Wednesday, June 1, 2011

After Poisonous Zen: Bankei hyper-injects Japanese Zen with a life saving remedy

The Soto Zen that Dogen  had established in 13th century Japan had become by the 17th century  lifeless and academic. Rinzai Zen had become insular: monks could talk the Zen talk and spout the proper words and phraseology, but their understanding did not approach the insight of the Chinese and early Japanese Zen masters. Enlightenment seekers wandered in vain in search of a master who could confirm their 'transmission'. Some even rejected  confirmations of their  enlightenment experiences as being worthless, considering the quality of their own teachers.  Many taught without any formal transmission from any teacher at all.

Meanwhile, in the mid-1600's of China, the Ming dynasty had declared Buddhism to be an enemy of the state. Two Chinese Zen refugees named Dosha Chogen and Ingen Ryuki attempted to establish Chan beachheads in Nagasaki, the only city in which Japan permitted  foreigners to live. They faced an uphill battle. The Japanese Myoshinji-dominated Zen hierarchy rejected the worth of the Chinese Zen teachers. And in Nagasaki, the two Chinese teachers were enmeshed in such a rivalry for power that Ingen attempted to poison Dosha Chogen. Ingen eventually won the battle for power. He stayed on in Japan to produce the Obaku line of Zen, a practice that mixed koan, meditation with chanting and ritual.

Out of this institutionalized and ossified Zen mess, there arose a young aspirant who would re-invigorate Japanese Zen. His name was Bankai. Like Buddha, he resolved to pursue his meditation until his death. His asceticism almost killed him. In his weakened condition, he contracted tuberculosis. Spitting up huge cobs of blood, he resigned himself to dying in his hermit shack. Watching one bloody bolus slide down the wall, he attained an instant enlightenment: the first of many deeper and deeper enlightenments he experienced over his lifetime.....from Perle Besserman and Manfred Skeger in Zen Radicals, Rebels and Reformers, pg 104-105.

Also check out these Chan sites of interest:

2. How to chan meditate:
3.  Master Sheng Yen in Facebook

4. The Western Chan Fellowship at

Call Adrian at 250 898 8201,
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