Wednesday, January 30, 2008

30th January

Student: “All these natural wonders – the trees, mountains, and earth – where do they come from?”
Master: “Where does your question come from?”

The Master shows the student that all of nature arises and returns to the same source, therefore to ask the question, “Who is asking the question and where does it come from?” leads the student to his own self-nature which is the Buddha-nature of all.

29th January

Student: “Is there anything more miraculous than the wonders of nature?”
Master: “Yes, your appreciation of these wonders.”

No comment needed.

28th January

If you do not get it from yourself,
Where will you go for it?
Zen saying.

This text affirms the previous posts. That there is only your own self-nature, your Buddha-nature that exists.

27th January

I was born alone
I will die alone.
And between these two
I am alone day and night.

To most of us this koan seems difficult. However it reveals to us a truth. That outside reality is just a mirror to our own perception of us. It has been described by Deepak Chopra as Self-referral and object-referral. Object referral is to live one’s life in consequence of outside conditions and forces. Self-referral is to be in-turned and know oneself. If one lives one’s life in Self-referral you are always alone.

26th January

T’ao-ch’ien asked a fellow monk to accompany him on a long journey to help him in his study of Zen. His friend said, “I’ll certainly try to help you in any way I can, but there are some things you must do yourself.”
“What do you mean?” asked T’ao-ch’ien. His friend replied, “Well, my eating and drinking will not fill your stomach. When you want to urinate, there is nothing I can do about it. And only you can make your body walk along the road.” This answer opened T’ao-Ch’iens mind and he made the journey alone.

This student had the perception that Zen has to be imparted through verbal teachings and doctrines. His fellow monk pointed out that living the journey, being a human being doing journey in all its aspects is Zen.

25th January

There is in Zen nothing to explain, nothing to teach, that will add to your knowledge. Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only a borrowed plumage.
D.T. Suzuki.

To search for knowledge in books is flawed. They will only reflect to you your own perception that you are lacking in knowledge. Knowledge arises within. It is the gradual realisation of your own nature. No book can teach you this.

24th January

Don’t you realise that if you simply have no concepts and no anxiety, you’ll see the Buddha standing before you.
Huang – po

Our attachments to concepts and judgements about right and wrong raises anxiety within each one of us. To release these is to see the perfect natural order all around us. This is seeing the Buddha.

23rd January

When master Mu-nan made Shoju his successor he gave him an old book saying, “This book of wisdom has been written by generations of masters. I myself have added my own comments and understanding. Now it is yours.” Shoju was disinterested. “I learned Zen from you without words,” he said. “I have no use for this book – you keep it.” “It belongs to you,” said Mu-nan, “as a symbol of the teachings you have received – here.” Shoju took the book and immediately threw it into the fire they were both warming themselves around. Mu-nan, who never got angry, yelled, “What are you doing?” Shoju responded calmly, “What are you saying?”

To put any kind of value on written words is not Zen. Zen stands alone as the intrinsic nature of things and reality. It cannot be condensed into words, it has to be lived. The Master shouted because he had identified Zen with the book and the words it contained.

22nd January

Master Hui-hai was asked, "Are Taoism and, Confucianism, and Buddhism three different doctrines or the same?" He replied, "To those with great understanding they are the same. To those of average understanding they are different. The all come from the one Truth, but an analytical approach makes them see three. However, whether someone achieves enlightenment or remains deluded depends on the seeker, not on differences in doctrine."

Here the Master affirms that all teachings come from the one Truth. However using the mind to search for differences and justifications as to right and wrong make these doctrines seem different. The teachings remain unchangeable but will seem different depending on the person viewing them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

21st January

A renowned professor once visited master Nan-in to learn
about Zen. The master politely poured him some tea, but
didn't stop pouring and the cup overflowed all over his
guest. The professor shouted in distress for him to stop.
The master replied, "The cup is full of tea and can contain
no more unless I first empty it. In the same way your mind
is full of ideas and there is no room for my teaching,
unless you empty it."

This very famous koan illustrates how our minds are full of thoughts, ideas, doubts and fears. Just as the cup needs to be emptied so it can receive again, so must we empty our minds so we can receive the teaching of Zen.

20th January

Student: "How can I find my Buddha-nature?"
Master: "You have no Buddha-nature."
Student: "What about animals?"
Master: "They do have Buddha-nature."
Student: "Then why do I not have Buddha-nature?"
Master: "Because you have to ask."

The Master correctly points out to the student that animals are always in Buddha nature. This is why Jesus said that the birds and animals never think of where the next meal is coming from. They know that when they get hungry food will appear. They are in tune with the flow of the Universe, of creation. Humans have opinions and judgements and fear which blocks the natural flow. The student felt that he was lacking Buddha nature, he did not have it, whereas the opposite is true. His doubt is the seperation.

19th January

Sorry. Connection problems again.

"All this Zen stuff is nonsense," said the sceptic.
"You are perfectly correct," responded the master,
"but this is a teaching I normally reserved for only
my most advanced students."

For me this text illustrates very clearly the path that we are all walking. One sets out on the path thinking there is something to achieve and something to learn. This is the path that we are walking together in this blogger. As we get further through this teaching we will find that everything that has been said up to that moment was a lie, indeed this last sentence is also a lie. This is the highest teaching of Zen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

18th January

The master rose to give his sermon, but simply stretched
out his arms and remained silent. He was about to leave the
hall when a student asked why he had said nothing.
The master replied, "The scriptures are expounded by the
scripture teachers and the commentaries by the commentators.
Why do you wonder at me? Am I not a Zen Master?"

This text again shows very clearly the consciousness of Zen. This master indicates that people who teach scripture are doing just that. Commentators are doing the same. They are afirming by their very words that there is something to do, something to change or achieve. A Zen master remains silent because there is nothing to say or do.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

17th January

Do not search for truth.
Just stop having opinions.

As we have said Buddha nature is around us all a time in the perfection of this reality. The thing that separates us from this perfection is our own opinions and judgements concerning the space in which we find ourselves at any one time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

16th January

Student: "Who preaches the wisdom of the Buddha?"
Nanyang: "Walls and stones."
Student: "How can they teach anything - they are insentient?"
Nanyang: "They are always eloquently teaching the truth."
Student: "I can't hear it."
Nanyang: "But that doesn't mean everyone can't."
Student: "Who hears it then?"
Nanyang: "All the sages do."

This follows the same line as the text from yesterday. It affirms again that the entire material world holds and is built on divine patterning. Remembering that Buddhahood is accepting reality as it is, one can see how everything in reality is an expression of Buddha nature. The wise man knows this and walks through a world where nature is reflecting the divine back to him constantly.

15th January

(Sorry about yesterday. Connection problems. Egypt!)

Master Ikkyu advised that before intellectual study of
Buddhist texts, and endless chanting of the sutras, a student
of Zen should learn how to read the love letters sent by the
snow, the wind, and the rain.

The philosophy of Zen, as in other mystical systems, recognizes that all of nature carries as a pattern divine principle. By observing nature as it manifests around us we can become attuned to the rhythm of creation. The nature of the patterns which create nature as we understand it, are the very patterns on which consciousness, and our consciousness is built. To merge with nature is to merge with our Self.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

14th January

While staying at a shrine, master Tan-hsia was feeling cold,
so he took a wooden statue of the Buddha off the altar and
threw it into the fire. The keeper of the shrine was
dismayed and angry. In response, the master began looking
among the ashes. "What are you doing?" Enquired the
keeper of the Shrine. "Looking for holy relics in the ashes,"
replied that the master. "You won't find them in the ashes of
wooden statue," said the keeper. "If that is so," the master
concluded, "can I have another couple of Buddha's for the
fire to keep me warm?"

Just like the text for yesterday, this also illustrates how the human conscious mind will project words and images onto 3-D representations of a concept, and then regard those words and images as representing that which they choose to define. This is of course flawed. The statues in the text were nothing more than pieces of wood, carved in the image of the Buddha. The keeper of the shrine regarded these mere pieces of wood as the Buddha, and felt indignation at their destruction. The Zen master saw them for what they were, which was just pieces of wood.

