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ZEN NOTES, 1965. Summary of Contents.

January, 1965

January, 1965

  • Cover: Year of the Serpent, by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: Horizontal and Perpendicular. The entire universe is a sea of "Prajna," a Sanskrit term often translated as "Wisdom," but which has no real English equivalent. Sokei-an discusses Prajna in relation to past, present, future, the Alaya consicousness, and Dharmakaya. Edited by Mary Farkas.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen Art, by Mary Farkas. What is Zen Art? Sokei-an was trained as an artist, a restorer of temple dragons, to be specific, and supported himself for many years based on his carving ability. His first experience of Samadhi came through art -- sitting on the 99-mile beach outside of Tokyo, watching the waves for hours on end, and then returning to his studio and painting them. This includes a discussion of the famous Tokugawa painter Taigado, who trained under Hakuin, and also lists Professor Hoseki Shinishi Hisamatsu's seven qualities of a "Zen" painting.
  • The World of Boundless Light. A queen of India was confined to a dungeon, and the Buddha sent Ananda to her to explain how she could liberate her mind. Based on a lecture by Sokei-an Sasaki.


February, 1965

February, 1965

  • Cover: Drawing of a Tree, by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: The Six Ways to Nirvana. Sokei-an discusses the six Paramitas. He thought himself a good Zen student until he reached the battlefield during the Russo-Japanese war. There, he learned that his mind was not at peace, and was told by his teacher that: "If you are a true Buddhist, your mind is always peaceful, even on the cliff of life and death!" Based on a lecture by Sokei-an Sasaki.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen Art II, by Mary Farkas. This is a discussion of the First Zen Institute's paintings of Rinzai by Kwan-gaku Shinso, Dai-O Kokushi by Zengyu Kunmoko and Bodhidharma.
  • Dr. R.H. Blyth Dies, by Mary Farkas. This was a man who wanted to "Live a life of Poetry."


March, 1965

March, 1965

  • Sokei-an Says: The Great Ocean. Buddhism has two goals: to attain emancipation and to bring peace and security to the world. In primitive Buddhism to be free from attachment was the main point. This lecture includes stories of the sea, and the sea as a metaphore for Mind.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen and Art, III, by Mary Farkas. Samadhi is the factor that differentiates East from West, in life and art. This letter discusses Sokei-an's Sunday wood carving classes for American students, and Takahiko Mikami and Kazuaki Tanahashi's five points of Sho-do (brush writing), as discussed in their book You and Brush Writing.


April, 1965

April, 1965

  • Cover: Drawing of a Dog, by Vanessa Coward
  • Koan: Mumonkan 2 This is a discussion of Mumonkan, Case 2: Hyakujo's Fox, with translation and commentary by Sokei-an Sasaki.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen and Art, IV, by Mary Farkas. This is a disucssion of a painting demonstration by the Japanese sumi-painter Shinji Ishikawa. Zen priests often display their attainment with their calligraphy. This piece includes quotes from Sokei-an on life and art.
  • Zuigan Goto Roshi Obituary from March 20, 1965 in the form of calligraphy and a painted fan.


May, 1965

May, 1965

  • Cover: Abstract Drawing by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: Sambogakaya: Sokei-an did not understand Japan until he had lived in America. If an American goes to France he will understand America. Sambhogakaya can be abstracted from real existence. Until your body is completed, you do not realize soul. Sambhogakaya is both the one and the many. It is symbolized by Samantabhadra riding on the back of a white elephant.
  • Letter from Kyoto: The Image of Buddha, by Mary Farkas. For many years after the Buddha's death, no images were made. The venerable U. Thittila, president of the Brittish Sangha Association, denies that Buddhists worship external objects, such as Buddha statues or relics, but rather they are kept as reminders of our gratitude for what the Buddha did for us. Heinrich Zimmer in The Art of Indian Asia discusses the idea of the image as the residence of the divinity with whom the devotee, in meditation, is to become one.
  • Nirmanakaya: In Buddhism, there is the doctrine of transformation of the body, physically and materially. It is called Nirmanakaya. When I take water, it transforms itself into me. Nirmanakaya is symbolized by Avalokiteshvara with a thousand eyes and arms. Every day he transforms himself in every way. The sacred lotus must open and see this transformable world. This is the outline of the Avalokiteshvara Sutra, and it comprises the whole teaching of Mahayana Buddhism.


