The Religion of the Samurai, by Kaiten Nukariya, 
BUDDHA, THE UNIVERSAL SPIRIT
1. The Ancient Buddhist Pantheon.–The ancient Buddhist pantheon was full of deities or Buddhas, 3,000 in number, or rather countless, and also of Bodhisattvas no less than Buddhas. Nowadays, however, in every church of Mahayanism one Buddha or another together with some Bodhisattvas reigns supreme as the sole object of worship, while other supernatural beings sink in oblivion. These Enlightened Beings, regardless of their positions in the pantheon, were generally regarded as persons who in their past lives cultivated virtues, underwent austerities, and various sorts of penance, and at length attained to a complete Enlightenment, by virtue of which they secured not only peace and eternal bliss, but acquired divers supernatural powers, such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, all-knowledge, and what not. Therefore, it is natural that some Mahayanists came to believe that, if they should go through the same course of discipline and study, they could attain to the same Enlightenment and Bliss, or the same Buddhahood, while other Mahayanists came to believe in the doctrine that the believer is saved
[1. Trikalpa-trisahasra-buddhanrama-sutra gives the names of 3,000 Buddhas, and Buddhabhisita-buddhanama-sutra enumerates Buddhas and Bodhisattvas 11,093 in number. See Nanjo’s Catalogue, Nos. 404, 405, 406, 407.
2. Those who believe in the doctrine of Holy Path. See ‘A History of the Twelve Japanese Buddhist Sects,’ pp. 109-111.
3. Those who believe in the doctrine of the Pure Land.]
and led up to the eternal state of bliss, without undergoing these hard disciplines, by the power of a Buddha known as having boundless mercy and fathomless wisdom whom he invokes.
2. Zen is Iconoclastic.–For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of Buddha seemed too crude to be accepted unhesitatingly and the doctrine too much irrelevant with and uncongenial to actual life. Since Zen denounced, as we have seen in the previous chapter, the scriptural authority, it is quite reasonable to have given up this view of Buddha inculcated in the Mahayana sutras, and to set at naught those statues and images of supernatural beings kept in veneration by the orthodox Buddhists. Tan Hia (Tan-ka), a noted Chinese Zen master, was found warming himself on a cold morning by the fire made of a wooden statue of Buddha. On another occasion he was found mounting astride the statue of a saint. Chao Chen (Jo-shu) one day happened to find Wang Yuen (Bun-yen) worshipping the Buddha in the temple, and forthwith struck him with his staff. “Is there not anything good in the worshipping of the Buddha?” protested Wang Yuen. Then the master said: “Nothing is better than anything good.” These examples fully illustrate Zen’s attitude towards the objects of Buddhist worship. Zen is not, nevertheless, iconoclastic in the commonly accepted sense of the term, nor is it idolatrous, as Christian missionaries are apt to suppose.
Zen is more iconoclastic than any of the Christian or the Mohammedan denominations in the sense that it opposes the acceptance of the petrified idea of Deity, so conventional and formal that it carries no inner conviction of the believers. Faith dies out whenever one comes to stick to one’s fixed and immutable idea of Deity, and to deceive
oneself, taking bigotry for genuine faith. Faith must be living and growing, and the living and growing faith should assume no fixed form. It might seem for a superficial observer to take a fixed form, as a running river appears constant, though it goes through ceaseless changes. The dead faith, immutable and conventional, makes its embracer appear religious and respectable, while it arrests his spiritual growth. It might give its owner comfort and pride, yet it at bottom proves to be fetters to his moral uplifting. It is on this account that Zen declares: “Buddha is nothing but spiritual chain or moral fetters,” and, “If you remember even a name of Buddha, it would deprive you of purity of heart.” The conventional or orthodox idea of Buddha or Deity might seem smooth and fair, like a gold chain, being polished and hammered through generations by religious goldsmiths; but it has too much fixity and frigidity to be worn by us.
Of shining gold or darker, baser ore;
* * * * *
Know slave is slave caressed or whipped, not free;
For fetters tho’ of gold, are not less strong to bind.”
3. Buddha is Unnamable.–Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what the name implies. The Deity under the name of Brahman necessarily differs from the Being under the appellation of Jehovah, just as the Hindu differs from the Jew. In like manner the Being designated by God necessarily differs from One named Amitabha or from Him entitled Allah. To give a name to the Deity is to give Him tradition, nationality, limitation, and fixity, and it never brings us nearer to Him. Zen’s object of worship cannot be named and determined as God, or Brahman, or Amitabha, or Creator, or Nature, or Reality, or Substance, or the like. Neither Chinese nor Japanese masters of Zen tried to give a definite name to their object of adoration. They now called Him That One, now This One, now Mind, now Buddha, now Tathagata, now Certain Thing, now the True, now Dharma-nature, now Buddha-nature, and so forth. Tüng Shan (To-zan) on a certain occasion declared it to be “A Certain Thing that pillars heaven above and supports the earth below; dark as lacquer and undefinable; manifesting itself through its activities, yet not wholly comprisable within them.” So-kei expressed it in the same wise: “There exists a Certain Thing, bright as a mirror, spiritual as a mind, not subjected to growth nor to decay.” Hüen Sha (Gen-sha) comparing it with a gem says: “There exists a bright gem illuminating through the worlds in ten directions by its light.”
This certain thing or being is too sublime to be named after a traditional or a national deity, too spiritual to be symbolized by human art, too full of life to be formulated in terms of mechanical science, too free to be rationalized by intellectual philosophy, too universal to be perceived by bodily senses; but everybody can feel its irresistible power, see its invisible presence, and touch its heart and soul within himself. “This mysterious Mind,” says Kwei Fung (Kei-ho), “is higher than the highest, deeper than the deepest, limitless in all directions. There is no centre in it. No distinction of east and west, and above and below. Is it empty? Yes, but not empty like space. Has it a form? Yes, but has no form dependent on another for its existence. Is it intelligent? Yes, but not intelligent like your mind. Is it non-intelligent? Yes, but not non-intelligent like
[1. Tüng Shan Luh (To-zan-roku, ‘Sayings and Doings of Ta-zan’) is one of the best Zen books.
2. So-kei, a Korean Zenist, whose work entitled Zen-ke-ki-kwan is worthy of our note as a representation of Korean Zen.
trees and stone. Is it conscious? Yes, but not conscious like you when waking. Is it bright? Yes, but not bright like the sun or the moon.” To the question, “What and who is Buddha?” Yuen Wu (En-go) replied: “Hold your tongue: the mouth is the gate of evils!” while Pao Fuh (Ho-fuku) answered to the same question: “No skill of art can picture Him.” Thus Buddha is unnamable, indescribable, and indefinable, but we provisionally call Him Buddha.
4. Buddha, the Universal Life.–Zen conceives Buddha as a Being, who moves, stirs, inspires, enlivens, and vitalizes everything. Accordingly, we may call Him the Universal Life in the sense that He is the source of all lives in the universe. This Universal Life, according to Zen, pillars the heaven, supports the earth, glorifies the sun and moon, gives voice to thunder, tinges clouds, adorns the pasture with flowers, enriches the field with harvest, gives animals beauty and strength. Therefore, Zen declares even a dead clod of earth to be imbued with the divine life, just as Lowell expresses a similar idea when he says:
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.”
Confess that I am only dust.
But once a rose within me grew;
Its rootlets shot, its flowerets flew;
And all rose’s sweetness rolled
Throughout the texture of my mould;
And so it is that I impart
Perfume to them, whoever thou art.”
“Tathagata (another name for Buddha) gives life to all beings, just as the lake Anavatapta gives rise to the four great rivers.” “Tathagata,” says the same sutra, “divides his own body into innumerable bodies, and also restores an infinite number of bodies to one body. Now be becomes cities, villages, houses, mountains, rivers, and trees; now he has a large body; now he has a small body; now he becomes men, women, boys, and girls.”
5. Life and Change.–A peculiar phase of life is change which appears in the form of growth and decay. Nobody can deny the transitoriness of life. One of our friends humorously observed: “Everything in the world may be doubtful to you, but it can never be doubted that you will die.” Life is like a burning lamp. Every minute its flame dies out and is renewed. Life is like a running stream. Every moment it pushes onward. If there be anything constant in this world of change, it should be change itself. Is it not just one step from rosy childhood to snowy age? Is it not just one moment from the nuptial song to the funeral-dirge? Who can live the same moment twice?
In comparison with an organism, inorganic matter appears to be constant and changeless; but, in fact, it is equally subjected to ceaseless alteration. Every morning, looking into the mirror, you will find your visage reflected in it just as it was on the preceding day; so also every morning, looking at the sun and the earth, you will find them reflected in your retina just as they were on the previous morning; but the sun and the earth are no less changeless than you. Why do the sun and the earth seem changeless and constant to you? Only because you yourself undergo change more quickly than they. When you look at the clouds sweeping across the face of the moon, they seem to be at rest, and the moon in rapid motion; but, in fact, the clouds, as well as the moon, incessantly move on.
Science might maintain the quantitative constancy of matter, but the so-called matter is mere abstraction. To say matter is changeless is as much as to say 2 is always 2, changeless and constant, because the arithmetical number is not more abstract than the physiological matter. The moon appears standing still when you look at her only a few moments. In like manner she seems to be free from change when you look at her in your short span of life. Astronomers, nevertheless, can tell you how she saw her better days, and is now in her wrinkles and white hair.
6. Pessimistic View of the Ancient Hindus.–In addition to this, the new theory of matter has entirely over thrown the old conception of the unchanging atoms, and they are now regarded to be composed of magnetic forces, ions, and corpuscles in incessant motion. Therefore we have no inert matter in the concrete, no unchanging thing in the sphere of experience, no constant organism in the transient universe. These considerations often led many thinkers, ancient and modern, to the pessimistic view of life. What is the use of your exertion, they would say, in accumulating wealth, which is doomed to melt away in the twinkling of an eye? What is the use of your striving after power, which is more short-lived than a bubble? What is the use of your endeavour in the reformation of society, which does not endure any longer than the castle in the air? How do kings differ from beggars in the eye of Transience? How do the rich differ from the poor, how the beautiful from the ugly, bow the young from the old, how the good from the evil, how the lucky from the unlucky, how the wise from the unwise, in the court of Death? Vain is ambition. Vain is fame. Vain is pleasure. Vain are struggles and efforts. All is in vain. An ancient Hindu thinker  says:
“O saint, what is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this offensive, pithless body–a mere mass of bones, skins, sinews, marrow, and flesh? What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this body, which is assailed by lust, hatred, greed, delusion, fear, anguish, jealousy, separation from what is loved, union with what is not loved, hunger,
[1. Maitrayana Upanisad.]
old age, death, illness, grief, and other evils? In such a world as this, what is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures, if he who has fed on them is to return to this world again and again? In this world I am like a frog in a dry well.”
It is this consideration on the transitoriness of life that led some Taoist in China to prefer death to life, as expressed in Chwang Tsz (Su-shi):
“When Kwang-zze went to Khu, he saw an empty skull, bleached indeed, but still retaining its shape. Tapping it with his horse-switch, he asked it saying: ‘Did you, sir, in your greed of life, fail in the lessons of reason and come to this? Or did you do so, in the service of a perishing state, by the punishment of an axe? Or was it through your evil conduct, reflecting disgrace on your parents and on your wife and children? Or was it through your hard endurances of cold and hunger? Or was it that you had completed your term of life?’
“Having given expression to these questions, he took up the skull and made a pillow of it, and went to sleep. At midnight the skull appeared to him in a dream, and said: ‘What you said to me was after the fashion of an orator. All your words were about the entanglements of men in their lifetime. There are none of those things after death. Would you like to hear me, sir, tell you about death?’ ‘I should,’ said Kwang-zze, and the skull resumed: ‘In death there are not (the distinctions of) ruler above minister below. There are none of the phenomena of the four seasons. Tranquil and at ease, our years are those of heaven and earth. No king in his court has greater enjoyment than we have.’ Kwang-zze did not believe it, and said: ‘If I could get the Ruler of our Destiny to restore your body to life with its bones and flesh and skin, and to give you back your father and mother, your wife and children, and all your village acquaintances, would you wish
[1. ‘Chwang Tsz,’ vol. vi., p. 23.]
me to do so?’ The skull stared fixedly at him, and knitted its brows and said: ‘How should I cast away the enjoyment of my royal court, and undertake again the toils of life among mankind?'”
