Sometimes, I have to read a fair amount to material to do these blogs. It is great when you come across some new material that is really good. Of late I have been reading Jeffrey Broughton & Elise Watanabe’s new book, The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice. If you were a Chinese student of the Lin-chi/Linji Zen, this is the handbook you might carry in your pack or in your sleeve. It is truly an anthology. It contains many selected passages from Zen literature and the discourses of the Buddha. A student seeking kensho would find it useful to spur them on (oops, whip them on!). A student of Dr. Broughton told me that Hakuin carried this book around in his sleeve. This book from what I can see is one of those must-have-books. I need to add, that for graduate students studying Chan/Zen it is also a must-have-book. It has a scholarly component as well—a rabbit hole that you can go down if you wish to expand your knowledge of Zen and its practice.
For the average Soto Zen student who follows Dogen Zenji’s teachings this book may not be your cup of tea. Unlike with Soto Zen, awakening or kensho is foremost in Lin-chi/Linji Zen. One must whip themselves constantly to awaken from the sleep of the conditioned mind of birth and death so they might behold the supramundane, unconditioned Mind of which Huang-po speaks. Just sitting does not make one a Buddha anymore than just standing or just walking.
The seeker’s intent is to break through the mind of birth and death and behold the unconditioned Mind before it is stirred. This takes a lot of energy which is the gongfu (kung-fu) of Zen, which The Chan Whip Anthology describes in the introduction. Indeed, gongfu is the real practice of Zen which consists of sitting and working on the huatou (hua-t’ou). The huatou is especially important in this book and much is said about it. It is a word or a phrase in a gong’an (koan) that we lock onto which, ultimately, points to the real substance of the universe which is transmitted from Mind to Mind.