Five Styles of Zen

On Zen, contracting an explanation from James Ishmael Ford, a practioner.

Guifeng Zongmi’s five styles of Zen, contained in some lectures by Hakuun Yasutani Roshi.
Guifeng Zongmi Late eighth and early ninth centuries Zen shares him with the Huayan, or Flower Ornament School, which considers him their "fifth ancestor." Concerned with the polemics between advocates of sudden awakening and gradual cultivation within Zen.
Five (hierarchical) approaches to Zen, but traps and correctives.

Bompu Zen “Secular Zen” Ordinary Taken on for physical or mental health. Stress Reduction. Looking to these improvements in one’s life alone, one remains stuck in the fundamental dualistic problem of our ordinary confused state.
Gedo Zen “Outside the Way” Adaptation of Zen within religious but non-Buddhist contexts, e.g. Zen taken up by Christians Yasutani Roshi warned how traditionally this is more about people cultivating supernatural powers, and particularly building up joriki, the power of a focused mind. People caught up in the glamour of joriki forget Zen's further reach.
Shojo Zen “Hinayana Zen” Advantages to the Self Tangled in the polemics between Mahayana and Therevada/ Hinayana vehicles. So reject that the Theravada is a small vehicle, also the laden term Hinayana. But a “smaller” way of a self-centered, selfish approach is a form of dualism, missing the genuine invitation of the Zen way.
Godo Zen “Buddhist Zen” Zen of Awakening The rising of the Bodhi mind, the “gaining mind” dream of awakening as a gate. Can become Bodhi mind, containing the Godo approach. It is the Zen of koan introspection. Yasutani Roshi cites Dogen Zenji, “the more deeply you experience satori, the more deeply you perceive the needs for practice.” This is the manifestation of what is sometimes called “practice/ awakening,” as the very heart of shikantaza, just sitting.
Saijojo Zen “Zen of the Buddha”: of all buddhas past, present and future Striving and realization are One “Returning to the world with bliss bestowing hands,” becoming the simple manifestation of awakening. Pure shikantaza. Its danger is the seduction of sitting without awakening, of an idea rather than one’s life.

Yasutani Roshi says these last two forms of Zen are complementary.

Aitken Roshi used to speak of his practice as being “shaken-mu.” He could no longer distinguish between his practice being shikantaza or sitting with Mu, the primary koan.


James Ford

Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful