Zen and Zen classics - Vol 2

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Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2019 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation


From The Japan Foundation


By R. H. Blyth HAIKU

Vols. I~IV


Vols. I, II


Vols. I, II, IV, V




(Shortened, with Introduction and Notes)

Two Moons, by Sengai


z ft “A hair’s breadth of difference, and they are Heaven and Earth apart. What do you think of this?” Shuzan said, “A hair’s breadth of difference, and they are Heaven and Earth apart.” Hogen said, “What’s the use of talk¬ ing like that?” Shuzan said, “That’s all I can say; how about you?” Hogen said, “A hair’s breadth of dif¬ ference, and they are Heaven and Earth apart.” Shuzan made obeisance to him.



Hogen’s quotation is from the Shinjinmei,5 It means that the greatest music, played just a little out of tune or out of time is as bad as, or even worse than, cacophony. It means that people are either good or bad, actions are either perfect or imperfect; there is nothing between. You have good taste or bad taste. There are no middle-brows. The slightest touch of egoism, senti¬ mentality, cruelty, snobbery, vulgarity (all the same thing) and everything done is spoiled. The state of Zen does not, of course, cover all these cases, and an “en¬ lightened” man may be spoiled by his native and ineradicable insensitivity or stupidity. Shuzan was the spiritual son of Jizo; he comes, together with Jizo, in the 12th Case of the Shoyoroku. Hogen was famous for his repetition, and Shuzan tried it on Hogen himself, but without effect. What is important is the repetition, and what is repeated; one is nothing without the other. Further, just as only God can be worshipped, so re¬ petition of infinity and eternity is the only real repeti¬ tion. “Vain repetitions, such as the heathen use,” like namuamidabutsu, are mere self-hypnosis. Not to repeat is against all the order of nature, and of art. A non-Buddhist presented Hdgen with a screen with a picture painted on it. When he had finished looking at it, Hdgen said, “Did you paint this with your hand or your mind?” The artist answered, “With my mind.” Hdgen said, “What is this mind of yours?” The artist had no answer. This seems rather bad manners on the part of Hdgen. The artist should have asked Hdgen to paint a picture with his no-hand, his no-mind, or his hand-mind. A monk asked Hdgen, “How about when a prodigal son returns home?” Hdgen said, “What will you offer him?” The monk answered, “I have nothing.” Hdgen said, “How about his daily necessities?” The interesting point here is the alternation of prac¬ tical and idealistic. The monk’s question is, one may 5.








suppose, a transcendental one. All human beings are prodigal sons who have fallen into sophistication and vulgarity. Hogen says, “How will you receive this one who is as if arisen from the dead?” The monk says, piously, “I have no desires, no possessions, no theories, no moral principles.” Hogen says, “Man doth not live by Zen (that is, ‘Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’) alone.” One day Hogen told a monk to fetch some earth to add to that in a lotus-pot. He asked him, “Did you get the earth from the East of the bridge, or the West of the bridge?” “From the East of the bridge,” replied the monk. Hogen asked, “Is this the truth, or is it delu¬ sion?” We are not told the monk’s answer. How shall we answer it ourselves. Is the world real, or unreal? The answer is Yes. Is there such a thing as East and West in finite space? You know only if you have been in infinite space, which does not mean in a space-rocket. Earth is very real, especially when you get a little bit in your eye. But Hamlet speaks of “the mind’s eye.” Does not the mind create the eye and the earth in it? “Nothing is but thinking makes it so.” Wordsworth’s “imagination” solves the question, for it is the power to create what already exists. One day, Hogen was by the fire, and, lifting up an incense spoon said to Goku, (Wuk'ung) fgig, “Don’t call this an incense spoon; what will you call it?” Goku said, “An incense spoon.” Hogen rejected his answer. It look Goku more than twenty days to grasp why. This kind of problem, “Don’t call it a —; what do you call it?” is to me the most difficult of all. Goku, was once asked by a monk, “What is the Origin, of all the Buddhas?” He answered, “What is it you are calling ‘all the Buddhas’?” A monk said to Hogen, “The community of monks sells a dead monk’s clothes; who sells those of a Patriarch?” Hogen said, “What clothes of a dead monk did you know sold?”



The monk’s question seems rather democratic. The Zen Sect is and always has been feudalistic. Hogen avoids the question by bullying the monk. He suddenly transcendentalises everything, and says, what is not at all true, that the idea of the difference in rank and status of a monk and a patriarch is of no importance for salvation.

Chapter X HOGEN’S DISCIPLES The style of the Hogen Sect was said to be like fight¬ ing with sharp swords; the meaning of the words fitted exactly the meaning of the experiences. The method of teaching was not so stern and strict as that of the Rinzai Sect. They taught slowly, as if treating in¬ valids, and when the final stage was reached, the coup de grace was delivered cleverly. Engo said of this sect, “Hearing the sound, they understood the way. Seeing the form they clarified the mind. A sharp point is hid¬ den in their verses, and there is an echo in the sound of the words.” Of the Hogen Sect, besides the founder, the two most famous members were Tendai and Eimyo. Tendai Tokusho (T‘ient‘ai Teshao) was enlightened by Hogen. Later he went to Mount Tendai, from which he got his name. He became the teacher of the Emperor Chui, and die in 972 at the age of eighty two. His chief disciple was Eimyo (Yungming) jfcpg, whose disciples were said to be always more than two thousand. He read and wrote an enormous quantity of books, and was also favoured by the Emperor. Priests came from Korea to learn from him. He died in 975 at the age of seventy two. For a time the Sect of Hogen was thus very prosperous, but soon fell into decay. The apparent reason for this is a very interesting one. The Hogen Sect was not pure Zen, but mixed with the Nembutsu. They studied also the Hokke, Kegon, Shuryogon, and Engaku Sutras. They wished, particularly Tendai, to be wide and inclusive. It is narrowness, however, that


Hdgen’s Disciples

ensures the permanence of sects and doctrines. The reason for this is that human nature can be deep, but if it is wide it is always shallow, in the sense that there must be a dispersion of energy. Dispersion is decay. Ummon’s Zen is a sort of electric spark, and not suitable to the slow-but-sure, plodding kind of monk. Famous for his “gate of one letter,” —^gS, not many monks passed through it, if we take the anecdotes as evidence. When for example Ummon was asked about the sword that cuts a hair dropped on it, that is, Zen, he answered “Tsu !” hi, which is said1 to be the sound of a knife cutting into flesh. This does not “mean” something. It is the state of mind of Ummon, which he wants to communicate to the monk, the sensitivity to the danger and pain of life, a sensitivity which Zen should not dull. Another example was when Ummon was asked, “What is the True Dharma-Eye?” Ummon answered, “Universal!” which does not mean, as in Buddhism, that the Buddha-eye penetrates all things, but that the Buddha eye is everywhere, seeing itself. When asked, “What is the Way?” he answered “Go away !” dc, which means, “Go and walk on it ! Don’t stand there asking questions about it !” Tendai (T‘ient‘ai) W □% 891-972, became a priest at the age of fifteen. It is said that he visited fifty six masters, and at last came to Hogen, and became enlightened. He was favoured by the Emperor, and was instrumental in bringing back to China, from Korea, books that had been scattered under the persecutions of Buddhism at the end of the Tang Dynasty. His enlightened disciples were said to be forty nine, among whom Eimyo Enju was the greatest. A verse by Tendai: The peak of Tunghsuan Is not a human being; Outside the mind, not a thing exists; 1. The dictionary gives “rotten meat,” which would be an abusive appreciation of the sword.



The green mountains fill the eye. The first two lines are too positive, and the third may be changed to “Inside the mind also not a thing exists.’' The anecdotes concerning Tendai are not very interest¬ ing. Eimyo (Yungming) 904-975, was a Buddhist from his childhood, but entered the priesthood at the age of twenty eight. He became the disciple of Suigan, but was enlightened by Tendai. After he became master of the big temple of Eimyo, his disciples always numbered more than two thousand. He read and wrote much, and studied also the Nembutsu Sect. A monk said to Eimyo, “I have been with you a long time, but I have yet to grasp your way of looking at things.” Eimyo said, “Understand that you don’t under¬ stand !” The monk said, “If I don’t understand, how can I understand anything?” Eimyo replied, “The womb of a cow gives birth to an elephant, and the blue sea produces yellow dust.” Eimyo’s intention is clearly to make the ununder¬ standing monk understand less. When we feel an ex¬ hilaration in the non-understanding we are close to Zen. Eimyo was asked by a monk, “What is the Great Round Mirror?” Eimyo answered, “A broken crock.” This comes from the phrase, “Within the bright mir¬ ror there is not a hair’s breadth of difference,” , that is, in the Buddhist wisdom there is not the slightest separation between this and that, mine and yours. Thus the monk’s question is, “What is the essence of Buddhism?” or, “What is Zen?” The answer is not as destructive and nihilistic as it looks. Oscar Wilde said that art was useless, but he also thought it to be the greatest thing, the only thing, in the world. Of Rakan (Lohan), Shunin, (Shoujen) who was the disciple of Hogen (not the Rakan who was the dis¬ ciple of Gensha) nothing seems to be known. He was asked by a monk, “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West?” Rakan said, “What do you


Hdgen’s Disciples

mean by ‘the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West’?” The monk said, “Has ‘Daruma’s coming from the West’ no meaning?” Rakan said, “You are just talking with your mouth.”

