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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. The Sutras and Shastras are canonical works predating Zen which all the other writings are based on and are invaluable for any serious student. A collection of Taoist writings are also available. In the Miscellaneous section, you will find an assortment of writings that does not fit into any other categories, including teachings from other schools. Hopefully, experienced practitioners as well as beginners will find something of use here. For more teachings, see the Poetry & Stories: Classic Zen / Ch'an Poetry.

Practise guides

Introduction to Zen


Essays & Teachings

Sutras & Shastras

Taoist Texts



Practise guides

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.


The Dharma Essentials for Cultivating Stopping and Contemplation - The classic T'ien T'ai manuals, this detailed work is generally considered to be the primary guide to meditation within Chinese Buddhism.

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


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. (205 KB). Also download the sutra in zipped .doc format for printing (76 KB).

The Lankavatara Sutra (excerpts) - The foundational Sutra of Zen, this is the sutra Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, based his teachings on. A complete version of the Sutra is also available in .pdf format here.

The Diamond Sutra – The most sacred sutra in Mahayana Buddhism, this is by many considered to be the most powerful scripture of all.

The Heart Sutra – Another of the most important sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, the Heart Sutra is chanted everyday trhoughout most Zen monasteries.

Shurangama Sutra - Yet another key sutra in the Mahayana Canon. (536 KB) Note: Due to the great size of the document, you might want to download it in zipped format instead. (160 KB)

Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra- Another key sutra in Mahayana, this is about Vimalakirti Nirdesa, the lay Bodhisattva. (251 KB)

The Lotus Sutra - One of the primary (and longest) sutras in the Mahayana Canon, this sutra is described by many masters as the greatest and most profound sutra of all (568 KB). Note: Due to the great size of the document, you might want to download it in zipped format instead. (160 KB)

The Great Parinirvana Sutra (excerpts) - An excerpt from another of the longest Mahayana sutras, this sutra tells about the time up to the Buddha's Great Parinirvana (Final Passing Away). (172 KB)

The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections - Another popular Mahayana Sutra.

The Demonstration of the Inconceivable State of Buddhahood Sutra - A relatively unknown, although highly profound Sutra on the direct way teaching.

Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala Sutra - Another profound Sutra.

The Eight Awakenings Sutra – Great practise guide..


The Awakening of Faith - This powerful Shastra gives a detailed and profound account of early Mahayana teachings. An essential key work by Asvaghosha for understanding the doctrine of the Mahayana vehicle. (105 KB)

The Mahayana Dharma-realm Without Distinction - An old Mahayana Shastra on the nature of the Bodhicitta, by Bodhisattva Sthiramati. Highly recommended for intermediate and advanced practitioners.

The Ratnaguna-samcayagatha - A profound Shastra summarised in verse-form on the perfection of wisdom (prajnaparamita). Well worth the read.

The Trimsika (literally, 30 stanzas) - This work, written by Vasubandhu the co-founder of the Yogacara school, the predecedor of Zen, explains in detail about the nature of consciousness and the factors at work in the mind. Highly recommended for advanced practitioners.

A Direct Explanation of the Prajnaa-paramita Heart Sutra - A commentary on the Heart Sutra by Han-shan.

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

The Foundations of Buddhism - The list of all lists. A quick summary of all the Mahayana teachings, which is always good to have close at hand.

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

Treatise on the Supreme Vehicle (excerpts) - Hung Yen (Jap. Hongren), the 5th Patriarch, gives a profound expounding of the Buddhadharma.

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 the legendary Hui-Hai, this documents covers multiple subjects of the Dharma. A must-read for the serious student, though probably not for the beginner. (141 KB)

Zen Teachings of Huang-po - The entire body of the teachings of the famous Huang-po, this is a true Zen classic. Invaluable for all practitioners. (104 KB)

Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi (excerpts) [Jap. Rinzai] - A selection of teachings from the famous Lin-Chi. Highly recommended.

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, although others might enjoy it as well.

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 many profound teachings of Dogen.

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

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.

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. (109 KB and KB).

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.


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)

Naturally Liberated Mind, The Great Perfection (excerpts) - A highly profound Vajrayana teaching, this is the first of three chapters, this one being aimed liberation through sheer realisation. You cannot afford to miss this one.

The Mystical Theology - Dionysius the Areopagite teaches on how to realise the "Divine Darkness" of God. A Christian mystic teaching with a striking resemblance to Zen. Well worth the read.

Seven Hermetic Principles – The East is not the only place where enlightenment can be found. Here are the ancient Greeks' take on things.