Shodo Harada Roshi's Newsletter
Issue #61

Vimilakirti Sutra

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Vimalakirti Sutra Visiting the Invalid. Chapter 5, continued

In the last section we wrote that even though the Buddha had asked all the disciples no one would go to visit Vimalakirti, so finally Monju Daishi said that he would go to represent the Buddha. Until then all of the disciples and Bodhisattvas had refused but now that they heard that Monju Daishi would go they were all excited to see what would happen. They too went along to visit Vimalakirti. Vimalakirti knew in advance that Monju Daishi was coming by his supernormal powers. He cleaned up everything in his room, emptying it out completely and was just there by himself, without even an attendant. He was manifesting the world of one, alone.

Manjusri Bodhisattva arrived to pay a call on him and the famous mondo between them began. Monju Bodhisattva came and Vimalakirti said to him “Welcome Manjusri! Welcome! You are very welcome! There you are without any coming, you appear, without any seeing. You are heard without any hearing.” Manjusri answers, “Householder it is as you say. Who comes, finally comes not. Who goes finally goes not. Why? Who comes is not known to come who goes is not known to go. Who appears is finally not to be seen. It is only a matter of people’s mental perception in fact there is no coming and no going. There is in fact nothing existing but what is right here, right now.”

Manjusri declared “Householder, it is as you say. Who comes, finally comes not. Who goes, finally goes not. Why? Who comes is finally not known to come who goes is not known to go. Who appears is finally not to be seen.”

Manjusri then says to Vimalakirti, “Good sir, is your condition tolerable? Is it livable? Are your physical elements undisturbed? I heard that you were very seriously sick, what is it? And what is the source of your sickness? And in the future what is your plan?” In this way he came as the Buddha’s representative and first spoke about his purpose of visiting.

In this world there are countless things that are born, but there is not one single one that is born of its own intention. That, of course, includes all of life’s energy; plants as well. Within it there is not one thing that is born of its own intention. It is all born because it should be born. Nothing is casually or chaotically born.

We have desires and that is a true essence of our being alive. There are people who want to be alive and this comes through their body and of course their awareness also works in this way. But we are not born from our consciousness, rather from the need for us to be born. To put it in a different way, our life energy has been born as the energy of the Buddha. We can only say that we have been born from that huge life energy.

We often hear of a child that says that they were given birth even though they never asked to be born and, as result has had to live this life of suffering. Some children even say this to their parents.

Yes, that is right. That is the truth of life we are born without asking to be born. Maybe the parents wanted to give birth, but even so there are some people who want to give birth but there is no way for them to be able to do that. Without asking to be born, we are born. Without our intention, we are born. If it is said that we have a will, it is not an individual will. It is the will of the universe that has borrowed the name of the life energy of the Buddha and within that we come to be born.

We are alive but it is not my life energy that is alive but the Buddha’s life energy. We are alive and if we think we of ourselves as something that is independently alive, then it is a big problem. If we think that we are alive because we were given birth to, that is our delusion. We mistake the Buddha’s being alive as me being alive and because people do not understand this bottom line they get confused. From within ourselves, we bring forth big problems and without being able to see what we are endowed with, we get sick.

People get sick because we think things should go the way we want them to go. In reality, things are already going exactly as they should. We want to twist and pull them in the way we think that they should be going, therefore, problems arise and we become sick. If we become empty minded and don’t add on lots of unnecessary thoughts we will not become sick.

Our physical life and the lives of those of far ancient times are not so very different. So why then are there so many more kinds of sicknesses, beyond even being countable? All sorts of sicknesses exist and we would be challenged to describe them all. Why are they all being created? It is because of our thinking becoming so complicated that society is troubled. Today we look to the left or right and everywhere we see sickness, sickness, and sickness. We live with that smack in front of us. It is as if our culture’s evolution is what has made more sicknesses. This is how it appears. Human’s basis of life is to progress but within our mind the question of death has made no progress whatsoever.

Vimalakirti answers. “Manjusri, my sickness comes from ignorance and for a thirst for existence and it will last as long as does the sicknesses of all living beings. Were all living beings to be free from sickness, I also would not be sick.”

Vimalakirti says that he is not sick from being confused and deluded but because of the unenlightened and confused people who are drowned in ego and lack of wisdom. Seeing this and not being able to sit still with seeing it, he also is sick.