Chapter XI YAKUSAN TO SEKISO Yakusan (Yuehshan) H?|_Lj, became a priest at the age of seventeen; he was enlightened under Sekito. His disciples were many, and his school was prosperous. He died in 834 A.D. at the age of eighty four. One of the best-known anecdotes (although in one source it is attributed to Baso,) is the following. Yakusan asked a monk, “Where have you come from?” “From the Southern Lake,” replied the monk “Has the lake overflowed its banks?” asked Yakusan. “Not yet,” answered the monk. Then Yakusan said, “So much rain, and the lake not yet full?” But the monk was silent. This story has a kind of stage irony, two people talk¬ ing at cross-purposes. Yakusan is not interested in the rain and the lake, but in the monk. The monk is interested in the rain and the lake, but not in Yakusan. In a sense, both are wrong, the monk for his over¬ simplicity, and Yakusan for over-profundity, and not jolting the monk out of his meteorological complacency. A monk asked Yakusan, “Did the essence of Buddhism exist before Daruma came?” “It did,” said Yakusan. “Then why did he come, if it already existed?” “He came,” said Yakusan, “just because it was here already.” This Alice in Wonderland conversation is a remark¬ able escape from the scientific world of cause and effect. Five centuries before Daruma came to China, Christ had died to save sinners who were already saved by the eternal love of God. Another story illustrating Yakusan’s wit and energy. Yakusan had not ascended the rostrum for quite a long


Yakusan to Sekiso

time, and one day the superior came and said, “The congregation of monks are thinking about your preach¬ ing a sermon.” Yakusan said, “Ring the bell !” The superior banged away at the bell, and the monks all gathered. But Yakusan went back to his own room. The superior followed him, and said, “The Master was going to give a talk, and the monks are all ready, why didn’t you say anything to them?” Yakusan said, “There are sutra priests for the sutras, sastra priests for the sastras; why do you question my goings-on?” People teach what they can. People teach what they teach. Everybody teaches everybody else. Our teach¬ ing is not however what we ostensibly teach. Hitler taught the world that a man may be totally lacking in humanity and yet be great. Many lecturers on poetry teach us that poetry is devoid of value. Kreisler taught us that violin-playing is a mixture of senti¬ mentality and acrobatics. Yakusan taught the monks not to ask to be taught. Buddha had already taught this, but inefficiently. The only way to teach not teach¬ ing is really not to teach. Yakusan learned this kind of thing from Sekito. One day, Yakusan was doing zazen. Sekito asked him, “What are you doing?” “Not a thing,” replied Yakusan. “Aren’t you sitting blankly?” said Sekito. “If I were sitting blankly, I would be doing something,” retorted Yakusan. Sekito said, “Tell me, what is that you are not doing?” Yakusan replied “A thousand sages could not answer that question.” Yakusan’s answer to his old teacher was the proper one. He said, “I am letting the universe do what it wants to do.” Sekito persisted, “Isn’t ‘letting’ doing something?” “It is not,” said Yakusan. Sekito said, Tell me, what is this ‘letting?’ ” “It can’t be spoken about, or acted about; the essence of greatness is not to talk about it or act about it.” Yakusan was asked by Governor Ri (Li) “What are Sila, Dhyana, and Prajna?” Yakusan answered, “This



poor monk has not such useless furniture.” Ri said, “Don’t be so mysterious !” Yakusan said, “If you want to have what I have, you must sit on the highest moun¬ tain, go down to the bottom of the deepest sea. You don’t throw oft your burdens even when you go to bed; you are busy with illusions, WM-” Sila is the precepts, Dhyana meditation, Prajna wis¬ dom. The Governor of a State must be answered rudely, especially when he asks about Zen (which he won’t.) His great fault is lack of true ambition, and he needs encouragement and stimulation, though unavailing. Yakusan’s manner of death was of a piece with his life. When he was about to die, he yelled out, “The Hall’s falling down ! The Hall’s falling down !” The monks brought various things and began to prop it up. Yakusan threw up his hands and said, “None of you understood what I meant !” and died. What did Yakusan mean? Everything is falling down; everything is rising up. To prop what must fall is foolish; rather, give it a push. When some famous work of art or monument of culture is destroyed, when a moth is burnt in a flame, when five million Jews are slaughtered, let us do what Yakusan did,—yell, and die. Ungan (Yiinyen) MBk, who died in 841, was the dis¬ ciple of Hyakujo for twenty years, but got enlightened under Yakusan. Among his disciples were Tozan and Sozan, who founded the Soto Branch of the Zen Sect. Comparatively few anecdotes are told about Ungan, and this suggests some lack of brilliance in his Zen, that is, in him. One day Ungan was ill and Dogo (Taowu) asked him a question: “When you are separated from your bag-o’-bones, where can I meet you again?” Ungan replied, “Where there is no birth, no dying.” Dogo said, “Don’t say that ! Say, where there is not any no birth and no dying, and we don’t desire to meet each other again.” Ungan’s answer was too religious, Dogo’s too trans-


Yakusan to Sekiso

cendental. Certainly Zen is for illness as well as for health, though we are not told of any monk who be¬ came enlightened on a sick-bed, but Dogo was clearly too officious. Giving someone a Zen examination when he feels poorly, and telling him he has failed in it is not exactly a salutary and health-giving procedure. Zen must be at one and the same time super-human and infra-human. As to the question of life after death, those monks who believe in reincarnation have no problem; those who don’t, take the convenient at¬ titude that birth is death and meeting is parting and escape the difficulty by transcendentalising it. I think the true Zen attitude is that of Mrs. Gamp. We are born in a vale, and must take the (painful) consequences of such a situation. Dogo was asked by a monk, “What is the deepest?” Dogo came down from his seat, made obeisance in the manner of women, and said, “You have come from far, and I have no answer for you.” Dogo’s action and words were deepest. To know that there is nothing to know, and to grieve that it is so difficult to communicate this “nothing to know” to others,—this is the life of Zen, this is the deepest thing in the world. Sekiso (Shihshuang) 5®, became a monk when young, and studied under Isan, then Dogo, by whom he was certified. He died in 888. He shows some originality in his teacting, but otherwise there is not much to be said about iim. Sekis^ked Dogo (Taowu) 768-835, “After a hun¬ dred ye ' ;, if someone asks about the absolute meaning of the universe, what shall I say to him?” Dogo called the boy-attendant, who came, and told him fill up the water-bottle. Dogo waited a while, and then said to Sekiso, “What was it you asked just now?” Sekiso repeated the question. Dogo thereupon went back to his room. At this, Sekiso became enlightened. This kind of thing shows a genius above even that

The Sutras


of Plato or Michelangelo, or Bach himself. The creation of the world, its evolution, its final destruction, its eternity and infinity is (to be seen in) the filling of a water-bottle, in waiting, in repeating a question, in going back to one’s room. No wonder Sekiso was enlightened. But all this was done by Dogo, con¬ sciously; by every Tom, Dick, and Harry also, but unconsciously, by every stick and stone, which “the best of us excel,” since they do all that they are capable of; even Dogo does not do this always. A monk asked Sekiso, “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West?” Sekiso snapped his teeth together. The monk did not understand. After Sekiso’s death the monk asked Kyuho (Chiufeng) what Sekiso had meant by shutting his teeth. Kyuho said, “For my part, I would rather cut out my tongue and not shame my country.” The monk asked Ungai (Yiinkai) ®H, about it, who said, “Am I an enemy of Sekiso’s?” This anecdote is rather easy to understand, if we realise that the truth can be spoken only if we speak, or shut our mouths, truthfully. The truth is not a noun; it is hardly a verb, certainly not an adjective. “In the beginning was the Word.” Faust amends this to, “In the beginning was the Act,” that is, acting. I would prefer to say, “In the beginning was the Adverb.” “God is love.” “God is loving.” “God is lovingly.” A monk asked Sekiso, “Is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West contained in the Buddhist teach¬ ings?” “It is,” replied Sekiso. “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West taught^'here?” “Don’t look for it in the sutras !” said Sekiso. This is very good and clear. The truth is in the Bible, the Holy Bible, but don’t look in the Bible for it! As Thoreau said, “When you visit God, don’t ask to see one of the servants.” When Sekiso was at Isan’s he was in charge of the rice. One day, when he was sieving it, Isan said, “Don’t


Yakusan to Sekiso

spill the donor’s rice !” “I’m not spilling it !” said Sekiso. Isan picked up a grain of rice from the floor, showed it to Sekiso, and said, “What do you mean, not spilling it? Where did this grain of rice come from then?” Sekiso was silent. Isan went on, “Don’t make light of this grain of rice. A hundred thousand grains all come from this one grain.” Sekiso said, “May I ask where this grain of rice comes from?” Isan gave a great laugh and went back to his room. That evening he said to the monks assembled in the hall, “You monks, there’s an insect in your rice !” What pleased Isan was Sekiso’s silence when he was reproved, and his answering back when he was grumbled at too much. Where does life come from? This question is no nearer being answered than it ever was. But does life “come,” anyway? Does spring “come”? Do men come and go? Yes, life comes, but it also does not come. The sieving of the rice is caused by the hunger of the monks, but it is also causeless. Sieving is just sieving. With all our care, a grain of rice is spilled, but God counts every grain of rice, spilled and unspilled. A monk came to Sekiso from Kankei (Kuanch‘i) Sekiso said to him, “Our Southern temple is not as good as his Northern temple.” The monk did not know what to say in reply. Going back to Kankei, he reported what Sekiso had said. Kankei cried, “Why on earth didn’t you tell Sekiso that I have prepared the Nirvana Hall?” Monks used to travel about the country, visiting the great masters of Zen, and making odious comparisons between them. Sekiso told the monk he was no better, as a master of Zen, than Kankei. Sekiso was Sekiso, Kankei was Kankei; the willow is green, the flowers are red. When Kankei heard what Sekiso had said, he told the monk that he was prepared for death, that was all. In the face of death, all competition and ambition is meaningless. Directly facing death is indeed en-

The Nehando


lightenment itself. (The Nehando, Nirvana Hall, was the monastery infirmary. It was also called Mujodo, Hall of Impermanence, in which monks were supposed to be ill and die, but many of them did not wish to go to Nirvana so quickly, so the name was changed to Enjudo, JEif-'ii, Life-prolonging Hall.)

