Kensho: Initial Awakening – Lesson 10 – Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism

Kensho: Initial Awakening – Lesson 10 – Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism

[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

—-

Kensho: Initial Awakening – Lesson 10

—-

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

—-

In rare instances, enlightenment or realization can occur before formal practice and study; however, most practitioners must begin with pre-realization practice based on the teachings of buddhas and Zen ancestors. This includes the study of basic Zen and Buddhist texts, and some form of meditation practice, usually sitting and walking meditation.

After some effort in pre-realization practice, awareness of the universal mirror prajna suddenly occurs. Zen texts often describe this as kensho (seeing into true nature). Dogen Zenji often refers to this as ‘body and mind cast off’ or ‘forgetting the self’. This initial experience can vary widely in depth and scope according to the individual. Though the experience itself usually fades quickly, the insight or wisdom activated through kensho can be truly transforming.

With this experience, practice and study shifts from the conceptual level to the living reality. This initial experience is the point where authentic Zen practice begins.

Until you actually experience this entry, often called kensho, you cannot grasp the truth of Zen. Bodhidharma, the First Ancestor of Zen in China, taught that seeing your nature is Zen.

This awakening reveals an aspect of yourself that–though concealed until the moment of kensho–has always been with you. This newly revealed aspect of your own true nature has been functioning all along. When you awaken, you do not attain some new knowledge or understanding, you simply become aware of what has always been true. It is this awareness itself that activates your inherent ability to access and utilize prajna.

Kensho is experienced when the discriminating mind of conceptualization falls away, revealing the source of your own immediate, true awareness. The temporal, limited boundaries of abstraction yield to the eternal infinity of reality. The condition of this immediate awareness of here and now is that aspect of the enlightened mind called the ‘universal mirror prajna’. Reality is perceived directly, without judgment or discrimination, simply as it is.

You have always been equipped with this prajna, but once awakened to, through kensho, it becomes accessible to you in a new way. You should not, however, think that it is limited to simply reflecting. Your universal mirror prajna is capable of much more than simply dwelling in pure awareness. With proper guidance, you learn to consciously apply the function that is uncovered by kensho. It is the foundation of all your subsequent or post-enlightenment practice on the path of enlightenment.

The transition from pre-realization practice to post-realization practice can be compared to learning to read. I remember when the First Ancestor was teaching me. One day I suddenly understood the meaning of the symbols, “The Great Way is originally perfect and ever-present.” Only a week earlier the words were meaningless squiggles, but I continued to engage in pre-reading practice. Then suddenly my inherent ability to read became activated.

Good friends, you should know that the Zen masters repeatedly warn about becoming stuck at this point on the path. Kensho is a wonderful milestone on your path, but it is easy to become attached to this experience. Attachment is a barrier to further progress and is a clear sign that you have stumbled past your realization. With kensho you realize that you have been okay from the very beginning, that old age, sickness, and death have never had any real hold on you. What more could you hope to realize? Why should you continue to practice?

Learned audience, if you fail to continue with post-realization practice, you will allow your experience to stagnate and fade away. Without continued determination and cultivation, you will, at best, remain at the threshold of awakening. Not allowing yourselves to become stuck here, you should continue to move ever deeper. If you do persist in dedicated practice, enlightenment itself will eventually disappear along with its sister, delusion. Having uncovered the universal mirror prajna, you are no longer bound to simply trust in the teachings of others. You now have intimate wisdom and insight with which to work. You have gone beyond the words–“kensho,” “enlightenment,” and “true-nature”–to the reality that these terms indicate.

Good friends, if your initial insight is to be of any real and lasting value, you must learn to apply it. Although cultivation still requires you to make sustained effort, you will find that your experience has inspired you with deeper confidence and competence. With even the shallowest of kensho experiences, you will be amazed at your new ability to grasp teachings that have eluded you. By continuing to cultivate practice and enlightenment, you can deepen your realization endlessly.

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

—–

Turning Words from the Classic Records of Zen

—–

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it’s all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the buddha. And the buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not zen.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Red Pine

 The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma: A Bilingual Edition

—–

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, John Blofeld

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

—–

Q: If out own Mind is the Buddha, how did Bodhidharma transmit his doctrine when he came from India?

A: When he came from India, he transmitted only Mind-Buddha. He just pointed to the truth that the minds of all of you have from the very first been identical with the Buddha, and in no way separate from each other. That is why we call him our Patriarch. Whoever has an instant understanding of this truth suddenly transcends the whole hierarchy of saints and adepts belonging to any of the Three Vehicles. You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to this oneness by various practices.

The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, John Blofeld

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

—–

So the Zen school does not set up words, but only transmits direct pointing, proceeding by means of seeing the essence of mind and realizing enlightenment.  Therefore, in causing it to be purely transmitted to let people know it is direct pointing, there is no other model.  It is just carried out by having people directly subdue their conceptual faculty and be silent.

Keizan, Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary

—–

There is a name that is not received from one’s father, not received from one’s ancestors, not inherited from Buddhas, not inherited from Zen masters; it is called the buddha nature, or essence of buddhahood.  Zen study is basically to reach the fundamental and clarify the essence of mind.  If you don’t reach the fundamental, you live and die in vain, misunderstanding yourself and others.  As for what this fundamental essence is, your features may differ as you die and are born over and over again, but at all times there is an inherent awareness.

Keizan, Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary

—–

Anyone who would call himself a member of the Zen family must first of all achieve kensho—realization of the Buddha’s Way. If a person who has not achieved kensho says he is a follower of Zen, he is an outrageous fraud. A swindler pure and simple. A more shameless scoundrel than Kumasaka Chohan. (A thief who posed as a priest).

Hakuin, Wild Ivy, Norman Waddell

—–

The Zen founder did not come from India to China because there is something to be transmitted. He just pointed directly to the human mind for the perception of its essence and realization of awakening. How could there be any sectarian style to be valued?

The Five Houses of Zen, Thomas Cleary

  Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions)

—–

I will settle something for you right now: the ultimate rule is to see your own mind clearly. This is what Buddhism is, as far as I am concerned.

Instant Zen, Thomas Cleary

—–

This reality you actually cannot figure out by conceptual interpretations; if you keep any of that on your mind, it turns into an inclination, alienating you from your self. Even if you try to attain harmony by means of mystic devices and wondrous doctrines, you will certainly be unable to do so. If you do not think at all, though, that won’t work either. You must personally experience it before you will attain clear vision with no doubt.

Instant Zen, Thomas Cleary

—–

The way of Zen began without the establishment of any sect. It is simply a religion which points to the one original mind of all Buddhas and ordinary people. This mind is nothing other than Buddha nature. To see this nature is what is meant by religious practice. When you realize your Buddha nature, wrong relationships will instantly disappear, words will be of no concern, the dust of the dharma will not stain you. This is what is called Zen. Attaining Zen is becoming a Buddha. This real Buddha is none other than the heart of all beings, the master of seeing, hearing, and perceiving.

Bassui, Mud and Water, Arthur Braverman

Mud and Water: The Teachings of Zen Master Bassui

—–

The wondrous path of the enlightened ones is straight and direct.  They just pointed directly to the human mind so we would work to see its true nature and achieve enlightenment.

This mind-source is originally empty and peaceful, clear and wondrous, and free from the slightest obstruction.  But we screen it off with false thoughts and give rise to defilements and blockages in this unobstructed one.  We turn our backs on the fundamental and pursue the trivial and foolishly revolve in the cycle of routine.

If you have great capacity, you won’t seek outside anymore.  Right where you stand you will come forth in independent realization.  When the transitory blinders of false perception have been dissolved away, the original correct perception is complete and wondrous.  This is called the identity of mind and buddha.

Yuanwu, Zen Letters, Thomas Cleary

 Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu

—–

When Bodhidharma came from the West bringing the Zen transmission to China, he didn’t set up written or spoken formulations—he only pointed directly to the human mind.

If we speak of direct pointing, this just refers to what is inherent in everyone: the whole essence appears responsively from within the shell of ignorance.  This is no different in ordinary people than in all the sages since time immemorial.  It is what we call the natural, real, inherent nature, fundamentally pure, luminous and sublime.  It swallows up and spits out all of space.  It is a single solid realm that stands out alone, free of the senses and their objects.

Yuanwu, Zen Letters, Thomas Cleary

 Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu

 —–

Q: if we esteem absence of thought, how can the notion of ‘entering upon Buddha-perception’ have any validity?

