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Crazy Wisdom

1.1. Crazy wisdom is a way of teaching; and it is prevalent in almost all traditions.  It has been there for a very long-time. Crazy wisdom says, we all are, in truth, interconnected. The separations in the physical world such as human bodies, houses, communities are mere appearances.  Crazy Wisdom seeks to unearth and heal the false beliefs that people have about themselves and of the world around them. It is a means for expressing and maintaining the difference between the conventional point of view and the transcendental point of view.

1.2. The teaching might have gained that name- crazy – because its teachers were eccentrics who used their eccentricity to bring forth an alternate vision, the one that was different from the pedestrian and dogma-riddled view of existence. They were the masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos and lovers of surprises. They relished the delight in   contradictions and ambiguity. Sometimes they overdid and went overboard; and were mistaken for tricksters and clowns.

1.3. Crazy wisdom or holy-madness, as it came to be called, does indeed seem crazy to rational mind and commonsense. That is because it is designed, deliberately, to confront, to shock and to confuse an otherwise rational mind. The crazy teacher’s behaviour and his teachings turn the ordinary view of life upside down, and project life in a different perspective. His approach is what one might call “no-holds-bar”. The crazy teacher is willing to employ a large range of tactics and applications including , but not limited to ,provocation , insult, physical and mental abuse, humour, and credulity; and in extreme cases, it might stray in to use of alcohol, drugs and sex. All those unconventional and socially unacceptable ways of behaviour were pressed into service in order to drag the student out of the cocoon, strip him naked and bring him face to face with reality.

1.4. Predictably, such behavioural patterns create scare and conflict in the minds of even the committed followers of the path. It also brings into question, the issues of trust; and abuse of position and power. But a serous seeker will have to face those challenges and resolve the contradictions, all by himself.

1.5. The crazy wisdom or foolish wisdom is thus a two-edged sword, to be handled with extreme caution. The dividing line between wisdom and foolishness is very thin; and it is not possible to say with certainty when a fool is just a fool, or a fool graced by wisdom, or a wise person touched by foolishness.

1.6. In all such traditions, it is said, a genuine crazy –wisdom- teacher will act only in response to the needs of his student, regardless of his own discomfort and personal preferences. His main concern is the awakening of his student .But, it is   the responsibility of the student to understand and learn; and the teacher is not obliged to make it easy for the student.

1.7. It is explained, the teacher, to put it crudely, is like a dispensing machine. The student will have to come up with right questions to get the benefit of the teacher. It is the questions the student frames – internally or explicitly- and the demands he makes in seeking the answers that truly matter. He   can challenge himself to formulate a question that accurately captures the real need; and follow it with intensity. After a period of time, as he begins to endure the heat (tapa), generated by the genuine unanswered questions, the answers start appearing unexpectedly in the most unlikely places or in the most obvious places right under his nose.

That is the basis of the learning process under an Avadhuta or a Siddha or a Zen teacher or the saintly-madman (lama myonpa) of Tibetan Buddhism.

[ By the way, Aryadeva (14th century?), a Buddhist scholar, in his Chatuhsataka (four hundred verses) narrates a story to illustrate (a) madness is a relative concept; and (b) just because one is in a minority he cannot be dismissed as being wrong.

According to his story, a wandering astrologer warned a king that in a week’s time, very rain would pour down on his country; and whoever drinks that rainwater would go insane. The king took the astrologer’s warning quite seriously and ordered to get his well of drinking water well covered. His subjects, however, either lacking means or laughing at the astrologer, took no action to secure their sources of drinking water.  It did rain a week hence, as predicted; and the whole of the kingdom’s populace drank the rain water which found its way into their well and tanks. They all, promptly, went mad. The king who had protected his well was the only sane person in the whole of his kingdom.

But, the king’s subjects gathered together and laughed and jeered at the king calling him insane. After such repeated heckling, the king – the only sane person in the whole of the kingdom – could no longer endure the irritating jibes. In order to put an end to his agony, the king, at last, decides to drink the rain water. And, he promptly goes mad just as his subjects. Now, all are alike and all are happy in their madness.

Therefore, if one is the sole, single sane person, then he does not get to call the rest as insane. But, at the same time, he not wrong if he calls the rest as insane. Then, again, who will listen to him or pay heed to his words …!!

The story also illustrates how ‘madness’ is a relative concept, depending upon each one’s perspective. In the broader view, what defines madness is the social, cultural and other ways of understanding human behavior at different times and in different regions. Madness is thus a highly context-sensitive issue.]

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2.1. Avadhuta, the one who has cast off all concerns and obligations, like the Shiva himself, is the typical teacher of wisdom. He does that in a highly unconventional manner. He has no use for social etiquette; he has risen above worldly concerns. He is not bound by sanyasi dharma either. He roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed. He is the embodiment of detachment and spiritual wisdom..

Avadhuta Gita describes him as :

Having renounced all, he moves about naked.

He perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

The Avadhuta never knows any mantra in Vedic meter or any Tantra. Ashtavakra Gita describes him in a similar manner:

The sage sees no difference 
Between happiness and misery, 
Man and woman, 
Adversity and success. 
Everything is seen to be the same. 

The sage is not conflicted 
By states of stillness and thought. 
His mind is empty. 
His home is the Absolute. 

Knowing for certain that all is Self, 
The sage has no trace of thoughts 
Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.” 

The yogi who finds stillness 
is neither distracted nor focused. 
He knows neither pleasure nor pain. 
Ignorance dispelled, 
He is free of knowing.
 

2.2. Among the classical  texts that describe the nature of the Avadhuta,  the prominent ones  are the Avadhuta Gita , the culminating text of the Dattatreya tradition; the Ashtavakra Gita , a text of the highest order, addressed to advanced learners and  dealing  with the means of realizing the Self( atmanu-bhuti) and  the mystic experience  in the embodied state. The third and  a comparatively a recent text is the Atma-vidya-vilasa of Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra , an Avadhuta who lived during the eighteenth century.

2.3. The other major sect is the Siddha tradition of South India. The Siddha is one who has attained flawless identity with reality.

Jainism too recognizes Siddha as an enlightened teacher. In the Tibetan Buddhism, Siddha is a yogi who has attained magical powers and the ability to work miracles.

2.4. In so far as the folk tradition is concerned, there are a number of regional groups and subgroups. The better known of them are the Bauls of Bengal; the word meaning mad or confused. They are a religious sect of eccentrics. The Baul synthesis is characterized by four elements: there is no written text and therefore all teachings are through song and dance; God is to be found in and through the body and therefore the emphasis on kaya (body) sadhana, the use of sexual or breathe energy; and, absolute obedience and reverence to Guru.

3.1. Avadhuta Gita the ‘Song of the Ever Free’ does not indulge in debates to prove the non-dual nor does it ask you to control your senses; it sees no distinction between sense perception and spiritual realization. It makes some amazing statements:

The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is Omni faced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. But in absolute reality, there is no mind.

All your senses are like clouds; all they show is an endless mirage.  The Radiant One is neither bound nor free.I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky

There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge. It is never otherwise.

How shall I salute the formless being, indivisible, auspicious and immutable, who fills all this with its self and also fills the self with its self?
Know it firmly, freely, independently. And maintain it at all times, all conditions. That is all. Be Avadhuta Dattatreya yourself; because, you are yourself that.

3.2. In the Ashtavakra Gita, sage Ashtavakra maintains that all prayers, mantras, rituals, meditation, actions, devotion, breathing practices, etc are secondary. These distract the aspirant from self-knowledge. Knowledge/awareness is all that is required. Ignorance does not exist in itself; it is just the absence of knowledge or the lack of awareness. The light of knowledge or consciousness will dispel ignorance revealing the Self. The Self is merely forgotten, not lost.

This is not a belief system or a school of thought. This is simply ‘What Is’ and the recognition of ‘What is’.

Attachment and aversion

Are attributes of the mind.
You are not the mind.
You are Consciousness itself–
Changeless, undivided, free.
Go in happiness
Ashtavakra does not pay much heed to book learning or to the importance given to mind and its control. You are already free, what will you gain by deliberating or pondering. Remain unattached at all times from all things (including the mind). He advocates direct approach. Teachings of Sri Ramana are remarkably similar to that of sage Ashtavakra.

You can recite and discuss scripture

All you want,
But until you drop everything
You will never know Truth

Ashtavakra then attacks the futility of effort and knowing.

Being pure consciousness,

Do not disturb your mind with thoughts of for and against.
Be at peace and remain happily
In yourself, the essence of joy. 15.19

Give up meditation completely

But don’t let the mind hold on to anything.
You are free by nature,
So what will you achieve by forcing the mind? 15.20

I Am Awareness.

Where are principles and scriptures?
Where is the disciple or teacher?
Where is the reason for life?
I am boundless, Absolute

 

3.3. Atma_vidya_vilasa is written in simple, lucid Sanskrit. Its subject is renunciation. It also describes the ways of the Avadhuta, as one who is beyond the pale of social norms , beyond Dharma , beyond good and evil; as  one who has discarded scriptures, shastras , rituals or even the disciplines prescribed for sanyasins;one who has gone beyond the bodily awareness , one who realized the Self and one immersed in the bliss of self-realization. He is absolutely free and liberated in every sense – one who “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares, and realized his identity with God. The text describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta, his state of mind, his attitude and behavior. The text undoubtedly is a product of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s own experience. It is a highly revered book among the Yogis and Sadhakas.

One of such Sadhakas who really emulated Sadashiva Brahmendra and evolved into an Avadhuta was the 34th  Acharya , the Jagad-guru  of Sri Sringeri Mutt, Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi Swamiji. He studied Atma_vidya_vilasa intensely, imbibed its principles and truly lived according to that in word and deed. Unmindful of the external world, he roamed wildly in the hills of Sringeri like a child, an intoxicated, and an insane; and as one possessed, singing aloud the verses from Atma_vidya_vilasa:

Discard the bondages of karma. Wander in the hills immersed in the bliss of the Self -unmindful of the world like a deaf and a blind (AVV-15)

Rooted in the Brahman absorbed in the bliss within, he for a while meditates, for a while sings and dances in ecstasy. (AVV-21)

He sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing. He is immersed in Brahman and in that intoxication is motionless.(AVV-44)

4. 1.The Lankavatara Sutra of the Mahayana Buddhism is another text of the “crazy wisdom” tradition.  It was the text that Bodhidharma followed all his life and bequeathed it to his disciple and successor Hui K’o . Its basic thrust is on “inner enlightenment that does away with all duality.”  One of the recurrent themes in the Lankavatara Sutra is, not to rely on words to express reality. It holds the view that objects do not owe their existence to words that indicate them. The words themselves are artificial creations. Ideas, it says, can as well be expressed by looking steadily, by gestures, by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

Bodhidharma instructed his disciples to: “Leave behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination between self and others. In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable, alert and clear like the wall; illuminating with compassion. “

4.2. In Zen too, the “holy madness” is widely used by the roshi (teacher). The adepts of Zen make use of shock techniques such as sudden shouting, abuses, physical violence, hand­clapping, paradoxical verbal responses, koans and riddles in order to induce satori or enlightenment.

4.3. Tibetan Buddhism also has its share of eccentric Lamas who use unconventional methods to initiate their disciples into enlightenment. Crazy wisdom in Tibetan is yeshe cholwa, where craziness and wisdom walk hand in hand. It is craziness gone wise rather than wisdom gone crazy. Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and Karma Pakshi the second Karmapa are the celebrated crazy-wisdom – teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. They both were regarded as being able to overpower the phenomenal world. They demonstrated that what we call crazy is only crazy from the viewpoint of ego, custom and habit. Crazy wisdom is natural and effortless; not driven by the hope and fear.

There is also another set of “mad lamas (smyon‑pa) who reject  monastic tradition, ecclesi­astical hierarchy, societal conventions, and book learning.

4.4. Crazy wisdom is also practiced in Sufism, where it is known as “the path of blame.” Some Sufi mystics –majzubs – are known for their strange behaviour as well as for their heretical doctrine of their identification with the divine. The Sufi  practitioners of “crazy wisdom” pursue freedom and humility without concern for worldly consequences.

5.1. The crazy teachers were found not just in the East. Socrates was an archetypal wise fool who claimed that his wisdom was derived from his awareness of his ignorance.  His distinctive teaching method consisted in exposing the foolishness of the wise.

5.2. Even in the Christian tradition, the absurd notion that the fool may be wise and that the wise may be foolish—has long been in existence. It is often expressed as the “fool in Christ” or the “fool for Christ’s sake”. Here, foolish wisdom, the “holy folly”, is akin to “holy simplicity” or “learned ignorance”, which is an alternate way to rekindle the love of wisdom in the hearts of men and women. It is singular and sudden; and, is in contrast with the laborious common wisdom of the learned.

5.3. Europe in the sixth century seemed to be a great period for Crazy Adepts.  For instance, there was St. Simeon who liked to pretend insanity for effect.  Once he found a dead dog on a dung heap.  He tied the animal to his belt and dragged the corpse through town.  People of the town were outraged.  But, he was trying to demonstrate the uselessness of excess emotional “dead weight” that people drag through their lives.

The very next day, St. Simeon entered a church and just as the liturgy began, he threw nuts at the congregation.  St Simeon revealed on his deathbed that his life’s mission was to denounce hypocrisy and hubris.

5.4. Another example of the sixth-century spiritual silliness was Mark the Mad, a desert monk who was thought insane when he came into town to atone for his sins.  Only Abba Daniel saw the method in the monk’s madness, and declared the monk the only reasonable man in the city.

5.5. Saint Francis of Assisi was another example of foolish wisdom. He regarded himself as a fool deserving nothing but contempt and dishonour. He is cel­ebrated for his tender love for God and for God’s creatures, big and small.

6.1. The paradoxical idea that the fool may be wise is perhaps as old as humanity itself. It is a common experience that the untutored and innocent, including children, somehow seem to grasp profound truths, while the lettered and the learned just walk past it. Jesus alluded to it  when he thanked  and praised  God  for having hidden from the learned and the clever what he revealed to the merest children (Mt 11:25).

6.2. Without love, foolishness is just foolishness; and wisdom a mere collection of inflated bits of information. Ultimately, the fool­ish wisdom is a gift, a revelation received in humility of mind and simplicity of heart; an un-bounded, luminous, loving energy. It attains the power to convince and transform, more effectively than the sword and rhetoric.

That is possible only when it is graced by tender love for the fellow beings and for the fellow seekers.

 

 

Sources and References:

 http://www.spiritual-endeavors.org/basic/crazy.htm

Crazy Spirituality

http://eapi.admu.edu.ph/eapr002/wisdom.htm

Wisdom of the Holy Fools

http://www.onelittleangel.com/wisdom/quotes/book.asp?mc=319

Avadhuta

http://www.shambhala.org/teachings/view.php?id=131

Crazy Wisdom

Ashtavakra

Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra

 Zen Stories by Sylvan Incao

 

 

 
7 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Indian Philosophy, Vedanta, Zen

 

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What is no-mind?

Tsung-Kao

1.1. When Bodhidharma (470 -543 AD) arrived in China, say in 520 or 526 AD, he setout to help people attain awakening through self-enquiry. The process of that self discovery later transformed into Zen which typically explained its attitude as “when I pass over the bridge, the bridge, but not the water flows” or “It is not the flag that moves. It is not the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves.” These ideas were crystallized by Hui-Neng (638-713 AD) the sixth patriarch of the Cha’n school after Bodhidharma. Following him, Tsung-Kao (1089-1163) brought clarity to the issue and contributed to the development of Zen practice.

1.2. Tsung-Kao in his discourse addressed to his disciple Yung-Mao-Shih, explained how to go about the task of attaining enlightenment. He said, what matters is not hard work but the ability to let go and allow things to happen. Do not hurry; do not be lax lest you become lazy; but do as a musician does as he tunes the strings of a harp – neither too tight nor too loose.

1.3. He remarked that conceptualization or aimless wandering of mind in prejudices and favors is unsuitable for practice of Zen. The grasping mind, he said, is the one that thinks, plans, calculates and decides. How can that mind grasp the no-mind?

2.1. He explained: when I speak of no-mind, I do not mean a lump of clay or a dead wood or a block of stone. It is not lifeless; nor is it devoid of consciousness.  It does not also mean that mind will be paralyzed; no, it cannot be so because the mind by its nature is active and responsive. When I speak of no-mind, I refer to that which is natural and spontaneous at all times and in all circumstances.

2.2. This is analogues to what the Indian texts call unmaana, a clear mindBhagavadGita too asks na kimchid api chintaye stop aimless thinking, drifting; be awake. Awareness perhaps is the word. Tsung-Kao was instructing development of awareness.

2.3. He said, thoughts are like murals on a wall. There can be no painting without the wall; but, they cover and hide the wall. The wall in this context is awareness (prajna), free from thoughts; it is the no-mind. The wall here is analogues to the Vedanta’s imagery of the cloudless -clear –sky .This is also what Bodhidharma taught. He said the thoughts are devoid of substance; they are only shadow-like and have no independent existence. This was also the consistent theme of Sri Ramana Maharishi’s teachings.

The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is Omni faced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. 
But in absolute reality, 
there is no mind.
 There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge.
 It is never otherwise.
 
– Avadhuta Gita

 

2.4. Tsung-Kao did not advocate any special effort. He said one must be ordinary, natural and unaffected. He asked his disciples to be spontaneous and natural.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing;  

Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.

 In walking just walk;
In sitting just sit;
Above all, don’t wobble.

He also said do not strain or work too hard to be natural, then that begs the question.

 

Without making an effort

But remaining loose and natural

One can break the yoke

Thus gaining liberation.

Zen-Purple-Flower-with-Black-Stone

 

3.1. According to Tsung-Kao, there are two aspects to Zen .One, is to develop the right view; and the other is to adopt the right practices. The right view (chien or samkhya) is compared to climbing up to the top of a hill and looking from there at the village below; it is comprehensive and uninvolved. The right practice (hsing or yoga) is compared to getting down to the bottom of the sea and walking along its floor. It is getting to the very root of the reality and working one’s way up from that level. Of the two aspects of Zen, the right “view” is considered more important and direct. Tsung-Kao emphasized that koan is the expedient method which combines the virtues of both the aspects.

3.2. Tsung-Kao was an influential figure in the development of Cha’n School. His importance lies mainly in his successful creation of a teaching method called Koan (Kung-an in Chinese, also called “public cases”) in Cha’ n meditation. The Koan gained an important position in later Zen. Koan originated in the ninth century and evolved into a dialogue or event that takes place between a Zen teacher and his student. It is in the nature of a problem, a Zen problem. It is not meant to be “understood “ or “solved”. A koan has no right or wrong answer.  In fact, the problem here has neither a solution nor an answer.  It is said, it cannot be solved; but it has to be dissolved. In most cases it is contextual; and  is in the way the student reacts and resolves the dilemma.  It is said , he who knows will know how to answer. The answers could come in a wide variety of manners, ranging from simple verbal responses to acrobatics.

It is the teacher who decides the level of understanding the student has attained, depending on the context and the way the student finds the way out of the dilemma.

3.3. [The use of absurdity for conveying a serious idea is not an exclusive preserve of Zen, many others have done it. But, using it for enlightenment is a Zen specialty. The koan is, however, just one of the many tools employed in Zen.

Almost every activity performed during the course of the day in the Japan of old was elevated to ‘the path of Zen’, whether it be drinking tea, ink-painting, pottery or archery and swordsmanship. Elaborate rules governed these, the trick was to bypass them and unite with the action. For instance, the Zen archer unlearns his training even as he stands poised with the bow drawn taut in his hands, aiming at the target. Just before he lets the arrow fly, he becomes one with the target. The subsequent release of the arrow has been equated with the resolution of a koan, both occurring without deliberation.]

 

4.1. The  Koans used in Zen are of two kinds; one  , the natural problems chosen from details of daily life and the other, mere verbal formations. It appears there are nearly two thousand koans in circulation.

The following, for instance, are some of the well-known koans.

*.What is the sound of one hand clapping?

*. Has a dog the Buddha- nature?

*.Who is repeating the Buddha’s name?

*.What was your real face before you were born?

*.All things return to the One.

big-dark-pink-lotus-flower-photo1

4.2. Some Koans take the form of questions, like the one that asks, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?” There is no “right” answer to this question. It can be argued for years from either perspective, yes or no. there could be at least one other answer. It matters not at all whether the tree makes a sound or not. What is important is that it has fallen.

Has a dog the Buddha- nature?

Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.

The “trick” appears to be, to “read between the lines” but also “within the words”. There is always more than that meets the eye.

Truly, words have no power.
Even though the mountain becomes the sea,
Words cannot open another’s mind.

To tread the sharp edge of a sword
To run on smooth-frozen ice,
One needs no footsteps to follow.
Walk over the cliffs with hands free.

[Please click here for a collection of about one hundred  koan parables, written late in the thirteenth century by the Japanese Zen teacher Muju (the “non-dweller). Please also see the gateless gate.]

4.3. The teacher introduces certain keywords such as: What; Who: No; and One. The student has to contemplate on those keywords. Koan is described as a complete mind; for when the mind is complete no koan presents a problem. Koan is compared to the use of a fish-hook; when the fish is full it does not bite the hook. It is also compared to a stone used to knock at the door; when the door is opened the stone is of no use. The purpose of koan is to open the door of awakening.

