Lesson
32

Hakuin

6 of 11

Hakuin, Dogen and Soto Zen

Hakuin was a fierce critic of Soto Zen: "They practice silent, dead sitting as though they were incense burners in some old tomb and take this to be the true practice of the great patriarchs." Like Dahui before him Hakuin saw "silent illumination" as flawed fixation upon emptiness.

. . . a one-side view [that} there is no birth, no death, no nirvana, no passions, no enlightenment. All the scriptures are but paper fit only to wipe off excrement, the bodhisattvas and the arhats are but corrupted corpses. Studying Zen under a teacher is an empty-delusion. The koans are but a film that clouds the eye. . . . Every day these people seek a place of peace and quiet; today they end up like dead dogs and tomorrow it will be the same thing. Even if they continue in this way for endless kalpas, they will still be nothing more than dead dogs.

But Hakuin's disdain was not for Dogen or of his teachings but rather, as with Rinzai Zen, what it had become, lacking in vitality. While he disparaged Soto zazen meditation, Hakuin was inspired by the Soto's accessibility to the common people, as exemplified by importance it gave to work in the fields and kitchens. He advocated studying the Jewelled-Mirror Samadhi, "that supreme treasure of the Mahayana," and chastised students who would reject it simply because its authors were of the Soto school:

For the past eight or nine years or more, I have been trying to incite all of you who boil your daily gruel over the same fire with me to study this great matter thoroughly, but more often than not you have taken it to be the doctrine of another house and remained indifferent to it.

Hakuin respected Dogen enough to try to clarify his teachings at a time when Soto teachers ignored them:

Eihei [Dogen] has said, 'The experiencing of the manifold dharmas through using one's self is delusion; the experiencing of one's self through the coming of the manifold dharmas is satori.' This is just what I have been saying. This is the state of 'mind and body discarded, discarded mind and body.' It is like two mirrors mutually reflecting one another without even the shadow of an image between. Mind and the objects of mind are the same thing; things and oneself are not two. A white horse enters the reed flowers . . . snow is piled up in a silver bowl. This is what is known as the Jewelled-Mirror Samadhi.''