Teisho on Hakuin Zenji´s Song of Zazen #1

Introduction to Hakuin Zenji

The world wide ODZ Sangha is doing zazen daily to deepen their mind. Yet even while we want to sit together, this is not possible right now.
Thus I would like to support everyone´s zazen, since we just had to cancel the June sesshin in Hokuozan, Taikan ShoE will be translating the teishos I am sending.
As you all know well, Hakuin Zenji is a person of great respect not only among the Zen world. He was born on the 25th of December 1685 close to the foot of Fuji Mountain. When Hakuin was five years old, by seeing the clouds form over the ocean he was deeply struck by the impression that this world as it appears to be cannot be trusted. He would constantly look for that which does not change and which he could find trust in. He was taken along by his parents to list to Dharma talks and memorizing important parts. When he recalled the words by heart, his parents were amazed. Already from young age he showed signs of a genius, being of high intelligence.

When he was eleven years of age he heard about the cruelty of hell and he asked his parents for a way that he would be able to escape hell. His parents were puzzled. Finally at the age of 15 he received his parents approval to become ordained where he received the name Egaku. He was searching for eternal life, continuing his training deeply.
At age 19 he went on a pilgrimage. His character being fiery, when reading the old texts, doubts arose and he became disappointed. What was the source of this? Luckily he found the story: “Jimyo sat awake through the night, saying to himself: With strenuous efforts of the ancients always resulted in great illumination. What of me? Useless while alive, quickly forgotten when dead. Of what benefit have I been to the Dharma?”

People who have experience in a zendo know that these words are being read at the beginning ceremony of each new training period. When Hakuin read this story he was deeply looking within how could he become a person who will be remembered by others. And again the fire for training rose up within strongly, and he was deeply inspired that this is how he will continue. He threw all away and vowed that he will make this become true.

From that time on he continued his training, daily shaving away his bones, going as far as forgetting to eat and sleep, intense training was all there was. He received the reward of the old master Dokyo Etan Zenji, having passed through the depth of truth, who gave him the inka transmission of the true seeing eye in the line of the Buddha. This was at age 24.
He started on the path at age 19 and it took him only 5 years to realize it. This was not the end of his training of course. He continued on the path, letting his mind ripen further, extending his expression to society as well. At age 30 he became the abbot of the poor temple Shoinji. From then on he expanded his working, from calligraphy to drawings, using all expressions possible to teach the Dharma. He would have hundreds of students, even nowadays the reverberation of his teaching can still be felt, being well known around the whole world.

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