Search this Site
Discussion Forum
The Three Jewels
The Buddha
The Dharma (teachings)
The Sangha (community)
A Taste of Zen

Buddhism in Japan
Zen FAQ-sheet
Zen Bodhisattva Vow
Zen Poems and Haiku
Zen Stories
Song of the Mind
Zen Computer Fun

Philosophy

Three Vehicles
The Four Noble Truths
Karma
Death & Rebirth
The Mind
Four Immeasurables
Compassion & Bodhicitta
Wisdom of Emptiness
Spiritual Teacher
Going for Refuge
FAQ- sheet

Practice & Meditation
Everyday Behaviour
What is Meditation
How to Meditate
58 Meditations
Tantric Preliminaries
Tantric Practice
Problematic Emotions

Introduction
Anger
Attachment
Guilt
Lack of Self-Confidence
Depression
Fear
Other Delusions
Summary

Symbolism

In General Buddhism
In Tantra
5 Dhyani Buddhas
In Tibetan Buddhism
In the Kalachakra Tantra

Stories, Quotes & Fun

Stories from the Heart
Buddhist Stories
Buddhist Quotes

Quotes of Wisdom
Poetry
Funny Pages...

My Main Teachers
The Dalai Lama
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Resources
Teachings&Articles
Sutras & Practices

Vows & Prayers...

History of Buddhism...
Recommended Books
A to Z Glossary
Number Glossary
Contact me
Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism in Tibet
Tibetan Calendar
Tibetan Astrology

Tibetan Symbolism
Navigation
Web Links
Search this Site
Home
  
Dharma Wheel by Bob Jacobson

A View on Buddhism

Zen - Japanese development of Chinese Ch'an

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON ZEN

PAGE CONTENTS
Introduction
FAQ:
- What is Zen? (The historical question)
- What is Zen? (The spiritual question)
- Why do Zen writings seem like nonsense?
- What is meditation? (Zazen)
- How should a beginner begin their study of Zen - Buddhism?
- Introductory reading list
- About this FAQ
The Essentials of Ch'an Practice - by Master Xuyun

INTRODUCTION

As I have no direct experience of Zen practice, I thought to put this sensible document here for your information. As requested by the author, the text is unchanged from the original. I would suggest that the recommended booklist should probably contain more recent books as well; many of the older 'classics' may not be easy to digest.

What is Zen? (The historical question)

Historically, Buddhism originates in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Around 500 B.C. he was born a Sakyan prince (Indo-Scythian) north of Benares at Kapliavastu. At the age of 29, deeply troubled by the suffering he saw around him, he renounced his privileged life, his wife and child, and went out among the Shramana (shaman) ascetics to seek understanding. After 6 years of struggle he finally understood the meaning of enlightenment under the legendary Bo-tree.
After this he was recognized as a Buddha (meaning "The Awakened One"). He taught for some forty years then died at Kusinagara in Oudh, India. According to the Mahayana tradition the Buddha did not actually die, because the Buddha is a spiritual entity called the Dharmakaya.
Only the corpse of Siddhartha Gautama remained behind where it was given the burial of a Chakravartin (Wheel King).
The very first sermon was delivered by the Buddha in Benares on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path. He taught that proper religious practice consists in the avoidance of sensualism and physical austerities, called the Middle Way.
In the Four Noble Truths, he declared the truth of suffering; its nature or cause; its ending, and the correct means to accomplish the end of suffering.
The school of Zen Buddhism begins with a Central Asian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma arriving in Southern China (470-475 C.E.) who belonged to the Lanka School which later became known as Zen (C. Ch'an). Based on the Lankavatara Sutra, the doctrine of the Lanka School mainly concerned itself with the study of Mind, both its absolute nature, and its evolved nature. It is believed by scholars that Bodhidharma lived and taught in Northern China for about fifty years. The original practitioners of the Lanka School were noted for the ascetic (C. t'ou-t'o) life, living faraway from human dwelling places.
Not until the ninth century did the name Ch'an (J. Zen) become adopted. Early Zen became associated with enlightenment rather than physical seated meditation. During the Sung period of China Zen was synonymous with Buddha Mind (C. fo-hsin), not seated meditation as it is comely believed by present day Japanese Zen teachers and their followers.
Around 1200 A.D. Ch'an Buddhism spread from China to Japan where it is called (at least in translation) Zen Buddhism and known primarily in its Japanese form.

What is Zen? (The spiritual question)

This question basically asks "What is the fundamental nature of Mind?"
It appears in various guises throughout Zen literature, from "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?" to "The One hand clapping sound." The question penetrates into the heart of the matter and can only be answered in a flash of intimate intuition in which the truth of Mind is seen to be the substratum of existence.
As to the role of practice, or what the Chinese Zennists call "cultivation", Zen is paradoxically the cultivation of non-cultivation, recognizing that we need only remove the illusion of non-enlightenment to become enlightened.

Why do Zen writings seem like nonsense?

One of the central points of Zen is intuitive comprehension. When we come to realize the fundamental nature of Mind, Zen becomes super-logical.
On the other hand, when we attempt to examine the nature of Mind through emotions, ego-pain, mental pictures, and discursive ideas based on sense perception, Zen seems like nonsense.
Because everything arises from Mind, Mind cannot be measured through its creations because the latter are not as perfect as Mind itself. On the other hand, directly coalescing with Mind everything makes perfect sense just as they are--as they arise from Mind. All things thus reveal the pure function of Buddha Mind. Just so, we see the natural world as a manifestation of the cosmic Buddha.
When the Zen master Joshu wipes crumbs off his robe he is demonstrating the primordial power of Mind to move his body perfectly--although he is no longer attached to his body, now being Mind.

What is meditation? (Zazen)

INTRODUCTION
Meditation refers to contemplation, generally, the contemplation of both the corporeal body within, and the Buddha-nature. The Buddhist Sanskrit term for meditation is BHAVANA which literally means the action of promoting, or the same, attending (Mindfulness). Because we are potentially pure Mind, mentally attending to the body calms it down and makes it peaceful and less violent. In this meditation, we neither cling to thought forms and emotions, nor reject them. This is called Shamatha (C. chih) meditation. In Vipashyana (C. kuan), or insight meditation, Mind is directed to recollecting itself because it suffers from spiritual amnesia, having in the past followed its generations, forgetting its native whereabouts. Through Visashyana meditation we come to uncover the nature of Mind itself, namely, our Buddha-nature. As a result, we observe that all phenomena are changing, momentary, and finite; that in fact they arise from Buddha Mind itself and return to it moment to moment. Thus we begin to see that all things are like a dream, a sudden flash of lightning, or bubbles in a body of water. In seeing this way, we reside in the fixed immovable source of things free from further samsaric conditioning. Both forms of meditation are vital in Zen Buddhism. However, Shamatha meditation, which is generally done in a seated position, cannot alone restore the nature of Mind which we are unable to remember. The Zen adept also needs to meditate on just what the nature of Mind exactly is. Insight meditation as well, becomes impossible if the body is not relaxed and clammed. If we are attached to violent thoughts and emotions, unable to control our desires, Vipashyana meditation becomes difficult to maintain.

SITTING METHODS FOR BEGINNERS
The cross legged positions provide greatest stability. To sit in full lotus position, place the right foot on the left thigh and then the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in half lotus place your left foot on your right thigh. Try to cross the legs firmly so that a stable tripod of support is provided by the knees and the base of the spine. The order of the crossing of the legs may be reversed. It is also possible to simply sit on the floor with one foreleg in front of the other or kneeling using a bench or a cushion. To sit in a chair, place the feet flat on the floor and place your buttocks on the edge of the chair so the upper thighs are not touching the chair. Follow the rest of the instructions. Rest the knees firmly on the matt, for cross legged positions, straighten the lower back, push the buttocks outward and the hips forward, and straighten your spine. Pull in your chin and extend the neck as though to support the ceiling. The ears and shoulders should be in the same plane with the nose directly above the navel. Straighten the back and relax shoulders, back, and abdomen without changing posture. Keep the mouth closed placing the tongue with the tip just behind the front teeth and the rest of the tongue as close to the roof of the mouth as comfortable. Keep the eyes at least slightly open cast downward at a 45 degree angle without focusing on anything. If closed you may slip into drowsiness or daydreaming. Rest the hands palm up on the knees and take 2 or 3 deep abdominal breaths. Exhale smoothly and slowly with the mouth slightly open by pulling in on the abdominal wall until all air has been expelled and inhale by closing the mouth and breathing naturally. Hands still on the knees sway the upper half of the body left to right a few times without moving the hips. Sway forward and back. These swayings are at first larger and then smaller enabling you to find the point of balance of your posture. Next, place your hands next to your abdomen, palms up with the left hand resting in the right hand with the thumbs slightly touching.