In the world we are not isolated nor can we live only by ourselves. If there is a cold going around, we also are included in this cold. There are many viruses in the world and these viruses go everywhere. In society, there are many destructive things happening in the environment. We have to receive the pollution in the air, the food, and in the water’s pollution. This is a natural way that things have come to be. We can do something about small challenges but we cannot avoid pollution and droughts and famines. This is the sickness that Vimalakirti is talking about.

Today the whole world is sick and we cannot escape from this. Humans stay so untrusting of each other that we cannot believe what is inside of us. Therefore, all people are sick. It is something that we cannot escape from, a sickness of all humankind. “Were all beings to be free of sickness I also would not be sick.” As long as this world is sick, I cannot be not sick. Only when this worlds’ sickness ends, can I then no longer be sick. Only when humankind’s sickness of mistrust is resolved will there be a true trust among people. When we can discover this then humans will be able to trust each other. A trusting kind of society will then be possible and we can discover this way of being.

So Vimalakirti‘s cause of sickness cannot be known without knowing the sickness of the whole world. All beings’ sickness cannot be resolved until belief and harmony is discovered. This is not only for Vimalakirti it is also for each and everyone of us. Vimalakirti is not someone special. If we were not sick and someone was to say there is no sickness, then that person is the source of sickness. Such a person would add more sickness to the world.

One with the true mind of a parent will see and say that there is a problem. However, they will not be able to leave it at that. If we have a clear regular mind, we see with a single glance that the world, people and environment are sick. Our being sick is a natural fact. That is a healthy state of perception of the actuality. What Vimalakirti says is not something special. We have to take responsibility in this world and for humankind and for our own way of being and living.

“Manjusri, for the bodhisattva the world consists of only living beings and the sickness is inherent in living in the world.”

Bodhisattvas’ sickness comes forth from their great compassion. Then Manjusri, who had came to visit Vimalakirti, said, “You know well the source of your sickness, and that that sickness is the mistrust of people in society. If you cannot see that, you cannot know all people’s sickness. If there is trust born in society, people are awakened. They can come to know wisdom. When the environment is cured, people will be cured. So I then ask you, in what way do sick Bodhisattvas act? Those who are sick are Bodhisattvas. Those who visit them are Bodhisattvas. How should a Bodhisattva comfort a Bodhisattva? Those people who have fallen into deep distrust of others are caught on ego attachments. How do you visit them? From the origin there is no sickness and in the world there is no true sickness. However, from egoistic gathering, desires and ego’s opinions, this sickness all comes forth. From that comes the source of all sickness. Those who have these delusions cannot escape them and are thereby mistrustful. How should we visit them and comfort them? How can we do this? This is how he asked, and Vimalakirti then answered.

All existence is in constant flux and will never stay the same. This world is truly always changing It is like a dream, a phantom, like lightning, a fantasy, a shadow, and a mirage. Melancholic and transient, this is the truth of how it is. The Buddha taught this as well. The truth of this world and this truth have to be taught. Because people are dull and unawakened, we think we are here forever and we get broken. This has to be told. This melancholic world of actuality has to be told. When people run away from this then they get sick and have so many symptoms. Throwing it all away by running away; that is not the answer.

To say throw away that suffering melancholic life is to briefly tell how to get out of this suffering world. But, this is not the way to speak to people about this. People are alive and to be alive is to suffer. The Buddha gave us the truth of the Fourfold Path. The first line of which is that within this body are the ingredients for suffering and this has to be taught. This world is not a place for just having a good time. In this world with a physical body is a place of suffering. Those who look for only their own pleasure have to be told how life is suffering. Our body is a bag of suffering, but a world for peace and relief must also be taught.

However, if only this is taught, a person will seek only for their own salvation and security and that is a mistake. This is where the suffering comes from in the first place - when a person seeks only their own personal happiness. It is when we try to find our own personal happiness that our suffering begins. This world then reflects to us our suffering. The Buddha also said that all things are without an owner. No matter which part of our body we look at, that part is not “me”. We have joy, we have suffering, that which thinks of ourselves as an “I”, with personal opinions or individual ideas, is what brings us suffering, pain, misery, delusion, and confusion. All of it originally comes because we get stuck on an idea of a “me”.

