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The Zen Shakuhachi Truth Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History & Ideology in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark



About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Highlighted Pictures

Highlighted Quotations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
A Chronological Overview:

 •  India
 •  China
 •  Japan
 •  The West

To be - or not to be:
     a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kemmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Hotoke-gotoba Evidence

1646: Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi Legend

The Early Komusō Texts

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1664: Shichiku shoshinshū

1677: The Empō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1678: The Empō 5, 12th Month
     Komusō-ha Oboe Memorandum

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

1703 & 1705: The Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji Interrelationship

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki

1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1740?: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō

1848: Bakufu Government Decree
     re-administrating the "Fuke Sect"

1871: Bakufu Government Decree
     bans & dissolves the "Fuke Sect"

1890 ... The Legacy of Higuchi Taizan

1930s: Uramoto Setchō Credo

1970s: Myōan Taizan-ha Thought & Credos

Honkyoku Music History
     Ascetic Shakuhachi Titles

Miyagawa Nyozan's Honkyoku 'Ajikan'

Myōan Taizan-ha Notation



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info


- Beginning, Middle & End


in Sanskrit

Kū - Shūnyatā

- Non-Substantiality
By Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646



China 1 •
6000 B.C.-A.D. 500
China 2 • A.D. 500 ...
Japan 1 • 600-1233
Japan 2 • 1233-1477
Japan 3 • 1477-1560
Japan 4 • 1560-1614
Japan 5 • 1614-1664
Japan 6 • 1664-1767
Japan 7 • 1767-1883
Japan 8 • 1883 ...
The West • 1298 ...

A list of references is included at page bottom.
A complete bibliography can be found on this separate webpage: "Literature".

c. 2000 BC:

Yogic Seal from Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley, N. India

Square seal depicting a nude male deity with three faces,
seated in yogic position on a throne.
Harappan Bronze Age Culture, c. 2600-1900 BC.
Dimensions: 2.65 x 2.7 cm, 0.83 to 0.86 thickness.
Excavated at Mohenjo-daro, present-day Punjab, Pakistan.
Now in the Islamabad Museum.

c. 1500 - c. 900 BC - The Veda Era:

"That One breathed breathlessly by Itself;
other than It there nothing since has been."

     Quoted from the Rigveda, X, 129. Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, 1960, Vol. I.

c. 1000 - c. 700 BC - The Upanishad Era:


"The blind one found the jewel;
The one without fingers picked it up;
The one with no neck put it on;
And the one with no voice praised it."

     In the Taittirya Aranyaka. Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, Vol. I.

Date: 8th to 6th CENTURY B.C.


DHYANA - "Meditation", "Thinking"
ध्यान (Sanskrit) - झान (Pali)


"Part One - Chapter I — Meditation on Om"

1. The syllable Om, called the Udgitha, should be meditated upon;
for people sing the Udgitha, beginning with Om.
Now follows the detailed explanation of the syllable:

2. The essence of all these beings is the earth;
the essence of the earth is water;
the essence of water is plants;
the essence of plants is a person;
essence of a person is speech;
the essence of speech is the Rig—Veda;
essence of the Rig—Veda is the Sama—Veda;
the essence of the Sama—Veda is the Udgitha which is Om.

"PART 7 - Chapter VI — Meditation as Brahman"

1. "Meditation (Dhyana) is, verily, greater than consideration. Earth meditates, as it were.
The mid—region meditates, as it were. Heaven meditates, as it were.
The waters meditate, as it were. The mountains meditate, as it were.
The gods meditate, as it were. Men meditate, as it were.
Therefore he who, among men, attains greatness here on earth seems to have obtained a share of meditation.
Thus while small people are quarrelsome, abusive and slandering, great men appear to have obtained a share of meditation.
Meditate on meditation.

2. "He who meditates on meditation as Brahman, can, of his own free will, reach as far as meditation reaches
— he who meditates on meditation as Brahman. - - -"

     Trsl. by Swami Nikhilinanda.
     Link to Swami Nikhilinanda's English translation of the Chandogya Upanishad:

"The word zen, dhyana, appears first in the Chandogya Upanishad, and means "thinking," or rather, "meditating," the difference being all-important, for Zen means thinking with the body. - - - "

     R.H. Blyth, 1960.
     Date of Chandogya Upanishad, part of the Sama Veda:
     Variously dated between the 6th and 8th centuries B.C.


