Samurai Zen Under The Toku-gana Shogunate
Peace was at last restored by Iye-yasu, the founder of the To...
Nature Is The Mother Of All Things
Furthermore, man has come into existence out of Nature. He i...
The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai
Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of...
Buddha Is Unnamable
Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what ...
Everything Is Living According To Zen
Everything alive has a strong innate tendency to preserve its...
The Absolute And Reality Are But An Abstraction
A grain of sand you, trample upon has a deeper significance t...
The Third Step In The Mental Training
To be the lord of mind is more essential to Enlightenment, wh...
Poetical Intuition And Zen
Since Universal Life or Spirit permeates the universe, the po...
The Disciples Under The Sixth Patriarch
Some time after this the Sixth Patriarch settled himself down...
The Examination Of The Notion Of Self
The belief in immortality is based on the strong instinct of
Sutras Used By Zen Masters
Ten Dai failed to explain away the discrepancies and contradi...
Zazen Or The Sitting In Meditation
Habit comes out of practice, and forms character by degrees, ...
Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...
The Characteristics Of Do-gen The Founder Of The Japanese So To Sect
In the meantime seekers after a new truth gradually began to ...
The Irrationality Of The Belief Of Immortality
Occidental minds believe in a mysterious entity under the nam...
Shakya Muni And The Prodigal Son
A great trouble with us is that we do not believe in half the...
Idealism Is A Potent Medicine For Self-created Mental Disease
In so far as Buddhist idealism refers to the world of sense, ...
Three Important Elements Of Zen
To understand how Zen developed during some four hundred year...
Each Smile A Hymn Each Kindly Word A Prayer
The glorious sun of Buddha-nature shines in the zenith of Enl...
Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts
[FN#263] A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to ha...
The Beatitude Of Zen
We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing chapters,
the existence of troubles, pains, diseases, sorrows, deaths in life.
Our bliss consists in seeing the fragrant rose of Divine mercy among
the thorns of worldly trouble, in finding the fair oasis of Buddha's
wisdom in the desert of misfortunes, in getting the wholesome balm of
His love in the seeming poison of pain, in gathering the sweet honey
of His spirit even in the sting of horrible death.
History testifies to the truth that it is misery that teaches men
more than happiness, that it is poverty that strengthens them more
than wealth, that it is adversity that moulds character more than
prosperity, that it is disease and death that call forth the inner
life more than health and long life. At least, no one can be blind
to the fact that good and evil have an equal share in forming the
character and working out the destiny of man. Even such a great
pessimist as Schopenhauer says: As our bodily frame would burst
asunder if the pressure of atmosphere were removed, so if the lives
of men were relieved of all need, hardship, and adversity, if
everything they took in hand were successful, they would be so
swollen with arrogance . . . that they would present the spectacle of
unbridled folly. A ship without ballast is unstable, and will not go
straight. Therefore let us make our ship of life go straight with
its ballast of miseries and hardships, over which we gain control.
The believer in Buddha is thankful to him, not only for the sunshine
of life, but also for its wind, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning,
because He gives us nothing in vain. Hisa-nobu (Ko-yama) was,
perhaps, one of the happiest persons that Japan ever produced, simply
because he was ever thankful to the Merciful One. One day he went
out without an umbrella and met with a shower. Hurrying up to go
home, he stumbled and fell, wounding both his legs. As he rose up,
he was overheard to say: Thank heaven. And being asked why he was
so thankful, replied: I got both my legs hurt, but, thank heaven,
they were not broken. On another occasion he lost consciousness,
having been kicked violently by a wild horse. When he came to
himself, he exclaimed: Thank heaven, in hearty joy. Being asked
the reason why he was so joyful, he answered: I have really given up
my ghost, but, thank heaven, I have escaped death after all.[FN#279]
A person in such a state of mind can do anything with heart and
might. Whatever he does is an act of thanks for the grace of Buddha,
and he does it, not as his duty, but as the overflowing of his
gratitude which lie himself cannot check. Here exists the formation
of character. Here exist real happiness and joy. Here exists the
realization of Nirvana.
Most people regard death as the greatest of evils, only because they
fear death. They fear death only because they have the instinct of
self-preservation. Hereupon pessimistic philosophy and religion
propose to attain to Nirvana by the extinction of Will-to-live, or by
the total annihilation of life. But this is as much as to propose
death as the final cure to a patient. Elie Metchnikoff proposes, in
his 'Nature of Man,' another cure, saying: 'If man could only
contrive to live long enough--say, for one hundred and forty years--a
natural desire for extinction would take the place of the instinct
for self-preservation, and the call of death would then harmoniously
satisfy his legitimate craving of a ripe old age.' Why, we must ask,
do you trouble yourself so much about death? Is there any instance
of an individual who escaped it in the whole history of mankind? If
there be no way of escape, why do you trouble yourself about it? Can
you cause things to fall off the earth against the law of
gravitation? Is there any example of an individual object that
escaped the government of that law in the whole history of the world?
Why, then, do you trouble yourself about it? It is no less silly to
trouble yourself about death than you do about gravitation. Can you
realize that death, which you have yet no immediate experience of, is
the greatest of evil? We dare to declare death to be one of the
blessings which we have to be thankful for. Death is the scavenger
of the world; it sweeps away all uselessness, staleness, and
corruption from the world, and keeps life clean and ever now. When
you are of no use for the world it comes upon you, removes you to
oblivion in order to relieve life of useless encumbrance. The stream
of existence should be kept running, otherwise it would become
putrid. If old lives were to stop the running stream it would stand
still, and consequently become filthy, poisoned, and worthless.
Suppose there were only births and no deaths. The earth has to be
packed with men and women, who are doomed to live to all eternity,
jostling, colliding, bumping, trampling each other, and vainly
struggling to get out of the Black Hole of the earth. Thanks to
death we are not in the Black Hole!
Only birth and no death is far worse than only death and no birth.
The dead, says Chwang Tsz, have no tyrannical king about, no
slavish subject to meet; no change of seasons overtakes them. The
heaven and the earth take the places of Spring and Autumn. The king
or emperor of a great nation cannot be happier than they. How would
you be if death should never overtake you when ugly decrepitude makes
you blind and deaf, bodily and mentally, and deprives you of all
possible pleasures? How would you be if you should not die when your
body is broken to pieces or terribly burned by an accident--say, by a
violent earthquake followed by a great conflagration? Just imagine
Satan, immortal Satan, thrown down by the ire of God into Hell's
fiery gulf, rolling himself in dreadful torture to the end of time.
You cannot but conclude that it is only death which relieves you of
extreme sufferings, incurable diseases, and it is one of the
blessings you ought to be thankful for.
The believer of Buddha is thankful even for death itself, the which
is the sole means of conquering death. If he be thankful even for
death, how much more for the rest of things! He can find a meaning
in every form of life. He can perceive a blessing in every change of
fortune. He can acknowledge a mission for every individual. He can
live in contentment and joy under any conditions. Therefore Lin Tsi
(Rin-zai) says: All the Buddhas might appear before me and I would
not be glad. All the Three Regions[FN#280] and Hells might suddenly
present themselves before me, and I would not fear. . . . He (an
Enlightened person) might get into the fire, and it would not burn
him. He might get into water, and it would not drown him. He might
be born in Hell, and he would be happy as if he were in a fair
garden. He might be born among Pretas and beasts, and he would not
suffer from pain. How can he be so? Because he can enjoy
[FN#280] (1) Naraka, or Hell; (2) Pretas, or hungry demons; (3)
[FN#281] Lin Tsi Luk (Rin-zai-roku).
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