15 Quotes From the Father of Modern Zen That Will Open Your Mind

Ever heard of Hakuin Ekaku? If not, then you’re in for a major treat of wisdom today.

Ekaku lived in Japan in the 1700s and is considered one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism.

In his young age, he suffered a nervous breakdown and was sick for almost two years. It was then that he sought advice from a Taoist cave dwelling hermit named Hakuyu, who prescribed a visualisation and breathing practice which eventually relieved his symptoms.

From this point on, Hakuin put a great deal of importance on physical strength and health in his Zen practice. Hakuin often spoke of strengthening the body by concentrating the spirit, and followed this advice himself.

The practices Hakuin learned from Hakuyu are still passed down within the Rinzai school.

Below are some of his most powerful quotes from a life that truly experienced the ups and downs.

We’re all Buddhas

“All beings by nature are Buddhas, as ice by nature is water. Apart from water there is no ice; apart from beings, no Buddhas.”

“At this moment, is there anything lacking? Nirvana is right here now before our eyes. This place is the lotus land. This body now is the Buddha.”

On doubt

“At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully.”

On the real you

“If you forget yourself, you become the universe.”

“I encourage all you superior seekers in the secret depths to devote yourselves to penetrating and clarifying the self, as earnestly as you would put out a fire on the top of your head.”

On meditation

“What is this true meditation? It is to make everything: coughing, swallowing, waving the arms, motion, stillness, words, action, the evil and the good, prosperity and shame, gain and loss, right and wrong, into one single koan.”

“Meditation in the midst of activity is a thousand times superior to meditation in stillness.”

“The spirit of meditation is the combating of self-willed thinking-it is a combat against the weight of one’s feelings.”

Enlightenment requires effort

“Should you desire the great tranquillity, prepare to sweat.”

True single-mindedness

“Once a person is able to achieve true singlemindedness in his practice and smash apart the old nest… into which he has settled… Wisdom immediately appears… and the all-discerning Fivefold Eye opens wide.”

On questioning

“Underlying great doubt there is great satori, where there is thorough questioning there will be thoroughgoing experience of awakening.”

The magnificent sounds of the universe

“If only you could hear the sound of snow”

On wisdom

“How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom.”

On truth

“Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away.”


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