Category Archives: Tao Te Ching, Zen, I Ching

The Paths to Heaven and Hell

The Paths to Heaven and Hell




A soldier named Nobushige, clad in tattered gear and sporting weaponry worse for wear, brazenly forced his way to see Hakuin, and finding him reposed in contemplation with an ancient book loudly and intrusively demanded: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”

“Who are you?” Without looking up, Hakuin voiced his inquiry.



“I am a samurai,” the warrior sticking his chest out proudly, responded.

“You, a samurai!”   Hakuin half looking up grunted. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard?” Hakuin shook his head. “You resemble more a beggar.”




Once a proud warrior, Nobushige was highly incensed and so started to draw his sword, but Hakuin impassively simply added: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”

The outraged Nobushige now brandishing his sword, poised to strike Hakuin.




Still composed, Hakuin simply remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”

At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed, somewhat ashamed.

“Here open the gates of paradise,” Hakuin uttered, with a calm voice and an almost imperceptible smile.







The Distinguished Man

The Distinguished Man


Tzu Chung asked: What must a man do in order to be considered, distinguished?

The Master said: What do you mean by the term, distinguished?


Tzu Chung replied: I mean one whose fame fills both his own private circle and the state at large.


The master said: That is notoriety, not distinction. The man of true distinction is simple, honest, and a lover of justice and duty. He weighs men’s words and observes the expression of their faces. He is anxious to put himself below others. Such a one is truly distinguished in his private and his public life.

As to the man who is merely much talked about, he puts on an appearance of charity and benevolence, but his actions belie it. He is self-satisfied and has no misgivings. Neither in private nor in public life does he achieve more than notoriety.



Spring Flowers and Ancient Wisdom

Spring Flowers and Ancient Wisdom

1-Blooms in Spring 2018 (4)

Ah, long at last the spring has arrived and along with it, our spirits soar to the sky amidst the colourful embrace of the blossoms.

2-Blooms in Spring 2018 (22)

Much like the blossoms, age old wisdom and their colourful reference always fresh, always true keeps us advancing on the right path towards an honourable and fulfilling life.   

3-Blooms in Spring 2018 (19)

Here are some pearls of wisdom put in writing by illustrious T’ang Dynasty Zen master named Zengetsu for his pupils:

04-Blooms in Spring 2018 (10)

 Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.

5-Blooms in Spring 2018 (25)

When witnessing the good action of another: encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.

6-Blooms in Spring 2018 (21)

Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.

7-Blooms in Spring 2018 (8)

Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.

8-Blooms in Spring 2018 (16)

A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.

9-Blooms in Spring 2018 (5)

Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.

10-Blooms in Spring 2018 (3)

 Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.

11-Blooms in Spring 2018 (13)

A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.

12-Blooms in Spring 2018 (26)

To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.

13-Blooms in Spring 2018 (6)

Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right and wrong.

14-Blooms in Spring 2018 (20)

Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.

15-Blooms in Spring 2018 (1)

Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.

16-Blooms in Spring 2018 (14)

Blooms in the garden… Enjoy!


The End


Reflections in Water 2

Reflections in Water 2


 Buddhist  Words- Art of Dharma

Mind at Peace

“When the mind is at peace,

the world too is at peace.



Nothing real, nothing absent.


Not holding on to reality,


not getting stuck in the void,


you are neither holy or wise, just

an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.”

(By P’ang Yün-The Enlightened Heart 34)



“Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world:

A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;


A flash of lightning in a summer cloud;

A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.”

(-Buddha, Diamond Sutra)

“Without insight, meditation cannot contain the highest state of quietude.



Without meditation, wisdom cannot achieve its profundity of insight.”




The Invisible Sutras

The Invisible Sutras

Invisible Sutras (1)

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were only available in Chinese. The books were to be printed on wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Invisible Sutras (2)

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

Invisible Sutras (3)

It happened that at that time the Uji Rive overflowed. A terrible famine was the consequence. Tetsugen took all of the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save many from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Invisible Sutras (4)

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was finally fulfilled.

Invisible Sutras (5)

 The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

Invisible Sutras (6)

Zen Koan

Stingy in Teaching

Stingy in Teaching


A sensitive young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda one day met a college friend of his who had been studying Zen. After the preliminary greetings and felicitations the two were seated at the side of the road under a tree, conversing further. The young doctor abruptly stopped speaking, with concern written all over his face, turned to face his friend then asked what Zen was.

“I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is for certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.”


“That’s fine,” said Kusuda relieved of his friends perceptiveness. “It’s exactly what I need to learn, can you recommend a good teacher that would impart this knowledge to me in the briefest time possible?”

His friend shook his head with an appeasing smile, “You are always in such a rush, but some things cannot be hastened.” Then after a second thought, he added, “Go seek out master Nan-in, he may be of some help.”


The very next day, as soon as he concluded his physician’s responsibilities, Kusuda went to call on Master Nan-in. Not entirely convinced however, he carried a dagger nine and a half inches long on his person to determine whether the teacher was truly unafraid of death.


 Nan-in received Kusuda kindly and, when latter bowed with his hidden hand grasping the dagger with intent, the master observing the cold sweat on Kusuda’s forehead, he simply smiled and said: “Hello, friend. How are you? We haven’t seen each other for a long time!”

This perplexed Kusuda, who responded somewhat aghast: “But sir, we have never met before.”

“That’s right,” answered Nan-in pinning his eyes to Kusuda. “Ha, I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here.”

With such a beginning, Kusuda had lost the momentum and his nerve to test Nan-in, so he reluctantly asked instead, if he might receive Zen instruction from the master.

Nan-in then instructed him: “Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen.”


Kusuda visited Nan-in three times after that. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. “A physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients.”


