Zen Buddhism is a unique school of spiritual development
using many systems of philosophy, psychology and ethics in
the course of its own technique of ‘Sudden Enlightenment’.
In this first volume of Essays in Zen Buddhism, the opening
chapters are concerned with Zen as the Chinese
interpretation of the Doctrine of Enlightenment'.
Enlightenment and ignorance and the history of Zen
Buddhism in China up to the time of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, who gave shape to the purely Chinese aspect of Zen.
The next chapters discuss the attainment of Satori, or the
opening of the spiritual eye, and the methods which are
needed to bring this about. The educational system is
described in the chapter on the meditation hall, and finally
the stages of spiritual progress by gradual purification are
discussed in terms of the ten ox-herding pictures.
Zen Buddhism is a unique school of spiritual development which
uses many systems of philosophy, psychology, and ethics in the
course of its own technique of Sudden Enlightenment.
This volume contains the Second Series of the author’s famous
Essays in Zen Buddhism, including those on the Koan, the Secret
Message of Bodhidharma, and Passivityin the Buddhist Life.
In this Second Series of Zen Essays, the chief stress has been
placed on the study of ‘The Koan Exercise’, which at present.
constitutes almost the alpha and omega of Zen discipline,
especially as it is practised in the Rinzai School of the Zen sect.
The koan technique is full of pitfalls, but its development was
inevitable, and without it Zen might not have survived. My study
of the koan exercise as presented in this Series is not a very
complete one, but I hope I have given the reader a general idea
of what it is. I further hope that the psychologist and the
philosopher will take up this study as facts of experience
specifically developed in the Far-eastern mind.
‘In this Third Series of Zen Essays have tried to trace the relationship which
exists between Zen and the two chief Mahayana sutras, the Gandavyuha and the prajnaparamita,
and then the transformation through which Indian Buddhism had to go while
adapting itself to Chinese pyschology. The Chinese are a practical people
quite different from the Indian, who are highly endowed with the power of abstraction
as well as an inexhaustible mine of imagination. It was natural that the Mahayana
teachings had to be so transformed as to make them appreciated by the Chinese.'
In this book D.T. Suzuki shows that the changes to the Mahayana teaching were
immense and the story of this evolution is lucidly told.
The chapter on the Bodhisattva Ideal is the answer to all who regard
Buddhism as ‘cold’, whilst that on Zen and Japanese culture tells more of the
actual practice of Zen Buddhism than any number of theoretical text books.
The book also contains a superb collection of pictures reproduced from Japanese and
Chinese paintings - these are accompanied by the author’s illuminating comments and observations.
D.T. SUZUKI, (also written Daisetz) in full Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, born Oct 18, 1870,
Kanazawa Japan - died July 12, 1966, Kamakura, was a Japanese philosopher and author of Books
and Essays on Buddhism, Zen and Shin that were instrumental in spreading interest in both
Zen and Shin (and for Eastern Philosophy in general to the west. Suzuki was also a prolific
translator of Chinese, Japanese and Sanskrit literature, Suzuki spent several lengthy streches
teaching or lecturing at Western universities and devoted many years to professorship
in a Japanese Buddhist University, Otani. He was a best key figure in the introduction
of Buddhism to the non-Asian world.
The most fruitful growth of Buddhism in the Far East has resulted in the development
of Zen and Shin. Zen attained its maturity in China and Shin in Japan. The vigour
and vitality which Buddhism still has after more than two thousand years of history will be realized when one comes in contact with these two branches of Buddhism. The one appeals to the inmost religious consciousness of mankind, while the other touches the intellectual . and practical aspects of the Oriental mind, which is more intuitive than discursive, more mystical than logical. If Zen is the ultra 'self-power' wing of Buddhism, Shin represents the other extreme wing known as the 'other-power', and these two extremes are synthesized in the enlightened Buddha-consciousness. Since the publication of my short note on Zen Buddhism in the Journal of the Pali Text Society, 19o7, nothing of im-portance has been published in English on the subject except Professor Kwaiten Nukariya's Religion of the Samurai, 1913. In fact, even in Japanese or Chinese, this branch of Buddhism has received very slight attention from modern writers of Buddhism. This is due to the peculiar difficulties which accompany the study of it. The `Goroku' (sayings) is the only literary form in which Zen expresses itself;
and to understand it requires some special practical training in Zen, for mere
knowledge of the Chinese, classical and historical, is far from being enough ;
even with the masterly understanding of-the philosophy of general Buddhism,
Zen is found quite hard to fathom. Some of such scholars some-times try to explain
the truth and development of Zen, but they sadly fail to do justice to the subject.
On the other hand, the Zen masters so called are unable to present their
understanding in the light of modern thought. Their most intellectually
productive years are spent in the Meditation Hall, and when they successfully
graduate from it they are looked up to as adepts thoroughly versed in the koans.
