Zen

Rinzai 78

And a moment of the light of non-differentiation in your heart, this is the true Samantabhadra (Dharma) everywhere and always. If for a moment your heart by itself gets released from its bonds, everywhere is deliverance; this is the Dharma-Samadhi Kannon (Avalokiteshvara). Mutually they appear as master and companions; and simultaneously they appear as one in three and three in one. Only when one can understand thus is one fit to read the Teachings.

Commentary:

‘A moment of the light of non-differentiation in your heart, this is the true Samantabhadra (Dharma), everywhere and always’ means that the moment you stop discriminating, the state without any illusions appears, which is the true Samantabhadra that is everywhere all the time. ‘If for a moment your heart by itself gets released from its bonds, everywhere is deliverance; this is the Dharma-Samadhi Kannon (Avalokiteshvara)’ implies that if you realise that all the bonds of illusions are empty even for a moment, that is to realise that all things, including you, are perfection itself, the Buddha. ‘Mutually they appear as master and companions; and simultaneously they appear as one in three and three in one’ means that you can see things as the true-Self and as forms at the same time. You realise that Oneness is many, and many are Oneness, that is, Emptiness is forms and forms are Emptiness. Only when we can understand thus can we be said to grasp the Teachings.

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Zen

Q. If God loved human beings, why would he have given suffering and death to them?

A. The truth is not that he gave people suffering and death, but that people turn happiness into suffering, and eternal life into death. God gave people free will; the freedom to make their own decisions as they please. Suffering and death result from the decisions made by people.

If you blame God for having granted you the right of decision, it means that you wish you were like a robot that only works in a predetermined manner, which, I am sure, is also not in the least what you want. The role of religion can be said to be to teach people how to make wise decisions by seeing things just as they are.

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Zen

Why do you violate the five precepts?

Master Woon-moon asked one of his students, “Where are you coming from?” The monk answered, “I am coming from the tower after praying to it.” Woon-moon said, “You are teasing me.” The monk said, “I mean it. I actually prayed to the tower.” Woon-moon said, “Why do you violate the five precepts?”

Student: “Why did the Master say that the monk was telling a lie even though he wasn’t?”

Master: “Because the monk was not aware that he had actually done a good thing.”

Commentary:

The wise do not blame the foolish for their foolishness since they have compassion for the foolish.

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Zen

Rinzai 77

As I see it, there is not a thing to be disliked. If you love the sacred, the sacred becomes a mere word and a snare. There are some students who claim that they saw Manjushri on Mount Godai. What nonsense this is! They are deceiving themselves. There is no Manjushri on Mount Godai. Do you want to know Manjushri? He is here right before your eyes functioning ceaselessly without change, everywhere clearly perceptible and beyond doubt. This is the living Manjushri.

Commentary:

‘There is not a thing to be disliked. If you love the sacred, the sacred becomes a mere word and a snare’ means that both the disliked and the sacred are just words, imaginary labels which come from discrimination. If we are attached to them, they become snares which bind and restrict us. ‘There are some students who claim that they saw Manjushri on Mount Godai. What nonsense this is! They are deceiving themselves’ implies that such people are still deluded by the illusion of Manjushri Bodhisattva, believing that Manjushri is different and separate from the Buddha and that they can see the Buddha only in temples, and Manjushri only on Mount Godai. You should know that there is nothing else but the Buddha and that all Bodhisattvas, including Manjushri, symbolise the functions of the Buddha. Even you are the Buddha as well, and your actions are Bodhisattvas. In fact, we cannot do other than always see and hear the Buddha and cannot escape from Him even for a moment. The problem is that we cannot recognise Him now.

Student: “What is Manjushri?”

Master: “You are showing him to me, and I am showing him to you now.”

Student: “I don’t understand. Show him to me again.”

Master: “He is on Mount Godai.”

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Zen

Q. Is everything really perfect, or is it that one no longer resists the imperfection of existence thereby making it perfect?

A. Everything is perfect by itself unless you make it imperfect with your imaginary standard. Imperfection comes into being when you see things with an imaginary standard created by your greed, or desire. The imaginary standard cannot help but be imperfect since it varies depending on the perspectives of beholders.

A tree in the mountain, for example, is perfect as a tree. However, when you look for a tree for landscaping your new house, it can be problematic. It is not easy to find a perfect tree for your garden in terms of its shape, size, the type of tree, the cost for transporting it to your house, etcetera because you have your own imaginary standard of a perfect tree.