It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit unable to constrain his displeasure, he complained: “My friend has told me that when one practices Zen one loses his fear of death. That’s the reason I sought Zen.  I don’t mean to be disrespectful sir, but each time I’ve come here you’ve dismissed me with perfunctory words to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore.”


Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor’s back. “I have been too strict with you son. Let me give you a koan.” He presented Kusuda with Joshu’s Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.


Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher again commented: “You are not in yet.”

Kusuda continued with his studies and practiced concentrating for another year and a half, during which time his mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.

Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.



Joshu’s Dog

A monk once asked Joshu, “Has a dog the Buddha-nature?” Joshu answered, “Mu!” (Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning `No-thing’ or `Nay’.)



Appreciating Chrysanthemums

Appreciating Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums  (1)

Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road

Chrysanthemums  (2)

Once there was a famed teacher named Gudo who tutored the Japanese Emperor. From time to time Gudo would travel the country alone as a wandering mendicant.

Chrysanthemums  (3)

It was near dusk on his way back to Edo, the cultural and political center of the Shogunate, when he approached a little village named Takenaka. A heavy rain had been falling without let up and Gudo, soaked to the skin, cast his eyes on his tattered straw sandals. He then looked about and saw a farmhouse just outside the village. To his delight he noticed that there were four or five pairs of newly made sandals arrayed on the windowsill and decided at once to buy himself a new pair.

Chrysanthemums  (4)

The woman who made the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him in to remain for the night in her home. Gudo accepted graciously and thanking her.

Chrysanthemums  (5)

He entered and recited a sutra before the family shrine. He was then introduced to the women’s mother, and to her children. Observing that the entire family was forlorn, Gudo asked what was wrong.

“My husband is a gambler and a drunkard,” the housewife told him. “When he happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he loses he borrows money from others. Sometimes when he becomes thoroughly drunk he does not come home at all. What can I do?”

Chrysanthemums  (6)

“I will help him,” said Gudo. “Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the shrine.”

Chrysanthemums  (7)

When the man of the house returned quite drunk about midnight, quite drunk, he bellowed: “Hey, wife, I am home. Have you something for me to eat?”

Chrysanthemums  (8)

“I have something for you,” said Gudo. “I happened to be caught in the rain and your wife kindly asked me to remain here for the night. In return I have bought some wine and fish, so you might as well have them.”

Chrysanthemums  (9)

The man was delighted. He wolfed down the fish and drank all the wine then lay down on the sleeping mat. Gudo sat in meditation beside him.

Chrysanthemums  (10)

In the morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night. “Who are you? Where do you come from?” he asked Gudo, who was still meditating.

Chrysanthemums  (11)

“I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going on to Edo,” replied the Zen master.

The man was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his emperor.

Chrysanthemums  (12)

Gudo smiled. “Everything in this life is impermanent,” he explained. “Life is very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking, you will have no time left to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer too.”

Chrysanthemums  (13)

Gudo’s words brought the husband to his senses as if awakened from a dream. “You are right,” he declared. “How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching? Let me see you off and carry your things a little way.”

“If you wish,” assented Gudo.

Chrysanthemums  (14)

The two started out. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return. “Just another five miles,” he begged Gudo. They continued on.

Chrysanthemums  (15)

“You may return now,” suggested Gudo.

“After another ten miles,” the man replied.

Chrysanthemums  (16)

“Return now,” said Gudo, when the ten miles had been passed.

“I am going to follow you all the rest of my life,” declared the man.

Chrysanthemums  (17)

Modern Zen teachings in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never turned back.

Here’s some information about Chrysanthemums:

As early as 15th Century B.C., chrysanthemums have been cultivated in China; though at the start they were only used as a flowering herb.  The plant is renowned as one of the “Four Gentlemen” in Chinese and East Asian art, the others being the plum blossom, the orchid, and bamboo. 

The chrysanthemum, also a symbol of nobility, is believed to have been favoured by the famous Chinese poet Tao Qian. Chrysanthemums are especially significant during the “Double Ninth Festival”. 

Sometime in the 8th Century, it is believed that the flower may have been brought to Japan and the ruling Emperor of that time, taking a liking to it, adopted the flower as his official seal.  The Chrysanthemum Throne was the name attached to the position of Emperor of Japan.

 The Chrysanthemum Crest is the usual term for a mon of chrysanthemum blossom design, with 150 or more different patterns. The notable pattern of the Imperial Seal of Japan is used by the members of the Japanese Imperial family.   Several state-owned shrines in Japan, most notably Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, have also adopted the Chrysanthemum Crest. 

The Supreme “Order of the Chrysanthemum” is a Japanese honour awarded by the Emperor.  In Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum as they were deemed the personal property of the Emperor. 

Meanwhile to the delight of citizens and visitors alike, on every autumn, within the city of Nihonmatsu, in the historical ruins of Nihonmatsu Castle, Japan has been hosting the famed “Nihonmatsu Chrysanthemum Dolls Exhibition”.  In the well known “Festival of Happiness” Japan continues to celebrate this flower.  Imagine; so many honours being heaped on a particular genus of flower.

As much as Chrysanthemums are admired, the white chrysanthemum is also considered to be the representation of lamentation and or grief in China, Japan and Korea.

In 17th Century chrysanthemum was introduced to Europe.  In some countries chrysanthemums represents honesty but, sadly, the chrysanthemum in Europe (as in Spain, Italy, France, Poland, Hungary and Croatia) is mostly considered to be the symbol of death and so is only used for funerals or on graves. 

In Australia and the United States (with the exception of New Orleans which adopted the French traditions) chrysanthemum is generally regarded as a cheerful, positive thing.  For a while now in Australia chrysanthemums have enjoyed the privilege of being the choice of flower given to mothers on “Mother’s day”, perhaps because it is in bloom during their autumn season.

The End.