Between Rank 1&2 – The Five Ranks of Zen

Excerpt From The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing


The initial experience of the first rank is the point at which the aspect of enlightenment, sometimes referred to as the universal mirror prajna, becomes partially realized. The full realization of this prajna is fulfilled as you move into the experience of the second rank–the Universal within the Individual.

Good friends, it is in the first rank that the potential for sudden realization becomes manifest. You need only persevere in your practice and the inevitable moment when the filter of conception and discrimination drops away, delusion dissipates, and buddha-nature appears at once. At that time, even if for only the fraction of a second, you will see with Tozan’s ear, you will hear with Dogen’s eye.

This experience occurs simultaneously with your initiation into the second of the Five Ranks: the Universal within the Individual. The verse for this rank is:

An old crone, having just awakened, comes upon an ancient mirror:
That which is clearly reflected in front of her face is none other than her own likeness.
Don’t lose sight of your face again and go chasing your shadow.

(Powell, William, F., The Record of Tung-shan)

Learned audience, this rank is described by variations of the formula “emptiness is form.” You learn through applying yourselves to the Zen path of practice and enlightenment that emptiness is itself form. The very same truth that “form is emptiness” is here perceived from the opposite perspective…

~The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing