Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Vegetarian Banquet in the Monastery of Great Compassion

Fuke always used to roam about in the street markets, ringing a bell and shouting: "When it comes in brightness, I hit the brightness. When it approaches in darkness, I hit the darkness. When it comes from the four quarters and eight directions (of space), I hit like a whirlwind, and if it comes out of the empty sky, I thrash it like a flail."

The master made one of his attendants go there, instructing him to grab Fuke while speaking and ask him,"If it does not come in any of these ways, what then?"

Fuke freed himself from the grasp of the attendant and said: "Tomorrow is a vegetarian banquet in the monastery of Great Compassion."

The attendant returned and told the master, who remarked: "I was always intrigued with this fellow." - The Record of Linji

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tozan's Sixty Blows Mumonkan #16

               十五 洞山三頓

Tõzan came to study with Unmon. Unmon asked, "Where are you from?"
"From Sato," Tõzan replied.
"Where were you during the summer?"
"Well, I was at the monastery of Hõzu, south of the lake."
"When did you leave there," Unmon asked.
"On August 25" was Tõzan's reply.
"I spare you sixty blows," Unmon said.
The next day Tõzan came to Unmon and said, "Yesterday you said you spared me sixty blows.
I beg to ask you, where was I at fault?"
"Oh, you rice bag!" shouted Unmon. "What makes you wander about, now west of the river, now south of the lake?"
Tõzan thereupon came to a mighty enlightenment experience.

Mumon's Comment
If Unmon had given Tõzan the true food of Zen and encouraged him to develop an active Zen spirit, his school would not have declined as it did.
Tõzan had an agonizing struggle through the whole night, lost in the sea of right and wrong. He reached a complete impasse. After waiting for the dawn, he again went to Unmon, and Unmon again made him a picture book of Zen.
Even though he was directly enlightened, Tõzan could not be called brilliant.
Now, I want to ask you, should Tõzan have been given sixty blows or not?
If you say yes, you admit that all the universe should be beaten.
If you say no, then you accuse Unmon of telling a lie.
If you really understand the secret, you will be able to breathe out Zen spirit with the very mouth of Tõzan.

Mumon's Verse 頌曰
獅子教兒迷子訣    The lion had a secret to puzzle his cub;
擬前跳躑早翻身    The cub crouched, leaped, and dashed forward.
無端再敍當頭著    The second time, a casual move led to checkmate.
前箭猶輕後箭深    The first arrow was light, but the second went deep.

[Someone asked for an elucidation of this seemingly bizarre "case" from the Mumonkan. So, here are my blow-by-blow "notes." Don't bother to read them if you already get the gist. I will only add that I would love to see a suspenseful and action packed movie made of the whole Mumonkan. Whenever I read it, I get white knuckles and move to the edge of my seat.]
Tozan came to study with Unmon. Unmon asked, "Where are you from?" "From Sato," Tõzan replied.
Unmon was renowned as an Enlightened Master of Chan. By coming to study with him, Tozan was declaring his intention to seek Enlightenment also. However, in Unmon's peculiar brand of Chan, Buddhahood is not something you can seek; it's the all-pervading and instantaneous reality before words and thoughts. Tozan must have an inkling of this already. Unmon's teaching was renowned. So Unmon rightly asks, "Where are you from?" This far reaching Zen question should be enough to wake Tozan up. But he interprets it narrowly to be a question about his mentally objectified "self" -- the Tozan, who has supposedly come from point A to point B. Of course, for Unmon, this delusional picture of self is the least interesting topic of conversation possible. Tozan's dull, flat, rote factual answer must have been a great disappointment. 

Unmon is awake to the comic possibilities of this dialogue. He continues it even though it must have been exquisitely painful to hear Tozan "miss the mark" every single time:
"Where were you during the summer?" "Well, I was at the monastery of Hõzu, south of the lake." "When did you leave there," Unmon asked. "On August 25" was Tõzan's reply.
This is too much. Tozan is completely blind not only to the intent of the Master's questions but to the real source of his dull answers. Mind is just speaking to and hearing Mind, but Tozan actually believes this dull-headed figment of words and speech called "Tozan" to be his real Self! Even more hilariously, he seems to believe that an Enlightened Master is actually interested in such ephemeral nonsense.

So we have the turning point: 
"I spare you sixty blows," Unmon said.
Tozan must have been insanely bewildered. Here the great Zen Master, the man he has always dreamt of studying with, is saying right at the instant Tozan's dream is about to get fully realized: 1) You deserve sixty blows from my stick; 2) I will spare you (this time). Where did he go wrong? All he did was directly answer the Master's questions! So unfair! Or is it?

Tozan probably spent the night in a hell of doubts. If the Master is just crazy, he has come all this way to study with a crazy man. But if the Master is right, then how was he (Tozan) wrong? What did he do? What did he say? Or maybe it's just how he looks? All night, Tozan sleeplessly goes over the simple little dialogue with Unmon, and he cannot find his mistake. It's driving him out of his mind. Why didn't the Master just beat him senseless!? That would have been more compassionate. Toward dawn, he bursts into tears. It's all over for him. He'll never understand Zen.
The next day Tõzan came to Unmon and said, "Yesterday you said you spared me sixty blows. I beg to ask you, where was I at fault?"
Try to hear the desperation under Tozan's politeness. The man has reached the end of his rope. This isn't how he saw studying Zen under Unmon. He's been made to feel stupid, totally worthless; not even worth the sixty blows!
"Oh, you rice bag!" shouted Unmon. "What makes you wander about, now west of the river, now south of the lake?"
Unmon's shout, combined with the most insulting possible slur you can make about a monk -- who after all has sacrificed everything in order to enter the Way -- must have caused Tozan's hair to stand on end.  This is really the worst possible outcome of his quest. Right? But Unmon's next question shatters the block of ice, making everything as clear as the open sky. *"What is it* that makes you . . . " Here, Unmon is pointing directly to Tozan's true Self and to the free activity of his Original Nature, and drawing a sharp distinction between this already Enlightened activity and the imaginary "Tozan" who inhabits a mental prison ward of mere ideas "about" this or that. 
Tõzan thereupon came to a mighty enlightenment experience.
Note that this case entirely contradicts the fraudulent "buji Zen" orthodoxy that rules over most online Zen discussions. cf. Tozan has a "mighty enlightenment experience" as a direct result of his dialogue with Unmon. In other words, enlightenment in Zen is a real experience in time and space, not a myth or a figure of speech; enlightenment can be provoked by a Master who is clever enough to trap a student in logically impassible situation; also, there are degrees of enlightenment in Zen (Tozan's is said to be "mighty"). Those who are enlightened know the "secret" and so "breathe out Zen spirit" just like Tozan. Note the very explicit reference to breathing and Qi 氣 as connected to enlightenment.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hakuin's Satori Zen vs. the Comatose Badgers of Silent Illumination

Alone in the hut, I thrust my spine up stiff and straight and sat right through until dawn. All through the night, the room was haunted by a terrifying demonic presence. Since I dislike having to swell the narrative with such details, however, I won't describe it here.

In the morning, I opened the rice pail, reached inside with my left hand, and grasped a fistful of the grains. I boiled these up into a bowl of gruel, which I ate in place of the two regular meals. I repeated the same routine each day. I wonder, was my regimen less demanding than National Master Muso's, with his half persimmon?

After a month of this life, I still hadn't experienced a single pang of hunger. On the contrary, my body and mind were both fired with a great surge of spirit and resolve. My nights were zazen. My days were sutra-recitation. I never let up. During this period, I experienced small satories and large satories in numbers beyond count. How many times did I jump up and jubilantly dance around, oblivious of all else! I no longer had any doubts at all about Ta-hui's talk of eighteen great satoris and countless small ones. How grievously sad that people today have discarded this way of kensho as if it were dirt!

As for sitting, sitting is something that should include fits of ecstatic laughter -- brayings that make you slump to the ground clutching your belly. And when you struggle to your feet after the first spasm passes, it should send you kneeling to the earth in yet further contortions of joy.

But for the past hundred years, ever since the passing of National Master Gudo, advocates of the blind, withered-up, silent illumination Zen have appeared winthin the Rinzai, Soto, and Obaku schools. In spots all over the country, they band together, flicking their fingers comtemptuously, pishing and pughing: "Great satori eighteen times! Small satoris beyond count! Pah! It's ridiculous. If you're enlightened, you're enlightened. If you're not, you're not. For a human being, the severing of the life-root that frees you from the clutches of birth-and-death is the single great matter. How can you count the number of times it happens, as if it were a case of diarrhea!

Or, "Ta-hui made statements like that because he was ignorant of the supreme, sublime Zen that is to be found at the highest reaches of attainment. Supreme Zen, at the highest reaches, does not belong to a dimension that human understanding of any kind can grasp or perceive. It is a matter of simply being Buddhas the way we are right now -- 'covered bowls of plain unvarnished wood.' It is the state of great happiness and peace, the great liberation. Put a stop to all the chasing and hankering in your mind. Do not interfere or poke around after anythng whatever. That mind-free state detached from all thought is the complete and ultimate attainment."

These people, true to their words, do not do a single thing. They engage in no act of religious practice; they don't develop a shred of wisdom. They just waste their lives dozing idly away like comatose badgers, useless to their contemporaries while they live, completely forgotten after they die. They aren't capable of leaving behind even a syllable of their own to repay the profound debt they owe to the Buddha patriarchs.