13th January

Zen claims to be Buddhism, but all the Buddhist teachings
as propounded in the sutras and sastras are treated by Zen as
mere wastepaper whose utility consists in wiping off the
dirt of intellect and nothing more.
D.T. Suzuki.

This text again affirms that all of the words written about Buddhism are regarded by Zen masters as nothing more than wastepaper. This is because Zen is unquantifiable and unrecognizable by the conscious mind. The words written describing Buddhism cannot by definition define Zen because they have been contaminated by human conscious thought
How does one know Zen if we cannot contact it? To know it is there and it is who we are is enough!

Friday, January 11, 2008

12th January

Wishing to entice the blind,
the Buddha playfully let words escape
from his golden mouth;
Heaven and earth are filled, ever since,
with entangling briars.
Dai-o Kokushi.

When the Buddha achieved enlightenment it could be said that he dropped into reality and left his conscious mind behind. Because Buddha mind is conscious awareness of reality as it truly is, there is nothing to do, say or explain. However, the person we knew as the Buddha wished to entice the rest of humanity in to the Buddha space. He therefore gave instruction as to what Zen was not. The human mind and its reliance on words and ideas assumed these instructions were directions on how to achieve Buddhahood, instead they are like entangling briars one has to work through to see beyond.

11th January

The aim of Zen is to focus the attention on reality itself,
instead of on our intellectual and emotional reactions to reality -
reality being the ever-changing, ever-growing,
indefinable something known as "life," which will never stop
for a moment for us to fit it satisfactorily into any rigid system of
pigeon holes and ideas.
Alan Watts.

This text perfectly describes the aim of Zen, which is to contemplate reality itself. Although we believe we do this every day in actual fact this is erroneous. What we focus on is our actions and re-actions of how we perceive this reality. Reality exists as it is. It is not changed by our thoughts concerning it yet we believe those very thoughts are its definition. No matter how hard we try to fit reality into a system of beliefs or ideas we will always fail. This is because reality is unquantifiable, unpredictable, and unknowable by our conscious mind.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

10th January

While striving to catch the butterfly of Zen in the net of
reason we must know that the task is hopeless.
Christmas Humphreys.

Christmas Humphreys was a Westerner who did more than any other to bring the wisdom of Buddhism to the west. The difficult concept of Zen is here explained. One cannot use reason to understand Zen, it is beyond the conceptual mind. It is everything that is not the mind. Take away the mind and what you have left is Zen.
Zen is perpetual stillness without the chatter of the conscious mind. It is the ground from which the conscious mind arises, and ultimately will return. All that I have just written regarding the nature of Zen is not true, for even trying to describe Zen one instantly becomes separate from it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

9th January

A Buddhist philosopher named Tao-kwang asked a Zen master, " When attempting to educate oneself in the nature of Truth, what frame of mind should be adopted?"
The master replied, " There is no mind to be framed, nor is there any Truth to be educated in." The philosopher responded, "If what you say is true, why do monks gather around you to be educated in Truth?" The master answered, "I have no space - how could monks gather around me?
I have no tongue- so how could I teach others?"
The philosopher explained, "That is a shameless lie!"
"I have already told you I have no tongue?"
responded the master, "so it is impossible for me to lie."
Despairingly the philosopher said, "I simply do not understand your logic."
"I don't understand myself," concluded the master.

The Zen masters accepted that there was one, boundless, infinite reality which embraced everything. To say "I am this" or "I am that" is to come out of this recognition, to become separate from the infinite source of all that is. They saw that any idea of self or presentation of self to the world was a separation and a denial of being part of the infinite oneness.

Monday, January 7, 2008

8th January

Tsing-ping asked master T'sui-wei, " What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?" "I will tell you later when there is no one else around," said the master. Later, when they were alone, Tsing-ping again asked his question. The master led his student out into the bamboo grove, but he still said nothing. Tsing-ping pressed him for an answer. T'sui-wei whispered, " Look how high these bamboos are ! And how short those over there!"

Here is an illustration of a concept that will be repeated over and over again in these teachings. The master here was showing the student that the essence off Buddha nature is that everything is as it is. Everything is perfect just as it is. It is our conscious mind which is constantly trying to evaluate and re-evaluate what is before us according to our judgements and attachments which causes us to drop out of our own Buddha nature. To recognize that we are walking through a world of perfection is to achieve Buddha-hood.

