January 2021 Online Sesshin, Day 2: Teachings and Life of Zen Master Hakuin
9:10PM Aug 4, 2021
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is day two of this January 2021 seven day online Rohatsu sesshin. And we'll return to Zen Master Hakuin.
You know what we just recited together his his chant in praise of zazen, it'd be hard to find a more complete and eloquent summation or sort of synopsis of the Zen School. Short, that is short.
When I was on a pilgrimage to Nepal, many years ago, my traveling companion at the time who I met in Kathmandu, had had the foresight to make copies of this hacohen chant. Knowing that, in places like Nepal or other countries, the word Zen would be meaningless to a lot of people. And if, if he was asked about it, then he could. He felt it was appropriately good, give him a copy of the hacohen chant, as a good summation of our, the school of Zen or Chan. And I think it's, it's, it's just hard to beat as far as short summary of the principles of Zen. Well, now we're going back to the book we're using yesterday, the main book was called Wild IV, and the spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master hacohen. And the whole book is his autobiography, except for the introduction by the translator, which is, includes a biography that is leaving aside ha koans own words, and much shorter outline of how koans life and that's what I won't read much more of this book than the introduction, but, before going on to Hawk koans teachings, in his own words, I want to finish this biography by the translator. Skip just for a moment to skip to the end of the introduction and, and read the the translator had the common sense or the the wisdom to want to offer us a more personal or more textured presentation of Hakuin and his, his personality. So, many of these, the the biographies of these great Chinese and Japanese and Korean masters are really hagiographies their their their tributes, and we have to assume that they leave out some some details including some of the Masters blindspots spots, his his flaws, is still remaining afflictions in order to what they would see as give full tribute to the master. So without further comment, here's a riggin reading from Norman waddles. Introduction. He says Tory Tory was hot koans Dharma successor, Tory describe how koan is having, quote, The heavy deliberate motions of an ox, and the penetrating glare of a ferocious tiger. This translator writes, this portrayal is confirmed by life size effigy statue of the by the life size effigy statue of the master. He was a large imposing figure of a man in whom were combined Great physical strength, and a dominating character distinguished by extraordinary determination, and uncompromising independence. I can't help but think of some of the very rough outlines of Bodhidharma his character. But then here
he was, of course not all strictness and severity, however, glimpses of a less daunting more human hacohen can be seen in some of these supplementary notes toray added to his biography of Hakuin, which contains anecdotes about his teachers, habits and foibles that enable us to gain a fuller picture of his overall personality. He was, for example, in inordinately fond of sweets, can you imagine that? And the Zen teacher this weakness must have been well known in Zen circles for Tori said that when he arrived at high koans temple for his first meeting with a master, he took as a gift, a bag of sugar goodies he had picked up along the way. Hakuin was also extremely fond of soba noodles. And when the temple cook began preparing, todo lo Jiro, a dish made from pulverized mountain yam, we are told quote, these are Hocking Tori's words. The mere sound of the pestle grinding the yam was enough to make the Masters mouth water and his eyes narrow with anticipation. Also, like most Japanese mugs, he enjoyed drinking soccer. The Tories biography tells him an incident in his mid 20s when he stopped off to have a few last cups of soccer exactly courses rice wine, before entering a temple to begin a rigorous practice session. According to this other historian, though Hakuin allowed no soccer in the temple during his first 10 years as the head monk. Later on, however, he drank moderately saying it was for medicinal purposes only. He also had a pipe habit, dating back at least to his mid 20s. That is smoking a pipe. I'm not sure how well anyone can hear me. So pipe tip. At one point troubled by the notion that his smoking might violate the Buddhist precepts, he decided to swear off. Taking out his tobacco pouch and his pipe, he threw them into a rice paddy and then, as if to sever all remaining ties to the articles, poke them down with his staff until they were deeply buried in the mud. Again, he resumed the habit later on in life, this time, saying it helped him to, quote relax from the demands of his teaching duties. And then toray who was known for his his own strict adherence to the precepts, wrote how he would sometimes enter ha koans chambers, and catch the master hastily concealing his still smoking pipe behind his back. This is what we need we need about to read about more Zen masters than just their fearsome spirit and courage and determination and unyielding perseverance. These were human beings. But we don't get much of that from these biographies that are centuries and centuries old and have been cleaned up. Well, I want to just get into this. This this human stuff about more human details about Hakuin before going back to where we left off yesterday, which is where he had had his first enlightenment at the sound of a temple Bell at age 24. And then he went swaggering around with a great deal of pride. SWAT These are the words that the Hacker News swallowing whole, everyone he encountered regarding them contemptuously as so many lumps of dirt. But then he he met his primary teacher showed you roads and and a little bit here about showed you because he was the most important teacher to Hakuin.
And how koans writings showed you comes across as something of a maverick. So, Roshi Kapleau was sometimes called a maverick. Living by choice in a tiny hermitage in an extremely isolated corner of the country showed you would have been totally outside the mainstream Zen world. He accepted few students and only those who convinced him they were totally dedicated, and possess the capacity to mature into genuine teachers themselves. Those students showed you as a fierce, uncompromising taskmaster, whose methods were harsh in the extreme
Hakuin was with showed you for only eight months. But it is clear in reading his accounts of the period that they were the most important of his life. Hakuin said that until he met showed you he had believed it relatively easy to achieve religious attainment but then showed us relentless hounding, soon cleared his mind that notion, crushed it like an eggshell hacohen Road.
And then here, I'm going back to the main body of the book. That is how koans own words they autobiography to just expand on his meeting with shojo. He said, and this is again his own words. I received permission to be admitted as a student then hung up my traveling staff to stay. Once after I had set forth my understanding to the master during docq son, he said to me, commitment to the practice of Zen must be genuine. How do you understand the koan about the dog and Buddha nature? Mu of course hakko and replied, how they keep it in the first person, these are his words, I replied, No way to land a hand or foot on that. He abruptly that's just showed you, he abruptly reached out and caught my nose, giving giving it a sharp push with his hand, he said, got a pretty good hand on it there hadn't been back to Hakuin I couldn't make a single move either forward or backward, I was unable to spit out a single syllable. That encounter put me into a very troubled state. I was totally frustrated and demoralized. I sat red eyed and miserable, my cheeks burning from the constant tears. And then he says the master took pity on me and assign me some koans. If that's pity, assign me some koans to work on. And I've listed a bunch of koans most of which are in the collection we work on. And here too, I'm going to expand on
well just go on. I chewed on those colons day and night, attacking them from the front, knowing at them from the sides, but not the first glimmer of understanding came. Does that sound familiar to anyone working on a con?
So then he he got enough of showed you, he thought and he set off with his begging bowl to go somewhere else. And here is this another? In his own words. I was totally absorbed in my koan, never away from it for an instant. I took up a position beside the gate of a house. My bowl in my hand fixed in a kind of trance fixed in a kind of trance now Here, let me pause and point out that we would we would call this a kind of state of no mindedness, Samadhi. And it is different from mindfulness. No mindedness, or Samadhi is one form of it is to be feel as if you're kind of in a dream, or in a trance, as he says.
But to continue from inside the house of voice yelled out, get away from here, go somewhere else. I was so preoccupied, I didn't even notice it. Again, let me pause. there's a there's a saying from ancient China. One who is working on mo does not see the sky when she raises her head, nor the ground when she lowers her head. I mentioned this, because people sometimes think, right, I if I'm really mindful, if I'm really aware, then I'll hear everything. Yeah, that's mindfulness, hearing everything smelling, tasting, and so forth. But, again, there are these states of deep absorption where we don't and it's not that one is, is right and the other is wrong. There are times when we can be extremely concentrated on a call on while hearing everything and then there's this other state one can get in. The best thing is not to think about reaching either state. I was so preoccupied, I didn't even notice it. This must have angered the occupant, because suddenly she appeared flourishing a broom upside down in her hands. She flew at me, flailing wildly, whacking away in my head as if she were bent on dashing my brains out. My hat lay in tatters. I was knocked over and ended heels up on the ground, totally unconscious. I lay there like a dead man. Neighbors he writes to the neighbors were alarmed by all the noise and came out. And now look at what the crazy old crone has done, they cried, and then they disappeared. And then he continues, this was followed by a hushed silence, not a stir or sign of life anywhere. A few people who happened to be passing by approached me in wonderment. They grabbed hold of me and hoisted me upright. What's wrong? What happened? They exclaimed. As I came to in my eyes opened, I found that the unsolvable and impenetrable koans I had been working on all those venomous cat's paws, were now penetrated completely right to their roots. They had suddenly cease to exist. I began clapping my hands and whooping with glee, frightening the people who had gathered around to help me. He's lost his mind. A crazy month, they shouted, shrinking back from me apprehensively. Then they turn heel and fled without looking back.
