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Man Is Not Good-natured Nor Bad-natured But Buddha-natured
We have had already occasion to observe that Zen teaches Bud...

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

Zazen And The Forgetting Of Self
Zazen is a most effectual means of destroying selfishness, th...

Man Is Neither Good-natured Nor Bad-natured According To Su Shih
The difficulty may be avoided by a theory given by Su Shih ...

The Parable Of A Drunkard
Now the question arises, If all human beings are endowed with...

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

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

Zen And Idealism
Next Zen makes use of Idealism as explained by the Dharmalaks...

A Sutra Equal In Size To The Whole World
The holy writ that Zen masters admire is not one of parchment...

The Beatitude Of Zen
We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing ch...

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 Eternal Life As Taught By Professor Munsterberg
Some philosophical pessimists undervalue life simply because ...

The Law Of Balance
Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts t...

The World Is In The Making
Our assertion is far from assuming that life is now complete,...

The Irrationality Of The Belief Of Immortality
Occidental minds believe in a mysterious entity under the nam...

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

The Examination Of The Notion Of Self
The belief in immortality is based on the strong instinct of ...

Zen And Nirvana
The beatitude of Zen is Nirvana, not in the Hinayanistic sens...

Epicureanism And Life
There are a good many people always buoyant in spirit and mir...

The Theory Of Buddha-nature Adequately Explains The Ethical States Of Man
This theory of Buddha-nature enables us to get an insight int...




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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