Cross legged sitting may incur pain to the knees, do not force your legs into positions that causes extreme pain. Stretch out before sitting helps in prolong sitting and will in time, enable one to sit cross legged style.While sitting, observe your breathing, but do not try to manipulate the rhythm or depth of the breath. Breathe gently and silently through the nose without attempting to control or manipulate the breathing. Let the breath come and go naturally so that you forget all about it. Simply let long breaths be long and short ones short without clinging or controlling. Remember, that your fundamental nature is not inhalation or exhalation, although it moves both. Keeping this in mind, great freedom is soon realized as the body accepts the power of Mind to govern it. On inhalation the abdomen just expands naturally like a balloon inflating, while on exhalation simply let it deflate. It is recommended that one feel a sense of strength in the abdomen in breathing, that the exhalation be done in a very slow smooth and gradual way or a very slight contraction of the anus on exhalation (this should be so slight it may be more felt as an intention than as a physical contraction) be performed.

AWARENESS
Do not concentrate on any particular object or attempt to control thoughts, emotions, or any modifications of sensory consciousness. By simply maintaining proper posture and breathing the mind settles by itself without effort. When thoughts, feelings, etc. arise, do not get caught up by them or fight them. Simply permit any object of mind to come and go freely. The essential point is to always strive to wake up from distraction (thoughts, emotions, images, etc.) or dullness and drowsiness. Letting go of any thought is itself is a form of liberation; and over time, it will seem easier to let go of more difficult and deeper seated problems. Finally, when meditation becomes peaceful, one is able to contemplate the more profound principles of Buddhism.

DIFFICULTIES AND EXPEDIENTS
The art of right awareness, of maintaining spiritual wakefulness, may seem difficult and the description given above is somewhat abstract. If you are finding difficulties in your progress towards achieving calmness and centeredness, talk about it with others. In Zazen our fears and doubts are constantly brought up; we may panic; get angry; cry, or even laugh. Yet, we may return to Zazen again and again to face these terrors that haunt us in our every day life until their root cause is ended. As we do face the seeming horrors of our self, we eventually see them for what they are. Eventually, these matters are seen to be empty and impotent. Moreover, we begin to sense something which is free from difficulties--something which is pure and ineffable. Over time, as we sit, we find it easy to let go of thoughts and mental-pictures. We come to see how we have attached ourselves, in the past, to thoughts and feelings which have conditioned the present, and harboring over the future, causing us to suffer right now. We also see, that living a pure life that attaches less to emotional thoughts and ideas created by our imagination, lays the foundation for a future life of happiness. After much practice, we learn to extend Zazen into our daily lives. Whether or not we are standing, lying down, or working in the garden, we find in easier to let go of our deluded thoughts being less likely to obey their commands, thus to do harm to other beings.

How should a beginner begin their study of Zen Buddhism?