Chapter XII SENSU, KASSAN, SHOZAN Sensu (Ch'uantzu) JlSA, dates unknown, was a co¬ disciple of Dogo under Yakusan, whom he assisted for thirty years. After he left Yakusan, he used to ferry a small boat across the river, and teach Zen to those boarding it,—from this his name “Boatman.” He often lifted up his oar, and said, “Do you understand?” He passed on the line of Zen to Kassan. At last, he turned over the boat with his foot and sank into the water. The anecdotes concerning him are few, partly from his later mode of life. Kassan (Chiashan) ^l_Ll, became a monk when young, and was enlightened by Sensu. He was noted for the severity of his method of teaching. A monk asked Kas¬ san, “How about when we clear away the dust, and see the Buddha?” Kassan said, “You must wield a sword ! If you don’t, it’s a fisherman living in a nest !” The monk brought the matter up to Sekiso, and asked, “How about when we clear away the dust and see the Buddha?” Sekiso answered, “He is not in the country; how can you meet him?” The monk went back and told Kassan what Sekiso said. Kassan ascended the rostrum and announced, “As for measures for those not yet enlightened, there is no one like me, but as for deep speaking of the absolute, Sekiso is a hundred paces beyond me.” Kassan says that when you clear away the entangle¬ ments of reason and emotion, and see the Buddha, you must get rid of the Buddha himself, In order merely to see; you must not see something or somebody. Sekiso, when the same problem of seeing the Buddha was



brought up to him, said the same thing, but directly, concretely, without explanation or instruction, so Kassan praised him. A monk asked Kassan, “What is Kassan’s character like?” He replied, “A monkey, clasping its young one, goes back behind the blue mountain. A bird holding a flower in its beak falls down before the green rock.” The answer is, love and beauty,—and no talk of Zen, thank goodness (and beauty). A monk of Kassan’s went to Kotei (Kaot‘ing) and had just bowed to him when Kotei struck him on the back. The monk bowed again, and again Kotei struck him, and drove him away. The monk told Kassan about this, and Kassan asked, “Do you understand?” “No,” replied the monk. “That’s a good thing,” said Kassan, “For if you did, I would be dumbfounded.” Nyogen Senzaki has a fine comment on this anecdote. “American Zen is running sideways, writing books, lecturing, referring to theology, psychology, and what not. Someone should stand up and smash the whole thing to pieces....” Kassan was doing zazen when Tozan came and asked him, “How about it?” Kassen answered, “Just like this.” This kind of conversation is a relief from the some¬ times excessive paradox and “mysterification” of the Zen masters, and is nearer to Zen by its thusness. Kassan had a monk who went round all the Zen temples but found nothing to suit him anywhere. The name of Kassan, however, was often mentioned to him from far and near as a great master, so he came back and interviewed Kassan, and said, “You have an especial understanding of Zen. How is it you didn’t reveal this to me?” Kassan said, “When you boiled rice, didn’t I light the fire? When you passed round the food (anyaku, gyoeki, didn’t I offer my bowl to you? When did I betray your expectations?” The monk was enlightened.


Sensu, Kassan, Shdzan

We teach Zen, if we teach it at all, by the way we write, the way we light the fire, or hold out the bowl to be filled with rice. It is also true, however, that there may be some intellectual obstacle which prevents the (physical) eye or ear or nose from perceiving truth directly. In such a case, the meaning, the intellectual meaning of the words, may cause satori, in the sense of removing that intellectual obstacle. In the present case, the monk, who is called “a small master,” A®, realised intellectually that he had made a mistake in doing the round of the Zen masters expecting to get something from them, or from Kassan himself. A monk asked Kassan, “What is the Way?” He answered, “The sun overflows our eyes; for ten thousand leagues not a cloud hangs in the sky.” “What is the Real Form of the Universe?” asked the monk. “[Even] the fishes at play in the clear-flowing water make their mistakes,” replied Kassan. “The Way is not difficult,” was the saying of Sozan. What is difficult is to get on it; when you are actually on it, it is as easy as pie; life is like a day in the open air in early summer. Kassan’s answer to the second question, about the original, that is, fundamental form of the universe, is more difficult to understand. The f^rm is like pure water, but even in pure water the imagination clouds it; a shadow is taken for another fish, another fish is taken for a shadow. God is thought of as the Big Fish. A monk asked Kassan, “What is the Original Teacher?” Kassan said, “He drinks the water; he doesn’t wash his hair in the spring.” It is said that the poet has “the nature of the sun, that passes through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before,” but this is not possible, and therefore not proper. Kassan said to his monks, “Find me in the tips of a hundred grasses; recognise the Prince in a noisy market!”



The heads of a hundred grasses also means natural phenomena. When we see the leaves fall, the sun rise, the fish swim, we understand the master’s words. The Prince, the value, the profound meaning is in the con¬ fusion and disorder of this world, not in Buddhist peace or some earthly paradise. When Kassan was about to die, he called the chief monk, and said to him, “I have preached the Way to the monks for many years. The profound meaning of Buddhism is to be known by each person himself. My illusory life is over; I am about to depart. You monks should go on just the same as when I was alive. You should not blindly make ordinary people miserable.” Having said this, he immediately passed away. Kassan seems to have been a nice sort of chap. Shozan (Shaoshan) fSlll, dates unknown, was the dis¬ ciple of Kassan. Nothing is known of him except a few anecdotes of his teaching. A monk asked Shozan, “Is there a sentence which does not belong to the realm of right and wrong, to is and is not?” Shozan said, “There is.” “What is it?” asked the monk. “A single cloud floating in the sky has noth¬ ing ugly about it.” To say something which is logically neither affirmative or negative is hardly possible, except for exclamations like “Kwatz !” or blows. Shozan indeed uses a kind of double alternative, in denying one of the pairs, uglybeautiful. The point is that the sentence, which is not dichotomous, is so because of the person who says it, the way he says it, his state of mind before and during and after saying it. Thus Shozan’s sentence is Shozan’s; we can hardly repeat it as an example of absoluteness, for it becomes repetitious, artificial, and calculated. We must have Iago’s motiveless malignity without the malignity. A monk said to Shozan, “What is the sphere of Shozan’s mind, fit?” Shozan said, “From olden times up to now, monkeys and birds lifted up their voices, thin blue mist covered all things.” The monk asked,


Sensu, Kassan, Shozan

“Who is the person in this sphere of mind?” Shozan said, “Be off with you !” The monk had been given one difficult answer and to ask for another was simply greediness, which was rightly reproved. Perhaps, however, the monk learned more (Zen) from “Get out !” than from the poetical inscrutability of Shozan’s first answer. A monk asked, “What is Shozan’s special Zen, ^ M, ?” Shozan replied, “On the top of a mountain, rootless grass; the leaves moving, though there is no wind.” In this answer we have the complement of the former one. Things are as they are, and, at the same time, things are not as they are. Trees grow from roots, and at the same time they grow without roots, without cause and effect; they grow like Topsy, just grow. The leaves are moving, not because there is an earthquake, but because they just want to move: The river glideth at its own sweet will. A monk came to Shozan, made an obeisance, put his hands together, and stood up. Shozan said, “Great timber is kept in a poor kind of house.” The monk then passed before Shozan once. Shozan said, “A master workman gets rid of the timber.” This is extremely interesting, but not easy. The great timber perhaps signifies an enlightened monk, whose appearance and manner are far from exuberant. Or it may be Zen, or the Buddha nature, seen usually in the most unlikely places. The second remark, that a master carpenter uses up his materials to create something bet¬ ter, a kirk or a barn, may well signify that the good monk is, as far as he is concerned, a means, not an end. Zen, and the Buddha nature are the same. The Buddha must be killed, Zen must be transcended. Junfuno (Tsunpuna) said to Shozan, “About the clear mirror,—I would like you to have a look in it.” Shozan said, “Not a glance.” “Why not?” asked Junfuno. Shozan said, “A broken mirror will not again



reflect; fallen flowers will not return to the branch.” This of course refers to the poem-contest between Eno and Jinshu. Eno declared that there was no mirror, and Shozan says that even if there was the illusion of one, that illusion, in his case, has been for ever destroy¬ ed; it is as dead as dead leaves. Junfuno was a senior monk to Yakusan.

Chapter XIII TOZAN When Tozan was a child, he became a monk in the temple of a Vinaya1 priest. One day this priest was teaching the Makahannya Shingyd, and when he came to the passage, “No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no consciousness,” Tozan could not follow the priest. As for the eye, looking at the Vinaya priest, and with his hand feeling his body, he said to him, “The Master has eyes, ears, and so on, and I too; why does the Buddha say we haven’t?” The Vinaya priest was astonished, and said, “I’m not the teacher for you; you will one day be a great Mahayana missionary,” and he sent him off to be a monk under Goei (Wuhsieh) 3l2&, a disciple of Baso; he died in 818. Tozan said to Ungan, “Master, if someone asks me a hundred years afterwards what I thought was your deepest understanding, M* what should I say?” Ungan answered, “Tell him I said, ‘It is simply this.’ ” Tozan was silent for a time and Ungan said, ”Kai,2 if you have grasped this, you must carry it out in detail !” Tozan was still silent. Ungan struck him. Afterwards, when Tozan was holding a service in memory of Ungan’s deepest understanding, a monk said to him, “The dead teacher said, ‘It is simply this !’ This is the yeasaying spirit?” “It is,” replied Tozan. The monk ask¬ ed, “What does this mean?” Tozan said, “At that time, my idea was almost entirely a mistaken one, though I 1.

Of the Vinaya

(Taohsuan) Hf/jab 2.




(discipline) the was


School founded in China by Dosen dynasty.


The Buddha


understood what he meant all right.” “The dead teacher,” said the monk, “did he know It, ^ , or not?” Tozan said, “If he didn’t, how could he say such thing; and if he did, how could he avoid saying it?” “A hundred years afterwards” means “when you are dead”; if taken literally, the speaker would also have gone to the Yellow Springs. “It is simply this” is the very essence of Zen, the point being in “simply.” A thing has existence value; infinite meaning in being what it is. Enlightenment is perceiving once for all this poetic factuality, this religious thusness. And if the enlightenment is real, it must be, as Ungan and Blake said, “in minute details” of daily life. Tozan’s answers to the monk’s questions are models of modesty, if not of logic, and the former is more convincing than the latter. Tozan announced: “You must know that there is something beyond the Buddha !” At a certain time a monk asked, “What is this which transcends the Buddha?” Tozan answered, “Not Buddha !” “Buddha” means enlightenment, or Zen, or the supreme truth. What is beyond this? The answer clearly is, delusion, non-Zen, all but the supreme truth. God, righteousness, courage, self-lessness,—these are easy to understand. But the Devil, evil, cowardice, selfishness,—who can explain these? As Christ said, “If your righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees. ...” We have to break out of goodness, taste the unique flavour of ugliness, enjoy the lies and hypocrisy of human nature,—as we actually do, when¬ ever we laugh. Real Zen means never to stop laughing. Tozan said to his monks, “Words do not express things; talking does not meet the vital occasion; those who ac¬ cept phrases perish; people who hang round sentences become deluded.” Taking these Four Statements one by one, it is true that words do not express things. Words are (an essential part of) things. A thing without a word strict¬ ly speaking has no (human) existence. But, a thing



or a word,—either will do. One is not superior to the other. “Talking does not meet the vital occasion, HThis also is not correct. Zen talking (not talking about Zen) will meet any occasion. “Those who accept phrases perish.” This is true enough, because phrases invented by somebody else do not speak to our condi¬ tion, and our condition does not speak them. The last, “Those who hang round sentences become deluded,” applies equally to politicians, scientists, and “literary” people. Keats, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, a great number of great English writers deluded themselves, befuddled themselves with beautiful words. This is what Wordsworth felt, but too vaguely, too transitorily. Tozan, together with Haku (Pai) , a priest of the mystic school, entered a pastry-cook’s at the same time. The mystic priest drew a circle on the ground, and said, “Take it away !” Tdzan said, “Pick it up and bring it here !” The mystic priest had no more to say. This episode reminds us of the competition that went on in China among the various sects, unaccompanied however by the persecution and calumny of the West. One more point to notice is that only clever people can understand Zen or be good, or write poetry or compose music. The question remains however, what is the meaning of “clever”? Well, if you are “clever” you know it, otherwise.... Somitsu (Sengmi) 1^55, and Tdzan were crossing a river together. Tdzan said, “Don’t make a mistake in where you tread !” Somitsu said, “If I don’t make a mis¬ take how can I cross the river?” Tdzan said, “Who is he that makes no mistake?” Somitsu said, “He who crosses the water with an enlightened man.” This reminds us of Christian and Faithful, or rather, of Christian and Mr. Greatheart. It is the justification of the Roman Catholic Church, with its banned books. But it is true enough, the function of great men is to reduce, slightly, the number of our mistakes. A monk said to Tdzan, “You always tell learners to

The Triple Synopsis


take the Way of the Birds; what is this Way of the Birds?” Tozan said, “You meet nobody on it.” The monk then asked, “How can we go on this Way?” Tozan answered, “By egolessness, attending to each step as it comes.” The monk said, “Isn’t the Birds’ Way the same as one’s original nature?” Tozan said, “O monk, why do you get everything upside-down,”3 The monk asked, “What is this place where people get things upside-down?”4 Tozan said, “If there were no topsy¬ turviness how could a servant became a lord?” The monk asked, “What is our original nature?” Tozan answered, “Not taking the Way of the Birds.”5 In the end, Tozan has to go back to Laotse, and say, “The way which can be called a (bird’s) way is not the Eternal Way.” “Meeting nobody on it,”—this is as good a test of the Way as any. The “Way of the Birds” is the first of Tozan’s Three Ways. The second is The Secret Way, , not very different from the first, in meaning a way beyond is-and-is-not, enlightenment and delusion. The third is The Outstretched Hand, U^-, to save others. Tozan taught A Triple Synopsis, . First, “IMJIfr, Knocking and answering, companionate activity. The disciple wants to learn, and is taught; disciple and master “work” together at the disciple’s salvation. Second, nfeSSKIr, Golden chain, secret path. Our rela¬ tion with the Buddha is a “golden” one, but it is also a kind of binding. The third is TfMAiM, Not distin¬ guishing wise men and fools. This, to a sensitive and intelligent person, is perhaps the most difficult. A monk said to Tozan, “A monk has died; where has he gone?” Tozan answered, “After the fire, a sprout of grass.”


To assert that a cat is an animal is to get the matter upside-

down. 4.


Buddha 5.



nature. Upside-down !











I take this to mean, “He is as dead as a door-nail. He has gone nowhere. He has ceased to exist. At the same time, life, in some form or other continues, at present anyway.” This question of the after-life, which is mixed up with the notion of reincarnation, does not often arise; the most interesting reply is the following. Seppo said to Gensha, “Monk Shinso asked me where a certain dead monk had gone, and I told him it was like ice becoming water.” Gensha said, “That was all right, but I myself would not have answered like that.” Vhat would you have said?” asked Seppo. Gensha plied, “It’s like water returning to water.” A monk said to Tozan, “A snake is swallowing a frog; is it right to save the frog, or not to save it?” Tozan replied, “If you save it, you do not see with two eyes; if you do not save it, the form does not show its shadow.” If we rescue the frog from the snake, we are looking only on one side, forgetting the snake’s point of view. If we let ill alone, we do not express our natural desire to protect the weak from the strong. Anecdotes con¬ cerning snakes are not many, but are all interesting. Kyosei (Chingching) ttif, a disciple of Seppo, one day asked a monk what noise it was outside the door. The monk said it was a snake biting a frog. Kyosei said, “I thought life was suffering; but suffering is life.” While Tozan was washing his bowls, he saw two crows fighting over a frog, and a monk who was there asked him, “What do such things come on the earth for?” Tozan answered, “Just for your sake.” According to Christianity the world was made for man, not for itself. Many people think that things are like Topsy, who “just growed.” The modern view is that things exist for their own sakes, or perhaps just exist, without any “sake” at all. Tozan says “For your sake,” and this is true, though only half the truth, as is every statement. Things exist for their own sake, a hundred percent, and for our sake, a hundred percent. Tozan went to see Nansen. At this time they were



holding an anniversary meeting for Baso’s death. Nan¬ sen said to assembled monks, “We are going to celebrate Baso tomorrow. Do you think he will be present, or not?” No one among the monks answered; but Tozan said, “He will wait for a companion, and will come if he comes.” Nansen said, “This man is young, but he can be shaped and polished.” Tozan said, “Your grace should not dislike a good man and regard him as worthless.” “Present, or not present?” Superstition says, “Pre¬ sent”; common sense says, “Not present.” Zen is neither. What does it say? It says, with poetry, “Present or not present?” Tozan says the dead master will wait for a companion. Who is the companion of an enlightened man? The answer clearly is God, but who is God? God is love. If you love Baso he will come and make his abode with you. Tozan went to see Isan, and said to him, “Recently I heard that Tozan of Nanyo spoke of insentient beings preaching the Law, but I can’t get to the bottom of it.” Isan said, “Do you remember what was said?” “I re¬ member it,” said Tozan. “Then try and repeat what was said,” said Isan. Tozan recounted the following. A monk asked (Nanyo) what the mind of the ancient Buddhas was, and he replied, “It is fences, walls, and broken tiles0.” The monk said, “Fences, walls and broken tiles are insentient, aren’t they?” Nanyo said, “That is so.” “Do they expound Buddhism?” asked the monk. “Always, and busily,” said Nanyo. The monk said, “Why don’t I hear it then?” Nanyo answered, “You don’t hear it, but you shouldn’t prevent others doing so.”6 7 “Who hears it?” asked the monk. “All the saints,” answered Nanyo.8 “Does your grace hear it?” 6.



The bleak music from that old stone wall. 7. you 8.


should have answered,



but you

don’t know

do.” This is doubtful, unless we define, as I would like to, a saint

as an




asked the monk. “Not I !” replied Nanyo. “If you don’t hear it, how can you explain the teaching of the Law by inanimate creatures?” asked the monk. Nanyo an¬ swered, “It’s my good luck I don’t hear it. If I did, I would be the same as all the saints,0 and then you wouldn’t have the chance to hear my teaching.”10 The monk said, “If that is so, people would have no part in it.” Nanyo said, “I myself expound it for the sake of people, not for the sake of the saints.” The monk said, “After the people hear it, what then?” “Then they’re not just people any more,” replied Nanyo. The monk asked “What sutra does the doctrine come in?” Nanyo answered, “Clearly, the Superior Man will not say any¬ thing out of accord with the sutras.* 11 Haven’t you read in the Kegon Kyo, ‘Countries expound it, people ex¬ pound it, all things of the past, present, and future ex¬ pound it’?” With this Tozan finished his account, and Isan said, “I have my own (ideas about it,) but few persons there are (who want to hear them).” Tozan said, “I’m not clear about the matter; won’t you teach me?” Isan held up his hair duster,12 and said, “Do you under¬ stand?” “I don’t,” said Tozan, “explain !” Isan said, “The mouth we receive from our father and mother can¬ not explain it.” Tozan asked, “Is there anyone else who loves the Way as you do?” Isan said, “From here, go to Horyoi Prefecture, near the Stone Room, and you will find Ungan Dojin. If you can tell which way the wind blows from the waving of the grass, you will certainly value him....” Tozan said goodbye to Isan and went to Ungan. He told him what had led up to this matter, and asked. “Who can hear this Soul-less Teaching?” Ungan replied, “Soul-less beings can hear 9.










less” objects. 10. teach

This is quibbling. silently,








to do so.



