The Beatitude Of Zen

We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing chapters,

the existence of troubles, pains, diseases, sorrows, deaths in life.

Our bliss consists in seeing the fragrant rose of Divine mercy among

the thorns of worldly trouble, in finding the fair oasis of Buddha's

wisdom in the desert of misfortunes, in getting the wholesome balm of

His love in the seeming poison of pain, in gathering the sweet honey

of His
pirit even in the sting of horrible death.

History testifies to the truth that it is misery that teaches men

more than happiness, that it is poverty that strengthens them more

than wealth, that it is adversity that moulds character more than

prosperity, that it is disease and death that call forth the inner

life more than health and long life. At least, no one can be blind

to the fact that good and evil have an equal share in forming the

character and working out the destiny of man. Even such a great

pessimist as Schopenhauer says: "As our bodily frame would burst

asunder if the pressure of atmosphere were removed, so if the lives

of men were relieved of all need, hardship, and adversity, if

everything they took in hand were successful, they would be so

swollen with arrogance . . . that they would present the spectacle of

unbridled folly. A ship without ballast is unstable, and will not go

straight." Therefore let us make our ship of life go straight with

its ballast of miseries and hardships, over which we gain control.

The believer in Buddha is thankful to him, not only for the sunshine

of life, but also for its wind, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning,

because He gives us nothing in vain. Hisa-nobu (Ko-yama) was,

perhaps, one of the happiest persons that Japan ever produced, simply

because he was ever thankful to the Merciful One. One day he went

out without an umbrella and met with a shower. Hurrying up to go

home, he stumbled and fell, wounding both his legs. As he rose up,

he was overheard to say: "Thank heaven." And being asked why he was

so thankful, replied: "I got both my legs hurt, but, thank heaven,

they were not broken." On another occasion he lost consciousness,

having been kicked violently by a wild horse. When he came to

himself, he exclaimed: "Thank heaven," in hearty joy. Being asked

the reason why he was so joyful, he answered: "I have really given up

my ghost, but, thank heaven, I have escaped death after all."

A person in such a state of mind can do anything with heart and

might. Whatever he does is an act of thanks for the grace of Buddha,

and he does it, not as his duty, but as the overflowing of his

gratitude which lie himself cannot check. Here exists the formation

of character. Here exist real happiness and joy. Here exists the

realization of Nirvana.


Most people regard death as the greatest of evils, only because they

fear death. They fear death only because they have the instinct of

self-preservation. Hereupon pessimistic philosophy and religion

propose to attain to Nirvana by the extinction of Will-to-live, or by

the total annihilation of life. But this is as much as to propose

death as the final cure to a patient. Elie Metchnikoff proposes, in

his 'Nature of Man,' another cure, saying: 'If man could only

contrive to live long enough--say, for one hundred and forty years--a

natural desire for extinction would take the place of the instinct

for self-preservation, and the call of death would then harmoniously

satisfy his legitimate craving of a ripe old age.' Why, we must ask,

do you trouble yourself so much about death? Is there any instance

of an individual who escaped it in the whole history of mankind? If

there be no way of escape, why do you trouble yourself about it? Can

you cause things to fall off the earth against the law of

gravitation? Is there any example of an individual object that

escaped the government of that law in the whole history of the world?

Why, then, do you trouble yourself about it? It is no less silly to

trouble yourself about death than you do about gravitation. Can you

realize that death, which you have yet no immediate experience of, is

the greatest of evil? We dare to declare death to be one of the

blessings which we have to be thankful for. Death is the scavenger

of the world; it sweeps away all uselessness, staleness, and

corruption from the world, and keeps life clean and ever now. When

you are of no use for the world it comes upon you, removes you to

oblivion in order to relieve life of useless encumbrance. The stream

of existence should be kept running, otherwise it would become

putrid. If old lives were to stop the running stream it would stand

still, and consequently become filthy, poisoned, and worthless.

Suppose there were only births and no deaths. The earth has to be

packed with men and women, who are doomed to live to all eternity,

jostling, colliding, bumping, trampling each other, and vainly

struggling to get out of the Black Hole of the earth. Thanks to

death we are not in the Black Hole!

Only birth and no death is far worse than only death and no birth.

"The dead," says Chwang Tsz, "have no tyrannical king about, no

slavish subject to meet; no change of seasons overtakes them. The

heaven and the earth take the places of Spring and Autumn. The king

or emperor of a great nation cannot be happier than they." How would

you be if death should never overtake you when ugly decrepitude makes

you blind and deaf, bodily and mentally, and deprives you of all

possible pleasures? How would you be if you should not die when your

body is broken to pieces or terribly burned by an accident--say, by a

violent earthquake followed by a great conflagration? Just imagine

Satan, immortal Satan, thrown down by the ire of God into Hell's

fiery gulf, rolling himself in dreadful torture to the end of time.

You cannot but conclude that it is only death which relieves you of

extreme sufferings, incurable diseases, and it is one of the

blessings you ought to be thankful for.

The believer of Buddha is thankful even for death itself, the which

is the sole means of conquering death. If he be thankful even for

death, how much more for the rest of things! He can find a meaning

in every form of life. He can perceive a blessing in every change of

fortune. He can acknowledge a mission for every individual. He can

live in contentment and joy under any conditions. Therefore Lin Tsi

(Rin-zai) says: "All the Buddhas might appear before me and I would

not be glad. All the Three Regions and Hells might suddenly

present themselves before me, and I would not fear. . . . He (an

Enlightened person) might get into the fire, and it would not burn

him. He might get into water, and it would not drown him. He might

be born in Hell, and he would be happy as if he were in a fair

garden. He might be born among Pretas and beasts, and he would not

suffer from pain. How can he be so? Because he can enjoy