Zen Masters: One is Working and One is Sleeping

Zen Masters, edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, arrived at my door a few days ago with the customary dog-go-wild-at-the-strange-man-in-brown-shorts. Or maybe Bodhi was just howling and another very nice piece of dharma scholarship … naaaa. 

The book focuses on the image of the Zen master through the years and across traditions. It includes essays on Baizhang, Dongshan, Yanshou, Dahui, Dogen, Menzan, Soen, Hisamatasu, Maezumi, and Seung. 

I’ve spent the most time so far (0h, so predictably) on Heine’s piece, Dogen, Zen Master, Zen Disciple: Transmitter or Transgressor. Heine’s purpose, in part, is to discuss how Dogen liked to quote and then go beyond the gang-of-thirty or so most famous masters.  Good stuff! 

You might think that we too should not just idly quoting old, dead (mostly) Chinese guys but go beyond them in our ordinariness.

Speaking of which, Wright’s essay, Humanizing the Image of a Zen Master: Taizan Maezumi Roshi includes a fuller picture than the usual holier-than-thou hagiographies. Drinking, sex, drowning while drunk, etc. 

I was touched by Maezumi’s remorse about his mistakes. 

It also includes this wonderful story (from Sean Murphy’s book):

Maezumi was sitting on the front porch of the Zen Center of Los Angeles one evening with one of his students when a disheveled, inebriated, and extremely depressed-looking man staggered up to them.

“Whaarsh it like,” the man slurred, “… to be enlightened?

“Very depressing,” [Maezumi] answered.  

There’s also an essay on Menzan, the rascal I’ve personally credited with almost destroying Soto Zen – although he did a lot of good too. In the 18th Century, he retold the story of Dogen as a pure shikataza guy (with shikantaza being distinct from koan, in his view) in order to save the lineage from the powerful resurrection of the Rinzai line by Hakuin and a new influx of Chinese monks. 

I’ll probably have more to say about all of this down the road.

I’ll leave you with this lovely passage I discovered in the Jikojio News attributed to Kobun Chino Otokawa Roshi: 

We don’t ignore or leave samsara. The cycle of life is expanding. Like a current, the water is the same, but moment after moment it changes form and position…. Like a bird cannot be air, that is the bird’s suffering. The fish cannot be water, that is the fishes’ suffering. Humans cannot be another thing, that is human suffering. 

This was the Indian people’s idea about life in the form of suffering. The arhat, out of this current, tried to evaporate into the air, like water evaporates, and never come back to the water, to the river. But bodhisattvas and buddhas are always willing to come back into the water, to be born as water. This is called life of vow, not life of karma. Life of vow and life of karma are the same, but one is working and one is sleeping.

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