What is the Heart of Zen? Reflections on the Transmission of Luminosity

What is the Heart of Zen? Reflections on the Transmission of Luminosity April 24, 2023

The Record of the Transmission of Illumination (J. Denkoroku) by Keizan Jokin Zenji (1264-1325) is one of the most important dharma texts available to us today – so important that the great master Harada Sogaku Roshi (1871-1961) chose it for his reformed koan curriculum.
In a recent post, I shared Keizan’s sudden awakening (J., satori) – “A Black Lacquer Person Runs Through the Night.” As I said in that post, Tetsugan Sensei and I are working through the last eight chapters of Denkoroku with our Vine of Obstacles Zen students. This includes the last six generations in China and the first two in Japan. I’ll get back to those great teachers at the end of this post when I share some data about their awakenings and how they are characterized in the Denkoroku.
In this post, in addition to responding to the question, “what is the heart of Zen?”, I hope to give you a taste of the teaching of the great master Keizan. I’ve been describing Keizan’s tone to students as one of friendly luminosity. He weaves the truth of inherent freedom and luminosity together with the necessity to realize it personally and powerfully in our own life practice. These two aspects are like two chopsticks in that they allow us to pluck the jewel, satori, from the grasp of delusion.

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Dōshō Port began practicing Zen in 1977 and now co-teaches with his wife, Tetsugan Zummach Sensei, with Vine of Obstacles Zen, an online training group. Dōshō received dharma transmission from Dainin Katagiri Rōshi and inka shōmei from James Myōun Ford Rōshi in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He is also the author of Keep Me In Your Heart a While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri. Dōshō’s translation and commentary on The Record of Empty Hall: One Hundred Classic Koans, was published in 2021 (Shambhala). His third book, Going Through the Mystery’s One Hundred Questions, is now available. Click here to support the teaching practice of Dōshō Rōshi.
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