Zen

Rinzai 131

If not one thought arises, you will at once climb up the tree of enlightenment, have the supernatural powers to transform yourselves at will in the Three Worlds, have the joy of the Dharma and the bliss of Zen. Your whole body will shine by itself. When you think of robes — you are clothed in a thousand layers of brocade; when you think of food — a sumptuous meal of a hundred flavours is served; and you will never encounter unexpected accident or illness. Enlightenment has no local abode, and so there is nothing to obtain.

Commentary:

‘If not one thought arises’ means ‘if you are not deluded by even a single illusion’. ‘Have the supernatural powers to transform yourselves at will in the Three Worlds’ means that you feel identical, or feel oneness with the entire universe. ‘Your whole body will shine by itself’ implies that you feel the function of your whole body as that of the true-Self. ‘You are clothed in a thousand layers of brocade’ means that when you are oneness with the true-Self, the whole universe, perfection can be your robe. ‘You will never encounter unexpected accident or illness’ means that you have transcended birth and death. ‘Enlightenment has no local abode, and so there is nothing to obtain’ implies that since enlightenment is just to see things as they are, not a thing with a certain shape, we should not think that it can be attained in the way we obtain something precious, which is to be deluded by the illusion of enlightenment.

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Zen

Q. I sometimes feel truly angry during meditation and am curious to know why this happens.

A. You seem to be distracted by illusions; thoughts of the past and the future. Then, you cannot be concentrated on your meditation as you spend time struggling to fight off your illusions during your practice. This causes you to feel more exhausted than refreshed after meditation. This happens because you don’t practise in the right way.

Try to focus all your attention to your koan, Zen question. If you find it difficult to do so because of worldly thoughts, illusions, don’t try in vain to fight them off. As mentioned previously repeatedly, there is nothing that is not the true-Self. Not only the worldly thoughts but also your anger is also part of the true-Self. That is, you are mistaking the true-Self for anger, or worldly thoughts. They are no other than the true-Self you are looking for. I’d like to advise you to trace your anger, or illusions back to their root instead of fighting against them. They, well used, can be a nice way to enlightenment.

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Zen

Quijong’s ‘the visible true-Self’

When a monastic asked Master Quijong, “What is the visible true-Self?”, the master, standing on tiptoe, said, “Can you see?” The monastic answered, “No, I can’t.” The master said, “There are three kinds. Be free to make a choice.”

Student: “What are the three kinds?”

Master: “A cup, a table and a tree.”

Commentary:

Choose any one and the others will come along spontaneously.

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Zen

Rinzai 130

Venerable ones, the physical body made up of the Four Elements is impermanent. From spleen and stomach, liver and gall, down to head — body-hair, nails and teeth — they only show that everything is just empty form.

When you can bring your heart to rest, that is called the tree of enlightenment. When you cannot bring your heart to rest, that is called the tree of ignorance. Ignorance has no abode, neither does it have beginning nor end. If you cannot bring your heart to rest, you will climb up the tree of ignorance and enter the six ways and four modes of birth and wear horns and fur. If you can put your heart to rest, this is the realm of the Pure Land.

Commentary:

‘The physical body made up of the Four Elements is impermanent’ implies that as our physical body perishes sooner or later, irrespective of our will because it is no other than an illusion, we, instead of being attached to it, should try to attain enlightenment before encountering the last moment of our life. ‘When you can bring your heart to rest, that is called the tree of enlightenment’ means that when we stop discriminating and see things as they are, that is, when we are not deluded by illusions, we can attain enlightenment. Only when we can see everything as it is, or when we have attained enlightenment can we grasp the words ‘Ignorance has no abode, neither does it have beginning nor end’. In fact, realising the fact that ‘Ignorance has no abode, neither does it have beginning nor end’ is realising that illusions are no other than part of the true-Self, which is enlightenment.

However, unless you see things as they are by ceasing to discriminate, you cannot escape the ocean of illusions, which is referred to as ‘entering the six ways and four modes of birth and wear horns and fur’. This symbolises that we are caught in the trap of karma, or transmigration.

Student: “What is enlightenment?”

Master: “The physical body made up of the Four Elements.”

Student: “You said that it is impermanent and an illusion. Why do you answer contrary to your words?”

Master: “Because you have not brought your heart to rest.”

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Zen

Q. During meditation, I have telepathic conversations with friends, the content which is often verified afterwards when I meet them in person. What are your thoughts about telepathy and what it says about consciousness in general?

A. Such experience can feel so wonderful and attractive that people are often tempted to mistake it for enlightenment and cling to it. However, such an experience is a phenomenon that happens once in a while when practitioners cannot make strong concentration on their koans. Your experience indicates that you are not focused on your question but deluded by illusions. People who practise like this are said to be housekeeping in a fox burrow. You should remember that no matter how holy a thing you may see, or however mysterious a thing may happen during your practice, it is nothing but an illusion. That is why ancient masters would warn that we should not be attracted even if one hundred Buddhas appear before us.

