Bodhidharma is traditionally given credit for bringing Buddhism to China and is considered the first ancestor of Chan Buddhism. But before him there were others. One of them was Sengzhao, a disciple of Kumarajiva and was a principle translator. His teachings already pointed to Chan/Zen. He taught that ultimate truth could not be known through words and concepts but only through intuition/meditation. Of course all of our information from that far back is based on subjective history. Some scholars even doubt the existence of Bodhidharma while others claim there is evidence of two or more Bodhidharmas.
The core of Chan/Zen is found in the intuitive understanding of beyond the beyond.
This is expressed in many teachings. In the Heart Sutra it’s expressed in the first few lines: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Also in the mantra at the end: “Gate gate paragate, Bodhi Svaha.”
This is translated by some as: Gone, gone all the way to the other sure; the entire sangha gone beyond the beyond, enlightenment, hallelujah. Others have add gone beyond all concepts, gone beyond the cycle of birth and death, gone beyond the boundaries of space and time.
It’s expressed in the Diamond Sutra: “Anyone who believes in a personality, a being, a self, a lifespan or a soul is not a Bodhisattva.”
Hui-neng, the sixth Chinese patriarch, expressed it as from the first not a thing exists.
Some people think that Zen is something you practice to deal with difficulties in this life. But Zen is much more, much deeper than that.
Some people point to the so called crazy clouds in history and use them to justify ignoring the precepts and doing whatever they want. But these people have left the path of Buddhism. To truyl practice Zen you must constantly work on the precepts and the teachings of the Sutras.
You hear the gentle
babbling of the brook.
The wind blowing the branches.
You see the clouds
They all speak more
wisdom than all the
volumes spoken by
men and women.
Listen and watch
They tell the secret
of life and death.
R. C. Hess Jul 24, 2017
In the Mumonkan, case 13, Tokusan Holds His Bowls Ganto says Tokusan is renowned but he doesn’t know the last word. Later he says “Our old man has got hold of the last word! This led me to contemplate the “Last Word.” It has become a Hwatou for me; What is the last word? much like “What does the one return to? I recommend studying this case and working on it. It can bring great insight.
Silent Illumination is the practice of just sitting. You can read about it in a book on Master Hongzhi’s teachings titled ‘Cultivating the Empty Field.’ Also in ‘The Method of No-method’ by Master Shen Yen. It’s a simple method but not easy to fully develope. You must relax the body and the mind and practice awareness of the body just sitting. The awareness is on the body as a whole and not individual elements of the body. The mind is totally relaxed and one let’s go of all wandering thoughts. Master Sheng Yen teaches additional practices as part of it such as contemplating impermanence of the environment, body and mind. When one can fully experience impermanence there is no fear, no suffering. I suggest reading the two books mentioned above. Loving Kindness to ALL
We have six senses: Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and mental functions. Ego sits on top of these and attaches to the objects of these senses. It causes desire for things we see, touch or any of the other functions. We should meditate and learn to let go of ego. Without ego there is no suffering only a luminous awareness. Today I practice letting go of ego.
Zen Buddhism is very simple. I try to keep my mind still and free from wandering thoughts. I practice the following daily
May all beings practice compassion
May all beings have sympathetic joy for others
May all beings live in peace and detachment
I try to ferry all beings to the other shore.
But I have my demons too. Remember me in your meditation.
Loving kindness to ALL beings.