Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (25)

NATURE AND HER LESSON

Nature offers us nectar and ambrosia every day, and everywhere we go the
rose and lily await us. "Spring visits us men," says Gudo, "her mercy is
great. Every blossom holds out the image of Tathagata." "What is the
spiritual body of Buddha who is immortal and divine?" asked a man to Ta
Lun (Dairyu), who instantly replied: "The flowers cover the mountain with
golden brocade. The waters tinge the rivulets with heavenly blue."

"Universe is the whole body of Tathagata; observed Dogen. "The worlds in
ten directions, the earth, grass, trees, walls, fences, tiles, pebbles-in a word,
all the animated and inanimate objects partake of the Buddha nature.
Thereby, those who partake in the benefit of the Wind and Water that rise
out of them are, all of them, helped by the mysterious influence of Buddha,
and show forth enlightenment."

Thus you can attain to highest bless through your conscious union with
Buddha. Nothing can disturb your peace, when you can enjoy peace in the
midst of disturbances; nothing can cause you to suffer, when you welcome
misfortunes and hardships in order to train and strengthen your character;
nothing can tempt you to commit sin, when you are constantly ready to
listen to the sermon given by everything around you; nothing can distress
you, when you make the world the holy temple of Buddha. This is the state
of Nirvana which everyone believing in Buddha may secure.

THE BEATITUDE OF ZEN

We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing chapters, the
existence of troubles, pains, diseases, sorrows, deaths in life. Our bless
consists in seeing the fragrant rose of Divine mercy among the thorns of
worldly trouble, in finding the fair oasis of Buddha's wisdom in the desert
of misfortunes, in getting the wholesome balm of His love in the seeming
poison of pain, in gathering the sweet honey of His spirit even in the sting
of horrible death.

History testifies to the truth that it is misery that teaches men more than
happiness, that it is poverty that strengthens them more than wealth, that it
is adversity that moulds character more than prosperity, that it is disease
and death that call forth the inner life more than health and long life. At
least, no one can be blind to the fact that good and evil have an equal share
in forming the character and working out the destiny of man. Even such a
great pessimist as Schopenhauer says: "As our bodily frame would burst
around if the pressure of atmosphere were removed, so if the lives of men
were relieved of all need, hardship, and adversity, if everything they took in
hand were successful, they would be so swollen with arrogance . . . that
they would present the spectacle of unbridled folly. A ship without ballast is
unstable, and will not go straight." Therefore let us make our ship of life go
straight with its ballast of miseries and hardships, over which we gain
control.

The believer in Buddha is thankful to him, not only for the sunshine of life,
but also for its wind, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning, because He gives
us nothing in vain. Hisanobu (Koyama) was, perhaps, one of the happiest
persons that Japan ever produced, simply because he was ever thankful to
the Merciful One. One day he went out without an umbrella and met with a
shower. Hurrying up to go home, he stumbled and fell, wounding both his
legs. As he rose up, he was overheard to say: "Thank heaven." And being
asked why he was so thankful, replied: "I got both my legs hurt, but, thank
heaven, they were not broken." On another occasion he lost consciousness,
having been kicked violently by a wild horse. When he came to himself, he
exclaimed: "Thank heaven," in hearty joy. Being asked the reason why he
was so joyful, he answered: "I have really given up my ghost, but, thank
heaven, I have escaped death after all." A person in such a state of mind can
do anything with heart and might. Whatever he does is an act of thanks for
the grace of Buddha, and he does it, not as his duty, but as the overflowing
of his gratitude which lie himself cannot check. Here exists the formation of
character. Here exist real happiness and joy. Here exists the realization of
Nirvana.

Most people regard death as the greatest of evils, only because they fear
death. They fear death only because they have the instinct of
self-preservation. Here upon pessimistic philosophy and religion propose to
attain to Nirvana by the extinction of Will to live, or by the total
annihilation of life. But this is as much as to propose death as the final cure
to a patient.

Elie Metchnikoff proposes, in his "Nature of Man", another cure, saying:
"If man could only contrive to live long enough--say, for one hundred and
forty years--a natural desire for extinction would take the place of the
instinct for self-preservation, and the call of death would then harmoniously
satisfy his legitimate craving of a ripe old age." Why, we must ask, do you
trouble yourself so much about death? Is there any stance of an individual
who escaped it in the whole history of mankind? If there be no way of
escape, why do you trouble yourself about it? Can you cause things to fall
off the earth against the law of gravitation? Is there any example of an
individual object that escaped the government of that law in the whole
history of the world? Why, then, do you trouble yourself about it? It is no
less silly to trouble yourself about death than you do about gravitation. Can
you realize that death, which you have yet no immediate experience of, is
the greatest of evil? We dare to declare death to be one of the blessings
which we have to be thankful for. Death is the scavenger of the world; it
sweeps away all uselessness, staleness, and corruption from the world, and
keeps life clean and ever now. When you are of no use for the world it
comes upon you, removes you to oblivion in order to relieve life of useless
encumbrance. The stream of existence should be kept running, otherwise it
would become putrid. If old lives were to stop the running stream it would
stand still, and consequently become filthy, poisoned, and worthless.
Suppose there were only births and no deaths. The earth has to be packed
with men and women, who are doomed to live to all eternity, jostling,
colliding, bumping, trampling each other, and vainly struggling to get out of
the Black Hole of the earth. Thanks to death we are not in the Black Hole!
Only birth and no death is far worse than only death and no birth. "The
dead," says Chwang Tsz, "have no tyrannical king about, no slavish subject
to meet; no change of seasons overtakes them. The heaven and the earth
take the places of Spring and Autumn. The king or emperor of a great
nation cannot be happier than they." How would you be if death should
never overtake you when ugly decrepitude makes you blind and deaf, bodily
and mentally, and deprives you of all possible pleasures? How would you
be if you should not die when your body is broken to pieces or terribly
burned by an accident, by a violent earthquake followed by a great
conflagration? Just imagine Satan, immortal Satan, thrown down by the ire
of God into Hell's fiery gulf, rolling himself in dreadful torture to the end of
time. You cannot but conclude that it is only death which relieves you of
extreme sufferings, incurable diseases, and it is one of the blessings you
ought to be thankful for.

The believer of Buddha is thankful even for death itself, the which is the
sole means of conquering death. If he be thankful even for death, how much
more for the rest of things! He can find a meaning in every form of life. He
can perceive a blessing in every change of fortune. He can acknowledge a
mission for every individual. He can live in contentment and joy under any
conditions. Therefore Lin Tsi (Rinzai) says: "All the Buddhas might appear
before me and I would not be glad. All the Three Regions and Hells might
suddenly present themselves before me, and I would not fear.He (an
enlightened person) might get into the fire, and it would not burn him. He
might got into water, and it would not drown him. He might be born in
Hell, and he would be happy as if he were in a fair garden. He might be
born among pretas and beasts, and he would not suffer from pain. How can
he be so? Because be can enjoy everything."

The End

~Kaiten Nukariya