From the beginning there is no “me”. If we let go of that, we can see that there is no individual “I”. We get caught on that “me”, which is only a phenomena. We get caught on it as something fixed and this is the source of our sickness, suffering, and misery. If we think there is no me at all, we use that idea to let go of a responsibility to society. This is not the point, either. If we do not get caught on an “I”, that capability and talent with which we are endowed, then we can give all of it to society, not dividing it half and half. We have to not get stuck on our own small self’s problems and challenges. The point is to see this “me” as a phenomena. If we get stuck on an “I”, we cannot find a resolution, and if we can let go of that “I”, a true resolution appears. In giving all of our thoughts and ideas and actions to society this is resolved. Then, even while we have pain, suffering, and misery we can let go of it. While we are suffering, we can let go of that suffering. If we get caught on an “I”, we have pain and suffering. If we instead use that energy for society, although we still have pain, we are liberated from it. This is how it has to be told.

“In this world our body and mind are only phenomena. There is no society. It is all empty”. We cannot misunderstand it like this. Rather, to see that because everything is transient we have to hold each precious moments encounter. We need to respect and appreciate every thing, and love this world. Just because this world is always changing in every instant and is in constant flux, we cannot be lax and must be without waste and lack of focus. This is what has to be told.

Further Vimalakirti says, “We Bodhisattvas are not saints or sages. Don’t be mistaken we are not that. And as for the world around us, if there was no problem anywhere, we would not be necessary.” Of course people have problems, and we all, without even knowing it, again and again gave rise to unskillful behavior. We have made serious mistakes within what we do and within various situations without even knowing it.

If we know these mistakes, we have to review our behavior and look at them clearly. This is the truth of the Bodhisattva. To search for this source by looking into our past and blaming others, or being against people, anything like that, is to fall into a great misunderstanding. In this world no matter what unskillful behavior we fall into, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we absolutely cannot blame that on other people. We have to see clearly that it is not the fault of someone else. If we see it as the fault of someone else, we are caught in our own ego accumulation and confusion. I say it once more, as it was said in the old days. It is said that if we resent others we dig two holes. If we are in a mind of resentment we are digging two holes.

If we are sturdy and healthy in physical body and have never been sick, how can we possibly understand another’s sickness? Only when we ourselves are sick, then for the first time can we understand someone else’s sickness. If we have never been sick ourselves then when someone else is sick and suffering, we cannot understand their state of mind. If we experience that suffering, then for the first time, we can be empathetic to another’s suffering. Up to this point, since we live in a world of actuality, we can understand it this far.

But for those who are in the world of actuality, we also have the endless past full of things that we cannot remember. Yet we are still carrying around our pain and suffering from the limitless past. Why? Because the mind’s problems are not something that just happen beginning today. Along with this era, these times, people of the past, all have given birth to this suffering. People become unfortunate and sick because they cannot live ignoring everything of the past. It is all piled up upon itself. If today we look at complex sicknesses and mind’s challenges, we clearly see the various things that have not yet been resolved.

For domestic violence as well, there is a source in the past for this behavior. Without resolving that, people keep going forward and putting off solving that problem. The manifestations of that are unresolved and keep coming forth. This is the same as in the situation of the world today. Because humankind did not take care of the problems before, we have problems in the extreme, today. We have to look at our present reality, and look at what we have done in the past. We have to ask, “What have I done so unskillfully in the past?” We have to make the effort to look carefully and be diligently.

In Buddhism, the source of sickness is the “mumyo” or dark ignorance. This is the true source of the darkness of the human mind. This is the murk and the ignorance that murkiness produces, and their unresolved problems. We do not get bright, and without resolving that lack of brightness, we continue in ignorance. We put aside the wisdom of true awakening and we live concerned only with our personal satisfaction in our daily life. We don’t even try to resolve our own faults and don’t use those ingredients to resolve our problems. We seek only our own happiness and with that we deepen our own problems, and create more and more suffering.

The world’s problems with human relationships and distrust have come before. We must look at where they have come before or we cannot resolve these problems. The Buddha Dharma is not vague and casual in its way of peace and resolving problems. It has to be done by resolving the actual dark ignorance of all humankind or there is no real resolution of the problem.

For what am I training and for what am clarifying the human mind? This question is asked because otherwise there is no resolution of the dark ignorance and without that resolution we have only partial clarification. Then the problems become more and more complex and confusing.

Here Vimalakirti says, “If you want to truly resolve the problems of all beings, you have to resolve the sickness of all beings completely.” If you do this, then the precepts “do good things” and “don’t do bad things”, are clear. If we do bad things, we can see immediately that we will have a heavy heart, and we hurt other people. If we offer our whole life for others, our mind is free, light and liberated. We can experience this directly. Our mind is pure from the origin. To not leave any lumps and twisted messes in our heart is the truth. We have to not leave any darkness in our mind, to not make problems, and to stay clear. We can always make the effort to stay clear with ourselves and others. We need to clarify the all-embracing mind, to give it life and help others resolve their problems with that state of mind. If we clarify our own mind then we can help others to clarify their mind. Doing that is the way to comfort all other bodhisattvas and to make the effort to resolve their suffering.

We cannot pity people with sickness or we make their problems more difficult. Rather to purify our own mind helps others in their efforts to clarify their mind and gives them hope. If we are pitying them we make their burdens even heavier. Each person’s positive energy is what helps them open into their future of infinite possibilities, and we need to support them in this.

Today’s modern medicine aims to not have people suffer and feel pain. It makes efforts in this direction. But this is not a way to make a person relieved or fortunate. A person has to resolve for themselves their actuality and this “pain relief” may be deceptive and helping the person to deceive themselves is not a resolution of their suffering. It is necessary to experience the pain and to experience its relief and then see directly what the true source of this is and review our behavior. With that we can know the endless resolution and wisdom that comes. In that way is a sick Bodhisattva comforted.

The flower does not have any hidden mind to call the butterfly but it comes. The butterfly, without any planning, calls on the flower. When the butterfly comes, the flower blooms. I don’t know that person, that person does not know me. When two people meet who don’t know each other, it is an indication from the heavens.

Ryokan lived in the Edo period. He is one of the elders of the Soto sect, and is referred to as the Echizen Ryokan (Ryokan from Echizen). There is no child who does not know him. He is succinct and simple. The more you taste his words the more the flavor deepens. Neither the butterfly nor the flower have any intention of meeting but for some reason they come together. In this way, to meet someone is the karmic affiliation of empty-mindedness.

Empty-mindedness is to be without any idea of “want to do this” or “want to do that”. Without thinking it comes up. It is not ignorance. It comes out perfectly and is arrived at perfectly. If we are in a car, and there is someone sitting next to us, or someone in front is hanging onto a strap, we don’t know those people. When we encounter them and see their faces it is very mysterious. Why? At this time? In this place? This person? Is it a plan of a God in some heaven?

Ryokan knew the Buddha’s teaching well so he was not talking about a god in a heaven. He is talking about a greater rule. There is no all- creating god in Buddhism. There is the understated way of expressing from Ryokan. The greater rule in Buddhism is the law of cause and affect, where the cause and the karmic affiliation meet together. This then becomes the karmic affiliation. It is not something planned yet it matches perfectly. Things that try to match are clumsy and that which meets naturally has no forced aspect; butterfly and flower, the person whom I meet in town. If we add on more emotions we get confused.

Each encounter may be not planned by a God. There is a source of the meeting; the thin thread of the karmic affiliations that brought this meeting into possibility. This is the encounter’s source and not to just end it as mysterious but to use this karmic connecting and carefully cultivate it. We need to bring that karmic affiliating into fruitfulness. This is what is important. This is the vow that is expressed in this poem. It is not just about a casual coincidence; but about bringing that encounter to life or that life ends in melancholy. It cannot be a meeting of ignorance but one of harmony where both people are realized in it with a positive state of mind. This encounter is then given life.

Vimalakirti says that sick Bodhisattvas all have this physical body and feeling and perceptions are all together their total being. This is originally nonexistent. Sickness becomes the source of a mistaken perception. To correct that is how we have to repair it, but this cannot be done irresponsibly.

Because of our ignorance, much suffering comes about. Some part of it was karmic affiliation that was beyond our responsibility, and not our own personal problem. In this way we might, for example, receive an injury from a bombing or be seriously injured or involved in a serious crisis and receive a great physical disability. And, without thinking or knowing it, receive a sickness. There are many ways of receiving these circumstances which are not only from our own ignorance, not only from our confused past.

From many different ways we receive sickness, injury and disability. To not be in fear about it, be against it or confused by it, is to receive it as our way of life. And to see our way of life once again in a new way is to realize a new way of living. This is what Vimalakirti is saying and Ryokan’s poem is also the manifestation of this.

When we look at it this way, our sickness is not just suffering. Our pain, disability, and injury encourage us to meet with things we don’t want to encounter. Then we can see how to give these actualities life and see how to make use of it. We transform it into a new sense of how to live. This is about how each person actually is, how they live.

Each and everyone of us here is alive. This all-embracing Dharma is also alive. If we see from a personal small self we feel pathetic, sorry for ourselves and as if we are receiving great injustice and unfairness. But we have to see it with bigger eyes and receive it within a larger view, without holding on to a small self-centered sense of things. The Dharma is alive and coming to life. We are constantly being given to, to see it in this way.

In Buddhism, sickness is said to be a gift from Kanzeon Bodhisattva, Kanzeon gives us those problems and sickness. We are encouraged to receive it in this way, that disabilities and injury of all kinds are to give us wisdom. This is how people of old looked at this. We encounter something we don’t want or don’t want to encounter or which just happens. Instead of seeing it negatively, we can look at this terrible undesirable thing as a way of being given wisdom. This sickness is a functioning of the wisdom of Kanzeon Bodhisattva. If we see it like this, we will be able to see correctly this sickness without being afraid and without running away. We will be able to resolve it like this. This is what Vimalakirti is saying. He is teaching us to not be stuck in a small self’s view but to live in a way to realize the Great Hugeness of the Dharma. To see it is as an opportunity for that.

In the final part of this chapter, Monju asks, what is the practice of the Bodhisattva? In what way should the Bodhisattva live? How should they be? It teaches this here. Vimalakirti says, while living in the world of life and death, this life full of delusion. To be in that life and not be soaked through by and tainted with their delusions is not be confused by them from the bottom of our hearts and to not be moved around by them,

Even while realizing Nirvana or experiencing an advanced state of mind, to not try to stay put in a simply quiet serene mind; this is the way of the Bodhisattva. This is how he teaches. When a person’s life is challenging and impoverished, they easily become impoverished to the very bottom of their mind.

Even if we are challenged by our life we must not become impoverished in our state of mind as well. Life, and especially a life that always includes suffering, must be often walked with great pain but that pain must not soak into the bottom of our mind. Life does have suffering and that clear mind which is asked for by many, the ability to give them wonder and energy, this kind of brightness must be available - this is the way of the Bodhisattva.

Entering an advanced state of mind, people get stuck there comfortably and lose track of the pain and suffering of others. This very frequently happens. We get caught on wanting to guard our own good fortune and comforts. However, there are those who have no food to eat today; how easily we forget their pain! The state of mind of Nirvana, that serenity, even if we realize it, still we can’t sit down and rest there. But we have to offer assistance to the many in society with their many confusions. We have to enter into them and help them to become liberated and see clearly how to guide them and light their way and not sit down on our own peaceful state of mind. This is the way of the Bodhisattva; this is how our everyday life should be lived.

Even if we live in a fine splendid house and are surrounded by many with whom we have a peaceful karmic affiliation and a place where we can live comfortably. Even if we are blessed with that, to not seek for joy but instead to help those suffering in the world, to figure out how to make the effort to share joy with them and relieve their suffering, to enter into this, to dive into it and not settle for a comfortable life of self-centered happiness is the way of the Bodhisattva.

Vimalakirti is talking about the way of the Bodhisattva that dives into a soiled world without getting soiled. And to dive into a pure world yet not get caught there nor become proud. It is this which is the Vimalakirti teaching of how to see this world of the mysterious “not two”, and in this way only, can we understand it clearly. No matter how filthy and muddy we become, to not have our life energy sullied by it. This is what he is pointing out. This is his main point.

People cannot live only disliking soiled things. We have to welcome soiled and dirty things as well and not look down on them and not pretend to be pure. This is what Vimalakirti dislikes most, to divide and categorize into sage and saints; have awakened and have not awakened; desires and Buddha Nature. All of these divisions are to become attached to them, and is not the point. We need to realize the mysterious way of the “not two”. This is the true path and to dive into the world yet not to be moved around by the devils there, is the world of the Bodhisattva. It is not about guarding and defending a world, or of our protecting our own small self and our personal boundaries. It is to dive into the world of devils and darkness, and not be moved around by them. It is to liberate each person. We have to have this kind of courage and bravery or this world will not be liberated.

