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ZEN NOTES, 2008. Summary of Contents.

Winter, 2008

Winter, 2008

  • Cover: The First Zen Institute's new Rooftop Garden, designed and built by Peeter Lamp.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening Forty-Fifth Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, Saturday, June 3rd, 1939. This lecture addresses the question of how to extirpate the cause of transmigration so that men will be delivered from their sufferings. It is a dialogue between the Buddha and the Bodhisattva Maitreya. It references the Chinese poet Secho and discusses the koan: Nansen's Cat.
  • Bankei And His World. Zen in the Muromachi Period, (Part I, #15): The Daio-line, by Peter Haskel. The biography of Daio-line founder Nampo Jomin (Jomyo) bears certain resemblances to that of Dogen. Nampo had studied in China with the Southern Sung Zen Master Hsu-t'ang Chih-yu. He refused to compromise the orthodox character of his teaching and roused the ire of the Hiei monks. His temple was burned, and he was forced to flee to Kamakura. After his death he became the first kokushi, or "National Master," receiving the posthumous name Daio "Great Response." Daitokuji was founded in 1333 by Daio's leading heir Shuho Myocho, commonly known as Daito Kokushi. This article discusses the lineage of Daitokuji Zen and its relationship to the Ashikaga Shoguns. Daitokuji was also closely connected to the arts, including the art of tea, as developed under the influence of tea masters such as Murata Juko and Sen no Rikyu.
  • Transcribing a Book, Drawing by Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), Freer Gallery of Art, Wash. D.C.
  • Twenty-Five Koans (Eigth Koan) This is Sokei-an's commentary on the dialogue: "Nehan Osho of Hyakujo Mountain offered to interpret the Dharma if the monks in his monastery agreed to plow the rice field." Sokei-an's commentary includes many stories of Nehan, his teacher Hyakujo and Hyakujo's teacher Ma Taishi. It also includes a dialogue between Mahakasyapa and Ananda following the Buddha's death.
  • The Book of Rinzai: The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Rinzai (Linji). Translated by Eido Shimano. Book reviewed by Peter Haskel. Eido Shimano, the founder and abbot of the New York Zendo Shoboji in Manhattan and Daibosatsu Zendo Kongoji in the Catskills, has written a new translation of the Rinzai Roku -- the Book of Rinzai. Shimano states that his translation is "interpretive," and is not the approach of a scholar, but rather of a practicing Zen teacher in the Rinzai school. The book includes a map of Rinzai's China and a copy of the early eighteenth century Mujaku Dochu's text of the Rinzai record. Included as well are the four traditional premodern images of Rinzai. Haskel compares Shimano's new translation to that of Ruth Fuller Sasaki.
  • Ox Vanishes, drawing by Seiko Susan Morningstar.


Spring, 2008

Spring, 2008

  • Cover: Skyward Bamboo. Bamboo in the First Zen Institute's postage-stamp back yard.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Forty-Sixth Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, (June 14, 1939). Sokei-an gives a clear commentary on "Ksanti-anutpatti Dharma-kshanti" -- "acquiescence in the existing world." This is a dialogue between the Buddha and Maitreya. It is very easy to gather notions in the head, but it is very hard to empty all the notions out of the head and to think about that.
  • Bankei and His World, by Peter Haskel. Zen in the Muromachi Period (Part I, #16). Continued from Winter '08 Zen Notes. Ikkyu Sojun was the most vivid personality in Daitokuji Zen during the Muromachi period. He became abbot of Daitokuji, but did not serve continuously because of friction with his fellow disciple Yoso Soi and his followers. He deliberately dressed in shabby clothes, and like other Daitokuji masters was a cultural figure as well as a Zen teacher. His outspoken iconoclasm has made him a folk hero of sorts, and given rise to numerous tales and legends. Little is known of Ikkyu's Zen teaching, although many of Ikkyu's disciples are known to have been practitioners of missan Zen. He refused to designate a successor, in protest against the corruption of the Zen transmission in his age.
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XI, Lecture 1. This is a commentary on the passage: "...you must endeavor to attain true understanding so your path upon the earth will be free from the delusion of bewitching spirits." Sokei-an gives a commentary on the eightfold noble path and the ten precepts. He maintains that the eightfold path and ten precepts appear naturally to people who practice Zen meditation.
  • Tales of Hakuin's Followers This consists of a series of anecdotes taken from a translation into modern Japanese of Keikyokusodan (Tales from the Forest of Thorns), composed in 1829 by Hakuin's fourth-generation disciple Myoki Seiteki, and published in 1843. It includes tales of the laywoman Omasa, the samurai retainer Furugori Kentsu, and the wealthy playboy Ryotetsu, all disciples of Hakuin.
  • Front Cover. The coverpic is a worm's eye view of the bamboo growing in the Institute's back yard.
  • Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi Dead at 80, by Ian R. Chandler. Kyudo Roshi, founder of the Soho Zendo, had a complex and interesting life. He served in the Japanese Navy during World War II, worked as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman after the war, studied Buddhism at Komazawa University, and entered Ryutaku-ji Monastery at the age of 30, where he trained under Soen Nakagawa Roshi. In 1968 he went to Israel to head up the Kibutsu-ji Zen center in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. His teishos did not in general deal with classical Buddhist texts, but were filled with personal anecdotes and stories of his life. He believed very strongly in will-power, self-motivation, clear thinking and decisive action.


