Zen And Supernatural Power

Yoga claims that various supernatural powers can be acquired

by Meditation, but Zen does not make any such absurd claims. It

rather disdains those who are believed to have acquired supernatural

powers by the practice of austerities. The following traditions

clearly show this spirit: "When Fah Yung (Ho-yu) lived in Mount Niu

Teu (Go-zu-san) he used to receive every morning the

offerings of flowers from hundreds of bir
s, and was believed to have

supernatural powers. But after his Enlightenment by the instruction

of the Fourth Patriarch, the birds ceased to make offering, because

be became a being too divine to be seen by inferior animals." "Hwang

Pah (O-baku), one day going up Mount Tien Tai (Ten-dai-san), which

was believed to have been inhabited by Arhats with supernatural

powers, met with a monk whose eyes emitted strange light. They went

along the pass talking with each other for a short while until they

came to a river roaring with torrent. There being no bridge, the

master bad to stop at the shore; but his companion crossed the river

walking on the water and beckoned to Hwang Pah to follow him.

Thereupon Hwang Pah said: 'If I knew thou art an Arhat, I would have

doubled you up before thou got over there!' The monk then understood

the spiritual attainment of Hwang Pah, and praised him as a true

Mahayanist." "On one occasion Yang Shan (Kyo-zan) saw a stranger

monk flying through the air. When that monk came down and approached

him with a respectful salutation, he asked: 'Where art thou from?

'Early this morning,' replied the other, 'I set out from India.'

'Why,' said the teacher, 'art thou so late?' 'I stopped,' responded

the man, 'several times to look at beautiful sceneries.' Thou mayst

have supernatural powers,' exclaimed Yang Shan, 'yet thou must give

back the Spirit of Buddha to me.' Then the monk praised Yang Shan

saying: 'I have come over to China in order to worship

Manyjucri, and met unexpectedly with Minor Shakya,' and,

after giving the master some palm leaves he brought from India, went

back through the air.'"

'Yoga Aphorisms of Patanyjali,' chap. iii.

A prominent disciple of the Fourth Patriarch, the founder

of the Niu Teu School (Go-zu-zen) of Zen, who died in A.D. 675.

Manyjucri is a legendary Bodhisattva, who became an object

of worship of some Mahayanists. He is treated as a personification

of transcendental wisdom.

Hwui Yuen (E-gen) and Sho-bo-gen-zo.

It is quite reasonable that Zenists distinguish supernatural powers

from spiritual uplifting, the former an acquirement of Devas, or of

Asuras, or of Arhats, or of even animals, and the latter as a nobler

accomplishment attained only by the practisers of Mahayanism.

Moreover, they use the term supernatural power in a meaning entirely

different from the original one. Lin Tsi (Rin-zai) says, for

instance: "There are six supernatural powers of Buddha: He is free

from the temptation of form, living in the world of form; He is free

from the temptation of sound, living in the world of sound; He is

free from the temptation of smell, living in the world of smell; He

is free from the temptation of taste, living in the world of taste;

He is free from the temptation of Dharma, living in the world

of Dharma. These are six supernatural powers."

The things or objects, not of sense, but of mind.

Lin Tsi Luh (Rin-zai-roku).

