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Number 65

November 2004

The Song of Zazen


Hakuin Ekaku Zenji


All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas. As with water and ice, there is no ice without water; apart from sentient beings, there are no Buddhas. Not knowing how close the truth is, we seek it far away what a pity! We are like one who in the midst of water cries out desperately in thirst. We are like the son of a rich man who wandered away among the poor.

The reason we transmigrate through the Six Realms is because we are lost in the darkness of ignorance. Going further and further astray in the darkness, how can we ever be free from birth-and-death? As for the Mahayana practice of zazen, there are no words to praise it fully. The Six Paramitas, such as giving, maintaining the precepts, and various other good deeds like invoking the Buddhas name, repentance, and spiritual training, all finally return to the practice of zazen.

Even those who have sat zazen only once will see all karma erased. Nowhere will they find evil paths, and the Pure Land will not be far away. If we listen even once with open heart to this truth, then praise it and gladly embrace it, how much more so then, if on reflecting within ourselves we directly realize Self-nature, giving proof to the truth that Self-nature is no-nature We will have gone far beyond idle speculation. The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened, and not-two, not-three, straight ahead runs the Way.

Realizing the form of no-form as form, whether going or returning we cannot be any place else. Realizing the thought of no-thought as thought, whether singing or dancing, we are the voice of the Dharma. How vast and wide the unobstructed sky of samadhi! How bright and clear the perfect moonlight of the Fourfold Wisdom! At this moment what more need we seek? As the eternal tranquility of Truth reveals itself to us, this very place is the Land of Lotuses and this very body is the body of the Buddha.



“To externally bring forth no thoughts of good or bad to what we perceive is ‘za’ and to be unmoved by anything within is ‘zen’”. This is the definition of zazen of the Sixth Patriarch, it gives the fulcrum point. We do zazen for our whole life and it is our refuge of mind. Zazen is very important for our body and mind, and our way of direction of mind. We cannot do zazen from explanation and mental understanding, we have to receive it innocently with our mind and body, from our mind and body, then our mind and body will know what is the best way to do. Doing zazen we become the state of mind of no form and no mind moment. This state of mind is not something we produce or can make efforts to produce. We take the roots of our awareness to their original way of being and realize this through experience. This is what zazen has to be or it is not zazen.

Our awareness is always focusing on the external, reflecting what is exterior. This is our natural capability. Reflected in our eyes, there are mountains, rivers and flowers, birds, the moon and the sun. Resonating in our ears, bow-wow, chirp chirp, all the multiple sounds of all the myriad things resonate in our ears. With our body we feel many things; the fragrances we perceive with our nose and the flavors we perceive with our mouth. All of the things of the external world we encounter in this way, or they do not arise.

But, adding on the thought that this is a mountain, this is a river, a flower is red a willow is green; all of this is our past experience being brought into the picture and with this knowledge, we judge and decide. We hear it as the bark of a dog, the song of a swallow, the bird’s song, the sound of the rain dropping, the sound of the bell, these are all notions that pass through our awareness and knowledge. We recognize externals from out notions and thereby we always consciously understand things. Yet in fact our most original capability is that we can just simply receive and reflect what we encounter. That which is resonating, to simply experience it as it is, what is perceived, to perceive it just as the very thing it is.

To smell something exactly as it is, to taste something exactly as it is, this is all prior to mental understanding and judgment. To return to this mind’s source functioning, is to know our pure state of mind, our zazen state of mind of thinking nothing at all. When we return to this we already know this place but when we put a color of red on it or blue on it, we add judgment. Our original mind is without any of that judgment; it is prior to inserting any of it. This is our way of our original mind and to return to that is zazen. And it is for just this that “to externally bring forth no thoughts of good or bad to what we perceive is “za” and to be unmoved by anything within is “zen”” was said by the 6th Patriarch.

Then what is it that receives the world? This is the ‘zen” part. Our true source is that mirror, this is the Buddhist way of looking at this. The mirror is not about a mental understanding of some idea about a mirror, but the way of being of a mirror. This is only reflecting, exactly as something is, with nothing else; no contents in the mirror whatsoever, or it is already extra and holding on to something above and beyond the mirror. That doesn’t reflect correctly and precisely. Our mirror-like mind holds on to nothing at all and that is its mirror-like capability. This is why it is the truth. We have to clarify this but not only with a mental understanding. We have to settle it with experience and without any judgment or mental ideation inserted, with nothing added on whatsoever. We have to experience this true original source of what we are, and awaken to it with certainty. It cannot be done with mental understanding; it has to be done by looking straight at it and not taking our eye off of it.

But we are not so simple and are always being moved around by what we reflect and perceive and then are mistaking what is reflected for what is the master. We have to look at this point clearly and precisely.

In Hakuin Zenji’s Song of Zazen, when he begins “All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas” it is this mirror-like mind, this simple ability, which is studied and experienced. This is not to be mentally understood but from the origin it needs to be grasped through experiencing it. Prior to past and present, this capability, which is even prior to that, is there. This ability is something everyone has. This whole entire huge universe as well has its root in this holding on to nothing at all. This huge sky, this source of the whole universe, our awareness has nothing at all to hold on to and this is the true source and root of our awareness. This root source of our awareness is expressed in “Sentient beings are essentially Buddhas”. This is how Hakuin Zenji puts it. But first we have to awaken to that mind which holds on to nothing at all. Since it was the Buddha who realized this it is called the Buddha Nature or Buddha Mind. All people are born into this world in accordance with this mind. This actuality is expressed, as “Sentient beings are essentially Buddhas.”

It was the Buddha who awakened to this truth and wanted so much to share it with as many people as possible. Down through today the effort continues. Zen is directly encountering that Mind which holds on to nothing whatsoever. We directly experience that Mind and then reverse our mistaken ideas and return to that which is true. For doing this we use all kinds of means and methods. This is also why it is said, “to see clear nature directly, and become Buddha!” To use nothing at all and to return to that direct perception is, of course, the best, the shortest cut. Yet if we tell ourselves not to think, that awareness of whether or not we are thinking is already twisting our consciousness.

Yet, if we are just vague and fuzzy, then various thoughts will take over, and this will confuse us. To hold on to nothing at all is our original way of being. There is nothing to add on or to give attention to and we should not give it any attention. The Heart sutra says it is “ without birth, without death, without stain, without purity, without gain without loss”. This Mind is not born, what has been born is the phenomena that appear real when reflected. The mind, the mirror, is not born. All of the things that are right in front of us, when we can ‘hear nothing’ and ‘see nothing’ then the phenomena are gone; it does not mean our mind has disappeared.

It is the same with the question of life and death. We live because we have a physical body and a consciousness and because we are reflected like something in a mirror; so we appear, we manifest. Death is only the losing of the physical body manifestation and the manifestation of those thoughts. We lose the ability to perceive these phenomena and so it is called death. The capability of reflecting can only happen because there is something which does the reflecting. If there is nothing to do the reflecting then nothing can be reflected. Our death is that. Our original nature is not born, does not die and does not change. To realize this is to experience the truth.

This is why it is written, “without birth without death”. Also it does not increase nor does it decrease. The mirror does not increase nor does it decrease nor does it get clean or soiled. This is what the Heart Sutra correctly teaches us about Mind and since there is just no way to express it Joshu said “Mu”! Also, it is called Buddha nature or Buddha mind. Yet while calling it nothing at all, neither is it nihilistic nor is it a physical body either. While we have a physical body we open our eyes and through them we perceive the external world and mingle with it. Through our ears we mingle with the external and hear, through our nose we mingle with the external and call it smelling, with our mouth we taste. Our physical body mixes with the outside world and we feel it. Yet, from the original mind’s point of view there is no difference, nothing which changes at all. It manifests and we mingle and laugh and hear and cry and in accordance to what is necessary we wake up and go to sleep. This is what is done by what is nothing at all. If we can understand this, then we can see clearly each moment’s happening, every incident’s encountering. This is the wisdom that we gather from experience.

