Several years ago my younger brother was cleaning out his attic when he ran across a long forgotten box that at one time belonged to me. Inside he found an old paperback book by D.T. Suzuki on Zen Buddhism that had not seen the light of day in over 20 years. The cover was faded and worn. Corner after corner of the pages folded down. Pencil notes all over the margins and inside the covers. Sentences were underlined in ink. Whole paragraphs were highlighted in a now barely discernible yellow.
My brother reminded me of how I, not unlike Te Shan, used to carry that book around like a bible my last two years of high school and several years afterward. Anytime anybody said anything about anything out would come my book...always ready with a "Zen answer." Then one day something was different. Like Te Shan I somehow didn't need books much any more. Don't know why, it just was.
AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN BUDDHISM
NOTE: Below you will find the contents page as well as the complete preface and two full chapters to Suzuki's book. Also included is link through access to seven actual pages from the book. See also The Five Varieties of Zen as well as IN THE WAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT: The Ten Fetters of Buddhism.
Edited by Ch.Humphreys, with a Foreword by C.G.Jung
Rider & Company
London 1949 (1969)
UPAKA THE ASCETIC
Foreword by C.G.Jung
II What is Zen?*
III Is Zen Nihilistic?
IV Illogical Zen
V Zen: A Higher Affirmation
VI Practical Zen*
VII **Satori**, or Acquiring a New Viewpoint*
VIII The Koan
IX The Meditation Hall and the Monk's Life
NOTE: *Denotes chapters presented below. Link for additional pages at conclusion of this page.
The articles collected here were written for the "New East", which was published in Japan during the 1914 War under the editorship of Mr.Robertson Scott. The editor suggested publishing them in book-form, but I did not feel like doing it so at that time. Later, they were made the basis of the First Series of my "Zen Essays" (1927), which, therefore, naturally cover more or less the same ground.
Recently, the idea came to me that the old papers might be after all reprinted in book-form. The reason is that my "Zen Essays" are too heavy for those who wish to have just a little preliminary knowledge of Zen. Will not, therefore, what may be regarded as an introductory work be welcomed by some of my foreign friends?
With this in view, I have gone over the entire MS., and whatever inaccuracies I have come across in regard to diction as well as the material used have been corrected. While there are quite a few points I would like to see now expressed somewhat differently, I have left them as they stand, because their revision inevitably involves the recasting of the entire context. So long as they are not misrepresenting, they may remain as they were written.
If the book really serves as a sort of introduction to Zen Buddhism, and leads the reader up to the study of my other works, the object is attained. No claim is made here for a scholarly treatment of the subject-matter.
The companion book, "Manual of Zen Buddhism", is recommended to be used with this "Introduction".
For five additional related essays on ZEN please see the following:
- ZEN CAN BE FOUND IN ANY ACTIVITY
- WHAT THE BUDDHA SAID
- CH'AN (ZEN) BUDDHISM: Outside the Scriptures
- T'ANG CH'AN AND THE MYTH OF BODHIDHARMA
- INNATE ENLIGHTENMENT AND NO-THOUGHT: A Response to the Critical Buddhist Position on Zen
- THE AWAKENING EXPERIENCE IN THE MODERN ERA
- BUDDHIST ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE INTERNET
- ALL LARRY DARRELL.COM
Enlightenment on the Razor's Edge
What is Zen? Is Zen Buddhism?
Before preceding to expound the teaching of Zen at some length in the following pages, let me answer some of the questions which are frequently raised by critics concerning the real nature of Zen.
Is Zen a system of philosophy, highly intellectual and profoundly metaphysical, as most Buddhist teachings are?
I have already stated that we find in Zen all the philosophy of the East crystallized, but this ought not to be taken as meaning that Zen is a philosophy in the ordinary application of the term. Zen is decidedly not a system founded upon logic and analysis. If anything, it is the antipode to logic, by which I mean the dualistic mode of thinking. There may be an intellectual element in Zen, for Zen is the whole mind, and in it we find a great many things; but the mind is not a composite thing that is to be divided into so many faculties, leaving nothing behind when a dissection is over. Zen has nothing to teach us in the way of intellectual analysis; nor has it any set doctrines which are imposed on its followers for acceptance. In this respect Zen is quite chaotic if you choose to say so. Probably Zen followers may have sets of doctrines, but they have them on their own account, and for their own benefit; they do not owe the fact to Zen. Therefore, there are in Zen no sacred books or dogmatic tenets, nor are there any symbolic formulae through which an access might be gained into the signification of Zen. If I am asked, then, what Zen teaches, I would answer, Zen teaches nothing. Whatever teachings there are in Zen, they come out of one's own mind. We teach ourselves; Zen merely points the way. Unless this pointing is teaching, there is certainly nothing in Zen purposely set up as its cardinal doctrines or its fundamental philosophy.
Zen claims to be Buddhism, but Is Zen Buddhism?. All the Buddhist teachings as propounded in the sutras and shastras are treated by Zen as mere waste paper whose utility consists in wiping off the dirt of intellect and nothing more. Do not imagine, however, that Zen is nihilism. All nihilism is self-destructive, it ends nowhere. Negativism is sound as method, but the highest truth is an affirmation. When it is said that Zen has no philosophy, that it denies all doctrinal authority, that is casts aside all so-called sacred literature as rubbish, we must not forget that Zen is holding up in this very act of negation something quite positive and eternally affirmative. This will become clearer as we proceed.
Is Zen a religion? It is not a religion in the sense that the term is popularly understood; for Zen has no God to worship, no ceremonial rites to observe, no future abode to which the dead are destined, and, last of all, Zen has no soul whose welfare is to be looked after by somebody else and whose immortality is a matter of intense concern with some people. Zen is free from all these dogmatic and "religious" encumbrances. When I say there is no God in Zen, the pious reader may be shocked, but this does not mean that Zen denies the existence of God; neither denial nor affirmation concerns Zen. When a thing is denied, the very denial involves something not denied. The same can be said of affirmation. This is inevitable in logic. Zen wants to rise above logic, Zen wants to find a higher affirmation where there is no antitheses. Therefore, in Zen, God is neither denied nor insisted upon; only there is in Zen no such God as has been conceived by Jewish and Christian minds. For the same reason that Zen is not a philosophy, Zen is not a religion.
As to all those images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Devas and other beings that one comes across in Zen temples, they are like so many pieces of wood or stone or metal; they are like a camellias, azalias, or stone lanterns in my garden. Make obeisance to the camellia now in full bloom, and worship it if you like, Zen would say. There is as much religion in so doing as in bowing to the various Buddhist gods, or as sprinkling holy water, or as participating in the Lord's Supper. All those pious deeds considered to be meritorious or sanctifying by most so-called religiously minded people are artificialities in the eyes of Zen. It boldly declares that "the immaculate Yogins do not enter Nirvana and the precept-violating monks do not go to hell". This, to ordinary minds, is a contradiction of the common law of moral life, but herein lies the truth and the life of Zen. Zen is the spirit of a man. Zen believes in its inner purity and goodness. Whatever is superadded or violently torn away, injures the wholesomeness of the spirit. Zen, therefore, is emphatically against all religious conventionalism.
Its irreligion, however, is merely apparent. Those who are truly religious will be surprised to find that after all there is so much of religion in the barbarous declaration of Zen. But to say that Zen is religion, in the sense that Christianity and Mohammedanism is, would be a mistake. To make my point clearer, I quote the following. When Sakyamuni was born, it is said that he lifted one hand toward the heavens and pointed to the earth with the other, exclaiming, "Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honoured One!" Ummon, founder of the Ummon School of Zen, comments on this by saying, "If I had been with him at the moment of his uttering this, I would surely have struck him dead with one blow and thrown the corpse into the maw of a hungry dog". What unbelievers would ever think of making such raving remarks over a spiritual leader? Yet one of the Zen masters following Ummon says: "Indeed, this is the way Ummon desires to serve the world, sacrificing everything he has, body and mind! How grateful he must have felt for the love of Buddha!"