Even if we vow to realize all wisdom, we have to not be in a hurry to complete the way. That is the way of the Bodhisattva. There is only one truth, and we see this clearly. Do not try to escape from discrimination and dualism. This is the way of the Bodhisattva.

The twelve links of causation, and to go beyond them, is to also jump into the poisonous karmic affiliations. This is the way of the Bodhisattva. To see this way of living of a true person, then the core of the eternal truth can be lived. This is all the truth of the mysterious path of “not two”, be burning to share this with all people.

A person whom I respect very much, someone named the Japanese Helen Keller, is Hisako-san Nakamura. She lived to the age of 76, and I met her in her later years when she visited Mumon Roshi. She had no lower arms or legs, her limbs only reached her elbows and knees. And even though she was without these lower limbs of arms and legs, she lived her whole life with an inconvenience of “without limbs”. Although she was mockingly labeled, constantly embarrassed and ashamed, and was frequently made fun of; even so she lived through that and did excellent work as well.

Hisako-san was from Takayama City in Gifu Prefecture. She was born into the family of a tatami maker who was very, very poor. At the age of four she fell sick with a disease that rots fingertips and it spread. She had amputation after amputation until finally it was necessary to amputate below her knees. Her father died early and her mother took her and married another poor tatami maker and they lived there. Since Hisako-san had no arms she could not eat with her hands and had to hold her plate up to her mouth to eat. The children in the house where they now lived, her stepbrother and sister said, “Hisako-san is like a cat because she eats with her mouth”. Upset at this, she wrapped gauze around her short stubby arms and with determination learned to hold her chopsticks. Then the other children would come to gawk at her and point at her and look in the window at her and she was apparently left out on the roof because of this. The new family members even said there was an unwanted child in their house. She was one who needed so much attention, and yet was useless, and without hands. She was often told this by her stepfather.

In the region of Shinshu Katakura there was work so her mother went there to a place where there were many silk factories. For three months or more she would work there and bring home money. During that time Hisako-san would be at her grandmother’s home, and her grandmother would make frequent visits to temples. Hisako-san wanted to go to school with her brother and sister but no school would allow a person with no arms and legs. Still, she would read their schoolbooks and practiced writing with her mouth and even learned to sew by holding a needle with her mouth. She sewed lots of small cloth juggling balls and they kept increasing but the other children said they didn’t want them because they were full of spit. Since she sewed them with her mouth, no one would play with them.

When Hisako-san was nine years old she became blind. Her mother felt that she could never be happy if she kept living. She took Hisako-san to the Miyagawa River of Takayama and was about to jump with her into the mouth of the roaring stream. But the child on her back said that she did not want to die and cried and cried. Finally her mother could not go through with it.

Maybe because of the medicine, her eyes improved, and she could sew her own kimonos and under-garments. When her friends wanted to knit she could even join them and hold her needles with her short stubs. Her mother was very strict with her and made her clean her own room. She did this with her short stubs and she used the broom and dustpan. Her mother also made her wash her own clothes and she did that also with her short arms, legs and mouth. Her mother also made her put her own heated coals into the heating table. Takayama is a very cold place and without a heating table in the winter it is unbearably cold. To put the coals in her heating table she had to first strike a match with her mouth. She managed to stabilize the matchbox and tried with the match in her mouth, but if she exhaled, the match blew out. She finally asked her mother for help, but her mother refused. She told her she could do it, and she had to practice until she could. Finally she could light the match and light the brazier of charcoal and put it in the heating table. Her mother eventually died and was gone. A kind man gave her to the circus where they showed her off as a “daruma girl” with no arms and legs and who could sew and write. The show went from Taiwan to Hokkaido and even to China. This was the only way she could make a living.

After she had done that for many years, a man finally came from America and brought Helen Keller to Japan for the first time. Helen Keller could not see or hear but she was the daughter of a rich family and so she had many home teachers and received much education. She could read with her fingertips and could read lips and while she could not hear or speak she could give a fine lecture with just her mouth’s movement and was also a great scholar.

