Bankei on Zen Practice

Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Astus » Tue May 07, 2013 3:07 pm

Kosho Uchiyama wrote about "sesshin without toys" and how zazen is not playing with anything.

"It seems to me that we spend all our lives playing with toys. ... Doing zazen means to actualize the reality of life. zazen is the self which is only the self of the universe, without any playing with toys. Zazen is like the time just before our death when all the toys have been taken away. Yet, even then we look around for something to play with, if only for an instant."
(Opening the Hand of Thought, p. 62)

"Among all the human activities in the world, there is nothing in which we can live out our own life without amusing ourselves with toys. Only sitting zazen is free from self-amusement with toys. This is the point where zazen is wondrous."
(The Wholehearted Way, p. 127)

What I find missing is to say that zazen itself is a toy, a device, that they keep playing with, to the exclusion of other tools (recitation, repentance, etc.). While reducing Zen to zazen seems minimalist, there is one more step. See what Bankei says:

"If the Buddha-mind is clearly realized, that's enough. You need do nothing else — no practice, no precepts, no zazen or koan study. Nothing like that. You'll be free from care, everything will be taken care of, just by being as you are."
(The Unborn, p. 116, tr. Waddell)

"The only way any of you can become unborn and realize the Buddha-mind is to confirm what I'm telling you in your own mind. I won't tell you that you have to practice such and such, that you have to uphold certain rules or precepts or read certain sutras or other Zen writings, or that you have to do zazen. I'm not going to try to give you the Buddha-mind either — you already have it. If you listen carefully to me, and grasp the Buddha-mind that's already yours, then you become a genuine living Buddha. Wherever you are standing, that place is the Unborn. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. If you want to recite sutras or do zazen, observe precepts, recite the Nembutsu or the Daimoku, you should do it.59 If you're a farmer or a tradesman and you want to work your farm or your business, then go ahead, do it; whatever it is, that will be your personal samadhi. My part in this is simply to tell you about it and to try to get you to confirm the Buddha-minds you were all given when you were born."
(The Unborn, p. 120, tr. Waddell)

"To exert yourselves in religious practice, trying to produce enlightenment by doing religious practices and zazen, is all wrong too. There's no difference between the mind of all the buddhas and the Buddha Mind of each one of you. But by wanting to realize enlightenment, you create a duality between the one who realizes enlightenment and what it is that's being realized. When you cherish even the smallest desire to realize enlightenment, right away you leave behind the realm of the Unborn and go against the Buddha Mind. This Buddha Mind you have from your parents innately is one alone—not two, not three!"
(Bankei Zen, p. 76, tr. Haskel)

"Now, you may be doing zazen and reading the sutras, but abide in the Buddha Mind that you have from your parents innately, just as it is, and realize the Unborn. If you practice zazen or read the sutras with some deliberate aim in mind, hoping to accumulate merit, or whatever, you'll only be changing the Buddha Mind for merit, or changing it for zazen and sutras! That's how it is, so all you've got to do is acknowledge with profound faith and realization that, without your producing a single thought or resorting to any cleverness or shrewdness, everything is individually recognized and distinguished of itself. And all because the marvelously illuminating Buddha Mind is unborn and smoothly manages each and every thing."
(Bankei Zen, p. 85, tr. Haskel)

"All of you should realize the vital, functioning, living Buddha Mind! For several hundred years now, [people in] both China and Japan have misunderstood the Zen teaching, trying to attain enlightenment by doing zazen or trying to find 'the one who sees and hears,' all of which is a great mistake. Zazen is just another name for original mind, and means to sit in tranquility with a tranquil mind. When you do sitting meditation, you're simply sitting, just as you are; when you do walking meditation, you're walking, just as you are."
(Bankei Zen, p. 96, tr. Haskel)

"Mind accords with all circumstances, yet doesn't arise or cease
The sages of old praised this, calling it zazen
Blind people wear out their cushions waiting for enlightenment
Just like trying to make a mirror by polishing a brick"
(Bankei Zen, p. 123, tr. Haskel)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Alex123 » Wed May 08, 2013 6:53 pm

I have been reading two translation of Bankei, and what I realized is that he does teach practice.

If you have Peter Haskel's book, check page 19 "Thirty days in the unborn" where Bankei tells to abide in unborn for 30 days after which one could realize it.

Page 66: "To practice is hard".
Page 113: "All the difference of heaven and earth" chapter concludes with "and your realizing it will be due to your earnest and single-minded cultivation".
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Astus » Wed May 08, 2013 11:52 pm

Of course, the practice is staying with the unborn, which is simply like Uchiyama's opening the hand of thought without the sitting posture. That is, Bankei doesn't give (nor exclude) anything besides the unborn.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Wayfarer » Thu May 09, 2013 12:20 am

"To exert yourselves in religious practice, trying to produce enlightenment by doing religious practices and zazen, is all wrong too. There's no difference between the mind of all the buddhas and the Buddha Mind of each one of you. But by wanting to realize enlightenment, you create a duality between the one who realizes enlightenment and what it is that's being realized. When you cherish even the smallest desire to realize enlightenment, right away you leave behind the realm of the Unborn and go against the Buddha Mind. This Buddha Mind you have from your parents innately is one alone—not two, not three!"


