Daily Zen Library

1997

Five Houses of Zen

Translated by Thomas Cleary Thomas Cleary

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For all its emphasis on the direct experience on insight without reliance on the products of the intellect, the Zen tradition has created a huge body of writings. Of this cast literature, the writings associated with the so-called Five Houses of Zen are widely considered to be preeminent. These Five Houses-which arose in China during the ninth and tenth centuries, often referred to as the Golden Age of Zen-were not schools or sects but styles of Zen teaching represented by some of the most outstanding masters in Zen history.

The writing of these great Zen teachers are presented here, many translated for the first time. These include: The sayings of Pai-chang, famous for his Zen dictum "A day without work, a day without food" Selections from Kuei-shan's collection of Zen admonitions, considered essential reading by numerous Buddhist teachers. Sun-chi's unique discussion of the inner meaning of the circular symbol in Zen teaching. Sayings of Huang-po from The Essential Method of Transmission of Mind. Excerpts from The Record of Lin-chi, a great classical text of Zen literature. Ts'ao-shan's presentation of the famous teaching device known as the Five Ranks. Selections of poetry from the Cascade Collection by Hsueh-tou, renowned for his poetic commentaries on the classic Blue Cliff Record. Yung-ming's teachings on how to balance the two basic aspects of meditation: concentration and insight.

Related Journal Entries

Essentials of Mind

Part 1 Yuan wu (1063-1135) When the founder of Zen came to China from India, he did not set up written or spoken formulations; he only pointed directly to the human mind. Direct pointing... View Journal Entry »

The Cooperation of Concentration and Insight

Yung-ming (905-976) In Zen and the Teachings there are two methods, most honored of the myriad practices of ten perfections. At first they are called stopping and seeing, to help new... View Journal Entry »

Essentials of Mind 1

Yuanwu (1063-1135) When the founder of Zen came to China from India, he did not set up written or spoken formulations; he only pointed directly to the human mind. Direct pointing just refers... View Journal Entry »

The Ultimate Way

Yuan-wu (1063-1135) The ultimate Way is simple and easy, yet profoundly deep. From the beginning it does not set up steps. Penetrate directly through to freedom and make it so that there is... View Journal Entry »

Sayings of Lin-chi - Part I

Lin-chi (d. 867) People who study Buddhism in the present day should for now seek truly accurate vision and understanding. Then life and death will not influence you, and you will be free to... View Journal Entry »

Sayings of Lin-chi - Part II

The buddhas and Zen masters of all times and places have emerged only on account of a search for truth. Present day seekers are also in search for truth. Only when you attain truth will you be... View Journal Entry »