7. Hinayanism and its Doctrine.–The doctrine of Transience was the first entrance gate of Hinayanism. Transience never fails to deprive us of what is dear and near to us. It disappoints us in our expectation and hope. It brings out grief, fear, anguish, and lamentation. It spreads terror and destruction among families, communities, nations, mankind. It threatens with perdition the whole earth, the whole universe. Therefore it follows that life is full of disappointment, sufferings, and miseries, and that man is like ‘a frog in a dry well.’ This is the doctrine called by the Hinayanists the Holy Truth of Suffering.
Again, when Transcience once gets hold of our imagination, we can easily foresee ruins and disasters in the very midst of prosperity and happiness, and also old age and ugliness in the prime and youth of beauty. It gives rise quite naturally to the thought that body is a bag full of pus and blood, a mere heap of rotten flesh and broken pieces of bone, a decaying corpse inhabited by innumerable maggots. This is the doctrine called by the Hinayanists the Holy Truth of Impurity.
And, again, Transience holds its tyrannical sway not only over the material but over the spiritual world. At its touch Atman, or soul, is brought to nothing. By its call Devas, or celestial beings, are made to succumb to death. It follows, therefore, that to believe in Atman, eternal and
[1. Mahasaptipatthana Suttanta, 7, runs as follows: “And, moreover, bhikkhu, a brother, just as if he had been a body abandoned in the charnel-field, dead for one, two, or three days, swollen, turning black and blue, and decomposed, apply that perception to this very body (of his own), reflecting: ‘This body, too, is even so constituted, is of such a nature, has not got beyond that (fate).'”]
unchanging, would be a whim of the ignorant. This is the doctrine called by the Hinayanists the Holy Truth of No-atman.
If, as said, there could be nothing free from Transience, Constancy should be a gross mistake of the ignorant; if even gods have to die, Eternity should be no more than a stupid dream of the vulgar; if all phenomena be flowing and changing, there could be no constant noumena underlying them. It therefore follows that all things in the universe are empty and unreal. This is the doctrine called by the Hinayanists the Holy Truth of Unreality. Thus Hinayana Buddhism, starting from the doctrine of Transience, arrived at the pessimistic view of life in its extreme form.
8. Change as seen by Zen.–Zen, like Hinayanism., does not deny the doctrine of Transience, but it has come to a view diametrically opposite to that of the Hindus. Transience for Zen simply means change. It is a form in which life manifests itself. Where there is life there is change or Transience. Where there is more change there is more vital activity. Suppose an absolutely changeless body: it must be absolutely lifeless. An eternally changeless life is equivalent to an eternally changeless death. Why do we value the morning glory, which fades in a few hours, more than an artificial glass flower, which endures hundreds of years? Why do we prefer an animal life, which passes away in a few scores of years, to a vegetable life, which can exist thousands of years? Why do we prize changing organism more than inorganic matter, unchanging and constant? If there be no change in the bright hues of a flower, it is as worthless as a stone. If there be no change in the song of a bird, it is as valueless as a whistling wind. If there be no change in trees and grass, they are utterly unsuitable to be planted in a garden. Now, then, what is the use of our life, if it stand still? As the water of a running stream is always fresh and wholesome because it does not stop for a moment, so life is ever fresh and new because it does not stand still, but rapidly moves on from parents to children, from children to grandchildren, from grandchildren to great-grandchildren, and flows on through generation after generation, renewing itself ceaselessly.
We can never deny the existence of old age and death–nay, death is of capital importance for a continuation of life, because death carries away all the decaying organism in the way of life. But for it life would be choked up with organic rubbish. The only way of life’s pushing itself onward or its renewing itself is its producing of the young and getting rid of the old. If there be no old age nor death, life is not life, but death.
