Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (11)


After the Restoration of the Meiji (1867) the popularity of Zen began to
wane, and for some thirty years remained in inactivity; but since the
Russo-Japanese War its revival has taken place. And now it is looked upon
as an ideal faith, both for a nation full of hope and energy, and for a person
who has to fight his own way in the strife of life. Bushido, or the code of
chivalry, should be observed not only by the soldier in the battlefield, but by
every citizen in the struggle for existence. If a person be a person and not a
beast, then he must be a Samurai brave, generous, upright, faithful, and
manly, full of self-respect and self-confidence, at the same time full of the
spirit of self-sacrifice. We can find an incarnation of Bushido in the late
General Nogi, the hero of Port Arthur, who, after the sacrifice of his two
sons for the country in the Russo-Japanese War, gave up his own and his
wife's life for the sake of the deceased Emperor. He died not in vain, as
some might think, because his simplicity, uprightness, loyalty, bravery,
self-control, and self-sacrifice, all combined in his last act, surely inspire the
rising generation with the spirit of the Samurai to give birth to hundreds of



We have described the doctrine of Zen inculcated by both Chinese and
Japanese masters, and in this chapter we propose to sketch the practice of
mental training and the method of practising Dhyana or Meditation.
Zen teachers never instruct their pupils by means of explanation or
argument, but urge them to solve by themselves through the practice of
Meditation such problems as "What is Buddha?" "What is self?" "What is
the spirit of Bodhidharma?" "What is life and death?" "What is the real
nature of mind?" and so on. TenShwai (Tosotsu), for instance, was wont to
put three questions to the following effect: (1) Your study and discipline
aim at the understanding of the real nature of mind. Where does the real
nature of mind exist? (2) When you understand the real nature of mind, you
are free from birth and death. How can you be saved when you are at the
verge of death? (3) When you are free from birth and death, you know
where you go after death. Where do you go when your body is reduced to
elements? The pupils are not requested to express their solution of these
problems in the form of a theory or an argument, but to show how they
have grasped the profound meaning implied in these problems, how they
have established their conviction, and how they can carry out what they
grasped in their daily life.

A Chinese Zen master tells us that the method of instruction adopted by Zen
may aptly be compared with that of an old burglar who taught his son the
art of burglary. The burglar one evening said to his little son, whom he
desired to instruct in the secret of his trade: "Would you not, my dear boy,
be a great burglar like myself?" "Yes, father," replied the promising young
man." "Come with me, then. I will teach you the art." So saying, the man
went out, followed by his son. Finding a rich mansion in a certain village,
the veteran burglar made a hole in the wall that surrounded it. Through that
hole they crept into the yard, and opening a window with complete ease
broke into the house, where they found a huge box firmly locked up as if its
contents were very valuable articles. The old man clapped his hands at the
lock, which, strange to tell, unfastened itself. Then he removed the cover
and told his son to get into it and pick up treasures as fast as he could. No
sooner had the boy entered the box than the father replaced the cover and
locked it up. He then exclaimed at the top of his voice: "Thief! thief! thief!
thief!" After that, having aroused the inmates, he went out without taking
anything. All the house was in utter confusion for a while; but finding
nothing stolen, they went to bed again. The boy sat holding his breath a
short while; but making up his mind to get out of his narrow prison, began
to scratch the bottom of the box with his fingernails. The servant of the
house, listening to the noise, supposed it to be a mouse gnawing at the
inside of the box; so she came out, lamp in hand, and unlocked it. On
removing the cover, she was greatly surprised to find the boy instead of a
little mouse, and gave alarm. In the meantime the boy got out of the box
and went down into the yard, hotly pursued by the people. He ran as fast as
possible toward the well, picked up a large stone, threw it down into it, and
hid himself among the bushes. The pursuers, thinking the thief fell into the
well, assembled around it, and were looking into it, while the boy crept out
unnoticed through the hole and went home in safety. Thus the burglar
taught his son how to rid himself of overwhelming difficulties by his own
efforts; so also Zen teachers teach their pupils how to overcome difficulties
that beset them on all sides and work out salvation by themselves.

~Kaiten Nukariya