No method is the method

No method is the best method sometimes.The below excerpt is adapted from FMZO,  Liturgy II. So much noise, so much empty guidance. Only sit in silent illumination.

“The truth becomes active just as one sits calmly and silently penetrates one’s nature.”(宏智録, Hung-chih lu )


The first Chan master to write about what is more or less termed Silent Illumination Chán was the Cáodòng master Hóngzhì Zhēngjué (1091—1157), who wrote on “silent illumination” (默照禪; Chinese: Mòzhào Chán). He lived during the same period as, and was as capable a master as Dàhuì Zōnggăo, the chief advocate of watching the “Huàtóu”. Additionally, the practice of silent illumination is said to be traced back to at least Bodhidharma. The method of Shikantaza which the Zen Master Dogen later brought to Japan was descended from the tradition of Silent Illumination Chán. The poem printed below appears in Chapter 8 of the Extensive Records of Chán Master Hóngzhì Zhēngjué Silent Illumination is actually the most direct method, because Chán is not something that you can use your mind to think about. It is not something that you can use any words or form of language to describe. The method is simply to do away with any method of practice. Use no method as the method itself. The method of counting breath is used when the mind is very scattered, in order to concentrate your mind. The method of kung-an (kōan) is used when your mind is very calm, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any thoughts. You use the kung-an to pressure yourself, to force yourself to answer the question until you don’t have any thought left. The Silent Illumination method is when your mind simply doesn’t have any thoughts. At that moment you just put down everything, and that is the state of Chán itself. Silent does not mean falling asleep. That is why we have to follow the word “silent” with the word “illumination”, that is, your mind is very clear.

There are three phrases to describe the phenomenon of Silent Illumination. The first is bright and open, the second is no scattered thoughts, and the third is not even one thought.

The characteristics of this form of Zen/Chan practice could be summarized as follows:

  • Emphasis of the innate pure self
  • Denial of the feeling of attained enlightenment
  • Emphasis of sitting practice as the activity of the innate Buddha.

That is to say, ‘Silent Illumination Chan’ insisted on ‘one’s original Buddha nature’ and that ‘one’s original pure nature may become active only during one’s sitting practice’. In this view, there is no room to be possessed by enlightened state as a special experience. This view is expressed in Hung-chih’s remark, “The truth becomes active just as one sits calmly and silently penetrates one’s nature.”(宏智録, Hung-chih lu )



About Lightning Heart (Vikara)

Nomad. Poet. Philosopher. Teacher. View all posts by Lightning Heart (Vikara)

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