Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Bodhidharma Anthology : The Earliest Records of Zen By Jeffrey L. Broughton

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In the early part of this century, the discovery of a walled-up cave in northwest China led to the retrieval of a lost early Ch'an (Zen) literature of the T'ang dynasty (618-907). One of the recovered Zen texts was a seven-piece collection, the Bodhidharma Anthology. Of the numerous texts attributed to Bodhidharma, this anthology is the only one generally believed to contain authentic Bodhidharma material. 

Jeffrey L. Broughton provides a reliable annotated translation of the Bodhidharma Anthology along with a detailed study of its nature, content, and background. His work is especially important for its rendering of the three Records, which contain some of the earliest Zen dialogues and constitute the real beginnings of Zen literature. 

The vivid dialogues and sayings of Master Yuan, a long-forgotten member of the Bodhidharma circle, are the hallmark of the Records. Master Yuan consistently criticizes reliance on the Dharma, on teachers, on meditative practice, and on scripture, all of which lead to self-deception and confusion, he says. According to Master Yuan, if one has spirit and does not seek anything, including the teachings of Buddhism, then one will attain the quietude of liberation. The boldness in Yuan's utterances prefigures much of the full-blown Zen tradition we recognize today. 

Broughton utilizes a Tibetan translation of the Bodhidharma Anthology as an informative gloss on the Chinese original. Placing the anthology within the context of the Tun-huang Zen manuscripts as a whole, he proposes a new approach to the study of Zen, one that concentrates on literary history, a genealogy of texts rather than the usual genealogy of masters.

The Book : On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are By Alan Watts

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Delves into the cause and cure of the illusion that the self is a separate ego. Modernizes and restates the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta and brings out the full force of realizing that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe.

Beat Zen, Square Zen And Zen By Alan Watts

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It is as difficult for Anglo-Saxons as for the Japanese to absorb anything quite so Chinese as Zen. For though the word "Zen" is Japanese and though Japan is now its home, Zen Buddhism is the creation of T'ang dynasty China. I do not say this as a prelude to harping upon the ncommunicable subtleties of alien cultures. The point is simply that people who feel a profound need to justify themselves have difficulty in understanding the viewpoints of those who do not, and the Chinese who created Zen were the same kind of people as Lao-tzu, who, centures before, said, "Those who justify themselves do not convince." 

For the urge to make or prove oneself right has always jiggled the Chinese sense of the ludicrous, since as both Confucians and Taoists-however different these philosophies in other ways-they have invariably appreciated the man who can "come off it." To Confucius it seemed much better to be human-hearted then righteous, and to the great Taoists, Lao-tzu and Chang-tzu, it was obvious that one could not be right without also being wrong, because the two were as inseparable as back and front. 

As Chang-tzu said, "Those who would have good government without its correlative misrule, and right without its correlative wrong, do not understand the principles of the universe." 

To Western ears such words may sound cynical, and the Confucian admiration of "reasonableness" and compromise may appear to be a weak-kneed lack of commitment to principle. Actually they reflect a marvelous understanding and respect for what we call the balance of nature, human and otherwise-a universal vision of life as the Tao or way of nature in which the good and evil, the creature and the destructive, the wise and the foolish are the inseparable polarities of existence. 

"Tao," said the Chung-yung, "is that from which one cannot depart. That from which one can depart is not the Tao." Therefore wisdom did not consist in trying to wrest the good from the evil but learning to "ride" them as a cork adapts itself to the crests and troughs of the waves. 

At the roots of Chinese life there is a trust in the good-and-evil of one's own nature which is pecularly foreign to those brought up with the chronic uneasy conscience of the Hebrew-Christian cultures. Yet it was always obvious to the Chinese that a man who mistrusts himself cannot even trust his mistrust, and must therefore be hopelessly confused.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Zen Teaching of Huang Po : On the Transmission of Mind

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The Mind is neither large nor small; it is located neither within nor without. It should not be thought about by the mind nor be discussed by the mouth. Ordinarily, it is said that we use the Mind to transmit the Mind, or that we use the Mind to seal the Mind. Actually, however, in transmitting the Mind, there is really no Mind to receive or obtain; and in sealing the Mind, there is really no Mind to seal. 

If this is the case, then does the Mind exist or does it not exist? Actually, it cannot be said with certainty that the Mind either exists or does not exist, for it is Absolute Reality. This is expressed in the Ch'an Sect by the maxim: "If you open your mouth, you are wrong. If you give rise to a single thought, you are in error." So, if you can quiet your thinking totally, all that remains is voidness and stillness. 

This complete translation of the original collection of sermons, dialogues, and anecdotes of Huang Po, the illustrious Chinese master of the Tang Dynasty, allows the Western reader to gain an understanding of Zen from the original source, one of the key works in its teachings; it also offers deep and often startling insights into the rich treasures of Eastern thought. 

Nowhere is the use of paradox in Zen illustrated better than in the teaching of Huang Po, who shows how the experience of intuitive knowledge that reveals to a man what he is cannot be communicated by words. With the help of these paradoxes, beautifully and simply presented in this collection, Huang Po could set his disciples on the right path. It is in this fashion that the Zen master leads his listener into truth, often by a single phrase designed to destroy his particular demon of ignorance.

The Ritual Magic Manual : A Complete Course in Practical Magic By David Griffin

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This book is something alot of people have been waiting for. A simple, down to Earth guide on how to utilize the forces of the elements, the planets, the zodical signs, the sephiroth on the tree of life and even the misunderstood "demonic" forces of the qulipoth. 

David Griffin writes in a clear, easy-to-understand manner, that makes this book much better for practical use than most books on the subject. The author starts with basic rituals like the Lesser banishing rituals of the Pentagram and hexagram, the middle pillar exercise and the Rose Cross Ritual, them guides the reader through rituals designed to invoke and banish any force from the elemental level to the sephirotic level. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how Griffin incorporates Enochian into the Planetary and Zodical rites, as well as the new guidelines for Enochian pronounciation. My only gripe with his new tablets is that he only includes versions with English letters, but it should pose no great difficulty for anyone experienced with enochian magick, to reconstruct the tablets using enochian letters. Griffin also touches upon the practical application of the forces summoned, but wisely (IMO) urges the reader to Master the purely theurgical aspects of the rites before putting them to practical use. 

Finally he touches upon the art of Demonic Evocation and shows how this is a valid theurgical practice, as well as a valuable psycotheraputic tool.
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