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Buddhism

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Scripture Is No More Than Waste Paper








Zen is not based on any particular sutra, either of
Mahayana or of Hinayana. There are twofold Tripitakas (or the three
collections of the Buddhist scriptures)-namely, the
Mahayana-tripitaka and the Hinayana-tripitaka. The former are the
basis of the Mahayana, or the higher and reformed Buddhism, full of
profound metaphysical reasonings; while the latter form that of the
Hinayana, or the lower and early Buddhism, which is simple and
ethical teaching. These twofold Tripitakas are as follows:

THE MAHAYANA-TRIPITAKA.

The Sutra Pitaka.-The Saddharma-pundarika-sutra,
Samdhi-nirmocana-sutra, Avatamsaka-sutra, Prajnyaparamita-sutra,
Amitayus-sutra, Mahaparinirvana-sutra, etc.

The Vinaya Pitaka.--Brahmajala-sutra, Bodhisattva-caryanirdeca, etc.

The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra,
Mahayana-craddhotpada-castra, Madhyamaka-castra, Yogacarya
bhumi-castra, etc.

THE HINAYANA-TRIPITAKA.
The Sutra Pitaka.--Dirghagama, Ekottaragama, Madhyamagama,
Samyuktagama, etc.

The Vinaya Pitaka.--Dharmagupta-vinaya, Mahasamghika-vinaya,
Sarvastivada-vinaya, etc.

The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Dharma-skandha-pada, Samgiti-paryaya-pada,
Jnyanaprasthana-castra, Abhidharma-kosa-castra, etc.

The term 'Tripitaka,' however, was not known at the time of Shakya
Muni, and almost all of the northern Buddhist records agree in
stating that the Tripitaka was rehearsed and settled in the same year
in which the Muni died. Mahavansa also says: "The book called
Abhidharma-pitaka was compiled, which was preached to god, and was
arranged in due order by 500 Budhu priests." But we believe that
Shakya Muni's teaching was known to the early Buddhists, not as
Tripitaka, but as Vinaya and Dharma, and even at the time of King
Acoka (who ascended the throne about 269 B.C.) it was not called
Tripitaka, but Dharma, as we have it in his Edicts. Mahayanists
unanimously assert the compilation of the Tripitaka in the first
council of Rajagrha, but they differ in opinion as to the question
who rehearsed the Abhidharma; notwithstanding, they agree as for the
other respects, as you see in the following:

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by
Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Ananda--according to
Nagarjuna (Mahaprajnyaparamita-castra).

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by
Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Kacyapa according to Huen
Tsang (Ta-tan-si-yu-ki).

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by
Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Purna--according to
Paramartha ('A Commentary on the History of the Hinayana Schools').

The above-mentioned discrepancy clearly betrays the uncertainty of
their assertions, and gives us reason to discredit the compilation of
Abhidharma Pitaka at the first council. Besides, judging from the
Dharma-gupta-vinaya and other records, which states that Purna took
no part in the first council, and that he had different opinions as
to the application of the rules of discipline from that of Kacyapa,
there should be some errors in Paramartha's assertion.
Of these three collections of the Sacred Writings, the first two, or
Sutra and Vinaya, of Mahayana, as well as of Himayana, are believed
to be the direct teachings of Shakya Muni himself, because all the
instructions are put in the mouth of the Master or sanctioned by him.
The Mahayanists, however, compare the Hinayana doctrine with a
resting-place on the road for a traveller, while the Mahayana
doctrine with his destination. All the denominations of Buddhism,
with a single exception of Zen, are based on the authority of some
particular sacred writings. The Ten Dai Sect, for instance, is based
on Saddharma-pundarika-sutra; the Jo Do Sect on Larger
Sukhavati-vyuha, Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha, and Amitayus-dhyana-sutra;
the Ke Gon Sect on Avatamsaka-sutra; the Hosso Sect on
Samdhi-nirmocana-sutra.


Zen is based on the highest spiritual plane attained by Shakya Muni
himself. It can only be realized by one who has attained the same
plane. To describe it in full by means of words is beyond the power
even of Gotama himself. It is for this reason that the author of
Lankavatara-sutra insists that Shakya Muni spoke no word through his
long career of forty-nine years as a religious teacher, and that of
Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra also express the same opinion. The
Scripture is no more nor less than the finger pointing to the moon of
Buddhahood. When we recognize the moon and enjoy its benign beauty,
the finger is of no use. As the finger has no brightness whatever,
so the Scripture has no holiness whatever. The Scripture is
religious currency representing spiritual wealth. It does not matter
whether money be gold, or sea-shells, or cows. It is a mere
substitute. What it stands for is of paramount importance. Away
with your stone-knife! Do not watch the stake against which a
running hare once struck its head and died. Do not wait for another
hare. Another may not come for ever. Do not cut the side of the
boat out of which you dropped your sword to mark where it sunk. The
boat is ever moving on. The Canon is the window through which we
observe the grand scenery of spiritual nature. To hold communion
directly with it we must get out of the window. It is a mere stray
fly that is always buzzing within it, struggling to get out. Those
who spend most of their lives in the study of the Scriptures, arguing
and explaining with hair-splitting reasonings, and attain no higher
plane in spirituality, are religious flies good for nothing but their
buzzing about the nonsensical technicalities. It is on this account
that Rin-zai declared: 'The twelve divisions of the Buddhist
Canon are nothing better than waste paper.'


Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra, vol. 425.

Rin-zai-roku.






Next: No Need Of The Scriptural Authority For Zen

Previous: Zen After The Restoration



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