Cijiao’s guidelines

Rules for meditation

by master Cijiao (Compassionate Awakening) from Chang-lu (written 1103). Date of birth is not known, he was ordained in 1089. Zenmaster Dogen used parts of Cijao’s Rules for meditation for his Zazen for anyone anywhere (Fukanzazengi).

If you wish to train for the wisdom of enlightened being, you must first arouse the heart of great compassion and take the all-embracing (bodhisattva)-vow: to become versed in the practice of samadhi and liberate all beings, so you do not solely seek freedom for yourself.

Only then must you let go of all appearances, let all phenomena rest, so that your body and mind can be one ‘just as it is-ness’ and no gap exists between activity and stillness.

Take food and drink in moderation, neither too much nor too little. Regulate your sleep, neither too long nor too short. When you are going to meditate, choose a quiet restful spot and put a thick cushion down. Loosen up your belt and clothing, and assume the proper posture and composure.

Then fold your legs together crossed into a knot (the Lotus-position). First let the right foot rest on top of the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. To cross just the one leg is also all right, then only put the left foot on top of the right thigh. Next, rest the right hand on the left foot and the left hand in the palm of the right one, with the thumbs touching and propping each other up.

Slowly rock back and forth, left and right. Then sit steadily up straight, without leaning to left or right, backward or forward. The vertebrae of the lower back, spine and neck should be aligned with the top of the head and hold each other up, your shape like a stupa. But you must not rise up your body too much so your energy gets excited.

Keep your ears in line with the shoulders and your nose in line with your navel. Hold your tongue pressed against your top teeth, with your lips and teeth together. Your eyes must be slightly open, to avoid dozing or falling asleep. For finding meditative stability (ch’an ting), this is the most powerful. In the past, eminent monks who practiced sitting in meditation, always have been sitting with open eyes.

Master Fa-yun Yuan-tong reprimanded those meditating with their eyes closed; he called it “(sitting in) a dark mountain-ghost cave”. This has deep meaning, as experienced meditators know.

After your posture is settled and your breath regulated, you let your lower abdomen extend in a relaxed way. Do not get involved in thoughts about good or bad. When a thought arises, be aware of it; in awareness it is let go off. When you forget all reasoning for a long time, you naturally become one. This is the art of meditation.

I venture to say that this sitting in meditation is the Dharma-gate to peace and joy. That many people become ill, is because they do not use their mind with careful attention. When you do sit with the right mind, the four elements naturally come to peace, your spirits become alive and bright, right thought clearly stands out. Then the flavour of the Dharma safeguards your spirit, which will be serene, lucid and joyful.

Someone who has clarified existence (i.e.: what we are), can be called a dragon that has found water, or a tiger that reached the (free) mountains. Those who still have to do so – keep letting the wind blow on the fire. Much effort is not needed. Merely see and follow the true heart and you surely will not be deceived.

But when the Way is lofty, there are plenty of pitfalls (lit: demons); all manner of things attract and offend. But when we keep right mindfulness present, this all cannot hold us back.

As the Shurangama-Sutra, the Tiantai writings about “stopping and looking”, and Master Gui Feng’s How to Practice Realisation, are all concerned with exposing hindrances, they are a ‘must know’ for those who are not well prepared.

When you wish to arise from meditation, slowly move the body and carefully get up, not abruptly. After coming out of meditation and getting up, do at all times what is beneficial; protect and maintain the power of stillness as if you protect your baby child. This way you can perfect the power of meditative stability.

The grounded stillness of meditation is a most urgent matter. If you do not practice this quiet sitting, anxiety enters the serenity and you will end up in a daze. So, who searches the jewel must still the waves; in restless waters it is hard to find. Quiet stability settles and clarifies the water so that the jewel of the heart-mind will naturally show itself.

Therefore the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra says: “Unimpeded pure wisdom entirely depends on the presence of the grounded stillness of meditation.” The Lotus Sutra says: “Settle in an enclosed place and harmonize your heart-and-mind so that it is still and immovable as the Central Mountain.”

For this knowledge of transcending the ordinary as well as the sacred, you must put to rest cause and effect; to die sitting or standing, you must rely on the power of the unshakable still mind. Even if you give your whole life to it, you may still not be successful, let alone if you waste your time! How will you deal with karma? Therefore the ancients said: If you do not cherish the power of grounded stillness, you willingly yield to death, living uselessly with your eyes closed, drifting along.

I hope that all you friends on the path of Zen, will read this over and again, so that you and others may realize true awakening.

The scarecrow – Zazen

Unaware that it protects

the ricefields in the hills,

seemingly useless – the scarecrow.

