Mushotoku Mind: The Heart of the Heart Sutra

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9781935387275: Mushotoku Mind: The Heart of the Heart Sutra

Mushotoku mind means an attitude of no profit, no gain. It is the core of Taisen Deshimaru's Zen. This respected master, the head of Japanese Soto Zen for all of Europe, moved from Japan in 1967 and brought this work to Paris, from where it was disseminated throughout the West. This book presents his brilliant commentary on the most renowned of Buddhist texts, the Heart Sutra, known in Japanese as Hannya Shingyo-a philosophical investigation on the futility of philosophical investigation.

Deshimaru's work fills a great gap in the interpretations of this seminal text in that he emphasizes "mind-emptiness” (ku) as the foundation of Zen practice, in contrast to the usual "mindfulness” focus of other Zen approaches. This "emptiness” and "purpose of no purpose” is one of the most difficult ideas for Westerners to understand. Yet we know that our most cherished values are based on mushotoku mind when it comes to love. We value the unselfish love of family or country that is based not on what we can get from the relationship but on what we can give. We know, too, that these virtues are not accomplished directly through our will but indirectly through dropping our expectations.

In his lectures on this subject, gathered here into one volume by translator and Zen teacher Richard Collins, Deshimaru returns to a chorus: Mushotoku mind is the key attitude characterizing the way of the Buddha, the way of the bodhisattva, the way of Zen and zazen, and the way of all sutras (teachings).

The written word has a checkered past in the history of Zen, which offers mind-to-mind transmission of wisdom without scripture and without words. Still, it is difficult to imagine Zen without its literature. Poems, koans, anecdotes, autobiographies, commentaries, sutras, all play a role in the transmission of Zen from the fifth century to the present. Ultimately, these written records can always be only fingers pointing at the moon of zazen.

Interpretations of the Heart Sutra abound, from as early as the T'ang dynasty. Deshimaru's contribution to this wealth is colored by his Japanese heritage, his knowledge of Western philosophy, the cross-fertilization received from Parisian students of the 1960-70s, and above all by the central place he gives to mushotoku, which Richard Collins translator calls "the heart of the Heart Sutra.”

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About the Author:

Taisen Deshimaru.Founder of the Association Zen Internationale, one of the largest influences on Zen in the West. Raised by his grandfather, a former samurai, and educated in Christianity & Western philosophy, he became a successful businessman. He studied Rinzai Zen before finding his master, Kodo Sawaki & the practice of Dogen's Zen. Before his death, Sawaki asked Deshimaru to spread Zen. Deshimaru arrived in Paris in 1967. La Gendronniere, the practice center he founded in France, was established in 1979 & continues to be an important Zen center. He died in 1982, leaving a number of influential disciples.

Richard Collins. A Zen teacher in the lineage of Taisen Deshimaru and Dean of Arts & Humanities at California State University, Bakersfield. He has held several research fellowships, including a Fulbright-Hays grant and a Fulbright Senior Lectureship. Collins has taught at the American University in Bulgaria, Louisiana State University, & Xavier University, where he was editor of the Xavier Review. He received monastic ordination from Robert Livingston Roshi. He founded the Zen Fellowship of Alexandria (Louisiana) and the Zen Fellowship of Bakersfield.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

God or Buddha, fundamental cosmic power or ku. These are all names that we interpret according to our ways of thinking. In Christianity the concept of God is the central theological pillar, but, as with any concept, people conceive of it in their own ways. Imagination plays an important role. It is completely the opposite in Buddhism, where the faculties of conceptualization and imagination are considered bonno or illusion. Furthermore, God is replaced by the central concept of ku, an extremely fluid idea, which by its very nature cannot become the object of any conceptualization. A Japanese story from the annals of Soto Zen shows the great qualities of Master Ryokan's teaching, as well as the profound wisdom he showed in his relations with suffering beings and their blind and all-consuming desires. One day an old man came to master Ryokan and said to him: "I would like to ask you to perform a kito [blessing ceremony] on my behalf. Many of my friends and relatives have died, and I myself have not long to live. So, I beg of you, do a kito to enable me to live a long time.” "How old are you?" asked Ryokan. "Eighty-four.” "But you are still young! A Japanese proverb says that one is a baby until the age of 40 or 50, and that 60 to 80 is the age for loving. How long do you want to live?” "Until 100 would be enough.” "Only 100?! That's not very long!” The old man asked to live until 150. "Look,” said Ryokan, "you're 80 years old now, so you've already lived half your lifespan. Climbing up a mountain requires a lot of time and energy, but climbing down is fast. This means your years will pass like a dream.” "Wait, wait! Give me 300 years!” "Did you know that cranes live up to 1000 years, and tortoises up to 10,000?” continued Ryokan. "You, a human being, only want to live 300 years!” "All this is confusing me,” said the old man. "I see that really you don't want to die. You should at least know that this is an extremely egotistical attitude.” "I know!” the old man replied. "So, the best thing would be to do a kito so you won't die.” "Is that possible?” "Oh yes, but it's very expensive and takes a very long time.” "That doesn't matter. I want that kito.” Ryokan replied: "Today we'll begin by simply chanting the Hannya Shingyo. Then you must come and do zazen every day in the temple, and I will give you teachings.” In this way Ryokan led the old man to true and exact faith.

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