When she came to Japan there was a reception in Tokyo and Hisako Nakamura was the person who was asked to represent the association of the handicapped and to give a welcoming speech. She waited excitedly and had made dolls with homemade clothes that she had sewn herself. If an American saw a naked doll under its clothes she would be embarrassed, so she had made all of the proper underwear as well and she held the doll and waited for Helen Keller. But when she went to the place for the meeting, there were already two fine splendid dolls waiting by her seat. The doll’s clothing was all made of the finest Kyoto Nishiki brocade, but Hisako-san who had never had such a doll and never seen anything like it was crestfallen. She never could have had such fabric. The store dolls had tabi and since she had never had tabi herself, she had forgotten to make them for the doll. When she put the two dolls together, hers looked so pitiful that she hesitated and wondered what she should do, without even knowing the cameras were there watching her. She went up on the platform with her artificial legs and Helen Keller received the dolls lovingly and felt her whole body with her arms and hugged her, without any legs and arms and said, “You are a miracle of this world. You are greatly superior to me.” Whenever Hisako-san talked about it, she was so moved she cried. She was one at whom people laughed and at, whom people ogled, and had been labeled and made fun of. For the first time ever she felt that she was happy to be alive. When Helen Keller said that she was a miracle in the world, she completely forgot all of the pain and the shame she had felt up until then. She was reborn. This Hisako-san, who in Japan was one who had lived through more than seventy years so sturdily, beyond all pain, who had been told they could do nothing for her, she became a symbol for handicapped people. Now she encouraged handicapped people all around the world and became their symbol. She could now write the thin brushed lines of her own poems and was written about in books. She was invited to speak by women’s groups everywhere. Hisako-san, who had never been to school was now called Hisako Sensei; Nakamura Sensei. In one of her poems, she wrote of how deeply affected she was by this. In one of her poems, she said: “Without hands, without feet,

I live embraced in the sleeves of the Buddha”.

Hisako-san was without hands or feet and while she could make anything with her hands, these were not the hands that everyone else had. These legs could carry her body but they were not the legs like everyone else’s legs.

“But in my being there is only great grace and gratitude. Whether I turn left or right, there is only thanks to this that I am alive. I had a life of great pain and in peoples eyes also it was a life of much suffering. Today if I look back at all of that, it is all only gratitude.”

“Without hands, without feet,

I live embraced in the sleeves of the Buddha”

Everyone is a Buddha and everyone is alive right now thanks to the karmic affiliation of the Buddha.

She wanted so much to put her palms together in gassho in front of her mother’s Buddhist name tablet, but she couldn’t. Still, there are many who have hands but don’t have the depth of gratitude to gassho. Hisako-san lived every day in the mind of gassho. Hisako-san said that while she had endured great pain it was grace that brought her to today; the grace of her parents, society and all people. There had been that person who sold her to show to people, but if that man had not been around I could not have lived till today. So if I look at it all today, in every direction I am thankful. Thankful to my mother who made me sew and made me put the fire in the heating table. I thought she was so strict and I resented her. My mother had the greatest confidence. For my mother it was easy to do for me, and she probably wanted to do it for me. She knew that when she was dead, there was no one who would do it for me. She made her heart into a harsh devil’s mind for me, so I would be able to do it for myself.

For my rotting arms and legs I would cry and cry noisily and my parents could not find a place to live with such a noisy child. Now to my parents and all the people in my life, I feel such great gratitude. No matter how severe a situation, to not get twisted, no matter what difficult or embarrassing situations arise is to not have a sense of being mocked and labeled. To not get depressed instead live sturdily and fully and keep that confidence. There is no thing shameful about being handicapped. To have a mind that is handicapped is what is shameful. This is what a Bodhisattva is teaching us, says Vimalakirti.

In this chapter, the source of humans’ sickness is being clearly shown. It is to be in our mind and in our lack of awakening. To see ourselves, as the center of things is what makes us deluded Why do we have this sickness? To feel that pain is what makes us sick. To realize the pain of all beings is what brings the Bodhisattva sickness The source of that is the ego and being centered on ourselves. This is the sickness we have. Today’s weakest point of society is being ignorant and unawakened and caught on our ego. And saying this he ends this chapter.

In this way Vimalakirti tells us and the whole assembly, gods and Bodhisattvas all. This then gave rise to their awakened mind. To bring this to possibility for all beings is what Vimalakirti taught, and for doing this, Vimalakirti was a true Bodhisattva.

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copyright 2003, Shodo Harada Roshi, all rights reserved