The Chan monk Qisong (1007-1072), an important figure in Northern Song religious and intellectual history, has garnered relatively little scholarly attention. This book provides a detailed biography with a focus on the influential historical writings he composed to defend Chan claims of a “mind-to-mind transmission” tracing back to the historical Buddha. It places his defence of lineage in the context not only of attacks by the rival Tiantai school but also of the larger backdrop of the development of lineage and patriarchs as sources of authority in Chinese Buddhism. It advances new arguments about these Chinese Buddhist innovations, challenges common assumptions about Chan masters, and offers insights into the interactions of Buddhists, Confucians, and the imperial court during the Song. Continue reading
A Conversation on Zen Buddhism with Bill Porter
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If someone is determined to reach enlightenment, what is the most essential method he can practice?
The most essential method, which includes all other methods, is beholding the mind.
But how can one method include all others?
The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like the root of a tree. All a tree’s fruit and flowers, branches and leaves depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort. Those who don’t understand the mind practise in vain. Everything good and bad comes from your own mind. To find something beyond the mind is impossible. Continue reading
Iida Toin (a Soto Zen master of the early twentieth century) remarked once: Words of love are not always kindly words. Let us look at a specific case. Suppose I’ve never been healthy, and my general physical condition is getting worse and worse. No serious illness yet, but I recognize that I have to do something about it; my life situation demands that I get well quickly. So I put myself in the hands of an expert who gives me a programme which includes an early morning run followed by a cold shower and all sorts of restrictions on diet and late nights. The body grumbles: Oh no! I can’t stand this! or, Oh, not that again! and Can’t we have just one day off? and so on. The programme has to be imposed on the body, imposed by force. The body finds it hateful. But the basis is love, and after a few months the body is grateful for the new vigour and zest in physical movement.
There is a Japanese poem that says if the mother loves the child, then when she slaps it it is right, and when she gives it a sweet it is right, and when she ignores it it is right, and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is right. But if it is a stepmother who secretly hates the child, then when she slaps it it is wrong, when she gives it a sweet it is wrong, when she ignores it, that is wrong, and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is wrong.
We have to realize that life cannot be always easy and pleasant. Suppose there is a child who is very talented musically and is studying the piano under a good teacher. It is not always going to be pleasant. The child wants to play, it is true, but not scales. The child wants to play the waltzes of Strauss or Gungl, but not Bach or Beethoven. Some force has to be used, but that force is based on insight and love, not of the unformed taste of the child, but of the talent that is awaiting development.
Extract from The Old Zen Master, by Trevor Leggett,
Buddhist Publishing Group
He comes and goes hundreds of times, so how can you meet him?
Respectfully inscribed by Priest Toin on February 20, Taisho 15  (Painting sealed by Hoten)
Daruma (Bodhidharma) seems to be sitting still but his inner Zen nature is always moving, so he cannot be pinned down with words. This is actually true of all of us—we are never quite like what we think we are.
Image © Shambhala Publications. Daruma by Iida Toin.
With kind thanks to Shambhala Publications.
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Shaolin Monastery in China is generally regarded to be the home of Ch’an [Zen] Buddhism. As a monk there, I heard some time ago that there was a great interest in Ch’an now in the West. For this reason I have come here, hoping to make contact with those interested in the teaching.
I would like to predominantly talk about Bodhidharma and his instructions with regard to Ch’an meditation. Bodhidharma was the twenty-eighth successor to Shakyamuni Buddha. He came to China from India in approximately AD 520. Shortly after his arrival, he discovered that the Chinese had no understanding of Buddhism and could not absorb its principles. He then began to meditate in a cave at the back of the Shaolin Monastery. He was there for nine years. Continue reading
Filed under: Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Ch'an / Seon / Zen, Encyclopedia, Mahayana | Tagged: Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Buddhist blog, Chan, Koan, kung-an, martial arts, Shaolin Monastery, Shi Yanzi | 2 Comments »