7th January

The student asked the master, " What is the deepest meaning of Buddhism?" The master bowed deeply to his pupil.

It may be inferred from this passage that the master is bowing to the student. However, the meaning of this text for me is that the master is bowing in humility before everything around him including the student because everything in the world is Buddha. Remember Buddha is a realisation not a person or being. The deepest meaning of Buddhism for me therefore is to be humble in the world.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

6th January

If you meet a wise man and you do not say anything to him
nor keep silence, how would you question him?

This is a Zen koan. These texts are designed to challenge the mind and place it in a position of submission to concepts and judgements. The student would be given the quandary and asked to meditate on it until an answer arose. Thus we ask you to do the same.
Clue: Why would you need to question a wise man?
There are in Zen no sacred books of dogmatic tenets.
If I am asked, therefore, what Zen teaches, I would answer
Zen teaches nothing. Whatever teachings there are in Zen,
they came out of one's own mind. We teach ourselves;
Zen merely points the way.
D. T. Suzuki

The Enigma of Zen is here illustrated. Zen cannot be quantified, described or explained. It is non doing. It is everything that is not. All the books and teachings describing Zen are not Zen. They are a path to a state of non -consciousness where the books, teachings and reader disappears.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

4th January

Student: " What is the path to liberation?"
Seng-t'san: " Who binds you?"
Student: " No one binds me?"
Seng-t'san: " Why then do you want to be liberated?"

This text illustrates perfectly how we have a perception that we should be more than we already are. It is a nagging doubt that there is something missing in our lives, that we can be more than we are in this moment. Asked what that thing is we have no answer, we have no definition of that which we seek the most. So therefore the illusion is laid bare. It is the perception that we are missing something, that we are lacking something which causes most of our suffering.

3rd January

Wise listeners, the wisdom of enlightenment
is inherent in each of us. We failed to recognize
it because of the illusion of mind, and so to know
our own essence of Mind we see the teachings
of the enlightened.

The dichotomy illustrated here is that enlightenment is an integral part of who we are. Because of the delusion of mind (read here personality consciousness), we feel there is something lacking in our lives. We do not recognize that spirit is part of who we are and so we seek out books to try to find enlightenment, to try to find the spirit that we already are. We are spirit lost trying to find ourselves once again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2nd January

2nd January.

We are like someone immersed in water,
who complains of nothing to drink.

In this text it can easily be seen how the master is showing us that we are surrounded by everything that we need now. All that we have ever desired is part of who we are and where we are in any one moment. The thought and feeling that we do not have what we desire most is the illusion.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Searching for the Bull

The journey begins as an exhausting search for an elusive quarry. The seeker is pictured in search of himself, but all he can find is rustling leaves and singing cicadas, and he does not yet realise that these are the very clues he seeks. During this stage the student is often confused and discouraged. He doesn't really even know what it is he is looking for. Zen sounds strange and obscure yet something in it inexplicably attracts him, nevertheless. Kuo-an Shih-yuan writes

In search of the Bull,
I fight my way through forests,
following the course of unamed rivers,
lost on meandering mountain paths.
Exhausted and despairing,
I can find nothing but rustling leaves,
and the singing of cicadas at nightfall.

Why search for a bull that has never been lost? The bull only appears lost because the ox herd is lost in the experience of separateness. His home becomes ever more distant. He reaches many crossroads in life, but does not know which road to follow. Desire and fear burning him like a fire, and ideas of right and wrong imprisoned him.

1st January.

Student: " What is Zen?"
Nan-ch'uan: " Ordinary mind is very Zen."
Student: " Should we try to get it?"
Nan-ch'uan: " As soon as you try you miss it."

The master is trying to indicate to the student that the mind that we use in everyday life is as enlightened as it is ever going to get. In its natural nature it is totally free from striving to become something more than it already is. We believe that to be enlightened is a state that we have to find, to strive for. As soon as we start to strive for enlightenment and chase it we come out of the enlightened state which is our natural state.