I picked myself up in the ground, straightened my robe, and fixed the remnants of my hat back on my head. With a blissful smile on my face. I started slowly and exultantly making my way back to show drew on that's the, the master shoujo who he thought he was leaving. I spotted an old man beckoning to me. Honorable monk, he said, addressing me, that old lady really put your lights out, didn't she? I smiled faintly but other Not a word. In response. He gave me a bowl of rice to eat and sent me on my way. I reached the gate of chages hermitage with a broad grin on my face. The master was standing on the veranda. He took one look at man said, something good has happened to you try to tell me about it. Notice that try because with any deep experience and I don't mean just enlightenment, they really any experience that leaves us shaking, it is difficult to find the words. I walked up to where he was standing and proceeded to explain at some length about my reel about the realization I experienced. He took his fan and stroked my back with it. I sincerely hope you live to be my age, he said, You must firmly resolve you will never be satisfied with trifling gains. Now you must devote your efforts to post Satori training.
So, so you see just on the verge of leaving, actually after having left on his way to Parts Unknown, this experience happened to him brought him back to showed you
will continue with the translators introduction, introduction, his biography, by winter Hakuin says he had succeeded in penetrating the heart of shoulders Zen. me just pause and pose the question. What would that heart be?
We we chant the prajna paramita. It's the heart of perfect wisdom. What about that heart,
showed you urged him to stay on as his successor, but Hakuin refused the request. And in late autumn, he returned to his home temple. And the translator offers speculates as to why that was that he didn't stay. But that it's, it's we don't have time to get into that. Now moving along. Now, age 24 be traveling translator calls this his post Satori practice. Now it gets interesting during the travels that followed his return to his home temple, he became it became clear to hacohen that his attainment was still incomplete. He had no doubts about the depth of his enlightenment, he was sure that his grasp of koans and Zen writings were sharp and clear. Yet he found it impossible to sustain the tranquility he experienced in the quietness of the zendo when he returned to the tumult of everyday life. And this is what, what he said to himself. I feel like a physician who possesses a wonderful knowledge of medicine, but has no effective means of curing an actual sickness, he lamented. How can I possibly hope to help read other sentient beings of their afflictions, as long as I still suffer from illness myself with renewed determination, he now quote, grasp the whip in hand, and spurred the dead ox forward once again. And then the company the translator, summarizes the focus of his post Satori training was directed henceforth to achieving the total integration of the two aspects of his life, the quiet and the active. And this goes right to the the, the long term challenge we all have before us is to integrate what what we might state, the condition of the mind during sitting and our mind as we're going about Our daily activities. This is that this is the real the whitewater rapids of Zen practice, it's one thing to be able to reach this stillness while we're sitting. But then to be able to extend that work it into one's daily life. So in everything we're doing all of our responses to other people and to changing circumstances and conditions, we can maintain this mind of stabilized awareness. That is the work of a lifetime. And in terms of perfecting it, lifetimes.
Now I see that this biography by the translators going on and I'm going to just hit some highlights.
What happened next in this chronology was the hacohen came down with a what he calls Zen sickness or meditation sickness. The translator writes, although the exact nature of the disorder is not known, from the description, he gives up its symptoms. Modern writers have diagnosed it variously as tuberculosis, pleurisy, nervous collapse, or some combination of the three. I have to say that now, just from my own experience, I've never encountered someone who, certainly not I, but no one I know of. In Zen, who has experienced this kind of as it's described. Whenever it was, it finally became so serious that it prevented him from pursuing Zen training. And then he makes a whole long description, or chronology of this his struggle against this sickness. Practicing techniques of meditation he learned from a hermit
the sickness, it seems a range from his from age 25 to his early 30s.
In any event, the translator continues. hacohen lived at the hut on Mount Iwasaki for well over a year, pushing himself mercilessly fasting and going without sleep for days at a time, determined not to let up in his efforts until we achieved a further breakthrough, even if it cost him his life. Now, appreciate this is after two enlightenment experiences the first one with a temple bell. And the the second where he landed in the, in the in the dirt with the hands of this old woman and her broom.