A: Its validity stems from absence of thought. How so? A sutra says: ‘All things take their stand upon the basis of nonabiding.’ It also says: ‘Take the case of a bright mirror; though it contains no forms, it can manifest myriad forms.’ Why is this? It is because of its brightness (stainless clarity) that it is able to reflect them. You disciples, if your minds are stainless, will thereby be freed from entertaining erroneous thoughts; the stirring of your minds by the notion of ‘self’ and ‘others’ will vanish; there will be nothing but purity (stainlessness) on account of which you will become capable of unlimited perception. Sudden illumination means deliverance while still in this life. How shall I make you understand that? You may be compared to lion cubs, which are genuine lions from the time of their birth; for, with those who undertake to become suddenly illumined, it is just like that. The moment they practise it, they enter the Buddha-stage, just as the shoots put forth by bamboos in spring will have grown to resemble the parent plants without the least difference remaining even before spring has departed. Why so? Because the minds of these people are void. Likewise, they who undertake sudden illumination cut off erroneous thoughts at a stroke, thereby eliminating the duality of selfness and otherness, so that perfect voidness and stillness supervene – thereby parity with the Buddhas is achieved without one jot of difference remaining. Therefore it is written that the most ordinary beings are profoundly holy. Those who undertake sudden illumination transcend the three realms of existence within this very life! As a sutra says: ‘Transcend the world from its very midst; enter nirvana ere ridding yourselves of samsara’s toil. If you do not employ this method of sudden illumination, you will be like a jackal following and imitating a lion but unable to become a lion even after hundreds and thousands of aeons.

The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

—–

There is no other task but to know your own original face. This is called independence; the spirit is clear and free. If you say there is some particular doctrine or patriarchy, you’ll be totally cheated. Just look into your own heart; there is a transcendental clarity. Just have no greed and no dependency and you will immediately attain certainty.

Yen-T’ou, Teachings of Zen, Thomas Cleary

 Teachings of Zen

—–

The Master ascended the hall and said, “Here in this lump of red flesh there is a True Man with no rank.  Constantly he goes in and out the gates of your face.  If there are any of you who don’t know this for a fact, then look! Look!

Lin-chi, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, Burton Watson

The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi

—–

Minister Tu asked, “What is meant by the unborn? What is meant by non-extinction? What is meant by emancipation?”

The Master replied, “It is named unborn when no mind is stirred up although one looks ant an objective world. When one is in the unborn state, one is free from extinction. If one is already free from birth and death and extinction, one will not be bothered by former atoms and will emancipated in whatever situation one may be. What is unborn is named thoughtless. What is thoughtless is deathless. When one is thoughtless, one is free from fetters; therefore, thoughtlessness means emancipation. Summing up, the comprehension of mind means to see one’s nature intuitively; that is to say, to be emancipated. It is wrong to think there is a special doctrine called Supreme Enlightenment apart from the seeing of one’s own nature.”

The Minister asked, “What is meant by the comprehension of mind and seeing the nature?”

The Master answered, “All students learning the way are floating about in the ocean of samsara because of their ignorance of the true mind. The true mind does not follow thoughts when they become extinct. It does not come, go away, remain fixed, move confusedly, take up, throw away, sink down, or float up. It is actionless and formless, but extremely lively and unusually free. This spiritual essence is ultimately unobtainable and imperceptible, but can be seen by the eyes as suchness. It is nothing but the object of intuitive attainment.”

The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata

The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

—–

No one knows how many rounds of life-and-death [people] spend, even while possessing this wisdom, in futile dusty toil. They are like a stone enveloping a jewel, the jewel not knowing that it is enveloped by a stone, and the stone not knowing that it is enveloping a jewel. [When] a human being recognizes this [jewel], a human being seizes it. This is neither something that the jewel is expecting nor something that the stone is awaiting: it does not require knowledge from the stone and it is beyond thinking by the jewel.

Shobogenzo, Inmo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo: Book 1

———

Supplemental Instructions For Advanced Study

———

To find a buddha, you have to see your nature. Whoever sees his nature is a buddha. If you don’t see your nature, invoking buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings, and keeping precepts are all useless. Invoking buddhas results in good karma, reciting sutras results in a good memory; keeping precepts results in a good rebirth, and making offerings results in future blessings—but no buddha.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Red Pine

 The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma: A Bilingual Edition

—–

One day when he (Kuei Shan, Ling Yu) was attending Master Po Chang, he was asked, “Who is there?”

He replied, “I am Ling Yu.”

Po Chang said, “Poke the stove. Is there any fire?”

Ling Yu poked the ashes and said, “There is no fire.”

Po Chang got up himself, poked deeper into the stove, and found a small ember. Holding it up (in the tongs), he displayed it and demanded, “Is this not fire?”

At this Ling Yu attained enlightenment. Bowing in appreciation, he described his understanding to the master.

Po Chang remarked, “It is no other than a fork (or juncture) in the present moment. The scriptures tell us that if one wishes to behold the Buddha-nature, one must observe the synchronicity of the (primary) cause and subsidiary causes of his being. When that moment comes, one awakens from the dream, recalls that which has been forgotten, and sees things as one’s own and not to be gained from outside. Therefore our Patriarch said that after the enlightenment experience a man is the same as before the experience. Neither mind nor objects exist, but there are no thoughts discriminating between falsities. In common men and in sages the original mind and the dharma are complete in themselves. Now that you have this comprehension, cherish it.”