Zen is not to be confounded with a form of meditation as practised by "New Thought" people, or Christian Scientists, or Hindu Sannyasins, or some Buddhists. Dhyana, as it is understood by Zen, does not correspond to the practice as carried on in Zen. A man may meditate on a religious or philosophical subject while disciplining himself in Zen, but that is only incidental; the essence of Zen is not there at all. Zen purposes to discipline the mind itself, to make it its own master, through an insight into its proper nature. This getting into the real nature of one's own mind or soul is the fundamental object of Zen Buddhism. Zen, therefore, is more than meditation and Dhyana in its ordinary sense. The discipline of Zen consists in opening the mental eye in order to look into the very reason of existence.
To meditate, a man has to fix his thought on something; for instance, on the oneness of God, or his infinite love, or on the impermanence of things. But this is the very thing Zen desires to avoid. If there is anything Zen strongly emphasizes it is the attainment of freedom; that is, freedom from all unnatural encumbrances. Meditation is something artificially put on; it does not belong to the native activity of the mind. Upon what do the fowls of the air meditate? Upon what do the fish in the water meditate? They fly; they swim. Is not that enough? Who wants to fix his mind on the unity of God and man, or on the nothingness of life? Who wants to be arrested in the daily manifestations of his life-activity by such meditations as the goodness of a divine being or the everlasting fire of hell?
We may say that Christianity is monotheistic, and the Vedanta pantheistic; but we cannot make a similar assertion about Zen. Zen is neither monotheistic nor pantheistic; Zen defies all such designations. Hence there is no object in Zen upon which to fix the thought. Zen is the wafting cloud in the sky. No screw fastens it, no string holds it; it moves as it lists. No amount of meditation will keep Zen in one place. Meditation is not Zen. Neither pantheism nor monotheism provides Zen with its subjects of concentration. If Zen is monotheistic, it may tell its followers to meditate on the oneness of things where all the differences and inequalities, enveloped in the all-illuminating brightness of the divine light, are obliterated. If Zen were pantheistic, it will tell us that every meanest flower in the field reflects the glory of God. But what Zen says is "After all things are reduced to oneness, where would that One be reduced?" Zen wants to have one's mind free and unobstructed; even the idea of oneness or allness is a stumbling block and a strangling snare which threatens the original freedom of the spirit.
Zen, therefore, does not ask us to concentrate our thought on the idea that dog is God, or that three pounds of flax are divine. When Zen does this it commits itself to a definite system of philosophy, and there is no more Zen. Zen just feels fire warm and ice cold, because when it freezes we shiver and welcome fire. The feeling is all in all, as Faust declares; all our theorization fails to touch reality. But "the feeling" here must be understood in its deepest sense or in its purest form. Even to say that "This is the feeling" means that Zen is no more there. Zen defies all concept-making. That is why Zen is difficult to grasp.
Whatever meditation Zen may propose, then, will be to take things as they are, to consider snow white and the raven black. When we speak of meditation we in most cases refer to its abstract character; that is, meditation is known to be the concentration of the mind on some highly generalized proposition, which is, in the nature of things, not always closely and directly connected with the concrete affairs of life. Zen perceives and feels, and does not abstract and meditate. Zen penetrates and is finally lost in the immersion. Meditation, on the other hand, is outspokenly dualistic and consequently inevitably superficial.
One critic (Arthur Lloyd, "Wheat Among the Tares", p.53) regards Zen as "the Buddhist counterpart of 'Spiritual Exercises' of St. Ignatius Loyola". The critic shows a great inclination to find Christian analogies for things Buddhist, and this is one of such instances. Those who have at all a clear understanding of Zen will at once see how wide of the mark this comparison is. Even superficially speaking, there is not a shadow of similitude between the exercises of Zen and those proposed by the founder of the Society of Jesus. The contemplations and prayers of St. Ignatius are, from the Zen point of view, merely so many fabrications of the imagination elaborately woven for the benefit of the piously minded; and in reality this is like piling tiles upon tiles on one's head, and there is no true gain in the life of the spirit. We can say this, however, that those "Spiritual Exercises" in some way resemble certain meditations of Hinayana Buddhism, such as the Five Mind-quieting Methods, or the Nine Thoughts on Impurity, or the Six or Ten Subjects of Memory.
Zen is sometimes made to mean "mind-murder and the curse of idle reverie". This is the statement of Griffis, the well-known author of "Religions of Japan" (p.255). By "mind-murder" I do not know what he really means, but does he mean that Zen kills the activities of the mind by making one's thought fix on one thing, or by inducing sleep? Mr. Reischauer in his book "Studies of Buddhism in Japan" (p.118) almost endorses this view of Griffis by asserting that Zen is "mystical self-intoxication". Does that mean that Zen is intoxicated in the "Greater Self" so called, as Spinoza was intoxicated in God? Though Mr. Reischauer is not quite clear as to the meaning of "intoxication", he may think that Zen is unduly absorbed in the thought of the "Greater Self" as the final reality in this world of particulars. It is amazing to see how superficial some of the uncritical observers of Zen are! In point of fact, Zen has no "mind" to murder; therefore, there is no "mind-murdering" in Zen. Zen has no "self" as something to which we can cling as a refuge; therefore, in Zen again there is no "self" by which we may become intoxicated.
The truth is, Zen is extremely elusive as far as its outward aspects are concerned; when you think you have caught a glimpse of it, it is no more there; from afar it looks so approachable, but as soon as you come near it you see it even further away from you than before. Unless, therefore, you devote some years of earnest study to the understanding of its primary principles, it is not to be expected that you will begin to have a fair grasp of Zen.
"The way to ascend unto God is to descend into one's self"; -- these are Hugo's words. "If thou wishest to search out the deep things of God, search out the depths of thine own spirit"; -- this comes from Richard of St. Victor. When all these deep things are searched out there is after all no "self" where you can descend, there is no "spirit", no "God" whose depths are to be fathomed. Why? Because Zen is a bottomless abyss. Zen declares, though in somewhat different manner: "Nothing really exists throughout the triple world; where do you wish to see the mind (or spirit, *hsin*)? The four elements are all empty in their ultimate nature; where could the Buddha's abode be? -- but lo! the truth is unfolding itself right before your eye. This is all there is to it -- and indeed nothing more!" A minute's hesitation and Zen is irrevocably lost. All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future may try to make you catch it once more, and yet it is a thousand miles away. "Mind-murder" and "self-intoxication", forsooth! Zen has no time to bother itself with such criticisms.
The critics may mean that the mind is hypnotized by Zen to a state of unconsciousness, and that when this obtains, the favourite Buddhist doctrine of Emptiness, Sunyata, is realized, where the subject is not conscious of an objective world or of himself, being lost in one vast emptiness, whatever this may be. This interpretation again fails to hit Zen aright. It is true that there are some such expressions in Zen as might suggest this kind of interpretation, but to understand Zen we must take a leap here. The "vast emptiness" must be traversed. The subject must be awakened from a state of unconsciousness if he does not wish to be buried alive. Zen is attained only when "self-intoxication" is abandoned and the "drunkard" is really awakened to his deeper self. If the mind is ever to be "murdered", leave the work in the hand of Zen; for it is Zen that will restore the murdered and lifeless one into the state of eternal life. "Be born again, be awakened from the dream, rise from the death, O ye drunkards!" Zen would exclaim. Do not try, therefore, to see Zen with the eyes bandaged; and your hands are too unsteady to take hold of it. And remember I am not indulging in figures of speech.
I might multiply many such criticisms if it were necessary but I hope that the above have sufficiently prepared the reader's mind for the following more positive statements concerning Zen. The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings of our being, and to do so in the most direct way possible, without resorting to anything external or superadded. Therefore, anything that has the semblance of an external authority is rejected by Zen. Absolute faith is placed in a man's own inner being. For whatever authority there is in Zen, all comes from within. This is true in the strictest sense of the word. Even the reasoning faculty is not considered final or absolute. On the contrary, it hinders the mind from coming into the directest communication with itself. The intellect accomplishes its mission when it works as an intermediary, and Zen has nothing to do with the intermediary except when it desires to communicate itself to others. For this reason all the scriptures are merely tentative and provisory; there is in them no finality. The central fact of life as it is lived is what Zen aims to grasp, and this in the most direct and most vital manner. Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man lives as he ought to live. What more may we hope?
