gate of wisdom we must work intently on awakening. Awakening means purity, and accord with the Dharma. With the real and the conventional equally in view, we perfect wisdom, transforming the conceptual mind into wisdom. Wisdom’s awareness is able to know clearly without differentiating, and transform knowledge into wisdom. This is called the accomplishment of action wisdom. When manas, the seventh consciousness, has no grasping, it naturally has no hate or love. Since there is no hate or love, all things are equalized. Thus it is called the wisdom of inherent equality. As for alaya, the eighth consciousness: when it is empty in the storehouse, defiled seeds are all pure. It is like a clear mirror hung in space. All the myriad images appear in it, but this bright mirror never thinks, “I can make images appear,” nor do the images say, “We are born from the mirror.” Since there is neither subject nor object, we call this wisdom the great mirror wisdom.
Question: If the four wisdoms are this way, what about the three bodies?
Answer: The great mirror wisdom is taken as the dharmakaya, the body of reality. The wisdom of inherent equality is taken as the sambhogakaya, the reward body. The accomplishment of action wisdom and the subtle observing wisdom are taken as the nirmanakaya, the physical manifestation, the transformation body.
Question: How do you know it to be so?
Answer: We say that the great mirror wisdom is taken as the body of reality because it is fully equipped with all stainless virtues, round and full with complete truth: it is like a worldly mirror that can show diverse images without differentiating.
The wisdom of inherent equality is taken as the reward body because when false mind is totally exhausted, everywhere-equal reality-nature is achieved and the myriad practices are perfected.
Accomplishment of action wisdom and subtle observing wisdom are taken as the transformation body because when the six sense faculties are stainless, you deliver sentient beings on a wide scale, detached from self and other, letting them share in your understanding and cultivate a basis [for enlightenment].
~Zen Dawn,  J.C. Cleary