The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata

 The Transmission of the Lamp: Early Masters

—–

There is something that has been said by the Buddhist patriarchs since ancient times. It is that “If a person lives one hundred years without grasping the buddhas’ state of the moment, that is worth less than living one day and being able to realize the state decisively.” This was not said by one buddha or by two buddhas; this has been expressed by all the buddhas and has been practiced by all the buddhas… Those who have neither attained the power of conduct and observance nor received the bones and marrow of the Buddhist patriarchs, do not treasure the body-and-mind of the Buddhist patriarchs and do not rejoice in the real features of the Buddhist patriarchs. The real features and bones and marrow of the Buddhist patriarchs are beyond going, are thus-gone, are thus-come, and are beyond coming: even so, in one day’s conduct and observance they are unfailingly received. So one day may be very important. Idly to have lived a hundred years is a lamentable waste of days and months; it is to be a pitiable skeleton. Even if we are driven, as slaves to sight and sound, [every] day and month for a hundred years, if we practice conduct and observance for one day among those [years], then we will not only put into practice the whole life of one hundred years but will also save others’ lives of one hundred years. The body and life for this one day is a body and life that should be venerated, a skeleton that should be venerated. Therefore, if our life lasts a single day, if we grasp the buddhas’ state of the moment, this one day is worth more than many lives in vast kalpas of time. For this reason, before you have decisively realized the state, never spend a single day in vain.

Once we have realized this state decisively, we should never waste another day. We should solely practice for the sake of the truth, and preach for the sake of the truth. So we have seen the standard by which, since ancient times, the Buddhist patriarchs have not spent a day of effort in vain and we should reflect on it constantly.

Shobogenzo, Inmo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

 Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo: Book 1

—–

Ever since antiquity, with excellence beyond measure, the saints and sages have experienced this Great Cause alone, as if planting great potential and capacity.  By the power of their vows of compassion, they have brought forth direct indications of the One Thing that is most profound and most recondite, the common essence of all the myriad forms of being.

Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered: it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.

That is why when Shakyamuni Buddha was first born, he immediately pointed to the heavens and to the earth and with a great lion’s roar brought it right out in front.  Then after he had left home and sought enlightenment for six years, he awakened at the sight of the morning star.  In the end, on Vulture Peak, he initiated the Zen transmission by holding up a flower.  All that was important is that we should possess the comprehension of this True Eye.

Yuanwu, Zen Letters, Thomas Cleary

Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu

—-

This Mind is no mind of conceptual thought and it is completely detached from form. So Buddhas and sentient beings do not differ at all. If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything. But if you students of the Way do not rid yourselves of conceptual thought in a flash, even though you strive for aeon after aeon, you will never accomplish it. Enmeshed in the meritorious practices of the Three Vehicles, you will be unable to attain Enlightenment. Nevertheless, the realization of the One Mind may come after a shorter or longer period. There are those who, upon hearing this teaching, rid themselves of conceptual thought in a flash. There are others who do this after following through Ten Beliefs, the Ten Stages, the Ten Activities and the Ten Bestowals of Merit. Yet others accomplish it after passing through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva’s Progress. But whether they transcend conceptual thought by a longer of shorter way, the result is a state of BEING; there is no pious practicing and no action of realizing. That there is nothing which can be attained is not idle talk; it is the truth. Moreover, whether you accomplish your aim in a single flash of thought or after going through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva’s Progress, the achievement will be the same; for this state of being admits of no degrees, so the latter method merely entails aeons of unnecessary suffering and toil.

The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, John Blofeld

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

—–

If you are not greatly enlightened once, you will vainly become mere intellectuals and never arrive at the ground of mind. Because of this you are not yet rid of views of Buddha and Dharma, so when will you ever get out of the bondage of self and others?

Thus even if you can remember all the sermons spoken by the Buddha over his forty-nine years of teaching, and do not misunderstand a single doctrine of the three and five vehicles of liberation, if you do not greatly awaken once, you cannot be acknowledged as a true Zen adept. So even if you can expound a thousand scriptures and ten thousand treatises, cause the Buddhas to shed their light, cause the earth to tremble and the sky to shower flowers, this is just the understanding of a professor, not that of a real Zen adept.

Keizan, Transmission of Light, Thomas Cleary

—-

Resources For Advanced Study

—–

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!)

The Gateless Gate – ??? – Wu-wen kuan (Mumonkan) – Classic Collection of 48 Koans

Hekiganroku (The blue cliff record) A collection of 100 koans


[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]