It's it's there are others their predecessors of his in China in Japan, who a few who may have had this kind of unrelenting faith. That's what that's what drives us to such exertion is faith that they will yield deeper realization. He may have had others before him but it's exceedingly rare to read of someone after to not just getting through your colon but real true enlightenment experiences driving him the way he himself the way he did. You see why Hakuin has for centuries now has been revered in Zen.
These each each each segment of this short biography is expanded on in in Hakuin his own words his autobiography, but we don't have time for that.
It says he would have continued indefinitely what he calls he would have continued indefinitely, but he calls the pleasures of this austere existence, had it not been for the unexpected arrival of a family servant, who brought him the news that his father was dangerously ill, and pleaded with high koan to to go home. And Hakuin saw that this is what he needed to do. This is filial piety. And he did go home. And he also began attracting other monks who wanted to train under him. Well, when he got back to his hometown, on right next to his hometown, he faced a lot of, of hardship. He found that the, the temple he stayed at originally before all these enlightenment experiences that it had had deteriorated in an almost indescribable state of disrepair.
And then there's a there's a, quite a description here.
And switching to another book about Hakuin. This is also translated by Norman Waddell. It's called the essential teachings of Zen Master Hakuin.
Here's her hakko in his own words, show energy that was the his original little temple had fallen into an almost indescribable state of ruin. Stars shone through the roof at night. The floors were constantly saturated by rain and dew. It was necessary for the master to wear a a no, this couldn't have been his own words. One of his biographers, it was necessary for the master to wear a straw raincoat as he who, who among us has ever worn a straw raincoat as he moved about the temple attending to his duties. He needed sandals inside the main hall. This wearing footwear indoors would be unheard of. When he went there to conduct ceremonies, temple assets had passed into the hands of creditors, the temporary equipment had all been pawned about the only thing worth noting around here, he said, is the moonlight in the sound of the wind load.
This is what's not going to happen to Chapman mill, or Arnold Park. It is with the support of the Sangha.
The biographer, the translator continues Hakuin resided at this ramshackle old temple, amid great difficulty and privation through his 30s and on into his early 40s. An old family servant gathered wood for fuel, foraged for vegetables, and managed to produce the two daily meals to notice. A monk who showed up help supply the kitchen by making daily begging expeditions. provisions were always meager and and the temple cook was usually forced to use spoiled or maggot written food that had been rescued from the garbage the villagers were about to throw out.
The translator can Can you just saying that several anecdotes in the back in high koans biography give us an idea of the rigors of hacohen spare simple life at his temple during this period, now get a lot of this. When the sun went down, he would climb inside a derelict old Palin Quinn. Palin Quinn is one of these little structures that they would carry important people aristocrats, with the four poles he would, he would climb inside, some broken down old peloquin and seed himself on a cushion he had placed on the floorboard, one of the young boys at the temple would come wrap his body in a futon and cinch him tightly into this position with a rope. There he would remain, quote, like a painting of Bodhidharma until the boy came and untied him The following day, a special room was built behind his living quarters, where he could go and devote himself quietly to zozen.
The religious quests that had been the single focus of his life for more than a quarter century, finally came to an end one night when he was 41. He was in his chambers at his temple reading the Lotus Sutra, the very same chapter the one on parables he had dismissed years before. As a mere collection of simple tales about cause and effect we read that yesterday.
As Hakuin read the sound of a cricket cheering at the foundation stones of a temple reached his ears. At that instant, he crossed the threshold into great enlightenment. The accumulated doubts and uncertainties of 40 years suddenly cease to exist. The reasons why the Lotus Sutra is regarded as supreme among all the Buddha's teachings, was revealed to him, quote, with blinding clarity. He found teardrops, quote, cascading down his face like strings of beads, they poured out like beings from a ruptured sack. From that time for throat toray, the master lived in a state of great emancipation. The enlightening activity of the Buddhas was now his without any lack whatever, enabling him to speak with the same tongue and from the same lips as all the Buddha's before him. So that is considered his final grade enlightenment. He is reported to have had many lesser enlightenment experiences than those, the three that we just mentioned. And then he took it upon himself from there for the rest of his life, to single minded devotion to the task of reforming Zen and reinvigorating the Zen School,
Tori's biography, records the scores of journeys he made around the country, some of them many days duration, in answer to endless requests for teaching and lectures. The writings he published the stories of encounters and confrontations he hadn't students and other priests. In 1732, six years after his final enlightenment, more than 20 monks were residing and training edge showing his temple only 20. And then it goes on to talk about over the next few years he was lecturing there. And the blue Cliff record when I just just sort of skate over this does too much detail
It may remember this temple of ha koans is a very small one, and says here there was no way it could house or provide for the growing numbers that began coming to the temple, and the monks were obliged to fend pretty much for themselves. They found lodgings as best they could in the countryside around the temple. They transformed the surrounding woods and hills into a great center of Dharma practice. Hi koan advise them to form into groups of three. They were told to go out and find deserted halls, shrine buildings or vacant houses that weren't being used and shut themselves up inside. There, they would be able to devote themselves to undisturbed sessions of Zen. The translator continues, it was unprecedented, a religious center that had risen up spontaneously created by the students themselves, who had come for purely religious motives, drawn there in hopes of receiving instructions from Master hacohen.