Some say that as Zen is admittedly a form of mysticism it cannot claim to be unique in the history of religion. Perhaps so; but Zen is a mysticism of its own order. It is mystical in the sense that the sun shines, that the flower blooms, that I hear at this moment somebody beating the drum in the street. If these are mystical facts, Zen is brim-full of them. When a Zen master was once asked what Zen was, he replied, "Your everyday thought". Is this not plain and straightforward? It has nothing to do with any sectarian spirit. Christians as well as Buddhists can practise Zen just as big fish and small fish are both contentedly living in the same ocean. Zen is the ocean, Zen is the air, Zen is the mountain, Zen is thunder and lightning, the spring flower, summer heat, and winter snow; nay, more than that, Zen is the man. With all the formalities, conventionalisms, and superadditions that Zen has accumulated in its long history, its central fact is very much alive. The special merit of Zen lies in this: that we are still able to see into this ultimate fact without being biased by anything.
As has been said before, what makes Zen unique as it is practised in Japan is its systematic training of the mind. Ordinary mysticism has been too erratic a product and apart from one's ordinary life; this has Zen revolutionized. What was up in the heavens, Zen has brought down to earth. With the development of Zen, mysticism has ceased to be mystical; it is no more the spasmodic product of an abnormally endowed mind. For Zen reveals itself in the most uninteresting and uneventful life of a plain man of the street, recognizing the fact of living in the midst of life as it is lived. Zen systematically trains the mind to see this; it opens a man's eye to the greatest mystery as it is daily and hourly performed; it enlarges the heart to embrace eternity of time and infinity of space in its every palpitation; it makes us live in the world as if walking in the garden of Eden; and all this spiritual feats are accomplished without resorting to any doctrines but by simply asserting in the most direct way the truth that lies in our inner being.
Whatever else Zen may be, it ia practical and commonplace and at the same time most living. An ancient master, wishing to show what Zen is, lifted one of his fingers, another kicked a ball, and a third slapped the face of his questioner. If the inner truth that lies deep in us is thus demonstrated, is not Zen the most practical and direct method of spiritual training ever resorted to by any religion? And is not this practical method also a most original one? Indeed, Zen cannot be anything else but original and creative because it refuses to deal with concepts but deals with living facts of life. When conceptually understood, the lifting of a finger is one of the most ordinary incidents in everybody's life. But when it is viewed from the Zen point of view it vibrates with the divine meaning and creative vitality. So long as Zen can point out this truth in the midst of our conventional and concept-bound existence we must say that it has its reason of being.
The following quotation from a letter of Yengo (1566-1642) may answer, to a certain extent, the question asked in the beginning of this chapter, "What is Zen?"
"It is presented right to your face, and at this moment the whole thing is handed over to you. For an intelligent fellow, one word should suffice to convince him of the truth of it, but even then error has crept in. Much more so when it is committed to paper and ink, or given up to wordy demonstration or to logical quibble, then it slips farther away from you. The great truth of Zen is possessed by everybody. Look into your own being and seek it not through others. Your own mind is above all forms; it is free and quiet and sufficient; it eternally stamps itself in your six senses and four elements. In its light all is absorbed. Hush the dualism of subject and object, forget both, transcend the intellect, sever yourself from the understanding, and directly penetrate deep into the identity of the Buddha-mind; outside of this there are no realities. Therefore, when Bodhidharma came from the West, he simply declared, 'Directly pointing to one's own soul, my doctrine is unique, and is not hampered by the canonical teachings; it is the absolute transmission of the true seal'. Zen has nothing to do with letters, words, or sutras. It only requests you to grasp the point directly and therein to find your peaceful abode. When the mind is disturbed, the understanding is stirred, things are recognized, notions are entertained, ghostly spirits are conjured, and prejudices grow rampant. Zen will then forever be lost in the maze.
"The wise Sekiso (Shih-shuang) said, 'Stop all your hankerings; let the mildew grow on your lips; make yourself like unto a perfect piece of immaculate silk; let your one thought be eternity; let yourself be like the dead ashes, cold and lifeless; again let yourself be like an old censer in a deserted village shrine!'
"Put your simple faith in this, discipline yourself accordingly; let your body and mind be turned into an inanimate object of nature like a stone or a piece of wood; when a state of perfect motionlessness and unawareness is obtained all the signs of life will depart and also every trace of limitation will vanish. Not a single idea will disturb your consciousness, when lo! all of a sudden you will come to realize the light abounding in full gladness. It is like coming across the light in thick darkness; it is like receiving treasure in poverty. The four elements and the five aggregates are no more felt as burdens; so light, so easy, so free you are. Your very existence has been delivered from all limitations; you have become open, light, and transparent. You gain an illuminating insight into the very nature of things, which now appear to you as so many fairylike flowers having no graspable realities. Here is manifested the unsophisticated self which is the original face of your being; here is shown all bare the most beautiful landscape of your birthplace. There is but one straight passage open and unobstructed through and through. This is so when you surrender all -- your body, your life, and all that belongs to your inmost self. This is where you gain peace, ease, non-doing, and inexpressible delight. All the sutras and shastras are no more than communications of this fact; all the sages, ancient as well as modern, have exhausted their ingenuity and imagination to no other purpose that to point the way to this. It is like unlocking the door to a treasury; when the entrance is once gained, every object coming into your view is yours, every opportunity that presents itself is available for your use; for are they not, however multitudinous, all possessions obtainable within the original being of yourself? Every treasure there is but waiting for your pleasure and utilization. This is what is meant by 'Once gained, eternally gained, even unto the end of time.' Yet really there is nothing gained; what you have gained is no gain, yet there is something truly gained in this".
So far Zen has been discussed from the intellectual point of view, in order to see that it is impossible to comprehend Zen through this channel; in fact it is not doing justice to Zen to treat it thus philosophically. Zen abhors media, even the intellectual medium; it is primarily and ultimately a discipline and an experience, which is dependent on no explanation; for an explanation wastes time and energy and is never to the point; all that you get out of it is a misunderstanding and a twisted view of things. When Zen wants you to taste the sweetness of sugar, it will put the required article right into your mouth and no further words are said. The followers of Zen would say, "A finger is needed to point at the moon, but what a calamity it would be if one took the finger for the moon!" This seems improbable, but how many times we are committing this form of error we do not know. Ignorance alone often saves us from being disturbed in our complacency. The business of a writer on Zen, however, cannot go beyond the pointing at the moon, as this is the only means permitted to him in the circumstances; and everything that is within his power will be done to make the subject in hand as thoroughly comprehensible as it is capable of being so made. When Zen is metaphysically treated, the reader may get somewhat discouraged about its being at all intelligible, since most people are not generally addicted to speculation or introspection. Let me approach it from quite a different point, which is perhaps more genuinely Zen-like.
When Joshu was asked what the Tao (or the truth of Zen) was, he answered, "Your everyday life, that is the Tao". In other words, a quiet, self-confident, and trustful existence of your own -- this is the truth of Zen, and what I mean when I say that Zen is pre-eminently practical. It appeals directly to life, not even making reference to a soul or to God, or to anything that interferes with or disturbs the ordinary course of living. The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand; I take a book from the other side of this desk; I hear the boys playing ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the neighbouring wood: -- in all these I am practising Zen, I am living Zen. No wordy discussions is necessary, nor any explanation. I do not know why -- and there is no need of explaining, but when the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and everybody's heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must be taken hold of here.
Therefore, when Bodhidharma was asked who he was, he said, "I do not know". This was not because he could not explain himself, nor was it because he wanted to avoid any verbal controversy, but just because he did not know what or who he was, save that he was what he was and could not be anything else. The reason was simple enough. When Nangaku was approaching Yeno, the Sixth Patriarch, and was questioned, "What is it that thus walks toward me?" he did not know what to answer. For eight long years he pondered the question, when one day it dawned upon him, and he exclaimed, "Even to say it is something does not hit the mark". This is the same as saying, "I do not know".
Sekito once asked his disciple, Yakusan, "What are you doing here?" "I am not doing anything", answered the latter. "If so you are idling your time away". "Is not idling away the time doing something?" was Yakusan's response. Sekiso still pursued him. "You say you are not doing anything; who then is this one who is doing nothing?" Yakusan's reply was the same as that of Bodhidharma, "Even the wisest knows it not". There is no agnosticism in it, nor mysticism either, if this is understood in the sense of mystification. A plain fact is stated here in plain language. If it does not seem so to the reader, it is because he has not attained to this state of mind which enabled Bodhidharma or Sekito to make the statement.
The Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty requested Fu Daishi (497-569) to discourse on a Buddhist sutra. The Daishi taking the chair sat solemnly in it but uttered not a word. The Emperor said, "I asked you to give a discourse, and why do you not begin to speak?" Shih, one of the Emperor's attendants, said, "The Daishi has finished discoursing". What kind of a sermon did this silent Buddhist philosopher deliver? Later on, a Zen master commenting on the above says, "What an eloquent sermon it was!" Vimalakirti, the hero of the sutra bearing his name, had the same way of answering the question, "What is the absolute doctrine of non-duality?" Someone remarked, "Thundering, indeed, is this silence of Vimalakirti". Was this keeping the mouth closed really deafening? If so, I hold my tongue now, and the whole universe, with all its hullabaloo and hurly-burly, is at once absorbed in this absolute silence. But mimicry does not turn a frog into a green leaf. Where there is no creative originality there is no Zen. I must say: "Too late, too late! The arrow has gone off the string".
A monk asked Yeno, "Who has inherited the spirit of the Fifth Patriarch?"
Answered Yeno, "One who understands Buddhism".
"Have you then inherited it?"
"No", replied Yeno, "I have not".
"Why have you not?" was naturally the next question of the monk.
"Because I do not understand Buddhism", Yeno reasoned.
How hard, then, and yet how easy it is to understand Zen! Hard because to understand it is not to understand it; easy because not to understand it is to understand it. A master declares that even Buddha Sakyamuni and Bodhisattva Maitreya do not understand it, where simple-minded knaves do understand it.
We can mow see why Zen shuns abstractions, representations, and figures of speech. No real value is attached to such words as God, Buddha, the soul, the Infinite, the One, the suchlike words. They are, after all, only words and ideas, and as such are not conducive to the real understanding of Zen. On the contrary, they often falsify and play at cross purposes. We are thus compelled always to be on our guard. Said a Zen master, "Cleanse the mouth thoroughly when you utter the word Buddha". Or, "There is one word I do not like to hear; that is, Buddha". Or, "Pass quickly on where there is no Buddha, nor stay where he is". Why are the followers of Zen so antagonistic toward Buddha? Is not Buddha their Lord? Is he not the highest reality of Buddhism? He cannot be such a hateful or unclean thing as to be avoided by Zen adherents. What they do not like is not the Buddha himself, but the odium attached to the word.
The answers given by Zen masters to the question "Who or what is the Buddhas?" are full of varieties; and why so? One reason at least is that they thus desire to free our minds from all possible entanglements and attachment such as words, ideas, desires, etc., which are put up against us from the outside. Some of the answers are, then, as follows:
"One made of clay and decorated with gold".
"Even the finest artist cannot paint him".
"The one enshrined in the Buddha Hall".
"He is no Buddha".
"Your name is Yecho".
"The dirt-scraper all dried up".(see)
"See the eastern mountains moving over the waves".
"No nonsense here".
"Surrounded by the mountains are we here".
"The bamboo grove at the foot of Chiang-lin hill".
"Three pound of flax".
"The mouth is the gate of woe".
"Lo, the waves are rolling over the plateau".
"See the tree-legged donkey go trotting along".
"A reed has grown piercing through the leg".
"Here goes a man with the chest exposed
and the legs all naked".
These are culled at random from a few books I am using for the purpose. When a thorough systematic search is made in the entire body of Zen literature we get quite a collection of strange statements ever made concerning such a simple question as, "Who is the Buddha?" Some of the answers given above are altogether irrelevant; they are, indeed, far from being appropriate so far as we judge them from our ordinary standard of reasoning. The other seem to be making sport of the question or of the questioner himself. Can the Zen masters who make such remarks be considered to be in earnest and really desiring the Enlightenment of their followers? But the point is to have our minds work in complete union with the state of mind in which the masters uttered these strange words. When this is done, every one of these answers appears in an altogether new light and becomes wonderfully transparent.
Being practical and directly to the point, Zen never wastes time or words in explanation. Its answers are always curt and pithy; there is nothing circumlocutory in Zen; the master's words come out spontaneously and without a moment's delay. A gong is struck and its vibrations instantly follow. If we are not on the alert we fail to catch them; a mere winking and we miss the mark forever. They justly compare Zen to lightning. The rapidity, however, does not constitute Zen; its naturalness, its freedom from artificialities, its being expressive of life itself, its originality -- these are the essential characteristics of Zen. Therefore, we have always to be on guard not to be carried away by outward signs when we really desire to get into the core of Zen. How difficult and misleading it would be to try and understand Zen literally and logically, depending on those statements which have been given above as answers to the question "What is Buddha?" Of course, so far as they are given as answers they are pointers by which we may know where to look for the presence of the Buddha; but we must remember that the finger pointing at the moon remains a finger and under no circumstances can it be changed into the moon itself. Danger always lurks where the intellect slyly creeps in and takes the index for the moon itself.
Yet there are philosophers who, taking some of the above utterances in their literary and logical sense, try to see something of pantheism in them. For instance, when the master says, "Three pounds of flax", or "A dirt-scraper", by this is apparently meant, they would insist, to convey the pantheistic idea. That is to say that those Zen masters consider the Buddha to be manifesting himself in everything: in the flax, in the piece of wood, in the running stream, in the towering mountains, or in works of art. Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen, seems to indicate something of the spirit of pantheism, but nothing is in fact farther from Zen than this representation. The masters from the beginning have foreseen this dangerous tendency, and that is why they make those apparently incoherent statements. Their inclination is to set the minds of their disciples or of scholars free from being oppressed by any fixed opinion or prejudices or so-called logical interpretations. When Tozan answered, "Three pounds of flax", to the question, "What is the Buddha?" -- which, in the way, is the same thing as asking, "What is God?" -- he did not mean that the flax he might have been handling at the time was a visible manifestation of Buddha, that Buddha when seen with an eye of intelligence could be met within every object. His answer simply was, "Three pounds of flax". He did not imply anything metaphysical in this plain matter-of-fact utterance. These words came out of his inmost consciousness as the water flows out of the spring, or as the bud bursts forth in the sun. There was no premeditation or philosophy on his part. Therefore, if we want to grasp the meaning of "Three pounds of flax", we first have to penetrate into the inmost recess of Tozan's consciousness and not to try to follow up his mouth. At another time he may give an entirely different answer, which might directly contradict the one already given. Logicians will naturally be nonplussed; they may declare him altogether out of mind. But the students of Zen will say, "It is raining so gently, see how flesh and green the grass is,'" and they know well that their answer is in full accord with Tozan's "Three pounds of flax".
The following will perhaps show further that Zen is not a form of pantheism, if we understand by this any philosophy that identifies the visible universe with the highest reality, called God, or Mind, or otherwise, and states that God cannot exist independent of his manifestations. In fact, Zen is something more than this. In Zen there is no place for time-wasting philosophical discussion. But philosophy is also a manifestation of life-activity, and therefore Zen does not necessarily shun it. When a philosopher comes to be Enlightened, the Zen master is never loath to meet him on his own ground. The earlier Zen masters were comparatively tolerant toward the so-called philosophers and not so impatient as in the case of Rinzai (died 867) or Tokusan , whose dealings with them were swift and most direct. What follows is taken from a treatise by Daiju on some principles of Zen compiled in the eighth (or ninth) century, when Zen had begun to flourish in all its brilliance and with all its uniqueness. A monk asked Daiju:
Q. Are words the Mind?
A. No, words are external conditions; they are not the Mind.
Q. Apart from external conditions, where is the Mind to be sought?
A. There is no Mind independent of words. [That is to say, the Mind is in the words, but is not to be identified with them.]
Q. If there is no Mind independent of words, what is the Mind?
A. The Mind is formless and imageless. The truth is, it is neither independent of nor dependent upon words. It is eternally serene and free in its activity. Says the Patriarch, 'When you realize that the Mind is no Mind, you understand the Mind amd its workings.'"
