The Zen Teachings of Jiun Sonja

The Zen Teachings of Jiun Sonja July 11, 2018







Jiun Sonja (1718-1804) was first ordained within the Shingon school, but was wildly eclectic, with interests that included various schools of Buddhism, as well as Confucianism and Shinto. He also deeply immersed himself within Soto Zen under master Daibai at Shoanji Temple in Shinshu.

The following selection from the Jiun Sonja Hogoshu was translated by Taizan Maezumi Roshi and published in the Spring/Summer 1974 issue of the ZCLA Journal. There is also a larger selection of Jiun Sonja’s writings addressing the precepts translated by the Roshi in collaboration with John Daishin Buksbazen and published as an appendix to On Zen Practice.


Bowing to Buddha absolutely truly aside from the Buddha there is no one’s mind, apart from one’s mind there is no Buddha; Buddha is one’s own mind. One’s own mind is the very Buddha. All sentient things are also thus. The mountains, rivers, and the Great Earth are also thus. In this state, there is no life and no extinction. Being the Buddha originally there is no Dharma other than this.


Refreshing breeze, bright moon, can’t quite be captured in paint or ink. The true, absolute, subtle Way cannot be known by the discriminative mind. Practice, do not seek. As there is no Dharma-form of Dharma, the tiles and pebbles radiate light.


The Great Way is fundamentally straight. When you put yourself in it, it becomes false. The mind-ocean is fundamentally pure. When you follow your thoughts it becomes muddy. Self-nature becomes an object. Form and sound are liberation. Do not seek after them. Do not adhere to them. Everyday functioning is the whole thing. Don’t grab; don’t cast away. The very-subtle Dharmakaya – the Buddha of your own home.


Seeing, listening, cognition and conception; which is not the outflow of the Dharma-nature? Form, sound, smell, and taste; which of them is not the subtle form of the Dharmakaya? Just practice. It is beyond reach of intellectual understanding. Those who are brave and fearless will be able to know by themselves.


When you bow to Buddha, the Buddhadevil enters through the crown of your head. When you chant the sutra, the Dharmadevil appears through your mouth. Not seeing the Dharma is woodenhead and stubborn stone. To become a master of all phenomena is the delusion of transmigration. Whenever you are attached, just release it.

The calligraphy is by Jiun Sonja. It reads “For a hundred years (I have been) a person with no attachments.”

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