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Zen and Material Culture$
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Pamela Winfield and Steven Heine

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190469290

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190469290.001.0001

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Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Discomfort Me

Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Discomfort Me

Zen Staffs as Implements of Instruction

(p.1) 1 Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Discomfort Me
Zen and Material Culture

Steven Heine

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the role of the staff as perhaps the primary religious symbol representing the profound aptitude of the spiritual authenticity as well as institutional authority of Zen masters. By virtue of evoking and embodying an adept’s greatest levels of accomplishment, the staff serves as an especially expedient means for implementing his particular method of instructing disciples and, thereby, also becomes an effective method of transmitting the teaching style and legacy of his lineage. Through examining the history and symbolism of more than half a dozen varieties of canes, rods, sceptres, sticks, and whisks, the chapter explores the material and rhetorical elements of Zen staffs.

Keywords:   staffs, fly-whisks, kōans, Blue Cliff Record, Daitō, Dōgen, Chinese Chan

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