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The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind Kindle Edition
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About the Author
- ASIN : B005VSIXQE
- Publisher : Grove Press (December 1, 2007)
- Publication date : December 1, 2007
- Language : English
- File size : 5293 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 138 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #188,859 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Even though it’s been more than sixty years since this was first published, Blofeld’s translation here is still considered to be the go-to source. Therefore, if Huang Po calls to you, this version is most definitely the one to get. Additionally, an exceedingly worthwhile companion piece to this is Blofeld’s other translation masterpiece — “Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening: A Complete Translation of the Teaching of the Chinese Ch'an Master Hui Hai.”
Modern Zen has not abandoned all spiritual tools. Zazen is, of course, used extensively. And, we all know about Koans. But, like all tools, when we are done using it, we put down the tool and move on; we shouldn't obsess over the tools. This teaching is a big part of Huang Po's legacy, and can be useful advice in many areas of our lives, not just spiritual ones.
But, ultimately this book is just a stepping stone on the Spiritual Path of humanity. Modern Zen has established its own place and does not need to compare itself so much with other forms of Buddhism any more. In fact, outsiders might not even recognize Zen as Buddhism, if they did not know the history. If one in interested in modern Zen, there are works that are farther along the Spiritual Path, so I think are better references. For example, works by D T Suzuki are a great introduction for Western readers. And, there are several more recent authors as well.
Whereas, Huang Po taught "Just let go of conceptual thought."
This teaching is way to simple for those of us who are addicted to living in thoughts.
The Zen subsect Huang Po was of taught direct transmission of Mind; hence, one is not awakened through words or practices. He contrasts his dharma-way throughout with the teaching of other Buddhist sects that did not follow true to the dharma of Bodhidharma (India, b. 483; credited as the first Zen patriarch of China, having taken Chan, or Zen, Buddhism from India there).
These oral teachings are nondual. Huang Po employs negation and paradox throughout. He plays with words to offer transmission of Mind, through dismantling conceptuality; as said Bodhidharma, "Freeing oneself from words is liberation." For Huang Po, likewise, conceptuality is the only barrier to entering the Gateless Gate. He teaches that one moment of dropping all concepts would mean instant enlightenment, and he affirms a person is enlightened in one instant; hence, he denies progressive stages to it. Yet, he says, very few go through the Gate, for they refuse to let go of intellectuality. Devotees come to the Void and stop, fearing extinction, he says at one point. "Extinction" would mean the Absolute is a vacancy, not a pleromatic Void.
Some questions, with answers, regarding the dharma of Huang Po -
1) What is Mind? Mind is not what most mean by mind. Mind is the Absolute, which Huang Po equates with Buddha, Dharmakaya, .... Hence, the use of Mind here, and in other Buddhist writings, can be misleading for many readers. The usual sense of "mind" now is what Huang Po would refer to as conceptuality.
2) What is the Void? The Void is the Absolute, the Mind, Buddha, the Dharmakaya, ... wherein is not a lack of phenomena, but the Ground wherein the absolute and relative, as opposites in mind, exists together in perfect union. For Huang Po, there is no enlightened escape from matter. There is a void, one that a person might experience, wherein she experiences a 'transcendence' of phenomena, but, says Huang Po, this is not the Void. The Void has a perfect synthesis of absolute and relative, spirit and matter - to say one is to say the other, so to say neither: such is the dharma herein.
3) What is Buddha? Buddha is Mind, is Void. Buddha, for Huang Po, is not the historical Siddhartha Gautama. Buddha is a word for another word: "Absolute."
4) Celestial Beings? For Huang Po, there is no distinction between celestial beings and sentient beings.
5) Spiritual Practice? Huang Po returns again and again to how spiritual practices are hindering Buddhists from the Absolute. Such practices avail nothing, is the usual posture presented by the Teacher. He does briefly observe that preliminary practices can be preparative, but, based on his dharma, not sensible - seeing direct Mind transmission is available. Simply, why practice for eons to clean the dust from the mirror (a common image used in Zen Buddhism), when the gust of Mind can clean away now, in one moment, even the idea of mirror and dust?
6) Nirvana? Nirvana is not opposite samsara - this world of suffering. They are one.
7) Nihilism? The Teacher sees Nirvana not as an absence, but a harmony. While he, as other Buddhists, did not ascribe to eternalism, he, like them, taught Nirvana transcends the opposites of extinction and eternality, even as Huang Po would say theism and atheism are both, finally, false positions. Huang Po did not teach a teaching the opposite of eternalism, but rather a dharma that has nothing to oppose eternalism to. Huang Po, like the historical Buddha, keeps veering from metaphysical speculations, returning the listener to Nirvana here-and-now, this-and-not-this. So, the Buddhamandala, place of awakening, is anywhere one awakens to the Truth.
A difficulty in this work is how Huang Po so stresses negation, and one could be left with the sense only the Absolute is - meaning an Absolute absent the duality absolute-relative. Hence, we would have a monistic dharma, rather than a nondual dharma. Huang Po leans so strongly into negation, at times, one could conclude the Void is truly a void. As one reads on, the Teacher leans a little to the other side of the absolute-relative spectrum, the relative, and one may feel relieved to find the relative is something after all, just not a something in contrast to absolute or <i>the</i> Absolute.
In summation - a great read, inspiring, informative, lively. I highly recommend this work for anyone seeking to explore nonduality, Zen Buddhism, or Buddhism. This is not a work for persons who are intellectually curious or wish to weave more knowledge-wool, however. To read well this work, this means to invite Huang Po to threaten all you think to be true. Why? For he shows over and over that all we think is indeed untrue, for it, at best, is a hint to be dropped, so one can pass through the Gate that is no-Gate.
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Quote from Huang Po: The approach to it ( Mind, Absolute, Void, Buddha Nature, Enlightenment ) is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity. If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity. Those who seek the truth by means of the intellect and learning only get further and further away from it. Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate. Huang Po.
I never tire of reading it, and always discovering new pearls of wisdom.