Zen

Q. What does ‘You cannot see the Buddha because there are motes in your eyes and ears. If you are to remove them, look up beyond the sky’ mean?

A. The mote in our eyes is a mote of discriminating by seeing, and that in our ears a mote of discriminating by hearing. For example, whenever we see or hear things, we discriminate them by defining and naming them as something such as a tree, or a bird. In fact, they are neither a tree nor a bird in essence because they have never said that they are a tree, or a bird. We name them, and define their natures and characteristics as we please, independent of what they really are. In other words, we see and hear things in the way we interpret or understand them, not in the way they really are in themselves. This is the reason why we don’t see the true-Self.

So, an ancient master, when he was asked to say how to see the true-Self, said that although eyes are full of light, there should not be a single thing and that although ears are full of sound, there should not be any words. Accordingly, ‘look up beyond the sky’ implies to see the sky without any fixed ideas attached to it, including the word ‘sky’.

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Zen

Ananda’s peculiar thing (2)

One day Ananda said to the Buddha, “Sir, when I went to the castle today, I saw a peculiar thing.” The Buddha said, “What peculiar thing did you see?” Ananda said, “When I entered the castle, I saw a group of people dancing, but I didn’t see them dancing at all when I came out of the castle.” The Buddha said, “I also saw an unusual thing when I entered the castle yesterday.”  Ananda asked, “What unusual thing did you see?” The Buddha answered, “When I entered the castle, I saw a group of people dancing, and I saw them still dancing when I left the castle.”

Student: “What were the peculiar things that the Buddha and Ananda saw?”

Master: “Why don’t you see the peculiar thing now?”

Student: “I don’t see anything peculiar now.”

Master: “I am seeing it now, but you are not although we are together in the same place at the same time. How peculiar it is!”

Commentary:

The one peculiar thing you see is more important than thousands of peculiar things that the Buddha and Ananda saw.

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Zen

Rinzai 201

Ryuge asked what the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West. Rinzai said, “Pass me the cushion.” When Ryuge handed it to him, the master took it and hit him with it. Ryuge said, “You may hit as much as you like, but there is no meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West.” Later, Ryuge went to Suibi and asked what the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West was. Suibi said, “Pass me the cushion.” Ryuge handed it to Suibi, who took it and hit him with it. Ryuge said, “Hit as much as you like, still there is no meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West.”

Commentary:

Rinzai answered Ryuge’s question by saying, “Pass me the cushion”, by which Rinzai showed the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West. Ryuge was wise enough to recognise Rinzai’s intention. When he handed the cushion to Rinzai, his intention was not to hand the cushion but to reveal the true-Self, the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West. Rinzai took it and hit him to test him again, since Ryuge appeared to follow Rinzai’s words by handing the cushion to him as he was told. Then, Ryuge responded by saying, “You may hit as much as you like, but there is no meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West”, which meant, “There is no other meaning than that which I am revealing in this way.” When Ryuge went to Master Suibi later, he responded to his answer in the same way as he had done to Rinzai’s.

The patriarch’s meaning implies the true-Self, the Buddha. Before enlightenment, there seems to be the patriarch’s meaning for us to realise, but there is nothing else but the patriarch’s meaning, whatever we may do, after enlightenment; hitting with a cushion, eating, walking and so on. Then, the patriarch’s meaning is not the patriarch’s meaning any more since there is nothing to distinguish it from. This is why Ryuge said, “You may hit as much as you like, but there is no meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West.”    

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of “If someone, seeing the Buddha, is not attached to him, he is one who truly knows the Buddha” from the Avatamsaka Sutra?

A. The core of Buddhism is not to worship and pray to the Buddha for happiness, or fortune, but to realise that we are none other than the Buddha. Trying to see any other Buddha than ourselves is to be deluded by the image of the Buddha, the illusion of the Buddha.

This scripture tells us not to be deluded by the illusion of the Buddha that is one of the strongest obstacles preventing us from realising that we are the Buddha. This is why ancient masters would say that we should kill the Buddha if we see him.

