The eccentric Bankei has long been an underground hero in the world of Zen. At a time when Zen was becoming overly formalized in Japan, he stressed its relevance to everyday life, insisting on the importance of naturalness and spontaneity.
If Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) is Zen's supersonic jet, Bankei (1622-1693) is its horse-and-buggy. But when it's simply a matter of getting from point A to point A, since what we are looking for is no further than the end of our nose, either type of conveyance will suffice.
Dogen transports us to the stratospheric heights of Zen. His thought is totally brilliant and hyper-sophisticated, and once you get a taste of him you may find yourself completely captivated. Those who may be interested might care to take a look at Kazuaki Tanahashi's fine anthology, 'Moon in a Dewdrop : Writings of Zen Master Dogen.'
Bankei, in contrast, is a very different kettle of fish. For him the sutras, the koans, and the works of the great Chinese Masters were so much waste paper we needn't be bothering our heads about. Very much a man of the people, and immensely popular in his day, his following, as Haskel tells us, "embraced nearly every segment of Japanese society : samurai with their families and retainers, merchants, artisans, farmers, servants, even gamblers and gangsters, as well as monks and nuns of all the Buddhist sects" (page xvii). All of them, in crowds that could number over a thousand, would flock from all parts of Japan to listen to his unusual teaching.
What was the teaching that held such a powerful appeal for so many different kinds of people?Read more ›
Much of what I offered in my posted review of Waddell's translation would equally apply to the Haskel text reviewed here. Subjectively, I feel that the Waddel version is a slightly more fluid read. Bankei Zen, however, offers the additional benefits of selected letters and poems including Bankei's famous "Song of the Original Mind." Photographs of his calligraphy, paintings, and intricately carved statues further enhance the text.
Both volumes were originally published in 1984, and there is inevitable overlap between the two texts. Nevertheless, they are complementary and each has its own merit. I have personally benefited from reading both.
This book explores the sayings of this enigmatic figure within a skilled and delicate approach. Expounding his now famous Unborn Buddha Mind speeches in great simplicity and conciseness. This book can illuminate our understanding in some very powerful ways, taking us back to a time that is still as relevant as yesteryear. Great Book, enjoy! If you are interested in further reading on Bankei, purchase "The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei" by Norman Waddell. The Unborn is really like realizing that our mother is Kannon bodhisattva.