Zen Kōan Capping Phrase Books

G. Victor Sōgen Hori

Edited by Dale S. Wright

in Zen Classics

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780195175257
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784608 | DOI:
 Zen Kōan Capping Phrase Books

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Zen phrase books include books of proverbs or wise sayings, handbooks compiled by early Zen monks as aids to composing Chinese poetry, dictionaries of Chinese dialect or colloquial language, and guidebooks for reading tea ceremony scrolls. In a narrower sense, the Zen phrase book is the handbook that Japanese Rinzai Zen monks use for the “capping phrase” exercise in the Zen kōan practice. This chapter describes two classic and three modern Zen Phrase Books. The classic ones are Kuzōshi by Tōyō Eichō Zenji and Zenrin Kushūi by Ijōshi. The new collections are: Zudokko Kushō, compiled by Fujita Genro, Shinsan Zengoshō, complied by Tsuchiya Etsudō, and Kunchō Zenrin Kushū, edited and revised by Shibayama Zenkei Roshi. The chapter closes with some reflections on two broader questions: How can Zen, supposedly “not founded on words and letters” have a capping phrase practice? And what are the origins of the capping phrase exercise and how did it get incorporated into Zen meditation practice.

Keywords: capping phrase; kōan; Kuzōshi; Zenrin Kushūi; Zudokko Kushō; Shinsan Zengoshō; Kuncho Zenrin Kushū

Chapter.  20481 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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