The Five Ranks Of Merit

Thus far we have stated how to train our body and mind according to

the general rules and customs established by Zenists. And here we

shall describe the different stages of mental uplifting through which

the student of Zen has to go. They are technically called 'The Five

Ranks of Merit.' The first stage is called the Rank of

Turning, in which the student 'turns' his mind from the

external objects of sense towards th
inner Enlightened

Consciousness. He gives up all mean desires and aspires to spiritual

elevation. He becomes aware that he is not doomed to be the slave of

material things, and strives to conquer over them. Enlightened

Consciousness is likened to the King, and it is called the Mind-King,

while the student who now turns towards the King is likened to common

people. Therefore in this first stage the student is in the rank of

common people.

Ko-kun-go-i. For further details, see So-to-ni-shi-roku.

Ko in Japanese.

The second stage is called the Rank of Service, in which the

student distinguishes himself by his loyalty to the Mind-King, and

becomes a courtier to 'serve' him. He is in constant 'service' to

the King, attending him with obedience and love, and always fearing

to offend him. Thus the student in this stage is ever careful not to

neglect rules and precepts laid down by the sages, and endeavours to

uplift himself in spirituality by his fidelity.

The third stage is called the Rank of Merit, in which the

student distinguishes himself by his 'meritorious' acts of conquering

over the rebel army of passion which rises against the Mind-King.

Now, his rank is not the rank of a courtier, but the rank of a

general. In other words, his duty is not only to keep rules and

instructions of the sages, but to subjugate his own passion and

establish moral order in the mental kingdom.

Bu in Japanese.

Ko in Japanese.

The fourth stage is called the Rank of Co-operative Merit, in

which the student 'co-operates' with other persons in order to

complete his merit. Now, he is not compared with a general who

conquers his foe, but with the prime-minister who co-operates with

other officials to the benefit of the people. Thus the student in

this stage is not satisfied with his own conquest of passion, but

seeks after spiritual uplifting by means of extending his kindness

and sympathy to his fellow-men.

Gu-ko in Japanese.

The fifth stage is called the Rank of Merit-over-Merit, which

means the rank of meritless-merit. This is the rank of the King

himself. The King does nothing meritorious, because all the

governmental works are done by his ministers and subjects. All that

he has to do is to keep his inborn dignity and sit high on his

throne. Therefore his conduct is meritless, but all the meritorious

acts of his subjects are done through his authority. Doing nothing,

he does everything. Without any merit, he gets all merits. Thus the

student in this stage no more strives to keep precepts, but his

doings are naturally in accord with them. No more he aspires for

spiritual elevation, but his, heart is naturally pure from material

desires. No more he makes an effort to vanquish his passion, but no

passion disturbs him. No more he feels it his duty to do good to

others, but he is naturally good and merciful. No more he sits in

Dhyana, but he naturally lives in Dhyana at all times. It is in this

fifth stage that the student is enabled to identify his Self with the

Mind-King or Enlightened Consciousness, and to abide in perfect bliss.

Ko-ko in Japanese.