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Trevor Leggett (1914-2000)
Leggett, Trevor, Samurai Zen: The Warrior Koans (London: Routledge, rev. ed., 2003, orig. publ. as The Warrior Koans: Early Zen in Japan by Routledge Arkana, 1985). Based on collections from 13 th century Japan, featuring anecdotes of Zen men and women of the Kamakura “samurai Zen” culture. An important window onto one aspect of Rinzai Zen's formative period in Japan. The revised edition of his book adds an 8-page introduction. See also Leggett's more expansive historical study including the contemporary period, Three Ages of Zen: Samurai, Feudal and Modern (Boston/Tokyo: Tuttle, 1993). See Leggett's two volume “Zen Reader” series: A First Zen Reader (Boston: Tuttle, 1960/1980) has excellent selections on the theory and practice of Zen—including translations of two lecture series by two famous masters of the modern era: Takashina Rosen, primate of the Soto Zen sect and president of the Japan Buddhist Assoc., and, representing the bulk of the book, Amakuki Sessan of the Rinzai sect commenting back in the 1930s on Hakuin's “Song of Zazen.” The Tiger's Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings (Tuttle, 1995), originally published as A Second Zen Reader (Tuttle, 1989), a good sequel to his first book, is filled with translations of short works on various neglected aspects of Zen. Trevor Leggett (1914-2000), the first foreigner to attain 6 th Dan senior teaching level in Judo, taught most of the top British trainees in judo; he headed the Japanese Service of the UK's BBC for 24 years (retiring in 1970) and was a consultant for the segment on Zen for the BBC's television series on world religions, “The Long Search” (1978). Leggett's other interesting books on Zen include Zen and the Ways (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978; reprint Tuttle, 1987), with translations of rare scrolls on Zen and the “ways” or arts of tea, the sword, archery, etc.; Encounters in Yoga & Zen (Routledge, 1993), reflecting not only his Zen studies but also his studies with Hari Prasad Sastri and Leggett's finding and translation from Sanskrit a rare work of sage Sankara; Fingers & Moons: A Collection of Zen Stories and Incidents (Buddhist Publ. Group, 1988/2011); and his final work, written a year before his passing, The Old Zen Master: Inspirations for Awakening (Buddhist Publ. Group, 2009), another collection of short stories, anecdotes, and personal reflections on Zen and other spiritual traditions related to Self-awakening.
© Copyright 2018 by Timothy Conway
A Brief CV
Trevor Leggett's teacher of Yoga and its philosophy was the late Dr. Hari Prasad Shastri, pandit and jnani of India. Dr Shastri was commissioned by his own teacher to spread the ancient Yoga abroad, which he did in China, Japan and lastly for twenty seven years in Britain until his death in 1956. The Yoga is based on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita but is to be spread on non-sectarian and universal lines. It has a clear-cut philosophy and training method.
Trevor Leggett was his pupil for eighteen years and was one of those entrusted with the continuation of Dr. Shastri's mission. All Leggett's books on spiritual subjects are dedicated to his teacher.
Trevor Leggett had lived in India and Japan and knew Sanskrit and Japanese. From 1946 for 24 years head of the BBC Japanese Service broadcasting in Japanese to Japan twice a day. He was a translator and author of some thirty books mostly on Eastern and Far Eastern yoga and Zen, with some cross-cultural studies. Three of them in Japanese. He also held the rank of 6th Dan in Judo from Kodokan, Tokyo and 5th Dan in Shogi, Japanese chess.
In 1984 he was awarded the Third Degree of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, by the Emperor of Japan, in recognition of his services to cross-cultural relations between East and West, through broadcasting, translations and other books, and through active introduction of aspects of Japanese culture to the West. There are eight degrees of this Order, from the First down, and this is the Third Grade, which is in practice the highest a private individual can get.
A FIRST ZEN READER (PDF)
Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1960
The Original Face by Daito Kokushi
A Tongue-tip Taste of Zen by Takashina Rosen, Primate of the Soto Sect in Japan
Hakuin's 'Song of Meditation' commentary by Amakuki Sessan, of the Rinzai Sect
坐禅和讚 Zazen Wasan by 白隠慧鶴 Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)
Translated as "The Song of Meditation"
in Trevor Leggett, First Zen Reader, Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1960, pp. 67-68.
The Two Poems by Oka Kyugaku
Bodhidharma and the Emperor from the Rinzai and Soto Koan anthologies
A Note On The Ways by Trevor Leggett
ZEN AND THE WAYS
Zen and the Ways, London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1978.
Expressions of Zen inspiration in everyday activities such as writing or serving tea, and in knightly arts such as fencing, came to be highly regarded in Japanese tradition, evolving into spiritual training called "Ways." This volume includes translations of some rare texts on Zen and the Ways.
E.g. 坐禅論 Zazen-ron by 大覚禅師 Daikaku Zenji (1213-1278). Translated as "On meditation".
THE WARRIOR KOANS (PDF)
Arcana, an imprint of Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1985
SAMURAI ZEN (PDF)
Routledge, London - New York, 2003
今井福山 Imai Fukuzan
湘南葛藤録 Shōnan kattōroku
100 kōans, compiled by 無隠 Muin of 禅興寺 Zenkō-ji (Kamakura) in 1545; reedited by 今井福山 Imai Fukuzan (1925)
Translated by Trevor Leggett
The Warrior Koans & Samurai Zen brings together 100 of the rare riddles which represent the core spiritual discipline of Japan's ancient Samurai tradition. Dating from thirteenth-century records of Japan's Kamakura temples, and traditionally guarded with a reverent secrecy, they reflect the earliest manifestation of pure Zen in Japan. Created by Zen Masters for their warrior pupils, the Japanese Koans use incidents from everyday life - a broken tea-cup, a water-jar, a cloth - to bring the warrior pupils of the Samurai to the Zen realization. Their aim is to enable a widening of consciouness beyond the illusions of the limited self, and a joyful inspiration in life - a state that has been compared to being free under a blue sky after imprisonment.
A SECOND ZEN READER
The Tiger's Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings
Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1988
On the Heart Sutra a commentary by Abbot Obora of the Soto Zen sect (contemporary)
1 The Immutable Scripture
2 The Circle of Life
3 Awakening to the Character of our Individuality
4 The True Character of the Human Self
6 The Experience of Emptiness
7 The Bodhisattva Spirit
8 The Experience of Nirvana
9 The Power of Prajna
Yasenkanna (method of physical and spiritual rejuvenation) - an autobiographical narrative by Zen Master Hakuin (18th century)
1 Introductory Note by the Translator
2 The Preface, by Cold Starveling, a disciple in Poverty Temple
3 Yasenkanna, by Hakuin
夜船閑話 Yasenkanna by 白隠慧鶴 Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)
Translated as "Yasenkanna (method of physical and spiritual rejuvenation) - an autobiographical narrative by Zen Master Hakuin" in Trevor Leggett, A Second Zen Reader: The Tiger's Cave and Translations of Other Zen Writings, Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1988
The Tiger's Cave and other pieces
1 The Tiger's Cave
2 The Lotus in the Mire
3 Poems by Zen Master Mamiya
4 The Dance of the Sennin Immortals Maxims of Saigo
Zen by Takashina Rosen, Primate of the Soto Zen sect (contemporary)
1 The Sermon of No Words
2 Stillness in action
From a Commentary on Rinzai-roku classic, by Omori Sogen, Zen master, fencing master, and master of the brush (contemporary)
THREE AGES OF ZEN: Samurai, Feudal and Modern
Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1993, 192 p.
This unusual book consists of three translations by the author:
(1) Samurai Zen: a selection of the training interviews of Japanese samurai of the 13th century, when they faced the crisis of Kublai Khan's attempted invasions;
(2) Feudal Zen: practised by the samurai officials who ran the country during the 250 years of internal peace under the Tokugawa Government from 1600-1868;
(3) Modern Zen: Zen in war and peace in one life. The autobiography of a Zen priest who was a prisoner-of-war in terrible conditions in Russia, during which he had nevertheless an enlightenment experience. But as he explains, he still had to resume his Zen training with Master Gyodo after being
Imai Fukuzan's Introduction
Selected Koan riddles from translation of Shonan-katto-roku (Record of Koans given at Kamakura)
The Spur [Translation of Master Torei's 'The Good Steed']
Translation of the autobiography of the late Master Tsuji Somei's 'Treading the Way of Zen'
東嶺圓慈・東嶺円慈・東嶺延慈 Tōrei Enji (1721–1792)
PART TWO: Feudal Zen
The Spur by Tōrei Enji
THE SPUR IS AN ESSAY FOR SAMURAI, WRITTEN BY TOREI, A disciple of Hakuin in eighteenth-century Japan. He wrote this essay in 1755, and it is addressed to a samurai who has faith. So it is in Japanese, and not in Chinese as it might well have been if intended for monks. Torei got it approved by Hakuin, and it was then published.
During the two and a half centuries of peace which Japan enjoyed up to the attack by Western powers in 1854, the samurai had become the administrators of the country. They were not just warriors, though they still had to wear two swords. The Chinese character for the very word "samurai," which is used by Torei, also means "scholar." It is the second element in the compound haku-shi , an academic distinction corresponding to a doctorate. Typical is the comment in a classic of 1830 called Introduction to Budo, which points out that though the samurai must have a basis of firm, strong character, one who relies on sheer force in his undertakings is bound to make a mess of them. He is like a peasant‐ farmer pushed into the role of samurai. There has to be learning and culture besides courage and will, it concludes.
The full title of this work is The Spur for the Good Horse. A fundamental point in the presentation by Torei is that we already have a good horse. It is not a question of creating one: it is a good horse already. But for some reason, that morning it is feeling a bit dull, or a bit obstinate, or it doesn't grasp what it is supposed to do. And then, just a touch of the spur, and—swish—away it goes. A good horse needs only a touch to recall it to itself. The example is meant as a loose parallel to the Buddha‐ nature in man. It is so to say a good horse, but somehow it seems to have become dull or darkened or obstinate or destructively minded. So it needs a touch of the spur, and then—swish—it shows itself as it truly is.
A word which Torei uses, normally translated "dye," originally meant something like a smear or grease. But it became confused with another character which looks very similar, and which means the paths of hell. In hell there is a path where you are climbing over sharp swords, and you never come to the end of them, and there is another hell of flames, and so on. So the character can refer to these, but originally it is something like grease, and this sense is characteristic of the text. The mind gets greasy, gets smeared. One teacher commenting on the point gave a kitchen illustration: "You have got to pick up something very hot and move it from here to there. Now if your hand is perfectly clean and dry, and you pick it up and put it down quickly and cleanly, you won't get burned. But if there is any grease or smear on your fingers, any stickiness, then you'll probably get badly burned because you won't be able to just pick it up and let go. There will be a little bit of clinging, and you'll get burned!"
A central point in Torei's exposition is the necessity of purity. It means cleaning off the grease of clinging attachment, or equally clinging hatred, or miry dullness. (Hatred is clinging; we cannot hate people unless we are interested in them.) First of all we must get rid of sticky attachment. It does not mean never taking up things and putting them down: it means not to clutch at them, not to say "I must have that," or "Don't leave me." Because however much we cling, they all simply pass away. While the karma is favorable, they look solid enough and we feel we can hang on to them; but it soon changes, and we suddenly find they were never there at all.
* * *
The teaching of the main text is summed up in a few sentences at the beginning: all that is seen, heard, felt, understood, is hon-shin. This word means literally heart-essence, explained here with consciousness-only texts. When we see a mountain, we see hon-shin in the form of a mountain; when we hear a bird singing, we hear hon-shin in the form of bird-song. When we lie down on a straw mat, we lie down on hon-shin in the form of a mat.
Then Torei shows how Zen completes the Confucianism, which was the official doctrine for samurai at the time. He points out (as did some Confucians) that it is easy to intone phrases like filial piety, loyalty, and human-heartedness. But most people cannot in fact control their desires and fears, so they fall into evil ways, not stopping at murder of relatives. Zen will enable them to control themselves and follow their principles. If the heart is uncontrolled, then though they look, they do not see, though they listen, they do not hear, and though they eat, they do not taste. One with an uncontrolled heart is like a novice archer who has learned the technique of shooting, but not how to focus on a target. He shoots at random and is entirely destructive. Again he is like a gardener who likes flowers and fruit but does not cultivate the root, because he does not know the connection. The true noble Confucianism can be fully practiced when the heart-essence has been attained.
In the same cheerfully eclectic Japanese manner he praises the Way of the Gods (Shinto), Emperor-worship, and the shrine cults in general (though not quite all; some elements of Left Tantrism had crept in). Without realization of the heart-essence, these may drop away into formal rituals.
The traditional history of Zen was important because Zen was being revived in Japan by Hakuin. The Rinzai branch of it had almost died out. All forms of Buddhism had to be authenticated by showing an unbroken transmission from the Buddha-teaching of India, the Holy Land, through the patriarch-transmission of China. Zen teachers were well aware that some of the most revered traditions do not appear in early records. See for instance the koan-story of the Buddha's twirling a flower before the assembly, as set out in No. 65 of the Warrior Koans (see page 64). Nevertheless they maintained the forms and recited them regularly.
He explains at length how warriors have practiced Zen at times of crisis, and their example inspired others. If some practice hard, all will go well. In the end, the instruction to a samurai and to a Buddhist nun is the same: practice meditation in rest and in action, till the Buddha-heart stands clear in you. It is urgent repetition of truth, with a view to dispelling illusion by sheer insistence. The method, practiced all over the Far East, consists of repeating central truths, with slight variations or even in the original words, again and again. It is effective when the words are repeated verbally with great force, or even when read slowly with strong conviction. The main Buddhist terms are in sonorous Chinese monosyllables; a samurai would have had to read them aloud, slowly, in order to understand them, as there is no redundancy in the written characters. (They correspond to the internationally recognized mathematical symbols, 2, 8, =, %, and so on, which have no one accepted pronunciation, and have to be read carefully.) But reading a translation into an alphabetic script full of redundancies, the eye tends to race over the text, which soon appears merely repetitious and boring. This could be avoided by tape recording the main text with slow enunciation, and then listening to it with concentration.
There are other forms of Kufu; vivid visualization of some of the striking illustrations given in the main text could be one of them.
There is a brief note near the end which echoes one of Hakuin's own writings called The Koan (riddle) of Illness: these have been given as directions for when one is ill. But when he is not ill, let him remember not to waste his time either.
The Spur by Tōrei Enji
Translated by Trevor Leggett
IN WHAT ZEN CALLS THE ASCENT FROM THE STATE OF THE ordinary vulgar man to the state of Buddha, there are five requirements. First is the principle that they have the same nature. Second is the teaching that they are dyed different colors. Third is the necessity for furious effort. Fourth is the principle of continuity of training. Fifth is the principle of returning to the origin. These five are taught as the main elements of the path.
The true nature with which people are endowed, and the fundamental nature of the Buddhas of the three worlds, are not two. They are equal in their virtue and majesty; the same light and glory are there. The wisdom and wonderful powers are the same. It is like the radiance of the sun illuminating mountains and rivers and the whole wide earth, lighting up the despised manure just as much as gold and jewels. But a blind man may stand pathetically in that very light, without seeing it or knowing anything about it.
Though the fundamental nature of all the Buddhas and of living beings is the same and not distinct, their minds are looking in quite different directions. The Buddha faces inward and makes the heart-essence (hon-shin) shine forth. The ordinary man faces outward, and is concerned with the ten thousand things.
For what he likes, he develops strong desire; for what he does not like, he develops hatred; when his thinking becomes rigid, he is stupefied. Bewildered by one of these Three Poisons, he turns into a clutching ghost, or a fighting demon ablaze with fury, or an animal. When they are equally mixed in him, he falls into hell, where he suffers in so many ways. These are called the Four Evil States, and they are dreadful. If despite his greed and anger and dullness, he does control himself at least to some extent, he becomes human. Life after life he holds on in the human form. Then, although still not having cut off greed and anger and delusion altogether, the self-control being incomplete, he is born—selfish as he still is—in some paradise. There are six of these so-called Heavens of Desire. Then when the fundamental nature of the Three Poisons has been annihilated, meditation and wisdom manifest in him; but his meditation is on Love, and residual traces of anger and apathy remain. So he is born somewhere in the Eighteen Worlds-with-form. Even when the meditation on Love reaches its limit, the knowledge-vision of the Buddha has not yet opened in him. He is now born in one of the Four Worlds‐ without-form, where dwell the Truth-Hearers and the Buddhas-for-themselves-alone. All the states first described—the four bad ones, the human, and the heavenly ones—when taken together comprise the Six Paths of the World-Process. If we now add to them the Truth-Hearers, Buddhas-for-themselves-alone, bodhisattvas, and the Buddhas, it comes to a total of ten.Generally speaking, out of the Six Paths, pleasures might seem to be experienced in the human world or in a heavenly one, but in fact it is all pain. How is this? It is because these worlds are based on hearts deeply sunk in agonies of greed, anger, and dullness, and experienced by them as such. So if passions are not lessened, there is no escape from the Six Worlds of Suffering. If they are not escaped, there can never be real peace and happiness.
If one wants to get out of the worlds of suffering, first of all one has to realize how they are all the time passing away. What is born, inevitably dies. Youth cannot be depended on, power is precarious, wealth and honor crumble away. High status requires constant vigilance to preserve it. The longest life hardly gets beyond eighty years. Since therefore it is all melting away, there is nothing enjoyable about it. The badly off suffer from not having things; the well-off suffer from having them. The high suffer from being highly placed, and the despised suffer from being lowly placed. There is suffering connected with clothes and food, suffering with the family, suffering from wealth and possessions, suffering from official rank.
So long as the nature is not freed from passions, and the path of seeking release has not been found, then even supposing there were some king and his ministers, glorious like a god among living sages, it would all be insubstantial like a lightning flash or a dewdrop under the morning sun—gone in a moment.
When karma happens to be favorable, these things appear solid enough, but as the favorable karma dissipates, it turns out that there was never anything there at all. By favor of the karma of our parents we have got this body, and by favor of the earth, the skin and flesh and sinew and bone grow. By favor of water, the blood and body fluids come, and by favor of fire, warmth, harmony, softness, and order come to be. By favor of winds, vitality, breath, movement, and change come about. If these four favorable karmas suddenly become exhausted, then breathing ceases, the body is cold, and there is nothing to be called "I." At that time this body is no true "I." It was only ever a rented accommodation.
However clingingly attached to this temporary abode, one cannot expect it to last forever. To realize the Four Noble Truths, that all this is passing, painful, empty, and without a self, and to seek the way of bodhi-intelligence, is what we call the Dharma of Hearing the Noble Truths.
If you would grasp the nature of the universal body of all the Buddhas, first you must be clear about, and then you must enlighten, the root of ignorance in you. How is it to be made clear? You must search after your true nature. How to search? In the eye, seeing of colors; in the ear, hearing of sounds; in the body, feeling distinctions of heat and cold; in the consciousness, feelings of wrong and right: all these must be seen clearly as they are. This seeing and hearing and knowing is at the root of the practice. The ordinary man sees colors and is deluded by colors, hears voices and is deluded by voices, feels heat and cold and is deluded by heat and cold, knows right and wrong and is deluded by right and wrong. This is what is meant by the saying: "The ordinary man looks outward."
The training of a bodhisattva is: when looking at some color, to ask himself what it is that is being seen; when hearing some sound, to ask himself what it is that is being heard; when feeling hot or cold, to ask himself what it is that is being felt; when distinguishing wrong from right, to ask himself what it is that is being known. This is called the "facing inward of the Buddhas." Practicing it is different from facing in the direction in which the ordinary man looks. At first, though facing the same way as the Buddha, the Buddha power and wisdom are not manifest in him. But still, he is a baby bodhisattva, and he must realize that he has come into that company. If he always keeps to his great vow to the Buddhas, praying to the spiritual lights and being loyal to the teacher, then one day the Great Thing comes about, and he is set free in the ocean of Own- good is Others' good.
When you get up in the morning, however much business there may be waiting, first affirm this one thought, first turn to this meditation on seeing and hearing. After that, engage in the activities of the day. When going to have a meal or a drink, first of all you must try to bring this one thought to the fore, and make a meditation on it. When you go to wash your hands, first you should try to bring this thought uppermost in your mind and meditate on it. When last thing at night you are going to lie down, sit for a little bit on the bedclothes and try to bring this thought to the fore and meditate; then lie down to sleep. This is practicing the true path of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Whip up your enthusiasm for it by realizing how if you fail to grasp your true nature as one with the nature of Buddha, you will be lost in the wheel of continual rebirth, circling endlessly in the Four Births and Six Worlds.
From the beginning, you must learn to put your whole heart into this basic meditation, going ahead with each thought and practicing on each occasion as it comes up. Keep up the right line of the meditation: when you walk, practice while walking; when you sit still, practice while sitting; when talking to people, practice while talking. When there is no talking and things are quiet, then you can meditate more intensely. When you look at things, ask yourself what it is that you see; when you hear things, ask yourself what it is that you hear. When things get very rushed so that you easily get swept away by them, ask yourself what this is, that you should get swept away by it. And even if you do get swept away, don't give up your meditation. If you get ill, use the pain as the seed-subject for your meditation.
In every circumstance, the meditation must go forward in a straight line, however much business there may be. It is not allowable that the meditation should be vivid and clear only when the surroundings are familiar and quiet. Unless the meditation is bright and clear at all times, it cannot be said to have power. If there is an outbreak of armed strife in a country which has to be stopped, at the critical time it is a question of taking the field, confronting the dangers, and fighting fearlessly without ever thinking of turning back—that is the way to victory. The meditation-fight is the same. It is just when you are caught up in situations where your thoughts are disturbed, that there is a chance to win a decisive victory.
Be aware of this heart of yours. See that it does not weaken, and go forward. In fact when things are quiet, it corresponds to the time when warriors are safe within the castle, when they must train themselves in tactics and strategy. They practice with courage and sincerity. When the country is disturbed by armed uprisings, they know that this is the time to go out to the field of battle and decide the issue. You must meditate with just such a strong resolve. You may not have the power of the Buddhas yet, but you are one of those who are on the Way of all the Buddhas.
It is a fact that little enlightenment obstructs great enlightenment. If you give up any little enlightenment you may have, and do not clutch it to yourself, then you are sure to get great enlightenment. If you stick at the little enlightenment and will not give it up, you are sure to miss the great enlightenment. It is like someone who sticks to little profits, and so misses the big ones. But if he does not hang on to little profits, he will surely be able to get big ones. When the little profits are not clung to, but invested bit by bit, it does end in a big profit. Similarly, if you stick to the little profit of little enlightenment, so that the whole life is a succession of experiences of little enlightenments, you will never be able to reach the great freedom, the great release. If you don't find the way to the great freedom through great enlightenment, your individual applications (ji) will not accord with the great principle (ri) , and you will fall into the wrong views of outsiders- away- from- Buddhism. It is terrible. But if, when you have a little enlightenment, you take that as a seed and go forward steadily, further and further with your practice, then the great profit of all the Buddhas becomes fully manifest. You will naturally pass through the barrier- riddles (kansho) set by the patriarchs. Now indeed, individual application and universal principle are in accord, action and understanding are not separate. You attain the state of great release, the great freedom. It is for this that stress is laid on maintaining the practice.
Now when you have penetrated into the truth wholly, all the powers of the Way are brought to fulfilment, all beings everywhere are blessed whenever any opening presents itself. Though you may indeed preach and teach, really there is nothing lacking: "I" and the others all attain the shore of the fourfold Nirvana.
Through the great operation of the great vow, beings and worlds benefit themselves as well as others, and you must resolve never to turn away from it in the future. In the present meantime, there may be mistakes and lapses; legs are weak and the path slippery. If you don't get up when you've fallen down, surely you'll be destroyed. You will die where you've fallen. But if, though falling, you pull yourself up, and falling again, pull yourself up again, and so go ahead further and further, finally you do reach the goal. The sutra says: "If you have broken a commandment, make your repentance before the Buddha at once: then go forward along the Way."
* * *
Intensifying the meditation practice in the way described, when the practice becomes clear and mature, you finally return to his nature, one with that of all the Buddhas. This is what they call Becoming Buddha. When it is said in Zen, See the Nature to Be Buddha, this is what is meant. At the beginning, owing to the one delusion, the True Nature (Hon-shin) which should face inward, is made to circle outwardly in the Six Paths: of hell, clutching ghosts, animals, demons, men, and heavens, rising and sinking like the rim of a chariot wheel through thousands of lives in millions of world-cycles, interminably. The bones of birth after birth would pile up higher than mountain peaks, and the life-blood would overflow the great ocean. So teaches the Buddha. Now having achieved human birth, hard to attain, and having come across his holy doctrine, rarely to be found, and of that doctrine to be able to hear the wonderful truth called the Mahayana, such is to be reckoned the most fortunate of beings. If you fail to take it up or openly reject it, that must be reckoned the greatest of sins. Once lost, it is as difficult to regain the human birth as it would be for a thread lowered from the highest heaven to enter the eye of a needle on the bottom of the ocean.
And the circling in the Six Paths is not just a question of reincarnation. In one single day here people are rising and sinking in it. When the heart is right and avoids wrong, that is a man. When others oppose him and hatred for them arises, that is a furious demon. When one has sticking attachment for what one likes, he becomes a clutching ghost. When the heart gets stuck in thinking of material things, he is an animal. If, even though he does think deeply, attachment is strong, if the flames of anger do not cease, and he seeks to injure others, then he is in hell. All this is losing the path of humanity and sowing seeds of the Three Poisons. Then again there may be a time when the heart is peaceful, not thinking about material things, and there is inner purity; now, though in a human body, his heart is truly said to be sporting in heaven. But in general, people do not realize how they are circling in the Six Paths in a single day. In fact those who attain to human-heartedness are few, what to say of sporting in heaven? Most are sporting in the Three Poisons of animal materialism, ghost hankering, and demon hatred. If they change at all, it is mostly to fall into the paths of hell, tormenting others and destroying everything. See the paths in which we are reincarnating in the course of just one day!
At first, the heart is on the wrong paths two-thirds of the time, with the human being barely holding on to one‐ third. Then again hell comes up in it. So it is that living an ordinary life, it is difficult to get away from those wrong paths. But if in the course of the day there arises some resolve at practice, of the Four Principles of the Truth-Hearers, or the doctrine of Twelve Links of Dependence of the Lone Buddhas, or the Six Perfections of the Bodhisattva Way, then in that heart, seeds of the Three Poisons will be destroyed. He who strives to intensify his practice, finally attains realization; even before he does so, since the poisons in the heart have ceased, he will pass beyond temporary joys of human and heavenly worlds, and ascend to the higher state. Truth-hearers and Solitaries are already noble, what to say of one on the path of the bodhisattva? That path is already so difficult to attain, what to say of the dharma of the Buddha Way? The Zen realization of Seeing the Nature is the very crown of all Buddhahood. He who has his heart set on this is already a baby Buddha. Thought after thought, he steps out toward the gate of peerless merit, along the way of holy perfection. Wonderful is the merit even of reading about such perfection, what to say of practicing it? Even to get another to read it aloud will save one from disaster of fire, so what shall we say of one who practices it himself? The Buddhas bless him, the bodhisattvas stretch out their hands to him, the gods in their heavens applaud him. At a glimpse of his shadow, demons and evil spirits are routed. Spirits imprisoned in the depths, by contact with him realize the opportunity of release. This is called the highest, noblest, and very first dharma. Step by step it must be faithfully followed out.
辻双明 Tsuji Sōmei (1903-1991)
PART THREE: Modern Zen
Treading the Way of Zen: The Autobiography of Tsuji Sōmei
TSUJI SOMEI IS A PRESENT-DAY ROSHI WHO TRAINED UNDER Furukawa Gyodo [Furukawa Gyodo Taiko, 1872-1961], one of the great figures in Zen of the first half of the twentieth century, who taught at Engakuji, in Kamakura, thirty miles from Tokyo. These extracts are translated from his autobiography, and have been selected (with Tsuji Roshi's permission) to focus on the Zen training.
Mr. Tsuji married early and got a job as an accountant with a big oil company. He became interested in possible political solutions to social problems. His wife contracted tuberculosis and died early, leaving him with the children to look after. He later married again.
Treading the Way of Zen
The Autobiography of Tsuji Somei
Translated by Trevor Leggett
MY FIRST VISIT TO A MONASTERY TO PRACTICE ZEN WAS IN the summer of 1925, when I was twenty-two and in my first year at the Tokyo University of Commerce [now the prestigious Hitotsubashi University—Tr.] I was one of a student group at the university who practiced Zen meditation, and every year our group joined similar ones from other universities to go to Engakuji in Kamakura for a week's intensive instruction and training.
Furukawa Gyodo Roshi was then the abbot of the monastery, and at my first interview with him, he asked: "Why have you come here?"
I replied: "Because I can't sleep well."
He commented: "That's because you bother yourself over idle thoughts even when you're in bed," and laughed.
I still recall this little scene vividly.
Sitting in the meditation posture for hours and hours, day and night, proved a hard task indeed: the pain in my legs was almost unbearable. Still, after the practice ended, I could sleep unusually well, and when I woke up the next day I thought to myself: "Last night I slept like a log." In itself this was trivial, but the pleasure of this first sound sleep in many nights increased the pull to Zen.
During that first week I was impressed at the sight of the young monks working. To see them sweeping the extensive grounds with bamboo-twig brooms, in perfect silence and with full attention, put me in mind of the intensity of fencers practicing, and I felt a sort of reverence for them. It was also striking to see them walking rapidly, with their hands clasped over the breast and looking straight ahead.
In the early morning we followed them in ladling a little cold water with a dipper, from the large common basin into the hollow of one hand, to wash the face. Again, when the slippers were taken off before entering the meditation hall, they had to be set down perfectly aligned, with the toes pointing outward so that the owner could smoothly slip the feet into them when leaving.
While keeping up my studies of social problems, I did not drop my interest in religion. Sometimes I went to Kamakura to have an interview with Master Gyodo, and I also attended lectures by other Zen masters in Tokyo itself. In those days I could make nothing of them, or even of those by Master Gyodo, and had a private impression of the croaking of frogs. But I was deeply impressed by his character and, when something important came up, I often went to him for advice.
I remember that once I was puzzling over the inconsistency between my profession as an accountant in a commercial firm and my religious aspirations; I had nearly decided to enter some other career. I went to the Roshi and told him what I was proposing to do. He listened in silence to all that I had to say, and then curtly remarked: "This is just your vanity." It was like a great blow with a staff, crushing my deeply considered decision. Afterward I gradually came to realize that he was right.
One day I found myself in the guest room for an interview with the Roshi along with one other visitor, an elderly man. There was no difference at all in the Master's attitude to him, and to the obscure young man that I was. Later on I asked who the old man had been, and discovered that he was a millionaire named Machida, who used to invite Master Gyodo to take monthly Zen sessions at his mansion. I was deeply impressed by the perfect equality with which the Roshi had treated the two of us.
For a hundred days after my wife's death I chanted sutras, and repeated the invocation for a considerable time morning and evening. My three little children often kept company with me during these practices. Often at night I lay in bed with my arms stretched out to each side so that my children could hold my hands while falling asleep.
Meanwhile, I had begun to realize that one might engage in reform movements, political, economic, or social, but if one had not transcended his ego, one would be found to be acting for fame or power in the end, though claiming to be devoted to nation or society. I saw that it was a matter of paramount importance in life for any man to investigate what was his own true nature, and to get completely rid of his petty ego.
About that time I met one of my former classmates at the university, who had been practicing Zen under the guidance of Abbot Ashikaga Shogan. A lay disciple's name, Hakutei, had been conferred on him by his teacher after he had the experience of "seeing the true nature." He remarked to me: "Before I had seen into the true nature of my being, I used to practice meditation like mad." Stirred by these words, I began to practice meditation not only at home but also in the electric train on my way to work. At the office I would avail myself of any spare time to sit and meditate behind a screen of account books. At the lunch break, I went into the reception room for the same purpose.
From the first of November that year, there was an intensive meditation week at Engakuji. I went to it with do-or-die resolution to see my inmost nature at any cost, though I had only been able to get three days leave from the company. I was then thirty-five years old. For the first three days I sat with the monks in the meditation hall. My mind was wholly absorbed in the endeavor to keep in the right frame of mind all the time. Once at a meal I forgot to pick up the chopsticks, and another time during the single-file walking (kinhin) which is part of the meditation, I was so abstracted that I stumbled and fell. The meditations began at three in the morning, and ended at ten at night, but when the day's sitting had come to an end, I felt as if all the hours had passed in a moment. As I look back to my experiences at the time, I find I was in the state technically called "infinite darkness."
At the end of my three days, I had still not attained to seeing the inmost nature. Filled with disappointment, I left the temple. In the electric train on the way back, however, I suddenly experienced an extraordinary inner change. I saw light issuing from the forehead of all my fellow passengers; as I looked, I saw light coming from every object.
After a walk of a quarter of a mile from the station, I got back, and felt an ecstasy welling up within me. I was dancing about the room, literally not knowing how my arms moved, or where my steps trod, as the saying is. Overwhelmed by the strangeness of what was happening, I went back at once to Engakuji and asked for special permission to see the Master. This was not granted, however, because it was so late, so I went to the lay disciples' quarters and sat up meditating the rest of the night. The next morning when I related my experience to the Master, he replied: "While you feel ecstatic, you have not yet gotten there." Then he recited in a low voice a passage from the Record of Rinzai: "The mind adapts itself to all situations, and its manner of adaptation is most subtle. If you realize your nature in the very process of flowing, you will neither rejoice nor grieve." Then he added: "If you can understand this saying, you will have seen into your nature."
When I arrived at the company the next day, the head of my section greeted me jocularly with the remark: "Well, Mr. Tsuji, you certainly seem to have had some good news from somewhere, to have such a shining forehead."
* * *
From this time I kept up the meditation with the utmost intensity. Almost every day I went to Kamakura, passing the nights alternately at home and at Engakuji.
One day after our interview, my teacher Gyodo Roshi said to me: "You come here so often to see me. But are your children well cared for? Even the best medicine should be taken in moderation."
I replied, "But Master, shouldn't iron be struck while it's hot?"
At this, the Roshi looked as though he had swallowed something down, but did not say a word.
Now the newspapers were piling up on my big desk sometimes for weeks together, unread. Though I was in the business world, I begrudged the time for reading them and devoted it to meditation instead. My income did not allow for much margin, and on the trips to Engakuji I used to take some packets of food with me to eat on the way, with a bottle of plain water in the bag as well. As it was now late autumn and then winter, the meal was always cold. Still, I was finding it very tasty and the thought came to me how, when the mind is completely one-pointed, even plain boiled rice and cold water become delicious.There is a Zen saying: "The heart magnanimous, like an emperor," and I found that my inner state was of itself becoming somehow wide and full, and the greatness of the Zen path was borne in on me more and more. I resolved that I would do everything I could to preserve this great traditional path of the East.About this time I was reading almost no Zen books except the Record of Rinzai, and Master Hakuin's Tea‐ kettle classic. In this latter I came across a verse quoted from the great Chinese layman of the Tang dynasty called Master Fu:
Empty-handed, holding a plow:
Walking, riding a water buffalo:
When the man crosses the bridge,
The bridge flows and the water does not.
Hakuin said that if one could see right through into this verse, he would see his own true nature.
One morning in November that year, when on the way from Engakuji to work at my company I was walking on the platform of Tokyo station, suddenly the realization of "Walking, riding a water-buffalo" came to me. It was like a flash: "This is it!" While writing at the office, the realization of "Empty-handed, holding a plow" came too. Then in the bus on the way home, I penetrated the last phrases of Master Fu's verse. This was a case of coming to the realization of a Zen koan before having it set formally by the master.
Still, it was some time before my master would sanction my attempts at the koan which he had actually set me. In his interview room (which was called the Poisonous Wolf Cave), he used to urge me to go deeper into it, saying: "Now is the time when you must store up the energy to last you through your entire spiritual career." Looking back, I am grateful indeed for the unyielding firmness of the Master's training.
One day toward the end of November, I was in the interview room presenting my understanding of the koan: "Why is it called Mount Sumeru?" As the teacher spoke, a cry burst from me with the realization throughout my whole being that my true nature was no nature, that the limited and relative self is in fact unlimited and absolute. It was a realization of infinite self in direct experience. It was knowing nothingness to the limit of negation. At that moment of that day, in the Poisonous Wolf Cave, I felt I had been reborn.
From that time onward, when koans were set, I often found solutions to them bubbling up spontaneously within me, to pass me through.
In January of the next year, the teacher gave me the lay name So-mei (The Bright One), and the full Buddhist name Daiki-in So-an So-mei (The Dark-bright Pair in the Hall of Great Power). I later discovered that these two names refer to the Dark-bright Pair in the verse by I'Ts'un at the end of Case 51 of The Blue Cliff Record.
One morning I was going up the slope in the grounds of Engakuji to have an interview with Master Gyodo. It was about dawn. I happened to meet him by the little lake called Myoko (Delicate Scent), which is just below the rise on which the Master's interview room stood.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"I was hoping to have an interview about my koan," I replied.
"Then I'll hear your answer here," he told me.
So standing on my side of the lake in the faint light, I submitted my solution.
After the interview, he said: "Let us walk together."
Walking behind him, I followed him down the gradual slope toward the temple gate. As soon as we reached the road in front of the temple, he returned by another way.
This was before the time for the regular interviews for the monks living in the monastery, and so early that as yet none of the rays of the sun streaked the sky. The Master wore a pair of wooden clogs, on high supports, and went briskly and calmly along the rugged stony road despite the dark. Seeing him going so fast in the awkward footgear, along a road where even a young man in broad daylight would have to walk with care, I had an inkling of the spiritual energy that had come to my teacher through Zen. He was then about sixty-four.
* * *
In December 1936, the year when I had "seen the nature" (kensho), I moved from my home in Ogikubo in the suburbs of Tokyo to a place in the street in front of Engakuji. This was so that I could have more opportunities for evening interviews with Master Furukawa, even though living in Tokyo, I had been able to get to the temple for the regular interviews in the morning. They began at four a.m. in June and July, but when it came to December and January they would be held a little after six o'clock. So it was not impossible for me to get down to Kamakura, have an interview, and then be back for work in Tokyo. I used to get up quietly and steal out so as not to disturb the family, and could arrive in Kamakura, climb the dark road up the hill, and be on time.
The evening interviews were a little past seven p.m. in June and July, but in the winter months they began just after five o'clock, and as my office duties came to an end at that time I could not possibly manage the interviews during this part of the year. This was a matter of great regret to me.
At Engakuji there were also week-long special intensive meditation periods (sesshin) held four times during the winter months, and four times during the summer. I tried to attend these as often as I could, but my office duties interfered. Also, there was always the possibility that I could be transferred by the company to a branch office in Osaka or Shimonoseki at any time.
I was now devoted to Zen as a noble ideal and resolved to follow it right through. I also wanted to change my present profession for some other which would afford more time and opportunities for Zen. It happened that at the end of 1937, Professor Masao Hisataka (then at Yokohama College and later at Hitotsubashi University), who was a friend of mine, visited our office to inquire about the prospects of employment there next year for some of the promising students of his college. I took the opportunity of talking to him about my own enthusiasm for Zen and my desire for a change of profession which would give me more scope to pursue it.
Early in March the next year, he sent me a card saying that the principal of his college would like to see me, if I would kindly visit him. When I met him he offered me a professorship—I was to teach accounting and bookkeeping.
Apart from my professional qualification, this was what I had been doing at the Kokura Oil Company for the past nine years, during which time I had been promoted from a clerk to a deputy secretary, now receiving a sizeable income plus the regular half-yearly bonuses. But as the new position would provide only perhaps a third of what I had been getting, I put the matter to my wife and explained the circumstances to her. We agreed that we should have to change our style of living completely. As far as spiritual life was concerned, however, I could enjoy a much more congenial and enriched life. Apart from the joy of being able to participate in the morning and evening interviews every day now as well as in the special meditation periods much more regularly, I found teaching more congenial. It was a pleasure to do the preparatory work for the lecture and to teach and talk to students. We often had friendly talks in small restaurants near the college, and some of them used to come to see me at home.
On the surface, teaching is much easier than office work, but in fact I began to feel that I was carrying a heavy burden on my back all the time. It turned out that actually I had less time free from duties than when I had been working in an office. Only during the vacations did I have plenty of free time to spend just as I liked. It is indeed the holidays that are the great advantage of the teaching profession.
One summer vacation I passed about forty days almost entirely away from home. I lodged in the Lay‐ Disciples' Hall in Engakuji, and often sat in meditation in the Founder's Shrine at the Obai-in sub-temple, which is in the Engakuji complex. I gave up shaving, and grew a long beard. One night I decided to sit up all night in meditation in the Lay-Disciples' Hall. As time went on, I became overwhelmed by drowsiness, and finally I lay down where I was, resting my head on one arm. I was suddenly awakened by something dropping on my forehead. To my drowsy perceptions, it seemed to be something quite big. Once fully awake, I realized that it was a large centipede creeping over my neck. I swept it away with my hand. There are many such things in the temple precincts.
At this time of my life, I often slept only three or four hours a night. I suppose that even a few hours will suffice if the sleep becomes deep as the result of the coming-to‐ one of the mind through the practice of Zen meditation.
In the Hakuin tradition, the occasion when the master grants interviews to a disciple, which take place in his living quarters, is called shitsu-nai (inside the room). At the interview, the disciple confronts his master man-to‐ man, presenting his answer to the koan riddle for the master's judgment and engaging in question-and-answer with him. The interview is also termed hossen, or spiritual warfare. It is the most important and solemn occasion in Zen training. Masters' particular ways of training and their spiritual attainments are manifested through their words and actions "inside the room."
There was a calmness, as of the depths of the ocean, about Master Gyodo "inside the room," and also something of what in Zen is called the sheerness of a silver cliff or an iron wall. He hardly ever resorted to slapping or yelling. But sometimes when he rejected my answer to a koan with the words, "That won't do," I felt as if I had indeed been slapped in the face, or thundered at with the usual Katzu! shout.In the interview room with Master Gyodo it was quiet, but there was a feeling of severity and something terrifying.
One winter I caught cold, and a rheumatic knee condition which I had from childhood flared up, so that I could not bend my left knee at all. If I had to squat down, I stuck out my left leg straight in front, and went down on the bent right knee. I had to use a stick when going from home to the interviews at the temple. But when I came before the teacher to make my prostration, the knee could suddenly bend. It was quite extraordinary. When I left to make my way back home, on the other hand, the knee again could not bend.
Another thing that happened to me was a persistent fit of hiccups, which lasted about a week. There was a popular idea that to go on hiccupping for more than a certain number of days would result in death, and I did all the things that are supposed to cure hiccups, but all was in vain. Yet during the interview with the Master, and for some time afterward, the hiccups used to cease. And then they would come back again. This seems perhaps a small matter, but I can never forget it.
At an interview, the Master and I would sit on the ground, face to face, with only perhaps five or six inches between our knees. Although we were so close, sometimes he spoke in such a low voice I could not make out what he was saying. But when I would be walking quietly back along the corridor to the room where the other monks were waiting to strike the bell in their turn to have an interview, his voice seemed as it were to get stronger and stronger in me so that I could easily understand what had been said to me. This too is one of my special memories of the interviews in the Poisonous Wolf Cave.
I was in the special category of what is called tsuzan, so that I could often ask for naizan, which means an interview outside the normal fixed times. To someone in a situation like myself, Master Gyodo would cheerfully give interviews.
At the end of the year in which I had "seen the nature," I asked for one of these interviews, though it was New Year's Eve. Although the next day was the great festival day of New Year, I turned up as usual in the evening and asked for the interview. But the Master's attendant refused me, just saying: "New Year... " Only then did I think: "Why, yes, it's New Year... "; but then the thought came too: "Did not the ancients warn us that change is upon us: time does not wait on man"?
Perhaps I was at that time really steeped in Zen, as the saying goes.
There are some other things I shall always remember about him. Once he caught a cold which led to a high fever. His throat was painful, and his voice terribly hoarse. We were very worried, but he wrapped several lengths of cloth around his throat, and gave the sermons at the sesshin in a sort of strangled voice. After the session was over, I presented myself to pay my respects and asked after him; he just said: "Oh, today I brushed some Chinese calligraphy, so it's all right again."
When he was in good health, his voice was vibrant and very clear. In fact when I first took to going to hear him, it was not so much the content of the address as the attraction of his voice that drew me. At the public ceremonies, he would pass in front of us listeners to make the three bows before the Buddha, and his posture as he passed, and his tread as he went up to the shrine to light a stick of incense, had for me a sort of indescribable magic about them.Usually he used to walk around the temple complex before dawn each morning, but apart from that, he did not leave his private quarters much, so that even in the grounds he was not often to be met. I was once standing in front of the laymen's hall when he came out from his own quarters walking toward the temple gate. I bowed my head and the Roshi brought his palms together in the traditional salutation, pursuing his way without the slightest check. I had the feeling of the Zen saying: "Walk like the wind." At that time he was, I suppose, about sixty-seven or sixty-eight.Another typical incident was this: I was to see him about something, and presented myself at the back door of his quarters, before the sliding door of his attendant's room. I announced myself, and heard the Roshi's own voice: "What do you want?" When I slid open the door, I saw him bent right down, having his head shaved by the attendant monk. In that very awkward position, and accosted unexpectedly, his voice still seemed to come from the depths of his being, and I got an idea of what must have been the thousand temperings and polishings of his training over the long years.
* * *
Here are a few things from those days with Master Gyodo which still often come to my mind:
• Zen is something about which someone who doesn't really know can still manage to write without giving himself away. But if you hear him speak just a couple of words, you know his inner state exactly.
• For Seeing the Nature, it has to be fierce as a lion, but after that realization, the practice has to go slow like an elephant.
• If you get through the first barrier (the first koan) without much trouble, you get stuck afterward and can't get on. It's as if you'd thrust your hand into a glue pot.
• However much you go to Zen interviews, and however many koans you notch up, if you don't get to the great peace ....
• Going simply by the number of koans you pass— well, however many they may be, it's no good unless you come to the samadhi of no-thought. In the samadhi of no‐ thought, there's no soul, there's no body, there are no objects of the senses, much less any koan!
• For Going the Rounds (visiting a number of teachers in turn for interviews) you have got to have an eye that can see a teacher.
• You have to be able to enter freely and come out of the world of the absolute (infinite non-distinction) or the world of the relative (limited distinction) at will.
• You may go the rounds, but unless you learn the strong points of each teacher, you will get nothing out of it. If you are simply looking for weak points in teachers, however much you may go round it will be no good.
• I can't understand what they call reputation in the world. There are people who, when you go and see them, are completely different from what you have heard about them.
• Whatever koan it may be, it comes down to the absolute, or the relative, or an unobstructed harmony of absolute and relative.
• When one has attained realization (satori) the prac tice has to be taken to the point where even the first syllable, sa, meaning "distinguishing," has ceased to exist.
• (Of a certain teacher.) He is supposed to be a teacher, but I find something peculiar about him; and somehow even what he writes has got a smell about it.
• If someone goes right through the training, he goes back to his original temperament. With one who likes rice-wine, it's rice-wine; with one who likes women, it's women—that's the sort of thing.
Note by Tsuji Roshi: This remark by Master Gyodo did not mean assenting to sexual practices and other desires: the one who has gone right through the training has come to the state of the true no-I (mu-ga) and no‐ Minding (mu-shin). The Master is pointing here to the heart of heavenly truth, the great life of nature. I feel that this was what was meant by Confucius when he said: "At seventy years of age, I could follow the desires of my heart, and they never transgressed the moral rules."
• A man who does things without "hidden virtue" (on-doku) will surely have no good end to his life.
• So-and-so Roshi used to say he wanted to test teachers, and went round to a number of training halls, boasting of "taking away their announcement bells" and so on. But this sort of thing has no hidden virtue about it, and so his last years were not good.
• In Case 19 of the Mumonkan collection of koans, called "The Ordinary is the Way," Mumon has a comment: "Even when Joshu had realized, he had to start on a further thirty years of practice." I asked about this thirty years, and Master Gyodo said: "Thirty years means the lifetime, practice is the whole life long."
In his sermons, when the subject of the Sixth Patriarch Eno came up, Master Gyodo seemed to burn with enthusiasm as he spoke of how the patriarch had a first enlightenment on hearing a phrase from the Diamond Sutra, that the mind should move without making a home anywhere, had gone to Mount Obai to be under Master Konin, and there was treated not as a priest but as a lay pilgrim and set to pounding rice, and how he was recognized through the poem: "The bodhi (wisdom) is not a tree, nor has the mirror any stand: from the very beginning not a single thing—on what could the dust alight?" Then how he was chosen as successor out of the hundreds of disciples, and entrusted with the Transmission by the Fifth Patriarch, who helped him to leave Obai secretly under cover of darkness to escape the jealousy and spite of some other disciples.
• There is a Zen phrase: "In the cold, the hair stands on end." When the Master used to speak of these dramatic events in the history of Chinese Zen, I experienced this literally. The impact of his words was so tremendous that I felt my hair standing on end.
• Around about this time my favorite reading was the lives of Shido Bunan and Shoju Rojin, teacher of Hakuin. Occasionally Master Gyodo used to say something to the effect that perhaps things were going to become something like they were in the times of Bunan and Shoju. He said that though they were priests, in fact they had much of the attitude of laymen (koji), and that possibly in the future, for a time, the dharma might be propagated by these laymen.
* * *
Around then I also came to study enthusiastically the lives of the historic National Teachers Daito and Muso, and I went all the way to Shogenji at Ibuka in Mino province where Muso used to live, and to the Kazan temple in Kyoto, to pay reverence to the tomb of Gudo, who had been a teacher of Shido Bunan.
In 1940 Master Gyodo retired from being head of the Engakuji sect, and went back to the Tenchian hermitage at Kuboyama in the district of Yokohama. At that time his room was at the back of the temple, and on his desk was a goldfish bowl, which someone had brought him. It was set on a light stand made of bamboo cross-pieces. One day, after the Zen interview, I was talking to the teacher when a bee flew into the room, seemed to dance around happily, and then went into the hollow of one of the bamboo pieces of the goldfish bowl stand. Another time when I was there just the same thing happened: I saw a bee fly in and go into the bamboo tube. I got the impression that the Master—so strict and forbidding to pupils—was to this bee a kindly playmate. In this side of the Roshi's character I saw an affinity with Master Ikkyu (some four hundred years before), who had a pet sparrow which he called his attendant. When the sparrow died, he gave him a posthumous Buddhist name, Sonrin, and wrote a death poem for him.
The Master had once told me himself how, when he was still in charge of Jochiji, in his forties, he had been lying asleep with almost nothing on and a large venomous centipede had crawled across his chest. He had not brushed it off and killed it but let it go on its way. When I saw how the bee seemed to be playing in the Master's room, I recalled that story about the centipede.
It is fair to say that up to the time of my call-up into the army in June 1941, I spent almost all the spare time allowed by my professional work in Zen interviews and study. There were times of tension and times of relaxation, but throughout I was treading the path of Zen. In addition to some koans from outside the standard collections, I had in my interviews in the Poisonous Wolfs Cave gone through the whole hundred of the Hekiganshu and got up to number 37 of the Mumonkan classic.When I received the red-colored conscription papers, I went at once to see the Roshi at Tenchian hermitage at Kuboyama, and told him the position. Saying "Oh, really?" he got up from his seat and went into an interior room. He soon came back with two sheets of colored paper about a foot square, on which he had brushed:
No life-and-death for this one
The first comes from a phrase of the founder of Myoshinji in Kyoto, the great Kanzan, one of whose names was Egen: "No life-and-death for this Egen."
These two sheets of paper with their brushed characters were always with me during my army service, and later when we were all imprisoned in Russia.
When I was called up, I was engaged on the 38th koan in the Mumonkan, which is Ho-en's "Cow Passing the Empty Window." When I said farewell to Master Gyodo I asked him, "How would it be if I try writing my solution to you?" "Interview by letter?" he said doubtfully, putting his head a little to one side. "Well, you could try it," he then agreed. I did in fact write from where I was stationed two or three times, to have the Zen interview on paper as it were, but after that I gave it up altogether.
I was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit and we were immediately sent to the barracks at Shimamatsu in Hokkaido. We were engaged in the defense of the air above Otaru City. In May 1943 we were ordered to two of the northernmost islands of the Kurile chain. The small mountains rising in the middle of the islands were covered with snow year round. From one of them, Kabuto-yama, on a fine day I could get a distant view of the snow-white peninsula of Kamchatka, and realized how far north I had come.
On these North Kurile islands there are many days of dense fog in summer, and raging snowstorms in winter. The fog is famous for its peculiar humidity, which sometimes made our clothes as wet as if they had been soaked in water. The snowstorms were so violent that they claimed several victims each winter. When one was raging, it required extraordinary care to traverse even the ten-odd yards which separated one of the barrack buildings from the next one. In addition to all this, the islands are subject to hurricanes, which not seldom attain a wind-speed of over 120 miles an hour.
The islands are quite barren, yielding no grains and hardly any vegetables. Food and other necessities of life had to be supplied to us by sea from Japan proper. Thus there were no actual inhabitants of the islands who lived there all the time.
All these circumstances combined to induce in one a feeling of deep desolation, as of being (like so many characters in Japanese history) exiled to a remote island surrounded by the ocean. Of course the arrival of a supply ship was a tremendous event. But these ships were from time to time sunk by enemy submarines. Raids by the American Air Force were very frequent. Soon after our arrival the barrack of a platoon of the searchlight battalion was hit by a bomb, killing not only its leader but the commander of the battalion and the men of a company who happened to be on the spot.
In this grim situation, however, it was still possible for me to study and meditate, by day and by night, whenever it was that I could get the time off from my duties. As for reading, I spent many days on Shimazaki's Before Dawn and Goethe's Faust. I borrowed the Lotus Sutra, translated from the Chinese, from an officer in the paymasters department, and read it over twice with great spiritual benefit. If the Record of Rinzai is comparable to a serene gem, the Lotus Sutra is a magnificent temple decorated with innumerable precious stones. I was also stirred by the proselytizing spirit pervading this sacred book.
After I had read it for the second time, I happened to hear that a man in a certain company had a copy of the Chinese version, and when I next went to that company, following the regimental commander on an inspection tour, I took the opportunity to borrow the book. I copied selections from the twenty-eight chapters of it, in tiny characters in a pocket book; a few of the chapters I copied out in their entirety. I also wrote those passages which impressed me most as the essence of the Lotus Sutra on some small sheets of paper.
Our arrival in the North Kuriles took place immediately after the annihilation of the Yamazaki garrison on Attu in the Aleutian islands in May 1943. After that, the tide of war had been steadily turning against Japan, and it was expected that there might be American landings on our islands any day. We were given preparatory exercises for a final battle in which all were to die in action, with no one surrendering. The exercises in hand‐ to-hand fighting, officers with swords and men with bayonets, were repeated again and again.
Surrounded by such an atmosphere of grim desperation, I read and meditated as before, but also took up daily sword practice with a wooden practice sword or my real one. Before being called up, I had a little instruction in an ancient tradition called batto-jutsu, the art of drawing a sword and striking with a single rapid movement. This is one of the sources of the developed Japanese art of the sword, and I took up the practice again. Among the books I had brought with me was Miyamoto Musashi's Five Rings, which I now studied with profit.After reading the chapter on "How to Use the Feet and How to Walk," I happened to pass a dried-up river‐ bed full of boulders. Going down to the bed I drew my sword and struck out in all directions against imaginary opponents, at the same time having to keep my balance and freedom of movement among the stones. This experiment brought home to me the real value of Musashi's teachings.In the chapter on "Sight in the Knightly Arts," it is said:
Of pure awareness and the physical eye, it is very important in the knightly arts that all-seeing, imperturbable awareness should be the stronger of the two, so that one should be able to see the distant like the near, and the near like the distant. It is most important in the knightly arts to know your opponent's sword, without looking at it at all. You must try hard to learn how to do so.... It is also important to see either side without moving your pupils to the side at all. If you are taken up with the world, you cannot expect to learn the secret in a short time. Take to heart what I have written here, and always practice fixing the gaze in this way, so that it does not waver. This has to be wrestled with again and again. This is in the Book of Water.
The last section, called "Emptiness," has this:
may be sure that you have attained the spiritual state of true 'Emptiness.'
You should diligently cultivate the spirit and the mind, as well as awareness and the physical eye, every day and every hour. When you have made them cloudless and free from all delusions, then you may be sure that you have attained the spiritual state of true 'Emptiness.'
From this it is clear how much importance Musashi attached to the point about awareness and the physical eye. This having taken a firm hold of my mind, I exercised myself in it with my sword every day, in a little wood of alders (dwarfed by the cold), and against the background of the mountains clad with perpetual snow. On the 16th of July, 1944, when I was training myself in awareness and physical eye along these lines, with the bare sword before me, I realized the real meaning of the phrase: "Cold stands the sword against the sky," and I saw that I had never really understood it.
At the same time I had a realization of knowing from the inside the first koan of the Hekiganshu (Blue Cliff Record): "Vastness, no holiness!", and the comment in the Gateless Gate (No. 19): "When you attain the way of no doubts at all, it is an abode of vastness like infinite space," and Shido Bunan's state of "Nothing to Defend," and again the poem which the fencer Yamaoka Tesshu composed on his enlightenment: "One morning the floor and walls were all pulverized and I saw the round dewdrops shining as ever." (The passage in Bunan's work The Heart As It Is runs: "Someone asked me about Mahayana, and I said, 'Keeping oneself upright, to have nothing to defend, that is Mahayana.' Then he asked about the highest Way, and I said, 'Doing just as one likes, to have nothing to defend, that is the great thing. And that is why there are very few such in the world. "')
I returned straightaway to my room and went right through the hundred koans of the Blue Cliff and the first thirty-seven of the Gateless Gate, one after another. I had already passed through each of them in the interview room with Master Gyodo, but now I felt that I had penetrated into their very marrow.
I came to see how significant was the "Vastness, no holiness!" koan at the very beginning of the Blue Cliff. Vastness. Great Emptiness. Empty Space. Nothing to Defend, express the Dropping off Body-mind, Body‐ mind dropped-off state which is the essence of Zen, and the marrow of all the classical koans.
I felt I had realized the state of which it is said "to pass one is to pass all" and "cutting through all the old koans." Since the time of first seeing the nature in November 1936, some eight long years had gone by up to this moment, with great changes in the situation of Japan and of course my own personal situation too. But this day was one of the most unforgettable of my whole life.
Years later, when in a priest's robe I was practicing the austerity of a mendicant in the streets of Kyoto, I looked in at the museum and chanced upon the admonition of National Master Daito, in which he says, "The Great Teacher Bodhidharma came from India across the turbulent waves, and saw first the Liang lord (the emperor Lang Wutei) to whom he declared 'Vastness, No Holiness!' The thousand miles and ten thousand miles were like one bar of iron. After that he went to Shaolin, and there was the test of his four disciples who grasped skin, flesh, bone, and marrow respectively. All was nothing more than 'Vastness, No Holiness!'..."Reading this closely, I felt it was a confirmation of my experience in the Kuriles in July 1944.
Back in Japan after being a prisoner in Russia, I one day spoke of this realization in the Kuriles to Master Gyodo, who listened in silence. Then he just said: "However good a thing may be, it will not do to get caught up in it." Gyodo Roshi always admonished us strictly: "Don't get caught up in anything at all. Go beyond everything!"
* * *
I heard the Emperor's broadcast on Horomushiro island announcing the cessation of hostilities, and toward the end of August 1945 we were taken prisoner by the Soviet Army. We were put together with other units in large warehouses near the airstrip, and in this very anxious and restrictive situation we each had to get on with our lives as best we could. I used to go into the trees every day and chant the Kannon Sutra and the Essence of the Lotus Sutra which I had compiled in a loud voice. Then one day I was asked by the regimental commander to give a talk on zazen (contemplation) to an audience of nearly all the officers, after which, gradually, they began to sit together most evenings for a short time before going to sleep. However, this did not last long, as in November we were put onto a Russian ship. We hoped we were going to be repatriated to Japan, but our hopes were dashed when the ship made for a Russian port.
December 8—celebrated especially in Zen as the day of the Buddha's realization—was the day we docked at Vladivostock; and in the middle of the next night we were disembarked into the darkness and piercing cold. Carrying all our baggage, it was no easy matter just to keep going. Any upward slope seemed to make the packs heavier and the pain harder to bear. To breathe was painful, and at times it seemed that death was close at hand. Involuntarily and half-consciously I found myself reciting "Namu Kannon bo-satsu" (reverence to bodhisattva Kannon). Gritting our teeth, we somehow struggled on, with occasional warning shots fired by the guards into the air. Finally we stumbled into the primitive prison buildings.
We were held there two weeks, with appalling food consisting mainly of thin gruel. At night it was so crowded that our boots were in our neighbors' faces. If one went to the latrine during the night, on returning one found that the sleeping place had just vanished.
Doubtless owing to a constitutional weakness, I got frostbite on the face when walking in the tiny garden.
At the end of December we were packed into railway trucks, and for forty days we were on the trans-Siberian railway, until we ended up in a prison camp near a forest, in a plain not far from Moscow. In the trucks I got frostbite again, but one of us had such a serious case that he had to have a leg amputated. That was a terribly painful journey for us in the trucks, through the Siberian winter, when the temperature is seldom higher than ten degrees below zero.
A few days into the train journey, I looked back over my time in the army, well over four years. In my own regiment, a whole battalion had gone down in a torpedo attack, and many others had been killed in air raids. I had been fortunate enough to survive so far, but it would evidently not be easy to come through the cruel hardships of life as a prisoner. It seemed to me that Japan, after losing this war, would have no political or economic power, and the only contribution Japan could make to world culture would be in the field of Buddhism. Japan's fine arts might possibly be an internationally valuable asset to that end. I resolved then that if I should return, I would devote the remainder of my life to the cause of Buddhism. This is the highest value I had met in life, and I would willingly be engaged in minor duties in some mountain temple if that was what offered itself. I would have some regret at renouncing my three little ones, leaving them without the loving care of their father, but they would realize that I might easily have died like so many others during the war itself. "I do not begrudge my body or life for love of the Supreme Way," says the Lotus Sutra, and indeed, unless there are some who are really to put the meaning of this verse into practice, the Supreme Way might easily die out.
This resolution became firm in me, and I spent my time in the gloomy goods truck in sutra chanting and meditating. As I look back on it now, I feel that this resolve was what kept alive a glimmer of hope which enabled me to survive those prison conditions.
The trucks on the Siberian railway did not give us much room. In the middle was a stove and a toilet; in the fore and aft sections there were two "decks," one above the other, crowded with forty men sitting or lying. When at night we wanted to sleep, we were so packed that each man's legs were bound to be interfering with the sleep of someone else, and there were noisy scenes every night.
The wagons had no windows but there was a single opening in the middle which let in some sunlight. However, I discovered a small knothole in the wall beside my place, and through its half-inch diameter a tiny ray of light could creep in. By that, I could read the Mumonkan and the Lotus Sutra. I was still able to practice meditation for a short time every day.
During the whole time I was at the prison camp, I read the Rinzai Roku, the Lotus Sutra, the Hekigan Roku, and the Triple Scripture of the Pure Land Sect: the last two I borrowed from a man in another unit; I heard by chance that he had copies of them. Similarly I came to hear of a copy of Dogen's Gakudo Yojinshu (Advice to Students of Buddhism). Getting the loan of this, I copied it out in tiny letters into a small notebook. The barrack was not furnished with electricity, and there were only a couple of small oil lamps among a hundred men. So I had to do my reading at night beside one of them, and find a place at the window during the day, because even then the place was rather dim.
In the winter round Moscow, even in daytime the temperature can be more than thirty degrees below zero, and it is often twenty-five below. At such times we were let off work in the open air, and confined to our barracks.
When we got back from work on the farm, I would try to learn by heart the two poems "Shinjin Mei" (On Faith in the Heart) and "Shodoka" (Song of Realization of the Way), and sometimes I would recite them walking about the courtyard of the barrack in the cold air which was far below zero. I had a good memory in those days, and could manage to get through the whole long "Shodoka" poem.
As for daily life, I recalled the saying in the Zen monastery: Practice the Mirror samadhi for three years. So I tried this mental cultivation (of clear awareness like a mirror) during activity, and when walking to and from the place of work.
* * *
On the days when the temperature fell below minus twenty-five degrees and we were let off our work in the open air, we consequently had an extra holiday. On some such occasions, when walking about the camp courtyard, I often felt a sense of gratitude welling up in my heart. It may seem a strange thing to say, considering the very adverse situation we were in: the strict confinement, anxiety about the very uncertain future, with only the barest necessities of life, and no possibility of being able to do what one might wish. But it is a fact that on a number of different occasions I had this feeling of thankfulness rising in me. It was not gratitude for any particular thing, but a sort of diffuse happiness, like the light of dawn coming up in the midst of darkness. I suppose that at the root of these experiences was what had come from following the way of Zen.During the imprisonment of two years and some months, I dreamed of my teacher Gyodo Roshi only once. I saw him in a large study, sitting at a desk with a book placed on it. He said to me: "I want to give you this book, but as yet it wouldn't be any good." I remember that in the dream I had looked for, and brought to give to the Master, a pair of sandals with white thongs. I had this dream in 1946 on the night of October 15, which is the traditionally observed anniversary of the death of the Third Zen Patriarch in China, Songtsan, who wrote the poem "Faith in the Heart." It was of course chance, but had deep meaning for me, as I was wholly determined to give my life to Buddhism, and with that resolve alone sustain myself in the sufferings of imprisonment.Every morning I used to recall the verse of Master Menzan:
When heart is in accord with heart,
And remembering with every thought,
There is a meeting every day—
Regardless of presence or absence.
I turned toward the sky in the direction of my home country, and prayed for Master Gyodo Furukawa and for Dr. Kitaro Nishida (Japan's greatest philosopher). After we arrived in Russia, someone told me that Dr. Nishida died, but I had not believed it.
The first part of the imprisonment in Russia had been at Patema, a prison camp situated among forests and fields; the last half was in a camp near Moscow at a place called Marshansk. It was from this last that we were finally repatriated to Japan. Our Siberia-bound train pulled out of Marshansk station in 1947, again on October 15, the anniversary of Songtsan's death. It was no more than coincidence, but once more I could not help feeling that it was somehow a confirmation of my resolve to give my life to Buddhism as a priest. And so, we returned to Japan.
* * *
After the experience of profound enlightenment which I had on Horomushiro Island in the Kuriles, I had a secret notion that I should have nothing to fear from any of the classical koans. But when I resumed the interviews with Master Gyodo after my return, I discovered that it was no such simple matter. The very first one I was given, about the ox passing through the window (No. 38 in the Mumonkan) took me quite a number of days to pass through myself. At the same time, thanks to this koan, there was a marked advance in my grasp of enlightenment. Master once said that to hold people up is what a koan is for, and one should appreciate this.
Anyway, it made me humble again, and I assiduously worked at the training in the Poisonous Wolf's Cave interviews. In the end, I was passed through the whole training of the interview room, and one day in May, 1949, was given a traditional hermitage name (shitsugo): Fuko-an, which means "the Hermitage of the Cloth Drum." Along with this I was presented with a verse by the Master:
To the Master of the Cloth Drum Hermitage
He has burst open the long night's dream of sentient being
Across the ocean of No Merit,
His ship of compassion rides proudly
Feeling and thinking at a loss,
Like a fool, like a dullard, in light and dark.
He also remarked to me: "You have got the dharma, so whatever you do, it's all right."
The 57th koan of the Hekigan collection is Joshu's: "You yokel!" And Setcho's verse on it concludes with the line: "A cloth drum is hanging from the eaves." One day the Master gave a sermon in the Engakuji hall on this line, and he said that of course a drum which is made by stretching a cloth across won't make a sound however much you hit it. So it's something quite useless. In human terms it means a fool, someone quite useless. And (he added) you have to become an absolute fool. "I say fool, but it doesn't mean just to be in the way as an ordinary fool. You have to be a really big fool."
In the Hokyo Zammai classic it says "to be able to keep living like a dullard, like a fool, is called the lord of lords"—and when it is said that the cloth drum is like a fool, this will mean that it is a state not easily attained.
* * *
Twenty-four years after my start on the Way of Zen, though my pace was slow and unremarkable, I reached a certain landmark. Meanwhile many great changes had taken place, and not only in my private life, due in part to the China Incident (1937-41) and World War II. Having finished my spiritual apprenticeship, I keenly felt that I was charged with a fresh responsibility: the mission to propagate Zen Buddhism. And to this end I considered whether I would not do well to enter the priesthood, shaving my hair and assuming the priest's black robe. The reading of the Book of the Merits of a Priest in Dogen's Shobo Genzo (a collection of his Japanese writings on Zen Buddhism) and also of the Most Reverend Daio's Final Advice gave a big new impetus to my resolve. As I pondered the question intently, I read and reread these writings.
I consulted Dr. Daisetsu Suzuki about my plan. He did not encourage me, saying, "In my opinion you need not enter the priesthood. But I admit priesthood has a certain prestige attached to it." He had used the English word and being uncertain about the meaning of the word "prestige," I consulted an English dictionary afterwards, and found it signified "reputation, influence derived from past achievements, positions, etc.," but that the original French word meant "illusion" and"disillusion" as well as "trick" and "glamour." Taking it all in all, prestige seemed to be an ironical word.
In the extensive grounds of Engakuji, some well-to-do people had built homes on rented sites: among them was Mr. Mitsuo Ishii, a retired businessman who was an ex‐ president of the Japan Hypothec Bank. In his younger years he used to study Zen under Master Sokai, a former abbot of the monastery. He was friends with many famous priests, such as Soen Shaku, Toin Iida, Shizan Ashikaga, and Gempo Yamamoto, and was recognized as the greatest collector of Zen books. After I had decided to become a priest, I consulted Mr. Ishii about whom I should request to be the master priest in my ordination. My old master Gyodo Furukawa was then in retirement. Mr. Ishii recommended the Most Reverend Kendo Ueki of Unganji in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture, saying that as far as he knew, Master Kendo was a man of noblest character. I accepted his advice, and was given a letter of introduction.
In June, 1949, I started for the temple. It was situated on a mountain fourteen miles southeast ofNishi-Nasuno station on the main North-East railway. It had been founded by the Most Reverend Bukkoku (one of the disciples of Bukko, a Chinese priest, who also founded Engakuji). In his time, the temple was renowned as one of the two greatest Zen centers in the country, the other being the Sufukuji at Hakata, Kyushu, presided over by the Most Reverend Daio. Alighting from the train at Nishi-Nasuno Station, and taking a local line and then a bus, I came within half a mile of my destination. Then I walked along a mountain stream called Mumogawa, and arrived at Unganji. Its traditional "mountain name" was Tozan (East Mount), standing as it did on the midslope of a thick, wooded mountain. The noise of the torrent was likely to be mistaken for the sound of a falling rain at night by strangers staying at the temple, so perfectly still were the surroundings of this temple.
One of my first impressions was of its cleanliness. The lavatories especially were kept so clean that they were shiny. I was first received by the Reverend Daikei Hayashi, present abbot, and then presented to Master Kendo Ueki. With permission I stayed here overnight, and explained to the ex-abbot all about my past and present. Despite the fact there were no female inhabitants, there was something mild and kindly in the atmosphere, in striking contrast with that of the average Zen temple where sternness alone would prevail. In this kindliness my heart felt at ease."The education you are now engaged in is an important matter as you know," the Master began, "and before complete renunciation of the world you will have to provide for the support of your wife and family. So you had better take your ordination without giving up your present profession for now." It was arranged that I should come again toward the end of August during the summer vacation, for the purpose of taking the robe.Immediately before taking the rites of ordination, I was to copy out a pledge, following a set formula. It consists of several lines, but the contents could be summed up in one sentence. "I vow to devote myself to the propagation of the Way, sacrificing everything." There was no mention of studying or practicing the Way oneself, but it stressed exclusively propagation of the religion. Remembering that the Lotus Sutra was informed with the spirit of propaganda, I was struck by the manifestation of the Mahayana spirit in this formula. It is sometimes said that pity and love are lacking in Zen, and that compared to Christianity, Buddhism is poor in the spirit of propagation. Be that as it may, I realized on this occasion that the backbone of Zen was to be found in the cultivation of souls.My master Gyodo had often said, "The first duty of a priest is to spread the religion. But nowadays there are few of them who will exert themselves in this way." Now, as I was writing out my pledge, his regretful words came back to me with great force.
"The aspiration to bodhi (enlightenment) means the vow to save all sentient beings before one's own salvation, and to exert oneself accordingly. Whether one be a layperson or a priest, a dweller in heaven or a human being, whether one is in pain or pleasure, one should resolve immediately to take the vow: 'I will save others before myself.' However humble one may be in his social estate if he takes this vow, he becomes a teacher of beings in heaven and on earth. Even if one may be a girl of seven, one becomes a teacher of the four ranks of Buddhists. Whether male or female such a one is the loving father of all creatures. This is the supreme principle of Buddhism. When one has taken the vow, one may happen to be born in any of the Six States of Existence or in any of the species of living beings, but such an existence will provide opportunity to fulfil the great mission of the bodhisattva. Though one may have lived idly up till now one should hasten to take the vow while life yet remains."
The above is a quotation from the Book of Vow and Salvation, in the Soto Kyokai Shushogi (Rules of Salvation and Enlightenment of the Soto Sect of Zen). I have repeatedly read this passage since my youth, sometimes finding my eyes filling with tears as I did so. The enthusiasm welling up from this passage is the backbone of Mahayana Buddhism. Unless inspired with this burning spirit, one's study and practice of Zen cannot have the sincerity it should have.The rules of Meditation (zazengi) begin with the following:
"The bodhisattva who desires to attain the supreme wisdom ought first of all to entertain boundless compassion, vowing to save all beings and giving up the egoistic desire for his personal salvation."
It is highly significant that this text, whose object is to give a detailed account of the physical and mental methods of meditation, should first of all emphasize the importance of pity and love for all beings.
It would not be going too far to say that shouldering the cross of the pains and sorrows of humanity is the true source of sincerity in Zen study and practice. Hence the old saying that the identification of one's own good with the good of others is the essence of the way ofbodhisattvas.
Renunciation of the world is not because of pessimism or escapism, as is often wrongly supposed: on the contrary, it ought to be for the sake of ridding the world of its misery. The distinction between Hinayana and Mahayana consists in this: that the former seeks one's own salvation exclusively whereas the latter is bent upon that of all creatures.
Before one can benefit others, however, one must have the experience or consciousness of having saved himself. Thus one's own good should be promoted by the desire for the good of others. On the other hand, the good of others cannot be achieved without one's own good. Study, practice, and propagation form a trinity. On the eve of my ordination, I was continuously taken up with these thoughts.
Master Kendo Ueki bestowed on me a stole, a robe, and a begging bowl, as well as the formal priestly name Genyo. But in fact I had my lay-disciple name Somei registered as my priestly name with the ecclesiastical authorities, keeping Genyo as a sort of pen name.
* * *
So it was, then, that having first conceived a vague idea of becoming a priest when I was only twenty-two, I now actually became one after a long time, when I was two months into my forty-sixth year. Immediately after the ordination ceremony, I had an interview with Master Kendo, in the course of which I asked him what would be the most important thing in my life as a priest in the future. He thought a bit and then said: "The most important thing is to have as few desires as possible." He also advised me for the present to continue to live at my home and carry on with my teaching as a professor. Accordingly, I took the train back to my wife and family at Kamakura, and I remember saying to myself seriously on the journey, contemplating my changed appearance with the black robe and shaven head: "You must be careful not to slip into becoming a hypocrite!"
* * *
Having been ordained a priest at Unganji in Nasu, I was still with my family and teaching at Kanagawa University as before, though now in priest's robes and shaving my head every few days. So I was a member of the class referred to in the old Buddhist saying: "There are four kinds of monks, one of them being those who remain with their families physically, but live away from the world spiritually." Again, in the section called "Ways and Means" in the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, it says: "If you have the aspiration for Supreme Wisdom (anuttara‐ samyak-sambodhi citta) then you are monks." In this spirit I tried to think of myself as a monk, though living a layman's life, but somehow in the depths of my being, I felt uneasy.
Often I thought to myself that I really ought to dedicate myself wholly to Buddhism without regard to my wife and children, and that the suffering which this would bring could be taken as a high sacrifice before the altar of the Way. Sometimes I was on the verge of taking the step of renouncing home to take a monk's life in the literal as well as spiritual sense; but then I would be watching them in our shared daily life, and particularly when I listened to their peaceful breathing in the silence of the night, a wave of feeling for them would come over me and my half-formed resolve would quickly crumble away.
During these times of spiritual struggle, I used to keep a small notebook with me, to jot down my passing thoughts and feelings, in the hope that somehow it would help to organize my thinking. But from time to time my predicament flared up into inner agonies, and it seemed like the situation in the saying "... a sheer cliff-edge behind, and another cliff-edge in front," or like a mountain climber who suddenly finds that there is no way to go on up, and no way down either.
Early in December of that year, I happened to come across a piece in the paper about two parents, both in their thirties, who had thrown themselves, and their four children, overboard from a cross-channel steamer going between Aomori and Hakodate. Their tragedy had not arisen from economic straits; they had relatively expensive tickets, and in fact the report said they were quite well-to-do Yokohama residents. Perhaps this story affected me so much because the places were familiar: I knew the Tsugaru Strait where the suicide had taken place, and I had myself lived for years in Yokohama. Such family suicides were often reported in the press, and more and more I found myself asking what our Buddhist priests were doing to alleviate the spiritual misery that must have occasioned them. And that led immediately to the thought, 'What am I myself doing? Am I myself leading the life proper to a Buddhist priest?' The repeated self-examination and subsequent self-reproach were reinforcing my wavering determination to renounce my family ties altogether.About now I got a letter from Daisetsu Suzuki in America saying that there was a certain American in New York who was running a Zen meditation hall there, and was intending to come to Japan soon; he had mentioned my name to him, and he now asked if I would see this man. As it happened, I was not able to meet him when he came briefly to Kamakura; he went on to stay in Kyoto, and I corresponded with him. Finally I did meet him in Kyoto, and we had several days of talks there.One day he suggested to me that I should go to New York at some future date, when he would provide the basic necessities of living for me, and also for my family if I decided to live there as a monk without them. I felt my heart jump at this proposal, and made up my mind there and then to give up my worldly occupation of teaching, and also to live in isolation.In 1950, on the eighth of April, which as it happens is the anniversary of the birth of the Buddha, I left my home dressed in my priest's robes, and got on the train for Kyoto. On the way, I composed this haiku poem:
Leaving behind wife and children,
I seek to live as a monk without home,
Passing through the green of barley fields.
But I could not banish from my inner eye the pathetic figures of my wife, with her poor health, and of my youngest daughter of seventeen. At the same time, I had some feeling of relief that the long inner struggle was over, and that I was now confronting my own destiny.
In Kyoto I was first given lodgings in a small temple near the Ryoanji, which is so famous for its austere rock garden, and later in a hermitage in the precincts of Daitokuji.
In this last, I had the responsibility for cleaning the interior of the building and the gardens. The old monk living in the hermitage gave me instruction in chanting sutras, and the rules and ways of life of a priest, while I also undertook some studies of the doctrines of Buddhism on my own.
I had intended to attend regular classes at one of the Buddhist universities in Kyoto, but I did not manage to carry out this part of my plan. However, I used to visit Dr. Shinichi Hisamatsu and Dr. Keiji Nishitani, professors at Kyoto University, and Abbot Daiko Yamazaki of Shokokuji, Abbot Shinken ofTofukuji, and Roshi Bunken who was in charge of the Myoshinji Meditation Hall, and some others. It was a joy to come into personal touch with such distinguished scholars and Zen masters. I also attended some sessions for study of the Yuima Sutra and the Record of Rinzai, held at the Institute for Research into the Science of Culture at Kyoto University.
I used to think in those days of the priest's robe and the stole as symbols of a life of renunciation, and moreover as outward expressions of inner joy at being at last able to fulfill my aspirations after so many difficulties. I walked through the streets of the old capital as it were proudly displaying myself as a priest in priest's robes. I invariably wore the stole round my neck, and the traditional wickerwork hat of the priest.
One day I was invited to attend a meeting of the study group of students belonging to Hanazono Gakuin University, which is maintained by the Rinzai Zen sect. There was a professor of the university presiding over the discussions. I was surprised at the skepticism about Zen, and the whole of the present-day priestly life. This was not long after July 1950, when the famous Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) had been deliberately set on fire and burned down by one of the disciples of the abbot there. It had been built in 1397 by Yoshimitsu, one of the Ashikaga shoguns, and was one of the cultural treasures of Japan. What surprised me still more was that some of the students seemed to be expressing some fellow-feeling with the criminal. Then some others began to talk about the irregular private life of the chief priest of a Zen temple, who was known to have trained for many years in Zen. A number of the students openly expressed doubts about the virtues of Buddhist meditation, and a priest's role in general.
I was asked to speak to these young men, and I told them about my past life and what I was doing now, out of veneration for the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha, as Master Dogen says.
It was out of supreme devotion for Zen that I had given up my university professorship and my home life, and given myself up to religion at the relatively advanced age of forty-seven. I told them also that I took a great delight in wearing priest's robes, because like the red flag for the Marxists, they were symbols of Buddhism, and I would never appear in public without them. Whether my words had any lasting effect on them I do not know.
* * *
My stay in Kyoto for the purpose of getting training in the life of a priest had been arranged at the suggestion, and with the assistance, of the American whom I have mentioned. He conducted a meditation hall in New York and wanted me to come over to be the teacher there. It was proposed that a certain Zen master, under whom my American would-be benefactor had himself trained, would supervise my training as a novice priest. However, after a little contact with this master, I realized that there was something about him that did not quite satisfy me. Considering the future, I decided to cut short my relationship with him. I sent a letter to the American to express my thanks for his kindness so far, but to say that I no longer felt I could go on with the project. I wrote to my wife and family explaining the decision, and suggested that as no more money would now be coming from America there was no alternative but to dispose of the house in Kamakura, the proceeds of which would secure their livelihood for quite some time to come. I realized what a shock this would be to them, but there was no other way of tiding over the present difficulties.
I went back to Unganji, and explained things to Master Ueki Kendo, who fully appreciated the position. As I was packing up my things, there came the news of the outbreak of the Korean conflict. This was a great anxiety to everyone, as it seemed very likely to presage another world war.
At this time of crisis I pondered within myself that what the world needed was souls to dedicate themselves to continuously praying for peace, leaving their own welfare entirely to chance. So I determined to live as a beggar myself, maintaining a continuous stream of prayer for the peace of the world. I returned to Kyoto with this decision, thinking that I might also be able to continue the study of Buddhism, which would surely be useful in furtherance of my mission in helping its propagation. I wrote a detailed letter to Master Ueki Kendo explaining what I intended to do, and others to my family, entreating them to try to understand.
So it was that from the middle of July I found myself walking the streets of Kyoto as a mendicant begging for
alms. At each door I used to stand and chant the traditional Avalokiteshvara Sutra in Ten Verses . I did not want to seem to be too importunate, so instead of facing the door directly I stood sideways on, looking along the street as it were.
