Now there have already been professional priests coming here saying, “Perception is unobscured,” totally accepting perception and claiming that is right. That means they do not see what is not obscured. When I ask them about other worlds, they do not know; and when I question them about the senses and objects, it turns out they have not broken through. How can they imagine that the feelings and perceptions of ordinary people are exactly the same as instant enlightenment?
Today I say to everyone, just trust that there is such a thing as instant enlightenment. It is like a farmer finding an alchemical pill as he plows the fields; after taking it, the whole family goes to heaven. It is also like a commoner being appointed prime minister.
In the Teachings it says that those ordinary feelings and perceptions of yours are like unbaked clay, which is useless before it has been fired. You have to bake it in a hot fire before it is useful; that is like an instant enlightenment.
When I came out of Szechwan, I only called on one person. I know this person’s talk was the same as the ancients. I once asked my teacher, “I’ve heard it said that there is enlightenment in Zen; is that so?” My teacher said, “If there were no enlightenment, how could it be attained? Just investigate in an easygoing way.” So I studied in a relaxed frame of mind. There was a certain Elder Fu, whose insight was so luminously clear that I used to go to him with questions. But he just used to tell me, “You must make a living on your own; don’t come questioning me.”
One day he recited a story to me: Zhaozhou showed some fire to a student and said, “Don’t call it fire. What is it?” I wondered deeply at this: obviously it is fire — why not call it fire? I contemplated this for three years, always reflecting, “How dare I use the feelings and perceptions of an ordinary man to ask about the realization of sages?”
I have also heard what it says in the Lotus Scripture, “ This truth cannot be understood by the discriminations of discursive thought,” I have always kept this in mind. Today when you say you are right just as you are, that is because you have produced an interpretative understanding, and so do not understand.
Once my teacher went to the residence of Judge Li, who invited him into the library. After lighting a fire, the judge picked up a copy of Transmission of the Lamp and said to the teacher, “Although I am a man of the world, I have always taken an interest in this path. Whenever I read this book I find many points I do not understand.” My teacher said, “This matter is not understood in that way. You need to have realization of enlightenment first. If you have enlightenment, you naturally need not ask others about whatever you do not understand. If you have no enlightenment, even what understanding you do have is not yet right either.” The judge remarked, “My teacher, you have spoken rightly.”
As for me, since I was the superintendent of guests, I attained understanding at the fireside; after that, there was nothing I did not understand. You must see the reality of instant enlightenment yourself before you can attain it. No one in the Zen communities of the present time tells of it.