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
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.