Rinzai: I Don’t Bow to Either…

Rinzai visited the stupa at Yuji. The Keeper asked him, “Do you bow first to the Buddha or Daruma (Bodhidarma, the one who brought Buddhism formally to China from India)?”

Rinzai replied, “I don’t bow to either of them.”

The Keeper asked, “Why? Are you and the Buddha and Daruma enemies?”

Rinzai shook the dust from his sleeves and went away.

Have a Cup of Tea

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Joshu asked a new-comer monk, “Have you just arrived?”
“Yes,” replied the monk. “Then have a cup of tea,” said Joshu.

He asked another monk, “Have you just come as well?”
“No,” replied the monk.
“Then have a cup of tea,” said Joshu.

The Head monk (Inju) asked,
“Why do you offer tea to a new arrival in just the same way
as you offer tea to one who has been here for a while?”

“Inju!” said Joshu. “Yes?” asked the Inju.
“Have a cup of tea!” said Joshu.

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Obaku: The Only Difference is…

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It is a fact that there is nothing to be attained.

If you become enlightened in an instant,
or as a result of long practicing the Ten Stages,
the resulting enlightenment is the same.

One is not shallow, nor the other deep.

The only difference is
that the latter simply involves ages of pain and labour.

-Obaku school/sect of Zen

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The Obaku school of Zen thought is often referred to as the third main sect in Japan and has the most Chinese-like flavor. It was established in the 1660’s by Chinese Linji Ch’an Buddhist monk, poet and calligrapher Yinyuan Longqi.

Ummon: “I have not the slightest idea.”


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A monk asked Ummon, “What are the activities of an enlightened monk?”

Ummon answered, “I have not the slightest idea.”

The monk then said, “Why haven’t you any idea?”

Ummon replied, “I just want to keep my no-idea.”

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Ummon (Chinese: Yunmen Wenyan) was the founder of one of the five major Ch’an (Zen) schools. He was well known for his sharp, curt and flummoxing answers which could enlighten or baffle the student. Along with Joshu, his collected sayings helped to form what became known as the koan tradition of Zen (Ch’an). He lived from 864-949 CE.

How can you become a Buddha by doing zazen?

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When Baso was living in Demboin, he did zazen (sitting meditation) every day. Nangaku, realizing Baso was a ‘vessel of the Law’ (one who would become an exemplary Enlightened being and teacher), went and asked him, “Sir, what is your idea in doing zazen?”

“I intend to become (a) Buddha”, Baso replied.

Nangaku picked up a tile and began polishing it in front of the hermitage. Baso asked, “What are you doing?” Nangaku answered, “Polishing it to make it into a mirror.” “How can you make a mirror by polishing a tile?” demanded Baso.

“How can you become a Buddha by doing zazen?” retorted Nangaku.

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Nangaku’s point here is that everyone already has Buddha nature inherently; and that no amount of any particular practice, study, method or wordplay will make one become what one already is. Only realization solves the conundrum.  -What conundrum?!