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白隠慧鶴 Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)
Selected Writings II.




Hakuin éneke a meditációról
Fordította: Darabos Pál (1966)

A zazen dala
Fordította: Komár Lajos

A zazen dala
Fordította: Hadházi Zsolt (2005)

Hakuin zenji zazen dala
In: Sódó Harada: Bódhidharma ösvényén, Budapest, Filosz Kiadó, 2005, 139-142. o.
Fordította: Egy Csepp Szangha munkacsoport

A zazen dala
Fordította: Bakonyi Berta (2008)

PDF: Vadborostyán - Hakuin zen mester önéletrajza
Az itt közölt válogatást Norman Waddell Wild Ivy (japánul Itsumadegusa 壁生草) c. angol fordítása alapján Sitkéry Zoltán készítette. Az idézetek ugyanabban a sorrendben találhatók, mint az önéletírásban, de szemelvényes formában, több fejezet alapján.
In: Ullmann, Robert, Reichenberg-Ullmann, Judith:
Szentek, bölcsek, mesterek és misztikusok:
Megvilágosodásbeszámolók a régmúlttól napjainkig. Budapest: Filosz Kiadó, 2005. 111-118. oldal

Babits Mihály: Vakok a hídon
Vers Hakuin festményére

Terebess Gábor haikui Hakuin festményeire:
Hangyás őrület
Fél kézzel nem lehet tapsolni
Szakadék fölött

Bincsik Mónika
A zenga, Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768) festészete

Selected Paintings

The Ryu'un-ji Collection
Zen Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin

坐禅和讚 Zazen wasan
Original Japanese + 12 English versions

PDF: Yasenkanna Compare
Norman Waddell's translation (in Wild Ivy)
Trevor Legett's translation (in Second Zen Reader)

PDF: The Zen Master Hakuin - Selected Wrirings
Translated by Philip B. Yampolsky

PDF: Orategama

Letter in Answer to an Old Nun of the Hokke Sect

PDF: Embossed Tea Kettle
Translated by R.D.M. Shaw

息耕錄開筵普說 Sokkō-roku Kaien-fusetsu
The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin
Translated by Norman Waddell

Introductory to Lectures on the Records of Old Sokko

Itsumadegusa 壁生草
Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin
Translated by
Norman Waddell

Mount Iwataki: Reflections on Do-Nothing Zen
extract from Wild Ivy, trans. by Norman Waddell

HTML Selection:
The Danger of False Teachings
Crossing the Threshold
Shōju Rōjin
The Mind of Enlightenment

PDF: Zen Words for the Heart
Hakuin’s Commentary on The Heart Sutra
Translated by Norman Waddell

PDF: Beating the Cloth Drum
The Letters of Zen Master Hakuin

Translated by Norman Waddell

PDF: Hakuin’s Precious mirror cave: a Zen miscellany
edited and translated by Norman Waddell.

荊叢毒蘂 Keisō dokuzui
PDF: Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn: The Zen Records of Hakuin Ekaku
by Hakuin Zenji, tr. by Norman Waddell
Counterpoint, 2017, 752 p

PDF: Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record - Zen Comments by Hakuin
and 天桂傳尊‎ Tenkei Denson (1648–1735)
Translated by Thomas Cleary

PDF: Every End Exposed:
The 100 Koans of Master Kido with the Answers of Hakuin-Zen
Translated with a commentary by Yoel Hoffmann

Keiso dokuzui: The Five, Ranks of The Apparent and the Real:
The Orally Transmitted Secret Teachings

Nirvana Is Openly Shown to Our Eyes
The Life of the Zen Master Hakuin
By Don Webley

Dokugo Shingyo: Acid Comments on the Heart Sutra

The Importance of Kensho

A Talk on the Platform Sutra of Hui-neng

Tunnelling into the Secret Depths

False Teachers and False Zen

Shoju Rojin: Hakuin's teacher

In the Holes of Lotus Threads

The Four Ways of Knowing of an Awakened Person
Translated by Albert Low

Explication of the Four Knowledges of Buddhahood
Translated by Thomas F. Cleary

Hakuin School of Zen Buddhism

PDF: The tools of one-handed Zen:
Hakuin Ekaku's technological and artistic charisma

by Brandon James Harwood


Keiso dokuzui
The Five, Ranks of The Apparent and the Real:
The Orally Transmitted Secret Teachings
of the [Monk] Who Lived on Mount To


We do not know by whom the Jeweled-mirror Samadhi was composed. From Sekito Osho, Yakusan Osho, and Ungan Osho, it was transmitted from master to master and handed down within the secret room. Never have [its teachings] been willingly disclosed until now. After it had been transmitted to Tozan Osho, he made clear the gradations of the Five Ranks within it, and composed a verse for each rank, in order to bring out the main principle of Buddhism. Surely the Five Ranks is a torch on the midnight road, a ferry boat at the riverside when one has lost one's way!

But alas! The Zen gardens of recent times are desolate and barren. "Directly-pointing-to-the-ultimate" Zen is regarded as nothing but benightedness and foolishness; and that supreme treasure of the Mahayana, the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi's Five Ranks of the Apparent and the Real, is considered to be only the old and broken vessel of an antiquated house. No one pays any attention to it. [Today's students] are like blind men who have thrown away their staffs, calling them useless baggage. Of themselves they stumble and fall into the mud of heterodox views and cannot get out until death overtakes them. They never know that the Five Ranks is the ship that carries them across the poisonous sea surrounding the rank o f the Real, the precious wheel that demolishes the impregnable prison-house of the two voids. They do not know the important road of progressive practice; they are not versed in the secret meaning within this teaching. Therefore they sink into the stagnant water of sravaka-hood or pratyeka-buddhahood. They fall into the black pit of withered sprouts and decayed seeds. Even the hand of Buddha would find it difficult to save them.

That into which I was initiated forty years ago in the room of Shoju I shall now dispense as the alms giving of Dharma. When I find a superior person who is studying the true and profound teaching and has experienced the Great Death, I shall give this secret transmission to him, since it was not designed for men of medium and lesser ability. Take heed and do not treat it lightly!

How vast is the expanse of the sea of the doctrine, how manifold are the gates of the teaching! Among these, to be sure, are a number of doctrines and orally transmitted secret teachings, yet never have I seen anything to equal the perversion of the Five Ranks, the carping criticism, the tortuous explanations, the adding of branch to branch, the piling up of entanglement upon entanglement. The truth is that the teachers who are guilty of this do not know for what principle the Five Ranks was instituted. Hence they confuse and bewilder their students to the point that even a Sariputra or an Ananda would find it difficult to judge correctly.

Or, could it be that our patriarchs delivered themselves of these absurdi ties in order to harass their posterity unnecessarily? For a long time I wondered about this. But, when I came to enter the room of Shoju, the rhinoceros of my previous doubt suddenly fell down dead... Do not look with suspicion upon the Five Ranks, saying that it is not the directly transmitted oral teaching of the Tozan line. You should know that it was only after he had completed his investigation of Tozan's Verses that Shoju gave his acknowledgment to the Five Ranks

After I had entered Shoju's room and received transmission from him, I was quite was satisfied. But, though I was satisfied, I still regretted that all teachers had not yet clearly explained the meaning of " the reciprocal interpenetration of the Apparent and the Real." They seemed to have discarded the words "reciprocal interpenetration," and to pay no attention whatsoever to them. Thereupon the rhinoceros of doubt once more raised its head.

In the summer of the first year of the Kan'en era (1748-1751), in the midst of my meditation, suddenly the mystery of "the reciprocal interpenetration of the Apparent and the Real " became perfectly clear. It was just like looking at the palm of my own hand. The rhinoceros of doubt instantly fell down dead, and I could scarcely bear the joy of it. Though I wished to hand it on to others, I was ashamed to squeeze out my old woman's stinking milk and soil the monk's mouths with it.

All of you who wish to plumb this deep source must make the investigation in secret with your entire body. My own toil has extended over these thirty years. Do not take this to be an easy task! Even if you should happen to break up the family and scatter the household, do not consider this enough. You must vow to pass through seven, or eight, or even nine thickets of brambles. And, when you have passed through the thickets of brambles, still do not consider this to be enough. Vow to investigate the secret teachings of the Five Ranks to the end.

For the past eight or nine years or more, I have been trying to incite all of you who boil your daily gruel over the same fire with me to study this great matter thoroughly, but more often than not you have taken it to be the doctrine of another house, and remained indifferent to it. Only a few among you have attained understanding of it. How deeply this grieves me! Have you never heard: " The Gates of Dharma are manifold; I vow to enter them all?" How much the more should this be true for the main principle of Buddhism and the essential road of sanzen!

Shoju Rojin has said: "In order to provide a means wher eby students might directly experience the Four Wisdom's, the patriarchs, in their compassion and with their skill in devising expedients, first instituted the Five Ranks." What are the so-called Four Wisdom's? They are the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the Universal Nature Wisdom, the Marvelous Observing Wisdom, and the Perfecting-of-Action Wisdom.

Followers of the Way, even though you may have pursued your studies in the Threefold Learning continuously through many kalpas, if you have not directly experienced the Four Wisdoms, you are not permitted to call yourselves true sons of Buddha.

Followers of the way, if your investigation has been correct and complete, at the moment you smash open the dark cave of the eighth or Alaya consciousness, the precious light of the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom instantly shines forth. But, strange to say, the light of the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom is black like lacquer. This is what is called the rank of " The Apparent within the Real."

Having attained the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, you now enter the rank of "The Real within the Apparent." When you have accomplished your long practice of the jeweled-mirror Samadhi, you directly realize the Universal Nature Wisdom and for the first time enter the state of the unobstructed inter-penetration of Noumenon and phenomena.

But the disciple must not be satisfied here. He himself must enter into intimate acquaintance with the rank of " The Coming from within the Real." After that, by depending upon the rank of " The Arrival at Mutual Integration," he will completely prove the Marvelous Observing Wisdom and the Perfecting-of-Action Wisdom. At last he reaches the rank of " Unity Attained," and, after all, comes back to sit among the coals and ashes."

Do you know why? Pure gold that has gone through a thousand smeltings does not become ore a second time. My only fear is that a little gain will suffice you. How priceless is the merit gained through the step-by-step practice of the Five Ranks of the Apparent and the Real! By this practice you not only attain the Four Wisdoms, but you personally prove that the Three Bodies also are wholly embraced within your own body. Have you not read in the Daijo shogongyo ron: "When the eight consciousnesses are inverted, the Four Wisdoms are produced; when the Four Wisdoms are bound together, the Three Bodies are perfected?" Therefore Sokei Daishi composed this verse:

"Your own nature is provided
With the Three Bodies;
When its brightness is manifested,
The Four Wisdoms are attained."

He also said: "The pure Dharmakaya is your nature; the perfect Sambhogakaya is your wisdom; the myriad Nirmanakayas are your activities."


The Apparent within the Real:
In the third watch of the night
Before the moon appears,
No wonder when we meet
There is no recognition!
Still cherished in my heart
Is the beauty of earlier days.

The rank of "The Apparent within the Real" denotes the rank of the Absolute, the rank in which one experiences the Great Death, shouts "KA!" sees Tao, and enters into the Principle. When the true practitioner, filled with power from his secret study, meritorious achievements, and hidden practices, suddenly bursts through into this rank, " the empty sky vanishes and the iron mountain crumbles." "Above, there is not a tile to cover his head; below, there is not an inch of ground for him to stand on." The delusive passions are non-existent, enlightenment is non-existent, Samsara is non-existent, Nirvana is non-existent. This is the state of total empty solidity, without sound and without odor, like a bottomless clear pool. It is as if every fleck of cloud had been wiped from the vast sky.

Too often the disciple, considering that his attainment of this rank is the end of the Great Matter and his discernment of the Buddha-way complete, clings to it to the death and will not let go of it. Such as this is called it stagnant water " Zen; such a man is called " an evil spirit who keeps watch over the corpse in the coffin." Even though he remains absorbed in this state for thirty or forty years, he will never get out of the cave of the self-complacency and inferior fruits of pratyeka-buddhahood. Therefore it is said: "He whose activity does not leave this rank sinks into the poisonous sea." He is the man whom Buddha called " the fool who gets his realization in the rank of the Real."

Therefore, though as long as he remains in this hiding place of quietude, passivity and vacantness, inside and outside are transparent and his understanding perfectly clear, the moment the bright insight [he has thus far gained through his practice] comes into contact with differentiation's defiling conditions of turmoil and confusion, agitation and vexation, love and hate, he will find himself utterly helpless before them, and all the miseries of existence will press in upon him. It was in order to save him from this serious illness that the rank of " The Real within the Apparent " was established as an expedient.

The Real within the Apparent:
A sleepy-eyed grandam
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face,
But it doesn't resemble her at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head,
She tries to recognize her reflection!

If the disciple had remained in the rank of "The Apparent within the Real," his judgment would always have been vacillating and his view prejudiced. Therefore, the bodhisattva of superior capacity invariably leads his daily life in the realm of the [six] dusts, the realm of all kinds of ever-changing differentiation. All the myriad phenomena before his eyes-the old and the young, the honorable and the base, halls and pavilions, verandahs and corridors, plants and trees, mountains and rivers-he regards as his own original, true, and pure aspect. It is just like looking into a bright mirror and seeing his own face in it. If he continues for a long time to observe everything everywhere with this radiant insight, all appearances of themselves become the jeweled mirror of his own house, and he becomes the jeweled mirror of their houses as well. Eihei has said: "The experiencing of the manifold dharmas through using oneself is delusion; the experiencing of oneself through the coming of the manifold dharmas is satori." This is just what I have been saying. This is the state of " mind and body discarded, discarded mind and body." It is like two mirrors mutually reflecting one another without even the shadow of an image between. Mind and the objects of mind are one and the same; things and oneself are not two. " A white horse enters the reed flowers snow is piled up in a silver bowl."

This is what is known as the jeweled-mirror Samadhi. This is what the Nirvana Sutra is speaking about when i t says: " The Tathagata sees the Buddha-nature with his own eyes." When you have entered this samadhi, " though you push the great white ox, he does not go away"; the Universal Nature Wisdom manifests itself before your very eyes. This is what is meant by the expressions, "There exists only one Vehicle," "the Middle Path," " the True Form," " the Supreme Truth."

But, if the student, having reached this state, were to be satisfied with it, then, as before, he would be living in the deep pit of " fixation in a lesser rank of bodhisattvahood." Why is this so? Because he is neither conversant with the deportment of the bodhisattva, nor does he understand the causal conditions for a Buddha-land. Although he has a clear understanding of the Universal and True Wisdom, he cannot cause to shine forth the Marvelous Wisdom that comprehends the unobstructed interpenetration of the manifold dharmas. The patriarchs, in order to save him from this calamity, have provided the rank of "The Coming from within the Real."

The Coming from within the Real:
Within nothingness there is a path
Leading away from the dusts of the world.
Even if you observe the taboo
On the present emperor's name,
You will surpass that eloquent one of yore
Who silenced every tongue.

In this rank, the Mahayana bodhisattva does not remain in the state of attainment that he has realized, but from the midst of the sea of effortlessness he lets his great uncaused compassion shine forth. Standing upon the four pure and great Universal Vows, he lashes forward the Dharma-wheel of " seeking Bodhi above and saving sentient beings below." This is the so-called "coming-from within the going-to, the going-to within the coming-from." Moreover, he must know the moment of [the meeting of] the paired opposites, brightness and darkness. Therefore the rank of " The Arrival at Mutual Integration " has been set up.

The Arrival at Mutual Integration:
When two blades cross points,
There's no need to withdraw.
The master swordsman
Is like the lotus blooming in the fire.
Such a man has in and of himself
A heaven-soaring spirit.

