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Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...

There Is No Mortal Who Is Purely Moral
By nature man should be either good or bad; or he should be g...

Enlightened Consciousness Is Not An Intellectual Insight
Enlightened Consciousness is not a bare intellectual insight,...

Sutras Used By Zen Masters
Ten Dai failed to explain away the discrepancies and contradi...

The First Step In The Mental Training
Some of the old Zen masters are said to have attained to supr...

Origin Of Zen In India
To-day Zen as a living faith can be found in its pure form on...

The Fifth And The Sixth Patriarchs
Tao Sin transmitted the Law to Hung Jan (Ko-nin), who being e...

Buddha-nature Is The Common Source Of Morals
Furthermore, Buddha-nature or real self, being the seat of lo...

The Fourth Patriarch And The Emperor Tai Tsung (tai-so)
The Third[FN#40] Patriarch was succeeded by Tao Sin (Do-shin)...

The Spiritual Attainment Of The Sixth Patriarch
Some time before his death (in 675 A.D.) the Fifth Patriarch ...

Hinayanism And Its Doctrine
The doctrine of Transience was the first entrance gate of Hin...

Personalism Of B P Bowne
B. P. Bowne[FN#204] says: They (phenomena) are not phantoms o...

The Second And The Third Patriarchs
After the death of the First Patriarch, in A.D. 528, Hwui Ko ...

Missionary Activity Of The Sixth Patriarch
As we have seen above, the Sixth Patriarch was a great genius...

Zen Is Not Nihilistic
Zen judged from ancient Zen masters' aphorisms may seem, at t...

Do Thy Best And Leave The Rest To Providence
There is another point of view which enables us to enjoy life...

The Four Alternatives And The Five Categories
There are, according to Zen, the four classes of religious an...

Man Is Good-natured According To Mencius
Oriental scholars, especially the Chinese men of letters, se...

Flight Of The Sixth Patriarch
On the following morning the news of what had happened during...

An Illusion Concerning Appearance And Reality
To get Enlightened we must next dispel an illusion respecting...




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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