Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism – Lesson 7 – Zen Meditation

Zen Practice Zen Enlightenment: A free course on the essential doctrines and methods of Zen Buddhism.

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Lesson 7

Zen Meditation Part 7

Zen Practice Zen Enlightenment: A free course on the essential doctrines and methods of Zen Buddhism.

The goal of this course is to provide a comprehensive presentation of the essential doctrines and methods of Zen Buddhism. To provide the most reliable account possible this course appeals to the greatest authority available; the genuine teachings of the classic Zen masters.

In the interest of maintaining a logical structure and systematic advance, each lesson introduces a specific topic by opening with a brief excerpt from The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West. This is followed with a selection of related passages from the classic literature of Zen Buddhism.

The passages of each lesson offer an array of perspectives from a variety of classic Zen records. This provides a well rounded presentation of the specific subject and introduces the diverse teaching styles of the Zen records that serve as the foundation of Zen Buddhism. The selected passages also present various levels of difficulty. The easier, more accessible passages serve to illumine and bring into relief the significance of the more difficult expressions, while the latter serve to suggest the more subtle implications of the former.

Each lesson is designed to furnish two primary approaches of study; one basic, the other more involved. The basic approach can be followed by applying oneself to the lesson for about 20 minutes or less. The more involved approach will include additional material and references to both online and traditional resources allowing for expanded study suited to individual interests.

While some comment may be offered were clarification seems in order, in attempting to let the Zen masters “speak for themselves” every effort to refrain from “interpretative” commentary will be made. Any interpretive commentary that does seem appropriate will, as far as possible be confined to the “comment” field following each lesson. Please use this “comment” field to offer comments, questions, or suggestions.

Any and all constructive feedback is greatly encouraged and appreciated. If you have a comment, question, or suggestion you want to keep private, please email me at: tedbiringer@flatbedsutra.com

Lesson 7

Zen Meditation Part 7

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Introduction from The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West

Learned audience, the mindfulness techniques of cessation allow your fundamental awareness of reality to calmly shine in the immediate present. When you are at rest in your own fundamental awareness, the habitual conceptualization that goes on in your brain ceases. When you are truly mindful in the present, you are no longer inundated by thoughts, ideas, views, prejudice, associations, memories, and imagination. In true mindfulness, you experience yourself and the world as they are; that is, in their suchness. Your false notions of self and other, which screen you off from the universal mirror prajna, fall away, allowing you to awaken to the true nature of your own mind.

Good friends, while there are no major difficulties in learning how to practice mindfulness, it does require genuine aspiration and sustained practice. Now clear your minds and I will expound on mindfulness so that each of you can put it into practice, achieve cessation, and experience liberation. Mindfulness only requires you to cease from habitual discrimination so

your own luminous awareness can shine through. Simply step back from your tangling, dualistic thoughts. Step back from all your ideas about self and other, right and wrong, gain and loss, joy and sorrow. When thoughts come, step back and let them be; you are not just your thoughts. Do the same thing with all your notions, ideas, and views. If you persist in this practice, you will suddenly cease conceptualization and awaken to your true identity.

Ceasing conceptualization means your mind is not tangled up in views of self and other, even while participating in the activities of the world. When you cease conceptualization, you discover that your own nature and the nature of all things are identical. Awakening to your true identity, you realize that you have always been free from birth and death. Being free from birth and death, you are not hindered by views of self and other. This is called liberation. It is a mistake to believe there is some special doctrine or esoteric teaching apart from awakening to your own true mind.

Good friends, before you awaken to your true nature, you are floating around in delusion. When you identify yourself as your thoughts–that is delusion. You are not just your thoughts. You are also that from which your thoughts come and back into which your thoughts go. Your true mind does not come, stay for awhile, move in circles, become confused, choose this and judge that. Your true mind is motionless and void, yet luminescent, free, and charged with infinite potential. This mind is the vast, unnamable, fathomless void; it defies description and definition. Yet, it can be directly realized by ceasing conceptualization.

If you want to awaken, do not seek outside your own mind here and now. Right now is the time; right where you are sitting is the place. If you cease conceptual discrimination, delusion will dissolve and your pure, clear, luminous awareness will shine forth. This is identification of mind and reality.

The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West

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Turning Words from the Classic Records of Zen

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If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity.