June, 1965

June, 1965

  • Cover: Chicks and Mother Birds, Drawing by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: Mindlessness. "When I was at the battle front, under fire, I often thought of this teaching: My existence is like the lightning that flashes through the dark air. My life is so short. It is like a dream. When I draw my last breath, I will go back to that original emptiness, to that original substance that exists timelessly. Why should I be afraid? And I did not hesitate to walk into the shower of fire."
  • Zenrin ruiju: In the front garden Crimson flowers riot, But within her chamber She is unaware of the spring.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen, the Living Buddhism of Japan, by Mary Farkas. Chikudo Ohasama attained mastership under Sokatsu Shaku, and co-authored a book with August Faust, ZEN: DER LEGENDIGE BUDDHISMUS (ZEN, THE LIVING BUDDHISM OF JAPAN), published in Germany in 1925. This is a disucssion of the book and partially an obituary of Chikudo Ohasama, who died May 17, 1946.
  • Three Ways of Emancipation: You can emancipate yourself from clothing and food, and through various expedients. However, if you emancipate yourself while still satisfying your desire, you cannot keep your emancipation -- it will crumble like ashes.


July, 1965

July, 1965

  • Cover: Abstract Drawing, by Vanessa Coward.
  • Sokei-an Says: The Eternal Woman. To return to Nirvana in order to understand the original condition of life was the teaching of primitive Buddhism. In the lotus womb all are one. All life is one and also many. There was a teacher, a very beautiful woman. "If anyone comes to see me with earthly desire--he will be emancipated from it." "Anyone who embraces me will find the great body of unity--not on earth but in the light that shines in heaven. He who touches his lips to mine will be restored to eternal life and will be emancipated from all questions of the Dharma." That was her teaching! This is a wonderful allegory of the Mahayana.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen, the Living Religion of Japan, II, by Mary Farkas. The Zazen Wasan or meditation chant of Hakuin Zenji, is one of the most frequently chanted Japanese Buddhist chants anywhere. It mentions Samadhi, "wisdom." The full moon of the fourfold wisdom includes the four wisdoms: (1) The wisdom of a perfect mirror; (2) The wisdom of the equality appearing as nature; (3) The wisdom of marvelous insight; and (4)The wisdom of perfected deeds.


August, 1965

August, 1965

  • Cover: Bird, by Vanessa Coward.
  • Sokei-an Says: Purify Your Mind. We are very lucky that Great Mother Nature has bestowed upon us minds that pursue something more than so-called desire, and that from our busy hours we can take time for spiritual attainment, sitting down in a quiet place and practicing meditation. This method for cleaning the mind is an old, old one and existed in India before Buddhism.
  • Letter from Kyoto: Zen, the Living Religion of Japan, III, by Ohasama-Faust. Zazen, i.e. "sitting" is the chief practice in Zennism. Shakyamuni Buddha himself practiced it and the truth revealed itself to him when he had sat for seven weeks under the Bodhi Tree. This manner of sitting is called "Kekke-fusa," or "the seat of the Conquest of the Demon." This passage includes basic instructions on Zen meditation.
  • THE RACCOONS pictured in this issue are by Manus Pinkwater. His show at the Institute was noted in ART NEWS, Summer Issue.
  • FAITH. Sokei-an was the child of a Shinto priest. Buddhism was not his original faith. Faith in art and faith in religion are the same faith.


