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ZEN NOTES, 2010. Summary of Contents.

Winter, 2010

Winter, 2010

  • Cover: Scroll of Manjusri. Gifted to the First Zen Institute by Antony Tudor, former president of the Institute.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening Fifty-Third Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, Wednesday, October 4th, 1939. This lecture discusses Bodhisattvas and how out of compassion they suffer themselves to return to various lives of the world. Sokei-an treats this passage as having symbolic meaning, and casts it in terms of the lives of ordinary men and women living in the real world. Bodhisattvas work in the most advantageous ways to bring sentient beings to awakening.
  • Dancing With Words: Red Pine's Path Into The Heart of Buddism, by Roy Hamric. This article is continued from the Fall 2009 issue of Zen Notes. Red Pine discusses getting the spirit of a good translation. He translates only what he wants to learn about, has a professor's library including, for example, 40 commentaries on the Tao Te Ching. Red Pine discusses his search for Chinese hermits, a tradition which "separates the men from the boys." He also discusses his work translating several Buddhist classics, such as the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra, and Cold Mountain Poems, as well as his travelogue, Zen Baggage. This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared in The Kyoto Journal.
  • NASA: Morning Star
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger: The Record of Lin Chi, Discourse XII, Lecture 1, by Sokei-an Sasaki. This is a discussion of Lin Chi's "Dharma requires no effort," the Chinese principle of wu-wei, or purposelessness. If you push, you will be pushed back. You will not be connected with nature. Lin Chi says to stay connected with nature and to search inside.
  • Bankei And His World. Part II: Missan Zen, by Peter Haskel. The missancho constitute written records of a missan Zen teacher's secret oral transmission, and were first introduced to modern scholarship by Suzuki Daisetsu in the early 1940's. They are concerned with koan study primarily involving koans drawn from the Record of Lin-chi, the Blue Cliff Record and the Gateless Gate. Missancho are discussed here, along with the use of capping phrases, and also the role of Esoteric Buddhism in missan study.
  • How a Comic Book Led me to the Zen Institute, by Naomi J. Reyes. The First Zen Institute appeared in a comic book entitled The Alchemy, involving a fictional Japanese black ops agent. The book's author, David Mack, had corresponded for a while with Fumiko Robinson, Sokei-an Sasaki's granddaughter, who had lived at the First Zen Institue a number of years ago. Naomi Reyes found Wednesday night open-house at the First Zen Institute interesting and inviting.


Spring, 2010

Spring, 2010

  • Cover: Shih-te With Broom, This picture hangs in the Library at the First Zen Institute. Shih-te ran the dining hall of Kuo-ch'ing Temple located near Cold Mountain. Here Shih-te, holding his broom and dressed in rags, sees the moon reflected in the water.
  • Twenty-Five Koans (Tenth Koan) This is Sokei-an's commentary on the dialogue: Isan (Kuei-shan) questioned Kyozan (Yang-shan): "How many years have passed since you annihilated those motes of leakage in your mind?" Isan was the teacher and Kyozan the disciple. Both were Zen masters of the T'ang dynasty.
  • Bankei and His World, by Peter Haskel. This continues the discussion of Zen in the Muromachi period, including Missan Zen. It discusses the contents of the missancho, or secret transmission documents. Some of these include bizarre "answers" to koans, sometimes interpreting them symbolically through the lens of Shingon Buddhism. Some missancho documents include references to the diamond and womb mandalas of Esoteric Buddhism. One missancho from the Soto school includes a chart in which the Five Ranks are made to correspond to Yin-Yang hexagrams and Esoteric Buddhist dieties. The missancho are an intriguing but puzzling aspect of medieval Zen
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Fifty-Fourth Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, (October 11, 1939). Sokei-an discusses the realization of Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. The "Perfect Awakening" is not "decorated" by flowers or gold, but by the blue sky, deep rivers, high mountains.
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XII, Lecture 2. This is a commentary on the passage: "Even if you are perfumed by the evil of your past karma or possessed of the five nefarious crimes, they themselves are the ocean of deliverence." The five nefarious crimes are: (1) to profane or kill a mother or a fully ordained nun; (2) to kill an arhat; (3) parricide; (4) to shed the blood of a Buddha; and (5) to destroy the harmony of the Buddhist sangha.
  • Book Review: Buddhacarita, Life of Buddha, by Ashva Ghosha, Translated by Patrick Olivelle, Clay Sanskrit Library New York University Press & JJC Foundation, 2008. Reviewed by Ian Chandler. The Buddhacarita is an extended prose-poem covering most of the popular stories of the Buddha's life. Although it was written 600-700 years after the Buddha's death, it is one of the oldest known accounts of his life. The Buddhacarita is an amalgam of history, biography, and legend. The translator, Patrick Olivelle, is a prolific translator of Sanskrit texts, with 25 books to his credit, including a full translation of the 12 early Upanishads which won the A.K. Ramanujan Book Prize in 1998.


