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:
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."
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.
HH PATRIARCH DUNG-SHAN LIANG-CHIEH
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.