Sometimes Zenists use the term as if it meant what we call Zen

Activity, or the free display of Zen in action, as you see in the

following examples. Tung Shan (To-Zan) was on one occasion attending

on his teacher Yun Yen (Un-gan), who asked: "What are your

supernatural powers?" Tung Shan, saying nothing, clasped his hands

on his breast, and stood up before Yun Yen. "How do you display your

supernatural powers?" questioned the teacher again. Then Tung Shan

said farewell and went out. Wei Shan (E-san) one day was taking a

nap, and seeing his disciple Yang Shan (Kyo-zan) coming into the

room, turned his face towards the wall. "You need not, Sir," said

Yang Shan, "stand on ceremony, as I am your disciple." Wei Shan

seemed to try to get up, so Yang Shan went out; but Wei Shan called

him back and said: "I shall tell you of a dream I dreamed." The

other inclined his head as if to listen. "Now," said Wei Shan,

"divine my fortune by the dream." Thereupon Yang Shan fetched a

basin of water and a towel and gave them to the master, who washed

his face thereby. By-and-by Hiang Yen (Kyo-gen) came in, to whom Wei

Shan said: "We displayed supernatural powers a moment ago. It was

not such supernatural powers as are shown by Hinayanists." "I know

it, Sir," replied the other, "though I was down below." "Say, then,

what it was," demanded the master. Then Hiang Yen made tea and gave

a cup to Wei Shan, who praised the two disciples, saying: "You

surpass Çariputra and Maudgalyayana in your wisdom and

supernatural powers."

One of the prominent disciples of Shakya Muni, who became

famous for his wisdom.

One of the eminent disciples of Shakya Muni, noted for his

supernatural powers.


Again, ancient Zenists did not claim that there was any mysterious

element in their spiritual attainment, as Do-gen says

unequivocally respecting his Enlightenment: "I recognized only that

my eyes are placed crosswise above the nose that stands lengthwise,

and that I was not deceived by others. I came home from China with

nothing in my hand. There is nothing mysterious in Buddhism. Time

passes as it is natural, the sun rising in the east, and the moon

setting into the west."


10. True Dhyana.

To sit in Meditation is not the only method of practising Zazen. "We

practise Dhyana in sitting, in standing, and in walking," says one of

the Japanese Zenists. Lin Tsi (Rin-Zai) also says: "To concentrate

one's mind, or to dislike noisy places, and seek only for stillness,

is the characteristic of heterodox Dhyana." It is easy to keep

self-possession in a place of tranquillity, yet it is by no means

easy to keep mind undisturbed amid the bivouac of actual life. It is

true Dhyana that makes our mind sunny while the storms of strife rage

around us. It is true Dhyana that secures the harmony of heart,

while the surges of struggle toss us violently. It is true Dhyana

that makes us bloom and smile, while the winter of life covets us

with frost and snow.

"Idle thoughts come and go over unenlightened minds six hundred and

fifty times in a snap of one's fingers," writes an Indian

teacher, "and thirteen hundred million times every

twenty-four hours." This might be an exaggeration, yet we cannot but

acknowledge that one idle thought after another ceaselessly bubbles

up in the stream of consciousness. "Dhyana is the letting go,"

continues the writer--"that is to say, the letting go of the thirteen

hundred million of idle thoughts." The very root of these thirteen

hundred million idle thoughts is an illusion about one's self. He is

indeed the poorest creature, even if he be in heaven, who thinks

himself poor. On the contrary, he is an angel who thinks himself

hopeful and happy, even though he be in hell. "Pray deliver me,"

said a sinner to Sang Tsung (So-san). "Who ties you up?" was

the reply. You tie yourself up day and night with the fine thread of

idle thoughts, and build a cocoon of environment from which you have

no way of escape. 'There is no rope, yet you imagine yourself

bound.' Who could put fetters on your mind but your mind itself?

Who could chain your will but your own will? Who could blind your

spiritual eyes, unless you yourself shut them up? Who could prevent

you from enjoying moral food, unless you yourself refuse to eat?

"There are many," said Sueh Fung (Sep-po) on one occasion, "who

starve in spite of their sitting in a large basket full of victuals.

There are many who thirst in spite of seating themselves on the shore

of a sea." "Yes, Sir," replied Huen Sha (Gen-sha), "there are many

who starve in spite of putting their heads into the basket full of

victuals. There are many who thirst in spite of putting their heads

into the waters of the sea." Who could cheer him up who

abandons himself to self-created misery? Who could save him who

denies his own salvation?

The introduction to Anapana-sutra by Khin San Hwui, who

came to China A.D. 241.

The Third Patriarch.

Hwui Yuen (E-gen).