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Zen

Ananda’s peculiar thing (1)

One day Ananda said to the Buddha, “Sir, when I went to the castle today, I saw a peculiar thing.” The Buddha said, “What peculiar thing did you see?” Ananda said, “When I entered the castle, I saw a group of people dancing, but I didn’t see them dancing at all when I came out of the castle.” The Buddha said, “I also saw an unusual thing when I entered the castle yesterday.”  Ananda asked, “What unusual thing did you see?” The Buddha answered, “When I entered the castle, I saw a group of people dancing, and I saw them still dancing when I left the castle.”

Student: “What is the difference between the peculiar thing that Ananda saw and the peculiar thing that the Buddha was?”

Master: “If there is difference between them, they are not the peculiar thing.”

Commentary:

All things being different from each other is ordinary, but all things being identical is peculiar.

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Zen

Rinzai 200

Rinzai asked a nun, “Did you come to the right place, or the wrong place?” The nun gave a Katsu. Rinzai held up his stick and said, “Speak again, speak again!” The nun again gave a Katsu. Rinzai hit her.

Commentary:

Rinzai’s question means, “I know that you have come to see me. However, do you know the place without coming and going that is the true-Self?” Rinzai asked this question to see whether the nun was still deluded by the illusions of right and wrong, and the Pure Land and mundane world. The nun lost no time in responding by giving a Katsu. Rinzai raised another challenge by holding up his stick and saying, “Speak again, speak again!” The nun immediately made a proper response with another Katsu. Rinzai approved her by hitting her.

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Zen

Q. Where is the Buddha when illusions arise?

A. The Buddha is not different from illusions. All illusions are the forms and functions of the Buddha. People are prone to think that the Buddha is friendly and holy whilst illusions appear to be hostile, ugly and malicious. In fact, it is impossible to distinguish the Buddha from illusions by appearances because the Buddha is formless and so doesn’t have any fixed form. That is, you actually see the Buddha all the time, but you don’t recognise him because he takes on different appearances each time you see him.

When you are faced with a phenomenon, whether it is the Buddha or an illusion depends on your perspective, that is, whether or not you see it as it truly is. If you are deluded by illusions of the phenomenon, you take the Buddha for an illusion. If you see the phenomenon as it is, you recognise the Buddha. My answer to your question is that the Buddha is hidden in the illusions when illusions arise.

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Zen

The Buddha’s Words (2)

The Diamond Sutra says, “The Buddha is one who speaks true words, who speaks words that are not a lie, and who doesn’t say different words.”

Student: “The Buddha said on his deathbed that he had never said a word. What are the Buddha’s true words?”

Master: “How did he teach then?”

Commentary:

Don’t mistake your deafness for the Buddha’s dumbness.

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Zen

Rinzai 199

Rinzai asked a monk, “Sometimes a Katsu is like the precious sword of the Vajra king; sometimes a Katsu is like a golden-maned lion crouching on the ground; sometimes a Katsu is like a probing pole for fishing to which a grass bushel is fastened to cast shade; and sometimes a Katsu is not used as a Katsu. How do you understand that?” When the monk was on the point of answering. Rinzai gave a Katsu.

Commentary:

The key point of Rinzai’s question is “All things are different from each other, and nothing is the same as anything else. However, everything is the same in essence and nothing is different from anything else. In the same way, a Katsu can seem to have diverse appearances and uses, but the essence of it is the same. Do you know this principle?” When the monk, failing to respond to the question immediately, was about to say the answer he had figured out with his best effort, Rinzai showed him a right answer by giving a Katsu.

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Zen

Q. How do we feel when we see the true-Self for the first time?

A. An ancient master described the moment he saw the true-Self as follows; “I have wandered about in search for you for decades since I heard that I have to see you so far. However, seeing you now at long last, I can see that you are not you.” Prior seeing the true-Self, we try to see it. However, once we have seen it, it turns out that we ourselves are none other than the true-Self we are looking for and that we have merely struggled to see ourselves.

This is why ancient masters would say that after enlightenment we realise that all the efforts we made were of no use at all. The purpose of Buddhism is not to find the Buddha hidden somewhere far away out of reach but to realise that you are the Buddha.

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