Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts

Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts

Shohaku Okumura

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1614290105

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This immensely useful book explores Zen's rich tradition of chanted liturgy and the powerful ways that such chants support meditation, expressing and helping us truly uphold our heartfelt vows to live a life of freedom and compassion. Exploring eight of Zen's most essential and universal liturgical texts, Living by Vow is a handbook to walking the Zen path, and Shohaku Okumura guides us like an old friend, speaking clearly and directly of the personal meaning and implications of these chants, generously using his experiences to illustrate their practical significance. A scholar of Buddhist literature, he masterfully uncovers the subtle, intricate web of culture and history that permeate these great texts. Esoteric or challenging terms take on vivid, personal meaning, and old familiar phrases gain new poetic resonance.

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truth is not hidden but always here, always manifested. The goal of our practice is not to experience something different from our day-to-day lives. It is to see deep into the reality of each being, including this one. This is really wondrous and difficult to grasp. To appreciate this is to meet with the Dharma. When we really see, listen to, accept, and maintain that Dharma, we can’t help but vow to understand it more deeply. That’s the meaning of the last line of this verse, “I vow to

Sūtra; Jap., Myōhō-renge- kyō): One of the most important sutras in Mahāyāna Buddhism, especially popular in China and Japan. The Tientai (Tendai) and Nichiren schools are based on its teachings. Since Dōgen was originally ordained and trained in the Tendai tradition before Acquired at wisdompubs.org 284 y living by vow starting to practice Zen, he valued the Lotus Sutra as the king of all sutras. Lumbinī Park: One of the four sacred places in Indian Buddhism. Shakyamuni Buddha was

take a small piece and offer it to all beings. The original Japanese expression for “O spirits” is jiten ki jin shū. This means “many demons and gods.” Ji is “you,” and ki jin is Japanese or Chinese for unseen beings such as demons and gods. A ki is a demon and a jin is a god. This phrase refers to two kinds of unseen beings, some harmful and some beneficial. Shū means “group” or “assembly.” These unseen beings have vanished from our modern society. Per- haps they live only for a day on

scripture abounds with stories, legends, and myths that mention food offerings to unseen beings. Three are especially well known. The first is about a demon king’s wife named Hārītī (Kishi- mojin in Japanese, which means “mother of demons”). According to the scripture she had ten thousand offspring, whom she fed with human children. The Buddha saw what Hārītī was doing, so he hid her young- est child in the ōryōki. Hārītī was very upset, and she searched all over the world but couldn’t

Chinese Zen master Tianhuang Daowu (Ten’nō Dōgo, 748–807) and his dharma heir, Longtan Chongxin (Ryūtan Sōshin, ninth century). Before he became a monk, Chongxin was a cake seller. Every day he offered ten cakes to the master. Each time, the master returned one cake to him saying, “I offer this to you. This is for the sake of your descendants.” One day Chongxin asked the master, “I brought these cakes to offer to you. Why do you return one Acquired at wisdompubs.org continuous circle

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