The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

The renowned teacher of Huangbo and Linzi, Dazhu Huihai lived and taught during the Tang dynasty in the late eighth century. While any official dating of his birth is unknown, he was born in Jianzhou in Southeast China and became a monk at Daozhiego in the monastery Dayun in Yuezhou. He later journeyed to Jiangxi where he studied with the great master Mazu, a disciple of the sixth patriarch Huineng, for six years. It was with Mazu that his great transformation occurred, most notably through his first meeting with the master:

Mazu asked, “From where have you come?”
Great Pearl said, “From Yue Province.”
Mazu then asked, “What were you planning to do by coming here?”
Great Pearl said, “I’ve come to seek the Buddhadharma.”
Mazu then replied, “I don’t have anything here, so what ‘Buddhadharma’ do you think you’re going to find here? You haven’t seen the treasure in your own house, so why have you run off to some other place?”
Great Pearl then said, “What is the treasury of the wisdom sea?”
Mazu then said, “It is just who is asking me this question, that is your treasury.
It is replete, not lacking in the slightest, and if you realize its embodiment then why would you go seeking it elsewhere?”
Upon hearing these words, Dazhu perceived his fundamental mind unobstructed by thinking. He ardently thanked and honored Mazu [for this instruction]. (translation as found in Andrew Ferguson’s Zen’s Chinese Heritage.)

Hence, during this initial interview, Dazhu Huihai was awakened to the Bodhimind. Later he was bestowed with the Dharma name, the Great Pearl—most likely due to his bulbous forehead. After six years he returned to his former monastery and cared for its aging Master. It was there that he composed his most famous treatise: Shastra on the Importance of Entering the Path of Spontaneous Awakening. Of course, we will concern ourselves in this series on the Shastra.

Written in the classical-form of a dialog between Teacher and Student, the Shastra highlights the “Sudden-Awakening” teachings of the Southern Zen School. The text also places great import on dhyana as the basic tool for comprehending the nature of Mind:

Student: When one practices the fundamental, what is the method used?

Teacher: Only Ch’an meditation (dhyana) is the method employed. Its empowering-force is Ch’an-samadhi.

While my favorite Ch’an Master of old is Huangbo, it’s easy to discern in this series how Dazhu Huihai provided the necessary foundation for Huangbo’s own formulations. Yea, these particular Masters and their teachings are demonstrative of Ch’an’s golden-age—the very epitome of Mind-Only is reflected here, as complementing and bringing to fulfillment the great Lankavatarian imperative as taught in the Lankavatara Sutra.

In keeping with the convention as found in the blogs here at Unborn Mind Zen (e.g., The Bhagavad Gita, Diamond Sutra, Hsin Hsin Ming, The Yogasūtras of Patañjali, ect) this version of Dazhu Huihai’s exemplary work will be written in the Light and Spirit of the Unborn and its Lankavatarian groundwork. Ours is a Living Tradition, and what is offered here represents an authentic and vibrant spirituality that has been formed and cultivated through many years of study, contemplation, and disciplined dhyana resulting in a Noble Self-realization that the Great Unborn Spirit alone can bestow.

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One Response to The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening

  1. Gary Daubney says:

    It is wonderful that you share the teachings of Daju Huihai (dates unknown, fl. 8th Century). ‘The Zen teaching of Instantaneous Awakening’ by John Blofeld that contain the only complete translation of this master’s teachings is a resource of wisdom akin to Huineng, Huangbo, and other better known ancient Zen Masters. But, Daju Huihai was not the teacher of Huangbo & Linji – that was the similarly-named Baizhang Huaihai (720–814), famous for establishing the rules for Zen monks that are used to this day across the globe. Like Baizhang Huaihai, Daju Huihai was a disciple of Mazu, who also had a disciple called Zhangjing Huaiyun (756-815) – very confusing! Because of their nearly identical names – Huihai/Huaihai (just that little ‘i’ in the middle making the difference!), they often seem mistaken for each other. This means that (at least some of) the biographical notes in the above article pertain to Huaihai not Huihai, although the teaching is certainly from the latter. With respect, GD.

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