Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen WritingsBook - 1998
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a book that offers a collection of accessible, primary Zen sources so that readers can struggle over the meaning of Zen for themselves. It includes 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries; The Gateless Gate , the famous thirteenth-century collection of Zen koans; Ten Bulls , a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment; and Centering , a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen.
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Zen carries many meanings, none of them entirely definable. If they are defined, they are not Zen. It has been said that if you have Zen in your life, you have no fear, no doubt, no unnecessary craving, no extreme emotion. Neither illiberal attitudes nor egotistical actions trouble you. You serve humanity humbly, fulfilling your presence in this world with loving-kindness and observing your passing as a petal falling from a flower. Serene, you enjoy life in blissful tranquility.
“Like this cup,“ Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup? ”
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. ”Come on, girl,“ said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. ”We monks don’t go near females,“ he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?“ “I left the girl there,“ said Tanzan. ”Are you still carrying her? ”
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.
“Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly your light of truth may go out.”
SOYEN SHAKU, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life. In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate. Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction. Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests. Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it. When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting. Do not regret the past. Look to the future. Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child. Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.
Open Your Own Treasure House DAIJU VISITED the master Baso in China. Baso asked: “What do you seek?“ “ Enlightenment,“ replied Daiju. ”You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?“ Baso asked. Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?“ Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.” Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”
In this way and that
I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!
Not twice this day Inch time foot gem. This day will not come again. Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
MOKUSEN HIKI was living in a temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the stinginess of his wife. Mokusen visited the adherent’s wife and showed her his clenched fist before her face. ”What do you mean by that?“ asked the surprised woman. ”Suppose my fist were always like that. What would you call it?“ he asked. ”Deformed,“ replied the woman. Then he opened his hand flat in her face and asked: “Suppose it were always like that. What then?“ “Another kind of deformity,“ said the wife. ”If you understand that much,“ finished Mokusen, “you are a good wife.” Then he left.
SUBHUTI WAS Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.
“It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our schoolmaster scolded us. ‘ We went to dream-land to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did, ’ we explained. ‘ What was the message from those sages? ’ our schoolmaster demanded. One of us replied: ‘ We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow. ’ ”
The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.
When Ryonen was about to pass from this world, she wrote another poem: Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scene of autumn. I have said enough about moonlight, Ask no more. Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars when no wind stirs.
Ninakawa passed away the Zen master Ikkyu visited him.” Shall I lead you on? “Ikkyu asked. Ninakawa replied: “I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me? “Ikkyu answered: “If you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going.” With his words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled and passed away.
“Who do you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all sentient beings.”
“Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political economy? We should not overlook them. Furthermore, what of the one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing Buddhism.”
The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions. Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: “What are you doing!“ Shoju shouted back: “What are you saying!”
Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence. On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps.” The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk.” We are not supposed to say a word, “he remarked.” You two are stupid. Why did you talk? “asked the third.” I am the only one who has not talked, “concluded the fourth pupil.
The Most Valuable Thing in the World SOZAN, A CHINESE Zen master, was asked by a student: “What is the most valuable thing in the world? “The master replied: “The head of a dead cat.” “Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?“ inquired the student. Sozan replied: “Because no one can name its price.”
“There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind? “One of the monks replied: “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind.” “Your head must feel very heavy, “observed Hogen, “if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind.”
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