Shido Munan Zenji said to this, “To die and die continually and what is left is named Buddha.” he also has said “while being still alive to die an die completely, then everything you do is good”.

In this way we continue dying continuously, not giving the slightest attention to anything that comes along at all, we return to being the mirror, exactly as is. The mirror, the mind that is totally wide open, this innocent state of mind is what we return to, this is named Buddha. “While being still alive to die and die completely”, is what is said, but we are always and constantly thinking about something or other, and trying to express this and that. This is our burden and because we cannot see things exactly as they are we get confused. In order to clarify and directly realize our true nature we have to not give any attention at all to the shadows that we reflect. This then returns us to our very most fundamental root of awareness, while still alive, we died and die completely is what this means. We realize that mind that holds nothing at all, that it is, just as it is, reflecting everything. We can directly realize this for our selves and “then everything you do is good.” We do not hold on, we are not caught by ideas of “you must do this you must not do that”. There is no longer any way that blind thinking and blind actions could possible occur. We are giving rise to blind thoughts and motions because we are stuck and caught and if we let go of those caught places we realize for ourselves how there was never anything at all to be holding on to, that there is nothing in our original mind at all. We are given that understanding and then the extra thoughts cannot come up and our mind is innocent and pure, we can realize this directly. That is what is called the Buddha Dharma.

This is why this mind, prior to anything being reflected, that base is always reflecting equally no matter what it reflects. There is no such thing there as rich or poor, ugly or beautiful. Woman or man, or old or child, none of those are there, only exactly what is in front of the mirror is reflected. All of it is equally reflected whether it is big like Mt Fuji or small it is all scenery and all equally and precisely reflected in a mirror. The water in the huge Pacific Ocean and the water in a small cup, these are equally water, equally reflected. The water in the Pacific Ocean seems limitless, but it is still only reflected scenery. A diamond is wondrous and a glass ball may seem like no big deal, but they are both equal from the point of view of the mirror that simply reflects them precisely. It does not judge what it sees, does not think that a diamond is wonderful and a glass ball is no big deal, it just reflects simply and exactly. The mirror is not big or small beautiful or ugly, splendid or awful, there is nothing in the mirror like that. It simply reflects. We cannot know this from a mental understanding. Everything that is understood is reflected scenery, so while we are animals of understanding we choose to examine, analyze and mentally understand every thing we encounter and perceive. We feel we have to do that. But those who believe in the base of this and those who do not are very, very clearly distinguished. Those who believe know that all that is reflected is only transient phenomena, not something good or bad, no matter what a pitiful seeming thing it should not be treated carelessly, when we can see this then this wisdom is born.

When we see this we understand what is reflected as the world and see how that which is doing the reflection is one and the same. We see this in one instant and that which we see, the phenomenon and we who reflect it are not separated the slightest bit, “In all the boundless realms of space not even a hair can be inserted, from the limitless past through the boundless future we are never separated from this very moment.” In just this way there is not a speck of anything dirty or soiled, we just see this world manifested exactly as it is and to realize that, is Zen and Buddha Dharma, To understand Zen is to know this mind and how it is.

Hakuin Zenji said of this place, “giving proof to the truth that Self-nature is no-nature, We will have gone far beyond idle speculation.”

That which we always think of as me or I is only scenery that we mistakenly think we are, and there is no substance there at all! It is truly nothing at all and nothing to hold on to. While we have the capability of reflecting, we hold nothing at all. That mind of ‘holding on to nothing at all’ is who we actually are and that is why it is said, “giving proof to the truth that Self-nature is no-nature, We will have gone far beyond idle speculation. “ If we can see this we can understand why “this is good, I’ve understood it like that...” We can see how all of that is without any meaning whatsoever. This is what it means that we are far from idle speculation.