The Zen Teaching of Huang-Po: On the Transmission of Mind

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Once mortals see their nature, all attachments end. Awareness isn’t hidden. But you can only find it right now. It’s only now. If you really want to find the Way, don’t hold on to anything. Once you put an end to karma and nurture your awareness, any attachments that remain will come to an end. Understanding comes naturally. You don’t have to make any effort. But fanatics don’t understand what the buddha meant. And the harder they try, the farther they get from the Sage’s meaning. All day long they invoke buddhas and read sutras. But they remain blind to their own divine nature, and they don’t escape the Wheel.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma: A Bilingual Edition

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The Lankavatara Sutra says: “Inherent Mind manifests objects appearing everywhere amid the five phenomena according to kind.” What are the five phenomena? Names, forms, false thinking, true wisdom, and thusness. For this reason, all things are nameless: they are named by mind. All forms are formless: they are given form by mind. Just be mindless oneself, and there are no names or forms. Then it is called true wisdom and thusness. The Dharmapada Sutra says: “The dense array of myriad images is the impression of One Reality.

Zen Dawn, J.C. Cleary

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When it expresses itself as awareness,

Awareness is no other than the whole mind.

When indication of the mind is awareness,

Awareness means to be in present time.

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

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There is a someone involved in not deliberately trying to think about something, and that someone is maintaining and supporting an I. Even though being ever so still is synonymous with that I, meditation is not merely an I thinking about something; it is the I offering up its being as still and awesome as a mountain.2 Even though its being ever so still is being ever so still, how can its being ever so still possibly think about being ever so still?

As a consequence, being as still as a mountain is beyond the considerations of Buddhas, beyond the considerations of Dharma, beyond the considerations of having awakened, and beyond the considerations of intellectual understanding.

Dogen, Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, Hubert Nearman

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The awakening of sages lies within the normal awareness of ordinary people, but ordinary people wake up every day without ever realizing it. Even though they are awake, they are still dreaming; even though aware, they are still muddled. That is why the sages took the trouble to point it out to them, hoping that they’d seek awakening, inducing them to head for it, hoping they would attain it.

Ming-chiao, The Five Houses of Zen, Thomas Cleary

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A question was asked: “How can one be at ease when one has to give attention to something which spontaneously arises?”

The Master (Fa Yung) replied, “When one is spontaneously attentive to something, he gives no mind to anything. If he speaks paradoxically, he is bothered by name and form, but if he speaks out straightforwardly he is not encumbered. He is happy to be mindless, and even happiness is not felt since he is enjoying life all the time. What is meant by mindlessness now is not different from mindfulness.”

The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

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Q: By what means do this body or mind perceive? Can they perceive with the eyes, ears, nose, sense of touch and consciousness?

A: No, there are not several means of perception like that.

Q: Then, what sort of perception is involved, since it is unlike any of those already mentioned?

A: It is perception by means of your own nature (svabhava). How so? Because your own nature being essentially pure and utterly still, its immaterial and motionless ‘substance’ is capable of this perception.”’

Q: Yet, since that pure ‘substance’ cannot be found, where does such perception come from?

A: We may liken it to a bright mirror which, though it contains no forms, can nevertheless ‘perceive’ all forms. Why? Just because it is free from mental activity. If you students of the Way had minds unstained, “they would not give rise to falsehood and their attachment to the subjective ego and to objective externals would vanish; then purity would arise of itself and you would thereby be capable of such perception. The Dharmapada Sutra says: ‘To establish ourselves amid perfect voidness in a single flash is excellent wisdom indeed!’

Hui Hai, The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

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The Master (Kuei Shan, Ling Yu) said to Yun Yen, “I hear that you stayed a long time at Yo Shan Monastery. Is that right?”

Yun Yen said, “Yes, I did.”

The Master asked, “How does Master Yo Shan look?”

Yun Yen replied, “He is still there after his nirvana.”

The Master asked, “What do you mean by ‘still there after his nirvana’?”

Yun Yen said, “When water pours over him he does not get wet.”

Then Yun Yen asked the Master in return, “How does Master Po Chang look?”

The Master said, “Towering high, grandly imposing, raging fire-like and glittering like stars. Before he speaks there is no sound, and when his colors disappear no color remains. He is an iron bull on whom mosquitoes may settle but can find no place to sting.

The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

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Supplemental Instructions For Advanced Study

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When Emperor Mu Tsung (821-824 A. D.) succeeded to the throne, he hoped to see the Master (Wu Yeh) at least once. Issuing an imperial mandate inviting him to the palace, he instructed the Controller of Monks and others in the two districts (to persuade him). Coming to him, they bowed down and said, “the imperial favor of this time is not the same as that in ordinary times. Please, Master, follow the imperial wish. You cannot pretend to be sick.”

Smiling, the Master answered, “What kind of virtue have I, to trouble the Lord of the World? You go ahead back [to the palace]; I will go by a different way.”