First, it is always necessary to become familiar with the language of Buddhism, remembering that the goal of Zen is enlightenment, not just Zazen, in which case there is much to learn. If you are not familiar with the language of Buddhism how can your friends help you and teach you about the mysterious nature of Mind? If, for example, you don't know what gold looks like, how can you begin your search? You need, for instance, to learn the Four Noble Truths (Chatvari ariya-sachchani), understanding what they mean. You need to know that the Four Noble Truths pertain to the nature of Mind, that when Mind blindly clings to its manifestations it comes to experience suffering, or the same, disharmony (dukkha). Beginners should be familiar with the canonical works of Buddhism called the Tripitakas. In addition they should read Mahayana scriptures of the Mahaprajnaparamita class, most important the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Cutter of Doubts. In addition, students should read the foundational Sutra of Zen Buddhism which is the Lankavatara Sutra. Other Sutras such as the Shurangama, the Vimalakirit Nirdesha, and the Shrimaladevi Sutra, are also extremely important to read. As for Zen texts in particular, it is important to read orthodox material such as the The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma; The Platform Scripture by Hui Neng the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism; The Zen Teaching of Huang Po and The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai. Beginners should avoid modern books on Zen if they do not teach Mind doctrine. Beginners should first ground themselves in orthodox Zen classics and traditional Buddhist literature avoiding non-Mind doctrine publications. In so doing they will be able to reach the fruit of the path sooner and come to know the joy of breaking the bonds of rebirth. In reading proper and accepted books on Zen Buddhism there will be no error created either, and thus no future cause for regret. Historically, in China, Zen literature was by far the most widely published and read. Traditional Zen masters studied all the major Sutras and were very skilled in commenting on the arcane principles contained in the various Sutras. Beginners should understand that Zen Buddhism is the most direct teaching in Buddhism, and to become a members one must be want to be a member. Just like an University, Zen is only looking for a good people whom are intelligent, free from religious pride, non-hating, and compassionate, and above all are willing to learn the sublime doctrine of the Buddhas.

Introductory reading list

The following short list of books is meant to help the beginner gain, not only a philosophical understanding of Zen, but also, at least, an intellectual understanding of law of Buddha. There are many other books available, so many that space on this FAQ does not permit anything close to a comprehensive list. Instead we give this short list which covers most fundamental aspects of Zen and the Mind doctrine. There are also many other wonderful writers and books on this subject, this list is INTRODUCTORY ONLY. You are encouraged to use your own judgement when selecting material to read. In short, find something that seems readable to you at first. In addition, you will find that traditional Zen books will be revisited many times as you come to know the depth of Zen! May these books be the Point of departure of your path to Awakening.

A Buddhist Bible Edited by Dwight Goddard:(Boston : Beacon Press,1970, c1938) This book has translations of the Diamond Sutra, Dao De King (more popularly known as Tao Te Ching), the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Zen Patriarch (See NOTE) the Awakening of Faith Shastra, solid fundamental discussions of the historical Buddha and his teachings. NOTE: This particular translation of the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra is worded in a way which might be easier understood by reading other translations.
Goddard's Buddhist Bible, it should be underscored, contains the orthodox Sutras of Zen Buddhism.
Questions to a Zen Master By Taisen Deshimaru: Except for the excellent chapter on Zazen (Soto style) this book shows many basic religious and philosophical implications of Zen. With a heavy taste of the "just sitting" Soto Zen style, Master Deshimaru covers frontiers of the mind in an easy reading style that maintains the integrity of Truth.
Zen letters : teachings of Yuanwu, trans. & ed. J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary. (Boston : Shambhala,1994)
The Zen teachings of Master Lin-chi, trans. Burton Watson (Boston : Shambhala Publications, 1993)
Meditating with koans, trans. J. C. Cleary (Berkeley, Calif: Asian Humanities Press, 1992)
The transmission of the lamp : early masters trans. Sohaku Ogata (Wolfeboro, N.H. : Longwood Academic, 1990)
The Zen teaching of Bodhidharma, trans. Red Pine (San Francisco : North Point Press, 1987)
The record of Tung-shan, trans. William F. Powell (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, 1986)
A Zen forest, sayings of the masters, trans. Soiku Shigematsu (New York : Weatherhill, 1981)
Zen : poems, prayers, sermons, anecdotes, interviews, trans. Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto (Athens, Ohio : Swallow Press, Ohio University Press, 1981)
The recorded sayings of Ch'an master Lin-chi Hui-chao of Chen prefecture, trans. Ruth Fuller Sasaki (Kyoto : Institute for Zen Studies, 1975)
The Zen teaching of Hui Hai on sudden illumination, trans. John Blofeld (London : Rider,1969, c1962)
The Zen teaching of Huang Po on the transmission of mind, trans. John Blofeld (Chu Ch'an) (London : The Buddhist Society,1968, c1958) Hui-neng,
The Platform Scripture, trans. Chan, Wing-tsit (New York : St. John's University Press, 1963)
The iron flute; 100 Zen koan, trans. Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Strout McCandless (Tokyo, Rutland Vt. : C.E. Tuttle Co., 1961)
Ch'an and Zen teaching, ed. & trans. Lu K`uan Yu (Charles Luk). (London : Rider,1960) Paul Reps,
Zen flesh, Zen bones (Tokyo, Rutland, Vt. : C.E. Tuttle Co., 1957) D.T. Suzuki,
Manual of Zen Buddhism, (London, New York : Published for the Buddhist Society, by Rider,1956)

About this FAQ

You are free and encourage to post this FAQ in any and all areas that may help others.
This document has an limited copyright.
You may print, distribute this document in any format as long as the document is not altered.
Revised and edited by:(Mark Vetanen) Mvetanen@aol.com and (Ardent Hollingsworth) Zenmar@aol.com 4/26 (c)1995

The Essentials of Ch'an Practice
By Master Xuyun

This is a tentative translation of a discourse by the modern Ch'an patriarch Master Xuyun (1839-1959), who is also known by his English name, Empty Cloud. Translated by Ven. Guo-gu Bhikshu

The Prerequisites and Understanding Necessary to Begin Ch'an Practise

1. The Objective of Ch'an Practice:

The objective of Ch'an practice is to illuminate the mind by eradicating its impurities and seeing into one's true self-nature. The mind's impurities are wrong thoughts and attachments. Self-nature is the wisdom and virtue of the Tathagata. The wisdom and virtue of Buddhas and sentient beings are not different from one another.
To experience this wisdom and virtue, leave, leave behind duality, discrimination, wrong thinking and attachment. This is Buddhahood.
If one cannot do this, then one remains an ordinary sentient being. It is because you and I are defiled that we have been wandering lost and confused through samsara for limitless kalpas; and that we cannot immediately cast off wrong thinking and see our original nature. For this reason we must practice Ch'an.
The prerequisite for Ch'an practice is to eradicate wrong thinking. Shakyamuni Buddha taught much on this subject. His simplest and most direct teaching is the word "stop" from the expression "stopping is Bodhi." From the time when Bodhidharma transmitted Ch'an teachings to today, the winds of Ch'an have blown far and wide, shaking and illuminating the world. Among the many things that Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch taught to those who came to study with them, none is more valuable than the saying, "Put-down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise." This expression is truly the prerequisite for the practice of Ch'an.
If you cannot fulfill this requirement, then not only will you fail to attain the ultimate goal of Ch'an practice, but you will not even be able to enter the door of Ch'an. How can you talk of practicing Ch'an if you are entangled by worldly phenomena with thought after thought arising and passing away?

2. Put Down All entangling conditions

"Put down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise" is a prerequisite for the practice of Ch'an. Now that we know this, how do we accomplish it? The best practitioner, one of superior abilities, can stop all thoughts forever, arrive directly at the condition of non-arising, and instantly experience Bodhi. such a person is not
entangled by anything. The next best kind of practitioner users principle to cut off phenomena and realizes that self-nature is originally pure. Vexation and bodhi , Samsara and Nirvana -- all are false names which have nothing to do with one's self-nature. All things are dreams and illusions, like bubbles or reflections. Within self-nature, my body, made up of the four great earth itself are like bubbles in the sea, arising and disappearing, yet never obstructing the original surface. Do not bed captivated by the arising, abiding, changing and passing away of illusory phenomena, which give rise to pleasure and aversion, grasping and rejecting. Give up your whole body, as if you were dead, and the six sense organs, the six sense objecting. and the six sense organs, the six sense objects and the six sense consciousness will naturally disperse. Greed, hatred, ignorance and love will be destroyed. All the sensations of pain, suffering and pleasure which attend the body ---hunger, cold, satiation, warmth, glory, insult, birth and death, calamity, prosperity, good and bad luck, praise, blame, gain and loss, safety and danger--- will no longer be your concern. Only this can be considered true renunciation --- when you put everything down forever. This is what is meant by renouncing all phenomena.
When all phenomena are renounced , wrong thoughts disappear, discrimination does not arise, and attachment is left behind. When thoughts no longer arise, the brightness of self-nature manifests itself completely. At this time you will have fulfilled the necessary conditions for Ch'an practice. Then, further hard work and sincere practice will enable you to illuminate the mind and see into your true nature.

