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Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei Paperback – January 23, 1994
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Much of what I offered in my posted review of Waddell's translation would equally apply to the Haskel text reviewed here. Subjectively, I feel that the Waddel version is a slightly more fluid read. Bankei Zen, however, offers the additional benefits of selected letters and poems including Bankei's famous "Song of the Original Mind." Photographs of his calligraphy, paintings, and intricately carved statues further enhance the text.
Both volumes were originally published in 1984, and there is inevitable overlap between the two texts. Nevertheless, they are complementary and each has its own merit. I have personally benefited from reading both.
If Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) is Zen's supersonic jet, Bankei (1622-1693) is its horse-and-buggy. But when it's simply a matter of getting from point A to point A, since what we are looking for is no further than the end of our nose, either type of conveyance will suffice.
Dogen transports us to the stratospheric heights of Zen. His thought is totally brilliant and hyper-sophisticated, and once you get a taste of him you may find yourself completely captivated. Those who may be interested might care to take a look at Kazuaki Tanahashi's fine anthology, 'Moon in a Dewdrop : Writings of Zen Master Dogen.'
Bankei, in contrast, is a very different kettle of fish. For him the sutras, the koans, and the works of the great Chinese Masters were so much waste paper we needn't be bothering our heads about. Very much a man of the people, and immensely popular in his day, his following, as Haskel tells us, "embraced nearly every segment of Japanese society : samurai with their families and retainers, merchants, artisans, farmers, servants, even gamblers and gangsters, as well as monks and nuns of all the Buddhist sects" (page xvii). All of them, in crowds that could number over a thousand, would flock from all parts of Japan to listen to his unusual teaching.
What was the teaching that held such a powerful appeal for so many different kinds of people?Read more ›
What he taught was this: the ordinary mind we use everyday is itself the Unborn, Unoriginated Buddha-Mind. Becoming Enlightened is neither necessary nor possible: we are Enlightened now. All we need do is avoid exchanging this innate mind of Enlightenment for a contrived mind of greed, fear, anger, pride or delusion. He rejected koan-study and regarded meditation and devotional practices as optional.
This book is an exemplary account of his life and teaching: if I take off one star this is no criticism of editor or translator. But I'm sure that Bankei-Zenji had a presence, a charisma, that taught more effectively than any words. (His Bodhisattva calm became legendary: a sword is swished in his face, he bats it away without even blinking.) In the absence of this it's easy to miss the point. Significantly his teachings, so popular in his lifetime, did not survive him.
By contrast Hakuin-Zenji, who loathed this talk of the Unborn and established rigorous discipline and struggle with koans as the basis of Zen training, created what remains today the framework of the Rinzai School of Zen.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best books in zen that I have read. This will make a lot of sense and also bring lot of clarification to those who have been practicing for a while. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
great book, Bankei says it like it is and how the Zen community today has become so much like the Zen of Bankei's time; Dead with few is any enlightened masters around. .Published 4 months ago by Craigers1961
Bankei Zen is highly recommended for those of us who are tired of the zen literature that has built up since the 1960s, over-intellectualizing what is a dynamic form of... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Nicholas Williams
" The dude abides..." in the unborn mind... Coincidence? I don't think so... And the wind blows, I dance across the field, a dandy lion in the making...Published 9 months ago by Redfour5
One of the great Zen teachers. He is a maverick in a religion of Mavericks. He was extremely popular in his own time, but mostly self taught. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Robert L. Clasen
This is one of two translations of the Record of Bankei that I know of. The record of this Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher is a collection of sayings from his dharma talks or... Read morePublished on January 4, 2014 by Dewain Belgard