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Thread: Commentaries on Zen quotes

  1. #11
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    Living deep in the mountains
    I’ve grown fond of the
    Solitary sound of the singing pines;
    On days the wind does not blow,
    How lonely it is!
    — Rengetsu

    Ōtagaki Rengetsu was a Buddhist nun who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Japanese poets of the 19th century. Beautiful poetry but what a sad story. She became a Buddhist monk after burying two husbands and five children. As a woman she could only stay in a monastery for two years, then spent much of her life in small huts. Brought up by ninjas she was an expert in martial arts as well as painting and pottery.

  2. #12
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    Don’t seek a Buddha, don’t seek a teaching, don’t seek a community. Don’t seek virtue, knowledge, intellectual understanding, and so on. When feelings of defilement and purity are ended, still don’t hold to this nonseeking and consider it right. Don’t dwell at the point of ending, and don’t long for heavens or fear hells. When you are unhindered by bondage or freedom, then this is called liberation of mind and body in all places.

    — Pai-chang (720-814)

    Somewhat ironic in view of the fact that he set the rules for Chan monastic discipline. He is famous for the Fox koan, which I might put here if I ever get to understand it.

  3. #13
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    Thus the Diamond Cutter Scripture says, “Do not grasp truth, do not grasp untruth, and do not grasp that which is not untrue.”
    It also says, “The truth that the buddhas find has no reality or unreality.”

    — Pai-chang (720-814)

    After the Heart Sutra the Diamond Sutra comes a close second to me, or rather they are two sides of the same coin. The Diamond Sutra does have a bit more to say about the 'mental state' that brings with it stream entrance, filling in a gap the Heart Sutra seems to have. In this state it is, “Impossible to retain past mind, impossible to hold on to present mind, and impossible to grasp future mind for in none of its activities does the mind have substance or existence.”

    A state where the ego we think is permanent is to be understood like this:

    "As a falling star, or Venus chastened by the Dawn,
    A bubble in a stream, a dream,
    A candle-flame that sputters and is gone."

    Which is why they call it dying on the mat I guess, as this is a good description of our brief lives. Back to the saying of Pai-chang, it really sums up the arguments around what truth may be and what the truth found during insight is, or rather isn't.

  4. #14
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    'Consider that nirvana is itself no other than our everyday life'
    Dogen

    Unfortunately, to understand this we have to experience it for ourselves, as an insight into the fundamental nature of reality. Easy to say but hard to see.

  5. #15
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    It is as though you have an eye
    That sees all forms
    But does not see itself.
    This is how your mind is.
    Its light penetrates everywhere
    And engulfs everything,
    So why does it not know itself?

    Zen Master Foyan (1067-1120)

    A central question in Zen. Can the mind know itself? Are we incapable of knowing from the inside, as it were, or is there a way of breaking free, letting go even of the self, so that we can finally know our own minds?

    (This went on the wrong thread last time)

  6. #16
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    “When you find peace and quiet in the midst of busyness and clamour,
    then towns and cities become mountain forests;
    afflictions are enlightenment,
    sentient beings realize true awakening…
    You have to actually experience stable peacefulness before you attain oneness;
    you cannot force understanding.”

    Zen Master Foyan

    This is interesting in that it highlights one of the problems that some people have with Zen, that of expecting to be able to force 'sudden' enlightenment. Foyan does a good job of explaining the kind of mental state needed in order to make progress. You have to work on being able to develop 'stable peacefulness' no matter what the surroundings you find yourself in. Sudden enlightenment does come suddenly but usually only after many years of effort of this kind.

  7. #17
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    Calm yourself, quiet yourself,
    Master your senses.
    Look right into the source of mind,
    Always keep it shining bright,
    Clear and pure.
    Do not give rise to an indifferent mind.
    — Hongren (602-675)

    Hongren was one of the founders of East Mountain Teachings. Wiki gives a nice explanatory quote, "View your own consciousness tranquilly and attentively, so that you can see how it is always moving, like flowing water or a glittering mirage. …until its fluctuations dissolve into peaceful stability. This flowing consciousness will disappear like a gust of wind. When this consciousness disappears, all one’s illusions will disappear along with it."

  8. #18
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    The sound of a swollen
    Mountain stream rapidly rushing
    Makes one know
    How very quickly life itself
    Is pressed along its course.
    — Saigyo (1118-1190)

    it's good to be reminded about the death that is coming, if only to be reminded about the life that is here.

  9. #19
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    Zen practice is not clarifying conceptual distinctions, but throwing away one’s preconceived views and notions, the sacred texts and all the rest, and piercing through the layers of coverings over the spring of self behind them. All the holy ones have turned within and sought in the self, and by this went beyond all doubt. To turn within means all the 24 hours and in every situation, to pierce one by one through the layers covering the self, deeper and deeper, to a place that cannot be described.

    — Daikaku (1213-1279)

    I like the idea that Zen practice is more about getting rid of things that are holding us back than about learning stuff.

  10. #20
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    What is this true meditation? It is to make everything: coughing, swallowing, waving the arms, motion, stillness, words, actions, the evil and the good, prosperity and shame, gain and loss, right and wrong, into one single koan.

    — Hakuin

    According to Wiki, "A kōan (公案) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the "great doubt" and test a student's progress in Zen practice." Of course, the above quote can be aimed at judging your own progress too. What is it about how you react to whatever happens in your life that shows that your are thinking or doing something different to, say, two years ago?

    Koans can also be used as a tool to bring about change, "a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment" (Google dictionary). It seems to work by building up a tension brought about by trying to solve something without any solution, or at least no solution acceptable by the Zen teacher. As the tension builds, something has to give, and hopefully what gives is whatever was holding you back from making progress at the time.

    So perhaps 'true meditation', according to Hakuin, is a continuing process of change, evaluation, and further change brought about not just through meditation but through whatever is happening to you and around you at the time.

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