Daiju further writes: "That which produces all things is called Dharma-nature, or Dharmakaya. By the so-called Dharma in meant the Mind of all beings. When the Mind is stirred up, all things are stirred up. When the Mind is not stirred up, there is no stirring and there is no name. The confused do not understand that the Dharmakaya, in itself formless, assumes individual forms according to conditions. The confused take the green bamboo for Dharmakaya itself, the yellow blooming tree for Prajna itself. But if the tree were Prajna, Prajna would be identical with non-sentient. If the bamboo were Dharmakaya, Dharmakaya would be identical with a plant. But Dharmakaya exists, Prajna exists, even when there is no blooming tree, no green bamboo. Otherwise, when one eats a bamboo-shoot, this would be eating up Dharmakaya itself. Such views as this are really not worth talking about".
Those who have only read the foregoing treatment of Zen as illogical, or of Zen as a higher affirmation, may conclude that Zen is something unapproachable, something far apart from our ordinary life, something very alluring but very elusive; and we cannot blame them for so thinking. Zen ought, therefore, be presented also from its easy, familiar and approachable side. Life is the basis of all things; apart from it nothing can stand. With all our philosophy, with all our grand and enhancing ideas, we cannot escape life as we live it. Star-gazers are still walking on the solid earth.
What is Zen, then, when made accessible to everybody? Joshu once asked a new monk:
"Have you ever been here before?"
The monk answered, "Yes, sir, I have".
Thereupon the master said, "Have a cup of tea".
Later on another monk came and he asked him the same question, "Have you ever been here?"
This time the answer was quite opposite. "I have never been here, sir".
The old master, however, answered just as before, "Have a cup of tea".
Afterwards the Inju (the managing monk of the monastery) asked the master, "Haw is it that you make the same offering of the cup of tea no matter what a monk's reply is?"
The old master called out, "O Inju!" who at once replied, "Yes, master". Whereupon Joshu said, "Have a cup of tea".
Joshu (778-897) was one of the most astute Zen masters during the T'ang dynasty, and the development of Zen in China owes much to him. He died in his one hundred and twentieth year. Whatever utterances he made were like jewels that sparkled brightly. It was said of him, "His Zen shined upon his lips". A monk who was still a novice came to him and asked to be instructed in Zen.
Joshu said, "Have you had your breakfast yet?"
Replied the monk, "Yes, sir, I have had it already".
"If so, wash your dishes". This remark by the old master opened the novice's eye to the truth of Zen.
One day Joshu was sweeping the ground when a monk asked him, "You are such a wise and holy master; tell me how it is that dust ever accumulates in your yard".
Said the master, "It comes from outside".
Another time he was asked, "Why does this holy place attracts dust?" To which he replied, "There another particle of dust!"
There was a famous stone bridge at Joshu's monastery, which was one of the sights there. A stranger monk inquired of him, "I have for some time heard of your famous stone bridge, but I see no such thing here, only a plank".
Said Joshu, "You see a plank and do not see a stone bridge".
"Where then is the stone bridge?"
"You have just crossed it", was the prompt reply.
At another time when Joshu was asked about this same stone bridge, his answer was, "Horses pass it, people pass it, everybody passes it".
In these dialogues do we only see trivial talks about ordinary things of life and nature? Is there nothing spiritual, conductive to the enlightenment of the religious soul? Is Zen, then, too practical, too commonplace? Is it too abrupt a descent from the height of transcendentalism to everyday things? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. A stick of incense is burning on my desk. Is this a trivial affair? An earthquake shakes the earth and the Mt. Fuji topples over. Is this a great event? Yes, so long as the conception of space remains. But are we really living confined within the enclosure called space? Zen could answer at once: "With the burning of the incense-stick the whole *triloka* burns. Within the Joshu's cup of tea the mermaids are dancing". So long as one is conscious of space and time, Zen will keep the respectable distance from you; your holiday is ill-spent; your sleep is disturbed, and your whole life is a failure.
Read the following dialogue between Yisan and Kyozan. At the end of his summer's sojourn Kyozan paid a visit to Yisan, who said, "I have not seen you this whole summer coming up this way; what have you been doing down there?"
Replied Kyozan, "Down there I have been tilling a piece of ground and finished sowing millet seeds".
Yisan said, "Then you have not wasted your summer".
It was now Kyozan's turn to ask Yisan as to his doings during the last summer, and he asked, "How did you pass your summer?"
"One meal a day and a good sleep at night".
This brought out Kyozan comment, "Then you have not wasted your summer".
A Confucian scholar writes, "They seek the truth too far away from themselves, while it is right near them". The same thing may be said of Zen. We look for its secrets where they are most unlikely to be found, that is, in verbal abstractions and metaphysical subtleties, whereas the truth of Zen really lies in the concrete things of our daily life. A monk asked the master: "It is some time since I came to you to be instructed in the holy path of Buddha, but you have never given me even an inkling of it. I pray you be more sympathetic". To this the following answer was given: "What do you mean, my son? Every morning you salute me, and do I not return it? When you bring me a cup of tea, do I not accept it and enjoy drinking it? Besides this, what more instructions do you desire from me?"
Is this Zen? Is this the kind of life-experience Zen wants us to have? A Zen poet sings:
How wondrously strange, and how miraculous this! I draw water, I carry fuel.
When Zen is said to be illogical and irrational, timid readers are frightened and may wish to have nothing to do with it, but I am confident that the present chapter devoted to practical Zen will mitigate whatever harshness and uncouthness there may have been in it when it was intellectually treated. In so far as the truth of Zen is on its practical side and not in its irrationality, we must not put too much emphasis on its irrationality. This may tend only to make Zen more inaccessible to ordinary intellects, but in order to show further what a simple and matter-of-fact business Zen is, and at the same time to emphasize the practical side of Zen, I will cite some more of so-called "cases" is which appeal is made to the most naive experience one may have in life. Naive they are, indeed, in the sense of being free from conceptual demonstration or from intellectual analysis. You see a stick raised, or you are asked to pass a piece of household furniture, or are simply addressed by your name. Such as these are the simplest incidents of life occurring every day and being passed without any particular notice, and yet Zen is there -- the Zen that is supposed to be so full of irrationalities, or, if you like to put it so, so full of the highest speculations that are possible to the human understanding. The following are some more of these instances, simple, direct, and practical, and yet pregnant with meaning.
Sekkyo asked one of his accomplished monks, "Can you take hold of empty space?"
"Yes, sir", he replied.
"Show me how you do it".
The monk stretched out his arm and clutched at empty space.
Sekkyo said: "Is that the way? But after all you have not got anything".
"What then", asked the monk, "is your way?"
The master straightway took hold of the monk's nose and gave it a hard pull, which made the latter exclaim: "Oh, oh, how hard you pull at my nose! You are hurting me terribly!"
"That is the way to have good hold of empty space", said the master.
When Yenkwan, on of Ma-tsu's disciples, was asked by a monk who the real Vairocana Buddha was, he told the monk to pass over a water-pitcher which was nearby. The monk brought it to him as requested, but Yenkwan now ordered it to be taken back to its former place. After obediently following the order, the monk again asked the master who the real Vairocana Buddha was. "The venerable old Buddha is no more here", was the reply. Concerning this incident another Zen master comments, "Yes, the venerable old Buddha has long been here".
If these incidents are regarded as not entirely free from intellectual complications, what would you think of the following case of Chu (died 775), the national teacher of Nan-yang, who used to call his attendant three times a day, saying, "O my attendant, my attendant!" To this the attendant would respond regularly, "Yes, master". Finally the master remarked, "I thought I was in the wrong with you, but it is you that is in the wrong with me". Is this not simple enough? -- just calling one by name? Chu's last comment may not be so very intelligible from an ordinary logical point of view, but one calling and other responding is one of the commonest and most practical affairs of life. Zen declares that the truth is precisely there, so we can see what a matter-of-fact thing Zen is. There is no mystery in it, the fact is open to all: I hail you, and you call back; one "Hallo!" calls forth another "Hallo!" and this is all there is to it.