Summer, 2008

Summer, 2008

  • Cover: Demon Miso, Cover Illustration from The Religious Art of Master Hakuin.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Forty-Seventh Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki (June 21, 1939). This is a commentary on the passage: "Desires of all kinds kindle passionate thirst in you and impose upon you continuous life which passed from birth to death." The Buddha discusses transmigration and how to eradicate its cause. Many people like to go to night-clubs, dance and drink for relaxation. For them, religion is some kind of superstition. The Five Skandhas are the cause of desire, and the source of transmigration. Without knowing that state of Reality, you are like a dreamer who dreams without awakening. You never know you are dreaming.
  • Master Sheng Yen Dies at 79, by Guogu (Reprint from Chan Magazine, Spring 2009). Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan and the Chan Meditation Center in New York passed away on February 3, 2009. He became a monk at age 13, was a lineage holder in the Linji and Caodong Chan Buddhist schools, and received a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from Rissho University in Japan. After arriving in New York in 1976, he started teaching Chan to Americans. He was a dedicated scholar and a prolific writer, with over 100 volumes to his credit. He was one of the foremost contributors to the vital humanistic Buddhism of Taiwan which blossomed in the 20th century, and an exemplary leader of contemporary Chinese Buddhism.
  • Bankei and His World, by Peter Haskel. Zen in the Muromachi Period (Part I, #17) Myoshinji (part 1). Myoshinji was founded by the Emperor Hanazono in 1377 as a Daitokuji branch temple, with Kanzan Egen, one of Daito's leading heirs, as the founding priest. Kanzan spent many years of his life working as a humble laborer, working by day and spending his nights meditating on a rocky promontory. Myoshinji gradually prospered under the patronage of the emperor and the court. While Myoshinji maintained a somewhat solitary position in the world of Kyoto Zen, it did not remain aloof from the political intrigues of its military patrons, and was nearly destroyed when its prominent patrons, the Ouchi clan, rebelled against the Ashikaga bakufu. The infuriated shogun, Yoshimitsu, ordered the temple destroyed. Ultimately, it did survive, and Kanzan's line was divided into four principal branches based on the four principal successors of Sekko: Toyo Eicho, Gokei Soton, Keisen Soryu and Tokuho Zenketsu.
  • Coiled Snake, drawing by Susan Morningstar.
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XI, Lecture 3. Sokei-an's commentary is on the passage: "Dharma is the law of your mind." Maharaja Ashoka ordered the Buddha's words written down on stone and copper some 200 years after the Buddha's death. In Sanskrit, there are three terms for soul: amala (soul in elemental existence--fire, water, sea, moon, stars); hridaya--the soul of sentient beings, and citta or intelect. "The law of your mind has no external form, yet extends in manifold directions, manifesting its power before your eyes." The ground of the soul will exist forever--not mine, not yours, but the soul of the universe.
  • Books Reviewed: The Religious Art of the Zen Master Hakuin, by Katsuhiro Yoshizawa with Norman Wadell. Reviewed by Peter Haskel. This book is a handsome illustrated volume. Yoshizawa is a leading Japanese authority on Hakuin Ekaku, and Norman Wadell translated Hakuin's autobiographical masterpiece Wild Ivy. Hakuin is regarded by many as Japanese Rinzai Zen's "second founder" for his and his followers' revitalization of the koan system. There is no denying the striking originality and vitality of his brush painting. Professor Yoshizawa offers fascinating and ingenious interpretations of Hakuin's art, particularly the various themes in his comic works.
  • Demon doing Zazen, illustration from The Religious Art of the Zen Master Hakuin.
  • Ocean Mind, by Michael Hotz/Peeter Lamp. This is the amazing story of Reid Stowe, who took his own 76 foot home-built boat across the oceans for a 1,000 day voyage without sight of land or setting port. Reid engaged a large and motley crew of volunteers to help him prepare his boat for this journey while it was moored on the Hudson river at the Chelsea piers in New York City, including the First Zen Institute's Michael Hotz, Peeter Lamp and Ana DaSilva. At the time of this writing, Reid had been 900+ days at sea, having sailed through 30-foot waves, with sails torn in roaring gales, as well as placid, glass-like water reflecting the endless starry sky.