Summer, 2010

Summer, 2010

  • Cover: NASA Photo of the Moon above the Earth's Atmosphere.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Fifty-Fifth Lecture, by Sokeii-an Sasaki (October 18, 1939). This is the last part of the gatha given by the Buddha to the Bodhisattva Maitreya. The Bodhisattavas Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Samantanetra, Vajra-garbha, Maitreya and Vimalamatih have all asked the Buddha questions. Each of the Bodhisattvas represents a different symbolized principle or doctrine - they should not be interpreted as supernatural beings. This lecture is partially a discussion of Bodhisattvas and their symbolic representations -- with multiple eyes or hands. Avalokiteshvara may appear as a man or a woman. This lecture also includes the story of the Zen master who went fishing with a straight needle, catching nothing for years, but eventually catching the emperor.
  • The Buddha Play, Conceived & Performed by Evan Brenner. Directed by David Fuhrer. Reviewed by Ian Chandler. The Buddha Play is an elegantly conceived one-man performance in which a single actor narrates the story and also acts out all of the parts -- an animated form of storytelling. Evan Brenner touches on all of the major myths or stories of the Buddha's life -- his birth and youth, his marriage at the age of 16 to the most beautiful woman in the kingdom; the birth of his son Rahula, his renunciation of home, his teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra; his extended austerities, battles with Mara, triumphant enlightenment and his teaching and preaching throughout northern India.
  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XII, Lecture 3. This is a commentary on the passage: "We cannot call them renouncers. No! They are the worldly ones." Sokei-an talks about priestly "purity" and about how real purity is in the mind. "In Japan, some abbots put on golden robes and sit upon vermilion chairs, eat no meat, speak no human word, think no human desire, just like living Buddhas, but this is not true Dharma".
  • Bankei and His World: Tokugawa Zen, by Peter Haskel (Part III, No. 1)
  • This article discusses the Tokugawa military government, and how the Bakufu presided over a feudal order whose ruling principle was the regulation and control of all levels of Japanese society, including the schools of Buddhism. Confucian virtues of loyalty and filiality were particularly stressed as key elements in maintaining the hierarchy of relations. The first Shogun, Ieyasu was a product of the age of civil wars. Fear of rebellion and a resurgence of civil strife were at the heart of the elaborate network of controls over the various elements of the population instituted by the Tokugawas.

  • Twenty-Five Koans (Eleventh Koan), Delivered by Sokei-an March 19, 1938. The Koan addressed here is: "Genyo-sonja questioned Joshu: 'What would you say if I did not carry a thing?' Joshu lived in the town by the name of Joshu. His temple was poor and sometimes they had nothing to eat. Joshu was a humorist and his Zen was as plain as a weed on the road or a pebble stone. There is such a sound in the koan: "The east gate, the west gate, the north gate, the south gate, is Joshu. A city surrounded by walls had four gates and Joshu has four gates. I would like America to attain such a type of Zen."
  • The 2nd Patriarch resting, attributed to Shih K'o
  • Monkeys, drawing by Susan Morningstar


Fall, 2010

Fall, 2010

  • Cover: {...}, drawing by Peeter Lamp, with fake calligraphy.
  • The Sutra of Perfect Awakening, Fifty-Sixth Lecture, by Sokei-an Sasaki, (October 26, 1939). From the worldly view, we see two appearances: one is existence and the other is no-existence. We could call it zero and one. But there is one more view which is called Shunyata, nothingness, emptiness. This view covers both existence and non-existence-it is the trancendental view. The first Bodhisattva is Manjushri, whose real state of wisdom is attained through intuition. The second Bodhisattva is Samantabhadra - wisdom itself. The third Bodhisattva is Samantanetra. The fifth Bodhisattva is Maitreya. He appears by the knowledge gained from penetrating the four stages. The sixth, Vimalamatih appears and asks a question about pure wisdom.
  • Twenty-Five Koans (Twelfth Koan), Delivered by Sokei-an March 26, 1938. The Koan addressed here is: Tosotsu's Three Barriers. Etsu of Tosotsu was a monk of about the eleventh century. He was the fifteenth generation from Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch. The Japanese accepted the Zen of the Sung dynasty. And after the Sung dynasty came the Yuan and Ming -- three periods of civilization. And today, Sokei-an says, the Japanese are keeping Zen as fresh as it had come from the Sung dynasty. Nothing is changed! Etsu lived in the eleventh century, just about one hundred years prior to the time the Mongols invaded China and Europe. This includes the story of the King of Hell who sent a messenger to a monk to take him down to Hell.
  • Bankei and His World: Tokugawa Zen, by Peter Haskel (Part III, No. 2)
  • This article discusses Buddhism under the Tokugawas. The Buddhist establishment was strictly regulated in every detail and integrated within the structure of the feudal system. The government's main interest was in controlling and dominating rather than destroying the great temple organizations. The power of the militant Buddhist sects of the sixteenth century had, in fact, rivaled that of many Sengoku daimyo. Nobunaga destroyed Enryakuji, the Tendai headquarters temple on Mount Hiei, in 1571 and succeeded in subjugating the forces of the Pure Land sect and of certain militant Nichiren groups.

  • Three-Hundred-Mile-Tiger, Sokei-an's commentary on The Record of Lin Chi. Discourse XII, Lecture 4. For the Buddhist, renouncing the world means to know our original nature. This is the foundation of our lives. When you take sanzen, your Zen master will give you the question: "Before father and mother what were you?" To find your original nature, you must use a method entirely different from philosophizing. If a Buddhist has no understanding of original nature, he is a mere toiler, a man of the world, not a real recluse. Mind and mind-stuff must be discriminated from each other.
  • Rabbit, drawing by Peeter Lamp


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