The Next Step In The Mental Training

In the next place we have to strive to be the master of our bodies.

With most of the unenlightened, body holds absolute control over

Self. Every order of the former has to be faithfully obeyed by the

latter. Even if Self revolts against the tyranny of body, it is

easily trampled down under the brutal hoofs of bodily passion. For

example, Self wants to be temperate for the sake of health, and would

pass by the resort for drinking, but body would force Self into

it. Self at times lays down a strict dietetic rule for himself, but

body would threaten Self to act against both the letter and spirit of

the rule. Now Self aspires to get on a higher place among sages, but

body pulls Self down to the pavement of masses. Now Self proposes to

give some money to the poor, but body closes the purse tightly. Now

Self admires divine beauty, but body compels him to prefer

sensuality. Again, Self likes spiritual liberty, but body confines

him in its dungeons.

Therefore, to get Enlightened, we must establish the authority of

Self over the whole body. We must use our bodies as we use our

clothes in order to accomplish our noble purposes. Let us command

body not to shudder under a cold shower-bath in inclement weather,

not to be nervous from sleepless nights, not to be sick with any sort

of food, not to groan under a surgeon's knife, not to succumb even if

we stand a whole day in the midsummer sun, not to break down under

any form of disease, not to be excited in the thick of

battlefield--in brief, we have to control our body as we will.

Sit in a quiet place and meditate in imagination that body is no more

bondage to you, that it is your machine for your work of life, that

you are not flesh, that you are the governor of it, that you can use

it at pleasure, and that it always obeys your order faithfully.

Imagine body as separated from you. When it cries out, stop it

instantly, as a mother does her baby. When it disobeys you, correct

it by discipline, as a master does his pupil. When it is wanton,

tame it down, as a horse-breaker does his wild horse. When it is

sick, prescribe to it, as a doctor does to his patient. Imagine that

you are not a bit injured, even if it streams blood; that you are

entirely safe, even if it is drowned in water or burned by fire.

E-Shun, a pupil and sister of Ryo-an, a famous Japanese

master, burned herself calmly sitting cross-legged on a pile of

firewood which consumed her. She attained to the complete mastery of

her body. Socrates' self was never poisoned, even if his person was

destroyed by the venom he took. Abraham Lincoln himself stood

unharmed, even if his body was laid low by the assassin. Masa-shige

was quite safe, even if his body was hewed by the traitors' swords.

Those martyrs that sang at the stake to the praise of God could never

be burned, even if their bodies were reduced to ashes, nor those

seekers after truth who were killed by ignorance and superstition.

Is it not a great pity to see a man endowed with divine spirit and

power easily upset by a bit of headache, or crying as a child under a

surgeon's knife, or apt to give up the ghost at the coming of little

danger, or trembling through a little cold, or easily laid low by a

bit of indisposition, or yielding to trivial temptation?

Ryo an (E-myo, died 1411), the founder of the monastery of

Sai-jo-ji, near the city of Odawara. See To-jo-ren-to-roku.

It is no easy matter to be the dictator of body. It is not a matter

of theory, but of practice. You must train your body that you may

enable it to bear any sort of suffering, and to stand unflinched in

the face of hardship. It is for this that So-rai (Ogiu) laid

himself on a sheet of straw-mat spread on the ground in the coldest

nights of winter, or was used to go up and down the roof of his

house, having himself clad in heavy armour. It is for this that

ancient Japanese soldiers led extremely simple lives, and that they

often held the meeting-of-perseverance, in which they exposed

themselves to the coldest weather in winter or to the hottest weather

in summer. It is for this that Katsu Awa practised fencing in the

middle of night in a deep forest.

One of the greatest scholars of the Tokugawa period, who

died in 1728. See Etsu-wa-bun-ko.

The soldiers of the Tokugawa period were used to hold such

a meeting.


Ki-saburo, although he was a mere outlaw, having his left arm half

cut at the elbow in a quarrel, ordered his servant to cut it off with

a saw, and during the operation he could calmly sit talking and

laughing with his friends. Hiko-kuro (Takayama), a Japanese

loyalist of note, one evening happened to come to a bridge where two

robbers were lying in wait for him. They lay fully stretching

themselves, each with his head in the middle of the bridge, that he

might not pass across it without touching them. Hiko-kuro was not

excited nor disheartened, but calmly approached the vagabonds and

passed the bridge, treading upon their heads, which act so frightened

them that they took to their heels without doing any harm to


A well-known loyalist in the Tokugawa period, who died in



The history of Zen is full of the anecdotes that show Zen priests

were the lords of their bodies. Here we quote a single example by

way of illustration: Ta Hwui (Dai-ye), once having had a boil on his

hip, sent for a doctor, who told him that it was fatal, that he must

not sit in Meditation as usual. Then Ta Hwui said to the physician:

"I must sit in Meditation with all my might during my remaining days,

for if your diagnosis be not mistaken, I shall die before long." He

sat day and night in constant Meditation, quite forgetful of his

boil, which was broken and gone by itself.

Sho-bo-gen-zo-zui-mon-ki, by Do-gen.