The Method Of Instruction Adopted By Zen Masters

Thus far we have described the doctrine of Zen inculcated by both

Chinese and Japanese masters, and in this chapter we propose to

sketch the practice of mental training and the method of practising

Dhyana or Meditation. Zen teachers never instruct their pupils by

means of explanation or argument, but urge them to solve by

themselves through the practice of Meditation such problems as--'What

is Buddha?' What is self?'
'What is the spirit of Bodhidharma?'

'What is life and death?' 'What is the real nature of mind?' and so

on. Ten Shwai (To-sotsu), for instance, was wont to put three

questions to the following effect: (1) Your study and

discipline aim at the understanding of the real nature of mind.

Where does the real nature of mind exist? (2) When you understand

the real nature of mind, you are free from birth and death. How can

you be saved when you are at the verge of death? (3) When you are

free from birth and death, you know where you go after death. Where

do you go when your body is reduced to elements? The pupils are not

requested to express their solution of these problems in the form of

a theory or an argument, but to show how they have grasped the

profound meaning implied in these problems, how they have established

their conviction, and how they can carry out what they grasped in

their daily life.

The famous three difficult questions, known as the Three

Gates of Teu Shwai (To Sotsu San Kwan), who died in 1091. See Mu Mon

Kwan, xlvii.

A Chinese Zen master tells us that the method of instruction

adopted by Zen may aptly be compared with that of an old burglar who

taught his son the art of burglary. The burglar one evening said to

his little son, whom he desired to instruct in the secret of his

trade: "Would you not, my dear boy, be a great burglar like myself?"

"Yes, father," replied the promising young man." "Come with me,

then. I will teach you the art." So saying, the man went out,

followed by his son. Finding a rich mansion in a certain village,

the veteran burglar made a hole in the wall that surrounded it.

Through that hole they crept into the yard, and opening a window with

complete ease broke into the house, where they found a huge box

firmly locked up as if its contents were very valuable articles. The

old man clapped his hands at the lock, which, strange to tell,

unfastened itself. Then he removed the cover and told his son to get

into it and pick up treasures as fast as he could. No sooner had the

boy entered the box than the father replaced the cover and locked it

up. He then exclaimed at the top of his voice: "Thief! thief! thief!

thief!" Thus, having aroused the inmates, he went out without taking

anything. All the house was in utter confusion for a while; but

finding nothing stolen, they went to bed again. The boy sat holding

his breath a short while; but making up his mind to get out of his

narrow prison, began to scratch the bottom of the box with his

finger-nails. The servant of the house, listening to the noise,

supposed it to be a mouse gnawing at the inside of the box; so she

came out, lamp in hand, and unlocked it. On removing the cover, she

was greatly surprised to find the boy instead of a little mouse, and

gave alarm. In the meantime the boy got out of the box and went down

into the yard, hotly pursued by the people. He ran as fast as

possible toward the well, picked up a large stone, threw it down into

it, and hid himself among the bushes. The pursuers, thinking the

thief fell into the well, assembled around it, and were looking into

it, while the boy crept out unnoticed through the hole and went home

in safety. Thus the burglar taught his son how to rid himself of

overwhelming difficulties by his own efforts; so also Zen teachers

teach their pupils how to overcome difficulties that beset them on

all sides and work out salvation by themselves.

Wu Tsu (Go So), the teacher of Yuen Wu (En Go).