Zen

Rinzai 116

Followers of the Way, the one right here before your eyes and listening to the Dharma talk is he who enters fire without being burnt, goes into water without being drowned, and plays about in the three deepest hells, as if in a garden; he enters the world of hungry ghosts and dumb animals without being molested by them. Why is this so? Because there is nothing he dislikes. If you love the sacred and dislike the worldly, you will go on floating and sinking in the ocean of birth and death.

Commentary:

‘The one here before your eyes and listening to the Dharma’ means ‘The true-Self is everywhere and there is no place without it. You cannot cease to see it even for a moment even though you close your eyes, and it is listening to my Dharma talk with you at this moment’. The reason why the true-Self is neither burnt in fire nor drowned in water is that fire and water are just the functions of the true-Self. The essence of everything, including the deepest hells and the world of hungry ghosts, is the true-Self. Things such as the hungry ghosts and hells are all just illusions, the products of the result of your failing to see the true-Self as it is. Whatever things may happen, when you see them as they are, they are not different from the true-Self. Thus, clinging to the sacred and avoiding the worldly, you are still deluded by the illusions of the sacred and the worldly without knowing that both are just one in essence as the true-Self.

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Zen

Q. No matter how hard we try to maintain a positive outlook on life, incidents and situations draw us back into negativity. Why is this so?

A. Don’t classify any situation into positive or negative. Positive is to negative as right is to left. Nothing is either right or left unless you discriminate. What is right to you can be left to someone else and what is right another can be left to you. Whether a thing is right or left is not intrinsic but determined by your view.

In the same way, a situation that seems to be negative to you can be positive to someone else and vice versa, which means that every incident and every situation is neutral in essence unless you think of it as positive, or negative. You should remember that it is not the incidents and situations that draw you into negativity but you that draw incidents and situations into negativity.

Student: “What is a positive thing?”

Master: “A negative thing.”

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Zen

Corinthians 4:18

 “For we fix our attention not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.”

Student: “What cannot be seen?”

Master: “It has no beginning and no end.”

Student: “How can I see it?”

Master: “Don’t be deceived by what can be seen.”

Commentary:

What cannot be seen is hidden in what can be seen.

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Zen

Rinzai 115

If there is change, there is also existence. Without change, there is nothing. “The Three Worlds are the mind only; The ten thousand things are but its differentiation.” This is why it is said: “Dreams and phantoms, flowers in the empty sky; why trouble yourself to seize them?”

Commentary:

‘If there is change, there is also existence. Without change, there is nothing’ means that if we discriminate, things come into being, but there is nothing if we don’t discriminate. ‘Three Worlds are the mind only; The ten thousand things are but its differentiation’ implies that the whole universe is just the product of our discrimination that is the function of our mind. So, it can be said that the ten thousand things are to the mind as countless waves are to the sea. All things are just illusions like dreams, phantoms and flowers in the empty sky created through our discrimination. This is why we don’t have to exhaust ourselves by trying to seize them.

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Zen

Q. During my meditation, I felt myself going inside, but I don’t know where I was moving to. Is this feeling just an illusion, or is it real?

A. Yes, it is just an illusion. The purpose of your meditation is to see the true-Self that is edgeless. That the true-Self is edgeless means that it has neither inside nor outside. Then, what are you going inside of? Anything with inside and outside is just an illusion.

Such phenomenon indicates that you are making illusions and are deluded by them. It happens when you miss your question, koan, or you cannot focus all your attention on your koan. Some people say they see something very holy-looking such as the Buddha or Bodhisattvas. Others say that they see something horrible such as monsters or ghosts. Whatever you may see and hear during meditation, they are all illusions created by your imagination, which are called Maras in Buddhism. You should be neither attracted by the former nor frightened by the latter. Refocus on your question if you happen to come across this situation again.

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Zen

Sansheng’s Blindness

Master Baoshou took the high seat. Zen master Sansheng pushed a monastic forward. Baoshou hit the monastic with his staff. Sansheng said, “This guidance of yours does not only blind this monastic, but it also blinds everyone in the entire city.” Baoshou threw down the staff and went back to the abbot’s room.

Student: “Why did Sansheng push a monastic forward?”

Master: “Because you are blind.”

Student: “Why did Baoshou hit the monastic?”

Master: “Because you are blind.”

