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Buddhism

Nature Is The Mother Of All Things
Furthermore, man has come into existence out of Nature. He i...

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

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

The Bad Are The Good In The Egg
This is not only the case with a robber or a murderer, but al...

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

How To Worship Buddha
The author of Vimalakirtti-nirdeca-sutra well explains our at...

Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist
How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put a...

The Law Of Balance In Life
It is also the case with human affairs. Social positions hig...

Buddha Dwelling In The Individual Mind
Enlightened Consciousness in the individual mind acquires for...

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

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

The Buddha Of Mercy
Milton says: "Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt; Sur...

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

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

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

The Establishment Of The Rin Zai School Of Zen In Japan
The Lin Tsi school was started by Nan Yoh, a prominent d...

Zen Is Iconoclastic
For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of...

All The Worlds In Ten Directions Are Buddha's Holy Land
We are to resume this problem in the following chapter. Suff...

The Resemblance Of The Zen Monk To The Samurai
Let us point out in brief the similarities between Zen and Ja...

The Development Of The Southern And Of The Northern School Of Zen
After the death of the Fifth Patriarch the venerable Shang Si...




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." 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.


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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