To beg for alms was quite a new experience for me, and it needed a great effort to overcome a sort of embarrassment in doing it: it was a bit like jumping off a cliff. The evening before my first day as a beggar, I had placed the mendicant's scrip in front of the Buddha shrine and chanted the Hannya Rishubun (Arya— Prajnaparamita- naya- satapanca- sutika) and others for hours, praying for blessings on my undertaking which would begin next day. In my beggar's scrip I put a copy of the Zen- sect Scriptures for Daily Use (a sort of Zen breviary), the Lotus Sutra , and the Christian Bible. I wanted to face the austerity armed with these sacred books.
The first day of my life as a mendicant was one of violent wind and rain. I had a raincoat made of thick oiled paper, and went on from door to door chanting the Avalokiteshvara Sutra , and tinkling my little bell, braving the curious or contemptuous stares of the general public.
I knew about the "emptiness of the three elements of gift," which is taught as the true spirit of the monk's begging. The three elements are: the giver, the receiver, and the thing given, and their emptiness or nonexistence should be realized in the mendicant's mind at the moment that he receives the alms. In actual practice, however, a monk does tend to notice one or other of the elements, and it is incumbent on him to cease to notice them by exercising mental control. I used to concentrate on the chanting of the sutra, and this became my method of practicing the emptiness of the three elements.In July and August it is mostly boiling hot in Kyoto. My whole body used to get drenched with perspiration, and I could feel a burning heat on the soles of my feet through the thin straw sandals that were all that covered them. Through these not very favorable circumstances, I pursued my vocation of begging for alms. But at the end of the day, when I looked toward the hills of Mount Hiei in the east, it seemed to me that never had I seen them looking so beautiful and refreshing. Then again, as I became used to the routine, I began to feel a sort of inner serenity as I began my first chanting in the intended round of the day.
The income from my begging was very small. I still remember, however, some of the charitable people I met: a high-school boy who when he saw me would stop and get off his bicycle to give me some small coins; a young girl who crossed the street for the same purpose; an elderly man putting his palms together in reverent salutation after making his gift; and once an old woman, on her way home from collecting her ration of rice from the distribution station, who came up and gave me some of it. I had not expected that in the poor quarters of the north of the city the people were in fact more generous than the inhabitants of houses in the richer parts. I remember going along one of those streets, and nearly all the houses had their front door shut. I went down the street chanting in front of each door, but no one ever came out. I recall the feeling of rejection, as if one had been somehow condemned, or had had a bucket of dirty water thrown over me. But as I went on with the sutra I recovered from this wave of heart-questioning, and was soon walking on confidently as before. The thought came to me: 'I worship the Buddha in every person: if I am fed, it is by the Buddha in those that feed me; I do not need to abase myself before any person. I do not demean myself before any person.' It was in those days that I learned to speak openly and listen wholeheartedly even to people I was meeting for the first time, provided they had a kindly attitude. I could accept hospitality in a calm state of mind. I was learning something of the freedom of the life of a priest, and I got a glimpse of the carefree heart of the renunciate poet-monk Ryokan.
In this way of life, however, I have to confess that I could not altogether free myself from attraction toward the other sex. Admirer of the ideal of chastity as I was, I was forced to recognize the irrepressible force of the sexual instinct in human nature. This recalled to me something said by one of the outstanding Zen masters of the relatively recent past in Japan, namely Shido Bunan. When he was seventy years of age, he wrote: "No priest or monk should approach a woman. Even though he does not infringe the precept, he cannot prevent his mind being affected by her presence. To approach a woman therefore is to initiate a karmic tendency toward the animal state. I make it my practice to avoid women because I am conscious of the residue of animal nature in my self."
Sometimes I would picture to myself how pleasant it would be if only I could afford to have my wife come and live with me here in Kyoto. But I had barely enough to live on myself, and to support a wife, and family as well, was quite out of the question. In one of the letters from Dr. Suzuki Daisetsu, then a professor at Columbia University, New York, he said: "Mendicancy is all very well, but can you not devise some modem substitute for the traditional way?" and Dr. Hisamatsu Shinichi remarked to me in Kyoto: "There are many Zen masters of the traditional type. I have a hope that you could become one of quite a different type," and he added that there was a need of a Zen master who renounced not only the layman's life but also that of a priest.
As time went on, I became aware of the growing weakness of my body. Master Gyodo sent me a word of advice: "In your present physical condition, it would be risky to continue like this through the severe Kyoto winter." Master Kendo wrote to me to return to his temple at once, for the sake of my health. These words from revered teachers were reinforced by my own realization that to persist with the present way of life would lead to total collapse.
My only object in renouncing layman's life had been to propagate the true Way which I had learned from my master, and the life I had adopted in Kyoto had been a means towards that objective. I thought to myself that it would not be reasonable to cling to the means at the expense of the final purpose.
So I went back to Kamakura, sold the house at Hase, and found lodging for my wife and the children at Obai‐ in retreat in the grounds of Engakuji at Kamakura. Then I returned to Unganji. This was in January 1951, and concluded my mendicant's life. But the lessons I had learned from it, namely inner freedom and serenity, remained with me as foundation stones for the future.
* * *
The Zen Life-style of Reverend Kendo at Unganji
The Unganji (Temple of Clouds and Rocks) is about fourteen miles southeast ofNishi-Nasuno station on the North-East line, in the mountains of Tochigi prefecture. Bukkoku Kokushi founded it as a Buddhist temple in the twelfth century, when Zen had barely reached Japan.
Muso Kokushi, one of his followers, was for some time abbot of Unganji. A great survey was made by Sekiguchi Tai of all the places in Japan associated with Muso's life, and he commented that for beauty of natural surroundings, Unganji was one of the three most supremely impressive that he had seen. The temple grounds include some well- wooded hills covering some four thousand square kilometres, which was a bequest in the original grant of land for the temple. When I was there, the abbot was the Reverend Hayashi Taikei, the 59th in the line of succession.
The 58th abbot had been the old Zen master Ueki Kendo, who had given the ordination rites to me. When he had first come to live in the temple, he found some of the buildings in a state of advanced dilapidation. For instance, even the reception room next to the entrance to the priests' living quarters had no sliding doors at all, and there were not enough of the trays and standard low tables for the monks to sit for meals and take their soup and rice gruel. It took him ten years of great efforts before the temple was restored to a sound financial condition, so that he could rebuild the present Buddha Hall. As a matter of fact, being an enthusiast for public education, his original plan had been to use the saved- up money to build a middle school. But some of the supporters of the temple, who had generously contributed to the funds, pressed the case for a new Buddha Hall, and he acceded to their wishes.
For the ceremony of installing the Buddha images in the new Buddha Hall, my old master Gyodo, then abbot of Engakuji, was invited to preside. The Rinzai Zen sect in Japan has a number of sub- sects, one of which is called the Engakuji sect, because its headquarters, so to say, are at Engakuji. Unganji belongs to this Engakuji sect; in fact the founder of Engakuji, Bukko Kokushi, had been what one might call the honorary first Zen abbot of Unganji. This was in the thirteenth century, and he is not to be confused with Bukkoku Kokushi, who had actually founded Unganji as a Buddhist temple in the previous century. This circumstance, seemingly so trivial, I mention because it marked a remarkable coincidence in my own spiritual life. The personal name of Bukko Kokushi (which is a title meaning National Teacher Buddha‐ Light) was So-gen, and his pen name was Mugaku (Without Learning). When Master Kendo gave a new Buddhist name at an ordination, he made it his rule to make one of the syllables a gen, in memory of So-gen. In my case, the name chosen was Gen-yo, having the same gen syllable as the first one.
Master Kendo had been born in the township of Kaya, in Okayama prefecture, on September 15, 1871. He was the eighth son of Fujii Kyuemon, who combined farming and medical practice. He was ordained as a Buddhist novice by Soshun, priest of the local Saifukuji, on December 8, 1882. He was thus eleven years old, and he stayed at the temple until he was twenty-two. During this time he had some experience in teaching as an assistant at the nearby elementary school. In 1893 he went to Shofukuji at Kobe, where he entered the attached monastery. The next year he moved to the much bigger monastery at Myoshinji, the famous head temple of the Myoshinji sub-sect. For ten years, until 1903, he trained under Zen master Kokan there. When Kokan died, his successor Shozan continued the training, until he finally received the formal attestation as a Zen master himself.
The late Dr. Nishida Kitaro, whose philosophy was rooted in Zen, had been a disciple of Kokan, and was a close friend of Shozan. Speaking about those days, Kendo said that Dr. Nishida had been a man noted for complete sincerity.
Master Kendo told us that Master Kokan had been very austere and frugal in his style of life. For instance, though he was very fond of tofu bean-curd cakes, he would never buy more than one half-cake at a time; when radishes were in season, he gave strict orders to limit the amount that was to be purchased, though he liked them. In his long life of over eighty-seven years, Master Kendo never broke the ban on meat diet and sex indulgence to which he had vowed himself. In these respects and in the general austerity of his life, he surely owed a great deal to the influence of Kokan. He once remarked to me: "Compared to my master Kokan, I live a very indulgent life."
At every meal he still continued to use the simple lacquer bowls which are given to the novices, and after eating he carefully washed and cleaned them himself according to the monastery regulations. He washed his underclothes for himself, and mended them with needle and thread—it was quite impressive to see this octogenarian senior priest of high rank plying the needle. He would also clean the lavatory which he used. He rose at the same time as the young monks, in the small hours of the morning. To set an example to them in every way, he conformed minutely to all the monastery rules and regulations for conduct. On the wall in his room there was always a piece of paper with some motto for his own behavior, just in the way that junior monks are encouraged to write up their own mottos.
Once when I was in his room helping him with some business papers, it began to get dark as evening came on, and I moved to turn on the light. He reproved me for wastefulness, saying: "It is still too early. There's enough light." I was impressed by his insistence on strict economy, and a phrase of the old master Shido Bunan came to my mind: "We should be very careful in making use of a half-sheet of paper, or in spending a half-penny."
From time to time I was called to his room to write letters he dictated. Occasionally seeing that I was about to begin a new line, he would check me, saying: "You have still got some space at the end of the line." When writing postcards for him, it could sometimes happen that the card was full up with writing, but he wanted to add something extra. Then I would be told to use a fine pen, and write in red ink between the lines.
It might seem that such extreme economy is almost meanness, but in fact he would always give money gladly when there was some reason for it. When he had guests, he treated them most hospitably. He always impressed on the people at the temple: "Be kind to others!" and he followed the principle himself. He was all strictness about his own conduct, but generous in judging others, always seeking to look on the good side of everyone and shut his eyes to the bad side. He used to say: "When I consider my own failings, I find I cannot criticize others." When I was living at Unganji, my own behavior was not always exactly what is traditional in a Zen disciple, but Master Kendo was patient and tolerant of my shortcomings. His warm-heartedness made me look up to him more and more as a sort of incarnation of Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy.
He was always concerned about the troubles of those with whom he had contact, and he would willingly undertake the arduous journey to Tokyo from his remote temple on the Nasu plateau if he heard of any serious difficulties in their families. In fact we used to be careful in the evenings to see that he should not hear of any such thing that he might feel anxious over. For he used to take these troubles to himself, so that he would not sleep until, sometimes in the middle of the night, he had gotten up and written a letter to them. I once heard him mutter to himself: "It does make it awkward when I am rung up about a serious matter in the evening."
Still, this extreme kindliness of character was backed by a parallel trait of severity. According to one who had trained for some time at Unganji when the Master was in his fifties, Master Kendo would sometimes lose his temper when he came across some serious negligence on the part of a disciple. He remembered seeing the Master, brandishing the bamboo broom with which he had been sweeping the garden, running after a young monk and hitting him across the shoulders with it, as if it had been a keisaku (the warning-stick used in the meditation hall to arouse the slack).
From occasional remarks he made about his own training period at Myoshinji, I gathered that he had sometimes a disagreement with some senior monk about some point or other. At those times, if at the end of the argument he was still convinced of the rightness of his own position, he would never submit to their ruling.
Even in old age, when he got up in the morning he would lock his hands above his head, stretch them straight up vigorously above his head, and give a tremendous shout. It had an electrifying effect on those who heard it.
I came to the conclusion that the kindliness, which I as well as others experienced, was so to say the flesh on the bones of inner strictness and austerity.