on 29 March 1999
The teachings of Huang Po bear re-reading many, many times. So compressed and dense is this work that it is impossible to absorb the full import of Huang Po's insights at first pass. I've read it at least a dozen times and continue to discover new insights. This is one of three books I'd want on a desert island.
Don't be put off by its compression.
This book was translated by John Blofield in the 1950s and appears to remain the only English translation. I'd love to know what happened to Blofield, who apparently was living in Thailand at the time he translated the work.
on 3 April 2007
This is one of two books that somebody lent me some 35 years ago as an introduction to Buddhism. While I found the other book Walpola Rahula's What The Buddha Taught accesible and informative Blofeld's Zen Teaching of Huang Po was incomprehensible. Luckily I was able to to go back and get tutorials from a man who turned out to be an amazing teacher.
I'm still reading it, there's no end to the depths of understanding that can be found in this book. It does require patience and you might find the books of Wei Wu Wei (Terence Gray) helpful. You might try All Else is Bondage as a starting point. Or the Douglas Harding book 'On Having No Head'.
"Our original Buddha-Nature is, in highest truth, devoid of any atom of objectivity. It is void, omnipresent, silent, pure; it is glorious and mysterious peaceful joy - and that is all." from chapter 8, page 35. This short quote is the essence of the book.
If you are seriously interested in Zen you will find this book an esssential companion.
on 24 August 1996
Huang Po (d. 850) is perhaps one of Zen Buddhism's most brilliant Zen masters. This translation by John Blofeld of Huang Po's dialogues brings to light Zen Buddhism's most esoteric theme which concerns Buddha Mind. Different than the Western concept of Mind, Huang Po reveals the transcendent nature of Buddha Mind which traditional Zen Buddhists believe is the source of all things. This book is a must for anyone wishing to put their foot into the waters of Zen Buddhism. It is a classic in every since of the word. It always seems to say more than print is capable of expressing.
on 22 March 2005
If knowing the nature of reality is your only aim in life, this book is par excellence. No nonsense, no lengthy discussions, no pandering to the readers senses. Huang Po points to the only 'think' that needs to be done.
Be Aware- this book is no good if you have other things on your mind and are not already well conversant (in fact very well conversant) with Buddhist philosophy. Huang Po talks about the final step that everyone must take to go beyond, no matter where you come from or how you came here. Since the final step is all that matters, you can dispense with all other steps.
Be Careful- Dont let this tempt you into getting the book, its not as simple as it sounds, Huang Po is not teaching a shortcut, you have to be ready.
If you buy this book, read it again and again till it starts to sink in. It will work without you being aware of its working.
In summary if you are ready and have already tackled the delicate problems of determinism and nihilism, give this book a go, else stay away.
on 20 September 2011
This book presents to us the teachings of 9th century chinese zen monk Huang Po.
The text is sometimes disconcerting, and is quite radical in its defense of the inexpressible character of reality, an opinion I agree with, and in defending the sudden stop of all unnecessary thoughts, which does have its merits, since if you stop thinking altogether you would also stop producing unwholesome thoughts, I would however contend that this can also be achieved through a gradual process.
Throughout the text, and in typical zen fashion, Huang Po denies the efficacy of traditional buddhist goals and activities of the Three Vehicles, including practicing the paramitas and reading the sutras, and even characterizes them as detrimental to the proper buddhist way. This includes the practice of compassion, if done with the view of obtaining rewards. However this is also the view posited by the other buddhist schools as well.
The doctrine of One Mind exposed in the text should be understood carefully, always remaining well-grounded in existence as it presents itself to you. No-one will deny that external objects exist, but of course they are only important to you if you let their image enter your mind. You should think of these external objects, as no definite objects at all, but as part of an integrated flux of reality, as things possessing a wider context.
on 13 November 2009
This translation of a great master is deeply penetrating and revealing. It borders, as does all the great Zen teaching on being shattering because of its constant sorties into nonsense and paradox.All good Zen teaching leaves us with a sense of something immense that is lost and something far greater to be found and these teachings are no exception for anyone who is willing to read and re-read in order to receive the transmission that is available within the gaps of the words.
on 17 June 2014
Ah, Huang Po. Back to the 9th century: "All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind beside which nothing exists." The combination of the sage and John Blofeld - no mean sage himself - is very compelling. I keep more than one copy of this book on my shelves in case of fire, theft, or civil turmoil. I might, with a bit of encouragement, leave them to the nation. Reluctantly, of course.
on 21 October 2015
This is an excellent doorway into the teaching of Huang Po, one of the truly great Zen Masters.
Quote from Huang Po: The approach to it ( Mind, Absolute, Void, Buddha Nature, Enlightenment ) is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity. If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity. Those who seek the truth by means of the intellect and learning only get further and further away from it. Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate. Huang Po.
on 18 October 2008
This book is very good, and the first chapter encapsulates the whole thing. However, the point is that the One Mind is you. Or more accurately, the One Mind is your authentic experience of the entire universe - from your own place.
One's field of experience has no edges; the beginning of it cannot be remembered, and the end of it cannot exist in experience. Nothingness can't be experienced.
The book is good, because the author had clear sight into his own being.
on 7 February 2010
Huang-po (d. 850) was one of the most influential Chan/Zen masters of the Tang Dynasty. John Blofeld (1913-1987) has done great service in providing such a fine translation of two truly wonderful texts ("The Chun Chou Record (Sermons and Dialogues)" and "The Wan Ling Record (Dialogues, Sermons and Anecdotes)"). Also included is an interesting and helpful introduction. The result is an engaging work of great profundity and wisdom, that provides valuable insights into the heart of Chan/Zen Buddhism. As such, the reader will benefit from much rereading and contemplation of this work.
Also available in translation by John Blofeld is The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening: Being the Teaching of the Zen Master, Hui Hai, Known as the Great Pearl, which can, in some ways, be considered a companion piece to this text, as they complement each other very well.
For those who are interested, there is also a very interesting autobiography of John Blofeld available The Wheel of Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist (Shambhala Dragon Editions). Another work which may be of interest is Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism (Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions) which takes a contemporary philosophical look at Zen as expressed in Blofeld's translation of Huang Po.
Other translations of this work by Huang Po are available by Thomas Cleary Zen Mind, Buddha Mind and John McRae Zen Texts (BDK English Tripitaka Series).
I highly recommend all the works mentioned in this review.