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)

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