Buddha Is Unnamable


Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what the name

implies. The Deity under the name of Brahman necessarily differs

from the Being under the appellation of Jehovah, just as the Hindu

differs from the Jew. In like manner the Being designated by God

necessarily differs from One named Amitabha or from Him entitled

Allah. To give a name to the Deity is to give Him tradition,

nationality, limitation, a
d fixity, and it never brings us nearer to

Him. Zen's object of worship cannot be named and determined as God,

or Brahman, or Amitabha, or Creator, or Nature, or Reality, or

Substance, or the like. Neither Chinese nor Japanese masters of Zen

tried to give a definite name to their object of adoration. They now

called Him That One, now This One, now Mind, now Buddha, now

Tathagata, now Certain Thing, now the True, now Dharma-nature, now

Buddha-nature, and so forth. Tung Shan[FN#141] (To-zan) on a certain

occasion declared it to be A Certain Thing that pillars heaven above

and supports the earth below; dark as lacquer and undefinable;

manifesting itself through its activities, yet not wholly comprisable

within them. So-kei[FN#142] expressed it in the same wise: There

exists a Certain Thing, bright as a mirror, spiritual as a mind, not

subjected to growth nor to decay. Huen Sha (Gen-sha) comparing it

with a gem says: There exists a bright gem illuminating through the

worlds in ten directions by its light.[FN#143]

[FN#141] Tung Shan Luh (To-zan-roku, 'Sayings and Doings of Ta-zan')

is one of the best Zen books.

[FN#142] So-kei, a Korean Zenist, whose work entitled Zen-ke-ki-kwan

is worthy of our note as a representation of Korean Zen.

[FN#143] Sho-bo-gen-zo.

This certain thing or being is too sublime to be named after a

traditional or a national deity, too spiritual to be symbolized by

human art, too full of life to be formulated in terms of mechanical

science, too free to be rationalized by intellectual philosophy, too

universal to be perceived by bodily senses; but everybody can feel

its irresistible power, see its invisible presence, and touch its

heart and soul within himself. This mysterious Mind, says Kwei

Fung (Kei-ho), is higher than the highest, deeper than the deepest,

limitless in all directions. There is no centre in it. No

distinction of east and west, and above and below. Is it empty?

Yes, but not empty like space. Has it a form? Yes, but has no form

dependent on another for its existence. Is it intelligent? Yes, but

not intelligent like your mind. Is it non-intelligent? Yes, but not

non-intelligent like trees and stone. Is it conscious? Yes, but not

conscious like you when waking. Is it bright? Yes, but not bright

like the sun or the moon. To the question, What and who is

Buddha? Yuen Wu (En-go) replied: Hold your tongue: the mouth is

the gate of evils! while Pao Fuh (Ho-fuku) answered to the same

question: No skill of art can picture Him. Thus Buddha is

unnamable, indescribable, and indefinable, but we provisionally call

Him Buddha.