Ryosui was studying Zen under Mayoku, a contemporary of Rinzai, and when Mayoku called out, "O Ryosui!" he answered, "Yes!" Thus called three times, he answered three times, when the master remarked, "O you stupid fellow!" This brought Ryosui to his senses; he now understood Zen and exclaimed: "O master, don't deceive me any more. If I had not come to you I should have been miserably led astray all my life by the sutras and shastras". Later on Ryosui said to some of his fellow-monks who had been spending their time in the mastery of Buddhist philosophy, "All that you know, I know; but what I know, none of you know". Is it not wonderful that Ryosui could make such an utterance just by understanding the significance of his master's call?
Do these examples make the subject in hand any clearer or more intelligible than before? I can multiply such instances indefinitely, but those so far cited may suffice to show that Zen is after all not a very complicated affair, or a study requiring the highest faculty of abstraction and speculation. The truth and power of Zen consists in its very simplicity, directness, and utmost practicalness. "Good morning; how are you today?" "Thank you, I am well" -- here is Zen. "Please have a cup of tea" -- this, again, is full of Zen. When a hungry monk at work heard the dinner-gong he immediately dropped his work and showed himself in the dining-room. The master, seeing him, laughed heartily, for the monk had been acting Zen to its fullest extent. Nothing could be more natural; the one thing needful is just to open one's eye to the significance of it all.
But here is a dangerous loophole which the students of Zen ought to be especially careful to avoid. Zen must never be confused with naturalism or libertinism, which means to follow one's natural bent without questioning its origin and value. There is a great difference between human action and that of the animals, which are lacking in moral intuition and religious consciousness. The animals do not know anything about exerting themselves in order to improve their conditions or to progress in the way to higher virtues. Sekkyo was one day working in the kitchen when Baso, his Zen teacher, came in and asked what he was doing. "I am herding the cow", said the pupil. "How do you attend her?" "If she goes out of the path even once, I pull her back straightway by the nose; not a moment's delay is allowed". Said the master, "You truly know how to tale care of her". This is not naturalism. Here is the effort to do the right thing.
A distinguished teacher was once asked, "Do you ever make any effort to get disciplined in the truth?"
"Yet, I do".
"How do you exercise yourself?"
"When I am hungry I eat; when tired I sleep".
"This is what everybody does; can they be said to be exercising themselves in the same way as you do?"
"Because when they eat they do not eat, but are thinking of various other things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed; when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things. This is why they are not like myself".
If Zen is to be called a form of mysticism, then it is so with a rigorous discipline at the back of it. It is in that sense, and not as it is understood by libertines, that Zen may be designated naturalism. The libertines have no freedom of will, they are bound hands and feet by external agencies before which they are utterly helpless. Zen, on the contrary, enjoys perfect freedom; that is, it is master of itself. Zen has no "abiding place", to use a favourite expression in the "Prajnaparamita Sutra". When a thing has its fixed abode, it is fettered, it is no more absolute. The following dialogue will very clearly explain this point.
A monk asked, "Where is the abiding place for the mind?"
"The mind", answered the master, "abides where there is no abiding".
"What is meant by 'there is no abiding'?"
"When the mind is not abiding in any particular object, we say that it abides where there is no abiding".
"What is meant by not abiding in any particular object?"
"It means not to be abiding in the dualism of good and evil, being and non-being, thought and matter; it means not to be abiding in emptiness or in non-emptiness, neither in tranquillity nor in non-tranquillity. Where there is no abiding place, there is truly the abiding place for the mind".
Seppo (822-908) was one of the most earnest truth-seekers in the history of Zen during the T'ang dynasty. He is said to have carried a ladle throughout the long years of his disciplinary Zen peregrinations. His idea was to serve in one of the most despised and most difficult positions in the monastery life -- that is, as cook -- and the ladle was his symbol. When he finally succeeded Tokusan as Zen master a monk approached him and asked: "What is that you have attained under Tokusan? How serene and self-contained you are!" "Empty-handed I went away from home, and empty-handed I returned". Is not this a practical explanation of the doctrine of "no abiding place"? The monk wanted their master Hyakujo to give a lecture on Zen. He said, "You attend to farming and later on I will tell you about Zen". After they had finished the work the master was requested to fulfil his promise, whereupon he opened out both his arms, but said not a word. This was his great sermon.
SATORI, or Acquiring a New Viewpoint
The object of Zen discipline consists in acquiring a new viewpoint for looking into the essence of things. If you have been in the habit of thinking logically according to the rules of dualism, rid yourself of it and you may come around somewhat to the viewpoint of Zen. You and I are supposedly living in the same world, but who can tell that the thing we popularly call a stone that is lying before my window is the same to both of us? You and I sip a cup of tea. That act is apparently alike to us both, but who can tell what a wide gap there is subjectively between your drinking and my drinking? In your drinking there may be no Zen, while my is brim-full of it. The reason for it is: you move in a logical circle and I am out of it. Though there is in fact nothing new in the so-called new viewpoint of Zen, the term "new" is convenient to express the Zen way of viewing the world, but its use here is a condescension on the part of Zen.
This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called *satori* (*wu* in Chinese) and its verb form is *satoru*. Without it there is no Zen, for the life of Zen begins with the "opening of *satori*". *Satori* may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contradistinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever the definition, *satori* means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of the dualistic mind. Whit this preliminary remark I wish the reader to ponder the following *mondo* (literally, "asking and answering"), which I hope will illustrate my statement.
A young monk asked Joshu to be instructed in the faith of Zen. Said the master:
"Have you had your breakfast, or not?"
"Yes, master, I have", answered the monk.
"Go and get your bowls washed", was the immediate response. And this suggestion at once opened the monk's mind to the truth of Zen.
Later on Ummon commented on the response, saying: "Was there any special instruction in this remark by Joshu, or was there not? If there was, what it was? If there was not, what *satori* was it that the monk attained?" Still later Suigan had the following retort on Ummon: "The great master Ummon does not know what is what; hence this comment of his. It is altogether unnecessary; it is like painting legs to a snake, or painting a beard to the eunuch. My view differs from his. That monk who seemed to have attained a sort of *satori* goes to hell as straight as an arrow!"
What does all this mean -- Joshu's remark about washing the bowls, the monk's attainment of *satori*, Ummon's alternatives, and Suigan's assurance? Are they speaking against one another, or is it much ado about nothing? To my mind, they are all pointing one way and the monk may go anywhere, but his *satori* in not to no purpose.
Tokusan was a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra. Learning that there was such a thing as Zen, ignoring all the written scriptures and directly laying hands on one's soul, he went to Ryutan to be instructed in the teaching. One day Tokusan was sitting outside trying to look into the mystery of Zen. Ryutan said, "Why don't you come in?" Replied Tokusan, "It is pitch dark". A candle was lighted and held out to Tokusan. When he was about to take it Ryutan suddenly blew out the light, whereupon the mind of Tokusan was opened.
Hyakujo went out one day attending his master Baso, when they saw a flock of wild geese flying. Baso asked:
"What are they?"
"They are wild geese, sir".
"Whither are they flying?"
"They have flown away".
Baso, abruptly taking hold of Hyakujo's nose, gave it a twist.
Overcome with pain, Hyakujo cried out: "Oh! Oh!" Said Baso, "You say they have flown away, but all the same they have been here from the very first".
This made Hyakujo's back wet with perspiration; he had *satori*. (see)
Is there any possible connection between the washing of the bowls and the blowing of the candle and the twisting of the nose? We must say with Ummon: If there is none, how could they have all come to a realization of the truth of Zen? If there is, what is the inner relationship? What is this *satori*? What new point of view of looking at things is this?