To conclude, we make imperfection out of perfection through our discrimination. Dissatisfied with the imperfection, we struggle to turn it into imaginary new perfection, which is compared to trying to grasp one’s shadow. The frustrated emotions we feel when we fail to grasp the shadows are referred to as suffering in Buddhism.

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Zen

Jinfeng’s “The Way of Going Beyond”

Jinfeng was once greeted by a monastic. Jinfeng grabbed the monastic and said, “The way of going beyond is not easy to attain.”

The monastic gestured to listen. Jinfeng then slapped him.

The monastic said, “Why did you slap me?”

Jinfeng said, “I want to have this koan practised.”

Student: “Why did Jinfeng say that his slapping was a koan to be practised?”

Master: “Because you have not gone beyond.”

Commentary:

The way of going beyond is not to trip over a shadow on level ground.

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Zen

Rinzai 76

Why is this so? Because you have come to understand that the four elements are like a dream, or a phantom. Followers of the Way, he who is now listening to the Dharma, he is not the four elements; he is the one who can use the four elements. If you can see it thus, then you are free in your going and staying.

Commentary:

‘Why is this so?’ means ‘How is it possible for you to walk on water as if it were land and on land as if it were water?’ ‘Because you have come to understand that the four elements are like a dream, or a phantom’ means that it is possible because we can realise that the four elements; earth, water, fire and wind which compose our physical body are empty. ‘He who is now listening to the Dharma, he is not the four elements; he is the one who can use the four elements’ implies that the essence of your being is not your physical body but the one who controls it. What is making your body read this article at this moment? ‘If you can see it thus, then you are free in your going and staying’ means that if you can see clearly what is controlling your body, you can be free to see everything in both ways, which is also known as transcending birth and death.

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Zen

Q. If there is nothing to grasp why do we suffer much less by the practice of letting go?

A. The key problem is that, in fact, we still strive to grasp what cannot be grasped even though there is nothing to grasp. Our suffering is from the failure to grasp it, or from losing what we believe we have succeeded in grasping.

The reason why we do not cease struggling in vain for what cannot be grasped is that we are not aware that there is nothing to grasp, that is, all we try to grasp is empty. The purpose of Buddhism is to help people to realise this fact.

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Zen

What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s sitting for nine years?

A monk asked Master Ja-myung, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s sitting facing the wall for nine years?”

Ja-myung answered, “There was no reward despite many years of effort.”

The monk asked the same question of Master Yang-ki, who answered, “He didn’t know Chinese because he was an Indian. The monk asked the same question of Master Hoe-dang, who responded, “He had no blanket to cover himself in spite of cold weather.”

Student: “Each of three masters made a different answer to the same question. Which is a right answer?”

Master: “All their answers are wrong.”

Student: “What is the right answer?”

Master: “It was not said.”

Commentary:

Calamity comes in taking what was not said as what was said.

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Zen

Rinzai 75

Followers of the Way, right now realise the four shapeless boundaries and don’t be entangled in them.

One asked,“What are these four boundaries?”

The master said,“A moment of doubt in your heart is your being obstructed by earth; a moment of desire in your heart is your drowning in water; a moment of anger in your heart is your burning in fire; a moment of joy in your heart is your being carried away by the wind. If you can realise this, you will no longer be at the mercy of circumstance but will make use of circumstances wherever you are — rise in the east and set in the west, appear in the south and vanish in the north, rise in the middle and disappear at the circumference, appear at the circumference and vanish in the centre. Then you will walk on water as if it were land and on land as if it were water.”

Commentary:

Earth, water, fire and wind are said to be the four elements which our physical body is composed of in Buddhism. Master Rinzai compared them to our typical illusions; doubt, desire, anger and joy, which are thought to lead people to suffering. If you realise that they are all illusions by seeing them as they are, you will be above being deluded by them. Rather, you will be able to take advantage of them as you please. ‘Rise in the east and set in the west, appear in the south and vanish in the north, rise in the middle and disappear at the circumference, appear at the circumference and vanish in the centre. Then you will walk on water as if it were land and on land as if it were water’ are the metaphors that show how free we are to see things in both ways; with land implying Emptiness and water implying forms, when we are free from being deluded by illusions. Similar phrases are found in the Bible as well: Matthew 14:25 “Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water.” Matthew 14:29 “So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus.” Here, walking on the water implies not sinking in the ocean of illusions.

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