-HAKUIN ZENJI (from Mount Iwataki: Reflections on Do-Nothing Zen)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Real Buddha Has No Mouth and Preaches No Dharma

(This is from Master HUANG-PO'S Wan Ling Record, translated with notes by John Blofeld)

One day, after taking his seat in the great hall, the Master began as follows: Since Mind is the Buddha (Absolute), it embraces all things, from the Buddhas (Enlightened Beings) at one extreme to the meanest of belly-crawling reptiles or insects at the other. All these alike share the Buddha-Nature and all are of the substance of the One Mind. So, after his arrival from the West, Bodhidharma transmitted naught but the Dharma of the One Mind. He pointed directly to the truth that all sentient beings have always been of one substance with the Buddha. He did not follow any of those mistaken 'methods of attainment'. And if YOU could only achieve this comprehension of your own Mind, thereby discovering your real nature, there would assuredly be nothing for you to seek, either.

Q: How, then, does a man accomplish this comprehension of his own Mind?

A: That which asked the question IS your own Mind but if you were to remain quiescent and to refrain from the smallest mental activity, its substance would be seen as a void -- you would find it formless, occupying no point in space and falling neither into the category of existence nor into that of non-existence. Because it is imperceptible Bodhidharma said: 'Mind, which is our real nature, is the unbegotten and indestructible Womb; in response to circumstances, it transforms itself into phenomena.' For the sake of convenience, we speak of Mind as the intelligence (prajna); but when it does not respond to circumstances [and so rests from creating objects.] it cannot be spoken of in such dualistic terms as existence or non-existence. Besides, even when engaged in creating objects in response to causality, it is still imperceptible. If you know this and rest tranquilly in nothingness then you are indeed following the Way of the Buddhas. Therefore does the sutra say: 'Develop a mind which rests on no thing whatever.'

Every one of the sentient beings bound to the wheel of alternating life and death is re-created from the karma of his own desires! Endlessly their hearts remain bound to the six states of existence, thereby involving them in all sorts of sorrow and pain. Ch'ing Ming [A famous lay-disciple.] says: 'There are people with minds like those of apes who are very hard to teach; people who need all sorts of precepts and doctrines with which to force their hearts into submission.' And so when thoughts arise, all sorts of dharmas [Doctrines, precepts, concepts, things.] follow, but they vanish with thought's cessation. We can see from this that every sort of dharma is but a creation of Mind. And all kinds of beings -- humans, devas, sufferers in hell, asuras and all comprised within the six forms of life -- each one of them is Mind-created. If only you would learn how to achieve a state of non-intellection, immediately the chain of causation would snap.

Give up those erroneous thoughts leading to false distinctions! There is no 'self' and no 'other'. There is no 'wrong desire', no 'anger', no 'hatred', no 'love', no 'victory', no 'failure'. Only renounce the error of intellectual or conceptual thought-processes and your nature will exhibit its pristine purity -- for this alone is the way to attain Enlightenment, to observe the Dharma (Law), to become a Buddha and all the rest. Unless you understand this, the whole of your great learning, your painful efforts to advance, your austerities of diet and clothing, will not help you to a knowledge of your own Mind. All such practices must be termed fallacious, for any of them will lead to your rebirth among 'demons'-- enemies of the truth -- or among the crude nature spirits. What end is served by pursuits like those? Chih Kung says: 'Our bodies are the creations of our own minds.' But how can one expect to gain such knowledge from books? If only you could comprehend the nature of your own Mind and put an end to discriminatory thought, there would naturally be no room for even a grain of error to arise.

As it is, so long as your mind is subject to the slightest movement of thought, you will remain engulfed in the error of taking 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened' for separate states; this error will persist regardless of your vast knowledge of the Mahayana or of your ability to pass through the 'Four Grades of Sainthood' and the 'Ten Stages of Progress Leading to Enlightenment'. For all these pursuits belong to what is ephemeral; even the most strenuous of your efforts is doomed to fail, just as an arrow shot ever so high into the air must inevitably fall spent to the ground. So, in spite of them, you are certain to find yourselves back on the wheel of life and death. Indulging in such practices implies your failure to understand the Buddha's real meaning. Surely the endurance of so much unnecessary suffering is nothing but a gigantic error, isn't it? Chih Kung says elsewhere: 'If you do not meet with a teacher able to transcend the worlds, you will go on swallowing the medicine of the Mahayana Dharma quite in vain.'