He means that the saints don't teach, or is


have been letting


said ironically. thing






Inanimate Teaching


it.” Tozan asked, “Can you hear it, or not?” “If I hear it, you can’t hear my teaching.”13 Tozan asked, “Why can’t I hear it?”14 Ungan raised his mosquito duster, and said, “You hear it?” “I don’t,” replied Tozan. Un¬ gan said, “You don’t hear even my teaching, let alone that of inanimate things.” Tozan asked in what sutra the teaching of Buddhism by soul-less things was taught. Ungan asked him if he had not read in the Amida Kyo, “Waters, birds, trees and forests all repeat the Buddha’s name, and proclain the Law.” At this Tozan was en¬ lightened, and made a verse: Marvellous ! Marvellous ! How mysterious the Inanimate-Teaching ! It is difficult to hear with the ears; When we hear with the eyes, then we know it !“ The doctrine of the teaching of Buddhism by non¬ sen tient beings, MiSti'S, originated with Nanyo, born 775, the disciple of the 6th Patriarch. In Buddhism, not in Zen, this would have a pantheistic meaning, but the question arises, what is this Buddhism which rocks and streams teach us? The answer is, they teach us that they teach us. They teach us their existence-value. All teaching is thus non-sentient, not-intellectual, non-emotional. A human being, as Ungan says, teaches before he opens his mouth what in any case he can never say. What is wrong with words is simply that they are late, late arrivals in world history. So, as Tozan says in his verse, it is better to hear with the eyes, which are early. A monk asked Tozan, “What is the Mystery of mysteries, iffiXS?” Tozan said, “It is like the tongue 13.

“When I am in the state of hearing the teaching of so-called

inanimate, soul-less objects, I am not teaching you about it.” 14.



Hearing with

the nose,


is a



mark of a




seeing the mosquito duster raised by Ungan. enlightenment ostensibly



Perhaps Tozan

seeing with




In any case Tozan’s

came from the words of the




of a dead man.” The phrase comes from Laotse, which perhaps the monk had been reading. Tdzan says it is like a dead man’s tongue, which is more expressive, not less, than a living man’s. It is a fact, the deeper we go, the more expressive things become, the less dumb and silent. That is why sticks and stones are so poetical. Tozan ascended the rostrum and said, “There is one who, in the midst of a thousand people, ten thousand people, does not avoid any of them, does not seek after any of them. Tell me, what kind of man is he?” Ungo came forward and said, “I am here in the Hall16.” This is the proper Zen answer. Not, “I am that man, Matt Dillon,” but, “I am here.” The “One” who neither desires nor loathes is not I, and not not I. He is not a person, but not non-personal. God is not love; he is not an abstraction; but also he is not anthropomorphic. God is not he, but also not it. Tozan was looking at the rice-field, where the head monk Ro was leading an ox. Tozan said, “Be careful with that ox; he’ll eat the rice.” Ro said, “If this ox were a good one, he wouldn’t eat it.” A well-trained ox will not eat the rice. (The Chinese had not read, “Thou shall not muzzle the ox that treads the corn.”) Here we see a difference between the material and the spiritual. Divided, love suffers no decrease, but rice is a different matter. For this reason also, symbols are always to be avoided, or used only as a kind of game. When Tdzan was saying good-bye to Nangen, the latter said to him, “Study Buddhism widely, and profit (yourself and others).” Tdzan replied, “Studying Bud¬ dhism widely, that’s all right, may be, but what on earth is this about profit?” Nangen said, “It means rejecting nothing whatever, that’s what it means.” 16.

This sentence, Iff 1^3

ing back to the monks’ hall.” one.”

, can also be Interpreted, "I am


In this case, the going back is "the



Tozan quite rightly objected to the idea of profit, but after all, as Christ taught, we seek first the kingdom of God, but willy-nilly, “all these things shall be added unto you.” We are to seek suffering for its own sake, not masochistically, for some spiritual profit; but depth and strength are inevitably added unto us. There was a monk ill in the infirmary who asked to see Tozan. When Tozan went there, the monk said to him, “Why don’t you save ordinary people?” Tozan asked him, “Whose is your family?” The monk replied, “A great icchantika family.” Tozan remained silent for some time. Then the monk said, “What shall we do when the Four Mountains come pressing round us?” Tozan said, “I myself came from under the roof of a family.”17 The monk said, “Is there relativity, or no relativity?” Tozan answered, “None.” The monk asked, “Where will you let me go?” “To a rice field,” answer¬ ed Tozan. The monk heaved a sigh, and said, “Good¬ bye,” and died sitting there. Tozan tapped him on the head three times with his staff, and said, “Like this, you knew how to die, but not how to live.” This anecdote has something unusual about it. We feel in it a human warmth that is beyond even Zen. The dying monk is evidently thinking of his old home, and the people in it who have no Buddha nature, no prospect of salvation. Tozan thinks too of his own. The Four Mountains that hang over us are birth, ill¬ ness, old age, and death. “Relativity,” ego, 02 means the under-relation of two things, “No man liveth unto himself.” Besides this there is ju-ego; each thing is itself, has an absolute independent existence and “owns no other kin.” Tozan answers, “Fu-ego,” but what he should say is that Zen transcends both. “To a ricefield” is a strange expression. It reminds us of a verse by William Morris, about death, the death of a woman; it ends:


17. dying

Tozan monk.











Speak but one word to me over the corn, Over the tender, bow’d locks of the corn. “Return to the absolute, to nature, to the undifferentiat¬ ed, where you should have been all your life!” says Tozan to the dying man. “You died well,’’ Tozan tells the seated corpse, “but in your life you doubted and dichotomised, you separated yourself from your family in thought, instead of realising that in life, as in death, all is one, and one is all.”18 A certain head monk answered in ninety six various ways before Tozan accepted it, saying, “Why didn’t you say so before?” There was another monk who heard all the other answers, but didn’t catch the last one. He kept on asking the head monk about it, but he would not tell him. This sort of thing went on for the three years they were together with their water-basin and towel, but the head monk still refused to reveal it to the other. At last the head monk fell ill, and the other said to him, “I have asked you now for three years to tell me what you said. I do not now ask for pity. If I can’t get it by fair means, I will do so by foul,” and, threatening him with a knife, said, “Tell me, or I’ll kill you!” The head monk said fearfully, “Wait a moment, I’ll tell you !” Then he added, “But even if I do, you won’t get what you really want !” The other monk bowed. This is a very credible story, whether it actually happened or not. The interesting point is that when the monk was promised what he wanted, he didn’t want it any more, and was enlightened. Enlightenment means not wanting enlightenment any more, because you have it. Thus tengo, ifgfg, “turning word,” which the other monk wished to be told, is not a word expressing the turning, but the very turning itself. The word is the turning, and the turning is the word. When Tozan was dying, a monk said to him, “Master, 18.

We are seven.



your four elements10,®^:, are out of harmony, but is there anyone who is never ill?” “There is,” said Tozan. “Does this one look at you?” asked the monk. “It is my function to look at him,” answered Tozan. “How about when you yourself look at him?” asked the monk. “At that moment I see no illness,” replied Tozan. The absolute, that is our real self, is neither well nor ill. He is always looking at us, but it is our job to look at him, and when we do, as St. Juliana did at the “wrath of God,” we say as she did, “I saw no wrath, but on man’s part.”


Earth, water, fire, and wind.

Chapter XIV SOZAN AND UNGO Sozan (Ts'aoshan) fUl , first studied Confucianism, then became a priest at the age of nineteen. He was taught by Tozan, whose Zen he received and propagated. He died in 901, aged sixty two. His enlightened dis¬ ciples were fourteen. He was not so successful a teacher nor as great man as Ungo, his fellow disciple, but as a co-founder of the Soto Sect of Zen he must have had certain abilities or met a certain need, and his Five Ranks, , made him famous. When Sozan saw Tozan for the first time, he was asked his name. “Honjaku (Penchi) he replied. “Why don’t you answer me absolutely?” asked Tozan, “I won’t,” Sozan answered. “Why not?” said Tozan. “Because my name is not Honjaku,” Sozan replied. Tozan recognised Sozan’s ability and promise. When Sozan is asked his name he answers in the relative world. In the absolute world even my cat, let alone God, is nameless. But it is only those who know that all things are nameless, that can truly give names to things. Sozan was taking leave of Tozan, who asked him, “Where are you off to?” Sozan answered, “To the place where nothing changes.” Tozan said, “How can you go to such a place?” Sozan answered, “Go to is also an un-changing.” Sozan’s answer is taken from the phrase, Unchang¬ ing Nature, , one of the Twelve Aspects of the Ultimate, . It corresponds to the Immutable Bhutathata, TfiggJPlife , in contradistinction to the relative or conditioned absolute, This conversation is



reminiscent of that of Eno and “One-night’s-lodgingKaku.” Sozan asked a monk, “Where have you come from?” The monk said, “I have just been cleaning the temple.” Sozan asked him, “Did you clean the back of the Buddha, or the front?” The monk replied, “Both, at the same time.” Sozan said, “Kindly pass me my surplice !” Sozan seems to have felt that he had been out¬ smarted, but to have the last word (and in Zen this is all-important, though the word may be a blow) gave his opinion of the monk’s answer in his donning the surplice to show that the monk had passed his examina¬ tion at least verbally. A monk said to Sozan, “I, Seizei, a poor lonely creature, ask you for your help.” Sozan said, “Master Sei !” Seizei answered, “Yes?” Sozan said, “A farmer called Haku, though he has drunk three bowls of wine, says he has not moistened his lips.” This episode forms the 10th Case of the Mumonkan. Sozan’s answer is usually taken as a reproof of the monk’s posing as in a state of spiritual and material poverty. If he were truly in this condition he would be as Christ said the poor are, blessed, and would not need to ask Sozan for anything. Sozan’s answer may also be taken as an example of the Zen doing-notdoing. A monk said to Sozan, “Learners are just one mass of illness; won’t you cure them?” “Not I !” said Sozan. “Why not,” asked the monk. “Because,” an¬ swered Sozan, “if you get me to search for life, I can’t find it; death also, I can’t find it !” Illness, spiritual or physical (and perhaps they are really one) is thinking you are ill and wishing to be cured. Animals sleep when they feel unwell, and get better or die. We cannot find life, we cannot find death; to look for one or not to look for the other,—this is illness.


