Post Kensho Practice-Enlightenment – Lesson 9 – Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism

Lesson 9

[Link to Lesson 1] [Link to Lesson 2] [Link to Lesson 3] [Link to Lesson 4] [Link to Lesson 5] [Link to Lesson 6] [Link to Lesson 7] [Link to Lesson 8] [Lesson 9] [Lesson 10] [Lesson 11] [Lesson 12] [Lesson 13] [Lesson 14]

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


Post Kensho Practice-Enlightenment – Lesson 9


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

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Good friends, once you have achieved some success in cessation meditation, you begin to employ one or more methods of observation meditation in order to maintain balance and realize progression. Cessation or nonthinking is not abandoned, but continues to be the foundation of your practice and enlightenment…

Continuous practice and enlightenment is enacted through a multitude of techniques and methods in the great spiritual traditions of the world. Scriptural study is one of the more frequently used methods for transmitting wisdom; however, it is also transmitted through song, poetry, ritual, ceremony, drama, and other methods. Zen Buddhism uses these methods; at the same time, Zen employs the unique method of koan-introspection.

Learned audience, koan-introspection differs from the practice with initial-type koans, which are used as devices for achieving cessation. Observation meditation in the form of koan-introspection requires sustained focus in the condition of nonthinking or forgetting the self, and allowing your observing prajna or buddha-eye to illumine the wisdom of the koan.

Although the human intellect does play a role in this process, enlightened wisdom must be realized by the whole of your being and cannot be grasped by the intellect alone. Trying to understand it or figure it out through ordinary conceptual means is futile.

Good friends, this does not mean that koans are not rational–they assuredly are. The rationality or reason, that they convey however, includes and transcends ordinary intellectual knowledge. As you will discover when you achieve cessation, there is a vast difference between the ordinary rationality of human intellect and the wisdom of the enlightened mind. If you are to truly actualize the fundamental point, you must do so through the activation and application of prajna. The human intellect is but one aspect of all time and space, and practice and enlightenment on the path of Zen is all-inclusive realization. In Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, Dogen describes what it means to discern and actualize enlightened wisdom through engaging the observing prajna within nonthinking, which he refers to there as ‘the mountain-still state’.

Good friends, all of the great masters urged their hearers to illumine the teachings of sages and actualize the wisdom of reality through observation meditation. Having awakened to the innate function of nonthinking through the realization of cessation, we can now apply ourselves to observation. Observation meditation consists of observing the sacred teachings as well as the everyday world of sensation, perception, mental formulation, and consciousness seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking through and with the enlightened awareness of nonthinking…

Although you will soon find that cessation and observation can be carried out in nearly any activity, initially it may be easier to apply during sitting meditation. In Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Dogen offers some advice on how to go about practicing observation meditation while sitting. He says, “At the very time of your sitting, you should examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal.”

Yes! This is exactly how a practitioner applies observation meditation. Looking deeply, examining exhaustively, not only the perspective of the total world, but of all particular things.

Good friends, the eternal quest that is the source of what, who, where, when, how, and why, is the essence and function of the vast, unnamable, fathomless void. Practicing observation meditation shines your own observing prajna upon the wonder and mystery of being alive…

Good friends, post-kensho practice and enlightenment is what taking the path of Zen is all about. If the path of Zen called only for achieving a state of emptiness or pure awareness or some other static condition, it would be the station of Zen rather than the path of Zen. You should not follow teachings that urge you to cling to the bliss of emptiness, making heroic efforts to detach from the world or sustain ‘pure awareness’. That would be what Dogen calls passing time in vain. Once you have awakened to your true nature, you should follow the instruction of all the sages and never waste another day.

Good friends, the truth itself is not separate from you here and now. To fail to continue along the Zen path of practice and enlightenment for the sake of the truth is to fail to realize or make real, your own true self. Once you have awakened to the true nature of your own mind through the realization of nonthinking, and learned to use your observing prajna, you should apply it in order to master the buddha-dharma or the truth of 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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The many beings are numberless; I vow to save them.