Were you now to practice keeping your minds motionless at all times, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying; concentrating entirely upon the goal of no thought-creation, no duality, no reliance on others and no attachments; just allowing all things to take their course the whole day long, as though you were too ill to bother; unknown to the world; innocent of any urge to be known or unknown to others; with your minds like blocks of stone that mend no holes -- then all the Dharmas [Laws of Existence or Universal Laws.] would penetrate your understanding through and through. In a little while you would find yourselves firmly unattached. Thus, for the first time in your lives, you would discover your reactions to phenomena decreasing and, ultimately, you would pass beyond the Triple World; and people would say that a Buddha had appeared in the world. Pure and passionless knowledge [Enlightenment.] implies putting an end to the ceaseless flow of thoughts and images, for in that way you stop creating the karma that leads to rebirth -- whether as gods or men or as sufferers in hell.

Once every sort of mental process has ceased, not a particle of karma is formed. Then, even in this life, your minds and bodies become those of a being completely liberated. Supposing that this does not result in freeing you immediately from further rebirths, at the very least you will be assured of rebirth in accordance with your own wishes. The sutra declares: 'Bodhisattvas are re-embodied into whatsoever forms they desire.' But were they suddenly to lose the power of keeping their minds free from conceptual thought, attachment to form would drag them back into the phenomenal world, and each of those forms would create for them a demon's karma!

With the practices of the Pure Land Buddhists it is also thus, for all these practices are productive of karma; hence, we may call them Buddha-hindrances! As they would obstruct your Mind, the chain of causation would also grapple you fast, dragging you back into the state of those as yet unliberated. [John Blofeld's note: The Pure Land Sect advocates utter reliance upon Amida Buddha of Boundless Light and Life, holding that perfect faith will insure rebirth in a paradise where preparation for final Enlightenment follows under ideal conditions. Zen Buddhists, on the contrary, often claim that reliance on Amida Buddha is the negation of that self-reliance which Gautama Buddha taught to be the only sure path. Nevertheless, the Pure Land doctrine PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD is not truly opposed to Zen, since the real meaning of Amida is the Buddha-Substance innate in man, and rebirth into his paradise implies the awakening of the individual's mind to its Oneness with the Buddha-Substance.]

Hence all dharmas such as those purporting to lead to the attainment of Bodhi possess no reality. The words of Gautama Buddha were intended merely as efficacious expedients for leading men out of the darkness of worse ignorance. It was as though one pretended yellow leaves were gold to stop the flow of a child's tears. Samyak-Sambodhi [Supreme Knowledge.] is another name for the realization that there are no valid Dharmas. Once you understand this, of what use are such trifles to you? According harmoniously with the conditions of your present lives, you should go on, as opportunities arise, reducing the store of old karma laid up in previous lives; and above all, you must avoid building up a fresh store of retribution for yourselves!

Mind is filled with radiant clarity, so cast away the darkness of your old concepts. Ch'ing Ming says: 'Rid yourselves of everything.' The sentence in the Lotus Sutra concerning a whole twenty years spent in the shoveling away of manure symbolizes the necessity of driving from your minds whatever tends to the formation of concepts. In another passage, the same sutra identifies the pile of dung which has to be carted away with metaphysics and sophistry. Thus the 'Womb of the Tathagatas' is intrinsically a voidness and silence containing no individualized dharmas of any sort or kind. And therefore says the sutra: 'The entire realms of all the Buddhas are equally void.' [The implication is that the Western Paradise of Amida Buddha is as void as the rest of them.]

Though others may talk of the Way of the Buddhas as something to be reached by various pious practices and by sutra-study, you must have nothing to do with such ideas. A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen. When you happen upon someone who has no understanding, you must claim to know nothing. He may be delighted by his discovery of some 'way to Enlightenment'; yet if you allow yourselves to be persuaded by him, YOU will experience no delight at all, but suffer both sorrow and disappointment. What have such thoughts as his to do with the study of Zen? Even if you do obtain from him some trifling 'method', it will only be a thought-constructed dharma having nothing to do with Zen. Thus, Bodhidharma sat rapt in meditation before a wall; he did not seek to lead people into having opinions. Therefore it is written: 'To put out of mind even the principle from which action springs is the true teaching of the Buddhas, while dualism belongs to the sphere of demons.'

Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion, nor is it gained at the moment of Enlightenment. It is the Nature of the Bhutatathata. In it is neither delusion nor right understanding. It fills the Void everywhere and is intrinsically of the substance of the One Mind. How, then, can your mind-created objects exist outside the Void? The Void is fundamentally without spacial dimensions, passions, activities, delusions or right understanding. You must clearly understand that in it there are no things, no men and no Buddhas; for this Void contains not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything that can be viewed spacially; it depends on nothing and is attached to nothing. It is all- pervading, spotless beauty; it is the self-existent and uncreated Absolute. Then how can it even be a matter for discussion that the REAL Buddha has no mouth and preaches no Dharma, or that REAL hearing requires no ears, for who could hear it?