In the sutra the Buddha said clearly, “Monks! Don’t speculate idly! If you do then that mind will become twisted as it is, this is debate without substance. It is but mental ideas that are separated from the actual truth.” This kind of debate is very common, and along with people’s attachment to their own opinions is what people fall into most frequently. This is why the Buddha said we will lose our clarity of mind completely if we play around with idle speculation. He taught his very strictly. He taught that we should not be moved around by things in the external world, but let go of idle speculation. External scenery is all phenomena. That mind which reflects these phenomena holds on to nothing at all. And for that we have the precepts.

A human’s way of being this is ordination, taking the precepts. Killing and stealing and lying, becoming intoxicated and hurting another’s mind, these are not possible then. This is the way the Buddha taught, that we should not use our mind in this twisted upset way. He said to let go of that immediately, right now! He taught that in our mind and in our heads those thoughts that are always cropping up, those little wisps of thoughts such as “is it this? Is it that?” or “should I do this? should I do that?” those many, various thoughts that are always going around in our head and coming out in conversation with others, they waste our energy and detract from our living an effective life. In this way the Buddha said we have to let go of idle speculation, to let go of all extra thoughts and mind notions. To realize directly the mind free of all of these thoughts is to see true mind and become Buddha. This is to understand Buddha. To become a Buddha is this.

Continuing, Hakuin Zenji says “The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened,” we let go of idle speculation and the mind which reflects a dualistic world with forms of good and bad. The source of that, the mirror itself is not dual. That wisdom of no dualism when awakened to, the functioning from that mind the Buddha describes in the Lotus Sutra in this way,” The one who wins receives the resentment; the one who loses is so upset they cannot sleep at night. Those who let go of any winning or losing, whether they win or lose they are at peace in their mind.”

While living in a world where there is resentment and conflict, they have gone beyond resentment and conflict; while there is life and death, they have gone beyond life and death; to the world where there is no drowning in pleasure or suffering, the world where winning and losing are gone beyond, the world where there is no resentment or argument, the state of mind which, although there is winning and losing, is not at all caught on winning and losing. This bright transparent state of mind, this is our original wisdom. While being in a world of relativity, yet simultaneously to have gone beyond them to the world of the becoming One, the world where there is not-two. This is the world of “higan” or the “other shore.” The Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and when he realized the pure land, he said, he cried out “All grasses, all trees, all earth, are all already enlightened.”

The Buddha was an enlightened human being and with that body and mind he saw this world and he saw that there is not one single deluded person. All the trees and rocks and grasses, every single one of them is enlightened, this is how it teaches in the Flower Garland Sutra. From our awakened mind we see that everything in existence is in this middle road. There is a hugeness of state of mind like this. While being in the world of gain and loss to let go of that, while being in a world of pain and pleasure to let go of that and not be drowned in those things, to live in this depth of mind. With these eyes if we look at the world we see that the poorest simplest flower or a gorgeous flower, all of them are the same-”flower”.

“If we look carefully we can see the shepherd’s purse flower blooming

There, under the fence.” Everyone looks at the gorgeous cherry blossom and thinks that is the most flower-like flower, but that small blossom at our footsteps, where we cannot even tell if it is a flower blooming there or not, right below the fence post, in that shepherd’s purse blossom we can also see the essence of “flower”. A mind that reaches to this smallest flower is how abundant it has to be.

This world it is a world of dualism and so we have to think and discuss world peace again and again. We have to share the pain or our discussion will not go progress. Our ideas of benefit and loss, win and lose, these stances have to be all looked at from a position of equality or we cannot talk of balance in this world today. The necessary sacrifice has to be shared equally; 50 - 50, and while this seems like peace and we may all feel satisfied, the world does not work like that. There is a difference in political power, this comes into play and that makes us want to keep 60 percent and just give the other 40 percent. Then, we have 70 and will give 30, or 80 and we will give 20, now 90 and will give 10. No, we would rather give the other nothing and destroy them completely. War is just this wanting to make the other zero and we get 100. This is the state of mind of this world today, coming and going everywhere.