9. Life and Change.–Transformation and change are the essential features of life; life is not transformation nor change itself, as Bergson seems to assume. It is something which comes under our observation through transformation and change. There are, among Buddhists as well as Christians, not a few who covet constancy and fixity of life, being allured by such smooth names as eternal life, everlasting joy, permanent peace, and what not. They have forgotten that their souls can never rest content with things monotonous. If there be everlasting joy for their souls, it must be presented to them through incessant change. So also if there be eternal life granted for their souls, it must be given through ceaseless alteration. What is the difference between eternal life, fixed and constant, and eternal death? What is the difference between everlasting bliss, changeless and monotonous, and everlasting suffering? If constancy, instead of change, govern life, then hope or pleasure is absolutely impossible. Fortunately, however, life is not constant. It changes and becomes. Pleasure arises through change itself. Mere change of food or clothes is often pleasing to us, while the appearance of the same thing twice or thrice, however pleasing it may be, causes us little ‘pleasure. It will become disgusting and tire us down, if it be presented repeatedly from time to time.
An important element in the pleasure we derive from social meetings, from travels, from sight-seeings, etc., is nothing but change. Even intellectual pleasure consists mainly of change. A dead, unchanging abstract truth, 2 and 2 make 4, excites no interest; while a changeable, concrete truth, such as the Darwinian theory of evolution, excites a keen interest.
10. Life, Change, and Hope.–The doctrine of Transcience never drives us to the pessimistic view of life. On the contrary, it gives us an inexhaustible source of pleasure and hope. Let us ask you: Are you satisfied with the present state of things? Do you not sympathize with poverty-stricken millions living side by side with millionaires saturated with wealth? Do you not shed tears over those hunger-bitten children who cower in the dark lanes of a great city? Do you not wish to put down the stupendous oppressor–Might-is-right? Do you not want to do away with the so-called armoured peace among nations? Do you not need to mitigate the struggle for existence more sanguine than the war of weapons?
Life changes and is changeable; consequently, has its future. Hope is therefore possible. Individual development, social betterment, international peace, reformation of mankind in general, can be hoped. Our ideal, however unpractical it may seem at the first sight, can be realized. Moreover, the world itself, too, is changing and changeable. It reveals new phases from time to time, and can be moulded to subserve our purpose. We must not take life or the world as completed and doomed as it is now. No fact verifies the belief that the world was ever created by some other power and predestined to be as it is now. It lives, acts, and changes. It is transforming itself continually, just as we are changing and becoming. Thus the doctrine of Transience supplies us with an inexhaustible source of hope and comfort, leads us into the living universe, and introduces us to the presence of Universal Life or Buddha.
The reader may easily understand how Zen conceives Buddha as the living principle from the following dialogues: “Is it true, sir,” asked a monk of Teu tsz (To-shi), “that all the voices of Nature are those of Buddha?” “Yes, certainly,” replied Teu tsz. “What is, reverend sir,” asked a man of Chao Cheu (Jo-shu), “the holy temple (of Buddha)?” “An innocent girl,” replied the teacher. “Who is the master of the temple?” asked the other again. “A baby in her womb,” was the answer. “What is, sir,” asked a monk to Yen Kwan (Yen-kan), “the original body of Buddha Vairocana?” “Fetch me a pitcher with water,” said the teacher. The monk did as he was ordered. “Put it back in its place,” said Yen Kwan again.
11. Everything is Living according to Zen.–Everything alive has a strong innate tendency to preserve itself, to assert itself, to push itself forward, and to act on its environment, consciously or unconsciously. The innate, strong tendency of the living is an undeveloped, but fundamental, nature of Spirit or Mind. It shows itself first in inert matter as impenetrability, or affinity, or mechanical force. Rock has a powerful tendency to preserve itself. And it is hard to crush it. Diamond has a robust tendency
[1. Literally, All Illuminating Buddha, the highest of the Trikayas. See Eitel, p. 192.
to assert itself. And it permits nothing to destroy it. Salt has the same strong tendency, for its particles act and react by themselves, and never cease till its crystals are formed. Steam, too, should have the same, because it pushes aside everything in its way and goes where it will.
In the eye of simple folks of old, mountains, rivers, trees, serpents, oxen, and eagles were equally full of life; hence the deification of them. No doubt it is irrational to believe in nymphs, fairies, elves, and the like, yet still we may say that mountains stand of their own accord, rivers run as they will, just as we say that trees and grass turn their leaves towards the sun of their own accord. Neither is it a mere figure of speech to say that thunder speaks and hills respond, nor to describe birds as singing and flowers as smiling, nor to narrate winds as moaning and rain as weeping, nor to state lovers as looking at the moon, the moon as looking at them, when we observe spiritual element in activities of all this. Haeckel says, not without reason: “I cannot imagine the simple chemical and physical forces without attributing the movement of material particles to conscious sensation.” The same author says again: “We may ascribe the feeling of pleasure and pain to all atoms, and so explain the electric affinity in chemistry.”
