If one comes to ask me how to become the Buddha, I respond to him with a state of purity. If one asks me what Bodhisattvas are, I respond to him accordingly with a state of compassion. If one asks me about Bodhi (Enlightenment), I respond by showing a state of pure mystery. And if one questions me on Nirvana, I show a corresponding state of quiet calm.
States (or circumstances) are manifestations; they are the differentiation into the ten thousand things; but there is only one who is always the same man, who does not differ at all. That is why the true-Self appears to be different in response to circumstances, just as the moon is reflected in different places.
You might wonder what Master Rinzai meant by his responses to the four respective questions, but his answers to the questions were truly clear. The problem is whether listeners, or readers can grasp his answers. The four questions may seem to be different from each other, but they are, in fact, the same question, one question: What is the true-Self? or What is Emptiness? Whatever he says, or whatever he does can be perfect answers to the questions. So, when he said, “If one comes to ask me how to become the Buddha, I respond to him with a state of purity,” we should be able to see that Rinzai was revealing the Buddha by saying, “I respond to him a state of purity.” In the same way, he showed Bodhisattvas to us by saying, “I respond to him accordingly with a state of compassion.” The other two questions should also be understood like this.
‘There is only one who is always the same man, who does not differ at all’ means that there is nothing else but the true-Self, Emptiness. Although it appears to be different depending on the situation, just like seen in four answers above, its essence never changes at all. This is just as if the moon were reflected in different places. When reflected in a lake, it looks larger than when it is reflected in a glass of water, and the shape of the moon reflected in calm water is quite different from that of the moon reflected in turbulent water. No matter how the shape of the reflected moon may appear, the moon itself is the same all the time without any change.
Student: “What is Bodhi?”
Master: “Take a close look.”
Student: “What is Nirvana?”
Master: “Why don’t you come in now?”
Student: “Why am I still lost?”
Master: “Because you are being deluded by the reflections of the moon without seeing the moon.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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