Under Daiye (1089-1169, a disciple of Yengo), the great Zen master of the Sung dynasty, there was a monk named Doken, who had spent many years in the study of Zen, but who had not as yet uncovered its secrets, if there were any. He was quite discouraged when he was sent on the errand to a distant city. A trip requiring half a year to finish would be a hindrance rather than help to his study. Sogen, one of his fellow-students, was most sympathetic and said, "I will accompany you on the trip and do all I can for you; there is no reason why you cannot go on with your meditation even while travelling". One evening Doken despairingly implored his friend to assist him in the solution of the mystery of life. The friend said, "I am willing to help you in every way I can, but there are some things in which I cannot be of any help to you; these you must look after for yourself". Doken expressed the desire to know what these things were. Said the friend: "For instance, when you are hungry or thirsty, my eating of food or drinking will not fill your stomach; you must eat and drink for yourself. When you want to respond to the calls of nature you must take care of yourself, for I cannot be of any use to you. And then it will be nobody else but yourself that will carry your body along this highway". This friendly counsel at once opened the mind of the truth-seeking monk, who was so transported with his discovery that he did not know how to express his joy. Sogen said that his work was now done and that his further companionship would have no meaning after this; so he left Doken to continue his journey all by himself. After a half year Doken returned to his own monastery. Daiye, on his way down the mountains, happened to meet Doken and at once made the following remark, "This time he knows all". What was it, let me ask, that flashed through Doken's mind when his friend Sogen gave him such matter-of-fact advice?
Kyogen was a disciple of Hyakujo. After his master's death Kyogen went to Yisan, who had been a senior disciple of Hyakujo. Yisan asked him: "I am told that you have been studying under my late master, and that you have remarkable intelligence. The understanding of Zen through this medium necessarily ends in intellectual analytical comprehension, which is not of much use; but nevertheless you may have had an insight into the truth of Zen. Let me have your view as to the reason of birth and death; that is, as to your own being before your parents had given birth to you".
Thus asked, Kyogen did not know how to reply. He retired into his own room and assiduously made research into the notes which he had taken of the sermons given by their late master. He failed to come across a suitable passage which he might present as his own view. He returned to Yisan and implored him to teach him in the faith of Zen, but Yisan replied: "I really have nothing to impart to you, and if I tried to do so you might have occasion to make me an object of ridicule. Besides, whatever I can tell you is my own and can never be yours". Kyogen was disappointed and considered him unkind. Finally he came to the decision to burn up all his notes and memoranda, which seemed to be of no help to his spiritual welfare, and, retiring altogether from the world, to spent the rest of his life in solitude and the simple life in accordance with the Buddhist rules. He reasoned: "What is the use of studying Buddhism which is so difficult to comprehend and which is too subtle to receive an instruction from another? I will be a plain homeless monk, troubled with no desire to master things too deep for thought". He left Yisan and built a hut near the tomb of Chu, the National Master at Nan-yang. One day he was weeding and sweeping the ground when a pebble which he had swept away struck a bamboo; the unexpected sound produced by the percussion elevated his mind to a state of *satori*. His joy was boundless. The question proposed by Yisan became transparent; he felt as if meeting his lost parents. Besides, he came to realize the kindness of Yisan in refuting him instruction, for now he realized that this experience could not have happened to him if Yisan had been unkind enough to explain things to him.
Cannot Zen be so explained that a master can lead all his pupils to Enlightenment through explanation? Is *satori* something that is not at all capable of intellectual analysis? Yes, it is an experience which no amount of explanation or argument can make communicable to others unless the latter themselves had it previously. If *satori* is amenable to analysis in the sense that by so doing in becomes perfectly clear to another who has never had it, that *satori* will be no *satori*. For *satori* turned into a concept ceases to be itself; and there will no more be a Zen experience. Therefore, all that we can do in Zen in the way of instruction is to indicate, or to suggest, or to show the way so that one's attention may be directed towards the goal. As to attainting the goal and taking hold of the thing itself, this must be done by one's own hands, for nobody else can do it for one. As regards the indication, it lies everywhere. When a man's mind is matured for *satori* it tumbles over one everywhere. An inarticulate sound, an unintelligent remark, a blooming flower, or a trivial incident such as stumbling, is the condition or occasion that will open his mind to *satori*. Apparently, an insignificant event produces an effect which in importance is altogether out of proportion. The light touch of the igniting wire, and the explosion follows which will shake the very foundation of the earth. All the causes, all the conditions of *satori* are in the mind; they are merely waiting for maturing. When the mind is ready for some reason or other, a bird flies, ar a bell rings, and you at once return to your original home; that is, you discover your now real self. From the very beginning nothing has been kept from you, all that you wished to see has been there all the time before you, it was only yourself that closed the eye to the fact. Therefore, there is in Zen nothing to explain, nothing to teach, that will add to your knowledge. Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only a borrowed plumage.
Kozankoku, a Confucian poet and statesman of the Sung, came to Kwaido to be initiated into Zen. Said the Zen master: "There is a passage in the text with which you are perfectly familiar which fitly describes the teaching of Zen. Did not Confucious declare: 'Do you think I am hiding things from you, O my disciples? Indeed, I have nothing to hide from you.'" Kozankoku tried to answer, but Kwaido immediately checked him by saying, "No, no!" The Confucian scholar felt troubled in mind but did not know how to express himself. Some time later they were having a walk in the mountains; the wild laurel was in full bloom and the air was redolent with its scent. Asked the Zen master, "Do you smell it?" When the Confucian answered affirmatively, Kwaido said, "There, I have nothing to hide from you". This reminder at once led Kozankoku's mind to the opening of a *satori*.
These examples will suffice to show what *satori* is and how it unfolds itself. The reader may ask, however: "After the perusal of all your explanations or indications, we are not a whit wiser. Can you not definitely describe the content of *satori*, if there is any? Your examples and statements are tentative enough, but we simply know how the wind blows; where is the port the boat finally makes for?" To this the Zen devotee may answer: As far as the content goes, there is none in either *satori* or Zen that can be described or presented or demonstrated for your intellectual appreciation. For Zen has no business with ideas, and *satori* is a sort of inner perception -- not the perception, indeed, of a single individual object but the perception of Reality itself, so to speak. The ultimate destination of *satori* is towards the Self; it has no other end but to be back within oneself. Therefore, said Joshu, "Have a cup of tea". Therefore, said Nansen, "This is such a good sickle, it cuts so well". This is the way the Self functions, and it must be caught, if at all catchable, in the midst of its functioning.
As *satori* strikes at the primary root of existence, its attainment generally marks a turning point in one's life. The attainment, however, must be thoroughgoing and clear-cut; a luke-warm *satori*, if there is such a thing, is worse than no *satori*. See the following examples:
When Rinzai was meekly submitting to the thirty blows of Obaku, he presented a pitiable sight, but as soon as he had attained *satori* he was quite a different personage. His first exclamation was, "There is not much after all in the Buddhism of Obaku". And when he again saw the reproachful Obaku, he returned his favour by giving him a slap in the face. "What arrogance! What impudence!" one may think. But there was reason in Rinzai's rudeness; no wonder Obaku was quite pleased with this treatment.
When Tokusan gained an insight into the truth of Zen he immediately took out all his commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, once so valued and considered indispensable that he had to carry them whenever he went, and set fire to them, reducing all the manuscripts to ashes. He exclaimed, "However deep one's knowledge of abstruse philosophy, it is like a piece of hair flying in the vastness of space; however important one's experience in things worldly, it is like a drop of water thrown into an unfathomable abyss".
One day, following the incident of the flying geese, to which the reference was made elsewhere, Baso appeared in the preaching hall and was about to speak before a congregation, when Hyakujo, whose nose was literally put out of joint, came forward and began to roll up the matting which is spread before the Buddha for the master to kneel. The rolling up generally means the end of the sermon. Baso, without protesting, came down from the pulpit and returned to his room. He sent for Hyakujo and asked him why he rolled up the matting before he had even uttered a word. Replied Hyakujo, "Yesterday you twisted my nose and it was quite painful". Said Baso, "Where were your thoughts wandering?" Hyakujo replied, "Today it is no longer painful". With this Baso admitted Hyakujo's understanding.
These examples are sufficient to show what changes are produced in one's mind by the attainment of *satori*. Before *satori*, how hopeless those monks were! They were like travellers lost in the desert. But after *satori* they behave like absolute monarchs; they are no longer slaves to anybody, they are themselves masters.
After these remarks the following points about the opening of the mind that is called *satori* may be observed and summarized.
1. People often imagine that the discipline of Zen is to produce a state of self-suggestion through meditation. This entirely misses the mark, as can be seen from the various instances cites above. *Satori* does not consist in producing a certain premeditated condition by intensely thinking of it. It is acquiring a new point of view for looking at things. Ever since the unfoldment of consciousness we have been led to respond to the inner and outer conditions in a certain conceptual and analytical manner. The discipline of Zen consists in upsetting this groundwork once for all and reconstructing the old frame on an entirely new basis. It is evident, therefore, that meditating on metaphysical and symbolic statements, which are products of the relative consciousness, play no part in Zen.
