January 27, 2012

Zen for the Beginner’s Mind. ~ Andrew Wilson

Photo: Akuppa John Wigham

 “Zen points directly to the human heart. See into your nature and become a Buddha.” ~ Hakuin

Zen (or Ch’an) is a style and technique of “direct pointing” to the Mind-nature brought to China by the Indian sage Bodhidharma. Zen Masters show their students how to bypass all religious posturing and written crap to see directly into the True Mind.

Buddhism was already in China by the time Bodhidharma appeared, stepping off a boat in Suzhow after a hard three year journey.

But Zen was unknown there.

Also, no record exists of Zen in India — although the Chinese Zen literature speaks of twenty-eight Indian Zen Patriarchs, starting with Mahakasyapa.

Soon Bodhidharma was granted an audience with the Chinese Emperor, who asked how much “merit” he was going to receive for donating money to temples and building elaborate Buddhist stupas.

“None, nothing at all,” Bodhidharma replied.

The Emperor’s mouth fell open.

“What is it then that you call holy?” (If not stupas, temples, copying and chanting sutras, etc.)

Without even blinking his eyes, in true Zen “mondo” style, Bodhidharma answered: “Vast emptiness, nothing holy [to be found anywhere].”

“Who is this man standing before me?”

“Don’t know!”

That was the end of the interview.

Bodhidharma walked north to the Shaolin monastery, where he spent nine years sitting cross legged staring at a wall. (Some claim that the “wall” was actually the steep mountain peak behind the temple.)

Photo: Gustavo Madico

Bodhidharma’s “wall gazing” meditation became the basis for Zazen and Mokuso (sitting and kneeling meditation) as it is still practiced in various schools in China and Japan. As it was practiced by me, for example, last night and this morning.

Bodhidharma not only sat gazing at a wall (or a mountain) but also held Dharma-talks.

Several of these talks, one an informal Q&A session in which he responded directly to questions put to him by Shaolin monks and visitors, have survived in manuscript.

In his remarks, Bodhidharma disparaged various “Buddhist” practices (including that of “sitting for long periods” — despite his own epic nine year sesshin — as well as “chanting sutras, shaving the head, bowing, etc.”) as means to Awakening.

What’s more, the First Chinese Zen Patriarch claimed that holding onto the idea of a Buddha or the self-consciousness of “practicing” Buddhism would only block the instantaneous realization of the intrinsic Enlightened nature.

Shockingly to the monks, Bodhidharma also insisted that a killer, a precept-breaker, a butcher of animals could become a Buddha as easily as a monk or priest, just by directly seeing the Mind’s “basic self-nature.”

What kind of teaching is this? The answer is that it is not a teaching, but a “pointing.” Teachings develop into religions. Zen is directly seeing into one’s original nature before any thoughts arise.


Andrew Wilson has been writing ever since he became a real boy. Find him at http://www.diamondsutrazen.blogspot.com/.

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