Zen Meditation 12

Though both of these anecdotes criticize certain approaches toward zazen practice, the masters were never critical of zazen itself, which is necessary for progress in Ch'an. All the great masters practiced zazen, and most of them continued to sit intensely even after becoming enlightened. The descriptions of the earliest Ch'an monasteries in the Biographies of Eminent Monks (Kao-seng chuan) confirm that monks were supposed to spend most of their time in zazen.

Silent lllumination and Koan Practice

Earlier we noted that zazen most precisely refers to the means developed by the Ch'an masters to attain entightenment. The two principal paths of Ch'an which have come down to us are the method of "silent illumination" and the method of the kōan (kung-an in Chinese).

The practice of silent illumination may be traced back at least as far as Bodhidharma. In his (attributed) treatise The Two Entries and the Four Practices (Her ju ssu hsing lun), he states:

Leaving behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination of self and others. In contemplation one is stable and unmoving, like a wall.

Shih-shuang Ch'ing-chu (805-888) lived on a mountain called Shih-shuang for twenty years. His disciples just sat continually, even sleeping in this upright position. In their stillness they looked like so many dead tree stumps, and they were called "the dry-wood Sangha." Shih-shuang had two famous phrases of advice. One was: "To sit Ch'an, fix your mind on one thought for ten thousand years." The other was: "Become like cold ashes or dry wood."