2. Without the attainment of *satori* no one can enter into the truth of Zen. *Satori* is the sudden flashing into consciousness of a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of matters intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached a limit of stability and the whole edifice has come tumbling to the ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full survey. When the freezing point is reached, water suddenly turns into ice; the liquid has suddenly turned into a solid body and no more flows freely. *Satori* comes upon a man unawares, when he feels that he has exhausted his whole being. Religiously, it is a new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new viewpoint. The world now appears as if dressed in a new garment, which seems to cover up all the unsightliness of dualism, which is called delusion in Buddhist phraseology.
3.*Satori* is the raison d'etre of Zen without which Zen is no Zen. Therefore every contrivance, disciplinary and doctrinal, is directed towards *satori*. Zen masters could not remain patient for *satori* to come by itself; that is, to come sporadically or at its own pleasure. In their earnestness to aid their disciples in the search after the truth of Zen their manifestly enigmatical presentations were designed to create in their disciples a state of mind which would more systematically open the way to enlightenment. All the intellectual demonstrations and exhortatory persuasions so far carried out by most religious and philosophical leaders had failed to produce the desired effect, and their disciples thereby had been father and father led astray. Especially was this the case when Buddhism was first introduced into China, with all its Indian heritage of highly metaphysical abstractions and most complicated systems of Yoga discipline, which left the more practical Chinese at the loss as to how to grasp the central point of the doctrine of Sakyamuni. Bodhidharma, the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng, Baso, and other Chinese masters noticed the fact, and the proclamation and development of Zen was the natural outcome. By them *satori* was placed above sutra-learning and scholarly discussions of the shastras and was identified with Zen itself. Zen, therefore, without *satori* is like pepper without its pungency. But there is also such a thing as too much attachment to the experience of *satori*, which is to be detested.
4. This emphasizing of *satori* in Zen makes the fact quite significant that Zen in not a system of Dhyana as practiced in India and by other Buddhist schools in China. By Dhyana is generally understood a kind of meditation or contemplation directed toward some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism it was a thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was more often the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy or trance, but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be *satori*; there must be a general mental upheaval which destroys the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for new life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for it is merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana doubtless has its own merit, but Zen must be not identified with it.
5. *Satori* is not seeing God as he is, as might be contended by some Christian mystics. Zen has from the beginning made clear and insisted upon the main thesis, which is to see into the work of creation; the creator may be found busy moulding his universe, or he may be absent from his workshop, but Zen goes on with its own work. It is not dependent upon the support of a creator; when it grasps the reason for living a life, it is satisfied. Hoyen (died 1104) of Go-so-san used to produce his own hand and ask his disciples why it was called a hand. When we know the reason, there is *satori* and we have Zen. Whereas with the God of mysticism there is the grasping of a definite object; when you have God, what is no-God is excluded. This is self-limiting. Zen wants absolute freedom, even from God. "No abiding place" means that very thing; "Cleanse your mouth when you utter the word Buddha" amounts to the same thing. It is not that Zen wants to be morbidly unholy and godless, but that it recognizes the incompleteness of mere name. Therefore, when Yakusan (aka Yaoshan Weiyan, Yueh-shan Wei-jen, 751-834) was asked to give a lecture, he did not say a word, but instead come down from the pulpit and went off to his own room. Hyakujo merely walked forward a few steps, stood still, and then opened his arms, which was his exposition of the great principle.
6. *Satori* is not a morbid state of mind, a fit subject for the study of abnormal psychology. If anything, it is a perfectly normal state of mind. When I speak of mental upheaval, one may be led to consider Zen as something to be shunned by ordinary people. This is a most mistaken view of Zen, but one unfortunately often held by prejudiced critics. As Joshu declared, "Zen is your everyday thought"; it all depends on the adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens out. Even in the twinkling of an eye the whole affair is changed and you have Zen, and you are as perfect and as normal as ever. More than that, you have acquired in the meantime something altogether new. All your mental activities will now be working to a different key, which will be more satisfying, more peaceful, and fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before. The tone of life will be altered. There is something rejuvenating in the possession of Zen. The spring flowers look prettier, and the mountain stream runs cooler and more transparent. The subjective revolution that brings about this state of things cannot be called abnormal. When life becomes more enjoyable and its expense broadens to include the universe itself, there must be something in *satori* that is quite precious and well worth one's striving after.
DAISETZ TEITARO SUZUKI (1870-1966)
D. T. Suzuki was a Buddhist scholar and a philosopher of religion who was, along with Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, instrumental in spreading Zen in the west. Suzuki was born in Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. While a student at Tokyo University, he undertook Zen training under Imakita Kôsen and Shaku Sôen at the Engakuji in Kamakura. In 1897, he moved to La Salle, Illinois to work as an assitant to Paul Carus, the president of Open Court Publishing Co. While working for Carus, Suzuki translated several Oriental religious and philosophical works into English, including the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. In 1907, he published Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism.
After traveling through Europe, Suzuki returned to Japan in 1909, and began to teach English at the Peer's School. In 1911, he married Beatrice Lane, who worked closely with him until her death in 1939. At the urging of his friend, the philosopher Nishida Kitaro, Suzuki moved to Kyoto and became professor at Otani University in 1921. In the same year, he started the Eastern Buddhist Society and began publication of The Eastern Buddhist. From this time he began to publish many English works on Buddhism. Among them are the Studies in Zen Buddhism (1927-1934) in three volumes, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra (1933), and Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture (1938; later revised and published as Zen and Japanese Culture). In the closing years of World War Two, he wrote Nihonteki Reisei (1944, translated into English as Japanese Spirituality in 1972), now considered a classic of Japanese religious thought.
In 1949, Suzuki became a member of the Japan Academy. Subsequently, he spent much time lecturing on Mahayana Buddhism in America, notably as a visiting professor at Columbia University. Suzuki's writings in Japanese are now contained in the thirty-two volume Complete Works of D. T. Suzuki published by Iwanami Shoten.
The above Suzuki biography though the courtesy of, and thanks to, EASTERN BUDDHIST SOCIETY
Enlightenment on the Razor's Edge
Suzuki and World War II Suzuki is not without controversy, however, especially by those who question his attitude during World War II...taken for the most part, mostly out of context and by those unfamiliar with Zen. Although by 1940 he began to change his tune, in 1937, in Zen and Japanese Culture, Suzuki wrote that Zen "treats life and death indifferently" and "is a religion that teaches us not to look backward once the course is decided." He wrote that Zen "has no special doctrine or philosophy. It is therefore extremely flexible in adapting itself to almost any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with." Zen can be "wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy . . . or any political or economic dogmatism."
As Suzuki wrote these words, Japanese troops were marching toward the ancient city of Nanking. They were indeed going to act out the Zen bushido creed and "treat life and death indifferently." They did not look back. In December 1937, the Japanese army seized the city, then the capital of the Republic of China. Japan was in its sixth year of its invasion of China. Japan had already conquered Peking, Tientin, and Shanghai.
SOURCE: Zen At War
Suzuki and World War II
Suzuki is not without controversy, however, especially by those who question his attitude during World War II...taken for the most part, mostly out of context and by those unfamiliar with Zen. Although by 1940 he began to change his tune, in 1937, in Zen and Japanese Culture, Suzuki wrote that Zen "treats life and death indifferently" and "is a religion that teaches us not to look backward once the course is decided." He wrote that Zen "has no special doctrine or philosophy. It is therefore extremely flexible in adapting itself to almost any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with." Zen can be "wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy . . . or any political or economic dogmatism."
As Suzuki wrote these words, Japanese troops were marching toward the ancient city of Nanking. They were indeed going to act out the Zen bushido creed and "treat life and death indifferently." They did not look back. In December 1937, the Japanese army seized the city, then the capital of the Republic of China. Japan was in its sixth year of its invasion of China. Japan had already conquered Peking, Tientin, and Shanghai.
SOURCE: Zen At War