So, a monk walks into a bar...no wait:
Kauin Ekaku: (1686–1769 or 1685–1768) was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. He revived the Rinzai school from a period of stagnation, refocusing it on its traditionally rigorous training methods integrating zazen and koan practice. All Rinzai Zen masters today trace their lineage through him, and all modern practitioners of Rinzai Zen use practices directly derived from his teachings.
Hauin had a baby once....or so they say. Today, I am going to share that story with you, as accurately as I can. As accurately as stories go.
Master Hakuin And The Baby
The great Zen Master Hakuin lived in a small hut outside a village where he was greatly respected. One day a village girl became pregnant. The father of the baby left town and she was alone and frightened. She did not know what else to do and told the entire village that Master Hakuin was the father.
All the townspeople shocked. They stopped bringing food and offerings. Instead of praising Haikuin now they blamed him.
"You are the worst of all beings," they said.
"Is that so?" replied Hakuin.
The baby was born the the village girl brought the child to Hakuin to be cared for.
"This baby is yours," she said.
"Is that so?" Hakuin said and took the baby gladly.
Hakuin cared for the baby lovingly for several years. Babies, presumably, do not make for uninterrupted zazen. Diaper cleaning is not traditionally conducing to satori. Yet Hakuin fed, clothed and cared for the child.
Then, one day, the father of the baby returned to the village to marry the mother and take back the baby. The new couple told everybody the truth about what happened.
The people were astonished. They all began to praise Master Hakuin and return to his hut with offerings.
"Is that so?" said Master Hakuin. Soon after that the couple returned for the baby. "Is that so?" Master Hakuin murmured and gave them their child lovingly.
So, I am a story teller, but not a teacher. But some stories are teacher enough.
So who are the Zen Masters in your neighborhood?
Hakuin was born in 1686. As a child, Hakuin attended a lecture by a Nichiren monk on the topic of Hell. This deeply impressed the young Hakuin, and he developed a pressing fear of hell, seeking a way to escape it. He eventually came to the conclusion that it would be necessary to become a monk.
At the age of fifteen, he obtained consent from his parents to join the monastic life, and was ordained at the local Zen temple. But when the head monk at Shoin-ji took ill, Hakuin was sent to a neighboring temple, where he served as a novice for three or four years, studying Buddhist texts. While at Daisho-ji, he read the Lotus Sutra considered by the Nichiren sect to be the king of all Buddhist sutras, but found it disappointing, saying "it consisted of nothing more than simple tales about cause and effect".
At the age of nineteen, he came across in his studies the story of Zen master Quanho who had been brutally murdered by bandits. Hakuin despaired over this story, as it showed that even a great monk could not be saved from a bloody death in this life. He figured he was screwed regarding evading hell. He gave up his goal of becoming an enlightened monk, and not wanting to return home in shame, traveled around studying literature and poetry- which frankly sounds like a good way to pass your life before going to hell. While studying with the poet-monk Bao, he saw a number of books piled out in the temple courtyard, books from every school of Buddhism. Struck by the sight of all these volumes of literature, reached out and took a book; it was a collection of Zen stories . Inspired by this, he repented and dedicated himself to the practice of Zen.
He again went traveling for two years, settling down at the Eigan-ji temple. It was here that Hakuin had his first experience of enlightenment. He locked himself away in a shrine in the temple for seven days, and eventually reached what he believed to be an intense awakening upon hearing the ringing of the temple bell.He came to conclusion that there is no cyle of rebirth However, his master refused to acknowledge this enlightenment, and Hakuin left the temple in a snit.
After leaving Eigan-ji, Hakuin met and studied with the teacher who would be most influential on his spiritual practice, Shoju- an intensely demanding teacher, who hurled insults and blows at Hakuin, in an attempt to get him to reach satori. After several more experiences of enlightenment, Hakuin left Shoju after eight months of study. Though he never saw Shoju again, and the master would die thirteen years later, Hakuin would continue to think of Shoju as his primary master.
After another several years of travel, at age 31 Hakuin returned to Shoin-ji, the temple where he had been ordained. in which he would serve as abbott for the next half-century. It was around this time that he adopted the name "Hakuin", which means "concealed in white", referring to the location of Shoin-ji temple.
At age 41, he experienced a final and total experience of enlightenment, while reading the Lotus Sutra- the same sutra that bounced him from Zen originally. He wrote of this experience, saying "suddenly I penetrated to the perfect, true, ultimate meaning of the Lotus".
He would spend the next forty years teaching at Shoin-ji, writing, and giving lectures. At first there were only a few monks there, but soon word spread, and Zen students began to come from all over the country to study with Hakuin. Eventually, an entire community of monks had built up in Hara and the surrounding areas, and Hakuin's students numbered in the hundreds. He eventually would certify over eighty disciples as successors. At the age of 83, Hakuin died in Hara, the same village in which he was born and which he had transformed into a center of Zen teaching.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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