So far so good ; but, unfortunately from the scholarly point of view, they remain
contented with this, and do not show any lively intellectual interest in the psychology
and philosophy of Zen. Thus Zen is left to lie quietly sealed up in the 'Sayings'
of the masters and in the technical study of the koans , it is thus incapacitated
to walk out of the seclusion of the cloisters. Of course, great mistake it would
be if one should ever take the notion even for a moment that Zen could be mastered
from its philosophical presentation or its psychological description; but this ought
not to mean that Zen is not to be intelligently approached or to be made some-what
accessible by our ordinary means of reasoning. I need not mention that my attempts
in the following pages are anything but adequate for the rational treatment of the
subject. But as a tentative experiment to present Zen from our common-sense point
of view and as a direct lineage of Buddhist faith as first proclaimed, or rather
realized, by the Buddha, I hope I have worked towards removing some of the
difficulties usually besetting us in the mastery of Zen thought. How far I have
succeeded or how utterly I have failed—this is naturally for the reader to judge.
The book is a collection of the Essays originally published in The Eastern Buddhist,
except one on the 'History of Zen Buddhism' which was written specially for this volume ;
but all of them have been thoroughly revised and in some parts entirely rewritten and new
chapters added. The book will be followed by a second series of Essays before long,
in which some more of the important points in the constitution of Zen will be treated.
The publication of these Essays in book form is principally due to the most liberal encouragement,
both material and moral, of Mr. Yakichi Ataka, of Osaka, who is an old friend of the
author's and who has not forgotten the pledge half seriously and half dreamily made in our youthful days.
In this Third Series of Zen Essays I have tried to trace the relationship which exists
between Zen and the two chief Mahayana sutras, the Gandavytiha and ithe Prajidparamita,
and then the transformation through which Indian Buddhism had to go while adapting itself
to Chinese psychology. The Chinese are a practical people quite different from the
Indian, who are highly endowed with the power of abstraction as well as an
inexhaustible mine of imagination, It was natural that the Mahayana teachings
had to be so transformed as to make them appreciated ‘by the Chinese. This meant
that the Prajnaparamita and the Gandavytha were to be converted into Zen dialogues.
As regards Zen contributions to Japanese culture, a special volume has been written.
Apart from Buddhism, apart from Zen after the Kamakura era, Japanese cultural history
has no significance, so deeply has Buddhism en- tered into the lifeblood of the people.
My attempt here is merely tentative. The section on "The Zen Life in Pictures’ is also a
suggestion; a fuller and more systematic treatment awaits another opportunity.
A few facts are to be mentioned concerning the matter treated in this Series,
which have come up while it was in the press. (1) The Tun-huang MS. of the
Sayings of Shén-hui mentioned in p. 21 fn. and p. 37 fn. has already been
re-produced in facsimile, while its printed and fully revised edition
will be published before long. (2} Dr. Keiki Yabuki has published a book
giving detailed explanations of the Tun-huang MSS. collected in his Echoes
of the Desert. He supplies us with a wealth of useful information regarding
them. (3) All page references to the Gandavyitha are either to the Idzumi MS.
or to the R.A.S. one. (4) The Tun-huang MS. of Hui-néng’s Tan-ching (p. 15 fn.)
will be printed and made accessible to the general public. It will be.accompanied
by the Koshoji copy of the same. The latter is an old Japanese reprint of the fifteenth
or sixteenth century, the Chinese original of which was probably printed some time in the
tenth or the eleventh century. Quite likely it is the ‘older edition’ referred to in
a preface to the current edition of the Tan-ching. Its historical importance is beyond dispute.
The author’s thanks are, as usual, due to his wife, Beatrice Lane Suzuki, for
reviewing the whole MSS. and reading the proofs, and tc Mrs. Ruth Fuller.
Everett, of Chicago, who also kindly read the proofs.
Reference to the generous encouragement of the author's friend, Yakichi
Ataka, is not to be omitted just because he is always ready to respond unhesitatingly
to all the requests of the author and to make the teachings of Zen Buddhism universally
approachable within the limits of literary interpretation.
ZEN in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being,
and it points the way from bondage to freedom. By making us drink right from
the fountain of life, it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite
beings are usually suffering in this world. We can say that Zen liberates all
the energies properly and naturally stored in each of us, which are in ordinary
circumstances cramped and distorted so that they find no adequate channel for
activity. This body of ours is something like an electric battery in which a
mysterious power latently lies. When this power is not properly brought into
operation, it either grows mouldy and withers away or is warped and expresses
itself abnormally. It is the object of Zen, therefore, to save us from going
crazy or being crippled. This is what I mean by freedom, giving free play to
all the creative and benevolent impulses inherently lying in our hearts.
