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.

Hui-neng: Words and Letters

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 When asked how he could understand the Sutras even though he was illiterate, didn’t have a proper teacher and could not even know the meanings of the [Mahayana Sanskrit] words, young Huineng replied, “The profound meaning of all the Buddhas has no connection with words and letters.”

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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.