In this rank, the bodhisattva of indomitable spirit turns the Dharma-wheel of the non-duality of brightness and darkness. He stands in the midst of the filth of the world, "his head covered with dust and his face streaked with dirt." He moves through the confusion of sound and sensual pleasure, buffeted this way and buffeted that. He is like the fire-blooming lotus, that, on encountering the f lames, becomes still brighter in color and purer in fragrance. " He enters the market place with empty hands," yet others receive benefit from him. This is what is called to be on the road, yet not to have left the house; to have left the house, yet not to be on the road." Is he an ordinary man? Is he a sage? The evil ones and the heretics cannot discern him. Even the buddhas and the patriarchs cannot lay their hands upon him. Were anyone to try to indicate his mind, [it would be no more there than] the horns of a rabbit or the hairs of a tortoise that have gone beyond the farthest mountain.

Still, he must not consider this state to be his final resting-place. Therefore it is said, "Such a man has in and of himself a heaven-soaring spirit." What must he do in the end? He must know that there is one more rank, the rank of " Unity Attained."

Unity Attained:
Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.

The Master's verse-comment says:

How many times has Tokuun, the idle old gimlet,
Not come down from the Marvelous Peak!
He hires foolish wise men to bring snow,
And he and they together fill up the well.

The student who wishes to pass through Tozan's rank of " Unity Attained " should first study this verse.

It is of the utmost importance to study and pass through the Five Ranks, to attain penetrating insight into them, and to be totally without fixation or hesitation. But, though your own personal study of the Five Ranks comes to an end, the Buddha-way stretches endlessly and there are no tarrying places on it. The Gates of Dharma are manifold.



Zen Master Hakuin's
Letter in Answer to an Old Nun of the Hokke [Nichiren] Sect

The 25th day of the Eleventh Month of Enkyo 4
(C.E. 1747)

This fall when I gave my lectures on the Lotus Sutra I said that outside the mind there was no Lotus Sutra and outside the Lotus Sutra there was no mind. Thinking what you heard to be strange, you have written to ask me to explain to you the principle I expounded and to tell you of any other pertinent matters. In this letter I shall deal largely with the import of what I said, and ask you to read and reread what I write, in the hope that it will prove to be to your satisfaction.

I do indeed always say: Outside the mind there is no Lotus Sutra and outside the Lotus Sutra there is no mind. Outside the ten stages of existence there is no mind and outside the ten stages of existence there is no Lotus Sutra. This is the ultimate and absolute principle. It is not limited to me, but all the Tathagata of the three periods, and all learned sages everywhere, when they have reached the ultimate understanding, have all preached the same way. The essential purport of the text of the Lotus Sutra speaks gloriously to this effect. There are eighty-four thousand other gates to Buddhism, but they are all provisional teachings and cannot be regarded as other than expediencies. When this ultimate is reached, all sentient beings and all Tathagata of the three periods, mountains, rivers, the great earth, and the Lotus Sutra itself, all bespeak the Dharma principle that all things are a non-dual unity representing the true appearance of all things. This is the fundamental principle of Buddhism. We have indeed the 5,418 texts of the Tripitaka, that detail the limitless mysterious meaning spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha. We have the sudden, gradual, esoteric, and indeterminate methods. But their ultimate principle is reduced to the 8 volumes of the Lotus Sutra. The ultimate meaning of the 64,360-odd written characters of the Lotus Sutra is reduced to the 5 characters in its title: Myoho-renge-kyo. These 5 characters are reduced to the 2 characters Myoho [Wondrous Law] and the 2 characters Myoho return to the one word mind. If one asks to where this one word, mind, returns: "The horned rabbit and the furry turtle cross to nowhere mountain." What is the ultimate meaning? "If you wish to know the mind of one who laments in the midst of spring, it is at the time when the needle is stopped and words cannot be spoken."

This One Mind, derived from the two characters Myoho mentioned above, when spread out includes all the Dharma worlds of the ten directions, and when contracted returns to the no-thought and no-mind of the self-nature. Therefore such things as "outside the mind no thing exists," "in the three worlds there is One Mind alone," and "the true appearance of all things," have been preached. Reaching this ultimate place is called the Lotus Sutra, or the Buddha of Infinite Light; in Zen it is called the Original Face, in Shingon the Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A, in Ritsu the Basic, Intangible Form of the Precepts. Everyone must realize that these are all different names for the One Mind.

One may ask: "What proof is there that the five characters Myoho renge kyo point to the fountainhead of the one mind?" These five characters, just as they are, immediately serve as proof that can readily be substantiated. Why? Myoho renge kyo is a title that sings the praises of the mysterious virtues of the One Mind. It is composed of words that point to and reveal the inherent character of this One Mind, with which all men are innately endowed.

To be more speficic, look at calligraphy and painting. Or better, when someone says that so-and-so has a genius for peforming on the biwa or the koto, if we ask just where that genius lies, nobody, no matter how eloquent or gifted of tongue he may be, will ever be able to explain it in words. We cannot teach this uninherited talent to the child that we cherish. But when this mysterious spot is touched upon, it operates unconsiously, emerging from some unknown place. The mysterious nature of the mind with which all people are endowed is like this.

You may laugh or gossip when you read this letter, but is this not a strange thing, endless as a thread from a reel, that reveals its activity without a trace of error in any one you meet? But if you ask what thing is this that acts freely in this way, and look inward to seek it there, you will find that it has neither voice nor smell. Furthermore, it is empty and without traces, and if you think it is something like wood or stone, being free and unattached, it will change endless times. If you say it is in existence it will not be there; if you say it is in non-existence it will not be there either. This place, where words and speech are cut off, this free and untrammeled place, is provisionally called the Wondrous Law (Myoho). The Lotus (renge), while its roots lie in the mud, is in no way soiled by the mud, nor does it lose the wonderful scent and odor with which it is blessed. When the time comes for it to bloom it sets forth beautiful blossoms. The Wondrous Law of the Buddha mind is neither sullied nor does it decrease within sentient beings and it is neither made pure nor does it increase within a Buddha. In the Buddha, in the common man, among all sentient beings it is in no way different. To be sullied by the mud of the five desires is to be just like the lotus root lying covered by the mud.

Later in the Himalaya the Buddha discovered the nature of the mind that is endowed from the outset. He called in his noble voice: "How marvelous! All sentient beings are endowed with the wisdom and the virtuous characteristics of the Tathagata. He preached the sudden and the gradual teaching and the partial and complete doctrines of the various sutras, and became himself the great teacher of the three worlds. When he is venerated by Brahma and Sakra, it is as though the lotus had emerged from the mud and opened its full beauty. Just as the lotus's color and fragrance inhere in it as it lies in the mud, as it emerges, and as it blooms above the surface, so when the Buddha spoke of the Dharma being as numerous as the sands in the Ganges, he referred to nothing that was brought in from the outside. In terms of the common man, he spoke of the appearance of the Buddha-nature itself, with which all are without a doubt endowed; in terms of sentient beings, once the vow to become a Buddha has been made, the Wondrous Law of the One Mind does not increase nor lessen one bit. It is just the same as the lotus: at the time that it lies amidst the mud and after its blossoms are scattered in the summer, it does not undergo any fundamental change whatsoever. Thus he provisionally likened the lotus plant to the Wondrous Law of the One Mind. Is this not irrefutable proof that the Buddha mind, with which all people are endowed, was called the Lotus Sutra of the Wondrous Law?

The word kyo [sutra] means "constant," in the same sense as the eternal, unchanging Buddha-nature. This kyo teaches that the eternal, unchanging Buddha-nature does not increase in a Buddha nor decrease in a sentient being. It is of the same root as heaven and earth and is one substance with all things, and has not changed one iota since before the last kalpa began, nor will it change after it has ended. Moreover, Myoho [Wondrous Law] is the substance of the Buddha mind. The Lotus Sutra was composed as a way of praising this Wondrous Law of the Buddha mind, and so it is nothing more than another name for the One Mind. It is one reality with two names, just as mochi and kachin are two names for the same thing, a rice-cake.

Moreover, the True Reality that is the Lotus Sutra cannot be seized by the hands nor seen by the eye. How then is one to receive and hold to it? What then should one say to the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra who wishes to take it to himself? There are three types of capacity. The practitioner of inferior capacity is captivated by the yellow scroll with its red handles and copies, recites, and makes explanations of it. The practitioner of average capacity, illuminates his own mind and so receives and holds to the Sutra. The person of superior capacity penetrates this Sutra with his [Dharma] eye, just as though he were viewing the surface of his own mind. That is why the Nirvana Sutra says: "The Tathagata sees the Buddha-nature within his eye." The practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, if he is engaged in the true practice of the ultimate of Mahayana, will not find it an easy thing to do. What is simple is very much so; what is difficult is very, very difficult indeed.

We have seen before the passage in the Lotus Sutra that reads: "To hold to this Sutra is difficult. If someone holds to it even for a short while, I will feel great joy and the many Buddhas likewise." Thus, the practice of holding to this Sutra is of the utmost importance. Chih-i of the Tendai school has said: "Without taking the book in your hands, always recite this Sutra. Without uttering words from your mouth, recite all the texts everywhere. Even when the Buddha does not preach always listen to the sound of the Law. Without engaging the mind in thinking, always illumine the Dharmakaya." This describes the true recitation of this Sutra. Should someone ask: "What sort of a sutra is this that one recites without taking the work up in one's hands?" can one not say in return, "Isn't this the Wondrous Law of your own mind?" If someone asks: "What does 'without engaging the mind in thinking, always illumine the Dharmakaya' mean?" can one not say in return, "Isn't this the True Lotus?" This is known as the Sutra without words. If one just grasps the yellow roll with its red handles and holds to the belief that this is the Lotus Sutra, one is like someone who licks a piece of paper extolling the virtues of some medicine, expecting that this will serve to cure a disease. What a great mistake this is!

Should a person wish to hold this Sutra, he must throughout all the hours of the day and night without the slightest doubt in his mind, carry on the real practice of true meditation on the total form of all things, thinking neither good nor of evil. In this respect Han-shan, who was an avatar of Manjusri, has said in a verse: "If you wish to attain the road to enlightenment, let no thread hang in your mind." True practice of this sort is the ancient and changeless great center, the place from which all the Tathagatas of the three periods and all the wise men and great priests attained to great enlightenment. This is the direct road to [experiencing the state in which] "no-thought is produced, before and after are cut off, and with sudden enlightenment you attain to Buddhahood." Although the Tathagata said, "This Sutra is difficult to hold to," is this not really the ultimate principle? The true place to which the sages of all three religions have attained is, to a large measure, the same. Although the degrees of efficacy is based on the depth and the quality of the perseverance in practice, the content of the first step is the same. The Confucians call this place the Ultimate Good, the Undeveloped Mean. Taoists call it Nothingness or Nature. Among Shintoists it is known as Takamagahara. The Tendai school calls it "the Great Matter of the cessation and meditation on the three thousand worlds in one instant of thought." In Shingon it is called "the contemplation of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A."

The Patriarchs of the various schools encourage sitting in meditation and, although they advocate the recitation of the sutras, isn't this recitation merely a device to make us reach the state where the mind is unperturbed, pure, and without distractions? The founder of Eihei-ji has said: "If one practices and holds to it for one day, it is worthy of veneration; if one fails to hold to and practice it for a hundred years, these are a hundred years of regret." It is enough to make one shed tears at the regrettable and wretched state of understanding in which, while possessing the difficult-to-obtain body of a man, a person does not cultivate in himself the determination to practice. Instead, like a dog or a cat or some beast that has no understanding at all, he allows his whole life, one so difficult to encounter, to rot carelessly away, and returns to his old abode in the three worlds of suffering, without having learned a thing. To say "a difficult thing is very, very difficult," leaves no doubt on our part. But what does this "an easy thing is very easy indeed" mean? Should a person release his hold on the Sutra and attempt lightly to maintain the dignities of walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, he must make a vow seeking once to verify for himself the True Face of the Lotus. Once a person sees this True Face of the Lotus, then coughing, swallowing, waving the arms, activity and quietude, words and actions, all plants, trees, tiles, stones, the sentient and the non-sentient, all manifest the Sutra of the Wondrous Law, and throughout all the hours of the day, harmonize deeply with the Sutra. What need is there to hold to any other thing? If you try to hold to the Lotus Sutra without seeing once the True Lotus, you will be like a man who holds a bowl of water in his hands and night and day tries to keep from spilling it or letting it move, but still expects to gain sustenence from it. Even if he should succeed in holding it in this way for his whole life, he wouldn't be able to sustain himself or keep himself from dying of thirst. His hopes to benefit himself and others by the practice of the vow will be cut off midway. What possible use does this serve?

For the person who once sees the True Lotus and holds to the Sutra, it is as if he had poured this one bowl of water into rivers and lakes everywhere. At once it merges with the thirty-six thousand riplets and its beneficence joins with the waters, so that if all the creatures that leap, run, fly, or crawl came to drink at the same time, it would never be exhausted.

The person who has not seen the True Lotus is like the man who holds the bowl of water. Not only can he be of no benefit to others, but neither can he bring benefit to himself. The person who once sees the True Lotus is like the man who pours the bowl of water into all the rivers and lakes. Unconsciously he leaps into the great sea of Nirvana of the various Buddhas, harmonizes deeply with the true Dharma body and the precepts, meditation, and wisdom of the many Buddhas, at once shatters the dark cave of the alaya-consciousness, and releases the Illumination of the Great Perfect Mirror. Passing over numberless kalpas, he practices the almsgiving of the Dharma with no limitations whatsoever. The breadth and greatness of the virtue of the one view of the Lotus is quite without bounds. Rather than read all the works in the Tripitaka, see the True Lotus once. Rather than make a million statues of the Buddha, see the True Lotus once. Rather than adhering to the view that holding a yellow scroll with its red handles is [the practice of] the Lotus Sutra, see the True Lotus once. Rather than recite the Lotus Sutra a billion times, see the True Lotus once with your own Dharma eye. This is truly a lofty statement of complete truth and indestructibility.

How can one penetrate to the True Face of the Lotus? To do this one must raise the great ball of doubt. What is being pointed out when we speak of the True Face of the Lotus? It is the Wondrous Law of the One Mind, with which you yourself are endowed from the outset. It is nothing more than to see into your own mind. And what is this "own mind?" Don't look for something white or something red, but by all means see it at once. Courageousely and firmly establish your aspiration, raise up the great vow, and night and day investigate it to the end. For investigating the mind there are many methods. If you are a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra who ignores the teachings of other schools, then you must transcend the practice of the Lotus Samadhi. The practice of the Lotus Samadhi is from today on to determine, despite happiness and pain, sadness and joy, whether asleep or awake, standing or reclining, to intone without interuption the title of the Sutra alone: Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Whether you use this title as a staff or as a source of strength, you must recite it with the fervent wish to see without fail the True Face of the Lotus. Make each inhalation and exhalation of your breath the title of the Sutra. Recite it without ceasing with intense devotion. If you recite it without flagging, it will not be long before the mind-nature will truly be set as firmly as a large rock. Dimly you will gain an awareness of a state in which the One Mind is without disturbance. At this time, do not discard this awareness, but continue your constant recitation. Then you will awaken to the Great Matter of true meditation, and all the ordinary consciousnesses and emotions will not operate. It will be as if you had entered into the Diamond Spere, as if you were seated within a lapis lazuli vase, and, without any discriminating thought at all, suddenly you will be no different from one who has died the Great Death. After you have returned to life, unconsciouslessly the pure and uninvolved true principle of undistracted meditation will appear before you. You will see right before you, in the place where you stand, the True Face of the Lotus, and at once you body and mind will drop off. The true, unlimited, eternal, perfected Tathagata will manifest himself clearly before your eyes and never depart, though you should attempt to drive him away. This is the time that the Tendai school refers to as "plunging into the treasure abode, where the Dharma-nature is undisturbed, yet constantly illuminating." In Shingon it is to be illumined by the Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A. In the Ritsu it is the harmonize with the unparalleled Diamond-Treasure Precepts of the Many Buddhas. In the Pure Land School it is to fulfill one's vow for rebirth in Paradise, to see before one's eyes the marvelous birds and trees of Paradise and to keep constantly in mind the wondrous ornamentation of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Opening the True Eye that sees that his very world is itself the brillance of Nirvana, one reaches the state where all plants, trees, and lands have without the slightest doubt attained to Buddhahood. What is there among the good fruits of the worlds of men and devas that can be compared to this? This is the basic vow that accounts for the appearance in this world of the many Buddhas of the three periods. One recitation of the title of this Sutra has no less virtue than a single Zen koan. The purport of all this has been uttered by all the learned sages of all the directions of the three periods and the eighty thousand gods of Japan. If what I say were even slightly incorrect, why should I risk committing a crime by writing it all in a long-winded letter? There is absolutely no doubt about it. If in one's practice one is not remiss, the mind-ground known in Zen as "clenching the left hand and biting the middle finger," will gradually become clear.

Nowadays one occassionally hears people say: "There is no point in studying koans under a teacher. What do you do after finishing your study of the koans? [Once you have reached the stage of the] direct pointing to 'this very mind is Buddha,' you neither regret when a thought arises nor feel joy when a thought is stopped. The mountain villager's unpainted bowl is best, for it represents the original nature as it was at the time that the bowl was made. If you don't lacquer the bowl, there will be nothing to chip and wear away." People who talk in this way are like blind turtles that pointlessly enter an empty valley every day and are satisfied with this. This is the view of the Indian heretics of the naturalistic school. If things like this were called the pivot of the progress toward the Buddha mind, even the guardian gods of the remotest village would clap their hands and burst out in laughter.

Why is this so? Aren't such people similar to the imbecile who thinks he see the spirits that Ch'ang-sha talks about? When the Surangama Sutra cautions against recognizing a robber and making him your son and talks of the eventual inability to know the substance of original purity, it is referring to people of this type. They are totally unaware of the fact that the Tathagata did not acknowledge proficiency in meditation even for those sages who had gained the four grades of sainthood, had reached the state of non-retrogression, had penetrated the principles of the self and the dharmas, were endowed with magical gifts, and had gained great fame everywhere. That is why the Sutra says: "Even the great arhats among my disciples cannot understand the meaning. It is only the group of bodhisattvas who are able to comprehend it." It is speaking of those who, without even possessing the accomplishment of seeing into their own natures, recklessly call themselves worthy of veneration. What sort of mental state is this?

At any rate, nothing surpasses the casting aside of all the myriad circumstances and devoting oneself to recitation. But do not adhere to the one-sided view that the title of the Sutra alone will be of benefit. This applies as well to the Shingon and Pure Land schools. The followes of the Pure Land, by the power of the concentrated recitation of the Buddha's name, resolving to see once the Pure Land of their own minds and the wondrous form of Amida Buddha in their own bodies, give rise to a valiant great aspiration, and devote themselves ceaselessly to the recitation of the name, as fervently as though they were dousing flames on their own heads. Is there any reason that they should not see the form of the Buddha, who is spoken of as not being far off, the trees of the seven treasures, and the pond of the eight virtues? The followers of Shingon, by the mysterious power of the dharani resolving to see without fail the great Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A, give rise to a great aspiration to persevere, just as in Zen one koan is taken up and concentrated upon. Is there any reason that they should not polish and bring out the true form of the Diamond indestructible that Koya Daishi has described as "[attaining enlightenment] without being reborn in a new body"?

But should any one of these people, thinking he has saved up merit, talk about waiting until after he dies, he will find that his ignorance and carelessness have resulted in a situation almost without hope. Do not lament about how far away it is. Is there anything nearer than to see your own eyeballs with your own eyeballs? Do not be afraid about how deep a thing is. If you try to see and hear it at the bottom of a deep chasm or in the depths of the sea, then you may well fear how deep a thing is. Is there anything nearer than to see your own mind with your own mind, to use your own nostrils to smell your own nose? Although the world is in a degenerate age, the Law itself is not degenerate. If you take the world as degenerate and cast it away without looking back, you will be like someone who enters into a treasure mountain, yet suffers from hunger and cold. Do not fear that because this is a degenerate age [enlightenment] cannot be accomplised. In the past the Abbot of the Eshin-in, more recently Sokuo of Akazawa and Engu of Yamashiro, and the sick girl of Osaka, each by the power of the calling of the name, fulfilled the vow described above. Honen Shonin also had this aspiration deeply, but because he had no religious guide, he said that the state of his mind was as though his wings were too short for so long a flight.

Perhaps it is a mark of this degenerate age that recently bad customs have arisen and monks and laymen are both so accustomed to seeing and hearing of them that they say that to want to see the Buddha Mind of the Wondrous Law today is like having the apsirations of an eel that wants to climb a tree. Yet to spend one's whole life in darkness certainly represents a miserable state of mind.

Supposing several sons of a farmer have inherited from him a large amount of land. Among the sons is one who is weak and unworthy, but whose words are clever and shrewd. He says: "In these days it is beyond the ability of people of our humble status to imitate our ancestors of old, to angage in agriculture and farming, and to attempt to raise a large family. It would be just like a duck, in imitation of a hawk, positioning its wings as though it were about to attack and bring down a crane. Or like a lame turtle, in imitation of a carp, stretching out its neck as though it were about to ascend a waterfall. Ridiculous! If we continue in this way, we'll end up having to drink water from a sickle. This is quite unthinkable! Just figure it out for yourselves! Worn out people such as we [must tend] this farm, that stretches like a vast field filled with luxuriantly growing weeds. We cut the fields and after they are cut, we cultivate. We irrigate, hoe, sow the seeds, transplant the seedlings, weed the paddies, cut and dry the plants, remove the rice, and polish off the rice bran. Then we must braid the rope and weave matting and make bales. When we can sit back and look at the results, we are struck by the tremendous difficulties of the work. It is indeed an old story. The results are worth nothing at all. There is a much better way to pass through this world, taking your ease with your hands in your sleeves. Wherever a person's feet take him, he can spend three days here or five days there."

Someone objected, saying: "If we have shoulders, don't we need clothes to hang on them? If we have a mouth, don't we need food to put in it?"

To this he replied: "I have heard that a certain lord of a certain province is a man of great humanity. They say he gives stipends to such as we. This is were we really ought to go. With things as good as that, we would have nothing to lament about. It's all a great mistake to move one's hands and feet to earn a living through one's own efforts. There is nothing to worry about. It's best just to put on a humble appearance from the beginning and make no effort to work. Do not look as if you wanted to pile up money."

Throwing away the two or three old garments they have and putting on clothes of straw matting, people like this say: "We are impoverished and inferior beings, lost, with no place to stay and no one to tell our troubles to. Out of pity, please help us." Wandering about crying in this way, because of the compassion that exists in the world, it is not impossible for a person to be fed. People are taught such things and rejoice without a trace of doubt, believing all this to be true. Thus they become poverty stricken, although they were not so from birth, and end up spending their lives in this way.

Such people are known as destroyers and wasters of their own selves. The Master Lin-chi berated them as "spoiled people of inferior capacity." They are like fish in water who lament the fact that because of their natures they are unable to see the water, or like birds flying through the air who regret the fact that to see the air is an unattainable desire. They are unaware that of all the lands everywhere, there is none that does not contain True Reality, nor is there any human being anywhere who is not endowed with this Wondrous Law. It is a pity that while living amidst the Wondrous Law of the One Mind and the Pure Land of Tranquil Light, they cling to the prejudice that in this life they are part of the ordinary world and that as sentient beings they are as such deluded. Mistakenly they believe that after death they will enter hell, and so they lament the endless torment in store for them. They discard the Buddha Mind of the Wondrous Law that wells up before the eyes and the Dharma-nature of True Reality that is always pure, feeling that these are things to which they cannot possibly attain, things for which they cannot possibly hope. Thus they cast aside their desires as unobtainable, and look for the pointless concepts of deluded consciousness, and end up spending their lives in vain. What is most regrettable is that, although we have this Lotus of the Wondrous Law, incomparable in all the three worlds, a scripture of the most exquisite quality, yet, because there is no one who practices its teachings properly, it is stuffed away on library shelves along with a lot of ordinary books, and rots away from disuse. Thus people mistake the impure world for the Pure Land and concern themselves with the three evil paths and the six modes of existence. Is there anything more lamentable?

Someone has asked: "What specifically does this teaching point to? Is it the four peaceful contentments? Is it the conduct of the five types of Master of the Law?"

In answer I say: "Not at all. It is the 'eye' of the Sutra, that is described in the text of the chapter on Expediencies in these words: 'the reason the Buddha appeared in this world was [to show] the way to open up the wisdom of the Buddha.'"

Although the numerous Tathagatas who have appeared successively in the world have expounded Laws as numerous as the sands in the Ganges, they have all appeared solely for the purpose of opening up the Buddha's wisdom to all sentient beings. No matter what Law you practice, if you don't seek to open up the Buddha's wisdom, you will never be able to come into accord with the vow of the many Buddhas. The opening up of the Buddha's wisdom is to make clear the Wondrous Law of the One Mind. There is nothing more regrettable in this degenerate world than to discard tidings of this Wondrous Law of the One Mind and to just go along as one pleases. When unexpectedly we meet something that seems to be this Wondrous Law, we find that nowadays everyone has made it into an intellectual teaching, scarcely worth talking about. No one gives heed to the saying in the Maha-Vairocana Sutra: "Know your own mind as it really is." Not following the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and not knowing where the Wondrous Law is, people rush about madly, saying vague things like: "It's in the West," or "It's in the East," and spend their days declaring that this or that is the Buddha Way. Their behavior can be likened to that of the people in the following story.

Supposing that there were a very rich man, who, after undergoing many hardship, finally managed to bring under cultivation vast tracts of land. Supposing that he were to say to his sons: "You cultivate this land and become rick men like me." He then distributes to his various sons, without regard to the capacities of each, his excess lands. His sons, however, do not follow their father's teaching, but scatter to various provinces. Some stand beside the doors of people's houses and beg their food. Some say: "We are mirror polishers," and walk about polishing tiles. Others scuttle about chasing away the birds that feed on grain. Some say: "We are millionaire's sons," and although looking like beggers and outcasts themselves, they recklessly make light of others. Some turn over the leaves of their account books every day, but do not even know what the fields look like. Others say: "As long as we have our acocunt books we have nothing to fear," and selfishly practice their evil ways. Some say: "We know the conduct becoming to a millionaire," but they starve and thirst while practicing the forms of this proper conduct. There are some who do not even know where the fields are, but keep screaming about them day and night. Others are a bit aware of the vast extent of acreage and, becoming greatly boastful, degenerate into a life of sex, wine, and meat-eating. There is not one son among them who carries out the intention of his millionaire father.

The fields stand for the Wondrous Law of the One Mind. The account books are the sacred scriptures. "To stand before people's houses and beg," means to acknowledge the Great Matter of the opening up of the wisdom of the Buddha, the process of learning for oneself whether the water is cold or hot by experiencing in one's own body pain and suffering, and then, because this is a degenerate age, to accept the teachings of others, to hear and learn things that are not the substance, and to consider this to be enlightenment. Is this not like the prodigal son in the Lotus Sutra?

In the Mahayana sutras even the four grades of sainthood of an arhat are condemned as representing ordinary men of the two vehicles. If this [enlightenment] is such an absurd and uncomplicated thing as people say, why then did the Buddha confine himself in the Himalaya for six years until his skin stuck to his bones and he was so emaciated and exhausted that he looked like a tile made to stand by winding string around it? He was unaware that the reeds had pierced his lap and reached to his elbows; so absorbed was he in his painful introspection that he was not conscious of the lightning striking down horses and cattle before his very eyes. Imagine what a thing it was for the first time he opened up the wisdom of a Buddha!

The Buddha Way from ancient times has been one of vast difficulties. Is it something that should be made easy now? Is it something like radishes, potatoes, or chestnuts that are hard at first but get soft when cooked? If what is easy today is good, then what was difficult in the past must be bad. What was difficult in the past was the painful introspection, and this was a very painful introspection indeed. With the smallest bit of development and progress, suddenly the state of sage, Buddha, or Patriarch was reached. When that place, when this time was transcended and [understanding] touched upon even to the slightest degree, then lightning flashed and the stars leapt in the sky. The surpassing easiness of today is surpassing indeed, yet when you look into it, it is no more than a painting of a wise monk. With the smallest bit of development and progress, you are still as before, like a fish stuck in a trap, like a lame turtle fallen into an earthen jar. This time and that place are not transcended, and, as you press on, you are like a blind ass walking on ice.

Which will it be, the easiness of the present-day practice or the difficulty of that of the past? No matter how much you insist that this is after all a degenerate ago, to speak in such terms is useless. Even the men of old knew that later the teaching of Zen and the true form [of the Lotus] were destined to perish. Let it be known that to seek the Wondrous Mind on soiled paper or to assign the True Law to verbal discussions is indeed a pathetic thing. If everything could be accomplished through the use of written words and talk, then Shen-kuang would not have had to cut off his arm, Hsuan-sha would not have have injured his foot, Hosshin's head would not have swollen, and Hatto would not have shed tears. No matter what other people do, you must determine that "come what may, I will without fail intone the title [of the Lotus Sutra] day and night and see for myself the form of the Lotus." Then, if you intone it faithfully, without having to enter the Himalaya or to bear the suffering of having your head swell, the real essential Lotus of the Wondrous Law of your own nature will open in all its beauty. The essential point is to resolve not to give in while you have yet to see the Wondrous Lotus of your own mind. Then there will be nothing so venerable as this thing to which you have devoted all your hopes. When the Tathagata, the World-honored One, had still to see the Wondrous Law of his one mind, he was no different from any ordinary mortal, endlessly sunk in the rounds of birth an death, and he himself was constantly dying and being reborn. Later in the Himalaya he awoke to the Wondrous Law of his own mind and for the first time achieved True Enlightenment.

The polishing of a tile is to think that as long as one recognizes the non-differentiation of the alaya-consciousness and is not deluded into thinking that this represents the original face, then what is left is a Buddha mind that is like a mirror. People are taught merely that everything is reflected in the mirror just as it is; the crow is black, the crane white, the willow green, and flower red, and they are told to strive constantly to polish [the mirror] so that not a speck of dust can collect. This wiping away of deluded thoughts night and day is the same as polishing a tile or chasing away birds that feed on millet. This is known as seeking for the spirit. It permits no chance for the luminescence to be produced that make clear the mountains, rivers, and the great earth. Practice of this sort was fairly frequent even during the T'ang dynasty. Nan-yueh's polishing of a tile before Ma-tsu's hut was for the purpose of conveying this meaning to Ma-tsu.
Thus Ch'ang-sha has said in a verse:

The failure of the student to understand the truth,
Comes from his prior acceptance of spirits.
The basis of birth and death from endless kalpas in the past;
This the fool thinks of as the original man.

It is for this reason that Patriarchs such as Tz'u-ming, Chen-ching, Hsi-keng, and Ta-hui were indescribably kind in gritting their teeth and attempting to drive out such concepts. There is no point in bringing up the views of all the other Masters on this subject. There is no Buddha or Patriarch in the three periods and ten directions who has not seen into his own nature. This is the eternal, unchanging center of the teaching. To see into your own nature is to see for yourself the True Face of the Lotus. If you do not have this desire, but that that all varieties of things are the Buddhadharma, you will be like a band of children that rushes to board a large boat that has no captain. They do not know where they wish to go nor what the harbor of their destination is. Crying, "Let's row over here." or "Let's row over there," they pull the oars any which way--yesterday they drifted following the tide to the east, today they drift following the tide to the west--and in the end they are hopelessly lost at sea. Then suddenly a captain who knows the way appears in the boat and, setting his compass, takes the rudder and within the day reaches the harbor of his destination.

The captain is the great aspiration to see into one's own nature. The compass is the teaching of the True Law. The rudder is the determination and conduct throughout one's life. How is one to row into the harbor of the Wondrous Law? Ordinary practitioners seek the Buddha, seek the Patriarchs, seek Nirvana, or seek the Pure Land. They are accustomed always to rowing to the outside. Therefore, the more they seek the further away from their goal they are.

