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Sokei-an Shigetsu Sasaki:

Wednesday September 27th, 1939

“O Obedient One! All sentient beings will prove that innately they possess the nature of this Perfect Awakening. When they meet a good teacher, according to his method of practice, they will approach to the state of causal Dharma. When they practice, some of them will realize the result suddenly and some will realize the result little by little. If they encounter the highest Bodhi of Buddha and the path of their practice, without regard to the capacity of their natures be they great or small, they will attain the state of Buddha-knowledge. Even though sentient beings seek the good friend, if they meet one who has an erroneous View — they cannot attain the true apprehension of Awakening. Such sentient beings are called ‘those who possess the seed of a heretical birth.’ The erroneous teachings of a wrong master are not the errors committed by the sentient beings themselves. They are the result of the five varieties of sentient nature.”



The important point in these lines is that according to their innate nature, every sentient being has the capacity to awaken if he meets a good teacher and practices the true method. But that, as the result of the five varieties of nature, there are those who will follow the erroneous teachings of a wrong master. These cannot have faith in the highest teachings of the Buddha — to them it is “tasteless.” However, they can enjoy the teachings which entertain their erroneous minds.

This has been true since ancient days in the history of Buddhism, when few came to accept the true teachings, but preferred to go to erroneous teachers. When the Buddha was living, he had 1,500 disciples, while the majority of the citizens of Sarivasti and other big cities did not even know of the Buddha’s existence! When they heard his name and opened their eyes to the wonder of his teaching — it was about two centuries later! As Confucius said, “A true word is always repulsive to erroneous minds!” Perhaps a religion as simple as Buddhism is very difficult to appreciate. The reason for my own faith in Buddhism is that its foundation is Dharmakaya. It is like the sky — but invisible like
ether, like air; it is dynamic and everlasting existence — existing by itself forever. It cannot be called by any name; it is neither god nor demon — but it is the source of everything.

Modern science believes that the real body of existence is energy — energy produced by heat. The heat will increase according to place and pressure. But when the heat is commonly distributed, it will exist as universal heat — and universal heat means no heat. It is the common ground of heat. This can be used to cite an illustration for the existence of Dharmakaya.

The Buddhist does not believe there is a God who manifests in the human body and human mind; but the nature of Dharmakaya will manifest itself in the human body, in the body of a dog, cat, insect, or weed — and take action according to this physical appearance. The dog will say, “Bow-wow!” and the cat will say, “Meow!” The human being will think a million things!

The manifestation of Dharmakaya in the human mind is like a wave, a storm, like lightning. Sometimes it is harmonized and sometimes it falls into great conflict. When it is harmony—the human being lives in peace; when it is not harmony, the human being lives in agony and struggle. It appears as law, and, subjectively, we call it morality. That is all. That is Buddhism.

So Buddhism is very simple; by studying it for almost forty years it taught me this much. It is as I pour water into the transparent glass and call this solid emptiness, “Dharmakaya.” I shake it and produce many air bubbles in it — and call it human life! Dharmakaya manifests only one law and the one law manifests all existence. Therefore our life is operated by one law.

To the Buddhist, this is a religion. We do not need to join our hands and pray, “Oh God, give me bread and butter for tomorrow’s existence!” But we work — and we sacrifice our own life — and we have bread and butter. We do not waste our time in useless excitement — and we do not take everything emotionally; emotion is a kind of conflict and we resolve it according to the law. This kind of teaching is very unfamiliar to most ears. People want excitement and entertainment; they regard the attainment of enlightenment as a kind of superstition. But when you come to the Zen school and apprehend this enlightenment, you realize what is true and what is false.

The Buddha said, “In true teaching there is no mystery!” If Buddhism was a mystery, it would not be a true teaching! Remember this. Tonight, I have only my old students who have been attending a long time so I can speak without concealment. This world is ruled by such a simple law—you can make everything very simple.