12. The Creative Force of Nature and Humanity.–The innate tendency of self-preservation, which manifests itself as mechanical force or chemical affinity in the inorganic nature, unfolds itself as the desire of the preservation of species in the vegetables and animals. See how vegetables fertilize themselves in a complicated way, and how they spread their seeds far and wide in a most mysterious manner. A far more developed form of the same desire is seen in the sexual attachment and parental love of animals. Who does not know that even the smallest birds defend their young against every enemy with self -sacrificing courage, and that they bring food whilst they themselves often starve and grow lean? In human beings we can observe the various transformations of the self-same desire. For instance, sorrow or despair is experienced when it is impossible; anger, when it is hindered by others; joy, when it is fulfilled; fear, when it is threatened; pleasure, when it is facilitated. Although it manifests itself as the sexual attachment and parental love in lower animals, yet its developed forms, such as sympathy, loyalty, benevolence, mercy, humanity, are observed in human beings.
Again, the creative force in inorganic nature, in order to assert itself and act more effectively, creates the germ of organic nature, and gradually ascending the scale of evolution, develops the sense organs and the nervous system; hence intellectual powers, such as sensation, perception, imagination, memory, unfold themselves. Thus the creative force, exerting itself gradually, widens its sphere of action, and necessitates the union of individuals into families, clans, tribes, communities, and nations. For the sake of this union and co-operation they established customs, enacted laws, and instituted political and educational systems. Furthermore, to reinforce itself, it gave birth to languages and sciences; and to enrich itself, morality and religion.
13. Universal Life is Universal Spirit.–These considerations naturally lead us to see that Universal Life is not a blind vital force, but Creative Spirit, or Mind, or Consciousness, which unfolds itself in myriads of ways. Everything in the universe, according to Zen, lives and acts, and at the same time discloses its spirit. To be alive is identically the same as to be spiritual. As the poet has his song, so does the nightingale, so does the cricket, so does the rivulet. As we are pleased or offended, so are horses, so are dogs, so are sparrows, ants, earthworms, and mushrooms. Simpler the body, simpler its spirit; more complicated the body, more complicated its spirit. ‘Mind slumbers in the pebble, dreams in the plant, gathers energy in the animal, and awakens to self-conscious discovery in the soul of man.’
It is this Creative, Universal Spirit that sends forth Aurora to illuminate the sky, that makes Diana shed her benign rays and Æolus play on his harp, wreathes spring with flowers, that clothes autumn with gold, that induces plants to put forth blossoms, that incites animals to be energetic, and that awakens consciousness in man. The author of Mahavaipulya-purnabuddha-sutra expressly states our idea when he says: “Mountains, rivers, skies, the earth: all these are embraced in the True Spirit, enlightened and mysterious.” Rin-zai also says: “Spirit is formless, but it penetrates through the world in the ten directions.” The Sixth Patriarch expresses the same idea more explicitly: “What creates the phenomena is Mind; what transcends all the phenomena is Buddha.”
14. Poetical Intuition and Zen.–Since Universal Life or Spirit permeates the universe, the poetical intuition of man never fails to find it, and to delight in everything typical of that Spirit. “The leaves of the plantain,” says a Zen poet, “unfold themselves, hearing the voice of thunder. The flowers of the hollyhock turn towards the sun, looking at it all day long.” Jesus could see in the lily the Unseen Being who clothed it so lovely. Wordsworth found the most profound thing in all the world to be the universal spiritual life, which manifests itself most directly in nature, clothed in its own proper dignity and peace. “Through every star,” says Carlyle, “through every grass blade, most through every soul, the glory of present God still beams.”
It is not only grandeur and sublimity that indicate Universal Life, but smallness and commonplace do the same. A sage of old awakened to the faith when he heard a bell ring; another, when he looked at the peach blossom; another, when he heard the frogs croaking; and another, when he saw his own form reflected in a river. The minutest particles of dust form a world. The meanest grain of sand under our foot proclaims a divine law. Therefore Teu Tsz Jo-shi), pointing to a stone in front of his temple, said: ” All the Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future are living therein.”