The practitioner of the true Wondrous Law is not like this. Purusing the investigation of what sort of thing is his own innate Wondrous Law is, he seeks neither the Buddha nor the Patriarchs. He does not say that the Wondrous Law is inside or that it is outside. No matter where it is, no matter what color it is, he will not let things be until he has finally seen it once. All day long, everywhere, without interruption, strenuously, bravely, he forces his spirit on. Refusing to leave what he has resolved to accomplish unfinished, asleep, awake, while standing, while reclining, he does not cast it aside. Night and day he examines things; at times he goes over things again. Constantly, he proceeds, asking, "What is this thing, what is this thing? Who am I?" This is called the way of "the lion that bites the man." To proceed asking only, "What is the Wondrous Law of the Mind?" is called the way of "a fine dog chasing a clod of dirt." Just under all circumstances cast aside all things, become without thought and without mind and intone: "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law." If you think that this old monk has any Dharma principle better than this to write of, you are terribly mistaken. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, "Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law."

Written by the old monk under the Sala tree.
25th day of the eleventh month of Enkyo 4 [= Dec. 26, 1747]

Although this long, tedious letter may be difficult to read, please show it to others at your hermitage. I have written it in the hope that it will also serve as the almsgiving of the Dharma. I wish that you will without fail see the Ultimate Principle, the Wondrous Law of your own mind. With the wish that you will continue to intone ceaselessly the title: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, "Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law."

Supplement: Kambun text appended to letter

After I had written the draft of this letter I read it over carefully. At that time a monk who had long been a friend of mine was sitting beside me. He read what I had written and when he came to the part about the True Face of the Lotus, he let out a long sigh and said, "Master, are you handing out a yellow leaf to keep the child from crying?"

The color drained from my face and I replied: "What are you talking about? Are you saying that what I have written is only worth a red leaf? This is real gold, not a red leaf. I wrote it to bring out the basic meaning of the Lotus Sutra. By calling it a read leaf aren't you slandering the Sutra? Crimes that slander the True Law are beyond the bounds of repentance. What part of what I have written makes you call it a red leaf?"

The monk bowed his head and answered: "Recently the various students from far and near who live at the temple have embraced a heroic resolution. They blithely sit, forgetting their own emaciated condition, and carry on their practice at the risk of their own bodies. Renting an old house or sneaking into an abandoned shrine, for fifteen years they have found sweet the bitter milk of the Master's poison, and are loath to disperse. But this year a tidal wave has swept over the fields and gardens and rice grains have not formed. The farmers, to support their wives and children, wish in secret that they might move to some other areas. I am deeply distressed and have lost all hope. There will not be a monk's staff left hanging at the Kokurin Monastery. The garden of Zen could not be any more desolate.

"Recently a monk said to me: 'Apart from those common, unstable men who seek fine food and clothing and long for noise and bustle, not one of the superior men who have been studying earnestly for so long a time, seeking understanding and a breakthrough to enlightenment, has left. Their perseverence and excellence is ten times what it was last month. In groups of five or ten they stay, some by the shore, some under the trees, without eating and without sleeping for five or ten days on end. All of them say: "This is like the association for the Buddhadharma held in olden days in evil years of famine."

"'They are as thin as men in mourning for their deceased mothers, as weak as persons afflicted with a dread disease. Their cold and hunger, the suffering that besets them, would cause spirits to shed tears, and demons to join their palms together in respect.

"'Today monasteries everywhere are equipped with lofty temple buildings and sumptuous quarters for the monks. The two wheels turn at the same time and the four offerings are piled up. What sort of mind is it then that does not pay attention to such things? Living in a place where hunger, cold, and poverty abound, all that enters their ears are the evil words and abuse of the Master; all that passes their mouths is chaff of millet and wheat, and there is not one thing that in their hearts they feel is good. Yet these monks are not here because they have no other place to go. They are all superior monks, fully qualified to be in monasteries, but each of them devotes himself assiduously to the search for his own enlightenment, and pays no attention to anything else.' When I hear things like this I am greatly impressed and feel that it is fortunate indeed that this is a time when many people will gain the Buddhadharma.

"You must proclaim the need to take up the forging irons of progress toward enlightenment and look for superior monks who have really studied and gained a true awakening. If you approach people with the secondary meaning and use methods with a different import, you will be doing people a great harm. They will be blocked by the others gates to enlightenment, and in the end you will not be able to produce even the least significant kind of person. Thirty years ago I suffered the painful polishing accorded by my Master, and after undergoing numerous hardships, attained understanding of the innate Buddha-nature, penetrated the True Face of the Lotus, gained the true understanding without the slightest doubt of the mysterious principles of the three thousand worlds in one instant of thought and the innermost meaning of the perfect unity of the three truths. My Master himself acknowledged that I had gained an understanding of the True Face of the Lotus, and I thought in private to myself that as far as I was concerned, everything in the world had been determined.

"When recently I listened to your lectures on the Pi-yen lu, however, it was just as if I were a farmer standing far away down the steps, listening to lectures being delivered by various gentlemen of high rank at the Secretariat. I was like a man with bad vision who strains his eyes to see the scenery of Hsiao-shui, like a deaf man who cocks his ears to hear the music emanating from Tung-t'ing Lake. With this, my strength drained away; the sweat of remorse poured from my armpits, and tears of pain filled by breast. It was as though all the painful practice I had been through had not done the slightest bit of good. In the beginning I thought that the powers I had attained were on the same level as yours. But now I realize that to hold doubts about you is like a sheep pointing at a fine steed and saying: 'This is my father,' or like a lame turtle indicating a heavenly dragon and saying: 'This is my Master.'

"I was depressed and irritated because I felt privately that you were making me the butt of deception. Just now I read what you had written about the True Face of the Lotus, and I was aroused to envy and so said: 'This is a yellow leaf for a crying child.' You can understand my reaction, I hope. The various monks in the temples all lament in the same way, saying that you point to the place to which they have attained by arduous labors, and call it 'the Zen of a corpse in a coffin.'"

I replied: "This is quite true. Ah! Keep going with your practice! Do you see that old pine tree towering above the hills and valleys? Its branches pierce the highest heaven; its roots reach through to the bowels of the earth. Above, the hanging moss reaches for a hundred feet; below, the fungus that grows only after the tree has lived a thousand years clings to the roots. Its strength is that of the flood-dragon that grasps the mists and seeks to rise to the heights of the sky. Below is a pine tree one inch high just putting forth a shoot of needles. One can pluck it out with the fingers, snap it off with the nails.

"If I point to these two trees and ask someone what they are, the answer will invariably be: "They are both pine trees. It all depends on the amount of time that they have been growing." But don't say: 'It's a matter of the passage of time.' If you guard the materials used for making a coffin and end up by living in a demon's home, even if you pile them up to the year X, of what possible use will they ever be?"

Once there were two children of Mr. Chang. The elder brother was named Chang Wu and the younger Chang Lu. One day they bundled up some provisions and set out on a long journey. While on the way they happened to find a bar of gold, and they danced for joy at the discovery. But later their ways parted and some thirty years passed in which each of the brothers did not know whether the other was dead or alive. Lu, wondering about his brother, sought him in all directions, and finally having discovered his borther's whereabouts, journeyed there from afar to pay him a visit. When Lu came finally to his brother's place, he was amazed at its opulence: the water wheels groaned as they turned and carts filled with grain came rumbling past. Oxen and horses filled the stables, flocks of geese crowded the ditches. The sound of bamboo flutes and pipes floated from the house and voices were raised in song. Elegant guests came in and out.

Lu, shaking with fear, was unable to cross the threshhold. Bowing to the ground with terror and trembling, he offered his name card. Two boys handsome in appearance and elegant in bearing came to greet him. Chang Lu followed them in, walking with extreme diffidence. The magnificence of the walls and the beauty of the buildings were such that K'ang I and Shih Nu would have felt at home in them. Chang Lu's spirits faltered and his legs trembled and he did not know where to sit down. After a short while Chang Wu, attended by his concubines and female servants, appeared from beneath an embroidered canopy. The resplendent costuming of the women who attended on his brother astounded Chang Lu; the embroidered damasks overwelmed his eyes. A golden incense burner poured forth the fragrance of a thousand flowers; jade ornaments gave off hundreds of delicate sounds. A crimson embroidered cap adorned Chang Wu's head; from his shoulders a purple gown hung. He seated himself on a luxurious green cushion and leaned his arm on a sandalwood table. He glared with the haughty eyes of a tiger; he held his shoulders arrogantly in the pose of a kite.

Chang Lu took one look and could not help but lower his eyes to the ground. His body seemed to shrink and his tears flowed without cease. We was quite unable to raise his head and look his brother straight in the face.

Deliberately Chang Wu began to speak: "My brother, why were you so long in coming? How is it that you appear in such distressed circumstances?"

Chang Lu, wiping away his tears, asked then timidly: "My brother, to what lord are you indebted? From whom have you received patronage that you are so great and wealthy now?"

Chang Wu answered: "I am not the minister to any man, nor have I received the largess of a patron. I am just someone who a long time ago found some money."

Chang Lu said: "How many boxes of gold did you find? Was it as much as can be piled into a large wagon or loaded onto a giant ship? Was it money that fell from heaven or a treasure buried beneath the earth? Who was the person who forgot about all this wealth?"

"Not at all. It was the money that thirty years ago you and I found together upon the highway," replied his brother.

Chang Lu responded: "How strange! With only one bar of gold you were able to attain all these riches?" Then suddenly Chang Lu became greatly troubled. "Are you perhaps a member of an evil gang, a partner in crime with the thieves Tao Chih and Chuang Ch'iao? If so, I'd better leave in a hurry so that I'll be able to escape the fate that is sure to fall on the nine families of relatives. If I stay here, I'll just be inviting my own death."

Chang Wu laughed heartily: "What happened to the money you picked up thirty years ago? Did you gamble it away? Squander it on wine and women?"

Chang Lu replied: "I see, I see. My disreputable appearance must seem very strange to you. Please ask the others to leave the room. I have something I want to say to you in private." Chang Wu glanced up and then asked all his women to leave. Chang Lu cautiously drew nearer: "Do I look like someone who loses his money gambling or concerns himself with the women of the gay quarters? I am not poor because I lost the money, but rather trying to protect it has worn me out. Didn't you tell me long ago: 'Guard the money well. Don't squander it recklessly'? I am not the one who would go against the instructions of his brother."

As soon as Chang Lu had found the money, he wrapped it in a tenfold cloth and guarded it with the utmost care, as though he were protecting the jewel of Pien Ho or the precious Night-illuminating Jewel. He carried it with him wherever he went. For thirty years he had not relaxed, and had remained sleepless, fearing that he was constantly under the threat of death from thieves and assassins. He dreaded it if people inquired of his health, turned away from all his friends, and avoided association with anyone. He became a man of abject poverty, wearing on his shoulders a disreputable gown, patched in a hundred places, and on his head a tattered cap. People paid him absolutely no attention, never giving him a second thought, and this, in turn, he found a blessing. Fearing that he might exhaust his money, he took no wife, remaining always single. He hid himself in places where he need have nothing to do with other men, seeking out abandoned houses and dilapidated mausoleums to sleep in. He never stayed at an inn and was content with the most miserable of food. He begged beside the gates of people's houses, and if he was forced to stand for an appreciable length of time, he might on occassion sing for his food.

Then saying: "The gold is right here," he looked about several times to make sure that no one else was there to see him, and then he loosened his filthy, torn gown and fishing about in the folds finally drew out a packet wrapped around ten times in cloth. He undid it, and looking all around again, he took out the gold and showed it to his brother. "Where is the money that you picked up?" he asked. "Bring it out and let's see it for old time's sake."

Chang Wu laughingly replied: "Not long after you and I parted some thirty years ago I lost the gold."

Chang Lu paled and stared intently at his brother's face. Reflecting pensively he remarked: "You lost the money while I guarded it. Yet, though you lost it, you have become wealthy, and I who guarded mine am miserably poor." He opened his eyes wide and struck his forehead and gnashed his teeth and gnawed on his lips and could not help feeling deeply depressed. After a while he said: "If it is bad to guard something and starve from poverty and good to discard something and revel in riches, then, even though I am late about it, shouldn't I also throw the gold away? Please tell me how to discard it."

Chang Wu laughed uproariously and said: "The gold that you picked up was worth less than a yellow leaf. Not only did it fail to benefit you, but on the contrary, it impoverished you and did harm to your heart and entrails. Had you wrapped up a red leaf, it would have weighed nothing as you went on your rounds, nor would you have been afflicted by poverty; instead you might have spent your time in a simple cottage, caring for a wife and children, and might have slept comfortably, with your head high on a pillow. What you guarded was the road that led away from these things; what I threw away was the road that led to them.

"After I left you those thirty years ago, I went to Yang-chou. To me my gold was lighter than a yellow leaf, and I bought with it a great amount of salt. As soon as I sold the salt, with the profit I bought silk floss. As soon as I sold the silk floss, with the profit I bought hemp. As soon as I sold the hemp, with the profit I bought grain, fruit, fish, and meat. I sent people throughout the country to gather the treasures of mountain and sea, the beauties of land and water. Bringing all these things together, I opened several large stores with some three hundred employees. People stormed my doors with money in their hands and there was no variety of food that I did not sell. My possessions and wealth became enormous; T'ao Chu-kung's riches were small by comparison, I Tun's possessions would amount to nothing beside mine. My storehouses and granaries stand eave-to-eave in rows. I possess fifteen thousand acres of fertile land. I have purchased several score of mountains clothed with cypress and pine and groves of catalpa and cedar, and have set myself up in the establishment. This is the road I trod by casting away the gold, that I regarded as lightly as one does a red leaf."

Chang Lu stood up, bowed, and said: "Blessings on you, my brother. I hope that you continue in the best of health. Your casting away, while only seeming like casting away, actually turned out to be devoting your efforts to guarding. My guarding, which only seemed to be guarding, was actually devoting my efforts to throwing away. Guarding and throwing away bring different results indeed. One knows for a certainty that when it comes into the hands of a wise man, a yellow leaf is true gold; when it falls into the hands of a stupid person, true gold is only a yellow leaf. Oh, how I regret the thirty years of pain I have caused myself, the energies I have exhausted without a particle of gain!" His voice was choked with painful sobs.

Studying Zen under a teacher is just like this story. What you obtain at first is the nature with which man is innately endowed. It is the true face of the unique One Vehicle of the Lotus. What I have obtained is this very same nature, innate from the outset, this one and only true face of the One Vehicle of the Lotus. This is called seeing into one's own nature. This nature does not change in the slightest degree from the time one first starts in the Way until complete intuitive wisdom is perfected. It is like the metal refined by the Great Metal-maker. Therefore it has been said: "At the time that one first conceives the desire to study Buddhism, enlightenment has already been attained." In the teaching schools this is the first of the ten stages. But even more so, it is also the very last barrier. Who can tell how far in the distance the garden of the Patriarchs lies?

At times one hears people, from the vantage of a one-sided view, say: "The place that I stand facing now is the mysterious, unproduced pre-beginning where the Buddha and the Patriarchs have yet to arise. Here there is absolutely no birth, no death, no Nirvana, no passions, no enlightenment. All the scriptures are but paper fit only to wipe off excrement, the bodhisattvas and the arhats are but corrupted corpses. Studying Zen under a teacher is an empty delusion. The koans are but a film that clouds the eye. Here there is nothing; there there is nothing. I do not seek the Buddhas. I do not seek the Patriarchs. In starvation and sleeplessness what is there lacking?"

Even the Buddhas and the Patriarchs cannot cure an understanding such as this. Every day these people seek a place of peace and quiet; today they end up like dead dogs and tomorrow it will be the same thing. Even if they continue in this way for endless kalpas, they will still be nothing more than dead dogs. Of what possible use are such people! The Tathagata has compared them to scabrous foxes. Anguilimalya has scorned them as having the intelligence of earthworms. Vimalakirti has placed them in the category of those who would scorch buds and cause seeds to rot. Ch'ang-sha has called them people who cannot move from the top of a hundred-foot pole. Lin-chi has described them as being in a deep, dismal, black pit. These are people who do not separate from the so-called device and rank, and thus fall into the sea of poison. Sticking to a one-sided view, and spending their time time polishing and perfecting purity, they end up having spent their whole lives in error. They are like that Chang Lu who, embracing his bar of gold, spent his whole life exhausted and persecuted. Tz'u-ming, Huang-lung, Chen-ching, Hui-t'ang, Hsi-keng, and Ta-hui devoted all their energies to eradicating this attitude, but they could not save people like these.

When I was seven or eight years old my mother took me to a temple for the first time and we listened to a sermon on the hells as described in the Mo-ho chih-kuan. The priest dwelt eloquently on the torments of the Hells of Wailing, Searing Heat, Incessant Suffering, and the Red Lotus. So vivid was the priest's description that it sent shivers down the spines of both monks and laymen and made their hair stand on end in terror. Returning home, I took stock of the deeds of my short life and felt that there was but little hope for me. I did not know which way to turn and I was gooseflesh all over. In secret I took up the chapter on Kannon from the Lotus Sutra and the dharani on Great Compassion and recited them day and night.

One day when I was taking a bath with my mother, she asked that the water be made hotter and had the maid add wood to the fire. Gradually my skin began to prickle with the heat and the iron bath-cauldron began to rumble. Suddenly I recalled the descriptions of the hells that I had heard and I let out a cry of terror that resounded through the neighborhood.

From this time on I determined to myself that I would leave home to become a monk. To this my parents would not consent, yet I went constantly to the temple to recite the sutras and to study the works of Confucianism. At fifteen I left home to become a monk and at that time I vowed to myself: "Even if I should die I will not cease my efforts to gain the power of one whom fire will not burn and water will not drown." Day and night I recited the sutras and obeisance to the Buddhas, but I noticed that when I was ill or taking acupuncture or moxa treatment, the pain I felt was just as it had been before. I was greatly depressed and said to myself: "I became a monk against my parents' wishes and have yet to make the slightest progress. I have heard that the Lotus is the king of all the sutras, venerated even by ghosts and spirits. People who are suffering in the lower worlds, when they rely on others in their efforts to be saved, always ask that the Lotus Sutra be recited for them. When one considers that recitation by others can save a person from suffering, how much more effective must be recitation by oneself! There must indeed be profound and mysterious doctrines in this Sutra."

Thereupon I picked up the Lotus Sutra and in my study of it found that, other than passages that explain that there is only One Vehicle and that all phenomena are in the state of Nirvana, the text was concerned with parables relating to cause and effect. If this Sutra had all these virtues, then surely the six Confucian classics and the books of all the other schools must be equally effective. Why should this particular sutra be so highly esteemed? My hopes were completely dashed. At this time I was sixteen years of age.

When I was nineteen I happened to read the [Wu-chia] cheng-tsung tsan, in which the story of how the Master Yen-t'ou was killed by bandits and how his cries at the time resounded for over three li is described. I wondered why such an enlightened monk was unable to escape the swords of thieves. If such a thing could happen to a man who was like a unicorn or phoenix among monks, a dragon in the sea of Buddhism, how was I to escape the staves of the demons of hell after I died? What use was there in studying Zen? What a fraud Buddhism! How I regretted that I had cast myself into this band of strange and evil men. What was I to do now? So great was my distress that for three days I could not eat and for a long time my faith in Buddhism was completely lost. Statues of the Buddha and the sacred scriptures looked like mud and dirt to me. It seemed much better to read lay works, to amuse myself with poetry and prose, and thus to a small degree to alleviate my distress.

When I was twenty-two I went to the province of Wakasa, and while attending lectures on the Hsu-t'ang lu, I gained an awakening. Later, when I was in the province of Iyo, I read the Fo-tsu san-ching and achieved an intense awakening. I concentrated night and day on the Mu koan without a moment's rest, but to my great disappointment I was unable to achieve a pure and uninvolved state of undistracted meditation. Equally disappointing to me was the fact that I could not achieve the state where waking and sleeping are the same.

The spring of my twenty-fourth year found me in the monk's quarters of the Eigan-ji in Echigo, pursuing my strenuous studies. Night and day I did not sleep; I forgot both to eat and rest. Suddenly a great doubt manifested itself before me. It was as though I were frozen solid in the midst of an ice sheet extending tens of thousands of miles. A purity filled my breast and I could neither go forward nor retreat. To all intents and purposes I was out of my mind and the Mu alone remained. Although I sat in the Lecture Hall and listened to the Master's lecture, it was as though I were hearing a discussion from the distance outside the hall. At times it felt as though I were floating through the air.

This state lasted for several days. Then I chanced to hear the sound of the temple bell and I was suddenly transformed. It was as if a sheet of ice had been smashed or a jade tower had fallen with a crash. Suddenly I returned to my senses. I felt then that I had achieved the status of Yen-t'ou, who through the three periods of time encountered not the slightest loss [although he had been murdered by bandits]. All my former doubts vanished as though ice had melted away. In a loud voice I called: "Wonderful, wonderful. There is no cycle of birth and death through which one must pass. There is no enlightenment one must seek. The seventeen hundred koans handed down from the past have not the slightest value whatsoever." My pride soared up like a majestic mountain, my arrogance surged forward like the tide. Smugly I thought to myself: "In the past two or three hundred years no one could have accomplished such a marvelous breakthrough as this."

Shouldering my glorious enlightenment, I set out at once for Shinano. Calling on Master Shoju, I told of my experience and presented him with a verse. The Master, holding my verse up in his left hand, said to me: "This verse is what you have learned from study. Now show me what your intuition has to say," and he held out his right hand.

I replied: "If there were something intuitive that I could show you, I'd vomit it out," and I made a gagging sound.

The Master said: "How do you understand Chao-chou's Mu?"

I replied: "What sort of place does Mu have that one can attach arms and legs to it?"

The Master twisted my nose with his fingers and said: "Here's someplace to attach arms and legs." I was nonplussed and the Master gave a hearty laugh. "You poor hole-dwelling devil!" he cried. I paid him no attention and he continued: "Do you think somehow that you have sufficient understanding?"

I answered: "What do you think is missing?"

Then the Master began to discuss the koan that tells of Nan-ch'uan's death. I clapped my hands over my ears and started out of the room. The Master called after me, "Hey, monk!" and when I turned to him he added: "You poor hole-dwelling devil!" From then on, almost every time he saw me, the Master called me a "poor hole-dwelling devil."

One evening the Master lay cooling himself on the veranda. Again I brought him a verse I had written. "Delusions and fancies," the Master said. I shouted his words back at him in a loud voice, whereupon the Master seized me and rained twenty or thrity blows with his fists on me, and then pushed me off the veranda.

This was on the fourth day of the fifth month after a long spell of rain. I lay stretched out in the mud as though dead, scarcely breathing and almost unconscious. I could not move; meanwhile the Master sat on the veranda roaring with laughter. After a short while I regained consciousness, got up, and bowed to the Master. My body was bathed in perspiration. The Master called out to me in a loud voice: "You poor hole-dwelling devil!"

After I devoted myself to an intense study of the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan, not pausing to sleep or eat. One day I had an awakening and went to the Master's room to test my understanding, but he would not approve it. All he did was call me a "poor hole-dwelling devil."

I began to think that I had better leave and go somewhere else. One day when I had gone to town to beg for food I encountered a madman who tried to beat me with a broom. Unexpectedly I found that I had penetrated the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan. Then the other koans that had puzzled me, Su-shan's Memorial Tower and Ta-hui's verse on the Roundness of the Lotus Leaf, fell into place of themselves and I penetrated them all. After I returned to the temple I spoke of the understanding I had gained. The Master neither approved nor denied what I said, but only laughed pleasantly. But from this time on he stopped calling me a "poor hole-dwelling devil." Later I experienced enlightenment two or three times, accompanied by a great feeling of joy. At times there were words to express such experiences, but to my regret at other times there are none. It was as though I were walking about in the shadow cast by a lantern. I returned then and attended on my old teacher Nyoka, who had fallen ill.

One day I read in the verse given by Hsi-keng to his disciple Nampo as they were parting, the passage: "As we go to part a tall bamboo stands by the gate; its leaves stir the clear breeze for you in farewell." I was overcome with great joy, as though a dark path had suddenly been illumined. Unconsciously I cried aloud: "Today for the first time I have entered the samadhi of words." I arose and bowed in reverence.

After this I set out on a pilgrimage. One day when I was passing through southern Ise I ran into a downpour and the waters reached to my knees. Suddenly I gained an even deeper understanding of the verse on the Roundness of the Lotus Leaf by Ta-hui. I was unable to contain my joy. I lost all awareness of my body, fell headlong into the waters, and forgot completely to get up again. My bundles and clothing were soaked through. Fortunately a passer-by, seeing my predicament, helped me to get up. I roared with laughter and everyone there thought I was mad. That winter, when I was sitting at night in the monk's hall at Shinoda in Izumi, I gained an elightenment from the sound of snow falling. The next year, while practicing walking meditation at the monk's hall of the Reisho-in in Mino, I suddenly had an enlightenment experience greater than any I had had before, and was overcome by a great surge of joy.

I came to this dilapidated temple when I was thirty-two. One night in a dream my mother came and presented me with a purple robe made of silk. When I lifted it, both sleeves seemed very heavy, and on examining them I found an old mirror, five or six inches in diameter, in each sleeve. The reflection from the mirror in the right sleeve penetrated to my heart and vital organs. My own mind, mountains and rivers, the great earth seemed serene and bottomless. The mirror in the left sleeve, however, gave off no reflection whatsoever. Its surface was like that of a new pan that had yet to be touched by flames. But suddenly I became aware that the luster of the mirror from the left sleeve was innumerable times brighter than the other. After this, when I looked at all things, it was as though I were seeing my own face. For the first time I understood the meaning of the saying, "The Tathagata sees the Buddha-nature within his eye."

Later I happened to read the Pi-yen lu again, and my understanding of it differed completely from what it had been before. One night, some time after, I took up the Lotus Sutra. Suddenly I penetrated to the perfect, true, ultimate meaning of the Lotus. The doubts I had held initially were destroyed and I became aware that the understanding I had obtained up to then was greatly in error. Unconsciously I uttered a great cry and burst into tears.

I wish that eveyone would realize that studying Zen under a teacher is not such a simple matter after all. Although I am old and dissipated, and have nothing of which I can be proud, I am aware that at least I have not spent forty years in vain. Was it not for this reason that Chang Wu, when he was in Yang-chou, let go of his gold and engaged in his painful struggles [toward success]? As in the example I gave you, if you shoulder the one-sided understanding you have gained and spend your whole life vainly polishing and purifying it, how are you any different from Chang Lu, who guarded his piece of gold throughout his life, starving himself and bringing only harm to his body?

In India such a person is called the poor son of a rich man, [a follower] of the Two Vehicles. In China he is poken of as belonging to the group that practices the heretical silent-illumination Zen. None of these knows the dignity of the bodhisattva, nor does he reach the understanding that illuminates the cause for entrance to a Buddha land. Nowadays people go about carrying on their shoulders a single empty principle and with it "understand the Buddha, understand the Patriarchs, understand the old koans." Then they all say: "Like the stick, like the dharani, like the katsu." How laughable this is! Exert yourselves, students, for the Buddha Way is deep and far. Let everyone know that the farther you enter the sea the deeper it becomes and the higher you climb a mountain the taller it gets.

If you wish to test the validity of your own powers, you must first study the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan.

A long time ago San-sheng had the head monk Hsiu go to the Zen Master Tsen of Ch'ang-sha and ask him: "What happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passes away?"

Ch'ang-sha replied: "When Shih-t'ou became a novice monk he was seen by the Sixth Patriarch."

Hsiu replied: "I didn't ask you about when Shih-t'ou became a novice monk; I asked you what happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passed away."

Ch'ang-sha replied: "If I were you I would let Nan-ch'uan worry about it himself."

Hsiu replied: "Even though you had a thousand-foot winter pine, there is no bamboo shoot to rise above its branches."

Ch'ang had nothing to say. Hsiu returned and told the story of his conversation to San-sheng. San-sheng unconsciously stuck out his tongue [in surprise] and said: "He has surpassed Lin-chi by seven paces."

If you are able to understand and make clear these words, then I will acknowledge that you have a certain degree of responsiveness to the teachings. Why is this so? If you speak to yourself while no one is around, you behave as meanly as a rat. What can anyone possibly prove [about your understanding]?

I may have been hitting a dangerous animal in the teeth three times. I join my palms together and say: "Let's leave it at that for today."

Source: The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected Writings.
Translated by Philip B. Yampolsky. Columbia University Press: New York. 1971 edition, pp. 86-123.




Nirvana Is Openly Shown to Our Eyes
The Life of the Zen Master Hakuin


Sugiyama Iwajiro, known to posterity as the Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku, was born on January 19, 1686, in Hara, a small coastal village situated at the foot of Mt. Fuji on the Tokkaido Road between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. Hakuin was born into a time and place where the established religion had lost its life. The Zen of Bodhidharma, of the Sixth Patriarch, and of Rinzai had become the court religion of the samurai. But Hakuin was to fan the dying fire of the true Zen so effectively during the eighty-three years of his life that the Rinzai sect remains a living Dharma to this day, and all modern Masters of the school trace their lineage directly to him.

Endowed with enormous personal energy, Hakuin was a rarity among Masters and a lion among men. He was an accomplished artist and calligrapher and a voluminous author—he left a written legacy that is arguably the most extensive of the Masters of the Ch'an, or Zen, traditions. His caustic tongue and pen were legendary, and his words still breathe fire today. Yet his compassion was equal to his fire, and he was beloved by the common folk of his time and remains a favorite among lay practitioners of Zen.

Hakuin was especially critical of the "silent illumination heretics" and "do-nothings" who filled the monasteries and temples. They were, to use Adi Da's terminology, the "talking school" of Zen, those who took such Enlightened confessions as "Nirvana and samsara are the same", or "Our own mind is Buddha" to mean that no practice was necessary. Let us listen to what Hakuin had to say about the practice he saw around him:

Recently however, even within Zen, priests have appeared who do nothing but sit like lifeless wooden blocks, 'silently illuminating' themselves. And beyond that, what do you suppose they regard as their most urgent business? Well they prattle about 'doing nothing' being the 'man of true nobility' (quotations from Rinzai) and with that, they are content to feed themselves and pass day after day in a state of seated sleep. I have made a verse to pour scorn on this odious race of pseudo-priests:
What's earth's foulest thing, from which all men recoil?
Charcoal that crumbles? Firewood that's wet? Watered lamp oil?
A cartman? A boatman? A second wife? Skunks?
Mosquitoes? Lice? Blue flies? Rats? Thieving monks!
Ahh! Monks! Priests! You are thieving brigands, every one of you. When I say brigand priest, I mean the 'silent illumination Zennists' who now infest the land. 1

Even as a child, Hakuin was passionately concerned with the great matter of birth and death. One day his mother took him to hear the sermons of a priest of the Nichiren sect. Hakuin vividly recalls the occasion:
We heard him describe in graphic detail, the torments of the eight burning hells. He had every knee in the audience quaking. Their livers froze in icy fear. I was only a small child, but I was surely no exception. My whole body shook with mortal terror.
When I went to bed that night, even in the security of my mother's bosom my mind was in a terrible turmoil. I lay awake sobbing miserably all night, my eyes choked with tears. 2

Hakuin fell asleep only when his mother promised to tell him the next day how to deal with this matter. Her recommendation was always to venerate the diety of the Kitano Shrine, a Shinto Temple in Kyoto. Hakuin applied himself assiduously to this practice. His faith in the Kitano diety was shaken, however, on an occasion when he had accidentally shot an arrow through a prized painting in his parents' household. All his prayers to Tenjin, the deity, failed to keep this misdeed from his mother's attention. Then Hakuin added prayers to Kannon (Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion) to his arsenal, as he had heard that this Bodhisattva was the most responsive to human prayers, and the most likely to intervene to save him from hell. Eventually he realized the futility of these attempts to stave off the flames of hell. He described his situation as follows:
All this sutra-recitation doesn't seem to be doing me much good, despite all the time and effort I put into it. I'm even bothered by the heat of moxa-treatment. 3
Shortly after this time, a troupe of puppeteers arrived in the area. Hakuin saw a piece called "The Kettle Hat of Nisshin Shonin", in which the Shogun (the military ruler of Japan) puts a question to the priest Nisshin. He asks, "Do people who practice the Lotus 4 find burning fire hot?" The priest replied in the affirmative, at which point the Shogun put it to the test—a ploughshare was heated in a fire and clamped around under Nisshin's arms, and a red-hot cauldron was put over his head. Nisshin remained unperturbed.
Hakuin was thoroughly impressed. He began to think that if one were such a priest, even the flames of hell could be escaped. He therefore resolved to become a priest, and left home at fourteen. He was ordained by Soduko Fueki, better known as Nyoka Roshi, and served him as an attendant between his fourteenth and eighteenth years.

At the age of eighteen, Hakuin happened to read the biography of Zen Master Ganto Zenkatzu (Chinese, Yen-t'ou Ch'uan-huo, 828-887). Ganto lived during Emperor Wu's persecution of Buddhism in China, during which many monks and nuns were forcibly returned to lay status. Ganto continued his teaching as a layman, living as a ferryman at Lake Tung-ting in Hunan Province. He was murdered by bandits, and it was said that his death cries were so loud that they could be heard for miles around.

The story caused Hakuin great distress. After all, Ganto was the kind of priest, so people said, who appeared only once in five hundred years. If such a one could meet such a fate while alive, how could he hope to avoid hellfire after death. Hakuin was thrown into a torment. He described it thus:

For a full three days I lay tossing restlessly on my bedding, tormented by these thoughts. I began to waste away, slowly starving there in the monks' quarters. Not so much as a rice-grain would pass my craving throat. It lasted five unbearable days, and through it all, I could not for the life of me drive those burning hell-fires from my mind. 5
Hakuin decided to abandon the Buddhist life, resigning himself to hell, and began to study literature and calligraphy. He continued in these endeavors for some years, when all at once, sitting alone by himself, it suddenly dawned on him that even should his works exceed those of the greatest poets, death still awaited him. He was once again plunged into profound despair. He remained in this state for some time, until, one day, he suddenly noticed an old collection of books at the far end of a porch on which he was sitting. At the sight of the books he was inexplicably filled with great joy. He made a prayer to the Buddhas, imploring them to show him (by means of the books) the way out of his misery, if indeed there was such a way. He approached the bookshelf, closed his eyes and chose a book at random. The book he chose was the Zekan Sakushin ("Spurring Students to Break Through the Zen Barrier"), and he opened it to a passage which was to change his life, a description of the difficult sadhana of Zen Master Jimyo:
The freezing weather had frightened away all other practitioners. But Jimyo's aspiration was set firmly on the practice of the Way. He did zazen continuously. As he sat through the long nights, whenever he felt sleepy, he would jab himself in the thigh with a gimlet. Afterwards he succeeded Fun 'yo. His vigorous spirit enlivened the Zen world of his time. He became known as "the lion west of the river." 6
Now Hakuin resolved to resume the Buddhist life and to practice with the same profound intention as Master Jimyo.
During the next few years, however, Hakuin remained preoccupied with the issue of the murdered priest Ganto's vulnerability. He went searching for a Teacher. At a certain point, disappointed after a long trek with yet another teacher who proved not to be a true Master, he locked himself in a small shrine-room, vowing to fast for a week and resolve the matter for himself. Then, suddenly, at midnight, a distant bell chimed, and, as Hakuin put it, "my mind and body dropped completely away. I transcended even the finest dust." Hakuin saw that he himself was Ganto, untouched by any conditional transformation, and cried out, "Old Ganto is alive and well!"

This realization filled Hakuin with great pride—such an insight, he thought, had been had by none for perhaps hundreds of years. To his mind, "All the people I saw seemed like so much dirt." He traveled from Teacher to Teacher, hoping for instant certification as a Zen Master. The Teachers, however, unanimously told him that he was far from fully Realized. Somewhat humbled, he came to Dokyo Etan, or Shoju Rojin, the "old man of Shaju". Shoju was a harsh Master and gave no quarter in his treatment of Hakuin. Hakuin describes a typical sanzen (formal interview) with the Master:

I related my understanding to the Master one day during dokusan [another name for sanzen]. He said to me, "Commitnent to the study of Zen has to be a true commitment. What about the dog and the Buddha-nature [a famous Zen koan]?"
"There's no way at all for hand or foot to touch it," I replied.

He suddenly reached out, grabbed my nose in his hand, and gave it a sharp push. "How's that for a firm touch!" he declared. I was incapable of moving forward. I couldn't retreat. I couldn't spit out a single syllable.

After that, I was totally disheartened and frustrated. I sat red-eyed and miserable. My cheeks burned from the constant tears. 7

Hakuin had been brought up against his superficial approach to truth. Hakuin continues,
[ I ] resumed my practice. I didn't stop for sleep. The Master came and shouted abuse at me. I was doing "Zen-down-a-hole," he said. Then he told me, 'You could go out and scour the whole world for a teacher who could raise up the fortunes of 'closed-door' Zen [i.e., Shoju's peerless Zen, open only to serious aspirants], but you'll never find one. You'd as soon see the morning star at noon." 8
Continually confronted and abused, Hakuin began to doubt his Teacher.
I reasoned, "there are great monasteries all over the place. Celebrated Masters reside in them - they're numerous as sesame or flax. That old man in his wretched ramshackle old poorhouse of a temple - and that preposterous pride of his! I'd be better off leaving here for some other temple."
Still deeply dejected, I took up my begging bowl early the next morning and went into the village below Iayama Castle. My mind was hard at work on my koans. It never left them. I stood before the gate of a house, my bowl in hand, lost in a kind of trance.

A voice within yelled, "Go on! Go somewhere else!" But I was so preoccupied I didn't even notice it. This must have angered the resident of the house, because she suddenly appeared, flourishing a broom upside down in her hand. She flew at me flailing out wildly, whacking away at my head as if she was bent on dashing my brains out. My sedge hat lay in tatters. I was knocked down and ended heels up on the ground. I lost consciousness and lay there like a dead man.

As I regained consciousness, my eyes opened, and as they did, I found that the unsolvable and impenetrable koans I had been working on —all those pointed cat's paws—were completely penetrated. Right to the root. They had suddenly ceased to exist. I clapped my hands and laughed great shouts of laughter, frightening the people who had gathered around me.

"He's lost his mind." "A crazy monk," they shouted, and shrank back from me. They turned and and ran off without looking back. 9

Hakuin returned to the hermitage, full of joy. The Master was standing on the porch; he took one look at Hakuin and said, "I see that something good has happened to you. Try to tell me about it." Hakuin related the story to him, at which point the old Master took his fan, stroked Hakuin's back and said:
"I hope you live to be my age. Firmly resolve not to be satisfied with little, and devote your efforts now to after-satori practice. Those who content themsves with small attainment never advance beyond the stage of the shravakas. 10 . . . If after your satori, your practice is devoted singlemindedly to the extracting and disposing of the poison teeth and talons of the Cave of Dharma . . . then you will be a true and legitimate descendant of the Buddha-patriarchs.'' 11
Some time after this, Hakuin received news that Nyoka Roshi, the priest whom he had served as an attendant in his teenage years, was bedridden with a serious illness. So after only eight months, he took his leave of Shoju, and returned home to take care of his old teacher. Hakuin was never to see Shoju again. He had visited teachers before, and would visit others later, but Shoju was the Master of his heart, and he would never cease to be grateful to him in later life. Consider Hakuin's poignant description of his departure from Shoju Fojin - no doubt is possible about Hakuin's heart-relationship with Shoju. He writes these words fifty years later, and yet the tears have scarcely dried on his cheeks:
They walked along with us for a couple of leagues, until we reached the foothills of the high mountains. At that point, the mountain path rose steep and rugged, making it impossiblefor the old roshi to continue any farther.
After words of encouragement had been exchanged, and we were about to part, the Master took my hand in his. He said to me, with fatherly familiarity, "If you continue your practice and go on to produce men like yourself, you will repay in full measure your profound debt to the Buddhas and Patriarchs. . . . Throw aside all connections with the world's dust, however slight. Vow never to give them the least concern. If you have a chance, come back and visit my small hermitage and bring your questions with you."

He had already finished speaking and was gone. But I was still bowed down in reverence, my forehead pressed to the earth.

As I began to ascend the winding mountain path that took me farther and farther away from him, my eyes were filled with tears. 12

Two years after he left Shoju, Hakuin suffered from a serious "Zen sickness", a collapse brought on by his strenuous practice. He consulted physicians without avail, and finally visited the hermit Hakuyushi, who instructed him in Taoist conductivity practices which restored his health. Because of this experience, Hakuin was particularly solicitous of the health of his monks and wrote extensively and explicitly about the importance of maintaining the vital center, as, for example, in the following passage:
The vital breath must always be made to fill the space between the navel and the loins .... This area should be pendulous and well rounded, somewhat like a new ball that has yet to be used. If a person is able to acquire this kind of breath concentration, he can sit in meditation all day long without it ever tiring him .... On the hottest day of summer, he will never perspire.... On the snowiest night of deepest winter he need not wear socks. 13
Hakuin ascribed his own enormous vitality to this practice, and frequently refers to Hakuyushi in his writings and lectures. He writes later in life:
Even though 1 am past seventy now, my vitality is ten times as great as when I was thirty or forty.... I find no difficulty in refraining from sleep for two, three, even seven days, without suffering any decline in my mental powers .... I am quite convinced that all this is due to the power gained from practicing this method of introspection. 14
Hakuin always made it clear that he was not advocating the practice of cultivating health for its own sake. He puts his case humorously, but also seriously, to a sick monk in his prescription of a "soft butter pill that removes all ills". The recipe is as follows:
One part of "the real aspect of things," one part each of "the self and all things" and "the reilization that these are false," three parts of "the immediate realization of nirvana," two parts of "without desires," two or three parts of "the non-duality of activity and quietude," one and a half parts of sponge-gourd skin and one part of "the discarding of all delusion ". Steep these ingredients in the juice of patience for one night, dry in the shade and then mash. Season with a dash of prajna-paramita, 15 then shape everything into a ball the size of a duck's egg and set it securely on your head. 16
Hakuin was twenty-four years old when he visited Hakuyushi. He continued to travel to various Teachers to test and refine his understanding before settling at Shoin-ji in his native Hara in 1718. From that point on his fame began to spread; he attracted monks and lay disciples from far and wide. He wrote and Taught with ceaseless energy for the next fifty years.
Hakuin's Teaching style was fierce and unpredictable. He says one thing here, and contradicts it there. He never ceased to rail against the half-hearted Buddhism of his day and to exhort his monks to greater and greater efforts. His most famous characterization of his own Work appears as a colophon on several of his self-portraits:

In the realm of the thousand buddhas
He is hated by the thousand buddhas;
Among the crowd of demons
He is detested by the crowd of demons.
He crushes the silent-illumination heretics of today,
And massacres the heterodox blind monks of this generation.
This filthy blind old shavepate
Adds more foulness still to foulness.

Hakuin demanded three things from his monks: great faith in the Teaching, a great "ball of doubt", that is, energetic application to the koan, and finally, great tenacity of purpose. As he said, "a man who lacks any of these is like a three-legged kettle with a broken leg. Of tenacity he has this to say:

At any rate, there is no worse thing than for the practitioner to treasure his body, give it value and pay it favor.... Even if surrounded by snakes and water spirits, a man, once he has determined to do something, must resolve to leave unfinished what he has started. No matter how cold or hungry he may be, he must bear it; no matter how much wind or rain may come, he must withstand it. Even if he must enter into the heart of fire or plunge to the bottom of icy water, he must open the eye that the Buddhas and Patriarchs have achieved, penetrate the essential meaning of the teaching and see through to the ultimate principle.17
On January 18, 1769, Ekaku Hakuin Zenji went to sleep and abandoned the body at the age of eighty-three. He is said to have left over ninety Enlightened heirs. A moribund tradition breathed life once again because of his ceaseless toil.

* * *

Hakuin urged all his students to find out the truth of Zen for themselves and not to rest content with the descriptions of others. In this ecstatic passage he speaks to a practitioner on the true meaning of the Lotus Sutra:

If you try to hold to the Lotus Sutra without seeing once the true Lotus, you will be like a man who holds a bowl of water in his hands and night and day tries to keep from spilling it or letting it move, but still expects to gain sustenance from it. The person who once sees the True Lotus is like the man who pours the bowl of water into all rivers and lakes. Spontaneously he leaps into the great sea of Nirvana of the various Buddhas, harmonizes deeply with the true Dharma Body and the precepts, meditation, and wisdom of the many Buddhas, at once shatters the dark cave of the alaya-consciousness, and releases the Illumination of the Great Perfect Mirror.... Rather than read all the works in the Tripitaka, 18 see the True Lotus once. Rather than make a million statues of the Buddha, see the True Lotus once. Rather than master the mysteries of the three worlds, see the True Lotus once.... Rather than recite the Lotus Sutra a billion times, see the True Lotus once with your own Dharma eye. This is truly a lofty statement of complete truth and indestructibility. 19


1. Itsumadegusa [ Wild Ivy ] ,The Spiritual Autobiography of Hokuin Ekaku,
translated by Norman Waddell, Kyoto, Japan: Pub. in
The Eastern Buddhist (Jounal of the Eastern Buddhist Society), vol. XV, no. 2 (Autumn 1982).
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid. (Moxa-treatment is an oriental healing practice in which a special herb is burned over acupressure points in the body.)
4. Adherents of the Nichiren sect practice recitation of the Lotus Sutra, one of the principal Mahayana sutras.
5.The Eastern Buddhist, XV, 2.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. A "shravaka" is a spiritual practice or one who is satisfied with less than full Realization
11. The Eastern Buddhist, XV, 2.
12. Ibid.
13. The Zen Master Hakuin, Selected Writings, Philip B. Yampolsky,
(New York, Columbia University Press,1971), p.30.
14. Ibid., p. 32.
15. Prajna-paramita, or "The Perfection of Wisdom", is the name of a group of Mahayana Buddhist writings.
16. The Zen Master Hakuin, pp. 84-85.
17. Ibid., p. 82.
18. The "triple basket", or complete Buddhist canon.
19. Ibid., pp. 93-94.

from Crazy Wisdom,
Vol. 7, No. 4 & 5 (double issue),
July-October 1988


Hakuin Zenji's Dokugo Shingyo:
Acid Comments on the Heart Sutra


The format and style of this work is that of a Zen koan collection, for example
Mumonkan, with the phrases of the Heart Sutra, in order, in the place of separate
koans. Several of the phrases Hakuin uses in his commentaries and verses can be
found in my translation, Book of the Zen Grove, 2nd edition, and more in the
forthcoming Zen Grove Handbook, of which it is a partial translation.

Norman Waddell's pioneering translation, "Zen Master Hakuin's Poison Words
for the Heart (Dokugo Shingyo),"The Eastern Buddhist, New Series: Vol. XIII,
No. 2, (Autumn, 1980), p. 73-114, includes footnotes of the tales, legends
and historical anecdotes that Hakuin alludes to in this work.

Copyright 8 1995
The Jacksonville Zen Sangha, Inc.



A dark cave thick with a maze of vines and creepers with a blind old geezer in it. Stark
naked, he comes back after all and sits in the weeds. Poor Master Fu, it's a pity he's lost
his endless lofty palaces! And don't say these words are cold and colorless, that they have
no nourishing taste. One bellyful eliminates hunger for all time.

Casting a thorny thicket of vines and creepers reaching to heaven,
He trips and binds the sangha of the seven seas and myriad lakes.
I hope you will recognize and find your innate Way,
And enjoy yourself with falconry inside a lotus thread tube.


The Chinese translation for this is "great". But what is it! There's nothing in the four
quarters, above and below, you can compare it to. Many wrongly take it to mean just
"vast and wide". The wise love wealth too—to get it in the right Way. Bring me a small

Ten million Mount Sumerus in a dewdrop on a hair-tip;
The billions of space-time worlds in a fleck of foam on the sea;
A pair of young lads in the eyes of a midge
Romp all over India, vying without a break.


The Chinese translation for this is "wisdom". But all, without exception, have it to
perfection. Will there ever be an end to this fellow's playing with mud pies? You'll never
get any rest until your fingers let go of the edge of the cliff. Why? Don't trim your nails by
lamplight. You might get an inchworm to measure lengths, but don't use a snail to try to
plow a rocky field.

Ears as if deaf, eyes as if blind.
In the empty sky in the dead of night, the whole body is lost.
Even Shariputra's own eyes don't follow [his] orders.
Thus the clubfooted one on the waves crossed at the wrong ford.


The Chinese translation for this is "reach the other shore". But where is that! He's digging
himself into a hole to get at the blue sky. The shrimp jumps about, but can't escape the
measure. The place where the Treasure is lies near at hand—take one more step!
Gensha is in his boat, the water dripping from his line. Even the clearest-eyed monk is
secretly troubled.

On the great earth, who is one of "this shore"?
How sad to mistakenly stand on a wave-lashed quay!
Practice pursued with the roots to life still uncut
Is passing through useless suffering and bitterness for however long.


For untold ages this didn't have a name. Then they blundered and gave it one. A speck of
gold in the eye shadows vision; robes and beads are dust on the Dharma. What is THIS!
Most people only think they have the real thing, like the fellow who confused a saddle-
remnant for his father's jawbone. Those who study the Way are unaware of its
reality—simply because from of old they have accepted all [their] discriminations as [their]
gods. Of beginningless ages of birth-and-death the root: Fools take this for the
fundamental, essential Self.

It's clearly ungettable within the Three Realms—
Empty sky swept clean away. Not a particle left.
On the zazen seat, in the dead of night, cold as steel;
Moonlight through a window, bright with shadows of plum!


"Thus have I heard. At one time Buddha stayed…" Faugh! Who wants to roll that open!
So many people rummage through piles of paper trash looking for "red and yellow scripture-
scrolls". It's just another clove plucked off the lily bulb.

This is one sutra they didn't compile
Inside their cave at Pippali.
Kumarajiva had no words to translate it;
Ananda Himself couldn't get wind of it.
The north wind in window paper rents;
Southering geese in snowy reeds on mudflats;
The mountain moon, wretched as if poor;
Cold clouds, freezing, about to break up.

Thousands of Buddhas, even though they appear in the world,
Don't add or take away one thing.


Why, it's the Bodhisattva of Potala Cliff! He's the Great Fellow supplied one to each of us.
Nowhere on earth can you find a single unfree man! Coughing, spitting, moving your
arms—you don't need others to help you. Who's clapped chains on you? Who's holding
you back? Stretch your left hand up and you scratch what can't be other than exactly
Buddha's head. Bend down your right hand and you feel a dog's head; on what day will
escaping this be possible for you?

Fingers clasp and feet walk on without the help of others,
While thoughts and emotions pile up great stocks of Wrong;
But cast out all pros and cons and all likes and dislikes,
And I'll call you Kanzeon in the flesh!


To show his difference from the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, and to set him apart from
full-fledged Buddhas as well, he is given the [provisional] name of Bodhisattva. On the way
without leaving home; having left home, not on the way. I'll snatch from you the practice of
the Four Universal Vows—that's the very thing that will make you sages, able on the Eightfold

Flying the formless nest of the self that's Empty,
Adrift, sinking in karmic seas, in the great life-and-death Ocean—
Hail, Great Compassionate One, Emancipator from Suffering,
In hundreds of millions of bodies, limitless, shoreless!


What's it saying?! That he makes living his business? Nights sleeping, days on the move.
Pissing and taking shits. Moving clouds and flowing water. Falling leaves, flying flowers [:
snow]. But to hesitate and deliberate is the triple path of Hell.

Though it's like that all right, if you haven't seen a plain-water current flowing into a
mud puddle penetratingly for yourself even one single time, great will be your
busyness of living!

What is hands grasping, feet carrying?
How about hunger eating, thirst drinking?
If any of these betrays the slightest characteristic,
It's a repeat of giving Chaos eyes by gouging.


Yikes! Gouge out flesh, make a wound. How strange! How can so-called prajna cause
things if it is shallow and deep? Do you take it as like river water in this? Try to say. How
about there being shallow and deep prajna? I'm afraid it's [just like] the acknowledging of the
Chu fowl long ago.

Crushing Form seeking Emptiness—this is called shallow;
Seeing Emptiness in the fullness of Form—this is called deep.
If you talk of prajna holding fast to Form and Emptiness,
You're in a glass jug, a lame tortoise chasing a flying bird.


He's done it again! Scraping out another piece of perfectly good flesh. Before all the infinite
kalpas in the past and beyond all those to come, the Feather-edged Blade gleams coldly in its
scabbard-case with a wonderful vibrant radiance. A luminous gem brought forth on its setting
in the black of night.

Yesterday morning I swept out the soot of the old year;
Tonight I pound rice for the New Year goodies;
There's a pine tree with roots, and oranges with green leaves—
I put on a fresh new robe to await the coming guests.


The invincible Diamond Eye is free of even the finest dusts. But don't go blinking it open over
a bed of flying lime-dust! Where does this "seeing" take place? The entire earth is the eyeball
of a Buddhist monk. It's just as Gensha said.

A midge works a mill in the eye of a mite;
A germ spins a web inside a nit's ear;
Tushita heaven, the world of man, the floors of hell,
Stark clear as a mango on the palm of the hand.


The marvelous tortoise drags its tail. How to avoid these traces? Forms are like the Iron
Surrounding Mountains, sense and thought like the Diamond Sword, urge and known like
the Wish-fulfilling Gem. You only know the journey you're on is long, not conscious also of
the yellow dusk.

Acknowledging others' form, sense, thought, urge and known;
Hanging to them to make yourself beautiful, ashamed of yourself;
Like unto floating bubbles retained on the water's surface
Or else like flashing lightning that cracks the vast empty sky.


In a guest's cup a bow's shadow was once mis-taken for a snake. In the dream, very clearly,
the Three Worlds are there. Come awake, utterly empty, and the Billions of Worlds aren't!

From behind an ogre pushes the flat and in front an ogre opposes.
Both lay it on with such effort their whole bodies sweat.
From evening they vie, resist till the dawn spreads across heaven:
Stifling laughter, recognizing themselves as ones who care greatly for each other.


Faugh! He's an arhat with insignificant fruition. What good qualities does he have in whose
presence the Buddhas and patriarchs have to beg for their lives? Where [in what situations]
does he conceal, or reveal and manifest, them? In Vimalakirti's sick room he was unable to
transform a woman's body. Is he forgetting—or rejecting—being seven parts overbearing and
eight parts upset?

[His] Wisdom was the best branch of Jeta's grove.
He alarmed Long Nails into a hurry while carried in the womb.
He went himself to the Great One, leaving us this text.
He was Rahula's religious teacher, the Mynah Woman's son.


A pot of soup we love gets polluted with a couple of rat droppings and we reject it. Excellent
food is not fit for someone that's satiated to eat. Sweeping aside waves seeking water, the
waves being water!

Form doesn't mask emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form;
Emptiness doesn't break up form, form embodies emptiness.
Form and emptiness are nondual within the gates of Dharma,
Where a lame turtle
brushing his eyebrows
stands in the evening breeze.


How do you furnish a house that's going to be vacant? There's no teaching apes how to climb
trees. And these goods haven't moved for two thousand years. Gensha in his boat, water
dripping from his line.

Yellow the orioles,
The breeze lightly
Emulating drumming to their lute.
Reddish the peachtrees,
The sun's warmth
Thinning their cage of haze.

With moth eyebrows
And cicada foreheads,
A group of women

Each carrying
A flowering branch
On a polychrome-damask shoulder.


This is lying down amid the undergrowth. See something strange without estrangement and it
disintegrates. A snow Buddha: the sun comes out, and then—it's just disgraceful! I, amid them,
don't see such things as strange and supernatural.

Earth, air, fire and water are the tracks of flying birds;
Form, sense, thought and urge flowers in your eyes.
The stone woman                                       The clay ox
Throws the shuttle                                     Kicks into the waves
-Taut-                                                           -Swelling-
Lean-armed                                                Glare-of-scorn, fanged.


Rub your eyes hard and flowers bloom in them. There never was each thing. Why seek void
views? As well ease nature onto a pure place.

The mountains and rivers, the great earth
Care sea-serpent towers bubbling up;
Earth's hells and heaven's halls
Ca sea market.

The Pure Land and this impure world
Care a turtle-hair brush,
Birth-and-death and Nirvana
Ca hare-horn cane.


Can fresh fruit be balefully struck dead like this? What's the trick with "All things are unborn,
ungone."? If they're not deceived, people are OK. Hand and elbow [: the arm] outward-bending.

The kids in your eyes—come out to meet guests;
The Valley Spirit never dies—waiting on anyone's call.
The thronging-life world transgresses—unpolluted with evil;
Every Buddha-land contains—no pure views at all.
With 84,000 Dharma-gates as your lot in life—do you lack anything?
Containing billions of Buddha-lands—as if next to insubstantial.
On the Handan pillow—new honors and position
And, entering Nanko—receiving land-taxes and rents.


Foxes' dens, demons' caves—how many of you disciples are beguiled and fall into them? The
heavy, oppressive black darkness of a deep pit. This certainly can bring fear and trembling.

Cold and hunger are a pair of phoenixes for these hundred-odd monks.
Each spreads his winter-solstice fan to offer greetings to the new sun
On the wall-hanging, the blue-eyed, red-bearded venerable.
A vase of ice, and, like fine flesh on bone, fragrant and beautiful... .
Cold locks the lute's lips and the golden oriole's tongue.
Warmth, fleeting on the straw-mat zazen platform, is the red unicorn's birthing.
In woven floss-grass wrappers, presents: wild yams.
Carefully packaged rings, donated for[this old one: sugar candy.


"Dreams, fantasies, flowers in the air—why take the trouble to grasp them? You must let go of
gain-and-loss and right [that's it!]-and-wrong[!] and pass them by." It's a matter of repeating the
same order over and over. What's the point of using "void" without quitting the subject?

A vast and wide, empty and frozen,
silent and desolate plain.
Mountains and rivers and the great earth
are just names.
Open [analyze] the mind into four [sense, thought, urge, known]
and close [combine] forms into one.
Mind and form always have been
an empty ravine'echoes.


Here are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, frame and mind! Here are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch
and thoughts!

Autumn's clear sky
On the vast plain—
No travelers at all

On a horse
Coming East
You know—it's—who?

From the six sensings are produced the six fields ["senseds"] afloat.
The mind-sensor taking a break gives rise to the six dusts [sensings]
taking a break.
The roots [sensors], fields [senseds] and discriminations [sensings]
make eighteen realms
-just like the iron-gray-blue deep producing a bubble.


A purple gauze curtain—in it, scattered pearls; a torn cloth bag—in it, a pearl. Tell it correctly,
know it is the mani-gem.
The cow drinks water that becomes milk;
The snake drinks water that becomes venom.
The Five-fold clouds constantly pressed for—people never reach; the still, desolate [former]
Ascetic's house of twelve storeys.

Twelve Conditions produce twelve Quenchings;
Producings are called common people and quenchings sages.
These connections the Pratyeka-Buddha who contemplates
[these] conditions,
Floating and flying in emptiness, dust in the eyes,
Able to respect the all-embracing, instantaneous great Wheel of the Law
-And, in the Wheel of the Law's shadow, relates to, offers and selects
A transgressing, scabby, itching jackal body.


At daybreak beyond the bamboo blind, jewels! The fool meets them with sword raised. In water,
the salt taste; in colorful beauty, the size—drab, neutral color of nature. White the egrets settling in a
field: a thousand flakes of snow; yellow the orioles perched on a tree: a single branch of flowers.

Solid-red, the four iron Kunlun Mountains,
At midnight they put on straw sandals and run away beyond the clouds;
The Truth of Cause, the Truth of Pain, The Truths of the Way and End
Neither end nor are born—nor are all-embracing or instantaneous.
Kaundinya, Bhadrika and Kulika
Didn't get it themselves—it nevertheless illuminated their face-gates.
Don't think Deer Park was rattling shrimps and clams;
The Golden Hermit was quietly anticipating the Mahayana roots.


Even doing housekeeping in the house [tomb] of this dead spirit! Those who misunderstand these
words are very many. Gazing fixedly inside the coffin. What's clearly evident is Prince-Chang-on-
paper. Call with the loudest voice you can muster—and he won't respond.

In blackness a fire, clear as in a cave, the blackness darkly lit.
Boundless heaven and earth change
their [respective] profound [night] and yellow colors
Mountains and rivers are not there to mirror with contemplation.
Hundreds of millions of worlds have to be deprived [of them],


Drop this "manifesting as" stuff!—clutching the loot, calling [on others] to bow down. Accord with
conditions, [and you are] going to and serving delusions. There will be none that are not always all
around you. And yet [you'll] constantly abide in the bodhi seat. If you don't get clear about 3, 8,
9 you'll face [your] states with a lot to think about.

Bodhisattva, Mahasattva!—who—
Hastily, rudely called everyone, of great determination!—
Enters the three hellish destinies, suffering for us all,
Roams playfully in all directions, not waiting to be invited,
Having decided never to accept the small fruit of partial truths,
Goes beyond seeking enlightenment to transform
having circumstances and feelings,
In vain upright and indulgent, dissolving, perishing, self-exhausting,
Eternally urging on the wheel of his vow for the benefit of us all.


Oppressive suffering, wincing pain! If you see a single thing you can trust and rely on, suddenly the
situation [you're in] has to spit it out—disclose and reject it. Yuzhou I can probably take; most
distressing is Jiangnan.

Talk about arhats having greed [for "headway"] and anger if you like;
By no means say bodhisattvas trust prajna.
If you see a single thing there to trust to—
Wrongly "unblocked," immediately you're attached and bound.
The essences of the bodhisattva and of prajna are indistinguishable
CLike pearls darting on a [playing] board, lightly, randomly, falling off.
Neither simple nor wise nor sage-or-commoner,
Just hating, having painted a snake, to add on a pair of legs.


That's nothing special. Supernatural penetrative power and marvelous activity—drawing water and
carrying firewood. Raising my head, the evening glow is there; where I'm from is its dwelling place in
the West.

Neither the mind to nor [true] nature [for] nor nirvana;
Neither Buddha, nor patriarchs nor prajna:
The ten [Dharma] worlds a holeless searing iron hammer:
Emptiness knocked to pieces: constant, vast, boundless.
Just by opening his mouth, the lion gets frowns and groans
Of foxes, rabbits and raccoon dogs, thoroughly alarmed, overawed.
Adapting to beings, manifesting himself like a master magician,
Going with the chances, turning with change without making
Seeing her about Mother Li's afflicted left shoulder,
Repeatedly he burns moxa on Granny Zhang's healthy right leg.
Upside-down vain hopes, fear, dread and gloom
Seem like a single drop thrown into the great ocean.
When ChX was dispatched to Qi, he wore fine light furs;
When Li passed away, he had a coffin but no outer coffin.
Shouting rouses the monk napping in his hut,
Telling him country boys broke through the bamboo fence
to steal bamboo joint sheaths.


Betraying people, entrapping youth, year after year, self-sufficient. Even doing housekeeping in the
house [tomb] of this dead spirit! To fill what stinking skin and socks? The upright people of our
family are not like that. With us, the father covers for the son, the son for the father.

All thronging lives' life-and-death mentality
Is directly connected to each and every Buddha's Great Nirvana.
A wooden hen
Incubating[/interring!] an egg
standing on a coffin of wood;
A ceramic horse
Chasing after the wind
Back to where it's from: a [trinket-]string.