Verses like this have been used to justify all kinds of mischief and pseudo-Buddhist (and Advaita) nonsense 'throughout the three worlds'. There are plenty of books on Amazon which will assure you 'that you're already that which you are seeking, to make any effort is to betray your Real Nature. And, give me $29.95, and I'll tell you how not to do it'.

OK, accept Bankei was the real deal, and taken in the context of the rest of his teachings, and the other excerpts on that page, it is OK. But it is easily and willfully misconstrued by many people.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby greentara » Thu May 09, 2013 12:36 am

Bankei is saying 'just be' not this or that 'be'
It is easy and yet most difficult as we all want verbal instructions, teaching aids, ritual, yogic postures, and so forth.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Wayfarer » Thu May 09, 2013 12:46 am

Of course. I don't think there is anything wrong with what Bankei says, but it is easily 'taken out of context'. And the 'context' in this case, is more than just a literary context. It is the context of the Buddhist culture in which it was taught, with the implicit understanding of Buddhist disciplines and practices. Anyway that is all old news, Alan Watts covered all of that in Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen, which was published in the 1950's. Just drawing attention to the point, that's all.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Astus » Thu May 09, 2013 9:31 am

Jeeprs,

As I see it, Bankei returned to the central point of Zen. He didn't say people shouldn't do usual Buddhist practices, in fact, in some cases he advises people to recite sutras and do zazen. As for those who only need confirmation to their delusions, they are obviously misunderstanding it, since the very meaning of "unborn" is not giving rise to ideas.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby oushi » Thu May 09, 2013 9:35 am

jeeprs wrote:
"To exert yourselves in religious practice, trying to produce enlightenment by doing religious practices and zazen, is all wrong too. There's no difference between the mind of all the buddhas and the Buddha Mind of each one of you. But by wanting to realize enlightenment, you create a duality between the one who realizes enlightenment and what it is that's being realized. When you cherish even the smallest desire to realize enlightenment, right away you leave behind the realm of the Unborn and go against the Buddha Mind. This Buddha Mind you have from your parents innately is one alone—not two, not three!"


Verses like this have been used to justify all kinds of mischief and pseudo-Buddhist (and Advaita) nonsense 'throughout the three worlds'. There are plenty of books on Amazon which will assure you 'that you're already that which you are seeking, to make any effort is to betray your Real Nature. And, give me $29.95, and I'll tell you how not to do it'.

OK, accept Bankei was the real deal, and taken in the context of the rest of his teachings, and the other excerpts on that page, it is OK. But it is easily and willfully misconstrued by many people.

Knowing intellectually 'that you're already that which you are seeking" is not sufficient to stop seeking. You have to truly believe it, and whether you believe, or not, depends on the context. So, the context that lets you believe, is the good one. Many believe context X, or Y to be good one. Some believe that Z is the only. And I believe that only the teaching matters, because everyday life is the context, and it is constantly changing. Living with the teaching, we can hope that right conditions arise and the two meet. But if we abandon the teaching because something similar costs $29.95, we are left chasing conditions.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Wed May 15, 2013 2:01 am

Benkei's realization of the Unborn was sudden and preceded by great exertion. Is he telling us that his own breakthrough was unnecessarily dramatic? Or is the near-death awakening story about him dubious in its historicity?
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby desertman001 » Wed May 15, 2013 7:30 am

great effort to gain something called enlightenment is wrong but great effort to lose our delusion is not. Even though enlightenment could be defined, in a sense, as a new view, it is achieved by letting go of false views. I think this may be why you can't make an effort to acquire enligjtenment
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Wayfarer » Wed May 15, 2013 7:32 am

well said. I would agree with that.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby oushi » Wed May 15, 2013 8:43 am

View that is valued greatly, needs a great doubt to be let go of. This way "true views" are the most dangerous, and the most demanding.
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Astus » Wed May 15, 2013 9:34 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:Benkei's realization of the Unborn was sudden and preceded by great exertion. Is he telling us that his own breakthrough was unnecessarily dramatic? Or is the near-death awakening story about him dubious in its historicity?


Bankei went through his troubles as he found no teacher who could actually help him, or you can say he had some negative karma he had to get rid of first. As for the veracity of the story, I'm unaware of any studies that investigated it, although I think it doesn't sound like anything unusual or unbelievable.

"All of you are extremely fortunate. When I was a young man, it was different. I couldn't find a good teacher, and being headstrong, I devoted myself from an early age to exceptionally difficult training, experiencing suffering others couldn't imagine. I expended an awful lot of useless effort. The experience of that needless ordeal is deeply engrained in me. It's something I can never forget.
That's why I come here like this day after day, urging you to profit from my own painful example, so you can attain the Dharma easily, while you're seated comfortably on the tatami mats, without all that unnecessary work. You should consider yourselves extremely fortunate, because you won't find a teaching like this anywhere else.
Just as I was foolish and bullheaded when I was young, sure enough, if I tell you about my experiences, some of the young fellows among you will take it into their heads that they can't achieve the Dharma unless they exert themselves as I did. And that would be my fault. But I do want to tell you about them, so let's make this point perfectly clear to the young men. You can attain the Dharma without putting your-self through the arduous struggle I did. I want you to remember that carefully as you listen to what I say."

(The Unborn, p. 48, tr. Waddell)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Bankei on Zen Practice

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Fri May 17, 2013 2:00 am

Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you, and for all your other informative quotes on this thread as well as others.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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