5.1. A typical koan is meant to generate the sensation of doubt-mass. The student is thrown into a vortex of doubt. But there is no intellectual solution to the doubt; it is a mere doubt without content .For instance, no one can really know the answer to a problem, such as:”Where did I come from before my birth; and where am I going after my death?”  The purpose of that koan is to create an intense sensation, a strong feeling and a load on one’s mind. One should stick to this doubt-mass, as they say, on one’s forehead, day and night; keep it there until one can neither drive it away nor put it down, even if one wants to.

5.2. Po-shan, a follower of Tsung-Kao, describes the state of a student thrown in the vortex of doubt: the whole world is turned to muddy vortex; without and within the body and mind; nothing seems to exist but this burden of doubt sensation; when he looks up, he does not see the sky and when he looks down he does not see the earth; walking or sitting, he is not aware of doing so. Mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers and the thought is pushed to the dead end.

As the Zen master said: When working at Zen one should not just wait. That is like a traveler who sits idly by the roadside and expects his home to reach him. No, he will have to reach home himself, walking all the way.

6. How does this happen?

6.1. It is explained, there are two aspects to a word or a thought; one is its head (hua tou) and the other its tail (hua wei). The head of a word or thought is the state of mind before a thought arises or a word is uttered. It represents the reality, devoid of forms. (It corresponds to para vak, of the Indian tradition) And, the tail of the word or thought is the state of mind after the thought has arisen and the word has been articulated. It is the world of common experience; seemingly real but lacking in substance. (This corresponds to vaikhari vak)

6.2. The Zen teacher asks the student to look inward and watch the state of mind before the thought arises. That is meant to “dissolve the mind’ (mano nasha) , break the thought-barrier to get out of the world of illusions. The mind then becomes void; and, the doubt-mass drops away leading to awakening. This surely is not easy; it takes years and years of practice. The student then returns to the normal world of transactions, but without clinging to it. For him, the mountains are again mountains and the rivers are again the rivers.

Whoever understands the first truth
should understand the ultimate truth.
The last and first,
Are they not the same?

6.2. To explain it from an Indian perspective, the Zen student, just as the follower of Sri Ramana, watches out objectively and identifies the birth of a thought. As he does that, the thought vanishes at once (like a thief sensing trouble, as Sri Ramana explained). The practitioner holds on to that interval of infinitesimal duration between death of a thought and the birth of another. He seizes that silence, that minute fraction in space and time and lets the mind stay open.  It is then, the self-mind or no-mind flashes forth like a clear, limpid pond as the mists hiding it melt away. If one could do that, one is said to be awake, at last. The Zen practitioner comes back, again and again, to that silence.

Lightning flashes,
Sparks shower.
In one blink of your eyes
You have missed seeing

7.1. The teacher cautions the student:   do not be deceived, the mist might envelop you again. Keep practising. Keep coming back to that no-mind. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa also said, it was like cleaning and polishing a brass vessel day after day, lest it get dull and tainted.

7.2. The Zen as well as the Indian teachers stress repeatedly, that the process is not an intellectual exercise. It is to discover reality as it really is.  It is ones own experience of freedom from clinging, even while one is alive.  That is also the jivanmukthi of Vedanta. The mind merges with all conditions of life.

It is better to realize mind than body.
When the mind is realized one need not worry about body.
When mind and body become one
The man is free. Then he desires no praising.

In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon;
In the summer, a refreshing breeze;
 in winter snow will accompany your.
If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is a good season for you.

Under blue sky, in bright sunlight,
One need not search around.
Asking what Buddha is
Is like hiding loot in one’s pocket and declaring oneself innocent

Sources and References

Dhyana and Zen by Prof.SKR Rao

http://1thing2dob4die.blogspot.com/2007/11/zen.html

ZEN

http://thezenfrog.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/chan-master-ta-hui-tsung-kao-and-kung-an-zen/

The Zen Frog

http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/zenindex.html

http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln360/Yu-Dahui.pdf

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/HistoricalZen/TaHui.html

 
10 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Indian Philosophy, Zen

 

Tags: , , , ,

Bodhidharma: Stories and Legends

Bodhidharma is usually featured with wild hair, darker skin, an earring, and strikingly wide eyes (lidless, extremely round, sometimes blue).

There are a number of stories and legends surrounding Bodhidharma. Some of that might be real; and a lot others just made up. In any case, they are very interesting. They bring forth the down-to-earth wisdom and the curt wit of Bodhidharma. I could not mention these in my post Origins of Zen School  as they would not fit in there.

It is said; the legends amplify facts and render them in a way they become more significant and larger in scope. That holds good for some of the stories associated with Bodhidharma. They might have sprung using him as the ideal prop to symbolize the essence of Zen. All these stories are placed in the context of the master-disciple relationship. In these stories, Bodhidharma stands for an ideal and an unreachable model; and a stern but loving teacher who guides, unerringly, to awakening.

With these, Bodhidharma introduced to China an alternative to text-based scholastic learning. He was the first to proclaim: “Directly point to the human mind; see one’s nature and become a Buddha; do not establish words and letters.”

As all legends, the stories of Bodhidharma too try saying something new and unexpected. They can be enjoyed as stories and one can also read meaning into them to extract a teaching.

1. According to the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, around the year 527 (?) the eighth year of Putong, Bodhidharma called on the Emperor Wu Ti (502-550 A.D.) of Liang dynasty, a fervent patron of Buddhism. The Emperor was then at Jinling (today’s Nanjiang).

Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma: “After I ascended the throne, I have built countless temples residences for monks and copied innumerable scriptures. How much merit have I accrued?”

Bodhidharma answered: “There is no merit.”

Startled, the Emperor then asked Bodhidharma: “What is the first principle of the holy teachings?”

Bodhidharma replied: “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.”

Emperor, frustrated, then asked Bodhidharma: “Who is this that stands before me?”

Bodhidharma answered:”I don’t know.”

The Emperor did not understand what Bodhidharma was saying. He was disappointed and upset. The meeting was obviously unsuccessful. Thereafter, Bodhidharma moved north, crossing the Yangtze River, floating on a reed.

Years later Emperor Wu realized he was hasty in dismissing Bodhidharma; and with regret wrote an inscription, on hearing the death of the sage:

 Alas..! I saw him without seeing him;
I met him without meeting him;
I encountered him without encountering him;
Now as before I regret this deeply..
!

[This exchange between Bodhidharma and the Emperor later became the basis of a koan in Zen. It also pointed out, we all fall into the trap of expecting our accomplishments to be acknowledged and honoured. Tomes have been written on Bodhidharma’s replies: “Vast emptiness, nothing holy” and “I don’t know”]

*****

2. It is said, as Bodhidharma was walking along a street, a parrot called out to him. The parrot could talk. It said:

Mind Come from the West,
Mind Come from the West,
Please teach me the way
To escape from this cage.

Bodhidharma thought, ‘I came here to save people and it’s not working out; at least I can save this parrot.’ And so he taught the parrot:

To escape from the cage,
Stick both legs straight out.
Close both eyes tight.
That’s the way to escape your cage.

The parrot heard and understood. It pretended to be dead. It lay on the bottom of its cage with its legs stuck out still and its eyes closed tight, not moving, not even breathing. The owner found the parrot this way and took it out to have a look. He held the bird in his hand, peering at it from the left and right until he was convinced it was indeed dead. The only thing about it was, it was still warm. But it wasn’t breathing. And so the owner opened his hand and in that instant the parrot was fully revived. It flew away and escaped its cage.

