Rinzai said that the historical Buddha said, “The Buddha revealed himself as a physical body only for adaptation to the sentiments of the world, and, fearing that otherwise men might fall into thinking that the Buddha is gone forever with his physical body dying, He mentioned the thirty-two marks and eighty characteristics by producing fake names as expedient means. Temporarily the thirty-two marks and eighty characteristics are spoken of. In themselves, they are empty sounds. The physical body is not the body of realisation; no- form is the true shape.”
All the words used to describe and explain the true-Self are just expedient means for leading sentient beings to enlightenment. The thirty-two marks and eighty characteristics are not exceptional. Let us suppose that a three-year child brings a piece of paper and asks you what it is and that you, answering, “Paper,” draw a two-winged boy on it. The thirty-two marks and eighty characteristics are like the two-winged boy you drew on the paper, which was drawn by you for the purpose of showing, or demonstrating what paper is. You didn’t mean that the picture of the two-winged boy is paper. In fact, you can not only draw many other things, such as a flower and a lion, but also write various words on the paper. This is why there are a variety of names representing the true-Self. Ancient masters would even say that all names of things are the names of the Buddha.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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