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Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening: Being the Teaching of the Zen Master, Hui Hai, Known as the Great Pearl [Paperback]

Master Hui Hai , J. Blofeld
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Jan 2006
Zen teaching of instantaneous awakening A complete translation of the teaching of the Chinese Ch'an Master Hui Hai by John Blofeld, with a foreword by Charles Luk Hui Hai, was one of the great Ch'an (Zen) Masters. He was a contemporary of both Ma Tsu and Huang Po, those early masters who established Ch'an after the death of Hui Neng, the sixth Patriarch. Hui Hai's direct teachings point immediately to this moment of truth and awakening, and the message of this classic eighth-century text is universal and timeless.

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Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening: Being the Teaching of the Zen Master, Hui Hai, Known as the Great Pearl + The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind + Hsin-Hsin Ming
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Product details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Buddhist Publishing Group; New edition edition (9 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0946672032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0946672035
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.7 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Text 1 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hui Hai was one of the great Chan/Zen masters of the Tang dynasty and this work reflects that. John Blofeld (1913-1987), a highly respected translator, has produced translations of both Hui Hai's 'A Treatise on The Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous Awakening' (Tun-wu Ju Tao Men Lun) and also a translation of the 'The Tsung Ching Record of the Zen Master Hui Hai also known as the Great Pearl'(Tsung Ching Lu). The work also includes an interesting introduction, a useful glossary/list of terms and a foreword by Charles Luk.

"Hui Hai's direct teachings point immediately to this moment of truth and awakening and the message of this classic eighth-century text is universal and timeless.

'When things happen make no response: keep your minds from dwelling on anything whatsoever: keep them for ever still as the void and utterly pure (without stain): and thereby spontaneously attain deliverance' -Hui Hai" -quoted from the back cover.

This is a most engaging work that, I believe ,would be a most welcome addition to any Zen practitioners bookshelf.

The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind by the same translator, is an equally fine text and in a sense, can be seen as a complementary work to this one. I recommend both very highly.

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).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Friendlier, unpretentious Zen 11 Jan 2014
By sanyata
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is friendlier, more down to earth zen, lacking the intentisty, snobbery, and intellectual elitism of your typical zen master.
I have no doubt that Hui Hai's realization was deep and genuine and he does drop a few nuggets of wisdom throughout the text. But overall, his focus is on being friendly, rather than deprecating his interlocutors of their ego in a braizen fashion, as is so typical of zen masters.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic guide 13 Dec 2004
By Hakuyu - Published on Amazon.com
It is good to know that reprints of this excellent translation are available. Hui Hai, otherwise known as the 'Great Pearl' - was an outstanding Ch'an master of the Tang. This translation repays careful digestion. John Blofeld spent many years in China, frequenting Chinese Buddhist temples. The Chinese text translated here, was given to J.B. during one such sojourn at a Chinese Ch'an monastery. Blofeld's careful translation was given a final 'polishing' by Lu K'uan Yu, an eminent Chinese Buddhist translator, authorised by the Ven. Hsu-yun (1840-1959), the most outstanding Chinese Master of the 20th c. As such, this text could not have a better pedigree.

While certainly the fruit of good scholarship (a useful glossary explains the proper meaning of Chinese Buddhist terms used in the text), this book is pre-eminently practical. It is unusually clear and focused and doesn't come over as a careless hodge-podge of koans. Like Huang Po's discourses (also ably translated by J.B.)Hui Hai's teaching is very direct and to the point. This book is actually a translation of two texts. The first is Hui Hai's 'Treatise on Entering the Gate to Sudden Enlightenment' (Tun-wu Ju Tao Men Lun), the second, a translation of the Tsung Ching Lu or 'Tsung Ching Record.' The latter opens with an account of Hui Hai's meeting with Master Ma-tsu, and Hui Hai's initial enlightenment:

Hui Hai: "I have come seeking the Buddha-dharma."

Ma-tsu: "Instead of looking to the treasure house which is
your very own, you have left home and gone
wandering far away. What for? I have absolutely
nothing here at all. What is this Buddha-dharma
of which you speak? "

- whereat the master Hui Hai prostrated himself on the
ground, enquiring:

" Please tell me to what you alluded, when you
spoke of a treasure house of my very own?"