"His heart is with Brahman,
His eye in all things
Sees only Brahman
Equally present,
Knows his own Atman
In every creature,
And all creation
Within that Atman."

     In the Bhagavadgita. Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, Vol. I.


"Aum is verily the beginning, middle and end of all Knowing.
Aum as such, one, without doubt, attains immediately to that (the Supreme Reality)."

"One who has known Aum which is soundless and of infinite sounds and which is ever-peaceful on account of negation of duality is the (real) sage and none other."

"That which has no parts (soundless), incomprehensible (with the aid of the senses), the cessation of all phenomena, all bliss and non-dual Aum, is the fourth and verily the same as the Ātman.

He who knows this merges his self in the self."

     Māndūkya Upanishad Kārikā (commentary) by Gaudapāda,
     composed around the year 0. Trsl. by Swami Nikhilananda, 1936.

"This realization of non-duality is the end to be attained."

     From Shankara's introduction to the Māndūkya Upanishad
     Kārikā by Gaudapāda, 8th century A.D.
     Trsl. by Swami Nikhilananda, 1936.

"Vedānta certainly does not help us to bring grist to our individual mill.
It certainly does not tell us how to increase our capacity to enjoy the pleasures derived from material objects. But Vedānta really teaches us how to enjoy this world after realizing its true nature.
To embrace or comprehend the universe after realizing it as the non-dual Brahman, gives us peace that passeth all understanding."

     Swami Nikhilananda in the preface for his translation of the
     Māndūkya Upanishad, 1936.


SIDDHĀRTHA GAUTĀMA BUDDHA - c. 563-483 BC, alt. c. 480-400 BC


NENGEMISHŌ - llt. "Pick up Flower, Subtle Smile"

In a famous, though legendary, wordless sermon of his, Buddha is reported to have shown his diciples a flower - however, only Mahākāśyapa understood ...

Buddha commented, "I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle [D]harma [G]ate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa."

This central Zen Buddhist anecdote was composed much later, possibly by Chinese Ch'an Buddhists. Earliest reference is dated 1036.

     Sources: Dumoulin, 2005, p. 9, Harmless, 2008, p. 192


"Buddha said, 'The sound of the bell continues during a space of time;
How do we become concious of it? Does the sound come from the ear, or the ear go to the origin of the sound?

If it does not go (one way or the other) there is no hearing. For this reason, it must be understood, that hearing and sound are neither special. We mistakenly put hearing and sound in two (different) places.

Originally it is not a matter of cause and effect or of natural law."

     Shūramgama Samādhi Sūtra. Trsl. into Chinese by Kumārajiva,
     344-413 A.D. Quoted by Wu-men Hui-k'ai (Jap.: Mumon Ekai),
     1183-1260, in the Wu-men-kuan (Jap.: Mumonkan).
     Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, Vol. IV.

" - - - Ananda, listen again to the drum being beaten in the Jeta Garden when the food is ready. The assembly gathers as the bell is struck. The sounds of the bell and the drum follow one another in succession.
What do you think? Do these things come into existence because the sound comes to the region of the ear, or because the ear goes to the place of the sound?

Again, Ananda, suppose that the sound comes to the region of the ear. Similarly, when I go to beg for food in the city of Shravasti, I am no longer in the Jeta Grove. If the sound definitely goes to the region of Ananda's ear, then neither Maudgalyana nor Kashyapa would hear it, and even less the twelve hundred and fifty shramanas who, upon hearing the sound of the bell, come to the dining hall at the same time.

Again, suppose that the ear goes to the region of the sound. Similarly, when I return to the Jeta Grove, I am no longer in the city of Shravasti. When you hear the sound of the drum, your ear will already have gone to the place where the drum is being beaten. Thus, when the bell peals, you will not hear the sound - - even the less that of the elephants, horses, cows, sheep, and all the other various sounds around you.
If there is no coming or going, there will be no hearing, either.

Therefore, you should know that neither hearing nor sound have a location, and thus the two places of hearing and sound are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

- - -

Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the ear and sound create the conditions that produce the ear-consciousness.
Is this consciousness produced because of the ear such that the ear is its realm, or is it produced because of sound, such that sound is its realm?

