Be master OF mind rather than mastered BY mind - Zen Saying

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Thich That Nan


Quotes from Zen Essence,
The Science of Freedom, Translated by Thomas Cleary:


The Purpose of Zen

Over the course of centuries, Zen has branched out into different schools with individual methods, but the purpose is still the same - to point directly to the human mind. Once the ground of mind is clarified there is no obstruction at all - you shed views and interpretations that are based on concepts such as victory and defeat, self and others, right and wrong. Thus you pass through all that and reach a realm of great rest and tranquility. Zen Master Yuanwu


Zen enlightenment is as if you have been away from home for many years, when you suddenly see your father in town. you know him right away without a doubt. There is no need to ask anyone else whether he is your father or not. Zen Master Foyan

The Aim of Zen

When enlightened Zen masters set up teaching for a spiritual path, the only concern is to clarify the mind to arrive at its source. It is complete in everyone, yet people turn away from this basic mind because of their illusions.

Bad Habits

In the root and stem of your own psyche there is an accumulation of bad habits, If you cannot see through them and act independently of them, you will unavoidablty get bogged down along the way. Zen Master Yuansou

Summary of Zen Practice

When you're settled in Zen, your mind is serene, unaffected by worldly distractions. You enter the realm of enlightenment, and transcend the ordinary world, leaving the world while in the midst of society. Zen Master Fenyang

Quotes from Zen Essence, The Science of Freedom, Translated by Thomas Cleary

What Is Zen? by Mel Ash

Who are we really? What is really the meaning of Life? How can we attain lasting happiness in the face of our seemingly endless troubles? These questions are basic to our lives, and it is from these questions that the practice of Zen has its birth.

Zen can be the compassionate scalpel that removes the layers of accrued opinions, beliefs, and frozen expectations that stand between us and true experience. Zen shows us that what we mistakenly call ourselves, our personal identity, is really no more than a mask over our true selves and natures.

Beliefs, opinions, prejudices, educational and cultural training, our family backgrounds: All these are merely accidental factors, if you will. They are necessary tools for survival and integration into the larger society, but they are not really who you are.

Without falling back on convenient definitions of job, religion, sex and so on, who and what are we? If you lose your job, will you lose yourself? If you convert to another religion, do you substantially change? It may seem so if you are overly attached to these limiting definitions. Despite all these changes, however, something remains the same. What and where is the thing upon which we can stand firm? If the outside is so unstable and prone to change, then it would make sense to look within-to ourselves. But what are we on the inside? What in the world are we?

Zen can help us answer these questions, although Zen itself is not an answer. Zen is, if anything, the biggest question of all. It is the question that becomes a wedge in the cracked shell of our true self, prying us open to a meaning and truth that will have relevance to ourselves alone. It is a dance and a tug-of-war with ourselves. It demands no belief in anything, and instead insists on a great doubt concerning everything we had heretofore taken for granted. While belief is not a requirement, faith most certainly is. Faith is the unspoken, nameless and formless yearning for completion and wholeness.

Alone and unaided, it can pull us to union with our God or true self like a great free-floating balloon. Belief is the anchor that keeps our faith from ever ascending and testing its limits. Belief is the limiting and inhibiting of faith.

Zen points out to us the area of our lives where our faith in our selves has been silenced by the rigidity of belief. Once pointed out, we are freed to ride our faith to heights unimagined and certainly not permitted by the jealous jailer called belief. In Zen practice, the process of identifying and reducing our attachments to our own beliefs, ideas and opinions is sometimes called "putting them down." Just as we would put down a load that has gotten too heavy for us, so too can we put down our heavy load of self, which we identify with our per sonal situations, ideas and beliefs.

Zen is simply nothing more than paying attention to your life as it unfolds in this moment and in this world. The mindful, non judgmental perception of this process is the action of your true, original self, which exists before thinking, opinions, and beliefs arise and seek to name and divide experience. By becoming mindful of our original nature, we are able to lessen the grip of the denial that separates us from true experience. As we become more spontaneous and intuitive in our relationships with ourselves, others and the world, the world and our deepest selves start to act as one, and we come to realize that there's never been a problem except in our thinking.

Zen is the ultimate and original recovery program. It exposes our denial of true self and shows us how we've suffered because of our diseases of attachment, judgment and division. It suggests a program for recovering our original nature and teaches steps we can take immediately. It shows us how all our other diseases and discontents flow from our fundamental denial of unity with each other and the universe.

Zen is there when you swerve out of the way of a speeding car without thinking. It is there when you cry at a movie, feeling deeply the suffering of another. It is there in the unconscious grace of your walk, the elegant flow of your thoughts, and the automatic breathing that keeps you alive. No, Zen never forgets about you. It is you who have forgotten about Zen. It is you who takes this moment for granted and believes that you are separate from all you survey, alone and unique in your suffering. It is you who search high and low for meaning, contentment, satisfaction or deliverance.

To try to fill your emptiness with meaning from outside yourself is like pouring water into the ocean to make it wet. The practice of Zen is the alarm clock that wakes us up to our lives and enables us to stop sleepwalking through reality. It is the friendly map that says: "Right here is the place. You have always been here. Where else is there?" It is the calendar that says: "Right now is the time. Who could want another?" Zen practice identifies the liars and thieves in the temples of our hearts and casts them out so that we may live as we are meant to live: whole, fearless, and rejoined with that for which we so desperately long.

article from inner self magazine - What Is Zen? by Mel Ash

Zen Story - Is that so?

The Zen Master hakuin was honored by his neighbours as on who led a pure life.

One day it was discoverd that a beautiful girl who lived near hakuin was pregnant.

The parents were very angry. At first the girl would not say who the father was, but after much harassment she named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to Hakuin, but all he would say was, "Is that so?"

After the child was born it was taken to Hakuin - who had lost his reputation by this time, although he didn't see, much disturbed by the fact.

Hakuin took great care of the child. He obtained milk, food, and everything else the child needed from his neighbours.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer, so she told her parents the truth - the real father was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl went round at once to Hakuin to tell him the story, apologize at great length, ask his forgiveness and get the child back.

As the master willingly yielded the child he said, "Is that so?"

pp67, '
No water, No moon', Talks on Zen Stories by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)

Zen Story - Nothing but good stuff . . .

The eighth-century Chinese Zen master P'an-shan had his first satori
(enlightenment-glimpse) while walking through a marketplace. He
overheard a customer tell the butcher, "Cut me some of the good stuff"; the
butcher replied, "Hey, take a look -- nothing but good stuff!" This was just
the catalyst P'an-shan needed. He took a look, perhaps, at the ground, the
sky, the people in their bustle of buying and selling . . . and everywhere
he saw nothing but good stuff.

-- Dean Sluyter in "Why the Chicken Crossed the Road and Other Hidden
Enlightenment Teachings from the Buddha to Bebop to Mother Goose"

A Zen master had a faithful but very naive student who regarded him as a living buddha. One day the master accidentally sat down on a needle. He screamed “Ouch!” and jumped into the air. The student instantly lost all his faith and left, saying how disappointed he was to find that his master was not fully enlightened. Otherwise, he thought, how could he jump up and scream out loud like that? The master was sad when he realized his student had left, and said: “Alas, poor man! If only he had known that in reality neither I, nor the needle, nor the ‘ouch’ really existed.”


What is enlightenment?

Coming to understand, coming to realize that you are not the body. you are the light within, not the lamp, but the flame. you are neither body nor mind. Mind belongs to the body, mind is not beyond body, it is part of the body. Minds is also atomic, as body is atomic.

You are neither body nor the mind - then you come to know who you are. And to know who you are is enlightenment.....

Enlightened means you have realized who you are.

Enlightened Beings

You have your own values, and you always look through those values. An enlightened person is totally in a diiferent dimension, where he lives without values, where he lives without any criteria, where he lives without any morality, where he simply lives without the ego. An enlightened person simply lives. He is not manipulating his life, he is a white cloud floating. He has nowhere to go, nothing to achieve. Nothing is good for him and nothing is bad. He does not know any God, he does not know any devil. He knows only life, and life in its totality is beautiful....

An enlightened person always appears like a madman. So the first thing to be understood is don't evaluate an enlightened person thorugh your values - very difficult, because what else can you do. ...

Second thing: an enlighened person behaves from the centerm never from the periphery. You always behave from the periphery, you live on the periphery, the circumference. To you the circumference is the most important thing. You have killed your soul and saved your body. The enlightened person can sacrifice his body, but cannot allow his soul to be lost. He is ready to die - any moment he is ready to die - that's not a problem. But it is not ready to lose his center, the very core of his being.

Enlightened Mind

"Zen says the ordinary mind is the enlightened mind. You don't go anywhere; the ordinary world is paradise. Here and now, everything is there! you need not go anywhere.

For the first time you become aware of the beauty of the world...everything is young and fresh and alive and God is here! if you think your God is somewhere else you are still listening to the mind, because that is the language of the mind: "Somewhere else, somewhere else! Never here!" - and he is always here.

Meditation reveals you the here and now. And then the ordinary mind becomes the most extraodinary. And the ordinary life becomes the supreme, the ultimate. The only difference is of a closed and open mind. When thoughts are there, the clouds are not there and the mind is open. And when the mind is open the old part has fallen, the water has flowed out, the reflection disappears, no water, no moon!"


Above excerpts from
No Water, No moon, Talks on Zen Stories - Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)

(see section on 'filtering experience' on psychology page)



Within the Buddhist tradition, concentration is also highly valued. But a new element is added and more highly stressed. That element is awareness. All Buddhist meditation aims at the development of awareness, using concentration as a tool. The Buddhist tradition is very wide, however, and there are several diverse routes to this goal. Zen meditation uses two separate tacks. The first is the direct plunge into awareness by sheer force of will. You sit down and you just sit, meaning that you toss out of your mind everything except pure awareness of sitting. This sounds very simple. It is not. A brief trial will demonstrate just how difficult it really is.

The second Zen approach used in the Rinzai school is that of tricking the mind out of conscious thought and into pure awareness. This is done by giving the student an unsolvable riddle which he must solve anyway(koan), and by placing him in a horrendous training situation. Since he cannot flee from the pain of the situation, he must flee into a pure experience of the moment. There is nowhere else to go. Zen is tough. It is effective for many people, but it is really tough.

from Meditation in Plain English

Limiting Activity - Zazen by Shunryu Suzuki

When we practice zazen we limit our activity to the smallest extent. Just keeping the right posture and being concentrated on sitting is how we express the universal nature. Then we become Buddha, and we express Buddha nature. So instead of having some object of worship, we just concentrate on the activity which we do in each moment.

When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.If you do this, the universal nature is there. In Japanese we call it ichigyo-zammai, or "one-act samadhi." Sammai (or samadhi) is "concentration." Ichigyo is "one practice"

Zen Mind, Beginner's mind, Informal talks on Zen Meditation and Practice by Shunryu Suzuki

Excerpts and quotes paraphrased from "The Zero Experience" Zen Koans by Amiyo Ruhnke

Tennyson once said, "If I could understand a flower, root and all, I would have understood the whole existence."

Zen is an invitation to see into the nature of things directly, without any hindrances of conceptual thought.

In our normal state we are imprisoned in our minds, in thoughts that narrow our consciousness by judging: this is good, this is bad, this is so-so.

Zen is concerned with your inner world, with your subjectivity.

Three pillars of Zen: No-form, no-mind, no-soul.

...Zen transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, where all is special, where everything is a unique expression of this universe, in its right place and right time.

Zen says: the beyond is within you. All that is needed is to go withinwards and find your centre. No intermediary is needed, no one to tell you what to do. No scriptures to be read, no doctrines to be followed, only a single pointed awareness.

Zen teaches by pointing directly, by shocking you, by rattling the crust that has formed around your being until it cracks and you are rebrn in your original nakedness.

Zen tries to dismantle all the useless things you have acquired, to unburden you, to create an openess in which you can experience existence again.

The mysteries of life cannot be defined, they can only be lived. They can only be tasted, felt in the immediacy of the now-here.

Let this moment be the only moment: no past, no future, just moment to moment immediacy.

Become an absence, an absence of all that you are not, and become a presence, a presence of what you are.

...Zen is an invitation to fall in tune with existence.

Zazen & Koan

Sitting silently, Zazen, non-doing was introduced by Bodhidharma.

Koan practice started with E'no.

..E'no said about Koan, "when you think about that which cannot be thought, by and by, slowly slowly, thinking becomes impossible. One day, suddenly, the whole structure of thinking falls to the ground, shattered. Suddenly, you are in a state of no-thought. That's what meditation is."

And in this meditation you experience the is-ness of existence itself.

Tozan has written on this occasion.

Long seeking it through others, I was far from reaching it.
Now I go by myself; I meet it everywhere.

It is just I myself, and I am not itself.
Understanding this way, I can be as I am.

Bukko says, "the koan is some deep saying of a patriarch. Its effect in this world of distinctions is to make a man's gaze straight.."

Koan, or "public case", in most cases a short exchange between a master and disciple, has been used in Zen for hundreds of years to help the disciple take the quantum leap from mind to no-mind.

Rinzai Zen Master, Chuho Myohon:

Now, when we use the word "koan" to refer to the teachings of the buddhas and patriarchs, we mean the same thing. The koans do not represent the private opinion of a single man, but rather the highest principle, received alike by us and by hundreds and thousands of bodhisattvas of the three realms and the ten directions. This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic, it cannot be transmitted in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like the poisoned drum that kill all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. What is called the "special transmission of the Vulture Peak" was the transmission of this; what is called the "direct pointing of Bodhidharma at Shao-lin-ssu" was pointing at this.

..The koan is a torch of wisdom that lights up the darkness of feeling and discrimination, a golden scaper that cuts away the film clouding the eye, a sharp ax that severs the root of birth-and-death, a divine mirror that reflects the original face of both sacred and secular. Through it the intention of the patriarchs is made abundantly clear, the Buddha-mind is laid open and revealed. For the essentials of complete transcendence, final emancipation, total penetration, and identical attainment, nothing can surpass the koan...

Also, in questioning a disciple about his insight the master used the koan to judge the depth of his understanding. the response to the koan would indicate the height of attainment of the disciple.

Often the first koan a disciple would be given is the koan of Joshu's Mu.

A monk asked the Zen Master Joshu: "Does a dog have buddha nature?" Joshu answered: "Mu!"

There is so much literature on this particular koan, the first case of the koan collection Mumonkan, that the space here would be too small to even try to do it justice. Just this much: "Mu" in Chinese literally means, "nothing, no-being". But to take the answer literally would be wrong, because the Buddha said that all living beings have buddha nature. Now, does the dog have buddha nature or not?


Zen Master Hakuin thus advised his disciple on the use of koan:

If you take up one koan and investigate it without ceasing, your thoughts will die and your ego-demands will be destroyed. It is as though a vast abyss opened up in front of you, with no place to put your hands and feet. You face death, and your heart feels as though it were fine. Then suddenly you are one with the koan, and body and mind let go....This is known as seeing into one's own nature. You must push forward relentlessly, and with the help of his great concentration you will penetrate without fail to the infinite source of your own nature."

In your own time, Christmas Humphreys describes the same experience;

Then comes the jump...But the Abyss into which we fall is found to be a plenum / void. The leap is from thought to no-thought - from the ultimate duality of illusion/reality to a burst of laughter and a cup of tea. But with what new eyes do we view the saucer! and in what serenity of mind do we clear the table away!

How to express that which cannot be expressed. As Tozan said: "When all is understood, words are forgotten." or in Osho's words:"Truth is known in silence. And when truth is known through silence, it can be expressed only through silence.

Their [Zen master's] dislike of wordy explanation is best expressed in Mumon's famous phrase: "The use of words is like striking out at the moon with a stick or scratching one's shoe because one's foot itches."

There is the famous saying:

"Before we study Zen, the mountains are mountains and the rivers are rivers. While we are studying Zen, however the mountains are no longer mountains and the rivers are no longer rivers. But then, when our study of Zen is completed, the mountains are once again mountains and the rivers once again rivers."

Finally, this is Hakuin's advice to his students:

"For the study of Zen there are three requirements. The first is a great root of faith; the second is a great ball of doubt; the third is a great tenacity of purpose. A man who lacks any one of these is alike athree-legged kettle with one broken leg...."

Above Excerpts and quotes paraphrased from "The Zero Experience" Zen Koans by Amiyo Ruhnke

Hsin - Hsin Ming

By Seng - Ts'an

Third Zen Patriarch

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the Single Way
cannot be free in either activity or quietude,
in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things
and you miss their reality;
Assert the emptiness of things
and you miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
the further you wander from the truth.
So cease attachment to talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence,
but to pursue appearances or "enlightenment" is to miss
the Source.
To awaken even for a moment
is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty world
we make real only because of our ignorance.

Do not seek for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state;
avoid such easy habits carefully.
If you attach even to a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One,
do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
there is no objection to anything in the world;
and when there is no objection to anything,
things cease to be—in the old way.
When no discriminating attachment arises,
the old mind ceases to exist.
Let go of things as separate existences
and mind too vanishes.
Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes
so too do the objects created by mind.

An excerpt from the beautiful and inspirational small book : HSIN - HSIN MING
written by the
Third Zen Patriarch
and translated from the Chinese by Richard B. Clarke -
White Pine Press - Buffalo, New York.

recommended reading

Master Nan Huai-chin, one of the few true Zen Masters still living today.

Robert Winson and Miriam Sagan, both poets and zen practitioners, spent a winter in a Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Colorado, and each kept a diary of the events of their lives. This is the result, a record of how spiritual practice really operates and how life works in a commune.

Soul Sword : The Way and Mind of a Zen Warrior Vernon Kitabu Turner (UK

The power of the warrior mind is its ability to act from a state of "No Mind", with technique arising effortlessly out of emptiness. As a mirror reflects objects without clinging to the images, the "Warrior Mind" is free to flow from one object to the next without impediment. From this state arises instinctive wisdom, the power that allows ordinary people to perform extraordinary feats. This Zen mind-guide to empowerment is an active meditation for those who wish to be in the world, but not of it.

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