Sunday, December 20, 2009

Introduction to Kensho

Zen Buddhism emerged in China fifteen hundred years ago as a gnostic revival of Buddhism. According to tradition, Zen was, in essence, originally a response to the spiritual sterility into which Buddhism had fallen through formalism.

The special focus of the Zen dispensation was publicized by the famous Hui-neng (*), who is accustomed with the founding of the so-called Sudden school of Zen in China nearly thirteen hundred years ago.

The complete discourse of all Buddhas of past, present, and future are inherent in the essence of the human being. If you cannot realize this on your own, you need the guidance of a teacher to see it. As for those who do realize on their own, they do not need to seek elsewhere.
If you insist that a teacher is necessary to attain liberation, you are wrong. Why? Because there is a teacher within your own mind who enlightens you spontaneously!
If you create confusion, false thinking, and delusion, even a teacher's instruction cannot save you!
If you cultivate the observant perception of true insight, then false thoughts die out at once. And if you know your own essence, with this one realization you arrive at enlightenment.

In Sino-Japanese, this Zen insight into the essence of one's own being is called kensho. There is no Zen without kensho, complete kensho is what is known as satori, Zen awakening. This realization is likened to finding an inexhaustible treasure, for it means the awakening of the whole potential for the experience of experience itself.

The Zen master Dogen, who brought Zen to Japan nearly eight centuries ago, explained, this heart of Zen to layman in his famous essay "The Issue at hand":

Learning the way of enlightenment is learning selfhood.
Learning selfhood is forgetting oneself.
Forgetting oneself is being enlightened by all things.

In zen, the meaning of the true self is none other than Buddha nature, which Buddhist scripture defines as "Pure, Blissful, Permanent Selfhood."

To learn about the self in zen means to study the false self, or the ego, and the true self, or Buddha-nature. Learning selfhood, in Zen terms, means learning to see through the doings of the ego's self-image in order to find the nature of the real self as it is in itself, by itself.

Seeing through the doings of the vain and suggestive ego makes it possible to be immune to its seductions. This is a kind of "forgetting oneself," in the sense of leaving behind the foibles of this vanity.

finding the nature of the real self makes it possible to be oneself, without self-consciously trying. This is also "forgetting oneself," in the sense of leaving behind self-importance.

When egocentric realizations do not occupy the mind, then actualities can inform it. When spontaneous awareness opens the mind, then realities can instruct it. The awakened Zen self is like a mirror as big as cosmic space, reflecting the whole universe within it.

The popular fourteenth-century Japanese preacher Keizan described this Zen practice and experience over and over in his classic Transmission of Light: "Even if you seem to be a beginner, if the mind is turned around for a moment to reveal its originally inherent qualities, nothing at all is lacking. Together with the realized ones, you will commune with all Buddhas."

{Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume Three, the collected translations of Thomas Cleary}

{Programming by DPC/DPC Blogger}

"The shell must be cracked apart if what is in it is to come out,
for if you want the kernel, you must break the shell."

-- Meister Eckhart

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