The wisdom eye of Buddhism is not like this, not about martial power with weapons, not about force and power. We want to be one hundred percent, yet we cannot be one hundred, and the conversations go on and we decide to make it 50/50 but that also does not work out so well. The Buddha Dharma and wisdom are not like this. We give the other person everything and we take joy in the other person’s satisfaction, which is ours to receive. People think this is impossible but this really happens the world. Look at the mothers throughout the world, they would do anything for their child, no matter how difficult and painful it might be. The life energy of the child, that the mother gave birth to and has great gratitude for, for that the parent will give up all of their time, their position, anything for its growth and cultivation. If it is needed the mother is awake and wondering what is wrong all night long. Going to the doctor and even if they don’t sleep all night not concerned for themselves, instead taking care of what is troubling the child. Then when the child can finally really smile again, the parent is full of joy as if it is their own joy and their own smile. While offering everything, making great efforts, giving 100 percent to the other, and then their joy becomes your own joy perfectly and completely that joy is returned. In this there is the mystery of life and humans true original value.

When we offer something to society it is the same as that. We cannot offer it from wanting to profit from the offering, instead, for people who are suffering, in pain and disabled, we offer our efforts and our time and when that person is finally able to stand, that joy becomes our joy. In this way we know this clear pure state of mind. We offer 100 percent and that 100 percent returns to us and becomes our 100 percent. This is our wisdom and this is our true good fortune of the whole world, the most actual and truest peace.

Today it is not so easy for things to turn out this way because people have so many opinions and so much confusion in their minds. We are not complete and perfect but we cannot lose our wisdom. In this way while being in a dualistic world we come to know the truth that is not limited by dualism. This is the wisdom of enlightenment. Hakuin Zenji says of this “The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened.” Our world is a world where each and every person can awaken in this way. We all awaken to this true mind and we all believe in this true mind. If even one person is born like this then, that person’s mind will bring this world to peace. Even if it does not happen all at once, this world can be changed and renewed as each of those clear minds gather and grow. We have to have a good vow, a deep resolution and we have this deep resolution and good vow because we are all essentially and originally Buddha.

Then within our vow we will always see peace being born. We do not make peace by dropping bombs. We bring peace by looking at what will bring a person true joy, and in using this functioning of our mind which goes beyond the relative, beyond the dualistic, we have a vow and in one straight line we become one with this world, become one with everything around us, and in this way those who vow for peace will grow and increase. These people will bring forth peace as “The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened, as Hakuin Zenji has said.”

Why do we war again and again? This is because we are always looking for results, in a hurry for results and so we take our focus off of our footsteps. This is why we do each and every thing carefully, with gratitude for the life that we have to live today. We feel the joy of being alive completely, and not just a Peace or a fortune in our heads that we want to hurry to achieve. Instead in our most intimate being alive we find our greatest peace and joy that is where we discover it.

It is said that seeds that are not planted will not spring up. In the garden, if we do not plant a seed there will not be a result, no vegetables, no wheat, no flowers, no matter how much we imagine a flower if we don’t plant their seeds, they won’t grown and those seeds take time, We have to give the seeds the fertilizer of time to grow or they will not come forth. This is not all; we have to look at the nutrition in the soil and the light and heat from the sun. This is then just like humans, we have to have these ongoing supports for growth all the time or the seeds, even if they are planted, will not become their best possible plants. If we want to grow the best vegetables and wheat and flowers, we have to plant the seed and then cultivate them and within the karmic affiliations the result will come forth. This is “The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened.”

In Buddhism it says that if you want to see the face of the future look at the person today. If you want to see the person of the past, look at the face today. As it says in the sutra, In the present the future is clearly born.

That is why we can see everything about the present if we look at the past. For this reason we must not be in a hurry but do each step carefully. If we keep treading each step with the stable steady gait of the ox we will reach the top of the mountain. We do it every day all day with the support of our vow, in each and every step we go onward. We sincerely and continually make our efforts and in this way we do what is necessary. Zazen is the way we develop our state of mind. We cultivate it with zazen and we can then know this wisdom that is confused by nothing, that sees clearly and precisely. It is zazen that allows us to see these things clearly and have deep faith.