[“Bodhidharma coming from the West” became a much discussed Zen phrase; and came to be regarded ‘`the essence of Zen”.

In another interpretation, the parrot was consciousness, cage the body and the teaching was to be free from bonds of the of physical limitations and go beyond the demands of the body.]

 *****

3. After travelling and teaching around the country Bodhidharma settled at Shaolin-ssu (Shorinji), a monastery on Hao-shan Mountain near Loyang, in what is now Honan province. The legend says that Bodhidharma remained seated in meditation before the wall of the Shaolin Monastery for nine years. While Bodhidharma was meditating, according to the legend, he became sleepy, and his eyelids grew heavy. In frustration, he tore off his eyelids and threw them on the floor, where they became the first tea plants—used from that time as a mild stimulant.

Later, tea-drinking became a habit among the Zen practitioners, to keep awake. It also grew into aesthetic tea-ceremony.

  
That wall-gazing was called “Pi-kuan”. The Sholin temple where Bodhidharma meditated for long years and achieved enlightenment has preserved a large rock on which, it is said, one can see the shadow of the sage – apparently it burned into the rock.

*****

4. One of Bodhidharma’s disciples among the Shaolin monks was one Shen –kuang. One day, Bodhidharma asked Shen-kuang why he continued to turn to Bodhidharma for teachings; reprimanding him that true enlightenment is not sought through the teachings of another, but from within.

Shen –kuang said, “My mind is in pain and is restless. Please Patriarch, quiet my mind.”

“Find your mind.” said Bodhidharma. “Give it to me, and then I will quiet it and you will feel no pain.”

Shen Kuang searched, but couldn’t find his mind. After some hesitation, he said to Bodhidharma, “Master, I can’t find my mind.”

“See, how well I have quieted your mind.” said the Patriarch. Hearing this instruction Shen Kuang understood the meaning of transmitting the Dharma.

With that transmission of the Dharma, Shen Kuang received a new name. It was Hui K’o, “Able Wisdom,” meaning that his wisdom was abundant. Hui K’o later succeeded Bodhidharma as the second patriarch of the Cha’n school; and as the 29th master of Buddhism, in direct line from the Buddha himself.

Ten thousand Dharmas return to one; to what does the ‘one’ return?
Shen Kuang’s “Spiritual Light” wasn’t clear; he followed after ‘Dharma’,
Before him at Bear’s Ear Mountain he knelt nine years,
Only to seek some Dharma and avoid King Yama.

[The issue that Hui K’o brought up was the restlessness of his mind. But, there has to be a mind in the first place. There is no mind; it is only a bunch of thoughts floating like clouds in the sky. The mind has no existence of its own.  In other words, it is a false issue.]

*****

5.  There are a number of stories illustrating Bodhidharma’s teaching methods. He often used common  objects in   instructing students. He would often point at something and ask: “How do you call this?” He would do this using every available object, often switching the names in formulating a question.

For instance the Master would hold up a staff and ask: “Where do you think I got this? If you call this a staff, you are one whose eyes do not see. If you say it is not a staff, you must be one with no eyes.”

When a monk came to attend on him, the master pointed at the fire and said: “This is fire. But you cannot call it ‘fire,’ for I   just did.” The monk could not answer.

The Master would hold up his hand and ask “what is this?”

[The naming game, as it is called, is authentically Chan; and attributed to Bodhidharma. There are no correct or wrong answers here. It is in the way one reacts; and it is also contextual.

The idea appears to be that he who knows will know how to answer the question without breaking the rule (e.g., one must not speak and yet must not keep silent). Further, if things are empty of that which makes a real thing real, then names do not refer. If they do not refer, then you violate the Buddhist teaching of emptiness. Therefore, one’s ability to find a way out of the dilemma is taken to be a sign of one’s understanding of the Chan teaching. The answers could come in a wide variety, ranging from simple verbal responses to acrobatics.

A person may relate to what he/she believes in one of two ways: the notional way and the direct way. If a person understands it in a notional way, he will see only the verbal symbols of the proposition. On the other hand, a person who understands a proposition in the direct sense would be capable of answering semantic questions relating to the proposition as well as other types of questions.

So what is the appropriate way to handle the relation between a name and the named? It seems that an all-or-nothing attitude is not the right approach. Instead, whether one has acted appropriately in using (not using) some bits of language are the issues to be decided by the teacher, depending on the context and the way the student reacts.

Answering that question, no doubt, is a daunting task. ]

*****

6.Bodhidharma presented an imprint of a beautiful lotus flower in brown sugar to a disciple. The disciple admired the imprint but would not eat it. The master then took the imprint, broke it into pieces, gave it back to the disciple and asked him to eat it. The disciple ate the pieces and enjoyed it.

The master explained” your studies are like this imprint of lotus flower. You can hold it and admire it but you cannot enjoy it until you break it and put it in your mouth. Scholarship is a form and it should be brought into your experience by meditation. The purpose of all learning is to help meditation.

[That was to illustrate that book-learning and meditation, each has its value. Book learning is no substitute for personal experience.]

If you know that everything comes from the mind, don’t become attached. Once attached, you’re unaware. But once you see your own nature, the entire Canon becomes so much prose. It’s thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind. Understanding comes in midsentence. What good are doctrines? The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are illusions. . . . Don’t cling to appearances, and you’ll break through all barriers.

*****

7. There were as many as six attempts of poisoning Bodhidharma. It is said; some scholars, jealous of Bodhidharma’s celebrity status    offered him a vegetarian meal mixed with poison. Bodhidharma ate it, knowing full well that it was poisoned. He then called for a tray into which he vomited the poisonous food, which turned into a pile of writhing snakes, to the horror of those scholars.

That was followed by another unsuccessful attempt; and this time with a deadlier poison. Again, Bodhidharma ate it. After he finished his meal, Bodhidharma sat atop a huge boulder and spat out the poison. The boulder at once crumbled into a heap of dust.

In four more attempts, jealous people tried without success to poison the Patriarch.

The cause of his death is uncertain. He may have succumbed to the final attempt. Or, he might have walked back home with a shoe in hand, as the legend says.

When mortals are alive, they worry about death. When they’re full, they worry about hunger. Theirs is the Great Uncertainty. But sages don’t consider the past. And they don’t worry about the future. Nor do they cling to the present. And from moment to moment they follow the Way.

*****

8. The martial arts of the Shaolin temple, the weapon-less fighting that later evolved into kung Fu (gong fu) traces its origin and inspiration to Bodhidharma.

When Bodhidharma arrived, the Shaolin temple at Sung Shan (on Hao-shan Mountain near Loyang, in what is now Honan province) was primarily a monastery for translator-monks who poured over Sanskrit and Pali texts to translate them into Chinese. By overdoing their task, the monks had grown physically weak; and, some had even hunched. They were too weak to defend themselves against the robbers who frequently attacked the monastery, for grains. They had also grown feeble in mind; and therefore were not progressing in meditation.

Bodhidharma impressed on the monks the need to be strong both in body and mind. He prescribed them a set of physical exercises, based on Indian yogic practices, which strengthened the monks’ bodies and calmed their minds allowing them to meditate with more resolve.

