Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
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For all its emphasis on the direct experience on insight without reliance on the products of the intellect, the Zen tradition has created a huge body of writings. Of this cast literature, the writings associated with the so-called Five Houses of Zen are widely considered to be preeminent. These Five Houses-which arose in China during the ninth and tenth centuries, often referred to as the Golden Age of Zen-were not schools or sects but styles of Zen teaching represented by some of the most outstanding masters in Zen history. The writing of these great Zen teachers are presented here, many translated for the first time. These include: The sayings of Pai-chang, famous for his Zen dictum "A day without work, a day without food" Selections from Kuei-shan's collection of Zen admonitions, considered essential reading by numerous Buddhist teachers. Sun-chi's unique discussion of the inner meaning of the circular symbol in Zen teaching. Sayings of Huang-po from The Essential Method of Transmission of Mind. Excerpts from The Record of Lin-chi, a great classical text of Zen literature. Ts'ao-shan's presentation of the famous teaching device known as the Five Ranks. Selections of poetry from the Cascade Collection by Hsueh-tou, renowned for his poetic commentaries on the classic Blue Cliff Record. Yung-ming's teachings on how to balance the two basic aspects of meditation: concentration and insight.
essence of being-as-is. Inwardly one is immovable as a tree, unstirring as a rock; outwardly one is as free from blockage and resistance as space itself. There is neither subject nor object, no direction or location, no form or appearance, no gain or loss. People who strive do not dare to enter into this teaching, fearing they will fall into voidness with no place to rest; they withdraw, intimidated. All of them search far and wide for knowledge. That is why those who seek knowledge are numerous
everyone, you should aim to truly inherit this school of Zen: with every exclamation, every stroke, every act, every objective, you face reality absolutely and annihilate all falsehood. As it is said, “Once the sharp sword has been used, you should hone it right away.” When your insight penetrates freely and its application is clear, then when going into action in the midst of all kinds of complexity and complication, you yourself can turn freely without sticking or lingering and without setting
on the teaching hall and the conversation of Yao-shan and Ch’un Pu-na on washing Buddha. For the most marveous integration of all, nothing is better than Yaoshan’s answer to Tao-wu on wearing a sword, or Pai-chang’s saying “What is it?” when he was leaving the hall and the congregation was about to disperse. When Yao-shan heard this saying from far away, he said, “It’s here.” Integration in the darkness uses work to illuminate things, and uses things to illuminate work; it uses errors to
breaking up the darkness of ignorance. It is able to cause the Zen of the ignorant with false views to turn into transcendent wisdom. A brief time of silence, a moment of stillness, gradually build up into correct concentration. The sages, making comparatively little effort, ultimately saw the subtle essence of the pedestal of the spirit. As soon as you hear even a little bit of the Teaching, it can influence your subconscious such that seeds of awakening develop. The moment you turn the light
so you are not inhibited by these clusters of mental and physical elements. You are free to leave or to remain, going out and entering without difficulty. If you can be like this, there is no question of stages or steps, of superior or inferior; everything, even down to the bodies of ants, is all the land of pure marvel. It is inconceivable. The foregoing is still just talk for the purpose of untying bonds. As scripture says, “They themselves are whole; don’t injure them.” Even terms like Buddha