Sozan and Ungo

A monk asked Sozan, “How about when we do not wear clothes of mourning?” Sozan said, “Today my filial piety is at its maximum.” The monk said, “How about after that?” Sozan said, “I love to be blind drunk !” The monk seems to be asking about the Confucian duties of father to son. When a father died, the son was supposed to wear mourning clothes for three years. Christ said that a man must hate his father and mother and follow him. The Zen answer to the objections of Chinese piety was more conciliatory than Christ’s; it asserted that no-filial-piety was the real filial-piety. The monk’s second question is more interesting. What shall we do when we get to heaven? What do we do after we have seen into our nature? Sozan’s answer is that we just rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep, as a drunken man does, not discriminating friends and foes, men and women, gods and goblins. In Sufi mysticism we get the same thing. After years of the most terrible asceticism, the adept will then live on cushions and caviar, physically as well as spiritually. I think this is wrong. The Bodhisattiva ideal is that he should give up Paradise to live with us mortals in our want and woe. Sozan, hearing the voice of the bell, cried out, “Aya ! Aya ! Aya !” A monk asked, “What’s the matter with you?” Sozan said, “It strikes on my heart !” Thoreau writes in his Journal, 1841: I hear a man blowing a horn this still evening, and it sounds like the plaint of nature in these times. In this, which I refer to some man, there is something greater than any man. A monk said to Sozan, “Clasping the jade to my bosom, I throw myself upon you, and ask you to polish it !” Sozan said, “I won’t !” The monk asked, “Why not?” Sozan said, “I would have you know that Sozan is very skilful !”



This conversation refers to the episode of Benka.1 The monk asks Sozan to save him. Sozan answers, “I am not foolish enough to think I, or anyone else, can be a saviour of men. I am clever enough to know that I can’t teach you anything. And don’t you know that Christ has died for you and Amida lives for you, and that you are already saved, just as you are?” A monk asked Sozan what was the holiest thing in the world. Sozan answered, “A dead cat is the most sacred of all things.” “In what way?” asked the monk. “Because to people it is invaluable,” answered Sozan. Invaluable, valueless, beyond value. Art, poetry, religion are useless. A silly comment is perhaps the best of all. Further, what people judge as good is usual¬ ly worthless, so the reverse applies. A monk asked Sozan, “What is immortal?” The answer was, “A withered tree.” Then he asked, “What is a Zen teacher?” Sozan answered, “Someone who needs no help.” Another monk reported this conversa¬ tion to Kyuho (Ciufeng) dL1^.2 who commented, “Three subordinates, six forms.” “Three subordinates” means that a woman must obey her father, then her husband, then her son. “Six forms” are the six kinds of Chinese verse. Kyuho says that Sozan’s answers were as smooth and accommodating as a Chinese daughter, bride, and mother was supposed to be throughout her life, and interesting like the dif¬ ferent varieties of Chinese poetry. I myself have as little admiration for Sdzan’s answers as I have for a woman who obeys men, or for Chinese poetics. A monk asked Sozan, “Who seizes the sword in the whole country?” Sozan answered, “Sozan.” The monk asked, “Whom are you going to kill?” “Just every¬ body,” said Sozan. “Suppose you should meet the mother and father who gave birth to you?” “Why 1.

Pienho; see page 55.


A disciple of Sekiso.


Sozan and Ungo

particularise?” said Sozan. “How about yourself? asked the monk. “Who is going to do what to me?” said Sozan. “Why not kill yourself?” Sozan replied, “There no place for my hand to do so.” A man must be the master. He must say, as Buddha is supposed to have said at his birth, “Between Heaven and Earth, I alone am the Honoured One !” The odd thing is that a man can and must dispose of all others, even those nearest and dearest, and especially those, but he cannot get rid of himself, for only himself is not born, and cannot die. Kyogen (Hsiangyen) S®, (of the Nangaku branch) was asked by a monk, “What is the Way?” He an¬ swered, “A dragon singing in a withered tree.” The monk said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” Kyogen said, “The pupils of the eyes of a skull.” After¬ wards, another monk asked Sekiso, “What is this ‘dragon singing in a withered tree’?” Sekiso said, “It is being invested with joy.” The monk then asked, “What is this ‘pupils of a skull’?” Sekiso said, “It is the garment of wisdom.” Again a monk asked Sozan what the dragon singing in the withered tree meant, and he an¬ swered, “The pulse does not stop,” and to the question what the pupils of the skull signified he answered, “Not quite dry.” The monk asked, “Is there anyone who can hear the dragon singing?” Sozan replied, “In all the wide world there is not a single person who does not hear it !” The monk asked whose words they were. Sozan said, “I don’t know, but whoever hears them will lose his life.” S5zan composed a verse: The dragon in the withered tree really sees the Way; The eyes of the skull above all become clear. Knowledge reaches its limit, and there is nothing to say; Who can distinguish the pure amidst the impure? Jesus said he was the Way. He also sang from a withered tree. But it was not a song of joy, but re-

The Song of the Dragon


signation. The song of the dragon is the wind blowing through the dead branches and bringing out the life that is unexpectedly in them. There is involved here the contrast between the past, quietness, IE , of the withered tree, and the present, movement, M, of the dragon’s song. The two are mutually related, CUE. The eyes of the skull have a similar meaning (not symbol¬ ism). In the Middle Ages, as in ancient Egypt, a skull was kept on the table, especially during banquets, to remind people of death. The eyes of the skull were fixed unwaveringly on those present. But the Zen wisdom is not that of the remembrance of death, but of the oneness of death and life, going and coming. Sozan’s answer, “The pulse does not stop,” means that the real self never dies, because it is not born. “Not quite dry” has the same meaning. Water is not entirely wet (there is air in it). Rock is not entirely dry. Nothing is entirely dead, “for until Him all live.” Nothing is entirely living; perfection of being is a static condi¬ tion. Sozan says that everyone hears the dragon sing. Though they may not understand it, it is “The fountainlight of all their seeing.” In so far as they live at all, they live by it. “Lose his life” thus means “lose his death.” When we hear the Matthew Passion we die with Christ (and are resurrected with him). The verse, like almost all Zen verses, is trivial, repetitive, unpoetical, and un-Zen-like. Ungo (Yiingu) ft®, was the chief disciple of Tozan (or Dozan). He took orders at the age of twenty five. When he first met Tozan, he was asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “Doyo” (Taoying) . Tozan said, “Tell me transcendentally !” Ungo replied, “Speaking transcendentally, my name is Doyo.” Tozan said, “When I saw Ungan, my answer was no different.” Ungo remained with Tozan many years. He never had less than one thousand five hundred disciples, of whom twenty eight were enlightened. He died in 902. Tozan said to Ungo, “An icchantika, who kills his


Sozan and Ungo

father and mother, causes blood to flow from the body of a Buddha, breaks the harmony of the congregation of monks,—how does he in any way discharge his filial duties?” Ungo answered, “By so doing he first dis¬ charges his filial duties.” From this time, Tozan made Ungo the head of his room. The bad man is lacking in good acts; he is free of goodness. So is the (really) good man. Ordinary people explain the Zen teaching, that we must kill the Buddha, kill the patriarchs, saying, “Of course, we are not to do such terrible things, but....” This is not so. To kill a Buddha or a Patriarch spiritually is much more terrible than to kill him physically, and indeed may result in the latter, since to refuse to be taught is to starve the teacher. Persecution, excommunication, the Inquisition,—what is it all but the Buddhas and Patriarchs defending their (physical) bread and butter by the torture and death of those who attack it? An official said to Ungo: “The World-honoured One had a secret message; Mahakasyapa did not keep it a secret; what is this secret word of Buddha?” Ungo called to him, “Your honour !” He answered, “Yes?” Ungo said, “You understand?” “No,” he replied. Ungo said, “If you don’t understand, that is Buddha’s secret word; if you do, that is Mahakasyapa’s not keeping it a secret.” The point of this story is not Ungo’s clever answer at the end, but his calling to the official, and his respond¬ ing. When the universe asks us a question, we (must) answer. This is a kind of Zen, and in this sense, Zen is simply everything that happens. However, besides this instinctive, “natural,” inevitable Zen, there is a Zen which Ungo is trying to reveal to the official, the con¬ scious, willed, evitable, super-natural Zen, that chooses as it responds, unpredictable and free. A monk asked Ungo, “Who is the teacher of all the Buddhas?” Ungo said “Kwatz !” and added. “You cartpulling bumpkin, !” The monk made his bows.



“How do you understand it?” asked Ungo. The monk said “Kwatz!” and added, “You old abbot!” Ungo said, “Fundamentally, I don’t understand !” The monk danced around and went off. Ungo exclaimed, “A beg¬ gar hanging round the food-table !” The teacher of all the Buddhas is their own Buddha nature, but we do not really know this fact until our own Buddha nature teaches it to us. It is of course always teaching us. The things around us do nothing else. But being called, and answering, is a remarkably clear, and at the same time profound example of the way in which things are separate and yet conterminous. The monk asked a question. Ungo said, “You are a fool!” The monk said, “So are you !” (so is everybody, so is everything). “What is the meaning of ‘fool’?” asked Ungo. The monk danced. (Everything dances; the universe is a dance). Off he went, and Ungo praised him, in his absence, saying, “After all, everybody is out to get something, though of course Zen getting is a no¬ getting.” Ungo asked Tozan, “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West?” Tozan said, “In after times, you will feel like putting straw over your head ! Sup¬ pose someone asks you the question, how would it be?” “I was wrong,” said Ungo. Zen means being ashamed, resolutely, when you have done something wrong. Zen means feeling pleased, re¬ solutely, when you are praised. As Hamlet almost said, “The resoluteness is all.” Ungo was mixing soy. When Tozan asked him, what he was doing, he said, “Mixing soy.” Tozan said, “You are using a certain quantity of salt?” Ungo said, “Yes, I’m putting some in.” Tozan said, “It’s got a fine flavour?” Ungo replied, “It has.” We understand this conversation when we remember how the 5th Patriarch asked the 6th, “Is the rice ready?” and End answered, “Ready a long time ago; only wait¬ ing for the sieve.” The “rice” is End’s understanding


Sozan and Ungo

of Zen, which only required the “sieve” of Konin’s approbation. In the case of Ungo and Tozan, the soy, which is made from a mixture of barley, beans, and salt, is again the various elements that come together to make up the simple non-substance, Zen. One more question may be asked. Why should Zen, which is a direct pointing to the real heart of man,” use indirect¬ ness? The answer must be the same as in the case of poetry; that poetry, like Zen, never uses symbols, (for one thing cannot mean another thing) but delights to point out the sameness underlying difference (and the difference underlying sameness) the making of good soy and the making of a real man being both the same as and different from each other. A monk from Silla said to Ungo, “I have something I just can’t say !” Ungo said, “How can it be difficult to say?” The monk said, “Then won’t you please ex¬ press it for me?” Ungo cried, “Silla! Silla !” A teacher of the oryu School3 said, “Ungo wished to see the monk from Silla, but he was oceans away from him.” The Korean monk had just become enlightened, and wanted someone to express the joy he felt. This shows that his enlightenment was still half-baked. And in a very characteristically Korean way he got Ungo to do for him what he should have done for himself. When Ungo said, “Korea ! Korea !” he was expressing the monk’s (unconscious) desire to take home to his coun¬ trymen what he had received from China. The Oryu School teacher seems to object to this too human under¬ standing of the monk’s state of mind, and would say perhaps that the monk was already home, was home for the first time, and that Ungo should have cried, “Hurrah ! Home at last !” or, more violently, “To hell with Korea, and this damned China too !” 3. One of the Seven Schools of Zen, it was founded by Enan (Human) , 1002-1069, a master of the Rinzai School. The oryu, HUB, and the Yogi, were added to the original five.