Then he took a bath, shaved his head, and spoke as follows to Hui Yin and other disciples in the middle of the night: “Your nature of seeing, hearing, and being aware is the same age as the universe, which is birthless and deathless. From the beginning all states are tranquil by themselves and there is nothing to hold, but those who are confused do not comprehend the truth and are puzzled by the states. Those who are puzzled by states transmigrate through lives without an end. You must see the mind-nature as of itself, like an indestructible diamond gem, not dependent upon formation by someone. All things have no more reality than shadows and echoes. Therefore it says in the sutra, ‘Only this one thing is real; the other two are not true’. Although they comprehend the truth that all things are void, the Buddhas care to deal through human affection. You must strive to achieve this kind of life.”

When he finished speaking, he passed away sitting in the lotus posture.

Wu Yeh (761-823) The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

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Q: There is a sutra which says that not to perceive anything in terms of being or nonbeing is true deliverance. What does it mean?

A: When we attain to purity of mind, that is something which can be said to exist. When this happens, our remaining free from any thought of achievement is called ‘not perceiving anything as existent’; while reaching the state in which no thoughts arise or persist, yet without being conscious of their absence, is called ‘not perceiving anything as nonexistent’. So it is written: ‘Not to perceive anything in terms of being and nonbeing,’ etc. The Shurangama Sutra says: ‘Perceptions employed as a base for building up positive concepts are the origin of all ignorance (avidya);” perception that there is nothing to perceive – that is nirvana, also known as deliverance.’

Q: What is the meaning of ‘nothing to perceive’?

A: Being able to behold men, women and all the various sorts of appearances while remaining as free from love or aversion as if they were actually not seen at all – that is what is meant by ‘nothing to perceive’.

Hui Hai, The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

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Expand enlightenment, and the mind is always calm; go along with things, and consciousness runs at a gallop.  I only wish to be rich in enlightenment though personally poor, generous with virtue though emotionally aloof.

Here, I am thus every day, thus all the time.  But tell me, what is “thus”?  Try to express it outside of discriminatory consciousness, intellectual assessments, and verbal formulations.

This reality is not susceptible to your intellectual understanding.  Now those who think, attend, and reflect all have some intellectual understanding; but then when they turn back to examine their own eyes and think of the mind that thinks, at this point why do people unknowingly say, “It has never been blue, yellow, red, or white; it has no appearance, no form”?  I tell you, this is what I call talk; it is not your original mind.

How can you think of your original mind?  How can you see your own eye?  When you are looking inward, furthermore, there is no seeing subject.  Some people swallow this in one gulp, so their eye of insight opens wide and they immediately arrive at their homeland.

How can people nowadays reach the point where there is no seeing and no hearing?  Everything is always there; you see people, houses, and all sorts of forms, like boiling water bubbling.

When you were infants, you also heard sounds and saw forms, but you didn’t know how to discriminate.  Once you came to the age of reason, then you listened to discriminatory thinking, and from that time on have suffered a split between the primal and the temporal.

At this point, it is inevitably hard for people to restore natural order even if they want to.  Those who attain enlightenment do not see walking when they walk, and do not see sitting when they sit.  That is why the Buddha said, “The eyes seeing forms is equivalent to blindness; the ears hearing sounds is equivalent to deafness.”

How can we say we are as if blind and deaf?  When we hear sound, there is no sound to be heard; when we see form, there is no form to be seen.  What we see and hear is all equivalent to an echo. It is like seeing all sorts of things in a dream—is there all that when you wake up?

If you say yes, yet there’s only the blanket and pillow on the bed; if you say no, yet all those things are clearly registered in your mind, and you can tell what they were.  The same is true of what you see and hear now in broad daylight.

So it is said, what can be seen by the eye or heard by the ear can be studied in the scriptures and treatises; but what about the basis of awareness itself—how do you study that?

Foyan, Instant Zen, Thomas Cleary

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Resources For Advanced Study

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Chan and Zen Buddhism  – Reference material, Sutras (Buddhist Scriptures), Writings of the Chan (Zen) Ancestors, and Original Articles – Compiled by Dr. Ron Epstein, Philosophy Dept. San Francisco State University

The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun (ZBOHY)  – The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun is an international organization consisting of individual practitioners, sanghas and practice centers throughout the western world.

BuddhaNet’s Web Links  –  BuddhaNet™ is a non-sectarian on-line cyber sangha committed to facilitate a significant Buddhist presence in the ever-expanding realm of computer communications technology, applying this technology to helping make the Buddha’s teachings freely available to all.

 The Zen Site  (Massive Zen/Buddhism Resource Site – Bookmark It!)

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