15. Enlightened Consciousness.–In addition to these considerations, which mainly depend on indirect experience, we can have direct experience of life within us. In the first place, we experience that our life is not a bare mechanical motion or change, but is a spiritual, purposive, and self-directing force. In the second place, we directly experience that it knows, feels, and wills. In the third place, we experience that there exists some power unifying the intellectual, emotional, and volitional activities so as to make life uniform and rational. Lastly, we experience that there lies deeply rooted within us Enlightened Consciousness, which neither psychologists treat of nor philosophers believe in, but which Zen teachers expound with strong conviction. Enlightened Consciousness is, according to Zen, the centre of spiritual life. It is the mind of minds, and the consciousness of consciousness. It is the Universal Spirit awakened in the human mind. It is not the mind that feels joy or sorrow; nor is it the mind that reasons and infers; nor is it the mind that fancies and dreams; nor is it the mind that hopes and fears; nor is it the mind that distinguishes good
[1. Both the Chinese and the Japanese history of Zen are full of such incidents.
2 Zen-rin-rui-shu and To-shi-go-roku.]
from evil. It is Enlightened Consciousness that holds communion with Universal Spirit or Buddha, and realizes that individual lives are inseparably united, and of one and the same nature with Universal Life. It is always bright as a burnished mirror, and cannot be dimmed by doubt and ignorance. It is ever pure as a lotus flower, and cannot be polluted by the mud of evil and folly. Although all sentient beings are endowed with this Enlightened Consciousness, they are not aware of its existence, excepting men who can discover it by the practice of Meditation. Enlightened consciousness is often called Buddha-nature, as it is the real nature of Universal Spirit. Zen teachers compare it with a precious stone ever fresh and pure, even if it be buried in the heaps of dust. Its divine light can never be extinguished by doubt or fear, just as the sunlight cannot be destroyed by mist and cloud. Let us quote a Chinese Zen poet to see how Zen treats of it:
The worldly people know it not.
It is not made of clay or cloth,
Nor is it carved out of wood,
Nor is it moulded of earth nor of ashes.
No artist can paint it;
No robber can steal it.
There it exists from dawn of time.
It’s clean, although not swept and wiped.
Although it is but one,
Divides itself to a hundred thousand million forms.”
[1. See Zen-gaku-ho-ten.]
Consciousness once awakened within us serves as a guiding principle, and leads us to hope, bliss, and life; consequently, it is called the Master of both mind and body. Sometimes it is called the Original Mind, as it is the mind of minds. It is Buddha dwelling in individuals. You might call it God in man, if you like. The following dialogues all point to this single idea:
On one occasion a butcher, who was used to kill one thousand sheep a day, came to Gotama, and, throwing down his butcher-knife, said “I am one of the thousand Buddhas.” “Yes, really,” replied Gotama. A monk, Hwui Chao (E-cha) by name, asked Pao Yen (Ho-gen): “What is Buddha?” “You are Hwui Chao,” replied the master. The same question was put to Sheu Shan (Shu-zan), Chi Man (Chi-mon), and Teu Tsz (To-shi), the first of whom answered: “A bride mounts on a donkey and her mother-in-law drives it;” and the second: “He goes barefooted, his sandals being worn out;” while the third rose from his chair and stood still without saying a word. Chwen Hih (Fu-kiu) explains this point in unequivocal terms: “Night after night I sleep with Buddha, and every morning I get up with Him. He accompanies me wherever I go. When I stand or sit, when I speak or be mute, when I am out or in, He never leaves me, even as a shadow accompanies body. Would you know where He is? Listen to that voice and word.”
17. Enlightened Consciousness is not an Intellectual Insight.–Enlightened Consciousness is not a bare intellectual insight, for it is full of beautiful emotions. It loves, caresses, embraces, and at the same time esteems all
[1. It is often called the Lord or Master of mind.
