by the Author
People in the West who take up the study of Zen Buddhism enthusiastically often discover, after the initial fascination has worn off, that the consecutive steps required for its serious pursuit turn out to be disappointing and fruitless. Wonderful indeed is the experience of Enlightenment; but the crucial question is, how can one get into it? The problem of catching this tantalizing "Zen witch" remains unsolved for most of the Zen enthusiasts in the West.
This is because Zen studies in the West are still in their beginnings, and its students are still lingering in that shadowy region between "being interested in" and "understanding" Zen. Most of them have not yet come to a point of maturity in their studies at which they can actually practice Zen, realize it, and make it their own innermost possession.
Since Zen is not, in its essence and on its higher levels, a philosophy, but a direct experience that one must enter into with his whole being, the primary aim should be at the attainment and realization of the Zen experience. To realize this supreme experience, known as the "Wu insight" or "Enlightenment," one needs either to rely completely on an accomplished Zen Master, or to struggle on alone through study and actual practice.
In the hope of furthering an understanding of Zen and making things easier for those who have been searching for practical instruction, I selected, translated, and presented herein a number of short autobiographies and discourses of the great Zen Masters, from both ancient and modern sources, which, although very popular in the East, are generally unknown in the West. From the contents of these documents one may obtain a picture of the lives and works of the Zen Masters, thus getting a clearer idea of how Zen work is actually done. For none is better qualified than these accomplished Masters to deal with the subject of practical Zen. To follow their example and instruction is, therefore, the best and safest way to practice it. It is for this reason that the discourses of the four celebrated Chinese Zen Masters, Hsu Yun, Tsung Kao, Po Shan, and Han Shan, are introduced.
In addition to my own suggestions and comments on Zen practice, which may be found in the beginning of the second chapter, a survey of the essential aspects of Zen Buddhism is also given at the outset of this book. It is hoped that, after reading the first chapter, the reader may gain a further insight into Zen Buddhism, and thus be able to pursue his studies with greater ease than before. The newcomer to Buddhism, however, may meet with some difficulties. Although as a whole this book is of an introductory nature, it is perhaps more specific on certain problems and in certain fields of Zen study than some other books of its kind available at present in the English language.
Chapter III, "The Four Problems of Zen Buddhism," was originally an essay on "The Nature of Ch'an Buddhism" appearing in the January, 1957, issue of Philosophy East and West, published by the University of Hawaii. With some minor changes, it has now been incorporated into this book. I believe that the four problems discussed therein are of great importance for Zen studies.
Chapter IV, "Buddha and Meditation," was originally in the form of a lecture, given in a seminar at Columbia University in 1954, at the invitation of Dr. Jean Mahler. It gives some basic teachings of Buddhism and some essential principles underlying Buddhist meditation practice which perhaps have not yet been fully introduced to the West.
As many Zen phrases and expressions are extremely difficult if not impossible to translate, even being considered by some scholars as utterly untranslatable, I have had to resort, in a few instances, to free translation. Some of the Japanese terms such as "koan" for Kung-an, "Satori" for Wu, "Zen" for Ch'an etc., have now become established and are widely used in the West, and they are also employed in this book, concurrently with the original Chinese terms. The romanization of the Chinese characters used is based upon the Wade-Giles system. All the diacritical marks in romanized Chinese and Sanskrit words used in the text have been left out, since they would only be confusing to the general reader and are unnecessary for Chinese and Sanskrit scholars, who will at once recognize the original Chinese characters and Devanagiri script.
I wish to express my deep gratitude to Mr. George Currier, Miss Gwendolyn Winsor, Mrs. Dorothy Do-nath, and to my wife, Hsiang Hsiang, all of whom have rendered great assistance in helping me with my English, in preparing, editing, and typing the manuscript, and in making valuable suggestions and comments on the work. I also wish to thank my old friend, Mr. P. J. Gruber, for his constant assistance and encouragement.
As a refugee from China, I wish also to thank all of my American friends, and both the Bollingen Foundation and the Oriental Study Foundation, for their generous assistance in providing me with the opportunity to continue my work and study in the field of Buddhism here in the United States. To them all I am grateful beyond measure.
NEW YORK CITY MARCH, 1959