2nd Cycle of Donghans’s Five Ranks, Verse 3: Riding Backwards on a Jade Elephant

Hidden deep in the mountains, we are fortunate enough to see the moon bright, the air clear, and a beautiful dawn breaking. This is not a dream, Dongshan is saying. This is our life.

Who Calls You Home from the Rough Mountains?

Yasutani writes that even with the bath, the makeup, the new set of clothes, the true ‘making oneself beautiful’ is not only of the body, “but of the heart-mind.“

The Way of the Sage King

The Way of the Sage King is from The Record of Dongshan, appearing soon after his Five Ranks, equally rich in poetic expression and serving as markers on the path of awakening.

No-Gate Gateway and The Blue Cliff Record: A Visit with Scholar, Poet & Translator David Hinton

Jon shares excerpts from and commentary on David Hinton’s recent koan collection translations.

The Fifth of Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Returning Home

The epic journey of a thousand faces is a story older than humanity itself. How, in this ordinary world of struggle, can we return to our original dwelling place?

The Fourth of Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Finding Heaven in This Natural Realm

When we read any koan, poem, or myth, we often encounter bits that stand out and speak to us, shiny objects that say, “Come closer, look at me, play with me.” Sometimes, they hook us and refuse to let go. The third line in this week’s poem was just such an ornament. Who doesn’t want to ascend to heaven?

Something from Nothing: The Poetry of Marie Howe

“The challenge of my whole life has been to slow down. I find it very difficult to be still—to endure it.”

—Marie Howe

The Third of Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Speaking and Not Speaking

The Third Rank is called “Coming from Within the Real,” and we are learning to embody, to become intimate, with emptiness. We make it our own.

The Second of Dongshan’s Five Ranks: You Come Upon an Ancient Mirror

The second rank is called “The Real within the Apparent,” written in the 9th century by Dongshan, the founder of the Caodong (Soto) Chan-Zen School. His Five Ranks present a kind of lyrical roadmap of the process of awakening.

The First of Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Hidden in Deep Midnight

Dongshan’s Five Ranks form the final collection of koans in Pacific Zen’s curriculum. The first rank recognizes darkness and shadow in our lives: the dirt, the mud, the smelly garbage. It is this dark matter that of necessity accompanies us in our search for light in the universe.