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Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorns

Product no.: 978-1619025547
Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (1686-1769) was one of the greatest Zen masters to ever live.

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Publisher's Synopsis
Originator of the famous koan “What is the sound of a single hand?” he is credited with reviving the Rinzai sect of Zen in Japan, and today all masters of that sect trace their lineage back to him. Through his numerous descendants, his influence is now felt worldwide, with his Song of Zazen chanted daily in temples around the globe.

Norman Waddell has spent decades reading and translating Hakuin's vast writings. He has published several previous selections, all leading to his work on this monumental gathering, the Keiso Dokuzui, little known in Japan and never before translated into any foreign language. Interpreting such a text requires immersion in the material in its original language, as well as complete mastery of the available commentary. Probably no one alive is as fully prepared for this important and difficult task as Dr. Waddell.

For this collection, Hakuin gathered together an enormous number and variety of pieces—commentaries, memorials, poems, koans, teisho (lectures), letters, and more. Having presented many of them live to the throng of students residing in and around his temple as well as to other audiences around the country.

"An authoritative volume translated from Japanese by Norman Waddell: an essential set of texts from the great master Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1769). Hakuin's tireless teaching and writing reinvigorated the ancient Rinzai line of Zen from China which is now a world wide force. This book serves to illuminate his dry, edgy, practical and often funny way of teaching Zen in the contemporary world."        ~Gary Snyder

"These talks compress an enormous range of Mahayana sources, which Waddell skillfully unpacks, but their style is never pedantic. Rather, they are classic enactments of Zen pedagogy. Like koans, they prod Hakuin’s listeners out of their small, discursive minds and into a wordless samadhi that has the potential to make the here and now the center of the universe."      ~Tricycle Magazine

" some future date a monk will come along, so bold and shameless he won’t even acknowledge his own teacher. He will grab one of those koans, the kind that resembles a stick of flaming hot steel or a deadly poisonous chestnut burr, and thrust it under this fellow’s nose, demanding, 'What is the principle of this?!' It will be like a dauntless warrior rushing headlong at him flourishing an enormous sword over his head, intent on cleaving his head in two. At that moment, not a word or phrase will issue from his lips. He won’t be able to grunt even a simple sound like 'gu.' There is nowhere he can escape. The slightest hesitation means certain death. This is something he can’t swallow down and can’t spit out either. He won’t have the strength to muster any anger or summon up any tears. He’ll just stand there with glazed and goggling eyes, his mouth turned down in a frown. There won’t be even a spark of life. He won’t be able to raise his head.

All that talk, all the big sermons he’d been making to people in the hinterlands won’t do him a bit of good now. He’ll be like a sick horse under a heavy load stumbling down an endless road on a scorching day—his whole body will be bathed in heavy, shame-induced sweat. Can someone like that be called a descendent of the Zen patriarchs? Later on, when he is charged with training a group of monks, heroes who have come to him from all over the land, how can he possibly deal with them and provide the guidance they need?

The reason he finds himself in this predicament is simply because he has mistaken the unmoving stillness of the storehouse consciousness for his original face. If he had genuinely clarified the heart and mind of the Buddha-patriarchs, how could he fear the old koans that transmit their sayings and doings? In the past, a Zen teacher of the true stripe did not trouble students with the ramifications of Buddhist doctrine or with the study of words and phrases. He just gave them a short and venomous koan and had them bore steadily into it. If a student commits himself to authentic Zen practice, throwing his entire being into a koan with single-minded focus that does not allow previous notions, views, or emotions to intrude, and he keeps boring into it—gnawing from the top, gnawing from the bottom, and from the sides—he will reach a point when words and logic are totally exhausted.

All at once, everything will suddenly fall away and he will then have 'words and letters' truly in his grasp. Strutting through the world with the complete and utter freedom of the lion king, whenever he encounters someone he responds with the speed and force of lightning. This is a level of attainment those idle, disembodied spirits [of silent illumination Zen], lying open-eyed like zombies in their coffins, could not even glimpse in their dreams."

Norman Waddell is Emeritus Professor of Otani University in Kyoto and has translated Dogen, Baisao, Bankei and even D.T. Suzuki. He has spent many years working on the vast corpus left by Hakuin.

Author Hakuin, Ekaku
Commentary Waddell, Norman
Translator Waddell, Norman
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 608 pp.
Publisher Counterpoint Press 2015
Browse these categories as well: Hakuin Ekaku and the Rinzai School, Koans, Poems and Sutras, Eastern Buddhism and Zen Masters, Noteworthy Releases 2015

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