This is the best way to open the path to our brightest and shining future. Everyday, every day, today, just this one day, we walk firmly and then we will realize our goal without even noticing it and will have walked that long path well. It is not about thinking about how long we have to walk, to have that kind of idea in our head we get confused, we get more and more confused.

We cannot know if it will be rainy or clear today but we have lots of work to be doing, lots of weeding to be done. Be unconcerned with either profit or loss, just steadily do one piece of work after the next piece of work going on and doing it until it is all finished. Everyday we work in our daily jobs in this way and this is the most excellent and advanced way of living.

In Zen we use the words, “one time one opportunity”, this is also what these words are saying. That full tautness which unites everything eternally is found in our daily life. Just as Hakuin Zenji was saying, “The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened, and not-two, not three, straight ahead runs the Way.” In this way we do zazen and our mind becomes settled and we can deepen our mind and then while being in the world of dualism we do not get caught in it. Instead, we can directly experience that place of not being caught and not being stuck, this becomes clear and accessible to us. We then can realize that it is not about doing zazen in order to become enlightened, but that from the origin we have had the wisdom of enlightenment already within us.

This wisdom was hidden in the clouds of dualism and relative thinking, we come to see this clearly and that is the power of zazen. It is not doing severe ascetic training that makes us able to have wisdom, but realizing that from the origin we are already endowed with this life energy .When we see it like this we can see that it was not the Buddha who produced his own wisdom but he realized a wisdom that had always been there. He became aware of that wisdom for the first time. The deepest state of mind was awakened and that has been carefully transmitted. While we all have always had this wisdom, we had been unable to see it because it was covered over with dualism. This is why the Buddha’s wisdom is our refuge and to whatever degree possible we have to not lose track of that wisdom. For walking our life with this strength and confidence we have zazen. This is our way of life.

“Not-two, not-three, straight ahead runs the Way.”

In the olden days in India, there was a very wealthy man who lived in a house surrounded by a huge tall wall, protected and living within it, he had many buildings; storehouses, children’s buildings and servant buildings and all of them were lined up and splendid structures. There were also were many great treasures and since they were very old buildings in the big houses there were also many wild animals living there. Once the rich man noticed that there were flames coming from the beams and he was shocked and surprised and jumped up to get out immediately but he remembered that there were many, many children in this house and first he had to save them.

In order to save them he yelled at the top of his lungs “There’s a fire, there’s a fire-hurry up and go outside!!!” He yelled and cried out loud but the children had no idea what a fire was or why they should hurry up and go outside because of it. The children had not the slightest idea at all why this was important and just kept playing with their toys. It was not just one or two children, there were twenty or thirty and they were each deeply absorbed in their own games and play.

The old man got more and more concerned and fearful and didn’t know what to do. Then an excellent method popped into his mind. “Everybody go outside and see! There are all kinds of beautiful carts outside...I will give the first one out their favorite cart!”

Children all love vehicles and they rushed to get outside to get into their favorite cart first. But when they went outside there was not one single cart anywhere. But they had all been saved from dying because he had said that. The house burned down but they were all safe. The man lied to them but the children’s lives were saved and that was his purpose. Without even thinking about it he had given birth to that idea. The old man did not give them carts but he did give to them a huge vehicle, a very special cart was given to them. A big white ox pulled the cart that they received and this is what was given to them. This is what the Buddha teaches in the Lotus Sutra.

Just like this old house of the rich man that was burning and in flames, this world is full of these thousand millions of people who are the adorable children of the Buddha and they are all playing with their little toys of enjoyment and desires, they do not know that life is transient and fading. The Buddha did see that and saw the pitifulness of their situation and said that in the three realms there is no place to rest. We must find a way to give them rest.