Bodhidharma’s primary concern was to make the monks physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and the deceptively demanding training that meditation requires. Nonetheless, the techniques he taught also served as an efficient fighting skill. It is said, Bodhidharma initially trained the monks in the ancient Indian style of armless combat, which used mainly punching and fist techniques. It was called Vajramusti (diamond-fist) which he, as a prince, learnt in India. With that, the Shaolin style of fist fighting ch’uan-fa (literally “way of the fist”) was founded.

His system of movements combined artistic and acrobatic styles; and used circular principles to redirect an opponent’s attack. Though those movements were slow and cautious, they were a form of strength. The theory behind it was to always be on guard by using the attacker’s energy and redirecting it back to him in a circle.  These circular techniques, sometimes called “arcs”, allowed a student to yield to an opponent’s thrust, ultimately forcing the opponent to become unbalanced and vulnerable to multiple counters. This style was practiced as exercise and as a form of meditation.

Bodhidharma’s style was eventually formalized into the martial arts style known as the Lohan (Priest-Scholar). It contained eighteen positions and hand movements. It was the basis of Chinese Temple Boxing and the Shaolin Arts, a powerful and well known system of hand-fighting.

The Bodhidharma style did not, perhaps, include (open) empty-hand fights. According to legend, the eighteen positions, which he introduced, were improvised and enhanced to 170, decades after his death, by the two Shaolin monks: Ch’ueh Yuan and Li-shao. This was the basis for kung fu, which, now, is probably the best known of all Asian unarmed martial arts.

The ground rules of martial arts were laid down by Bodhidharma. He prescribed that martial arts should never be used to hurt or injure needlessly. In fact, it is still one of the oldest Shaolin axioms that ‘one who engages in combat has already lost the battle.’ His Five Commandments condemned: killing, robbery, obscenity, telling lies and drinking wine. Meat eating was considered “not necessary”; but there was no commandment against that. Hundreds of years later, the emperor gave the monks meat to eat and wine to drink. This was known as “The Change of the Sixth Ancestor”. Silence was highly prized and to be strived for.

Thus, the system crafted by Bodhidharma by integrating yoga for self-discipline and martial arts for self-defence gave rise to a system that was at once spiritual and combative ; the kung-fu . Monks of the Shaolin Temple specialized in kung fu have continued teaching Bodhidharma’s techniques since 539 CE.

The Shaolin temple’s claim to fame came from its association with the philosophy of Cha’n. When Cha’n travelled to Japan it came to be known as Zen. Bodhidharma’s concept that spiritual, intellectual and physical excellences are an indivisible whole necessary for enlightenment fired the imagination of the Samurai warriors. And, they made Zen their way of life.

 *****

9.Bodhidharma’s life has become the stuff of fables and legends.  His stories and legends have been immortalized over the centuries in a variety of ways; on scrolls, wood block prints. Metals, papier-mâché, plastic etc. His image is easily recognized – a thick rounded body, swaddled in robes, heavy jowls, with thick bushy eyebrows and beard that frame large round eyes that captivate. When asked how long it took to paint a portrait of Daruma, the great Zen artist Hakuin replied, “Ten minutes and eighty years.”

Bodhidharma, he has become a popular icon of Japanese culture, folk lore and politics under the form of Daruma (Dharma – short name for Bodhidharma). There is even a Daruma Temple at Kataoka, near Horyuuji.

In Japan today, one of the most popular talismans of good luck is the armless, legless, and eyeless Daruma doll, or tumbler doll. Sold at temple festivals and fairs, such dolls are typically painted red, and depict Bodhidharma seated in mediation. When knocked on its side, the doll pops back to the upright position (hence “tumbler” doll, or “okiagari koboshi), “falling seven times and rising eight times.” (nana korobi ya oki), symbolizing perseverance through life.

At New Year time, many Japanese individuals and corporations buy a Daruma doll, make a resolution, and then paint in one of the eyes. If, during the year, they are able to achieve their goal, they paint in the second eye. Many politicians, at the beginning of an election period, will buy a Daruma doll, paint in one eye, and then, if they win the election, paint in the other eye. At year end, it is customary to take the Daruma doll to a temple, where it is burned in a big bonfire.

These Daruma dolls are also believed to protect children against illnesses such as smallpox and to facilitate childbirth, bring good harvests, ensure healthy rearing of silkworms, and generally bring prosperity to their owners.

The story of Bodhidharma is truly remarkable. It is amazing how the legend and the glory of the austere patriarch hailing from Kanchipuram, deep South in India, travelled to the courts of the Emperors and the monasteries in China, to the Zen schools and temples in Japan and world over. He brought awakening and enlightenment to millions of followers; gave a new dimension and a meaning to life, learning and to martial arts. He even became a tumbling doll, a fertility saint, a talisman, a protector of children and a bringer of good fortune. Bodhidharma is truly a many splendored adorable sage.

****

Even if a Buddha or Bodhisattva should suddenly appear before you, there’s no need for reverence. This mind of ours is empty and contains no such form. Why worship illusions born of the mind?

Your mind is basically empty. If you envision a Buddha, a dharma, or a Bodhisattva and conceive respect for them, you relegate yourself to the realm of mortals. If you seek direct understanding, don’t hold on to any appearance whatsoever, and you’ll succeed.

*****

 

Sources and references:

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Philosophical/Three_LanguageRelated_Methods.html

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/daruma.shtmlhttp://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/daruma.shtml

http://www.geocities.com/gabigreve2000/redsmallpoxarticle.html

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Teishos/WhyDidBodhidharmaCome.htm

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/daruma.shtml

http://www.geocities.com/gabigreve2000/redsmallpoxarticle.html

http://rivr.sulekha.com/what-is-no-mind_361574_blog

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Zen

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Origins of Zen School


1.1. Mahakasyapa was an enlightened disciple of the Buddha. One day, while Mahakasyapa was sitting with the Master, in silence, the Master picked up a lotus flower and held it in front of him. Mahakasyapa, at once smiled knowingly; he understood the master’s teaching. That teaching was an instant communication, a direct meeting of the hearts without use of words. It was a secret teaching; but Mahakasyapa did not keep the secret. He passed it on to his disciples. The later scholars remarked,” If you do not understand, then it is the secret of Sakyamuni. If you do understand, it is Mahakasyapa not keeping the secret”.

1.2. That was how the Dhyana School was born. Its emphasis was on one’s own experience; and asked its students to desist from borrowing others’ experiences. It therefore discouraged undue reliance on what one heard or read. Its teaching had four main aspects:

  • Transmission of the instructions is beyond book learning.
  • It is not couched in words and letters.
  • It points directly to the human mind.
  • It lets one see into one’s own true nature and leads to attaining Buddha- hood.

1.3. The tradition of Dhyana masters began with Mahakasyapa. After the passing away of the Buddha, Ananda, his cousin, became a disciple of Mahakasyapa and received the wordless instruction. The Dhyana School counts 28 masters in the line of Mahakasyapa. They include great names such as Ananda, Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna and Vasabhandu. The twenty-seventh in the lineage was Prajnatara, whose disciple was the 28th Dhyana master Bodhidharma, who also became the first patriarch of the Dhyana –> Cha’n – > Zen schools of China and Japan.

Tibetan sources mention him as Bodhidharmottara  or Dharmottara (Dharma of enlightenment) . Bodhidharma is presumably a shortened form of that name. Let’s , however , stick to the standard usage.