September, 1965

September, 1965

  • Cover: Circle by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: The Religion of North America. Sokei-an was asked many times about Taoism, but never made any particular answer. . Lao Tzu left just 5,000 words in total, in the Tao Te Ching. No nation on earth worshipped nature as the Chinese did. If Sokei-an were to translate the "Tao" into a Christian term, he would choose the word "love." Tao is China, Shinto is Japan. What will be the religion of America?
  • Letter from Kyoto: Judo and Zen, by Georgette Kamenetz, Brown Belt. Judo is based on the traditional ju-jitsu of the old Japan. When the samurai were prohibited from wearing swords in 1871, they also had to give up other martial arts as well. Professor Jogoro Kano, recognizing the great human values in the principles of the declining jiu-jitsu, made a careful study of the various methods in existence. He eliminated all maneuvers aimed at harming the opponent, refined the techniques and set the rules of fairness and courtesy. In 1882 he had completed a system of chivalrous sport which he offered to teach to those willing to undergo self-discipline and renounce the use of brutal power. He called it judo, which might be translated as "gentle way." This piece includes discussions of "Physical Judo," "Mental Judo," and "Way to Zen."
  • Mind Stuff, by Sokei-an Sasaki. Practicing meditation is to observe your mind stuff and to separate it from your mind, to realize that mind stuff is not your real mind.


October, 1965

October, 1965

  • Cover: Abstract Drawing, by Vanessa Coward.
  • Sokei-an Says: How to Put Zen Into Speech. "I am not quite ready to speak about Zen in entirely new terms, unlike those traditional in orthodox Buddhism. It is not necessary to think in words. Philosophy tries to find the truth with words. What is Zen? How can we speak about it, using everyday words? New York is thought expressed by matter. All around us are buildings, bridges, subways, brass musical instruments--all solidified thoughts, thoughts expressed by matter, solid thoughts."
  • Letter From Kyoto, Japanese characters for the word "Koan."
  • Myohon On the Koan, Excerpt from The Zen Koan, by Isshu Miura and Ruth Fuller Sasaki. In the record of Chung-feng Ming-pen (Chuho Myohon, 1263-1323), he said that the koans may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Whether or not the ruler succeeds in bringing order to his realm depends in essence upon the existence of law. Kung (ko) or "public" is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or "records," are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles. The seventeen hundred koans are something that can be used only by men with enlightened minds who wish to prove their understanding.

  • Enounter On the Street With a Person Who Has Achieved the Truth: Mumonkan 36, included in Zen, the Living Buddhism of Japan, by Ohasama-Faust, translated from the German by Dr. George B. Fowler. This includes Mumonkan case 36, along with Mumon's comments.


November, 1965

November, 1965

  • Cover: Staff/Walking Stick/Calligraphy
  • The Zen Eye on the Agamas -- Sokeian Says: The Staff This sutra was from an old collection, and is entitled: "The Great Staff." It is based upon a story about an old Brahmin whose sons would not care for him, and who in old age was wandering about begging for food. The Buddha did not approve of this lack of filial piety. In the gatha presented here, the central point is: "To rely upon the staff is best." The "Staff" in this sutra is a symbol of Dharma.
  • Letter From Kyoto: The Origin of Zen This is about the koan, "Buddha Twirls a Flower," case 6 of the Mumonkan, in which the Buddha twirls a flower and Mahakashyapa smiles. Brief commentaries are provided by Zuigan Goto Roshi and Chikudo Ohasama.


December, 1965

December, 1965

  • Cover: Abstract Drawing, by Vanessa Coward
  • Sokei-an Says: The Five Eyes. First is the physical eye, second the Deva eye, third the Wisdom eye, fourth the Bodhisattva (Dharma) eye, and fifth the Buddha eye. The Wisdom eye is the eye which sees emptiness, but in order to teach students, you must attain the Dharma eye. The Buddha eye, the highest eye, penetrates into everything, even the minds of criminals and slaves, and can save them from agony and give them emancipation.
  • Letter from Kyoto: The Shamanism of Japan, by Mary Farkas. Shinto was first married to and later divorced from Buddhism in Japan. Shinto, in its primitive stage, may well have been allied with Shamanism. Shinto has elements of magic and numerous rituals. When Buddhism was first introduced into Japan, Buddhism was treated as an alien tradition in no way superior to the native trust in Kami, the gods of Shinto.
  • Shamans of the North. Children become adolescents and connect with Shamans to help them deal with disembodied voices. To become Shamans themselves, they must go through various trials. Eventually they become powerful and a resource to members of their own village. They are typically called upon to deal with problems involving spirits and the spirit world, and are famous for their magic tricks.

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