Oppressing the well-bred for the sake of the low and mean. Generally, their flesh and bones [bodies]
are good enough without painting them with rouge: they naturally carry themselves well... Boiling
water with no cold place.

Prajna brings forth each Buddha, past, present and future.
All Buddhas, always, live prajna.
Acting as master and attendant inexhaustibly ... OMCSULU!
Ancient nests enduring the gale to the cries of cranes coming to roost.


You can't drive a spike into empty space. Even though calves get the ability to give birth to offspring,
still no Buddha will rely on prajna to get insight. And why? Because prajna and insight are in essence
not two. And, even more, if a Buddha had a single thing he could get, he'd immediately be no
Tathagata. It's just like a great mass of fire—in the immediate vicinity of which Buddhas and
patriarchs also immediately lose their bodies and their lives.

It would be vain for an otter to use a tree to catch fish in;
Buddhas don't rely on anything to get insight.
To say a Tathagata has a single thing to get
Is like saying every arhat had a wife.


Carrying water to the river's source to sell. What a stack of lacquer ware!—by no means dream such
up. Characters in sutras—three times they write "write" and "right" becomes "night" becomes "might".
And this is a bit of showing off [the wares]. A night thief doesn't tread on white spots; never water,
usually they're stones.

What's worthy of respect is the "Self-Nature" great precious mantra—
That turns the hot iron ball into finest ghee.
The realms of Hell, Jambudvipa and Heaven:
A single flower of snow fallen on a red-hot stove.


It's pointless to say "great lucid mantra"—break off the unhewn staff you found in the mountains for
support. From the beginning the great earth's darkness has been deep and vast. The heavens and the
ground lose their appearances. Sun and moon swallow their bright shinings. A black lacquer pail full of
black liquid.

We've already got the great lucid mantra to perfection—
That peacefully, silently, lights up all the mountains and rivers.
Asea in imponderable barriers, transgressions of past kalpas—
Froth floating on the water, flowers in the eyes.


How about under your heels? It's the very lowest, the bottommost mantra for me!

Though falling leaves
Are as sympathetic as
The feeling of sprinkling rain

The yellow timothy-grass
CHow like the intimacy
Of evening clouds!

The most supreme, most honored, most number-one—
Sakya and Maitreya are as if slaves to it.
This is what everyone is equipped with from the beginning,
But we need to regenerate our cut-off posterity among people.


Talk makes pairs of poles [dichotomizes]. Where could that single pole [the mantra] manifest itself?
Who says it has no equal that it's paired with, above, below or in the four quarters? Seven flowers split
into eight.

Tokuun, the mild old gimlet!
-Countless times he's gone all the way down from Wonder Peak's

Getting other idiot sages
To help carry snow and fill up the well together.

In past years, winter cold has afflicted the plum;
Getting rain for once, it blooms!
Scattered shadows—as the moon shifts they move the other way;
A dark fragrance—the breeze comes with it.
The tree that was buried in snow yesterday—
Its branches again bear flowers now.
Suffering the distress of winter cold—how much?
How precious—this paragon of all the plant kingdom.


Pulling a lily bulb apart seeking the center. Whittling a square bamboo staff perfectly round. Stretching
skin over a soft purple felt wrapper. Nine nines always have been eighty-one. When the one nine and
the other meet, neither lends a hand [offers the other part of itself].

You, if your mind is empty, will pass the exam—
Your five groups and four great elements instantly fiery ashes,
Heaven's halls' and hell's enclosures' household furniture,
The Buddha's realm and Mara's minions all confused and destroyed.
The yellow orioles proclaim and noise about "White Snow" in concert;
Blind turtle, bearing a sword, mounts the lamppost.
If anyone wants to get this samadhi,
They must once clear the vile mud puddle throughout their body.


This and that are of all sizes—it's false, absurd. The arrow is flying over Silla. All day, every day,
shoulder to shoulder—how shall we be born?

Yan of Qi killed three gentlemen.
Wei of Shu destroyed two generals.
Imitated a rooster crowing to give tigers the slip.
Selling dog meat, hung out a sheep['s head].
5Presented a deer to see who'd yield.
Wore a bee to cut off a father's hopes.
Tao Zhu led the Lady of Yue by the hand.
JX XXn surrendered to the King of Chu.
Swallowed down charcoal and lay in ambush under a bridge.
10Threw a hairpin in and wept beside the well.
Carried the king's corpse with a load of [smelly] bream.
He broke his father's teeth; bite his ear.
In broad daylight, it would have been repairing, replacing;
In secret, it was crossing at Chen Cang.
15If this is intimately seen and penetrated,
Then in the casket is a yard of glittering steel.


Is it in front of you? It's like someone who hates drunkenness sending in wine. The wine being strong, it's good
not to have many cups. For ten years I haven't had to go back; I forget the Way I came.

It's recommended—and, that finished—again!
Pile up a heap of snow and, on top of it, pile up a heap of snow.
Still attending to it again, not avoiding its circumstances.
For whom, after we're drunk, are you setting out more cups?


This is the second repetition, dwelling on this. Fishing chanteys, woodcutter's songs—where, here, are they writ
out? The orioles calling, the swallows twittering—what do they say? By no means wade out to sea to pick out
bubbles in the froth.

These forty-two reckless and forced seven-character [lines]
And four more of five characters walling it about
Are not present to all the lofty and clear venerable ones;
They're for [you] hut-dwelling, hungry, cold disciples.
For unless you find the Way, and transform your self,
You stay trapped and entangled down a bottomless pit.
And don't try to tell me my poems are too hard—
Face it, the problem is your own Eyeless state.
When you come to a word you don't understand, quick,
Bite it at once! Chew it right to the pith!
Once you're soaked to the bone with death's cold sweat,
All the koan Zen has are yanked up, root and stem.
With toil and trouble, I too once glimpsed the Edge—
Smashed the Scale that works with a blind arm;
When that Tool of Unknowing is shattered for good.
You fill with the fierceness and courage of lions.
Zen is blessed with the power to bring this about,
Why not use it to bore through to Perfect integrity?
People these days turn away as if it were dirt,
Who is there to carry on the life-thread of Wisdom?
Don't think I'm an old man who just likes to make poems,
My motive is one: to rouse men of talent wherever they are.
The superior will know at a glance where the arrow flies,
The mediocre will just prattle about the rhythm and rhyme.
Ssu-ma of the Sung was a true prince among men;
What a shame that eyes of such worth remained unopened!
Whenever he read difficult "hard-to-pass" koans,
He said they were riddles made to vex young monks;
For gravest crimes man is sure to feel repentance—
Slander of the Dharma is no minor offense!
Crowds of these miscreants are at large in the world,
The Zen landscape is barren beyond belief.
If you have grasped the Mind of the Buddha-patriarchs,
How could you possibly be blind to their words?
To determine how authentic your own attainment is,
The words of the Patriarchs are like bright mirrors.
Zen practice these days is all cocksure and shallow;
They follow others' words, or fancies of their own;
When hearsay and book-learning can satisfy your needs,
The Patriarchal Gardens are a million miles away.
So I beseech you, Great Men, forget your own welfare!
Make the Five-petalled Zen Flower blossom once more!


The superior person is easy to serve, yet hard to please.

The sunset haze
With a lone duck
Evenly flying

The autumn-bright water
Together with the vast sky
Of one color

From south village
To north village
The rains at first plowing

The bride
Serves provisions to mother-in-law
As father-in-law feeds baby mouth-to-mouth

In the winter of the year the era changed to Enkyo
All my principal children [students/sages] agreed to prepare moveable types;
Each character must have come to ten cents
And the sum total already verges on 2,000 characters.
They were determined to preserve these words left from talking in my sleep.
Our mind firm and decided, how could I not be glad?
For them I've added this last verse—
To thank them all for their intimately to-the-point compassion.

The verses over, palms together, I beseech and implore that
When nothing is left of empty space, my [our] vow will not be exhausted;
My aggregate of efficacy from praising prajna
I turn over to all in the Dharma-realm of Thusness.
Entrusting my life to all Buddhas, past, present and future
And to the good, the wise and the patriarchs in all directions
To the guardians of the Dharma: all devas, nagas and demons
And all the kami in this Land of the Inter-upholding Red Hibiscus,
I vow that all my hut-dwelling disciples
Their heart's desire set on the Way, brave and persevering as diamond
Going beyond the profound barrier, passing through—
The pure nature of their Mind, the gem of the precepts, ever perfect and clear
Sweeping all vexing delusive demons clean out of existence—
Will advance and benefit the human multitude with no break expected!


Zen Master Hakuin
Mount Iwataki
Reflections on Do-Nothing Zen

extract from Wild Ivy, by Hakuin, trans. by Norman Waddell
pub. Shambhala Publications, 1999. pp. 63-66.

Alone in the hut, I thrust my spine up stiff and straight and sat right through until dawn. All through the night, the room was haunted by a terrifying demonic presence. Since I dislike having to swell the narrative with such details, however, I won't describe it here.
In the morning, I opened the rice pail, reached inside with my left hand, and grasped a fistful of the grains. I boiled these up into a bowl of gruel, which I ate in place of the two regular meals. I repeated the same routine each day. I wonder, was my regimen less demanding than National Master Muso's, with his half persimmon?
After a month of this life, I still hadn't experienced a single pang of hunger. On the contrary, my body and mind were both fired with a great surge of spirit and resolve. My nights were zazen. My days were sutra-recitation. I never let up. During this period, I experienced small satories and large satories in numbers beyond count. How many times did I jump up and jubilantly dance around, oblivious of all else! I no longer had any doubts at all about Ta-hui's talk of eighteen great satoris and countless small ones. How grievously sad that people today have discarded this way of kensho as if it were dirt!
As for sitting, sitting is something that should include fits of ecstatic laughter - brayings that make you slump to the ground clutching your belly. And when you struggle to your feet after the first spasm passes, it should send you kneeling to the earth in yet further contortions of joy.
But for the past hundred years, ever since the passing of National Master Gudo, advocates of the blind, withered-up, silent illumination Zen have appeared winthin the Rinzai, Soto, and Obaku schools. In spots all over the country, they band together, flicking their fingers comtemptuously, pishing and pughing: "Great satori eighteen times! Small satoris beyond count! Pah! It's ridiculous. If you're enlightened, you're enlightened. If you're not, you're not. For a human being, ther severing of the life-root that frees you from the clutches of birth-and-death is the single great matter. How can you count thenumber of times it happens- as if it were a case of diarrhea!
"Ta-hui made statements like that because he was ignorant of the supreme, sublime Zen that is to be found at the highest reaches of attainment. Supreme Zen, at the highest reaches, does not belong to a dimension that human understanding of any kind can grasp or perceive. It is a matter of simply being Buddhas the way we are right now - 'covered bowls of plain unvarnished wood.' It is the state of great happiness and peace, the great liberation. Put a stop to all the chasing and hankering in your mind. Do not interfere or poke around after anytihng whatever. That mind-free state detatched from all thought is the complete and ultimate attainment."
These people, true to their words, do not do a single thing. They engage in no act of religious practice; they don't develop a shred of wisdom. They just waste their lives dozing idly away like comatose badgers, useless to their contemporaries while they live, completely forgottent after they die. They aren't capable of leaving behind even a syllable of their own to repay the profound debt they owe to the Buddha patriarchs.



(Introductory to Lectures on the Records of Old Sokko)
translated by Norman Waddell

When the resolve to seek the Way first began to burn in me, I was drawn by the spirits of the hills and streams among the high peaks of Liyama. Deep in the forests of Narasawa, I came upon a decrepit old teacher in a mountain hermitage. His name was Shoju Rojin. His style was Etan. His Dharma-grandfather was National Master Daien. His Dharma-father was Shido Munan. He was a blind old bonze filled with deadly venom - true and authentic to the core.

He was always telling students:

"This Zen school of ours began to decline at the end of the Southern Sung. By the time it had reached the Ming the transmission had fallen to earth, all petered out. Now, what remains of its real poison is found in Japan alone. But even here there's not much. It's like scanning the midday sky for stars. As for you, you smelly blind shavepates, you ragtag little lackwits, you haven't stumbled upon it even in your dreams."

Another time, he said: "You're imposters, the whole lot of you. You look like Zen monks, but you don't understand Zen. You remind me of the monks in the teaching schools - but you haven't mastered the teachings. Some of you resemble precepts monks, yet their precepts are beyond you. There is a resemblance to the Confucians - but you haven't grasped Confucianism either. What, then, are you really like? I'll tell you. Large rice-bags, fitted all out in black robes."

Here is a story he told us:

"There is a Barrier of crucial importance. In front of it sit a row of stern officials, each of whom is there to test the ability of those who wish to negotiate the Barrier. Unless you pass their muster, you don't get through.

"Along comes a man, announcing that he is a wheelright. He sits down, fashions a wheel, shows it to the officials, and they let him pass. Another person walks up, an artist. He produces a brush and paints them a picture. They usher him through the gates. A singing girl is allowed to pass after she sings them a refrain from one of the current songs. She is followed by a priest of one of the Pure Land sects. He intones loud invocations of the Nembutsu - 'Namu-amida-butsu,' 'Namu-amida-butsu.' The gates swing open and he proceeds on his way.

"At this point, another man clothed in black robes appears. He says that he is a Zen monk. One of the guardians of the Barrier remarks that 'Zen is the crowning pinnacle of all the Buddhas.' He then asks: 'What is Zen?'

"All the monk can do is stand there, in a blank daze, looking like a pile of brushwood. The officials take one look at the nervous sweat pouring from under his arms and write him off as a rank imposter. A highly suspicious and totally undesirable character. So he winds up as a poor devil of an outcast, condemned to a wretched existence outside the Barrier. What a pitiful turn of events."

Shoju also told us: "Suppose at some future day you men have temples of your own. You receive an invitation from one of your parishioners, asking you to visit him at his home. When you arrive with your head monk and some of your students, you are ushered into a large room, where you find layers of thick, soft cushions to sit upon. Dishes filled with rare delicacies are arranged before you. You sit there in high spirits, partaking of the food without a single qualm, regarding it as your due. When you finish eating, as you are enjoying yourself amid the loud talk and boisterous laughter, one of the people present addresses you, and brings up a difficult point of Zen - the kind that furrows the brows of Zen monks. He suggests casually that you explain it. At that moment, what kind of response will you make? Your heart will probably start to thump wildly in your chest. Your body will break out in a muck of sweat. Your distress will cast a black pall over the entire room.

"So inasmuch as you are members of the Zen school, you should concentrate diligently on your training. If you don't, you will be unwittingly sowing the seeds of your own shame and disgrace. There's no telling when you'll find yourself in such a harrowing situation. It's too terrifying to contemplate."

I know a wealthy family in the province of Shinano. They have a large inherited fortune, and the influence they wield rivals that of the provincial daimyo himself. The family is so large that they must ring a dinner bell to call them all together. The great and powerful are frequent visitors. Although they have no family business as such, they have been able to maintain a quiet and comfortable existence.

But recently they started brewing sake. They added male and female servants to the staff. The water mill now grinds away day and night hulling rice. A continuous procession of grain carts thunders heavily in through the gates. Their prosperity has increased tenfold over what it was before. Ten thousand bushels of rice are said to be consumed daily in the brewing of sake.

An old man living nearby and witnessing these events, said: "Those folks are finished. Their prosperity cannot continue much longer. What you now see is really a symptom of serious trouble. When the inner workings decay, the outer aspect always swells like that. They will probably try their hand at selling grain. Or open a shop to sell medicinal herbs. But before long they will have to dispose of them too."

When my teacher Shoju Rojin heard the old man's prediction, he heaved a heavy sigh.

"I know just what he means. Since the Sung period, our patriarchal school has been in constant decline. Zen monks have extended their interests into a variety of different fields. It's just like the family in that story."

As he finished speaking, his eyes were swimming in tears.

I have recorded as I remember them a few brief examples of Old Shoju's instructions. I thought that they would give you an idea of the anger, the scoldings and verbal abuse, the shouts of encouragement, that he used in his daily teaching, as well as of the deep concern and sad regrets he often voiced about the present state of the Zen school.