Zen Wisdom 121



One often reads that Ch'an and Zen masters frown upon intelligence. Master Ta-hui (1089-1163) made fun of scholars, and modern master Suzuki Roshi said that an expert's mind has few possibilities, whereas a beginner's mind is limitless. On the other hand, many Westerners who take up Ch'an practice are initially lured by the intellectual richness of Buddhist philosophy. Can you explain this seeming contradiction?


I doubt that, since the earliest days of Buddhism, there has ever been a dull or stupid genuine Ch'an practitioner. Also, I doubt that there has ever been a single person who entered the path of Ch'an practice on blind faith. Most people practice Ch'an as a result of a rational decision. Furthermore, Ch'an does not emphasize pure meditative practice at the expense of intellectual learning. An intellectual understanding of Buddhadharma, and an appropriate way of life are also foundations of Ch'an practice. If you meditate, but have no idea why you do it, at best your practice will be a shell. It could even be harmful.