This waka of Zenmeester Dogen contains two kakekotoba (double meaning words) which give the poem additional meaning. The ricefields  refer to the monks, who wear rice-field square clothes, the kesa; they are protected by the practice of zazen, the scarecrow. But besides scarecrow, the word kakashi also means: the city of monks, i.e. the monastery. The monastery too protects the monks in square clothes. This same word can also be read as the “master”, so: the master protects the monks.

2 Chinese poems Dogen

What joy to live in the mountains,

alone and still,

revolving the Lotus Sutra

over and over again.

Just to be

beneath this tree

there is neither love nor hate.


to see autumn’s depth

to hear the rain

in the night.


*   *   *


I have passed on the Way

of the Western Ancestor

to the East


Catching the moon,

ploughing the clouds,

yearning for the Ancient.


Tonight no worldly dust

whirls with the snow

to my mountain hut of straw


Waka on the Lotus Sutra (Dogen)

Constantly listening to the Dharma

All night long

All through the day –

The Dharma Way.

This Sutra becomes

The whole of my heart.


The Mountain Monkey proclaims the Dharma

The murmuring of the valley stream,

The monkey screeching on the peak

Sound just like the excellent

Expounding, re-expounding

Of this Sutra.


Nothing Valueless

Gaining this Sutra’s heart

Even the racket of worldly trade

Becomes the Dharma’s voice.

4 Waka (Dogen)


Awake or asleep,

What I pray for

In my grass-hut

Is to bring others across

Before myself.


Although this ignorant person

May never become a Buddha,

I vow to take others across

Because I am a monk.


Each moment, awake or asleep,

In my grass-thatched hut,

I offer this prayer:

May Shakyamuni Buddha’s compassion

Envelop the world.


What can I accomplish?

Although not yet a Buddha,

Let my priest’s body

Be a raft to carry

Sentient beings to the yonder shore.


Welcome to the Unsui site. It has been obvious that the site’s purpose has been to make available practice poems, Zen texts and parts of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures in contemporary English. The material is not really for beginners on the path of meditation but is still informative about the practice. These texts have been composed by Zen masters who had themselves practiced for decades; and have been put into English after practice for decades. So it is not surprising that they puzzle those early on the path. Explanations will be following in not too long, orally or in written form. Background information about the authors has been kept short, partially because we do not have much information. Where possible I will find out more and make that available on a biographical page.

Han Shan’s pointing

Looking at the Mind

By Zenmaster Han-shan De-qing (1546 – 1623), China. Coming from a poor family, he entered monastic life when he was eleven years old. Later he was the motor behind the revival of Zen practice in Ming China.

Looking at what your body is – it is not you
But an image in the mirror of awareness,
Just like the reflection of the moon on the water.

Looking at what your mind is – it is not
The thoughts and feelings that appear within it
But the bright knowing space that holds them.

When not a single thought arises, your mind is
Open, perceptive, serene and luminous;
It is complete as great all-embracing space
And holds all kinds of wondrous aspects.

Your mind does not come or go away,
Has no particular shape, nor a special way of being.
But a great many beneficial qualities
Come all forth from this one knowing being.

It does not depend on physical existence,
Physical existence covers it up!
Do (therefore) not take vain hopes seriously,
Vain hopes lead to illusory phenomena.

Closely investigate this ‘mind’, which is
Knowing emptiness, not containing a thing.
When you are suddenly flooded with emotions
Your vision gets unclear, your experience confused.

Then at once bring back your presence of mind
And gather all your strengths to reflect.
The clouds will disperse and the sky will clear:
The sun of awareness spreads brightly its light.

If no feelings or thoughts arise within
No (worrying) circumstance is found without.
So where lies the original reality
of all that has characteristics?

If you can be aware of a thought as it arises
This awareness dissolves the thought at once.
Sweep away whatever state of mind may come,
Be present and aware – and you will be free.

Good and evil, internal or external,
Transform when you turn towards the heart of it.
Worldly and spiritual forms
Come into being through what you think.

Using a mantra and looking at your mind
Are means to polish the mirror of awareness;
Once the obscurations have been removed
They have no more use and can be dropped.

All great and deep spiritual abilities
Are already complete within your mind
And you can roam as you wish
To the Pure Land or Heavenly Palace.

There is no need to search for Truth
As your mind is from the beginning already enlightened.
When your training is ripe, all things seem fresh and new,
When new and fresh in training,  this ripeness is inherently present.

Day and night all things are miraculous
And you will have faith in whatever you meet.

The above is what you need to know regarding the mind.

News March

Friends, there will not be news for now, but there are and will be new translations, both in Dutch and in English.
A contemporary translation/interpretation has been placed in English and Dutch, of the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, generally known as the Scripture of Kuan Yin (Kanzeon or Avalokiteshwara).