Ch’ang -lu Tsung-tse’s “Zazen Manual”

Discussion of Zen history (including, but not limited to, Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen)

Moderator: Spiritual Do-gooder

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 526
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Zazen Manual

Post by jundocohen » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:37 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:26 pm
The work below is attributed to Ch’ang -lu Tsung-tse, a monk in the Chan (Zen) and Pure Land traditions in 11th century China. Carl Bielefeldt’s Dôgen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation . shows that much of Dôgen’s classic introductions to zazen were based on this earlier work.
If I may offer a footnote, Prof. Bielefeldt's book actually discusses how Dogen did not follow most of that manual apart from the sections on posture and general sitting mechanics.

Bielefeldt notes in his book, "After mentioning his Karoku zazen gi, Dogen goes on to criticize the under-standing of meditation found in the Tso-ch'an i of Tsung-tse's Ch'an-yüan ch'ing-kuei, the inadequacies of which he felt made it necessary for him to compose his own meditation manual. Tsung-tse's work and Dogen's doubts about it will be discussed in detail in subsequent chapters;" (Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation p 19).

Of course, that was just Dogen's personal view from from his practice perspective. It does not mean that it is not a wondrous way for those who find value there. Dogen followed almost word for word (I guess they did not have plagiarism laws back then) in the Fukanzazengi and elsewhere regarding the posture and mechanics of sitting sections (some important changes there too), but greatly deviated from the "Tso-chan-i" in the sections on the mind and the significance of Zazen, where Dogen introduced his own special twist on things, which is also fascinating.

To offer one small example, the Tso-chan-i begins with the words
"The bodhisattva who studies prajñā should first arouse the thought of great compassion, make the extensive vows, and vigorously cultivate samadhi. Vowing to save sentient beings, you should not seek liberation for yourself alone"
which Dogen replaced with his famous ...
"The way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion."
Much of the middle on sitting mechanics is word for word identical, but at the end the Tso-chan-i has:
"Even if one devotes oneself to the practice one’s entire life, one may still not be in time; how then could one who procrastinates possibly overcome karma? Therefore, an ancient has said, “Without the power of samādhi, you will meekly cower at death’s door.” Shutting your eyes, you will return [to the earth] in vain; just as you are, you will drift [in samsara].
Dogen did not include that, and instead has ...
"Why leave behind the seat in your own home to wander in vain through the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep, you stumble past what is directly in front of you.You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not pass your days and nights in vain. You are taking care of the essential activity of the buddha-way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from a flintstone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, the fortunes of life like a dart of lightning --emptied in an instant, vanished in a flash."
Sorry for the historical footnote. :namaste:

Gassho, Jundo
Last edited by jundocohen on Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen

Posts: 305
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:02 pm
Location: Lilburn, GA, USA

Re: Zazen Manual

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:12 am

jundocohen wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:37 pm
If I may offer a footnote, Prof. Bielefeldt's book actually discusses how Dogen did not follow most of that manual apart from the sections on posture and general sitting mechanics....
“To base on” does not mean to follow or even to accept. It may include rejecting or correcting or adding. So we say that Marx is based on Hegel, although he rejects, transforms, adds to, and uses only parts of Hegel. However, it can be interpreted to read that way, especially if one is reading quickly. To be even clearer, I probably should have said that Professor Bielefeldt noted that Dogen was very familiar with the work and his writings respond to it in the context of Buddhist meditation manual literature. I will edit that line out to be clearer. Thanks Jundo for the “pointing out!”

However, this zazen manual is a short, practical introduction to zazen, which I assume is why it is still used. It is useful for those who wish to practice zazen, I hope, especially here in the beginner’s section (and I have been a beginner for along time). It explains what the posture is, “sitting mechanics,” and points towards the classic texts used for psychological problems that can be associated with long-time meditators.

Post Reply