History Girls

22. My Heart Burns Like Fire

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Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life.

In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.

When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.

Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.

Read more: Bukisa.com


A famous quatrain from the T’ang Dynasty contains some of the main doctrines of Ch’an (the meditation school of Chinese buddhism) :

A special tradition outside the scriptures;
No dependence upon words and letters;
Directly pointing at the human heart;
Seeing into one’s own nature and achieving Buddhahood.

Historically read, the first line simply attests to Ch’an beliefs on how their School was started, but doctrinally it indicates Ch’an views on how enlightenment is transmitted. It is held that one day the Buddha, without saying a word, held up a lotus flower before a gathering. Only one man, Mahakasyapa, understood, and smiled: he had received the truth of enlightenment, directly transmitted from mind to mind without recourse to speech or scriptures.

Enlightenment is held to be transmitted in this way, without “words and letters” (second line), because we cannot separate ourselves from, in other words objectify, reality, in order to make objective, factual statements about it. Indeed, to believe that any of the names and categories we apply to reality, really describe or exhaust the nature of reality, is the very essence of ignorance.

Reality is therefore said to be “empty” or “void” (Skt. sunya; Ch. kung) of the qualities we project upon it. Thus if reality cannot be discussed in words, it can only be “directly pointed” at, for example in “the human heart” (third line). This is done with the intent and hope that, in the absence of conceptualisation, one will see reality, “one’s own nature”, as it really is, thus “achieving Buddhahood” (fourth line).

However, this achievement is also, paradoxically, no achievement, because enlightenment itself involves transcending the opposition or dualism between enlightenment and ignorance, which is but one more conceptualisation. All things, including enlightenment, ignorance, Nirvana, and samsara, are seen as equally empty, and equally a part of the universal Buddha-nature or One Mind.

Thus we find in Ch’an a return to, and celebration of, the previously prosaic world, and the manifestation of enlightenment in the everyday, in just, as one Ch’an master said, “carrying water and chopping wood”.

Source:  ucsm.ac.uk 
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21. The Sound of One Hand

The master of Kennin temple was Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little protege named Toyo who was only twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master’s room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen or personal guidance in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering. Toyo wished to do sanzen also.

“Wait a while,” said Mokurai. “You are too young.”

But the child insisted, so the teacher finally consented. In the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai’s sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.

“You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together,” said Mokurai. “Now show me the sound of one hand.”

Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. “Ah, I have it!” he proclaimed. The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas.

“No, no,” said Mokurai. “That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You’ve not got it at all.”

Thinking that such music might interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. What can the sound of one hand be?” He happened to hear some water dripping. “I have it,” imagined Toyo. When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water.

“What is that?” asked Mokurai. “That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again.”

In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound was rejected. He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused. The sound of one hand was not the locusts. For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong.

For almost a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be. At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. “I could collect no more,” he explained later, “so I reached the soundless sound.”

Toyo had realized the sound of one hand.

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17. Stingy in Teaching

A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.

“I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.”

“That’s fine,” said Kusuda. “I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?”

“Go to the master Nan-in,” the friend told him.

So Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die. When Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: “Hello, friend. How are you? We haven’t seen each other for a long time!”

This perplexed Kusuda, who replied: “We have never met before.”

“That’s right,” answered Nan-in. “I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here.”

With such a beginning, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so reluctantly he asked if he might receive instruction.

Nan-in said: “Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen.”

Kusuda visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. “A physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients.”

It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit he complained: “My friend told me that when one learns Zen one loses his fear of death. Each time I come here you tell me to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore.”

Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor. “I have been too strict with you. Let me give you a koan.” He presented Kusuda with Joshu’s Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: “You are not in yet.”

Kusuda continued in concentration for another yet and a half. His mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.

Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.

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14.   Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself.

“We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Numbers 15 & 16

According to the “Sutra on the Medicine Master Buddha with the Radiance of Lapis
Lazuli and His Vows” Bhaisajya-guru made twelve vows to enable all to
obtain what they seek. 
  • May a radiant light blaze forth from my body after enlightenment, brightening countless realms, and may all beings have perfect physical form, identical to my own.

  • May my body be like pure radiant lapis lazuli, with a radiance more brilliant than the sun and moon, illuminating all who travel in darkness, enabling them to tread upon their paths.

  • By my limitless insight and means, may I enable all beings to obtain the necessities of lif

  • May all beings be shown the path of enlightenment and may adherents to the shravaka or pratyekabuddha paths become established in Mahayana practices.

  • May all beings be aided to follow the precepts of moral conduct. After hearing my name, those who have broken the precepts will be aided to regain their purity and prevented from sinking to a woesome path of existence.

  • May all who are deformed or handicapped in any way have their deformities removed upon hearing my name.

  • May all who are ill be cured upon hearing my name.

  • May all sentient beings who are restrained by their circumstances of birth find a favourable rebirth and progress towards Liberation.

  • May all who are caught in Mara’s net, entangled in negative views, be caused to gain correct views and thus practice the Bodhisattva Way.

  • May all who are punished by the king be freed of their troubles.

  • May those who are desperately famished be given food. May they ultimately taste the sublime Teachings.

  • May all who are destitute of clothes obtain attractive garments and various adornments upon concentrating on my name.

    According to these twelve vows, all who sincerely call on the Healing Buddha for assistance will be aided.

    Source: uwec.edu

    12.  Happy Chinaman

    Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America with observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha. This Hotei lived in the T’ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

    Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: “Give me one penny.”

    Once he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”

    Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.

    “Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”

    At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way

    Number 13

    {January 13, 2010}   101 Zen Koans – Number 11

    11. The Story of Shunkai

    The exquisite Shunkai whose other name was Suzu was compelled to marry against her wishes when she was quite young. Later, after this marriage had ended, she attended the university, where she studied philosophy. To see Shunkai was to fall in love with her. Moreover, wherever she went, she herself fell in love with others. Love was with her at the university, and afterwards when philosophy did not satisfy her and she visited the temple to learn about Zen, the Zen students fell in love with her. Shunkai’s whole life was saturated with love.

    At last in Kyoto she became a real student of Zen. Her brothers in the sub-temple of Kennin praised her sincerity. One of them proved to be a congenial spirit and assisted her in the mastery of Zen. The abbot of Kennin, Mokurai, Silent Thunder, was severe. He kept the precepts himself and expected the priests to do so. In modern Japan whatever zeal these priests have lost for Buddhism they seemed to have gained for having wives. Mokurai used to take a broom and chase the women away when he found them in any of his temples, but the more wives he swept out, the more seemed to come back.

    In this particular temple the wife of the head priest had become jealous of Shunkai’s earnestness and beauty. Hearing the students praise her serious Zen made this wife squirm and itch. Finally she spread a rumor about that Shunkai and the young man who was her friend. As a consequence he was expelled and Shunkai was removed from the temple.

    “I may have made the mistake of love,” thought Shunkai, “but the priest’s wife shall not remain in the temple either if my friend is to be treated so unjustly.”

    Shunkai the same night with a can of kerosene set fire to the five-hundred-year-old temple and burned it to the ground. In the morning she found herself in the hands of the police. A young lawyer became interested in her and endeavoured to make her sentence lighter. “Do not help me.” she told him. “I might decide to do something else which will only imprison me again.”

    At last a sentence of seven years was completed, and Shunkai was released from the prison, where the sixty-year-old warden also had become enamored of her. But now everyone looked upon her as a “jailbird”. No one would associate with her. Even the Zen people, who are supposed to believe in enlightenment in this life and with this body, shunned her. Zen, Shunkai found, was one thing and the followers of Zen quite another. Her relatives would have nothing to do with her. She grew sick, poor, and weak.

    She met a Shinshu priest who taught her the name of the Buddha of Love, and in this Shunkai found some solace and peace of mind. She passed away when she was still exquisitely beautiful and hardly thirty years old. She wrote her own story in a futile endeavour to support herself and some of it she told to a women writer. So it reached the Japanese 

    More Koans

    {October 31, 2009}   101 Zen Koans – Number 10

    10. The Last Poem of Hoshin

    The Zen master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the north-eastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:

    One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: “I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year.”

    The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

    On the eve of the New Year, Tokufu concluded: “You have been good to me. I shall leave you tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped.”

    The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

    Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: “It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can.”

    “Can you?” someone asked.

    “Yes,” answered Hoshin. “I will show you what I can do seven days from now.” None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin next called them together.

    “Seven days ago,” he remarked, “I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither poet nor calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.”

    His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.

    “Are you ready?” Hoshin asked.

    “Yes, sir,” replied the writer.

    Then Hoshin dictated:

    I came from brilliancy.
    And return to brilliancy.
    What is this?

    The poem was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.”

    Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.


    A hot, cramped studio, the potential for bodily slipups, and a whole lot of sweat: Sounds like a date from hell. But, in fact, yoga dates are on the rise—and for good reason! They are intimate, sensual, and cheap, and great for your body and soul, to boot.

    As yoga becomes more mainstream, yoga dates help break up the monotony of the standard dinner-and-a-movie night. “You can learn quite a bit about somebody more quickly than in a restaurant where there’s less interaction with others and it’s the run-of-the-mill date,” says Jennifer Macaluso-Gilmore, who coaches women on dating and relationships.

    Getting your blood flowing in a PG setting can certainly be beneficial with a new partner. “When you move your body you feel good, when your blood starts flowing and you start breathing,” says Jennifer Fink Oppenheimer, a New York–based yoga teacher. “Any sort of exercise makes you feel good, but yoga specifically opens you up.

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