3. Everyone Can Instantly Become a Buddha:

Many Ch'an practitioners ask questions about the Dharma. The Dharma that is spoken is not the true Dharma. As soon as you try to explain things, the true meaning is lost.When you realize that "one mind" is the Buddha, from that point on there is nothing more to do. Everything is already complete. All talk about practice or attainment is demonic deception. Bodhidharma's "direct pointing at the mind, seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood" clearly instructs that all sentient beings are Buddhas. Once pure self-nature is recognized, one can harmonize with the environment yet remain undefiled. The mind will remain unified throughout the day, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. This is to already be a Buddha. At this point there is no need to put forth effort and be diligent. Any action is superfluous. No need to bother with the slightest thought or word. Therefore, to become a Buddha is the easiest, most unobstructed task. Do it by your-
self. do not seek outside yourself for it. All sentient beings --- who wish to avoid rebirth for eternal kalpas in the four forms of birth and the six paths of existence; who eternally sink in the sea of suffering; and who vow to attain Buddhahood and the four virtues of Nirvana (eternity, joy, self, purity) ----- can immediately attain Buddhahood if they wholly believe in the sincere words of the Buddha and the patriarchs, renounce everything, and think neither of beings, made by all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and patriarchs, is not a boast nor is it a baseless, empty vow.

The Dharma is exactly that.It has been elucidated again and again by the Buddha and the patriarchs. They have exhorted us with the truth. They do not deceive
us. Unfortunately, sentient beings are confused and for limitless kalpas they have experienced birth and death in the sea of suffering, appearing and disappearing, endlessly taking on new forms of life. dazed and confused, entangled in the worldly dust of the six senses with their backs to enlightenment, they are like pure gold in a cesspool. Because of the severity of the problem, Buddha compassionately taught 84,000 Dharma doors to accord with the varying karmic roots of sentient beings, so that sentient beings may use the methods to cure them-selves of 84,000 habits and faults, which include greed, hatred, ignorance and desire.