2. Another name for Buddha is the Original Mind” (Kechi-myaku-ron).
3 For such dialogues, see Sho-yo-roku, Mu-mon-kan, Heki-gan-shu. Fu-kiu’s words are repeatedly quoted by Zen masters.]
beings, being ever merciful to them. It has no enemies to conquer, no evil to fight with, but constantly finds friends to help, good to promote. Its warm heart beats in harmony with those of all fellow beings. The author of Brahmajala-sutra fully expresses this idea as he says: “All women are our mothers; all men our fathers; all earth and water our bodies in the past existences; all fire and air our essence.”
Thus relying on our inner experience, which is the only direct way of knowing Buddha, we conceive Him as a Being with profound wisdom and boundless mercy, who loves all beings as His children, whom He is fostering, bringing up, guiding, and teaching. “These three worlds are His, and all beings living in them are His children.” “The Blessed One is the mother of all sentient beings, and gives them all the milk of mercy.” Some people named Him Absolute, as He is all light, all hope, all mercy, and all wisdom; some, Heaven, as He is high and enlightened; some, God, as He is sacred and mysterious; some, Truth, as He is true to Himself; some, Buddha, as He is free from illusion; some, Creator, as He is the creative force immanent in the universe; some, Path, as He is the Way we must follow; some, Unknowable, as He is beyond relative knowledge; some, Self, as He is the Self of individual selves. All these names are applied to one Being, whom we designate by the name of Universal Life or Spirit.
18. Our Conception of Buddha is not Final.–Has, then, the divine nature of Universal Spirit been completely and exhaustively revealed in our Enlightened Consciousness? To this question we should answer negatively, for, so far as our limited experience is concerned, Universal Spirit reveals itself as a Being with profound
wisdom and boundless mercy; this, nevertheless, does not imply that the conception is the only possible and complete one. We should always bear in mind that the world is alive, and changing, and moving. It goes on to disclose a new phase, or to add a new truth. The subtlest logic of old is a mere quibble of nowadays. The miracles of yesterday are the commonplaces of to-day. Now theories are formed, new discoveries are made, only to give their places to newer theories are discoveries. New ideals realized or new desires satisfied are sure to awaken newer and stronger desires. Not an instant life remains immutable, but it rushes on, amplifying and enriching itself from the dawn of time to the end of eternity.
Therefore Universal Life may in the future possibly unfold its new spiritual content, yet unknown to us because it has refined, lifted up, and developed living beings from the amœba to man, increasing the intelligence and range of individuals, until highly civilized man emerge into the plane of consciousness-consciousness of divine light in him. Thus to believe in Buddha is to be content and thankful for the grace of His, and to hope for the infinite unfoldment of His glories in man.
19. How to Worship Buddha.–The author of Vimalakirtti-nirdeça-sutra well explains our attitude towards Buddha when he says: “We ask Buddha for nothing. We ask Dharma for nothing. We ask Samgha for nothing.” Nothing we ask of Buddha. No worldly success, no rewards in the future life, no special blessing. Hwang Pah (O-baku) said: “I simply worship Buddha. I ask Buddha for nothing. I ask Dharma for nothing., I ask Samgha for nothing.” Then a prince questioned him: “You ask Buddha for nothing. You ask Dharma for
[1. Afterwards the Emperor Süen Tsung (Sen-so), of the Tang dynasty.]
nothing. You ask Samgha for nothing. What, then, is the use of your worship?” The Prince earned a slap as an answer to his utilitarian question. This incident well illustrates that worship, as understood by Zen masters, is a pure act of thanksgiving, or the opening of the grateful heart; in other words, the disclosing of Enlightened Consciousness. We are living the very life of Buddha, enjoying His blessing, and holding communion with Him through speech, thought, and action. The earth is not ‘the vale of tears,’ but the glorious creation of Universal Spirit; nor man ‘the poor miserable sinner’ but the living altar of Buddha Himself. Whatever we do, we do with grateful heart and pure joy sanctioned by Enlightened Consciousness; eating, drinking, talking, walking, and every other work of our daily life are the worship and devotion. We agree with Margaret Fuller when she says: “Reverence the highest; have patience with the lowest; let this day’s performance of the meanest duty be thy religion. Are the stars too distant? Pick up the pebble that lies at thy feet, and from it learn all.”
[1. For the details, see Heki-gan-shu.]