Ananda, suppose the ear-consciousness were produced because of the ear. The organ of hearing would have no awareness in the absence of both movement and stillness. Thus, nothing would be known by it. Since the organ would lack awareness, what would characterize the consciousness?
You may hold that the ears hear, but when there is no movement and stillness, hearing cannot occur.
How, then, could the ears, which are but physical forms, unite with external objects to be called the realm of consciousness? Once again, therefore, how would the realm of consciousness be established?

Suppose it was produced from sound. If the consciousness existed because of sound, then it would have no connection with hearing. Withour hearing, then the characteristic of sound would have no location.
Suppose consciousness existed because of sound. Given that sound exists because of hearing, which causes the characteristic of sound to manifest, then you should also hear the hearing-consciousness.

If the hearing-consciousness is not heard, there is no realm. If it is heard, then it is the same as sound. If the consciousness itself is heard, who is it that perceives and hears the consciousness? If there is no perceiver, then in the end you would be like grass or wood.
Nor is it likely that the sound and hearing mix together to form a realm in between. Since a realm in between could not be established, how could the internal and external characteristics be delineated?

Therefore, you should know that as to the ear and sound creating the conditions which produce the realm of the ear-consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the ear, sound, and sound-consciousness - - these three - - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. - - - "

     Shūramgama Samādhi Sūtra. Trsl. into Chinese by Kumārajiva,
     344-413 AD. Primary translation by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'i.

2nd - 3rd CENTURIES AD:

NĀGĀRJUNA - c. 150 – c. 250 AD

sarvaṃ ca yujyate tasya śūnyatā yasya yujyate
sarvaṃ na yujyate tasya śūnyaṃ yasya na yujyate

"All is possible when Emptiness is possible.
Nothing is possible when Emptiness is impossible."

     Quotation from Chapter 24, verse 14, in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.


"Kū: (Skt.: shūnya or shūnyatā)
A fundamental Buddhist concept, variously translated as non-substantiality, emptiness, void, latency, relativity, etc. The concept that entities have no fixed or independent nature. The idea is closely linked to that of dependent origination (Skt.: pratîtya-samutpâda, Jap.: engi], which states that, because phenomena arise and continue to exist only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena, they have no fixed substance and have as their true nature kū.
The concept of kū thus teaches that nothing exists independently. Its practical implications lie in the rejection of attachments to transient phenomena, and to the egocentricity of one who envisions himself as being absolute and independent of all other existences. It is an especially important concept in Mahayana Buddhism.
On the basis of sutras known as Hannya (Skt.: prajna) or Wisdom sutras, the concept of kū was systemized by Nâgârjuna, who explains it as the Middle Way, which here means neither existence nor non-existence.
- - - "

     In: A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.
     Matsuda Tomohiro, chief editor.

     T.O. comment: The south-Indian Mahayana scholar Nāgārjuna is
     thought to have lived between 150 and 250 AD. His systematization of
     the doctrine of Non-substantiality, or 'Shūnyatā' [Jap.: 'kū'], was set
     forth in his treatise 'Mahāprajnāpāramitā-shāstra', a commentary on
     the Makahannya Haramitsu sutra. The treatise was translated into
     Chinese by Kumārajiva around 405 AD Also referred to as the
     'Middle' way, Nāgārjuna's doctrine is integral to Mahayana
     Buddhism, and he is revered as the founder of the eight sects:
     Kusha, Jōjitsu, Ritsu, Hossō, Sanron, Kegon, Tendai and Shingon.

Link to the next page: China 1 • 6000 B.C.-A.D. 500

List of references:

R.H. Blyth: Zen and Zen Classics, Vol. 1: General Introduction.
     From the Upanishads to Huineng. The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1960.

R.H. Blyth: Zen and Zen Classics, Vol. 4: Mumonkan.
     The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1966, 1974.

Heinrich Dumoulin: Zen Buddhism. A History. Volume 1: India & China.
      Trsl. by James W. Heisig & Paul F. Knitter.
      World Wisdom, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2005.

William Harmless: Mystics.
     Oxford University Press, 2008.

Bhikshuni Heng Ch'i, trsl.: The Shurangama Sutra, Vol. III.
     The Buddhist Text Translation Company,
     San Francisco, California, 1980.

Matsuda Tomohiro, ed., et al.:
     A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.
     Nichiren Shoshu International Center, Tokyo, 1983.

Swami Nikhilananda, trsl.: The Māndūkyopanishad with Gaudapāda's
     Kārikā and Shankara's Commentary.
     Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore, 1936, 1968.

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