From the High Seat, the master said: “One is on the way for aeons without leaving his house; one leaves his house without being on the way. Which one is worthy to receive the offerings of men and gods?” Then he came down from the seat.
One who is on the way for aeons without leaving his house implies an enlightened person who has realised that everything is one as Emptiness and that there is nowhere to leave or to go to, or a person who attained enlightenment without becoming a monk. One who leaves his house without being on the way symbolises a person who left his house and became a monk to attain enlightenment but who is still not enlightened. Rinzai meant that getting enlightened is possible regardless of whether or not we become a monk if we practise in the right way.
The answer to the question ‘Which one is worthy to receive the offerings of men and gods?’ is ‘One who is on the way for aeons without leaving his house’ when literally interpreted. However, Master Rinzai raised this question for the purpose of checking who among those present at the dharma talk was truly on the way, regardless of whether they had left their houses or not. He who is really on the way for aeons without leaving his house should not be deluded by sweet words like these. So, ancient masters would say, “If you are deluded by words, all the Sutras become Mara’s talk.”
Student: “Which deserves to receive the offerings of men and gods?”
Master: “The one whom men and gods cannot approach.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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