Fall, 2008

Fall, 2008

  • Cover: Baisao, picture from the book: Baisao--the Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in Eighteenth Century Kyoto.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Forty-Eighth Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, (June 28, 1939). This is a commentary dealing with a passage on man, karma and transmigration. "Sentient beings love their lives, and desires are the source of this love." We are all creating karma.
  • Bankei and His World, by Peter Haskel. Zen in the Muromachi Period (Part I, #18) Myoshinji (part 2). As Myoshinji prospered and attracted powerful supporters, its line's teachers were able to assume office at Daitokuji. Myoshinji later became an imperial temple, like Daitokuji, effectively becoming the equal of Daitokuji and dissolving its previous relationship as a Daitokuji branch temple. Like other rinka organizations, the Myoshinji line was welcomed by the new social classes then on the rise in the provinces. However, the provincial Myoshinji temples became heavily involved in performing funeral rites. Koan study degenerated and gave way to the practice of missan Zen. Whatever the true nature of Zen practice at Myoshinji, the Sengoku period was a time of unprecedented material glory for the temple, in which imperial support continued to play an important role.
  • From Our Lineage. This is a passage excepted from a recent issue of "The Middle Way," published by the Buddhist Society of London. Yamaoka Tesshu was a famous Japanese swordsman of the Meiji era. He was also one of the founding members of Ryomokyo-Kai, a group set up by Kosen, the founding master of the First Zen Institute's lay line. As a member of the Shogun's personal bodyguard, he negotiated the peaceful handing over of the capital to the rebel army fighting the Shogun during the years following the arrival of Commodore Perry.
  • Books Noted: Baisao--the Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen poetry in Eighteenth Century Kyoto, reviewed by Peter Haskel. Baisao entered the priesthood at an early age in a temple of the Obaku sect, an immigrant Chinese sect which arrived in Japan fleeing the disordered conditions which accompanied the collapse of the Ming dynasty. Baisao was left with a lifelong enthusiasm for Chinese-style tea culture. Although he spent his youth and middle years as a priest in the Obaku establishment, at age 57 he declined to succeed to the position of abbot, and instead left the temple and set off on his own for Kyoto's Higashiyama district, where he started selling tea under the name "Baisao," a term used to refer to itinerant tea peddlers from the lowest social class. Baisao lived the rest of his life surrounded by like-minded artists, calligraphers, writers, tea masters and Zen masters and monks.
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XI, Lecture 4. This is a commentary on the passage: "Use it but do not name it. This is the fundamental principle." Sokei-an's commentary says that if you follow the law that is written in your heart, it is not much trouble to go through life. But even though all law is written in your own heart, you do not realize it until the day Tathagata Buddha comes to you and proves it. The teaching is like the coming of spring; it shakes you into the realization of what is in you, as seeds in the ground sprout when spring comes.


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