Greed, hate, and ignorance arise endlessly; I vow to abandon them.

Dharma-gates are countless; I vow to wake to them.

Buddha’s way is unsurpassed; I vow to embody it fully.

The Four Great Vows (Taken by all Mahayana Practitioners)

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Students of the Way, even if you attain enlightenment, do not think that this is now the ultimate and thus abandon your practice of the Way. The Way is endless. Even if you are enlightened, you should still practice the Way. Consider the ancient story of the lecturer Liang Sui calling upon Ma Yu.

Dogen, Record of Things Heard, Thomas Cleary

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There is originally no word for truth, but the way to it is revealed by words. The way originally has no explanation, but reality is made by explanation. That is why the buddhas appeared in the world with many expedient methods; the whole canon dispenses medicines according to diseases.

Shih-shuang, Zen Teachings, Thomas Cleary

Teachings of Zen

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“What is ‘hidden practice and scrupulous application’?” someone asked.

It certainly doesn’t mean sneaking off to some mountain and sitting like a block of wood on a rock or under a tree “silently illuminating” yourself. It means immersing yourself totally in your practice at all times and in all your activities—walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. Hence, it is said that practice concentrated in activity is a hundred, a thousand, even a million times superior to practice done in a state of inactivity.

Upon attaining satori, if you continue to devote yourself to your practice single-mindedly, extracting the poison fangs and talons or the Dharma cave, tearing the vicious, life-robbing talismans into shreds, combing through texts of all kinds, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, accumulating a great store of Dharma wealth, whipping forward the wheel of the Four Universal Vows, pledging yourself to benefit and save all sentient beings while striving every minute of your life to practice the great Dharma giving, and having nothing—nothing—to do with fame or profit in any shape or form—you will then be a true and legitimate descendent of the Buddha patriarchs. It’s a greater reward than gaining rebirth as a human or a god.

Hakuin, Wild Ivy, Norman Waddell

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There are four kinds of people who study. The highest are those with practice, with understanding, and with realization. Next are those with understanding, and with realization but without practice. Next are those with practice and understanding but without realization. Lowest are those with practice, but without understanding or realization.

Zen Dawn, J.C. Cleary

Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang (Shambhala Dragon Editions)

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A bigoted believer in nihilism blasphemes against the sutras on the ground that literature [i.e., the Buddhist scriptures] is unnecessary [for the study of Buddhism]. If that were so, then neither would it be right for us to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature. He would also argue that in the direct method [literally, the straight path] literature is discarded. But does he appreciate that the two words ‘is discarded’ are also literature? Upon hearing others recite the sutras such a man would criticize the speakers as ‘addicted to scriptural authority’. It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures. You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!

Hui-Neng, The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui-Neng, A. F. Price & Wong Mou-lam

Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-neng (Shambhala Classics)

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I have observed that people of the present time who are cultivating their minds do not depend on the guidance of the written teachings, but straightaway assume that the successive transmission of the esoteric idea [of Son] is the path. They then sit around dozing with their presence of mind in agitation and confusion during their practice of meditation. For these reasons, I feel you should follow words and teachings which were expounded in accordance with reality in order to determine the proper procedure in regard to awakening and cultivation. Once you mirror your own minds, you may contemplate with insight at all times, without wasting any of your efforts.

Chinul, Tracing Back the Radiance, Robert Buswell

Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen (Classics in East Asian Buddhism)

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I left home to become a Buddhist monk when I was fourteen. I became discouraged before even a year was out. My head had been shaved smooth, I wore a black robe, but I hadn’t seen any sign of the Dharma’s marvelous working. I happened to hear that The Lotus Sutra was the king of all the scriptures the Buddha had preached. It was supposed to contain the essential meaning of all the buddhas. I hot hold of a copy and read it through. But when I had finished, I closed it with a heavy sigh. “This,” I told myself, “is nothing but a collection of simple tales about cause and effect. True, mention is made of there being ‘only one absolute vehicle,’ and of ‘the changeless, unconditioned tranquillity of all dharmas.’ But on the whole it is what Lin-chi dismissed as ‘mere verbal prescriptions for relieving the world’s ills.’ I’m not going to find what I’m looking for here.”

