The most influential master in the Japanese Rinzai tradition, Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1769) reestablished the rigorous koan-training methods of the great T’an- and Sung-dynasty masters of China; all modern Rinzai Zen masters trace their lineage to him and his teaching. Hakuin took the unusual step of overseeing the collection and publication of his own Zen records—a task usually left to students after the master’s death.
Complete Poison Blossoms, comprising some 450 individual pieces—the majority in verse, ranging from four-line poems to essays sufficiently long to have been published as independent texts— is a sourcebook of guidance on the path to ultimate liberation. Waddell augments these texts with clarifying introductions and background context, detailed notes explaining Hakuin’s allusions, and side remarks recorded during lectures by Hakuin’s own students in their copies of the text. Hakuin’s teaching is elusive, suggestive, and poetic, a web of mysterious pieces that encourage students to delve into the reality of Buddha-nature and to realize it themselves. Formally or informally, every piece in this collection is a koan to be chewed on, swallowed, and digested by unflagging meditation on the paradoxical meaning of the words—and what lies beyond the words.