2.1. According to some sources, Bodhidharma (470-543 AD) hailed from Kanchipuram in south India; and was a Pallava prince.  He was the third son of Simhavarman II; and a contemporary of Skandavarman IV and Nandivarman I. He was the disciple of Prajnatara. Bodhidharma lived with his teacher for nearly forty years, until the teacher’s demise. Thereafter, as per the wish of his teacher, Bodhidharma left for China. He arrived at the port city of Kwan-tan (Canton), along the southern coast of China, during the year 520. He was honored by the Chinese emperor Wu-li in whose court was the great translator Paramartha. Bodhidharma soon left the palace headed north and crossed the Yangtze River. He continued moving north until he arrived at the Temple in Ho Nan Province. It was here that Bodhidharma meditated for nine years facing a wall, not uttering a sound for the entire time.

 

2.2. After he initiated his disciple Hui-k’o into Dhyana, Bodhidharma moved on to Chen Sung (One Thousand Saints) Temple to propagate the Dharma. He passed away in 543 AD. It is said Bodhidharma was buried in Shon Er Shan (Bear Ear Mountain) in Ho Nan, and a stupa was built for him in Pao Lin Temple. Later, the Tang dynasty Emperor, Dai Dzong, bestowed on Bodhidharma the name Yuen Che Grand Zen Master, and renamed his stupa as Kong Kwan (Empty Visualization).

Bodhi01


2.3. There is a legend connected with his death; it surely does not sound real and yet, is interesting. It says, soon after his death, someone saw Bodhidharma walking towards India barefoot and with a single shoe in hand. His grave was later exhumed, and according to legend, the only thing found in it was the shoe he left behind.

For nine years he had remained and nobody knew him;
carrying a shoe in hand he went home quietly, without ceremony.

Another legend says that Bodhidharma, during his last days, remarked, “I came to China and transmitted my Dharma to three people. One received my marrow, one received my bones, and one received my flesh.” After the transmission,   Hui K’o received the marrow and Tao Yu received the bones.  A bikshuni Tsang Chih received Bodhidharma’s flesh. And, in the end Bodhidharma had no body at all.

2.4. His main teaching which has impacted Zen was taken from Vajrasamadhi Sutra:” Be at rest in all things and seek nothing, for Buddha-hood is attained by perceiving one’s own true nature.”

[There are varying accounts of Bodhidharma’s early life; his arrival and life in China. Some accounts mention that Bodhidharma lived for 150 years.]

3.1. Bodhidharma was the first patriarch of the Chinese Cha’n School. But, he was not the first one to bring Buddhism into China.  By the time he arrived, the teachings of the Buddha were already prevalent in China. It is not clear when exactly the Buddha’s teachings entered China. In any event, Tao-sheng (360-434 AD) the disciple of the Indian saint Kumara-jiva (ca. 400 AD) had been a well recognized Buddhist teacher. Tao-sheng, following the footsteps of his teacher, advocated the practice of meditation and rejected mere book learning; he also spoke of enlightenment or awakening.

3.2. Bodhidharma relied, to a large extent, on the premier text of Yogachara School of the Mahayana Buddhism: the Lankavatara Sutra. It is regarded a difficult text; and, its basic thrust is on “inner enlightenment that does away with all duality and is raised above all distinctions.”

One of the recurrent themes in the Lankavatara Sutra is, not to rely on words to express reality. It holds the view that objects do not owe their existence to words that indicate them. The words themselves are artificial creations. Ideas, it says, can as well be expressed by looking steadily, by gestures, by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

3.3. Bodhidharma instructed his disciples to follow a certain principle; and to practice.

The principle was to: “Leave behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination between self and others. In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable ,  alert and clear  like the wall ; illuminating  with compassion. .”  He warned, it might sound like the direct, easy path to enlightenment, but it is, in fact, difficult. Bodhidharma’s rigors life long sadhana was  a testimony to that.

[The wall in these contexts carries a special meaning. All mental activities are like murals on a wall. Without the wall there can be no paintings; but the paintings hide the wall, cover it up and hide it from the view. The wall, here, stands for awareness (prajna), free from all thoughts. This (wall) is the original mind or no- mind, as the Buddhists call it. To get back to that blemish– less wall is the aim off Cha’n (Zen) practice.

The wall in this context is analogues to the clear cloudless sky that Vedanta talks about.

The mind is formless like the sky,
Yet it wears a million faces.
It appears as images of the past, or as worldly forms;
But it is not the supreme Self.
All your senses are like clouds;
All they show is an endless mirage.
The Radiant One is neither bound nor free.
I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.
–  Avadhuta Gita

This was also what Bodhidharma  taught.]

The practice involved:

(i)The willingness to accept, without complaining, suffering and unhappiness because you understand it is your own karma.

(ii) Understanding that all situations are the consequences of karmic causes, and therefore, you maintain equanimity in all circumstances, both negative and positive.

(iii)  Acting in accordance with ones Dharma (one’s own nature or svabhava) which is therefore pure. Realizing through practice the essence of one’s Nature, which is equanimity.

3.4. It is said, the following four-line stanza captures Bodhidharma’s teaching. Its first two lines echo the Lankavatara Sutra’s disdain for words and its latter two lines stress the importance of the insight into reality.]

A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words and letters;
By pointing directly to [one’s] mind
It lets one see into [one’s own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood
.

buddha-meditation-song

3.5. Bodhidharma approached Buddhism in the most direct, simple and practical way. He grasped that enlightenment was the most fundamental aspect of Buddhism; and , that did not need   either sacred scriptures, rituals or objects of worship,  though all of which had  somehow become a part  of Mahayana Buddhism in India. . He discouraged superstitious veneration of the Buddhas .The practice of meditation, according to him, was the key to awakening ones inner nature, compassion and wisdom

3.6. Bodhidharma’s method also implied that Dhyana is not an intellectual exercise one can learn from books. Instead, it’s a practice of studying mind and seeing into one’s nature. The face-to-face transmission of the Dharma was important. That meant, the student and the teacher have to work together face -to – face. This made the student–teacher relation critical to its success. Consequently, the lineage of teachers also became important.

Ultimately, Dhyana is about coming face-to-face with yourself, in a very direct and intimate way. And, that is not easy.

4.1. Bodhidharma’s teaching became known as the Cha’n sect for its primary focus on cha’n (Dhyan) training and practice. Shortly before his death, Bodhidharma appointed Hui-k’o (486 -593) to succeed him, making Hui-k’o the first Chinese born patriarch and the second patriarch of Cha’n in China. Bodhidharma is said to have passed three items to Hui-k’o as a sign of transmission of the Dharma: a robe, a bowl, and a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra. The following verse is attributed to Hui-k’o:

From the seed bed
Flowers rise.
Yet there is no seed
Nor are there flowers
The “seed bed “refers to the heart, which is the ground on which the mind rests and rises. It is what is called the original-mind, devoid of thought constructions (mano vikalpa).The seeds of enlightenment are hidden in it. The flowers of wisdom sprout from those seeds only when there is a seed-bed. But, if the seed-bed is void it has no flowers, no attributes.
 
 

This is analogues to what the Upanishads call nirguna (devoid of attributes), daharakasha (the subtle space within the heart). It is in the nature of void; it has no form; and, it is all pervasive. It is the substratum of all existence.