I was deeply disillusioned. I didn’t get over it for quite some time. Meanwhile, I lived as the priest of a small temple. I reached forty, the age when one is not supposed to be bothered any longer by doubts. One night, I decided to take another look at The Lotus Sutra. I got out my only lamp, turned up the wick, and began to read it once again. I read as far as the third chapter, the one on parables. Then, just like that, all the lingering doubts and uncertainties vanished from my mind. They suddenly ceased to exist. The reason for the Lotus’s reputation as the “king of sutras” was now revealed to me with blinding clarity. Teardrops began cascading down my face like two strings of beads—they came like beans pouring from a ruptured sack. A loud involuntary cry burst from the depths of my being and I began sobbing uncontrollably. And as I did, I knew without any doubt that what I had realized in all those satoris I had experienced, what I had grasped in my understanding of those koans I had passed—had all been totally mistaken. I was finally able to penetrate the source of the free, enlightened activity that permeated Shoju’s daily life. I also knew beyond doubt that the tongue in the World-honored One’s mouth moved with complete and unrestricted freedom. I realized I richly deserved a good thirty hard blows of the staff, just like Lin-chi!

Hakuin, The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin,

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One time, as Shitou was reading a famous Buddhist treatise, he came to the point where it says, “It seems that only a sage can understand that myriad things are oneself.” At this point he hit the desk and said, “A sage has no self, yet there is nothing that is not the self.  The body of reality is formless—who speaks of self and other?  The round mirror is marvelously bright—all things and the mysteries of their beings appear in it spontaneously.  Objects and knowledge are not one—who says they come or go to one another?  How true are the words of this treatise!”  Then he rolled up the scroll and unexpectedly fell asleep.  He dreamed he was riding with Zen master Huineng on a turtle swimming around in a deep lake.  When he awoke he realized what it meant: the miraculous turtle was knowledge, the lake was the ocean of essence.  “The Zen master and I were riding on spiritual knowledge floating on the ocean of essence.”  Subsequently he wrote The Merging of Difference and Sameness, which became popular.

Such a dream occurred to him because his spiritual knowledge was already equal to that of the Zen master Huineng and no different from that of Zen master Qingyuan.  Moreover, one time in a lecture he said, “My teaching is the bequest of the enlightened ones of the past: to arrive at the knowledge and insight of buddhahood without making and issue of meditation or effort.  The body itself is Buddha—mind, Buddha, sentient beings, enlightenment, and affliction are different in name but one in essence.  You should know that your own mind essence is in substance beyond annihilation and eternity; its nature is neither defiled nor pure.  Profoundly still, complete, it is equal in ordinary people and in saints.  It functions freely, apart from mentation, intellection, and cognition: all realms of being are just mind revealing itself—how could there be any real origination or destruction of mere reflections?  If you can realize this, you will be complete.”  If he had not had an independent view that dissolved the universe, he could not have spoken thus.  Having attained realization at a blow and succeeding in seeing clearly, he ranked as one of the Zen masters.

Keizan, Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary

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Q: What are the ‘three methods of training (to be performed) at the same level’ and what is meant by performing them on the same level?

A: They are discipline (vinaya), concentration (dhyana) and wisdom (prajna).”

Q: Please explain them one by one.

A: Discipline involves stainless purity. Concentration involves the stilling of your minds so that you remain wholly unmoved by surrounding phenomena. Wisdom means that your stillness of mind is not disturbed by your giving any thought to that stillness, that your purity is unmarred by your entertaining any thought of purity and that, in the midst of all such pairs of opposites as good and evil, you are able to distinguish between them without being stained by them and, in this way, to reach the state of being perfectly at ease and free of all dependence. Furthermore, if you realize that discipline, concentration and wisdom are all alike in that their substance is intangible and that, hence, they are undivided and therefore one – that is what is meant by three methods of training performed at the same level.

