Wednesday, September 20, 2017

D. T. Suzuki on Satori II

D.T.. Suzuki: One of us is enlightened...

Satori is not a morbid state of mind, a fit subject for the study of abnormal psychology. If anything, it is a perfectly normal state of mind. When I speak of a mental upheaval, some may be led to consider Zen as something to be shunned by ordinary people. This is a most mistaken view of Zen, but one unfortunately often held by prejudiced critics. As Joshu declared, "Zen is your everyday thought"; it all depends on the adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens out. Even in the twinkling of an eye the whole affair is changed and you have Zen, and you are as perfect and as normal as ever. More than that, you have acquired in the meantime something altogether new. All your mental activities will now be working to a different key, which will be more satisfying, more peaceful, and fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before The tone of life will be altered. There is something rejuvenating in the possession of Zen. The spring flowers look prettier, and the mountain stream nuns cooler and more transparent. The subjective revolution that brings about this state of things cannot be called abnormal. When life becomes more enjoyable and its expanse broadens to include the universe itself, there must be something in satori that is quite precious and well worth one's striving after.”

(Taken from ‘An Introduction to Zen Buddhism’ by D.T. Suzuki)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

D.T. Suzuki on Knowing & Seeing

D.T. Suzuki & the cat: knowing & seeing

“We generally think that philosophy is a matter of pure intellect, and, therefore, that the best philosophy comes out of a mind most richly endowed with intellectual acumen and dialectical subtleties. But this is not the case. It is true that those who are poorly equipped with intellectual powers cannot be good philosophers. Intellect, however, is not the whole thing. There must be a deep power of imagination, there must be a strong, inflexible will-power, there must be a keen insight into the nature of man, and finally there must be an actual seeing of the truth as synthesised in the whole being of the man himself.

I wish to emphasise this idea of ‘seeing’. It is not enough to ‘know’ as the term is ordinarily understood. Knowledge unless it is accompanied by a personal experience is superficial and no kind of philosophy can be built upon such a shaky foundation. There are, however, I suppose many systems of thought not backed by real experiences, but such are never inspiring. They may be fine to look at but their power to move the readers is nil. Whatever knowledge the philosopher may have, it must come out of his experience, and this experience is seeing. Buddha has always emphasised this. He couples knowing (nyana, jnana) with seeing (passa, pasya), for without seeing, knowing has no depths, cannot understand the realities of life. Therefore, the first item of the Eightfold Noble Path is samma dassana, right seeing, and samma sankappa, right knowing, comes next. Seeing is experiencing, seeing things in their state of suchness (tathata) or is-ness. Buddha’s whole philosophy comes from this ‘seeing,’ this experiencing.”
(D.T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist)

Monday, August 21, 2017

D.T. Suzuki on Satori

Does the cat have buddha-nature?

The object of Zen discipline consists in acquiring a new viewpoint for looking into the essence of things. If you have been in the habit of thinking logically according to the rules of dualism, rid yourself of it and you may come around somewhat to the viewpoint of Zen. You and I are supposedly living in the same world, but who can tell that the thing we popularly call a stone that is lying before my window is the same to both of us? You and I sip a cup of tea. That act is apparently alike to us both, but who can tell what a wide gap there is subjectively between your drinking and my drinking? In your drinking there may be no Zen, while mine is brim-full of it. The reason for it is: you move in a logical circle and I am out of it. Though there is in fact nothing new in the so-called new viewpoint of Zen, the term “new” is convenient to express the Zen way of viewing the world, but its use here is a condescension on the part of Zen.

This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called satori {wu in Chinese) and its verb form is satoru. Without it there is no Zen, for the life of Zen begins with the ‘opening of satori.’ Satori may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contradistinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever the definition, satori means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind. With this preliminary remark I wish the reader to ponder the following mondo (literally, ‘asking and answering’), which I hop>c will illustrate my statement.

A young monk asked Joshu to be instructed in the faith of Zen. Said the master: "Have you had your breakfast, or not?" "Yes, master, I have," answered the monk. "Go and get your bowls washed," was the immediate response. And this suggestion at once opened the monk's mind to the truth of Zen.

Later on Ummon commented on the response, saying: "Was there any special instruction in this remark by Joshu, or was there not? If there was, what was it? If there was not, what satori was it which the monk attained?" Still later Suigan had the following retort on Ummon: "The great master Ummon does
not know what is what; hence this comment of his. It is altogether unnecessary; it is like painting legs to a snake, or painting a beard to the eunuch. My view differs from his. That monk who seems to have attained a sort of satori goes to hell as straight as an arrow!"

What does all this mean — Joshu's remark about washing the bowls, the monk's attainment of satori, Ummon's alternatives, and Suigan's assurance? Are they speaking against one another, or is it much ado about nothing? To my mind, they are all pointing one way and the monk may go anywhere, but his satori is not to no purpose.

Tokusan was a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra. Learning that there was such a thing as Zen, ignoring all the written scriptures and directly laying hands on one's soul, he went to Ryutan to be instructed in the teaching. One day Tokusan was sitting outside tr\'ing to look into the mystery of Zen. Ryutan said, "Why don't you come in?" Replied Tokusan, "It is pitch dark." A candle was lighted and held out to Tokusan. When he was at the point of taking it Ryutan suddenly blew out the light, whereupon the mind of Tokusan was opened.

Taken from ‘An Introduction to Zen Buddhism’ by D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ajahn Chah on Reciting 'Buddho'

Ajahn Chah: Bud-dho, Bud-dho, Bud-dho...

Meditate reciting Buddho, Buddho until it penetrates deep into the heart of your consciousness. The word Buddho represents the awareness and wisdom of the Buddha. In practice, you must depend on this word more than anything else. The awareness it brings will lead you to understand the truth about your own mind. It’s a true refuge, which means that there is both mindfulness and insight present. Wild animals can have awareness of a sort. They have mindfulness as they stalk their prey and prepare to attack. Even the predator needs firm mindfulness to keep hold of the captured prey however defiantly it struggles to escape death. That is one kind of mindfulness. For this reason you must be able to distinguish between different kinds of mindfulness. Buddho is a way to apply the mind. When you consciously apply the mind to an object, it wakes up. The awareness wakes it up. Once this knowing has arisen through meditation, you can see the mind clearly. As long as the mind remains without the awareness of Buddho, even if there is ordinary worldly mindfulness present, it is as if unawakened and without insight. It will not lead you to what is truly beneficial. Mindfulness depends on the presence of Buddho – the knowing. It must be a clear knowing, which leads to the mind becoming  brighter and more radiant. The illuminating effect that this clear knowing has on the mind is similar to the brightening of a light in a darkened room. As long as the room is pitch black, any objects placed inside remain difficult to distinguish or else completely obscured from view because of the lack of light. But as you begin intensifying the brightness of the light inside, it will penetrate throughout the whole room, enabling you to see more clearly from moment to moment, thus allowing you to know more and more the details of any object inside there.

Note: The word 'Buddho' (a variant of 'Buddha') is often taught as a word to recite mentally in combination with the breath, by meditation masters of the Thai forest tradition. One recites the syllable 'Bud' on the in-breath and 'dho' on the out-breath.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Buddha on the Mantra 'A'

Everybody say, "Ah!"

The Sutra of the Blessed Perfection of Wisdom, The Mother of All the Tathagatas, in One Letter

Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom!

Thus have I heard at one time. The Blessed One dwelt at Rajagrha, on the Vulture Peak, together with a large congregation of monks, with 1,250 monks, and with many hundreds of thousands of niyutas of kotis of Bodhisattvas. At that time the Lord addressed the Venerable Ananda, and said:

"Ananda, do receive, for the sake of the weal and happiness of all beings, this perfection of wisdom in one letter, A."

Thus spoke the Blessed One. The Venerable Ananda, the large congregation of monks, the assembly of the bodhisattvas, and the whole world with its gods, men, asuras and gandharvas rejoiced at the teaching of the Blessed One.

Notes: 'Blessed One' (Bhagava) is a title of Buddha; 'Perfection of Wisdom' (Prajna-paramita) is a class of highly regarded teachings in Mahayana Buddhism; 'Tathagatas' refers to all buddhas of past, present & futture; The syllable 'A' is a meditation object in the Tantric Buddhist schools of Tibet & Japan, amongst other places.

For more on this subject see Kukai on the Mantra 'A'

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Keido Fukushima: Everything Exists, Nothing Exists

Keido Fukushima: A smile, and yet not a smile

"In the world of philosophy and in the world of common sense, when something exists, it exists, and when something doesn't, it doesn't. That's the common-sense view. What makes the notion of Mu so difficult is that while everything exists, nothing exists, and while nothing exists, everything exists. Because of this profound meaning of Mu, we can't simply translate it as 'nothing.' In addition, translating Mu as 'nothing' creates a very negative impression, but the Mu of Zen includes both the affirmative and the negative. It is essential to understand this if you want to understand Zen.

If you don't comprehend this notion -that while everything exists, nothing exists, and while nothing exists, everything exists - it's very difficult to understand Buddhism, including Zen Buddhism. There are about three thousand sutras, or Buddhist sacred scriptures. The Prajnaparamita, or Perfection of Wisdom, sutras are one set of these sutras, made up of six hundred volumes. The essence of all these volumes is expressed in the Heart Sutra, and the central phrase of the Heart Sutra is while everything exists, nothing exists, while nothing exists, everything exists."

(Zen Master Keido Fukushima, 1933-2011, was head abbot of Tofukuji in Kyoto, one of the most famous Zen temples in Japan. He trained Japanese and foreigners alike, with his wit and insight. A book of his teachings, Zen Bridge: The Zen Teachings of Keido Fukushima is published by Shambhala Publications, and contains many wonderful teachings as the extract above.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Basho on This Wandering Life

Basho's hut was not his true home...

Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth  spend every minute of their lives travelling, and the journey itself is home. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by wind-blown clouds into dreams of lifelong travelling.

It was only towards the end of last autumn that I returned from rambling along the coast. I barely had time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house on the River Sumida before the New Year, but no sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time. A wandering spirit seemed to have possessed me and turned me inside out, roadside images seeming to invite me from every corner, so that it was impossible for me to stay idle at home. Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying *moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matushima. Finally, I gave my house to another, moving to the cottage of my patron Mr. Sampu for a temporary stay. Upon the threshold of my old home, however, I wrote a linked verse of eight pieces and hung it on a wooden pillar. The opening verse was:

even this grass hut
may be transformed
into a doll's house.

Note: Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is Japan's most celebrated haiku poet, and one of its most revered literary figures. He was also a Buddhist, whose work reflected the transiency of life, its innate unsatisfactory nature, and the value of living in the present moment. *Moxa is a dried leaf applied in small doses to the skin and burnt, in the belief that it has curative properties.