“O Obedient One! All sentient beings will prove that innately they possess the nature of this Perfect Awakening.” — When I was fifteen years old, I lost my father. He was buried very near to the town. I came back from the funeral and passed through the temple yard covered by pine trees. Childishly, I wondered — “Where is my father now?” I could not believe that his soul was existing anywhere on the earth or under it. I looked at the sky and thought, “My father’s soul is scattered all over — like heat or light.” And then, as I stumbled over the root of a pine tree — “If my father is all over, he will be in this pine tree root — the tip of my tow and the tip of my tongue.” I returned home without tears. Today I realize that that fifteen-year-old boy was not quite a fool! He had gathered all his philosophy at the grammar school — and come to that conclusion! Quite reasonable, wasn’t it?

In my Buddhism today, I should say that it has not developed much beyond that fifteen-year-old boy. Of course I was the child of a Shinto priest and had heard about the “soul” every day; it was, to me, a big question. It is because of this innate nature of Perfect Awakening that I believe people will at some time give up their traditional faith and come back to natural faith; really find the common ground on which to build their temples! Before this time, we must encounter many tragedies — struggles, wars.

Your modern science was introduced into our country when I was very young — your theories of light, heat, energy. Our teacher explained that, although all forms will be destroyed, energy will never be destroyed! Wonderful, that theory of the preservation of energy. All the children of the fifth grade believed it! So I came to this country in the belief that people really understood this theory. I was not only astonished but broken-hearted to find them still sticking to the old type of religion! Science gives us new theories every day — but it cannot give us a new theory of heat or the preservation of energy.

“When they meet a good teacher, according to his method of practice, they will approach to the state of causal Dharma.” — As to “method of practice,” philosophy is one method, meditation is another, and reciting the name of Buddha is also a practice. There is the method of going into the desert and fasting, speaking no word — assimilating the great existence. Sometimes it has been said of such, “He realized it, entered it — and came back to the city to talk about it. His tongue was like a flame and his eyes were shining  –but those who heard him were blind and deaf.”

Teaching must be given with great care. The teacher must pound the student very carefully as one would temper gold; pound it — put it on the fire — take it off — pound it again! Zen is the fire.

When you attain it — you beat your own mind. But before this time — you will stand before your teacher with many impure particles in your mind. The teacher will shout at you, beat you, take all the coarse particles out of the gold. But make no mistake — all this is to attain causal Dharma, which is Dharmakaya.

“When they practice it, some of them will realize the result suddenly (like the Sixth Patriarch’s school of Zen) and some will realize the result little by little. (like the Tendai sect) If they meet the highest Bodhi of Buddha (the Eightfold Path) and the path of true practice, without regard to the capacity of their nature, great or small, they will attain the state of Buddha-knowledge.”
— Sometimes — without meditation or philosophy — at once we will
attain. But this is rare.

“Even though the sentient beings seek the good friend (I translate this “good friend” but in the Rinzai Record, “O Virtuous Scholar”) if they meet one who has erroneous View, they cannot attain the true apprehension.” — So you very slowly and honestly seek enlightenment, carefully avoiding a poor teacher. (Beware of a yogi with a white towel on his head!)

“Such sentient beings are called ‘those who possess the seed of a heretical birth.'” —They have created so much karma that they cannot break the shell!

“The erroneous teaching of a wrong master is not the error committed by the sentient being.” — I translate this exactly as it is written in the Chinese. It means that it is not the error of the student, but of the master. But if there was no erroneous student — an erroneous master could not exist. So both are erroneous! However, neither one is to blame because it is the karma of both. (It is like my cat: I carried him in a box to the Catskills, and he could not escape. But when I opened the box—he immediately got out! So, when you have the chance—get quickly out of that shell!)

“They are the result of the five varieties of sentient nature.” — I have given commentaries on these five varieties. Perhaps you will find them in your notes. However, you need only concern yourselves with the last three to pass from the Pratyeka-Buddha into the Bodhisattva and, finally, to awaken into the state of Buddha.

source PDF file

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