Ma-tsu: " THAT which asked the question is your
treasure house (i.e. wisdom-mind). It
contains absolutely everything you need
and lacks nothing at all. It is there for
you to use freely, so why this vain search
for something outside yourself? "

No sooner were these words spoken, than the master
received a great illumination and recognised his own
mind. Beside himself with joy, he hastened to show his
gratitude by prostrating himself again . . ."

Hui Hai stayed with Ma-tsu for six years, maturing and deepening his insight, subsequently becoming an eminent master in his own right. It is worth noting the impact of Ma-tsu's words, which pointed directly to Hui-hai's inherent wisdom or the mind -nature, inherent in us all. Hui-hai chose to lead the life of a Buddhist monk, but the essential gist of Ma-tsu's remarks has meaning for us today. What we are 'seeking' is already there. We can't 'find' it outside ourselves, and insofar as it is our inherent endowment, we cannot 'get' it;
all we can do - and are required to do - is to un-cover it, by ridding ourselves of dualistic notions. But since the idea of ridding ourselves of dualistic notions, is another dualistic notion, all we are required to do - is to lay down our false thinking - to 'let go' - neither 'clinging' nor 'rejecting' - and 'look into' our minds. Call it spiritual 'Judo' - if you like, not resisting, but sublimating errant thoughts. In fact, without 'looking into' where these thoughts rise and fall, we have no way to find our inherent treasure house. Its a bit like looking at smoke rising from a fire.@But don't listen to me, listen to Hui Hai!

Hui Hai's 'Treatise on Sudden Awakening' is excellent:

Q. What method must we practice in order to attain
deliverance? "

A. It can be attained only through a sudden illumination.

Q. What is Sudden Illumination?

A. 'Sudden' means ridding ourselves of deluded thoughts in a
flash. 'Illumination' means the realization that
illumination is not something to be attained.

Q. From where do we start this practice?

A. You must start from the very root.

Q. And what is that?

A. Mind is root.

Hui-hai's pithy talk, giving hints on how to approach 'sudden enlightenment' - is a real gem. Not a 'Treatise' in the modern sense at all (the Chinese 'Lun' - in Buddhist terms, is the equivalent of a shastra), readers will find that Hui-hai's text is simply re-iterating, from different angles, the same point - often likened to an adamantine wedge, cutting through every conceivable distinction that would otherwise hinder or block direct perception of the Mind-nature. Hence, coupled with what Hui-hai has to say about Dhyana-practice, readers will find that Hui-hai's words help to 'centre' consciousness. In short, you will forget all about Hui-hai and words - and discover the substance of what he is pointing to. This is powerful stuff.

But note well: Hui-hai does recommend Dhyana-practice, otherwise known in the West as Za-zen. Not that long go, some Western exponents of Zen used to argue that masters such as Ma-tsu, Hui-hai etc., disregarded this practice and deemed it unnecessary. This misunderstanding came about, because such masters warned people not to think that mere 'sitting' was an end in itself, lest they get caught up in a one-sided preference for stillness over activity. Viewed aright, what is known as Dhyana-practice ultimately predisposes the mind to return to its inherently still condition, whether we are sitting, or engaged in our ordinary daily activities. Dhyana begets stillness, and stillness gives rise to prajna, or non-dual wisdom. Once aroused, proper dhyana-prajna operates or takes effect, regardless of our physical location, or the relative states of stillness and activity. Even so, at the beginning of training, most practicers find difficulty trying to arrest their errant thoughts. If they adopt a natural attitude toward Dhyana practice, they will find that its effects carry-over to their daily activities, which become one with the practice. Ultimately, what Hui-hai is pointing to can be actualised wherever we happen to be - if we only follow his advice.

