The reason why students of today don’t attain enlightenment is that they are deluded by names and try to attain it by depending on them. They copy the words of late old monks into a big book, wrap it up in three or four layers of cloth and treasure it in the belief that it is the subtle secret. What a great error! Blind idiots, what juice are you looking for in those dry bones?
‘They are deluded by names and try to attain it by depending on them’ means that people try to approach enlightenment by acquiring a lot of knowledge. This is why they are attached to the Sutras or the words of late old monks. Even today, there are people who memorise a whole Sutra from cover to cover and some who copy a Sutra thousands of times. In fact, the historical Buddha cautioned his disciplines not to cling to his words by saying, “Not a word have I said so far.” It is not by piling up or accumulating knowledge but rather by grasping a single word or a phrase that we can attain enlightenment. So, Rinzai compared seeking enlightenment through knowledge to looking for juice in dry bones.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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