A Very Brief Summary Of Zen Master Bankei’s Exquisite Teaching

Proposition #1: All beings are essentially the Unborn Buddha Mind.

Teaching: Just abide in the Unborn.

Evidence: “When you dwell in the Unborn itself,” Bankei states, “you’re dwelling at the very wellhead of the Buddhas and patriarchs” (The Unborn:The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei, 1622-1693, p. 53).

Proposition #2: The Unborn has a natural tendency to vibrate temporary beings into being; this is its natural “dynamic function.”

Teaching: Right now, without effort you are hearing my voice, this crow, and that wind chime. (Cf. wu wei.)

Proposition #3: The cause of delusion involves substituting the Unborn for “I am this or that.”

Teaching: Return from any “I am this” to the Unborn.

Evidence: “Until you transform it [the Unborn], you live just as you are in the unborn Buddha-mind; you aren’t deluded or unenlightened. The moment you do turn it into something else, you become an ignorant, deluded person. All illusions work the same way” (The Unborn, p. 44).

Proposition #4: Thoughts and emotions come naturally–without any resistance, without any fight, struggle, or strife.

Teaching: From the no-point point-of-view of the Unborn, just let thoughts and emotions come, persist for a bit, and dissolve (back) into the Unborn.


“Well,” you may wonder, “then what can I do to stop them [anger, clinging, etc.–in short, strong passions]. Even if suddenly, despite yourself and wholly unawares, rage or anger should appear, or thoughts of clinging and craving arise, just let them come–don’t develop them any further, don’t attach to them. Without concerning yourself about whether to stop your rising thoughts or not to stop them, just don’t bother with them, and then there’s nothing else they can do but stop. You can’t have an argument with the fence if you’re standing there all alone! When there’s no one there to fight with, things can’t help but simply come to an end of themselves.

Bankei Zen, p. 50