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Zen

The Buddha’s silence

When a heretic asked the Buddha, “Are all things permanent?”, the Buddha remained silent. The heretic said again, “Are all things impermanent?” The Buddha continued to remain silent. Then, the heretic said to the Buddha, “Why don’t you answer my question while you are equipped with the wisdom to know everything?” The Buddha answered, “Because all your questions are just wordplay.”

Student: “Why did the Buddha refuse to answer the heretic’s questions, regarding them as wordplay?”

Master: “Because you play upon words.”

Commentary:

The best food can be poison when it is not digested well. 

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Zen

Rinzai 129

The Buddhas and patriarchs are only names of adoration. Do you want to know the Three Worlds? They do not differ from the sensation of your listening to the Dharma now! A momentary desire is the world of greed. Momentary anger is the world of form. And a second’s foolish ignorance is the formless world. These are the furniture of your own house. The Three Worlds do not by themselves proclaim: It is the one clear and lively before your eyes who perceives, weighs and measures everything in the world that grants the names ‘the Three Worlds’.

Commentary:

As the true Buddha is the perfect state without any illusions, it is essentially nameless since a name is a sort of illusion. The Buddhas and patriarchs are no more than expedients; names, imaginary labels that are employed for the sake of convenience to express the perfect state. In the same way the Three Worlds are just names, imaginary labels used for the purpose of explaining the world of sentient beings and are not real.

The core of this paragraph is that the Buddhas and patriarchs are not the deceased who are mentioned in the Sutras and the Buddhist texts but everyone and everything, including you who are reading this writing at this moment and that the Three Worlds are not different and separate from the Pure Land but one. The Pure Land appears as the Three Worlds to those who cannot see things as they are. That is why ancient masters would say that we should not struggle in vain to leave the Three Worlds for the Pure Land and that we will be wrong if we move even a single step in order to move to the Pure Land from the Three Worlds.

Student: “What is the Buddha?”

Master: “Why do you ask me the taste of the food you are chewing?”

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Zen

Q. If the true-Self is gateless, formless, and pathless, then why are there teachers, teachings and practices?

A. Without teachers, how would it be known that the true-Self is gateless, formless, and pathless? Furthermore, you cannot know what this scripture means until you realise the true-Self in person. Jumping to a conclusion according to literal understanding, without experience, is to be deluded by illusions.

The fact that the true-Self is gateless, formless, and pathless makes teachers more necessary since they can help those who, not knowing which direction to take and what to begin with, are wandering about, by presenting fake gates and fake paths as a temporary expedient. This is why all Buddha’s talks are said to be just expedients.

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Zen

Master Young-ga’s ‘Mind is the foundation, and a thing is a mote’

Master Young-ga said, “Mind is the foundation, and a thing is a mote. These are like traces of dust on a mirror. Only after all these traces disappear does the light appear. When there is no mind and not a thing, the true-Self reveals itself.”

Student: “Master Young-ga said that mind is the foundation, which means that mind is the true-Self. Why does the true-Self appear only after mind disappears?”

Master: “If you cling to words, even the Buddha is a mote. If you are not fooled by words, even Mara is the true-Self.”

Commentary:

The Buddha is an illusion, and a mote is the Buddha.

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Zen

Rinzai 128

As I see it, there is nothing complicated. Just be your ordinary selves in an ordinary life, wear your robes and eat your food, and having nothing further to seek, peacefully pass your time. From everywhere you have come here; all of you eagerly seek the Buddha, the Dharma, and deliverance; you seek escape from the Three Worlds. You foolish people, if you want to get out of the Three Worlds, where then can you go?

Commentary:

As mentioned so far, there is nothing else but the Buddha, the Dharma. Whatever you may see and hear, whether you may like it or not, whether it looks right or wrong, and whatever you may do, they are all the functions of the Buddha. When you are deluded by their names and forms, they seem to be countless different things. Enlightenment is not to find something special that is somewhere unknown, so far away that it is difficult to reach and find, but to realise the fact that we are the Buddha itself. That is why Rinzai said, “There is nothing complicated. Just be your ordinary selves in an ordinary life, wear your robes and eat your food, and having nothing further to seek, peacefully pass your time”. No matter how many waves there may be in the sea, all of them are just part of the sea. “If you want to get out of the Three Worlds, where then can you go?” means that although people struggle to leave the Three Worlds that is the ocean of suffering for some other world, the Pure Land, the Three Worlds that we are anxious to escape is no other than the Pure Land we want to reach. In fact, there is no place other than it.

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