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Life And Change
A peculiar phase of life is change which appears in the form ...

The Usual Explanation Of The Canon
An eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar, well known as Ten Dai Da...

Bodhidharma And His Successor The Second Patriarch
China was not, however, an uncultivated[FN#29] land for the s...

Our Conception Of Buddha Is Not Final
Has, then, the divine nature of Universal Spirit been complet...

The Absolute And Reality Are But An Abstraction
A grain of sand you, trample upon has a deeper significance t...

Life In The Concrete
Life in the concrete, which we are living, greatly differs fr...

Retribution In The Past The Present And The Future Life
Then a question suggests itself: If there be no soul that su...

The Sermon Of The Inanimate
The Scripture of Zen is written with facts simple and familia...

Life Consists In Conflict
Life consists in conflict. So long as man remains a social a...

The Breathing Exercise Of The Yogi
Breathing exercise is one of the practices of Yoga, and somew...

Universal Life Is Universal Spirit
These considerations naturally lead us to see that Universal ...

The Method Of Instruction Adopted By Zen Masters
Thus far we have described the doctrine of Zen inculcated by ...

Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Objective Reality
But extreme Idealism identifies 'to be' with 'to be known,' a...

Nature And Her Lesson
Nature offers us nectar and ambrosia every day, and everywher...

Life Change And Hope
The doctrine of Transcience never drives us to the pessimisti...

Where Then Does The Error Lie?
Where, then, does the error lie in the four possible proposit...

The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai
Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of...

The Introduction Of The So-to School Of Zen
[FN#75] This school was started by Tsing-Yuen (Sei-gen)...

Zen In The Dark Age
The latter half of the Ashikaga period was the age of arms an...

Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts
[FN#263] A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to ha...




Zen Is Iconoclastic








For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of Buddha
seemed too crude to be accepted unhesitatingly and the doctrine too
much irrelevant with and uncongenial to actual life. Since Zen
denounced, as we have seen in the previous chapter, the scriptural
authority, it is quite reasonable to have given up this view of
Buddha inculcated in the Mahayana sutras, and to set at naught those
statues and images of supernatural beings kept in veneration by the
orthodox Buddhists. Tan Hia (Tan-ka), a noted Chinese Zen master,
was found warming himself on a cold morning by the fire made of a
wooden statue of Buddha. On another occasion he was found mounting
astride the statue of a saint. Chao Chen (Jo-shu) one day happened
to find Wang Yuen (Bun-yen) worshipping the Buddha in the temple, and
forthwith struck him with his staff. Is there not anything good in
the worshipping of the Buddha? protested Wang Yuen. Then the master
said: Nothing is better than anything good.[FN#140] These examples
fully illustrate Zen's attitude towards the objects of Buddhist
worship. Zen is not, nevertheless, iconoclastic in the commonly
accepted sense of the term, nor is it idolatrous, as Christian
missionaries are apt to suppose.


[FN#140] Zen-rin-rui-shu.


Zen is more iconoclastic than any of the Christian or the Mohammedan
denominations in the sense that it opposes the acceptance of the
petrified idea of Deity, so conventional and formal that it carries
no inner conviction of the believers. Faith dies out whenever one
comes to stick to one's fixed and immutable idea of Deity, and to
deceive oneself, taking bigotry for genuine faith. Faith must be
living and growing, and the living and growing faith should assume no
fixed form. It might seem for a superficial observer to take a fixed
form, as a running river appears constant, though it goes through
ceaseless changes. The dead faith, immutable and conventional, makes
its embracer appear religious and respectable, while it arrests his
spiritual growth. It might give its owner comfort and pride, yet it
at bottom proves to be fetters to his moral uplifting. It is on this
account that Zen declares: Buddha is nothing but spiritual chain or
moral fetters, and, If you remember even a name of Buddha, it would
deprive you of purity of heart. The conventional or orthodox idea
of Buddha or Deity might seem smooth and fair, like a gold chain,
being polished and hammered through generations by religious
goldsmiths; but it has too much fixity and frigidity to be worn by us.

Strike off thy fetters, bonds that bind thee down
Of shining gold or darker, baser ore;

Know slave is slave caressed or whipped, not free;
For fetters tho' of gold, are not less strong to bind.

--The Song of the Sannyasin.






Next: Buddha Is Unnamable

Previous: The Ancient Buddhist Pantheon



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