To get free from houses that are burning and all our suffering we first have to have a vehicle that will teach us that this body is impermanent, that this world it is suffering. With the Four Noble Truths we see that we suffer because we gather and accumulate so much. We have to let go of that, and let go of our attachments. To teach us how to do that the Buddha taught the Eightfold Path.

The pain of sickness, aging and death, why do we have to experience this? If we go back to our past, we see we have taken refuge in so many things exterior and attached ourselves to things and given our thoughts over to all of that. That attachment has become our mind and our body. The basic deep ignorance of both one mind-moment and the root of our mind is this living always in desires, we then suffer and die. This has to be clarified and for this we have the Twelve Links of Causation. This was taught by the Buddha. The next vehicle is Path of the Bodhisattva. This is the practice of charity, giving to society and living appropriately.

People all have their own quality of being and we have to find the way that is best for this and so the Buddha always taught in accordance to what was best for each person. These were teachings to help humans be able to realize their clear mind but these are all vehicles which are expedient means, and not carts pulled by animals which really exist.

These teachings are expedient means taught by the Buddha to liberate his children in all realms, just like the expedient means of the old wealthy man to save the children. Actually the Buddha only taught one path and that was that we must not lie and deceive the true mind. Humans are all equally endowed with the Buddha Nature and we are all Buddha in aligned being. We all have this true nature but everyone has so many personal thoughts that we cannot keep track of it. The three vehicles are taught for that reason. Actually we are all without mistake awakening to our Buddha Nature. To clarify this the Buddhist teaching in the Lotus Sutra says that there is only one truth, not two or three, and this is what Hakuin means when he says, “not-two, not-three, straight ahead runs the Way.”

True Buddhism is not three paths or vehicles but the path of Bodhisattva, or as it tells of here, this one path of truth. There is only one Great Way which is actual and there is no truth in this world but this one great path. This is the great vehicle of the Mahayana that all Buddhas are riding, expressing the truth there. This is the altogether splendid vehicle and this is the Buddha’s ultimate truth. We have the same life as the Buddha. To awaken to that, to live this way of life, and bring this forth in our livelihood, living and teaching this was the goal of the Buddha.

The true way of seeing life is given the Buddha as the Lotus Sutra. He was in the mountains at Ryojusen for eight years teaching the Lotus Sutra, which was later called the king of all sutras. Taught when Gautama Buddha was most ripened, it is truly a fulfilled Buddha teaching.

One day Dai Bonten, a great god from the heavenly realms, gave him a yellow flower to ask for a teaching. He made that request and the Buddha received the flower and went up to the high seat and held the flower out to the assembled people. Everyone was waiting for his truth teaching words but he simply held out this flower and did not open his mouth to speak. No one knew what he was up to and only one person smiled, one of his top disciples Makakasho Sonja. The Buddha saw this and he saw Makakasho’s response as he answered his gesture.

Why did the Buddha do this? This is the sutra he taught for eight years and in it he had given all of his teaching that was possible to be put into words. But there was a truth that could not be put into words and only Makakasho Sonja had understood that. The Buddha said to this, “I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True form of The Formless and the Subtle Doctrine Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine.”

For Zen’s path and for those who follow it, these are the most important words. Put simply, we have the wisdom to see this whole world as myself, we have these eyes and this storehouse. If we look at the world as separate from ourselves we get dualistic but we are in fact always at one with the world, moving with it. We have a mysterious mind, there is no color or shape to it. It functions but it cannot be perceived, it has a very subtle movement that cannot be written or spoken and he give this to Makakasho. Please protect it and preserve it well for those to come.

These are words that cannot be translated. This is Zen, yet it cannot be said. We do zazen to realize this and this is what is called absolute complete awakening. Awakening to this splendid mind that we all have, then there is only one self, one world. Unsurpassed complete enlightenment is true for all beings united in this oneness.

