Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk


Sunday, November 18, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (14)


To be the lord of mind is more essential to enlightenment, which, in a
sense, is the clearing away of illusions, the putting out of mean desires and
passions, and the awakening of the innermost wisdom. He alone can attain
to real happiness who has perfect control over his passions tending to
disturb the equilibrium of his mind. Such passions as anger, hatred,
jealousy, sorrow, worry, grudge, and fear always untune one's mood and
break the harmony of one's mind. They poison one's body, not in a
figurative, but in a literal sense of the word. Obnoxious passions once
aroused never fail to bring about the physiological change in the nerves, in
the organs, and eventually in the whole constitution, and leave those
injurious impressions that make one more liable to passions of similar

We do not mean, however, that we ought to be cold and passionless, as the
most ancient Hinayanists were used to be. Such an attitude has been blamed
by Zen masters. "What is the best way of living for us monks?" asked a
monk to Yun Kü (Ungo), who replied: "You had better live among
mountains." Then the monk bowed politely to the teacher, who questioned:

"How did you understand me?" "Monks, as I understood," answered the
man, "ought to keep their hearts as immovable as mountains, not being
moved either by good or by evil, either by birth or by death, either by
prosperity or by adversity." Here upon Yun Kü struck the monk with his
stick and said: "You forsake the Way of the old sages, and will bring my
followers to perdition!" Then, turning to another monk, inquired: "How did
you understand me?" "Monks, as I understand," replied the man, "ought to
shut their eyes to attractive sights and close their ears to musical notes."

"You, too," exclaimed Yun Ka, "forsake the Way of the old sages, and will
bring my followers to perdition!" An old woman, to quote another example
repeatedly told by Zen masters, used to give food and clothing to a monk
for a score of years. One day she instructed a young girl to embrace and ask
him: "How do you feel now?" "A lifeless tree," replied the monk coolly,
"stands on cold rock. There is no warmth, as if in the coldest season of the
year." The matron, being told of this, observed: "Oh that I have made
offerings to such a vulgar fellow for twenty years!" She forced the monk to
leave the temple and reduced it to ashes.

If you want to secure Dhyana, let go of your anxieties and failures in the
past; let past be past; cast aside enemity, shame, and trouble, never admit
them into your brain; let pass the imagination and anticipation of future
hardships and sufferings; let go of all your annoyances, vexations, doubts,
melancholies, that impede your speed in the race of the struggle for
existence. As the miser sets his heart on worthless dross and accumulates it,
so an unenlightened person clings to worthless mental dross and spiritual
rubbish, and makes his mind a dustheap. Some people constantly dwell on
the minute details of their unfortunate circumstances, to make themselves
more unfortunate than they really are; some go over and over again the
symptoms of their disease to think themselves into serious illness; and some
actually bring evils on them by having them constantly in view and waiting
for them. A man asked Poh Chang (Hyakujo): "How shall I learn the Law?"

"Eat when you are hungry," replied the teacher; " sleep when you are tired.
People do not simply eat at table, but think of hundreds of things; they do
not simply sleep in bed, but think of thousands of things."
A ridiculous thing it is, in fact, that man or woman, endowed with the same
nature as Buddha's, born the lord of all material objects, is ever upset by
petty cares, haunted by the fearful phantoms of his or her own creation, and
burning up his or her energy in a fit of passion, wasting his or her vitality
for the sake of foolish or insignificant things.

It is a man who can keep the balance of his mind under any circumstances,
who can be calm and serene in the hottest strife of life, that is worthy of
success, reward, respect, and reputation, for he is the master of men. It was
at the age of forty-seven that Wang Yang Ming (Oyomei) won a splendid
victory over the rebel army which threatened the throne of the Ming
dynasty. During that warfare Wang was giving a course of lectures to a
number of students at the headquarters of the army, of which he was the
chief commander. At the very outset of the battle a messenger brought him

the news of defeat of the foremost ranks. All the students were terror
stricken and grew pale at the unfortunate tidings, but the teacher was not a
whit disturbed by it. Some time after another messenger brought in the
news of complete rout of the enemy. All the students, enraptured, stood up
and cheered, but he was as cool as before, and did not break off lecturing.
Thus the practicer of Zen has so perfect control over his heart that he can
keep presence of mind under an impending danger, even in the presence of
death itself.

It was at the age of twenty-three that Hakuin got on board a boat bound for
the Eastern Provinces, which met with a tempest and was almost wrecked.
All the passengers were laid low with fear and fatigue, but Hakuin enjoyed
a quiet sleep during the storm, as if he were lying on a comfortable bed. It
was in the fifth of Meiji era that Dokuon; lived for some time in the city of
Tokyo, whom some Christian zealots attempted to murder. One day he met
with a few young men equipped with swords at the gate of his temple. "We
want to see Dokuon; go and tell him," said they to the priest. "I am
Dokuon," replied he calmly, "whom you want to see, gentlemen. What can I
do for you?" "We have come to ask you a favour; we are Christians; we
want your hoary head." So saying they were ready to attack him, replied:
"All right, gentlemen. Behead me forthwith, if you please." Surprised by
this unexpected boldness on the part of the priest, they turned back without
harming even a hair of the old Buddhist.

These teachers could through long practice constantly keep their minds
calm, casting aside useless encumbrances of idle thoughts; bright, driving
off the dark cloud of melancholy; tranquil, putting down turbulent waves of
passion; pure, cleaning away the dust and ashes of illusion; and serene,
brushing off the cobwebs of doubt and fear. The only means of securing all
this is to realize the conscious union with the Universal Life through the
Enlightened Consciousness, which can be awakened by dint of Dhyana.

~Kaiten Nukariya