here's a description of that. popcorns and ha koans words that can't resist reading again is his extraordinary creative creativity and writing. Here he gives popcorn gives some idea of the difficulties these students faced when they got their students gladly endure the poisonous slobber the master spewed at them. They welcome the stinging blows from his stick. The thought of leaving never even entered their minds. Some stayed for 10, even 20 years, totally indifferent to the possibility they might have to lay down their lives at show energy and become dust under the temple pines. Hunger awaited them in the morning. freezing cold lurked for them at night. They sustain themselves on greens and wheat chaff. Their ears were assaulted by the Masters deafening shouts in abuse. their bones were hammered by furious blows from his fists and stick. What they saw off furrow their foreheads in disbelief. What they heard they their bodies in cold sweat. When they first arrived at showing Gee, they possess the beauty of a song new or whole yen. Obviously, famous beauties, legendary beauties, their complexions glowing with radiant health. But before long, they were as thin and haggard as so and so and so and so their pallid skin drawn taught over their bony cheeks. What a single one of these amongst have remained at showing you even a moment if he had not been totally dedicated to his quest, grudging, neither his health nor life itself. We read yesterday, this translator here acknowledging that one was given to exaggeration. And so we hear this to this account we can take with a grain of salt, but Oh, the writing live words as we say in Zen,
some little bits before we end this biography Hakuin seems for most of his career to have steered clear of the great monastery complex of Kyoto. Not only during his period of pilgrimage, but also later as a teacher, when he lectured at temples in provinces around the capital. Tokyo was the capital in those days.
Then it became his health began to fail.
Here's a little nugget is the translator here is talking about when he was 74. How, how confident he now felt in the depth and maturity of his understanding. And these are high koans words Whenever I hold up to elucidate for you, even if it is only a shard, or a pebble, is transformed into a piece of purest gold. where I am now even when I'm sitting and joking and chatting and formally with people, I'm turning the great Dharma wheel. And so we chant and we recite the hacohen chant, Bree says, are dancing and songs are the voice of the Dharma. Total integration.
Some other source I came across yesterday or today, said that in his later years, in his he would give TV shows about anything that struck his fancy. He understood that, really, it's all the Dharma. It's all the Dharma, politics, health,
most common kind of things about human beings and they're interacting with one another. It's all the Dharma.
He was then forced to take to his sick bed with an ailment that his physician diagnosed as too many sugared sweets. That via warning to those of you who like sweets, said he, with a right self mocking smile. And the translator suggested it could have been an attack of diabetes. Oh, yeah, here's where it says. Two of his lectures that he was invited to give. He talked on whatever moved his fancy.
And then finally, we all know the finale this.
On the sixth of the 12th month, a freak storms swept the area sending bolts of lightning crashing violate Earth. The next day, the position came to examine the Masters pulses. What do you think the master asked nothing out of the ordinary, he replied. I've heard many times that even today, physicians in Japan will often not tell their patients that they have cancer. Nothing out of the ordinary, the physician replied. Anyway, skipping down. On the 10th day, the master called his disciples to a sick bed and tried and trusted him with his personal affairs after his death. At daybreak, the following day, the master was sleeping very peacefully lying on his right side. He made a single, loud groan and then passed away.
Let's just as one final comment hacohen never received in his lifetime, he never received Dharma transmission. He never received Dharma transmission, he is revered in Japan, as among the greatest masters ever, to live there. And, and he was posthumously given Dharma set succession. The way you know the, the Indian Buddhist masters became part of the lineage. But it's It is worth noting, especially for people who make formal Dharma transmission, the be all and the end all. Here is well, here's a very different story. Our time is up. We'll stop now and recite the four vows