All of the children already are my children it says in the Lotus Sutra and this world is well understood through this. Makakasho Sonja understood this state of mind and he was taught that you know this mind and its most profound depth, but eternally you do not lose this. He was transmitted to from the Buddha and then Kasho Sonja became to Kasho Sonja. Then to Anan Sonja, on down to 28 Patriarchs to Daruma Daishi and Daio Kokushi, Daito Kokushi, Kanzan Egen Zenji, to Hakuin Zenji, and through it all to today’s Teidai Dempo there has been water passed from one vessel to the next, down to today. This is Zen and the Buddha’s personal lineage. This is “not-two, not-three, straight ahead runs the Way,” as Hakuin Zenji says.

Rinzai’s third grandchild disciple Fuketsu Ensho, once said to the assembly from the high seat “What is the understanding of the flower held out at Ryojusen, what was the meaning of how he was saying it?”

If there is some teaching that could not be said in words and we interpret that to mean that Buddhism will be destroyed by this it is a great mistake. The Buddha’s truth is not in that, we cannot see like that or Buddhism will fall into explanation

When Shusan who had received Fuketsu’s dharma heard this he silently went outside. Then seeing that, Fuketsu Ensho Zenji threw his teaching stick aside and went to his quarters immediately. The attendant went with him and said to him “Roshi why didn’t you say anything and just leave.” “Seinen Zenji received the truth today, he has well understood the Buddha Dharma”, and Shuzan Shonen Zenji was given inka.

The 6th Patriarch gave transmission to Nangaku Ejo Zenji and when he first came to call on him, the Sixth Patriarch asked him “ What has come here?”


“That is a name”

“A person”

“That is a form”

“a man”

“that is a body”

and finally he could not answer. He lost track of who he was and it took him eight years to find an answer “I don’t know what it is that it has come here.”

And for the first time he was confirmed. We have to see this clearly.

Today we all think we know what we are, but we have to look at this once again. We are thinking we have education, or can we be conceited that we don’t have education, or that we are rich, or that we are poor, or that we are beautiful, or ugly, to not be proud or ashamed or to think there is something such as god or good or big or little or red or white. No matter what words are given it is beyond words. This is the who I am but no matter who brings those words we cannot injure it or harm it nor can it be excused by anyone. There is a life energy of absolute worth that has to be realized or it is not Buddhism of “In all the heavens and all the earth there is only One”.

To know this whole world and everything that happens within it as our very own responsibility, to directly experience that and at the same time aware that it is not my own personal mind but that of all people, each with their equally endowed way of being, this is kensho.

Satori also means this and this is completely the same as the Buddhas life energy. This is the same as Daruma Daishi’s awakening to his true self. To see this is to see our true nature and become Buddha. This is not words nor explanation nor can we tell someone else. We can only become this state of mind and directly perceive it, we have to ourselves realize this awakening and this is where the mysterious wisdom is. We cannot understand it because then it is mental understanding and not the thing itself. This is why the Buddha silently held out that flower.

When we see it from this angle we can see that for the Buddha to teach nothing and for Kasha to receive nothing and for Buddha Daruma to say “Don’t Know”, this is all that could be said. Issan kicked the bottle and walked away and left, it was all he could do. This which cannot be said in any way at all, cannot be taught in any way at all, this is the Buddha Dharma and to awaken to this is Zen. We do zazen to realize this huge state of mind and open to it, to awaken to it.

Today the world is in such a difficult condition. Humans are stuck in dualism, our mind is blind and not able to see our true nature. True peace and true human liberation is up to each and every person. Each person has to awaken to this huge mind, we have to do this for all of the people of the world and not do zazen just for one’s own happiness. If we do not touch that huge mind then zazen is just intoxicating and running away from society. To realize that clarified state of mind we do sesshin again and again and in our mind we let go of that dualist relativity. We tear it all apart and that is the truth of Zazen.

Rohatsu is right in front of us and we have to see this because this is what the value of Rohtatsu is for the One Drop sangha. Awaken to this huge mind, believe in it beyond doubt and do zazen in this way.

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copyright 2004, Shodo Harada Roshi, all rights reserved.