Another thing worth noting about this text, is Hui-hai's extensive knowledge of the traditional Buddhist sources. Loathe to cling to well known terms and idioms, and thus reluctant to encourage this trait in others, such masters coined their own terms, used slang etc., to drive home the practical meaning or message of Buddhism. This has sometimes led modern scholars to form the unfortunate conclusion that such masters rejected the Buddha's teaching. However, as the present text clearly shows, Hui-hai was well versed in traditional Buddhist doctrine. Left to his own devices, he preferred to use his own idioms, with a modest sprinkling of Buddhist terms. But some of his callers were travelling Dharma-masters (Fa-shih) who specialised in giving lectures on Buddhist texts. Alas, sometimes proud of their learning, they would challenge him to answer questions in this regard. As will be seen, Hui-hai was able to handle himself well in such circumstances, replying with detailed answers- and, very often, exposing the fact that such Dharma-masters had little real insight into the doctrines they gave lectures on! All in all, a remarkable text, detailing the teachings of an excellent master. Ma-tsu, Hui-hai etc., and a handful of masters like them, shaped a whole tradition. We often approach them today - piecemeal, through later distortions and caricatures. It is refreshing to be able to digest these primary sources and good to see this excellent translation back in print.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book to complement Zen Teaching of Huang Po 7 Jan 2010
By James Shen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Translator John Blofeld also translated "Zen Teaching of Huang Po" which is one of my favorites. Blofeld wrote in the introduction: "In a way, the present work is complementary to The Zen Teaching of Huang Po; for, while both masters carry us to the very heart of things, Huang Po deals rather more uniformly with the subject, whereas the Great Pearl (Hui Hai) relates each part of his exposition more specifically to some of the various tenets common to the Mahayana as a whole, or to particular tenets emphasized by this school or that, as well as to some of the doctrines of Taoism. It seems to me that Huang Po gives us a brilliant overall picture of the means of arriving at the goal, and that the Great Pearl deals just as brilliantly but more precisely with most of the separate difficulties involved. For this reason, while his book is by no means of less interest than Huang Po's to the general reader, it will make a special appeal to those readers with a detailed knowledge of the various facets of traditional Buddhist doctrine." I could not agree more.

Reading this book also helps greater understanding of Diamond Sutura, Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Heart Sutura (translator Red Pine), as well as teaching of modern sages like Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, David R. Hawkins.
32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic zen text 19 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This record of the teachings of Ch'an Master Hui Hai is one of the classics of Zen from ancient China. It is a very small book, and should not cost more that $12, even if published using the highest standards. It is sad that this text is not now available in an affordable edition. Also, it is very unfortunate that Amazon has erred in categorizing The Zen Teachings of Instantaneous Awakening as a New Age book. It is not. It is a classic of Zen.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen skin, flesh, bones, and marrow--as well as the blood and guts! 4 Oct 2008
By Ted Biringer - Published on Amazon.com
John Blofeld's important translation of the Teachings of Zen master Hui Hai, also known as "The Great Pearl."

The translator of the classic Huang Po Zen Transmission of Mind, offers another masterpiece of Zen literature in this book which includes complete translations of both "The Tsung Ching Record" as well as "The Tun Wu Ju Tao Yao Men Lun" (The Treatise on the Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous Awakening). This classic eighth-century Zen record is an insightful, and inspiring text essential to all Zen students, and a fascinating read for anyone interested in Zen.

Two selections of this pure blood and guts Zen to enjoy now:

39.Q: For followers of the Way, what constitutes realization of the goal?

A: Realization must be ultimate realization.

Q: And what is that?

A: Ultimate realization means being free from both realization and absence of realizations

Q: What does that mean?

A: Realization means remaining unstained by sights, sounds and other sense perceptions from without, and inwardly possessing minds in which no erroneous thinking takes place. To achieve this without giving it a thought is called `absence of realization'; and to achieve the latter without giving that a thought either is called `freedom from absence of realization'.

40.Q: What is meant by `a mind delivered'?

A: Having a mind free from the concepts of delivered and undelivered is called `real deliverance'. This is what the Diamond Sutra means by the words: `Even the Dharma must be cast aside, how much more so the not-Dharma!' Here, Dharma implies existence and not-Dharma implies nonexistence - disengagement from both of which results in true deliverance.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can get this book in the UK 10 Dec 2004
By RSR - Published on Amazon.com
You can get this book in the UK about $15 try buddhismnow.com (see the very good review below)
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