The Great Person And Small Person


For these reasons Zen proposes to call man Buddha-natured or

Good-natured in a sense transcendental to the duality of good and

bad. It conveys no sense to call some individuals good in case there

is no bad individual. For the sake of convenience, however, Zen

calls man good, as is exemplified by Shakya Muni, who was wont to

address his hearers as 'good men and women,' and by the Sixth

Patriarch in China, who called e
erybody 'a good and wise one.' This

does not imply in the least that all human beings are virtuous,

sinless, and saintly-nay, the world is full of vices and crimes. It

is an undeniable fact that life is the warfare of good against evil,

and many a valiant hero has fallen in the foremost ranks. It is

curious, however, to notice that the champions on the both sides are

fighting for the same cause. There can be no single individual in

the world who is fighting against his own cause or interest, and the

only possible difference between one party and the other consists in

the extent of interests which they fight for. So-called bad persons,

who are properly designated as 'small persons' by Chinese and

Japanese scholars, express their Buddha-nature to a small extent

mostly within their own doors, while so-called good persons, or

'great persons' as the Oriental scholars call them, actualize their

Buddha-nature to a large extent in the whole sphere of a country, or

of the whole earth.

Enlightened Consciousness, or Buddha-nature, as we have seen in the

previous chapter, is the mind of mind and the consciousness of

consciousness, Universal Spirit awakened in individual minds, which

realizes the universal brotherhood of all beings and the unity of

individual lives. It is the real self, the guiding principle, the

Original Physiognomy[FN#169] (nature), as it is called by Zen, of

man. This real self lies dormant under the threshold of

consciousness in the minds of the confused; consequently, each of

them is inclined to regard petty individual as his self, and to exert

himself to further the interests of the individual self even at the

cost of those of the others. He is 'the smallest person' in the

world, for his self is reduced to the smallest extent possible. Some

of the less confused identify their selves with their families, and

feel happy or unhappy in proportion as their families are happy or

unhappy, for the sake of which they sacrifice the interests of other

families. On the other hand, some of the more enlightened unite

their selves through love and compassion with their whole tribe or

countrymen, and consider the rise or fall of the tribe or of the

country as their own, and willingly sacrifice their own lives, if

need be, for the cause of the tribe or the country. When they are

fully enlightened, they can realize the unity of all sentient lives,

and be ever merciful and helpful towards all creatures. They are

'the greatest persons' on earth, because their selves are enlarged to

the greatest extent possible.

[FN#169] The expression first occurs in Ho-bo-dan-kyo of the Sixth

Patriarch, and is frequently used by later Zenists.