4. Investigating Ch'an and Contemplating Mind:

Our sect focuses on investigating Ch'an. The purpose of practicing Ch'an is to "Illuminate the mind and see into one's true nature." This investigation is also called " Clearly realizing one's self-mind and completely perceiving one's original nature." Since the time when Buddha held up a flower and Bodhidharma came to the East, the methods for entry into this Dharma door have continually evolved. Most Ch'an practitioners, before the Tang and Sung dynasties, became enlightened after hearing a word or half a sentence of the Dharma. The transmission from master to disciple was the sealing of Mind with Mind. There was no fixed Dharma. Everyday questions and answers only untied the bonds. It was nothing more than prescribing the right medicine for the right illness. After the Sung Dynasty, however, people did not have such good karmic roots as their predecessors. They could not carry out what had been said, For example, practitioners were taught to "Put down everything" and " Not think about good and evil, "but they could not do it. They could not put down everything, and if they weren't thinking about good, they were thinking about evil. Under these circumstances, the patriarchs had no choice but to use poison to fight poison, so they taught the method of investigating gong an [and hua to]. When one begins looking into a hua to, one must grasp it tightly, never letting go. It is like a mouse trying to chew its way out of a coffin. It concentrates on one point. It doesn't try different places and it doesn't stop until it gets through. Thus, in terms of hua to, the objective is to use one thought to eradicate innumerable other thoughts. This method is a last resort, just as if someone had been pierced by a poison arrow. drastic measures must be taken to cure the patient.
The ancients used gong ans, but later on practitioners started using hua tos. Some hua tos are: "Who is dragging this corpse around?" "Before you were born what was your original face?' and, "Who is reciting Buddha's name?' In fact, all hua tos are the same. There is nothing uncommon, strange, or special about them. If you wanted to, you could say: "Who is reciting the sutras?" "Who is reciting the mantras? "Who is prostrating to the Buddha? " Who is eating?" "Who is wearing these
clothes?" "Who's walking?" "Who's sleeping?" They're all the same. The answer to the question "who" is derived from one's Mind. Mind is the origin of all words. Thoughts come out of Mind ; Mind is the origin of all thoughts. Innumerable dharmas generate from the Mind ; Mind is the origin of all dharmas. In fact, hua to is a thought. Before a thought arises, there is the origin of words. Hence, looking into a hua to is contemplating Mind. There was Mind before your parents gave birth to you, so looking into your original face before you were born is contemplating Mind.
Self-nature is Mind. When one turns inward to hear one's self-nature, one is Turning inward to contemplate Mind. In the phrase, "Perfectly
illuminating pure awareness," pure awareness is Mind and illumination is contemplation. Mind is Buddha. When one recites Buddha's name one contemplates Buddha. Contemplating Buddha is contemplating Mind.
Investigating hua to or "looking into who is reciting Buddha's name" is contemplating Mind. Hence, contemplating Mind is illuminating pure awareness. It is also illuminating the Buddha-nature within oneself. Mind is nature, pure awareness, Buddha. Mind has no form, no characters, no directions; it cannot be found in any particular place. It cannot be grasped. Originally, Mind is purity, universally embracing all Dharma realms. No inn or out, no coming or going. Originally, Mind is pure Dharmakaya.

When investigating hua to , the practitioner should first close down all six sense organs and seek where thoughts arise. Practitioners should concentrate on the hua to until they see the pure original mind which is apart from thoughts. If one does this without interruption, the mind becomes fine, quiet tranquil, silently illuminating. At that moment the five skandhas are empty, body and mind are extinguished, nothing remains. From that point, walking, standing, sitting and lying down are all done motionlessly. In time the practice will deepen, and eventually practitioners will see their self-nature and become Buddhas and suffering will cease. A past patriarch named Gaofeng(1238-1295) once said: "You must contemplate hua to like a falling roof tile sinking endlessly down into a pond ten thousand feet deep. If in seven days you are not enlightened, I will give you permission to chop off my head. "These are the words of an experienced person. He did not speak lightly. His words are true.

Although many modem day practitioners use hua tos, few get enlightened. This is because compared to practitioners of the past, practitioners today have inferior karmic roots and less merit. Also, practitioners today are not clear about the purpose and path of hua to. Some practitioners search from east to west and north to
south until they die, but still do not penetrate even one hua to. They never understand or correctly approach the hua to. They only grasp the form and the words. They use their intellect and attach only to the tail of the words.
Hua to is One Mind.This mind is not inside, outside, or in the middle. On the other hand, it is inside, outside, and in the middle. It is like the stillness of empty space prevailing every where. hua to should not be picked up. Neither should it be pressed down. If you pick it up, your mind will waver and become unstable. If you
press it down you will become drowsy. These approaches are contrary to the nature of the original mind and are not in accordance with the Middle Path.

Practitioners are distressed by wandering thoughts. They think it is difficult to tame them. Don't be afraid of wandering thoughts. Do not waste your energy trying to repress them. All you have to do is recognize them. Do not attach to wandering thoughts, do not follow them, and do not try to get rid of them. As long as you don't string thoughts together, wandering thoughts will depart by themselves.

Other Links:

My short collection of Zen Poems and Haikus
Song of the Mind (Xin Ming) by Niutou Farong
The Daily Zen site - excellent newletter
Int'l Buddhist Meditation Temple with overview of Zen traditions
Funny computer Haikus
Zen Stories

Some good Zen texts: http://boozers.fortunecity.com/brewerytap/695/Contents.html

 

Previous Page | ^Top of Page

Last updated: January 15, 2002