Dream Walker!



I think some of the more famous ZEN masters of hallowed antiquity – Lin Chi, Dogen, Hakuin come to mind – are a bit overrated. Yes, their teachings still represent the established standard for the preservation of original ZEN philosophy even today, but I often find the lesser known masters of those ancient days vastly more insightful.

I guess it all boiled down to the effective use and consequent appeal of ‘expedient means’ at a time when both Koan (Rinzai Zen) and ‘silent contemplation’ meditation (Soto Zen) had lost their bite and required a major shakeup to get the withering Zen gardens back into full bloom. In addition to books on my regular favourites – ancient masters Ikkyu, Huang Po, Ta Hui and Hui Hai – here’s what I am reading right now: The Unborn – The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693), by Arthur Braverman and Mud & Water – The collected Teachings of Zen Master Bassui (1327-1387), by Norman Waddell.

I consider these masters – just like the above listed – the non conformist lot in the history of Zen Buddhism, relentlessly shaking those unborn / undying out of their slumber of ignorance and delusion by utilising expedient means based on no particular formal approach, meditation techniques, moral precepts or monastery discipline. Because any formal approach based on expedient means must be viewed as yet another illusion and serves at best as a psychological can opener, leading those blinded by the play of phenomena in this reality back to the One Mind.

Also, to keep an ’empty mind’ or to even try to stop the never ceasing flow of thoughts in our mind from occurring (as in Soto Zen), is a bit like trying to stop a freight train with your bare hands… why bother with the effort? Just let thoughts come and go as they please – as long as you don’t follow them wherever they are trying to take you – while with a straightforward mind, contemplate all that arises as the Matrix of Reality every moment of every day for the rest of your life. To ‘see within’ really requires no more but to correctly ‘see without’… all of it, all at once and all the time!

Master Bankei and even master Hui Neng – who basically invented this meditation approach – would agree with this all inclusive, intuitive practice. They would also agree that originally, Zen did not promote any formal meditation efforts or techniques, moral precepts or monastery practice to achieve the final insight into the fabric of reality:

Clearing thoughts from the mind as they arise is like washing away blood in blood. […] No matter how long you keep washing, the bloodstains never disappear. Since you don’t know that your mind is originally unborn and undying and free of illusions, you think that your thoughts really exist, so you transmigrate in the wheel of existence. You have to realise that your thoughts are ephemeral and unreal and, without either clutching at them or rejecting them, just let them come and go of themselves. They are like images reflected in a mirror! […] The Buddha-mind is ten thousand times brighter than any mirror and is marvellously illuminative besides. All thoughts vanish tracelessly into its light.

New Quote

A monk: I have great difficulty subduing all the desires and deluded thoughts in my mind. What should I do? Bankei: The idea to subdue deluded thoughts is a deluded thought itself. None of those thoughts exist from the start. You conjure them up out of your own discriminations.

New Quote

In the instruction of students under his charge, the master did not lay down any rules or establish any regulations. Yet, a silent, respectful atmosphere always prevailed in his temples – an example of ‘Not governing, yet having no disorder; doing what is right without being told.’


And here a few quotes from master Bassui:

Though the Buddha Way is for the purpose of realising the important matter of cause and effect, when I see how a passing fancy can cause one to believe a teacher of false views, I realise how easily one’s karmic inclination can influence one’s beliefs. But the karmic inclination people have towards the Buddha Way is far more intimate than their inclination towards an individual. Can one be without karmic inclination toward one’s own mind? Realising the Buddha Mind with your own mind is like the sky realising the sky.

New Quote

If you try to remove lingering habits that come from attachment to form, not yet having seen into your own nature, you are like one in deep sleep trying to rid himself of a dream. The desire to rid oneself of a dream is itself a dream. The knowledge that it is a dream is also nothing but a dream…


And more of my Zen verse to complement the above.

Dream Walker

Dream Walker 01
honey bees on a banana leaf
cloud plays with light
the mirror echo of a mirror’s
infinite fractal realised
as ghosts in the machine
in a dream within a dream
sleep walking wide awake
unborn undying unattained
intrinsic awareness remains
Dream Walker 02

And last also an update to my motto. This is a shortened re-compilation of two verses taken from the classic A Zen Harvest. The verse with the ‘fish without ears’ really made me laugh…

A fish without ears listens to
The cry of a crow with no mouth
Welcome to the real world!

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