Sunday, September 29, 2013

Zongmi Ch'an

In this Dharma talk, I express my admiration for one of, in my opinion, the most important, yet least well known, Chan Masters in history. Guifeng Zongmi was the fifth patriarch in both the Heze school of Ch'an and the famous Huayen school of scholastic Chinese Buddhism. A fierce advocate of Buddha nature as the core of Buddhist practice, Zongmi is a continuous inspiration to me, and has had a huge impact on the direction of the Original Mind Zen Sangha where I teach. Many bows to the great Master, Guifeng Zongmi.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.


  1. I'm looking forward to hearing this. I agree that Zongmi is "the most important, yet least well known" of the Tang dynasty Zen Masters. It was Zongmi who gets the credit with establishing Zen as a Chinese Buddhist school equal to the Tiantai and Huayen in the minds of the population by showing how all the lineages stemming from Bodhidharma shared the Zen perspective even if they differed in outward trappings.

  2. Excellent talk. People should know more about Guifeng Zongmi. He's my "favorite" Zen master too! Zongmi's Zen is Ekayana or One Vehicle Zen. I'm working on an outline of the Ekayana inspired by Zongmi and the first four of the 12 bullet points are also restatements of the Four Noble Truths much like you have said in this talk.

    (1) All beings are fully endowed with the Tatagata’s wisdom-knowledge (tathagatajnana, wise-knowing), also called Buddha knowledge (buddhajnana) or Noble wisdom (aryajnana), and the original enlightenment of the true mind. [This is the Third Noble Truth.]

    (2) Ignorance: It is the erroneous views of antithetical conceptions (vikalpa) and the resulting attachments that obscure and obstruct beings from seeing and realizing this true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing, and as these views become firm, like water turning to ice or wet cement drying like concrete, they form the fixed foundation of our ignorance of our true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing. [This is the Second Noble Truth.]

    (3) Off-centeredness and Afflictions: All the myriad plethora of vexations, afflictions and troubles (klesa) of living beings are constructed on this foundation of fixated ignorance of our true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing, and cumulatively, this condition is called the underlying and permeating feeling of off-centeredness (dukkha) of our own being and is also called our “self.” [This is the First Noble Truth.]

    (4) The One Vehicle: The primary (and functionally sole) purpose of a Buddha appearing in the world is to reveal the nature of the Buddha’s wise-knowing and to lead all beings to their own realization of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing so that all beings may be free from off-centeredness (dukkha) and its concomitant vexations (klesa). Because carrying out this single purpose of showing humans how to be Buddhas is the essential teaching of the all the Tathagatas, it is called the One Vehicle, the Most Supreme Vehicle, and the Buddha Vehicle. [This is the Fourth Noble Truth.]