The master then said: “Monks, those who seek the Dharma should not shirk losing body and life. As for me, I spent twenty years with my late master Obaku. Three times I asked him about the essence of Buddhism, and three times he kindly beat me. It was as if he had caressed me with a branch of fragrant sage. Now I feel like being beaten again; who can give me a beating?”
‘Those who seek the Dharma should not shirk losing body and life’ doesn’t mean that we ought to think lightly of body and life but means that we should realise that they are empty. The reason why the master mentioned body and life is that they are the stickiest illusions for us to remove. So, enlightenment is likened to great death, which implies that all illusions die. Great death is identified with eternal life.
It is a well-known historical fact that Rinzai asked his master Obaku about the essence of Buddhism three times and that Obaku hit Rinzai whenever he asked him. The key point here is why master Obaku hit Rinzai when he asked him such an important question, instead of answering him. Thinking that he beat him is missing what he intended to show. We ought to know that he presented a perfect answer to his question by revealing Buddha in person. In fact, even Rinzai himself, disappointed with Obaku’s response, had decided to leave Obaku for another master because he didn’t grasp the meaning of the master’s beating at that time. Only after his enlightenment did he realise that his master, Obaku’s beatings had been a very compassionate teaching and that he had revealed the true-Self. So, when he said here, “I feel like being beaten again; who can give me a beating?”, he meant, “I’d like to see any of you revealing the true-Self as clearly just as my master Obaku did. Who can do it?”
Student: “How would you have responded to the master’s question?”
Master: “Why do you covet others’ food while vomiting yours?”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography