No Need Of The Scriptural Authority For Zen


Some Occidental scholars erroneously identify Buddhism with the

primitive faith of Hinayanism, and are inclined to call Mahayanism, a

later developed faith, a degenerated one. If the primitive faith be

called the genuine, as these scholars think, and the later developed

faith be the degenerated one, then the child should be called the

genuine man and the grown-up people be the degenerated ones;

similarly, the primitiv
society must be the genuine and the modern

civilization be the degenerated one. So also the earliest writings

of the Old Testament should be genuine and the four Gospels be

degenerated. Beyond all doubt Zen belongs to Mahayanism, yet this

does not imply that it depends on the scriptural authority of that

school, because it does not trouble itself about the Canon whether it

be Hinayana or Mahayana, or whether it was directly spoken by Shakya

Muni or written by some later Buddhists. Zen is completely free from

the fetters of old dogmas, dead creeds, and conventions of

stereotyped past, that check the development of a religious faith and

prevent the discovery of a new truth. Zen needs no Inquisition. It

never compelled nor will compel the compromise of a Galileo or a

Descartes. No excommunication of a Spinoza or the burning of a Bruno

is possible for Zen.

On a certain occasion Yoh Shan (Yaku-san) did not preach the doctrine

for a long while, and was requested to give a sermon by his assistant

teacher, saying: Would your reverence preach the Dharma to your

pupils, who long thirst after your merciful instruction? Then ring

the bell, replied Yoh Shan. The bell rang, and all the monks

assembled in the Hall eager to bear the sermon. Yoh Shan went up to

the pulpit and descended immediately without saying a word. You,

reverend sir, asked the assistant, promised to deliver a sermon a

little while ago. Why do you not preach? Sutras are taught by the

Sutra teachers, said the master; Castras are taught by the Castra

teachers. No wonder that I say nothing.[FN#110] This little

episode will show you that Zen is no fixed doctrine embodied in a

Sutra or a Castra, but a conviction or realization within us.

[FN#110] Zen-rin-rui-shu and E-gen.

To quote another example, an officer offered to Tung Shan (To-zan)

plenty of alms, and requested him to recite the sacred Canon. Tung

Shan, rising from his chair, made a bow respectfully to the officer,

who did the same to the teacher. Then Tung Shan went round the

chair, taking the officer with him, and making a bow again to the

officer, asked: Do you see what I mean? No, sir, replied the

other. I have been reciting the sacred Canon, why do you not

see?[FN#111] Thus Zen does not regard Scriptures in black and white

as its Canon, for it takes to-days and tomorrows of this actual life

as its inspired pages.

[FN#111] Zen-rin-rui-sha and To-zan-roku.