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

Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

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Learned Audience, if you wish to penetrate the deepest mystery of the dharmadhatu and the samadhi of prajna, you should practice prajna by reciting and studying the Vajracchedika [the Diamond Sutra], which will enable you to realize the essence of mind. You should know that the merit for studying this sutra, as distinctly set forth in the text, is immeasurable and illimitable, and cannot be enumerated in details. This sutra belongs to the highest school of Buddhism, and the Lord Buddha delivered it specially for the very wise and quick-witted. If the less wise and the slow-witted should hear about it they would doubt its credibility. Why? For example, if it rained in Jambudvipa [the southern continent], through the miracle of the celestial naga, cities, towns, and villages would drift about in the flood as if they were only leaves of the date tree. But should it rain in the great ocean the level of the sea as a whole would not be affected by it. When Mahayanists hear about the Diamond Sutra their minds become enlightened; they know that prajna is immanent in their essence of mind and that they need not rely on scriptural authority, since they can make use of their own wisdom by constant practice of contemplation.

Hui-Neng, The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui-Neng, A. F. Price & Wong Mou-lam

Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-neng (Shambhala Classics)

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Supplemental Instructions For Advanced Study

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Nan-yuan said, “Make a thorough study of the Buddha Dharma, and broadly benefit the world.”

The Master said, “I have no question about studying the Buddha Dharma, but what is it to broadly benefit the world?”

Nan-yuan said, “Not to disregard a single being.”

The Record of Tung-shan, William Powell

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Everywhere everything becomes its Great Function, and every single thing flows forth from your own breast. The ancients called this bringing out the family treasure. Once this is attained, it is attained forever. How could it ever be used up?

Zen Letters, Thomas Cleary

Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu 

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How sad is the aridity of contemporary Zen schools! They laud unintelligent ignorance as transcendental direct-pointing Zen.  Considering unsurpassed spiritual treasures like Focusing the Precious Mirror and the Five Ranks to be worn-out utensils of an antiquated house, they pay no attention to them. They are like blind people throwing away their canes, saying they are useless, then getting themselves stuck in the mud of the view of elementary realization, never able to get out all their lives.

Hakuin, Kensho, Thomas Cleary

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I’ve been to southern Izu four or five times. I’ve made the same number of trips up to southern Kai. I’ve traveled north all the way to Kiso and Hida. As far south as Bizen and Bitchu Provinces. I’ve been to Edo on at least four or five occasions. At meetings during those visits, I have given Zen lectures [teisho] on a great many texts: four or five times each on the lotus, Shurangama, and Vimalakirti Sutras; six or seven times on the Blue Cliff Record and the Record of Hsu-t’ang; two or three times each on Praise of the True School and the Three Teachings of the Buddha Patriarchs. More times than I can remember on the Kannon Sutra. In addition, I have lectured on the Record of Lin-chi; Ta-hui’s Letters; the Records of Daito, Fa-yen, Sung-yuan, and Bukko; the T’sung-ying Verse Collection; the Poems of Cold Mountain; Spurring Students through the Zen Barrier; the Four-Part Collection; Ta-hui’s Arsenal; Manjushri’s Held-in-Hand Sutra; The Precious Mirror Samadhi; Dream Words from the Land of Dreams; Poison Stamens in a Thicket of Thorns; the Record of Daio; The Song of the Mind King; and others so numerous I can’t recall them all.

Hakuin, Wild Ivy, Waddell

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Resources For Advanced Study

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Shobogenzo, Kankin – On Reading Scriptures

Shobogenzo, Bukkyo – On What the Buddha Taught

 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

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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[Link to Lesson 1] [Link to Lesson 2] [Link to Lesson 3] [Link to Lesson 4] [Link to Lesson 5] [Link to Lesson 6] [Link to Lesson 7] [Link to Lesson 8] [Lesson 9] [Lesson 10] [Lesson 11] [Lesson 12] [Lesson 13] [Lesson 14]