Generally, we are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all
the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another.
All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance. Zen, therefore,
wants us to open a 'third eye', as Buddhists call it, to the hitherto un-dreamed-of
region shut away from us through our own ignorance. When the cloud of ignorance disappears,
the infinity of the heavens is manifested, where we see for the first time into the nature
of our own being. We now know the signification of life, we know that it is not blind striving
nor is it a mere display of brutal forces, but that while we know not definitely what the ultimate purport of life is, 1 One of the popular lectures prepared by the author for students of Buddhism, 191 r. It was first published in The Eastern Buddhist, under the title, 'Zen Buddhism as Purifier and Liberator of Life'. Since it treats of Zen in its general aspect, I have decided to make it serve as Introduction to this book. There is something in it that makes us feel infinitely blessed in the living of it and remain quite contented with it in all its evolution, without raising questions or entertaining pessimistic doubts. When we are full of vitality and not yet awakened to the knowledge of life, we cannot comprehend the seriousness of all the conflicts involved in it which are apparently for the moment in a state of quiescence. But sooner or later the time will come when we have to face life squarely and solve its most perplexing and most pressing riddles. Says Confucius, 'At fifteen my mind was directed to study, and at thirty I knew where to stand.' This is one of the wisest sayings of the Chinese
sage. Psychologists will all agree to this statement of his; for, generally speaking, fifteen
is about the age youth begins to look around seriously and inquire into the meaning of life.
All the spiritual powers until now securely hidden in the subconscious part of the mind break out
almost simultaneously. And when this breaking out is too precipitous and violent, the mind may lose
its balance more or less permanently ; in fact, so many cases of nervous prostration reported
during adolescence are chiefly due to this loss of the mental equilibrium. In most cases the
effect is not very grave and the crisis may pass without leaving deep marks. But in some
characters, either through their inherent tendencies or on account of the influence of
environment upon their plastic constitution, the spiritual awakening stirs them up to the
very depths of their personality. This is the time you will be asked to choose between the
'Everlasting No' and the 'Everlasting Yea'. This choosing is what Confucius means by 'study' ;
it is not studying the classics, but deeply delving into the mysteries of life.
DAISETZ TEITARO SUZUKI, D.LITT., Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in the Otani University,
Kyoto, was born in 1869. He is probably now the greatest living authority on Buddhist philosophy,
and is certainly the greatest authority on Zen Buddhism. His major works in English on the subject
of Buddhism number a dozen or more, and of his works in Japanese as yet unknown to the West
there are at least eighteen. He is, moreover, as a chronological bibliography of books on
Zen in English clearly shows, the pioneer teacher of the subject outside Japan, for except
for Kaiten Nukariya’s Religion of the Samurat (Luzac and Co., 1913) nothing was known of
Zen as a living experience, save to the readers of The Eastern Buddhist (1921-1939) until
the publication of Essays in Zen Buddhism (Volume I) in 1927.
Dr. Suzuki writes with authority. Nat only has he studied original works in Sanskrit, Pali,
Chinese and Japanese, but he has an up-to-date knowledge of Western thought in German and
French as well as in the English, which he speaks and writes so fluently. He is, moreover,
more than a scholar: he is a Buddhist. Though not a priest of any Buddhist sect, he is
honoured in every temple in Japan, for his knowledge of spiritual things, as all who
have sat at his feet bear witness, is direct and profound. When he speaks of the higher
stages of consciousness he speaks as a man who dwells therein, and the impression he
makes on those who enter the fringes of his mind is that of a man who seeks for the
intellectual symbols wherewith to describe a state of awareness which lies indeed ‘beyond the intellect’.
To those unable to sit at the feet of the Master his writings must be a substitute.
All these, however, were out of print in England by 1940, and all remaining stocks
in Japan were destroyed in the fire which consumed three quarters of Tokyo in 1945.
When, therefore, 1 reached Japan in 1946, I arranged with the author for the Buddhist
Society, London—my wife and myself as its nominees— to begin the publication of his
Collected Works, reprinting the old favourites, and printing as fast as possible
transiations of the many. new works which the Professor, seif- immured in his house at
Kyoto, had written during the war.
This undertaking, however, was beyond the powers of the Buddhist Society,
and we therefore secured the assistance of Rider and Co., who, backed by the
vast resources of the House of Hutchinson, can honour the needs of such a considerable task.
Of Zen itself I need say nothing here, but the increasing sale of books on the
subject, such as The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts (Murray) and the series of
original translations of Chinese Zen Scriptures and other works published by
the Buddhist Society, prove that the interest of the West is rising rapidly.
Zen, however, is a subject extremely easy to misunderstand, and it is therefore
important that the words of a qualified Master should come readily to hand.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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