Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zen Master Ta Hui

Busy as I am these days studying and completing assignments for the Five Mountain Seminary (a great program, by the way), I managed to slip a great read in there--Ta Hui's Swampland Flowers, translated by J.C. Cleary.

Ta Hui, in addition to being Yuan Wu's student--Yuan Wu compiled the seminal The Blue Cliff Record--is one the greatest ancestors in the Korean Zen lineage, and thus the Five Mountain Sangha's as well. Last night I learned that Chinul, legendary Korean Son master and founder of the Chogye order, was reading The Record of Ta Hui when he had his final great Awakening. This helps explain why the hwadu technique is so popular in Korea; Ta Hui implore us to stop attaching to words and sutras and find our true self, by asking the hwadu, "Who is reading this?"

His words are like razors, cutting through delusion and dualism. My favorite quote, reminiscent of Dogen's is, "Once you have the intent to investigate this Path to the end, you must settle your resolve and vow to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back so long as you have not yet reached the Great Rest, the Great Surcease, the Great Liberation." It's a great passage to hang above a Zen center door.

Even if you think that you aren't familiar with Ta Hui's legacy, you are. He wrote a book called Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. Sound familiar? It should. Two generations after Ta Hui, Dogen borrowed the title for his magnum opus, Shobogenzo.

Swampland Flowers is an incredible collection of Ta Hui's lectures and letters, many of which were written specifically for lay practitioners. Even thought the book was written in the 12th century, it felt like Ta Hui was speaking directly to me; that's how relevant his writing is. You can't ask for anything better than that!

If you're interested in the works from the Chinese Ancestors, by all means pick up Swampland Flowers. Ta Hui is one of the Greats.

Thank you Rev. Lynch for sharing your knowledge of Ta Hui and Chinul with me.

1 comment: