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No Need Of The Scriptural Authority For Zen
Some Occidental scholars erroneously identify Buddhism with t...

Bodhidharma's Disciples And The Transmission Of The Law[fn#31]
[FN#31] For details, see Chwen Tang Luh and Den Ka Roku, b...

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

Thing-in-itself Means Thing-knowerless
How, then, did philosophers come to consider reality to be un...

Zen After The Downfall Of The Ho-jo Regency
Towards the end of the Ho-Jo period,[FN#90] and after the dow...

The Progress And Hope Of Life
How many myriads of years have passed since the germs of life...

Zen Under The Toku-gana Shogunate
Peace was at last restored by Iye-yasu, the founder of the To...

The Third Step In The Mental Training
To be the lord of mind is more essential to Enlightenment, wh...

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

The Social State Of Japan When Zen Was Established By Ei-sai And Do-gen
Now we have to observe the condition of the country when Zen ...

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

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

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

The Courage And The Composure Of Mind Of The Zen Monk And Of The Samurai
Fourthly, our Samurai encountered death, as is well known, wi...

True Dhyana
To sit in Meditation is not the only method of practising Zaz...

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

The Next Step In The Mental Training
In the next place we have to strive to be the master of our b...

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

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists[FN#214] maintain that there are on e...

Everything Is Living According To Zen
Everything alive has a strong innate tendency to preserve its...

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.

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Previous: The Ancient Buddhist Pantheon

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