the Wanderling

The Five Degrees of Tozan, also known as the Five Ranks of Tozan, and WU KENG CHUAN in Chinese, are different levels of Realization formulated by Zen master Tozan Ryokai, known as Tung-shan Liang-chieh in Chinese (807-869). In ascending scale the five are known as:

  1. sho-chu-chen

  2. hen-chu-sho

  3. sho-chu-rai

  4. hen-chu-shi

  5. hen-chu-to

The first three degrees or steps are noetic and the last two are conative. The middle, or third step, is the transition point at which the noetic begins to be conative and knowledge turns into life.


At this level the world of phenomena is dominant, but is perceived as a dimension of the absolute Self. This level correlates with Tozan's first stanza below titled "The Apparent within the Real."

The Apparent within the Real:

In the third watch of the night
Before the moon appears,
No wonder when we meet
There is no recognition!
Still cherished in my heart
Is the beauty of earlier days.


At this stage the undifferentiated aspect comes strongly to the fore and diversity recedes into the background. This level is equal to Tozan's second stanza "The Real within the Apparent."

The Real within the Apparent:

A sleepy eyed grandam
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she see a face,
But it doesn't resemble hers at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head,
She tried to recognize her reflection.


At this level no awareness of body or mind remains; both "drop away" completely. This level is related to Tozan's third stanza "The Coming From within the Real."

The Coming from within the Real:

Within nothingness there is a path
Leading away from the dusts of the world.
Even if you observe the taboo
On the present emperors name,
You will surpass that eloquent one of yore
Who silenced every tongue.


With this fourth degree or level of Attainment the singularity of each object is preceived at its highest degree of uniqueness. The difference between this level and the next is paper-thin and practically non-existant. The fourth level matches Tozan's fourth stanza below titled "The Arrival at Mutual Integration."

The Arrival at Mutual Integration:

When two blades cross points,
There's no need to withdraw.
The master swordsman
Is like the lotus blooming in the fire.
Such a man has in and of himself
A heaven soaring spirit.


At this, the fifth and highest level formulated by Tozan, form and Emptiness mutually penetrate to such a degree that no longer is there consciousness of either. Ideas of satori or delusion entirely vanish. It is the stage of perfect inner freedom and is refered to by and in Tozan's fifth stanza below "Unity Attained."

Unity Attained:

Who dares to equal him
Who fall into neither being or non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.

The key words are sho and hen which are mutually related aspects of the One. The attributes of sho are: absolute, emptiness, equality, oneness, and absolute self. The attributes of hen are: relative, form-and-color, difference, manyness, and relative self.

The word chu, which for the most part translates as "within" or "among" expresses the interrelation of the sho and hen. In the last of the last two steps shi is replaced by to. They mean the same action, that is, to "arrive" or "to reach." However, shi traditionally means "has not yet arrived," whereas to translates into "the completion of the act."


Ken means "both" -- meaning the indepth realization of how both sho and hen are NOT separate but actually fully integrated-interdefused aspects of the same single, non-dual phenomenon -- refering to for example, albeit simply put, the interdefused non-dualism of say hot and cold --- seemingly different, but in actuality, both related aspects of a single non-dual temperature spectrum. Thus then, it can be seen the replacement in use of the word ken in lieu of the word hen, as say in ken-chu-shi rather than hen-chu-shi in the Fourth Degree carries within it's scope a much deeper meaning than a simple syntax variance or first letter change, the attributes again of hen not encompassing the full scope, being: relative, form-and-color, difference, manyness, and relative self.

A fairly good example of that subtle letter change can be found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, wherein the Wanderling writes of his Zen mentor: "...ken-chu-shi was graciously accorded me by the person from which I sought guidence; he himself, having experienced full realization under the grace and light of Sri Ramana Maharshi some thirty-nine years earlier..." Notice his Mentor specifically selected ken-chu-shi over hen-chu-shi, meaning he felt in the nunances of it all a deeper level of understanding was attained than what hen-chu-shi offered. However, notice as well his Mentor DID NOT grace him with hen-chu-to, and most significantly NOT ken-chu-to, apparently indicating in both cases that although the Wanderling's attainment was deep, it was, at least at that time, not total.


The past several years has seen a proliferation of smartphone meditation apps come on the market, all designed in such a way to ease, assist, familiarize, and put into use meditation techniques for almost anybody interested in learning and implementing the various ins-and-outs of meditation, at least as the manufacturers of the apps view meditation.

Beyond the manufacturers advertisement and promotions, for every page that shows up on the internet or elsewhere in support of using the apps, there is an equal number of pages knocking their use. What the knocking their use people are selling varies, but the in support folk seem to be in line with the app builders and promoters because if nothing else, the apps sell --- and sell big time, especially so the two top brands, Headspace and Calm.

People use all kinds of things to enhance or increase their ability to accomplish things. They wear glasses to improve the clarity of their physical vision. Some use dental implants and dentures to chew, eat, or look better. The same for the use of prosthetics, crutches, canes, or wheelchairs. They help people get things done and walk or move about who otherwise might not be able to. But, if glasses to read or see aren't needed, or implants or dentures, or canes, crutches, or wheelchairs, why use them? Initially, with meditation, other than a coming to know what meditation is and what it can do if you do it, nothing much than the desire to do so and then doing it is required Painting legs on a snake doesn't make it walk any better. Electronically painting photon-pushing meditation legs to swath your synapses with trompe l'oeil may be for some, better than nothing. However, and this is one of the biggest however's ever, it is that better than nothing that makes it not, not nothing, the goal of meditation.






Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.







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