 

 

4.2. The Third Chinese Patriarch after Bodhidharma was Jianzhi Sengcan, a Taoist, best known for his verses on Faith-Mind. The opening lines of his gatha read:

Follow your nature and accord with Tao
Saunter along and stop worrying.
If your thoughts are tied, you spoil what is genuine.
Don’t be antagonistic to the senses
For when you are not antagonistic to it
It turns out to be the same as complete awakening
The wise person does not strive (wu wei)
The arrogant man ties himself up
If you work on your mind with your mind,
How can you avoid immense confusion?
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
 (D.T.Suzuky’s translation)

He advised “Let your mind alone; trust it to follow its own nature.” This is typical of Indian outlook too. We find its formulation in Upanishads. And, this became the main stay of the Mahayana Buddhism, which in turn had pervasive influence on the developments in the Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese traditions.

4.3. The fourth Chinese patriarch was Dayi Daoxin (580 -651); and he was followed by Daman Hongren (601-674).

4.4. The most famous teacher was Hui-Neng (638-713 AD), the sixth and the last Chinese patriarch. He appears to have led an adventures life. He had a huge following. It was during his time that Cha’n entered the realm of fully documented history. Cha’n school, during his time, also emerged out of Indian influence and acquired its unique Chinese characteristics. During his time, the Cha’n school of thought took a definite form. Later, the school branched into five major sects or five houses, which in due course consolidated into two streams of practices. They were Tsao-tung (Sato in Japan) and Lin-chi (Rinzai in Japan).The former retained the simple teachings of Bodhidharma, the serene reflections in silent meditation. The latter branch made the Koan- exercise its corner stone. It is in essence, working on the solution to problem which has no solution; trying to understand something which is not meant to be understto; and it is where talking (hua) ends (tou).

5.1. How Cha’n travelled to Japan, transformed to Zen and wove into the spiritual, artistic, cultural and social fabric of Japan is a long story. As regards Zen as spiritual practice, suffice it to say, it reached Japan in several waves; and each significant wave gave rise to a Zen sect.

5.2. Línjì Yìxuan (Rinzai Gigen, in Japanese) (ca.806), of China, was well trained in Cha’n by the Cha’n master Huang-Po Hsi-Yun. He later gained fame as an accomplished Cha’n master; and, by around the year 851, he founded the Linji school of Cha’n Buddhism. The Linji School ultimately became the most successful and widespread of the Five Houses (Schools) of Cha’n.

5.3. By around this time, the Cha’n practices had entered Japan but were not recognized as separate schools of spiritual enquiry.  However, later during the twelfth century, Myoan Eisai traveled to China to study Cha’n of the Linji School: and on his return to Japan he established a sect of Linji lineage. The sect founded by him in Japan came to be known as Rinzai School.

5.4.  Much later, that is, during the seventeenth century a Chinese monk named Yinyuan Longqi (Japanese name: Ingen Ryuki) also a member of the Linji School of Cha’n introduced into Japan another sect of Cha’n; It was called Obaku – named after Mount Obaku near Ingen Ryuki’s hometown in China.

The Rinzai and Obaku schools share common heritage traced back to Hui-neng the sixth and the last Chinese patriarch; and therefore they are closely related.

5.5. In the meantime , that is around the year 1215, Dogen, a younger contemporary of Myoan Eisai,  also visited China and studied Cha’n under Caodong teacher Tiantong Rujing .On his return Dogen established Soto school , the Japanese branch of Caodong.

5.6. Cha’n as it arrived in Japan acquired the name Zen, which is an abbreviation of the term Zenna (the Japanese form of the Mandarin: Channa) derived from the Sanskrit term Dhyana, Pali Jhana; all of which refer to a type or specific aspect of meditation.

5.7. The schools of Zen that currently exist in Japan are Soto, Rinzai and Obaku. Of these, Soto has the largest following and Obaku has the smallest following. Rinzai is itself divided into several branches, based on affiliations to various temples.

6.  Much has been written concerning the differences between Rinzai and Soto Zen though both advocate study of koans and practice Zazen (sitting meditation). The differences are mainly in the emphasis rather than in their contents. Soto Zen considers the practice of Zazen to be the sole means of realization. While in Rinzai Zen practice, a koan is examined while sitting in order to deepen insight. Soto is considered the more conservative of the two. Rinzai takes a more liberal, at times radical view of the Buddha-nature. The Soto Zen believes the awakening can happen gradually; while Rinzai believes awakening can occur in a flash of insight. In either case, awakening comes as the result of one’s own efforts.

zen-mood-bokeh-garden

7.1. Though Zen recognized the validity of the Buddhist scriptures, it created its own set of texts, over the generations, written in informal language studded with folk sayings and street slang. Zen literature came to be built around anecdotes of its masters; the Buddha is barely mentioned. It is flavoured by a mix of Taoism, Confucianism and Chinese poetry.

7.2. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on simplicity and the importance of the natural world generated a distinctive aesthetic style that influenced almost all walks of life say, art, literature, landscaping, gardening, tea ceremonies etc.

7.3. The Zen school eventually emerged as the most successful school of Buddhism in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. By the mid-1980’s, the Zen traditions of all these countries had been transmitted to America.

8.1. Zen had its roots in India, undoubtedly; but its immediate ancestor and inspiration was the Cha’n school of the Chinese. During the time of Hui-Neng (638-713 AD), the sixth patriarch, the Cha’n school shed its Indian influences and became characteristically Chinese. And, Cha’n, when it moved into and took root in Japan, it became Zen- typically Japanese. It was no longer the simple Indian ideology; and, Zen had acquired a sophisticated, aesthetic style that influenced al walks of life.

8.2. But, the basic tenets of Zen and its “view” was the one provided by Bodhidharma .The enquiry into the nature of the Self, the symbol of the Buddha-hood latent in every living being, forcefully pronounced by Bodhidharma flowered into Cha’n School; and, that had its roots in the Upanishads. The understanding of Zen will be complete when it is viewed as a flowering of the Upanishads.

Buddhas don’t save Buddhas.
If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won’t see the Buddha.
As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else,
You’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha.
Don’t use a Buddha to worship a Buddha.
And don’t use the mind to invoke a Buddha.
Buddhas don’t recite sutras. Buddhas don’t keep precepts.
And Buddhas don’t break precepts.
Buddhas don’t keep or break anything.
Buddhas don’t do good or evil.
To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.
-Attributed to Bodhidharma
***

There are no divine scriptures, no world, no imperative religious practices;
There are no gods, no classes or races of men,
No stages of life, no superior or inferior;
There’s nothing but Brahman, the supreme Reality.

 I do not know Shiva; how can I speak of Him?
I do not know Shiva; how can I worship Him?
I , myself, am Shiva, the primal Essence of everything;
My nature, like the sky, remains ever the same.
–  Avadhuta Gita
 buddha-wallpapers

Please also read: Bodhidharma -stories and Legends

 

References and Sources:

Dhyana and Zen by Prof. SKR Rao

The 28th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism:  http://sped2work.tripod.com/bdharma.html

Bodhidharma:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma

Zen History:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen#Early_history

What is Zen:  http://www.dharmanet.org/lczen.htm

Zen Buddhism:  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/zen/hd_zen.htm

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Zen

 

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