Zen Sand

Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Zen Sand
    Book Description:

    Zen Sand is a classic collection of verses aimed at aiding practitioners of kôan meditation to negotiate the difficult relationship between insight and language. As such it represents a major contribution to both Western Zen practice and English-language Zen scholarship. In Japan the traditional Rinzai Zen kôan curriculum includes the use of jakugo, or "capping phrases." Once a monk has successfully replied to a kôan, the Zen master orders the search for a classical verse to express the monk’s insight into the kôan. Special collections of these jakugo were compiled as handbooks to aid in that search. Until now, Zen students in the West, lacking this important resource, have been severely limited in carrying out this practice. Zen Sand combines and translates two standard jakugo handbooks and opens the way for incorporating this important tradition fully into Western Zen practice. For the scholar, Zen Sand provides a detailed description of the jakugo practice and its place in the overall kôan curriculum, as well as a brief history of the Zen phrase book. This volume also contributes to the understanding of East Asian culture in a broader sense.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6567-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
    Victor Sōgen Hori
  4. INTRODUCTION: Capping-Phrase Practice in Japanese Rinzai Zen
    (pp. 3-4)

    Rinzan kōan practice, as it is presently conducted in the Rinzai monasteries of Japan, involves an element of literary study. Zen monks all have books. They need them to support their kōan practice, and the further they progress, the more their practice involves the study of texts and the writing of words. The Zen school, however, describes itself as “not founded on words and letters, a separate tradition outside scripture.” Much of traditional Zen literature heaps ridicule on the idea that one can comprehend or express Zen by means of written explanations. Take, for example, the striking metaphor of Rinzai...

  5. 1 The Nature of the Rinzai Kōan Practice
    (pp. 5-15)

    D. t. suzuki’s early works (notably hisEssays in Zen Buddhism Second Series, 1953) and Miura and Sasaki’sZen Dust(1966) were for a very long time the only major resources available in non-Asian languages for research into the Zen kōan. In recent years, however, a rich bounty of material has appeared. At the level of basic texts, in addition to a steady stream of translations of the traditional “recorded sayings” of the Zen masters from which kōan cases were originally derived,¹ numerous kōan collections, some of them newly created in the West, have also been published in translation.² At...

  6. 2 The Steps of Kōan Practice
    (pp. 16-29)

    In this chapter, we will consider the stages involved in kōan practice as well as some of the technical terminology that accompanies it. The aim is to present a general picture of the overall training career of full-time practitioners engaged in the kōan curriculum.

    Although many beginning monks take “passing” the kōan to be the goal of their practice and see meditation as merely the means to that goal, Rinzai teachers caution against this way of thinking. Monks begin and end their daily activities with a period ofzazensitting in thezendõ. From within a period of zazen, monks...

  7. 3 Literary Study in Kōan Practice
    (pp. 30-40)

    Kōan practice does not consist merely of meditation andsanzen. In the widest sense it also embraces all other aspects of monastery activity, including physical work, ritual and ceremonial practices such as the chanting of sutras, and community life. But even in the more restricted sense of direct engagement with the kōan, it also involves literary study. This study begins in a monk’s first year when he is instructed to search forjakugoor “capping phrases” for kōan that have been passed, and it continues through to the end of formal training with advanced exercises such as writing lectures, called...

  8. 4 The Kōan and the Chinese Literary Game
    (pp. 41-61)

    Among buddhist meditation practices, meditation on the Zen kōan is surely one of the more unusual forms. Why did Buddhist meditation practice in Ch’an/Zen take the form of kōan training? And where did the kōan come from? Are there more primitive forms out of which the kōan evolved? This chapter conducts a short investigation into these questions to establish, first, that kōan training has many features in common with other Chinese practices, which on the one hand help explain why kõan language is so baffling, yet on the other hand show more clearly how an experience said to be “not...

  9. 5 The History of Zen Phrase Books
    (pp. 62-90)

    The present volume (Zen Sand) is an entirely new compilation that combines two twentieth-century Zen phrase books, theShinsan zengoshū新纂禮語集 (A New Compilation of the Zen Phrase Collection), edited by Tsuchiya Etsudo 土屋悦堂 under the direction of Unkankutsu Shaku Taibi Rōshi 雲關窟釋大眉老師 (Kichudō 1973), and theKunchū zenrin kushū訓註禮林句集 (Annotated Zen Sangha Verse Collection), edited and revised by Shibayama Zenkei Rōshi 柴山全慶老師 (Kichūdō 1972). These two handbooks, standard possessions of practicing Rinzai monks, are the most recent additions to an ever-evolving line of Zen phrase books.

    Zen phrase books (kushū句集), along with koan collections (kōan-shū公案集), recorded...

  10. 6 Guide to Conventions and Abbreviations
    (pp. 91-98)

    The purpose of this final chapter is to provide the reader with the technical apparatus needed to identify the various conventions and abbreviations used in the course of this book.

    Zen Sand(ZS) combines the entire contents of Shibayama Zenkei’sZenrin kushū(Shiba) and Tsuchiya Etsudō’sShinsan zengoshū(ZGS), the two capping-phrase books most frequently used by Rinzai Zen monks.

    In general, ZS follows the same order of phrases as ZGS, namely, the Japanesekanaorder (a-i-u-e-o) based on the first syllable of the Japanese reading. This can be seen from the consecutive progression of ZGS numbers in the reference...

  11. Phrases
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 637-730)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 731-748)
  14. Index
    (pp. 749-770)