"A special transmission out the scriptures
Not founded upon words and letters
By pointing directly to the mind
One sees into one's deep nature and thus attains Buddhahood."
Bodhidharma is regarded as the founder of the Zen school of Buddhism. Living in the 5th or 6th Century of the common era, Bodhidharma is said to have traveled to China, which already had a rich scholastic Buddhist history, to introduce direct pointing at the One Mind. As is famously recounted in the Hekigonroku, Bodhidharma met with Emperor Wu, who was a Buddhist scholar and practiced according to the principles of acquiring merit through good acts. When Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, "What is the holiest of all teachings," Bodhidharma said, "Emptiness. No holiness." He then departed to a region upon which the Shaolin Monastery would be established and retreated to a cave where he stared at a mountain wall for nine years, looking directly into his deep nature. Later, Eka came seeking to free his mind from suffering. Bodhidharma at first refused to teach Eka, but after Eka cut off his arm to show his good intent, Bodhidharma said, "Bring me your mind, and I will put it at ease." After and exhaustive search, Eka said, "I cannot find my mind." Bodhidharma then said, "Well then, I have put it at ease."
"When hungry, eat your rice;
when tired, close your eyes.
Fools may laugh at me,
but wise men will know what I mean."
Rinzai Gigen Zenji (Linji Yixuan), after whom our lineage is named, lived in 9th century CE China during what is regarded as the Golden Age of Zen. A student of Obaku and Dharma grandson to Hyakujo, Rinzai entered into an already iconoclastic and playful expression of Zen that involved shouts and hitting as both a means of awakening and expressing awakening. Rinzai emphasized the absolute ordinariness of Zen, that there is nothing to be attained and nowhere to go. He demanded of his students unflagging spiritual self-confidence. Whenever they hesitated in response to his questions, he'd offer them a blow or a shout, proclaiming, "One thought of doubt in your mind is the devil." Everything a seeker of truth needed was here and now. Awakening, for Rinzai, was not dependent on anything, not Buddhas, not zazen, not practice or principles. Awakening is simply here, now, in our everyday activity. Zazen is simply zazen. Reciting the scripture is simply reciting the scripture. Similarly, Rinzai was known to emphasize that shitting is just shitting. Nothing was too profane to serve as a prod and, indeed, an expression of the awakened mind.
"What is this true meditation?
It is to make everything: coughing, swallowing, waving the arms,
motion, stillness, words, action, the evil and the good,
prosperity and shame, gain and loss, right and wrong,
into one single koan."
Hakuin Ekaku Zenji, often regarded as the founder of modern Zen, lived in 18th Century CE Japan. He revitalized a religion that had become stale and formulaic by reintroducing and formalizing koan study and post-awakening training, maturing in the dharma. He taught , "What is the Mind of Enlightenment? It is, I realized, a matter of doing good — benefiting others..." Famously, he relied on the koan, "What is the sound of one hand?" as an expedient means of seeing in to the true nature of the universe. Hakuin was fiercely opposed to "do nothing Zen," quietistic practices focused on emptying the mind. Instead, Hakuin stressed the importance of deep awakening in all aspects of life, that our very singing and dancing are the voice of the dharma. Both playful and irreverent and committed to ever deeper expressions of awakening, Hakuin believed in unrelenting and continual practice.
"This world is so wonderful,
so Unthinkable and Ungraspable.
What are we touching
right here and now?"
Soen Nakagawa lived from 1907 to 1984 and served as abbot of Ryutaku-ji in Japan and founded Dai Bosatsu in New York. He lived a versatile life during which both Japanese and American culture would face profound changes. He was known for his poetry and playfulness, often serving Coca Cola in paper cups in lieu of formal tea ceremonies and once playing a recording of Beethoven's 9th as Teisho. He emphasized that Zen was dynamic, active and open. He acted out his Teisho and would quote from Shakespeare and draw in Christian references, always emphasizing immediacy and presence, stressing that we need always embrace, "Only This, This!" His friend Nyogen Senzaki once said, "Soen is Roshi is pure love." In his later life, Soen suffered a head injury that left his behavior more peculiar and unpredictable. Sometimes he would fall into depressions that would have him retreat from his duties, remaining always a sensitive soul enamored in the brilliant unfolding of this beautiful world. In one poem he wrote, "All beings are flowers / Blooming / In a blooming universe."
"Life is our teacher, our only teacher.
When we learn how to fully face life just as it is,
without clinging to our likes or running from our dislikes,
then we will realize our human potential to meet life and death,
times of confusion or clarity, without flinching."
Genki Takabayashi was founding abbot of Dai Ban Cho Bo Zen Ji in Seattle. There, he ordained three priests, including Genjo Marinello Osho, current Abbot of Chobo-Ji. He entered the monastery as an orphan, at the age of eleven, training for twenty years at Daitoku-Ji. A master at gardening, pottery and calligraphy, Genki taught a simple and direct expression of Buddha Dharma and worked tirelessly to share it in the West.
During his retirement Teisho, he said, "When our eyes are truly open, we realize how astounding it is for a tree to be a tree, a mountain to be a mountain, an animal to be an animal. A river is water flowing. A duck passing is truly just wild duck now passing.
Zen realization includes the capacity to know ourselves as mountain, river, tree or wild duck. In other words, while sitting here in the form of a human being, we have the capacity to know mountain, river, tree, or duck from the inside. This is possible because on a fundamental level nothing is really separate from anything else." Genki died on February 24, 2013.