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Zen / Ch'an Writings

These leaves of Dharma are part of the paradox of writings about the 'wordless teaching' that is Zen (Chinese: Ch'an). Newcomers to Zen should start with the introduction and those who wants to practise genuinely should proceed with the meditation instructions and one of the practise guides, studying the teachings and essays as they go along. A collection of Taoist writings are also available, as Ch'an was heavily influenced by them and often draws upon them. Hopefully, experienced practitioners as well as beginners will find something of use here. As Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, the serious Zen student should at least familiarise with the generic teachings in the Other Mahayana Writings section, particularly with the Sutras and Shastras as they form the backbone of the Zen criptural Canon. For more Zen and Ch'an teachings in a different format, see the Poetry & Stories: Classic Zen / Ch'an Poetry.

Practise guides

Introduction to Zen


Essays & Teachings

Taoist Texts



Practise guides

Faith in Mind - The Third Patriarch Seng Ts'an's legendary poem, this masterpiece captures the essence of Zen in a direct and simple style, yet is a complete guide to the path. A must-read for everybody.

Guidelines for studying the Way - By Dogen Zenji, the famous founder of the Japanese school of Soto Zen, providing advice of how one should approach practise.

Essentials of Practice and Enlightenment for Beginners - The great Han-shan shows how to approach the Way. Highly recommended.

The Essentials of Ch'an Practice - A simple, yet complete guide to Ch'an practise by the famous Xu Yun. Highly recommended for beginners, as well as those who are already familiar with the path.


Models for Sitting Meditation – Meditation instructions by Cijao of Chang Lu.

A General Recommended Way of Sitting Meditation – Meditation instructions by Dogen.

Bendowa - Dogen expands further on the practise of Zazen.

Absorption in the Treasury of Light - Zen Master Ejo gives a highly detailed account of how to meditate on your own true nature, the Dharmakaya. Recommended. In .pdf format.

Instructions for Seated Meditation - Foxin Bencai gives his instructions for Zen meditation.

Instructions in the Critical Essentials of Cultivating Dhyana Meditation - Instructions for meditation by Han-shan.

Taoist Texts

Tao Te Ching – By Lao Tzu. The classic of all classic scriptures in Taoist literature. You can't afford to miss this.

Chuang Tzu - Generally considered to be the most gifted writer in Chinese history, Chuang Tzu wrote one of the two greatest Taoist classics. Highly recommended. (163 KB)

Writings of Lieh Tzu (excerpts) - The writings of the the third great Taoist Lieh Tzu.

Hua Hu Ching - A relatively unknown work by the great Lao Tzu.

The History of Great Light (Original Instructions in Tao) (excerpts) - Want to know how the ancients practised? This old document reveals how. Invaluable for anybody seeking to be in accord with the Tao. By Huai-Nan-Tzu.

The Classic of Purity - One of the great Taoist classics, this document is a great guide to practise. By Ko Hsuan.

Qingjing Jing - A later though short classic of the Taoist Canon, this scripture is often equated to be the Heart Sutra of Taoism.

The Classic of the Pivot of Jade - A short text on how to be in accord with the Tao, by Hsüan-yang Dze.


A Compilation of koans - From all the famous koan collections, such as the Blue Cliff Records, including the full body of the Gateless Gate collection.

Zen Ancestors in China- The Five Houses - Andy Ferguson has compiled a beautiful .pdf document which gives you a great overview of all the transmitted masters of the five houses in China, from Bodhidharma in the 6th century to Wu-men Hukai in the 13th century. (185 KB)

The Autobiography & Maxims of Master Han Shan - This insightful work details the life of one of the greatest Ch'an masters of the Ming dynasty and gives the reader a look of how Ch'an was practised in old China through the eyes of Han-shan himself. A great inspiration. In Word-format (282 KB) and also as a .zip document for faster download (97 KB).

Introduction to Zen

Buddhism – An Introduction – Do you know next to nothing about Buddhism? This is the place to start.

Zen – Frequently Asked Questions – What's all this Zen, people are talking about nowadays? Find out here.

Glossary - An excellent list of foreign words used in Zen parliance. A good way to understand the parliance of Zen.

Essays & Teachings

Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma - A collection of some of the most famous sermons by the First Patriarch Bodhidharma.(157 KB) Invaluable for understanding Zen.

Fragmentary Notes of Bodhidharma's Disciples - The title speaks for itself. The remnant teachings of the First Patriarch's disciples.

Zen Teachings of Huiko - Some teachings by the Second Patriarch, Huiko.

ZenTeachings of Daoxin - a short teaching on singular samadhi practise by Daoxin, the Fourth Patriarch.

Song of Mind - a profound poem describing the direct way of the Oxhead School of Ch'an by Nitou Fajung, founder of the Oxhead School and a Dharma succesor to the Fourth Partriarch Daoxin.

Treatise on the Supreme Vehicle (excerpts) - Hung Yen (Jap. Hongren), the 5th Patriarch, gives a profound expounding of the Buddhadharma. Thorough and well-suited for beginners and intermediate practitioners alike.

The Platform Sutra - By Hui-Neng, the Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an, this is the classical scripture of Sudden Path Ch'an. An absolute must-read for all Zennist (205 KB). Also download the sutra in zipped .doc format for printing (76 KB).

Cheng-Tao-Ko [Jap. Shodoka] - Apart from the Third Patriarch's 'Faith in Mind', the Cheng-Tao-Ko is undoubtly considered to be the most powerful exposition of Zen in verse form. A true classic and another must-read, by Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh.

Discourse on Sudden Enlightenment - Shen Hui, a devoted disciple and Dharma heir of Huineng, teaches on the direct way of sudden enlightenment.

Zen Teachings of Mazu - A collection of teachings by the legendary Mazu, by many considered to be the greatest Zen master of all time.

Zen Teachings of Hui Hai - A large collection of the teachings of Hui-Hai, this documents covers multiple subjects of the Dharma. Probably not for the beginner,as it presupposes strong familiarity with Zen and Mahayana. (141 KB)

Zen Teachings of Huang-po - The entire body of the teachings of the famous Huang-po, this is a true Zen classic. Highly recommended. (104 KB)

Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi (excerpts) [Jap. Rinzai] - A selection of teachings from the famous Lin-Chi. Invaluable for all practitioners.

The Five Ranks - This famous teaching details the stages of enlightenment, for intermediate and advanced practitioners, by the great Tung-shan, with additional material by a host of other famous teachers.

Zen Teachings of Hongzhi Zhenjue - The profound teachings of Hongzhi Zhenjue, one of the greatest masters of the Silent Illumination school of Ch'an. Highly recommended.

Zen Teachings of Fo-yen Ching-yuan (excerpts) – A selection of teachings of one of the great masters of Zen: Fo-Yen Ching-Yuan. Especially recommended for beginners due to its simple style, but simple doesn't necesarily mean novice.

Helpful Advice from Dogen - Dogen gives some guidelines for which to make your practise as efficient as possible. Very good.

Genjo Koan - One most important and profound writings of Dogen, about Zen in daily life.

Exertion - Dogen explains about the nature of exertion and effort.

The Mountains and Waters Discourse – One of the more esoteric teachings of Dogen.

Birth and Death - Dogen explains about birth, death and Nirvana.

Secrets On Cultivating Mind - A highly profound teaching by Chinul, the greatest Korean Zen (Son) master of all time. Highly recommended for beginners and intermediate practitioners alike.

Zazen Ron - A "Discussion of Zazen", no-mind and birth and death, by Zen master Enni.

Practise and Attain Sudden Enlightenment - Got any questions about Zen? This work by Master Ch'an Yuan, based on the traditional questions-and-answers style of teaching, covers just about everything, from practise, emptiness, no-mind, the paramitas and much more. (109 KB)

Maxims of Master Han Shan - A selection of enlightening and sharp maxims by Han Shan, one of the greatest Ch'an Masters of the Ming Dynasty. Well worth the read.

An Elementary Talk on Zen - A talk on the basics of Zen practise, by Zen master Man-an.

The Zen Teachings of Hakuin - A collection of talks by Hakuin, one of the greatest Zen masters in Japanese history (106 KB).

Daily Lectures at Two Ch'an Weeks - A long and thorough exposition of the Ch'an path, given in the context of a period of intensive sitting. Useful for practitioners at all levels employing a Hua-tou. (109 KB and 80 KB - two files).