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The most influential master in the Japanese Rinzai tradition, Hakuin Ekaku (16861769) reestablished the rigorous koan-training methods of the great T’ang- and Sung-dynasty masters of China; all modern Rinzai Zen masters trace their lineage to him and his teaching. Hakuin took the unusual step of overseeing the collection and publication of his own Zen recordsa task usually left to students after the master’s death.
The Complete Poison Blossoms, comprising some 450 individual piecesthe majority in verse, ranging from four-line poems to essays sufficiently long to have been published as independent textsis a sourcebook of guidance on the path to ultimate liberation. Waddell augments these texts with clarifying introductions and background context, detailed notes explaining Hakuin’s allusions, and side remarks recorded during lectures by Hakuin’s own students in their copies of the text. Hakuin’s teaching is elusive, suggestive, and poetic, a web of mysterious pieces that encourage students to delve into the reality of Buddha-nature and to realize it themselves. Formally or informally, every piece in this collection is a koan to be chewed on, swallowed, and digested by unflagging meditation on the paradoxical meaning of the wordsand what lies beyond the words.
Hakuin Zenji was born in Hara, Japan, on January 18, 1685. He began monastic studies as a teenager, studies with the great master Shoju Rojin, and developed his own teaching with Torei Enji, his first dharma heir. An enormously popular teacher during his lifetime, he died one day shy of his eighty-fourth birthday, in Hara where he had begun, and is said to have left more than 90 dharma heirs.
Norman Waddell was born in Washington, DC, in 1940. He has published more than a dozen books and is considered one of the finest translators of Japanese sacred texts of our time.