Student: “Why did Sansheng say to Baoshou, ‘This guidance of yours does not only blind this monastic, but it also blinds everyone in the entire city’?”

Master: “Because you are deaf.”

Student: “Why did Baoshou throw down the staff and go back to the abbot’s room?”

Master: “Because you are blind.”

Commentary:

Masters show one but the blind see many.

Masters show something big, but the blind see many small things.

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Zen

Rinzai 114

The true student of the Way clings neither to Buddha, nor to Bodhisattvas, nor to Arhats; he clings not to anything that passes as supreme in the Three Worlds. He keeps his distance, stands alone and free, and is not bothered by things. Though heaven and earth be turned upside down, he will not be bewildered. Though all the Buddhas of the ten directions appear before him, he will not care. And if the three deepest hells suddenly gape before him, he will not be afraid. Why not? Because he sees everything as empty.

Commentary:

Realising that everything is illusionary and empty, we should not be tempted to be attached to anything even if it appears to be holy like the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats nor should we lose our heads even though things seem to be horrible and terrible as if heaven and earth were turned upside down. All things, independent of whatever shapes they may have, are just illusions created by our imagination. In order to prevent people from being deluded by illusions, Jesus said in Corinthians 4:18, “For we fix our attention not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.”

We should know that being attracted or scared by what can be seen is to be deluded by illusions and seeing what cannot be seen through what can be seen, by realising that what can be seen is the function of what cannot be seen, is seeing the true-Self, the true Buddha.

Student: “What is it that cannot be seen?”

Master: “It is the essence of what can be seen.”

Student: “Where is it?”

Master: “It is hidden in what can be seen.”

Student: “How can I see it?”

Master: “What have you seen so far?”

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Zen

Q. If I already know intellectually that I am the true-Self, what steps still need to be taken to become enlightened? That is, how can I know with my heart what I already know in my head?

A. Koans are the best expedients not only to check whether you really have correct intellectual knowledge of the true-Self but also to turn your intellectual knowledge into your experience. Intellectual knowledge of the true-Self is to koans as the basic explanation of arithmetic rules are to exercises in arithmetic. No matter how much basic explanation of arithmetic rules you have learnt by heart, it is of no use at all if you cannot solve the numerical calculations you face in your daily life. Strictly speaking, you cannot be said to have intellectual knowledge of arithmetic rules in this situation.

In the same way, the intellectual knowledge that you think you have is not knowledge of the true-Self but no more than a kind of hearsay of it until you have realised it through experience in person. The best way to solve your problem is to struggle with koans. That is practice.

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Zen

Changsha’s ‘Returning to Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth’ (2)

Zen master Changsha was once asked by a monastic, “How do you turn the mountains, rivers, and great earth into your true-Self?” Changsha said, “How do you turn the true-Self into the mountains, rivers, and great earth?”

Student: “How would you answer if you were in Master Changsha’s shoes?”

Master: (Clenches his fist.)

Student: “How would you respond if you were the monastic?”

Master: (Opens his fist.)

Commentary: 

Be watchful. The true-Self is impossible to fold and unfold.

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Zen

Rinzai 113

Followers of the Way, the true Buddha has no shape, the true Dharma has no form. You put on top of your delusion only further fantasies. Such is the way of outsiders. Though you may attain something that way, it is only the spirit of a wild fox, and not the true Buddha.

Commentary:

In order to help you to understand better the words ‘the true Buddha has no shape, the true Dharma has no form’ I am going to talk about what ‘having a shape’, or ‘having a from’ means. When we see things, everything has its own unique shape, by which we can recognise what it is. The word ‘rose’, for example, reminds us of a flower that often has a pleasant smell, and is usually red, pink, white, or yellow. Is there any of all the distinctive features, shapes that a rose has which is not granted by people? Whatever beautiful shapes a thing may have, however ugly its forms may be, they are not innate but given by us. A rose is a rose not because it said in the beginning, “I am a rose and I am red”, but because we named it ‘rose’ and added other labels such as red, pink, or yellow. In brief, none of the features and natures that define a thing are real and innate but are all just imaginary labels which are artificially given by people. This is why everything is said to be illusionary.

Therefore, seeing what is formless is seeing the true Buddha and trying to attain enlightenment with words and forms is no better than putting more illusions on top of your illusions and struggling to grasp mirages. The latter is called the spirit of a wild fox.

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