One day Ungo had some breeches taken to a monk who lived in a hermitage, but the monk refused them, saying, “The woman who bore me gave me some breeches.” Ungo had a message taken to the monk ask¬ ing, “What did you wear before your mother bore you?” The monk sent back no answer. Afterwards, when the monk died, and was cremated, sarira were found, which were brought to Ungo and shown to him. Ungo declar¬ ed, “Even if a cartload4 (of sarira) had been found, it would be nothing compared with the answer to my question !” Zen requires a certain obstinacy, as well of course as resilience. Both Ungo and the monk persisted in their own activity. Ungo had the last word, it is true, but then the monk was dead and the holy relics found in his ashes could be rightly dismissed as a pious super¬ stition. The monk refused Ungo’s charity. He was born with his mother-given fleshly covering on his shanks, and that was enough. He did not wish to be warmed with Ungo’s brotherly love. Ungo had his revenge by asking an unanswerable question, and when the monk was dead pooh-poohed his relics and said that the monk should have answered him, forgetting that silence is also an answer, and death the answer to all questions. A monk asked Ungo, “Mountains and rivers, the great earth,—where does it all come from?” “From delusive imagination,” said Ungo. The monk said, “Won’t you please imagine a piece of gold for me?” Ungo gave up; the monk was not rejected. The Chinese common sense sees through the Indian sophistication. Most is imagined, much foolishly, but some things, like mountains and rivers and pieces of gold, are there, or not.


Literally, ”8 hu and 4 tou.

Chapter XV UMMONI If we judge of the worth of a Zen master by the num¬ ber of anecdotes told of him, for this reason also Ummon (Yiinmen) SH, will top the list, with nearly two hun¬ dred in Zenmon Kdan Taisei. Ummon was clever from a child. When he realised the idea of the Obaku Sect, he came to see Bokuju (Muchou) g!:H'I, a disciple of Rinzai. Ummon knocked at the gate, and BokujQ asked, “Who is it?” “Bun-en (Wenyen).” “What is it you want?” “I want to understand myself. Please teach me !” Bokuju opened the gate, glanced at him and shut it again. This went on for three days, but on the third day, when the door opened, Ummon pushed his way in. Bokuju seized him and said, “Say something ! Say something !” Ummon didn’t know what to do, and Bokuju, calling him, “You big gimlet,”1 pushed him out. As he hurriedly shut the gate, Ummon’s leg was caught in it and broken. With the intense pain, Ummon groan¬ ed, and came to a realisation suddenly.2 Later, Ummon lived in Kotai Temple at Mount Ummon, from which he took his name, dying in 949, but at what age is not known. It is said that his en¬ lightened disciples numbered sixty one. Ummon was as sharp as an (English) gimlet, and this brings out the fact that Zen, which professes to despise and eschew intellect, is also dependent on it for its highest exposi1.

It is said that when one of the Emperors built a huge castle,

a large clumsy gimlet was used, but could not be employed after¬ wards, and so the word “gimlet” is used in exactly the opposite way to the English. 2. but

Ummon no doubt thought enlightenment worth a broken leg, what

shall we






A dried shit-stick


tion and practice. Ummon is particularly famous for a one-syllable Zen, one (Chinese) word in answer to a question however lengthy. A monk asked Ummon, “What is the Buddha?” Ummon replied, “A dried shitstick.” This forms the 21st Case of the Mumonkan. Pieces of wood were used as toilet paper in China. When the supply of new ones ran out, people would pick up used old dry ones, thus increasing infectious diseases, and by natural selection making the Chinese a diseaseresistant race. It would have been more scientific, though less poetic, if Ummon had said that the Bud¬ dha, that is, man, is the shit on the stick. But Ummon’s intention is a little more complicated. He wants to pour shit on Das Heilige for one thing, but he does not wish to say anything pantheistic or panhumanistic. He wishes the questioner to be satisfied with his question. That is the art of living in this world. Should the sun and moon not doubt, We could never think things out. A monk asked Ummon “What is it that surpasses the Buddhas, surpasses the Patriarchs?” Ummon replied, “Buns.” The Buddhas and the Patriarchs are things of the mind, just like generals and prime ministers and police¬ men, but buns are real, buns are earnest; they have a simplicity, a perfection of being which no man can attain to. Jesus taught us to pray for our daily buns. They are also the spiritual Body of Christ, broken for us. Above all, buns are something which Buddhas and gods and sages are not (except unintentionally); they are humorous. A monk asked Ummon, “What is the place where all the Buddhas manifest themselves?” Ummon said, “The Eastern Mountain flows over the water.” The Zen masters have to make their disciples anti¬ intellectual and materialistic, yet transcendental. That



buns are better than Buddhas was taught in the anecdote before. In this one, mountains move. Faith, as Christ said, moves them. Buns evaporate into thin air, unbiteable. Ummon said, “Do you want to know the patriarchs? Pointing with his staff, he said, “The patriarchs are all over your heads, dancing about. If you want to know the eyes of the patriarchs, they are all under your feet.” Then he went on, “You give the hungry spirits tea and rice, but they are not satiated.” The Bible says, “God is love.” This is all right, but it should have said, with Tolstoy, “Love is God.” Love of the earth, love of the sky, that is enough. Picking out this, and choosing that for love, it is an eternal task to please these half-gods. Whatever it is, take it, for God offers it, God offers himself in it, God is your taking it. A monk asked Ummon, “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West?” Ummon said, “We see the mountains in the sun.” “Daruma’s coming from the West” means the coming into the world of Zen. Zen is the (proper) seeing of the mountains bathed in sunshine. A monk asked Ummon, “How was it before Gozu saw the 4th Patriarch?”3 “Kanzeon in each house.” “How about after he saw him?” “A tiger eating a centipede in the fire.” Before we understand Zen we think of peace of mind, Buddhist compassion, Wordsworth’s quiet eye, gentle Jesus, meek and mild. After we understand it, it is as Ummon says: “I am not come to bring peace, but a sword.” “The Lord God is a man of War.” A monk said to Ummon, “What is it, Buddha’s teach¬ ing periods in his life-time?” Ummon replied, “Against, one, explanation.” Chigi (Chii) 538-597, founder of the Tendai 3.

See page


The Nirvana Virtues


School in China, stated that there were five periods in the Buddha’s teaching, Tiff# Afjc,4 corresponding to the Kegon, Agon, Hoto, Hannya, and Hokke Sutras. The “against, one, explanation,” might mean explanation of the One, or, one explanation opposing, or, about one explanation. The monk was probably a Tendai monk, and wanted to ask about the development of Buddhism, the gradual revelation of truth. Zen has maintained, with a correctness that is probably unhistorical, that truth knows no increase or decrease, and has the im¬ mortality of the beauty of Cleopatra. Ummon’s words have not a dictionary meaning, but point to the absolute, the timeless and placeless. This anecdote forms the 14th Case of the Hekiganroku; the inter¬ pretation is Engo’s. Ummon asked the head monk, “What sutra are you lecturing on?” “The Nirvana Sutra.” “The Nirvana Sutra has the Four Nirvana Virtues, hasn’t it?” “It has.” Ummon asked, picking up a cup, “How many virtues has this?” “None at all,” said the monk. “But ancient people said it had, didn’t they?” said Ummon. “What do you think of what they said?” Ummon struck the cup and asked, “You understand?” “No,” said the monk. “Then,” said Ummon, “You’d better go on with your lectures on the sutra.” The Four Nirvana Virtues are 1. immutability; 2. joy; 3. 3%, personal existence; 4. purity. These four virtues belong only to the transcendental realm, from which such things as cups are excluded. We have here the problem of value, or values, which, according to one European school are four, religious, moral aesthetic, and intellectual. Ummon believes in one only, and practises it, existence-value. The existence value of each thing is infinite, and therefore equal to that of every other thing. Thus a cup or a sutra are “indif¬ ferent modes of the Divine Being.” Even in Christian4.

Five periods, and eight kinds of doctrine.



ity there was the Holy Grail. But, as Wordsworth stated, and proved by examples, value is more accessible in the ordinary, common things of everyday life. So Ummon uses a cup to preach with; his hymn of praise is the note the cup sends out when it is struck. A monk asked Ummon, “How about when the word is uttered that expresses all things?” Ummon said, “Tearing down, breaking up !” These enigmatic laconisms are not mere encourage¬ ments to a state of non-thought. They are exact replies to exact questions. These questions all boil down to, what is the state, what is the activity of Zen? The answer is that morality, beauty, truth, Christ, Buddha, the Matthew Passion, the Commedia, justice, the soul and its immortality or annihilation,—all disappear. If Ummon were living today and were asked “What is Zen?” he might answer, “Ten thousand million atomic bombs !” but would not mean that this is a spiritually disruptive force which will bring about a betterment of some kind. He would mean that Zen enables us to see things as they are, as they are becoming, without any judgement as to improvement or deterioration, or rather, seeing and being things as they are becoming is God, is Zen. All values are torn up, all standards are broken down. A monk asked Ummon, “What is the Dharmakaya?” Ummon answered, “The Six can’t get hold of it.” The Dharmakaya, , is the first of The Trikaya H#, The Three-fold Body of Buddha, the other two be¬ ing The Sambhogakaya, $Rj§', and The Nirmanakaya, {fc # . The Dharmakaya is the essential nature of Buddha. The second is the Body of Bliss, which he uses for enjoyment; and the third the body of transformation by which he reveals himself. The Dharmakaya is the highest, the most spiritual of all, and the monk wants to know what it is, and what it is like. Ummon an¬ swers that none of the Six can apprehend it. There are many sixes in Buddhist theology, for example the

The Temple Post


Six Roots, A®, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; the Six Senses, Afjx, Six Entrances, AA , Six Fields, Six Misleaders, A^ ; there are also the Six Ferries, Ajg, charity, keeping the commandments, patience, zeal, meditation, wisdom; Six Wisdoms, ASS, Six Magical Powers, AWH. None of these can enable us to attain to Buddhahood. The relative can by no means become the absolute. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard....” Just as everything else in the world is miracle, so is our salvation, whether born or acquired. A monk said to Ummon, “What is Pure Truth?” Ummon answered, “A flower-bed.” The monk went on, “And when it is different from this?” “A golden¬ haired lion,” Ummon replied. “Pure” means “beyond purity and impurity,” beyond truth and error. Flowers growing under the hedge in all their wild profusion, born to blush unseen and waste their sweetness on the desert air—these are, not symbols of nature, but nature itself, pure nature. But this is a somewhat passive form of Nature. There is a more active, lordly aspect, the King of Beasts with his yellow mane bristling, monarch of all he surveys. A monk asked Ummon, “What man on earth can understand Buddhism?” Ummon answered, “The out¬ side post of the temple can understand it!” and with a “Kwatz !” added, “You dead toad !” This is what Herbert means when he says, A feather or a shell The best of us excel. This calling the monk a toad is praising him too highly, and belittling the toad. The following is a continuation or corollary of the preceding. Ummon said, “All you monks roam about all over the earth on Zen pilgrimages, but you don’t know the meaning of Daruma’s coming from the West. The outside post knows it all right. Why don’t you somehow find out the post’s knowledge of that mean-



ing? Anyway, I’ll tell you it myself: nine times nine is eighty one.” When students asked me the meaning of the absolute, asserting that all things are relative, I used to write on the blackbood 2x2=4, which of course might not be true, that is, absolute, in some other world, but what we want is something absolute in this world. Zen is the thusness of things, mathematical no less than material, material no less than mental. A monk asked Ummon, “What is the precise meaning of Sokei?” Ummon said, “This old monk likes anger, likes joy.” “How is this?” asked the monk. “When you meet a swordsman,” said Ummon, “meet him with a sword. Don’t offer a poem to anyone but a poet.” “Sokei” means Eno, the Sixth Patriarch, who lived there. Ummon’s first answer has little direct connec¬ tion with Eno. Zen means liking what you (really) like, what your (real) nature likes, in Ummon’s case, anger, the sinews of the soul, and joy, its wings. He reminds us of Nietzsche, Blake, and of D.H. Lawrence. Then Ummon, as so often, says the opposite, or rather the obverse of what he said before. Our relations with others are governed by their nature. We are an echo, the chameleon poet, all things to all men, killing with those who kill, unpoetical with those who are unpoetical. This is Lawrence’s ambivalent, balanced at¬ titude in regard to love. On the one hand there is unity, (poetry to the poet) but on the other we are ourselves, maintaining the integrity of our own ego and its expansion and growth. So with flowers, we allow them their life, but we have the right to pluck them (this is the anger and joy) if and when we wish. Means are ends, and ends are means. This is the teaching of the Sixth Patriarch. A monk asked Ummon, “How can we avoid the advent of life and death?” Ummon said, “Where are you?” For something to come to us, we must be in a fixed place. If we are going to run away, we must run away

Chrysanthemums, by Sengai This is a 31-syllable waka in two parts,

17 and 14: jfc bXi> < This flower is called [Chrysanthe] mum, Because it has no mouth. You have leave to say it has leaves, But I would as lief not believe it. What Sengai actually says


that the

flower is called kiku, [^j, chrysanthemum; kiku, flf] tu, that bind men to this world; the nine classes of ghosts, AjML- Nine is also is used in a good meaning, but eighty one is the number of kinds of illusion, nine grades in each of the nine realms of desire. Ummon may be thus implying that enlightenment is found in illusion and nowhere else, especially not by separation from illusion, but it is rather the inevitability (of the arithmetic relation) at which Ummon is pointing. The



monk takes no notice of this anyway, and implores Ummon to help him. Ummon changes his tactics, and says kindly to him, “Try and get to the mind you have before it turns into action, the pain you feel before you grumble at what or who caused it, the emotionless, thoughtless, non-moral world of all art and music and poetry and religion and love and Zen.” Ummon asked a question: “Is there any popular talk on the way to Sokei?” He answered himself, “Two at one time !” Sokei is the place where the 6th Patriarch taught. “Two things” is human beings and Buddha, sameness and difference, you and I, the mind and the Mind, this world and Nirvana. We say, gazing at one another in a wild surmise, that these pairs of things are one thing. It is a foolish way of talking, but it passes the time as we walk. A monk said to Ummon, “What is your age, may I ask?” Ummon replied, “Seven times nine, sixty eight.” The monk said, “What do you mean, seven times nine, sixty eight?” Ummon said, “I took off five years for your sake.” An English school-boy was once caught eating an apple in class. Keeping his eye on him, the teacher ordered him to the front. “What are you eating?” “Nothing !” “Open your month !” Inserting his finger he pulled out a large bit of apple. “What’s this?” “Apple, sir.” “How did it get in your mouth?” “Didn’t know it was there, sir !” Both Ummon and the boy show their disrespect for the other party by telling an obvious lie. Ummon asked a monk, “What are you?” He replied, “I’m the head of the infirmary.” “You don’t mean to say so !” said Ummon. “Is there anybody not ill?” “I don’t understand,” replied the monk. “Why can’t you understand? Why can’t you understand?” said Ummon. The monk was silent. “Ask me the same question,” said Ummon. The monk said, “Who is the



man without any illness?” Ummon pointed to the next monk. Ummon, like Christ and some other people, got tired of teaching duffers. A monk always dealing with ill¬ ness and death might be expected to have a little sense, but no, he was as bad as the best of them. Ummon tells him plainly, no one is ill, no one is dying, no one is dead, no one will be resurrected, no one will go to heaven. Ummon said to his monks, “The whole universe is the medicine to cure illness,—but who’s the sick man?” The universe in all its health and health-giving character is the medicine for all illness of mind and body; that is clear, but if the whole universe is the medicine, where can the one who is ill be, except out¬ side the universe,—which is an impossibility ! Ummon shows here that the ordinary, commonsense explanation of things is no better than the transcendental one, in which the universe, the medicine, is doctor, patient, undertaker, and grave. Zen must avoid both, if this can be done, and be ill without being ill, and well without being well. Ummon said, “A monk should know the eye of ancient men. What was this eye?” Himself answering, he said, “It is a toad dancing up to heaven.” The “ancient men” means those who understood Zen. A toad cannot dance, and a man is not immortal, but he can do something impossible, dance out of death into (timeless) life. We learn to do this from the ancients. Ummon asked a monk, “Where have you been late¬ ly?” He answered, “With Saizen.” Ummon asked, “What does Saizen have to say?” The monk extended both arms. Ummon slapped him. The monk expostulat¬ ed, “I have something to say !” Ummon extended both arms. The monk was dumb. Ummon struck him. Saizen, iU#, was a contemporary of Seppo, Gensha, and Ummon; this is all that is known of him. The



monk’s posing displeased Ummon and he gave him a slap. The monk then said he wasn’t finished yet, but when Ummon really held out his arms, the poor monk was silent. Ummon then delivered the verdict, a proper blow. Ummon was not a very pugilistic teacher, but perhaps the best way to deal with pretence and hypocrisy is with a (physical or verbal) smack,—if of course the recipient has asked for it, and has agreed to accept it. Ummon asked a monk, “Where have you been re¬ cently?” “In Sato (Chatu) ggjf.” “You must have worn out a lot of straw sandals !” The monk was silent. “I regret those sandals,” said Ummon. “They were worn out in vain !” he sighed. This is very sarcastic, perhaps excusably so. Why didn’t the monk do or say something? I myself wouldn’t have, it’s true, but it is allowed to wonder at the faults of others. We, who know all the answers, sneer at people a thousand years ago who had been brought up on sermons and lectures on Buddhism. While Ummon was drinking tea, he said, “I wonder why tea tastes so nice?” A monk present asked Ummon to give his opinion on this point, and Ummon said, “It’s customary for a bowl to have a bottom to it, and a face that is noseless gets laughed at.” The monk was silent. Ummon said, “You’re just a chap that goes with the crowd and eats rice ! Just keep on doing it !” Ummon was always asking and answering questions, but, like Dr. Johnson, he knew that the questions of foolish people are all foolish. Further, he knew what Dr. Johnson probably did not know, that no question has an answer, no cause has an effect; everything, as the really religious or poetical mind knows, is just as it is, and right as it is. A monk said to Ummon, “How about the time when there was no Buddha in the Buddha Hall?” Ummon retorted, “Where does Buddha’s Brahma-voice come from?”



One way to check a foolish question is to ask another foolish one,—foolish, because we cannot ask why a long thing is long. Matters must remain fundamental. Why do the flowers bloom in spring? But “spring” means “the blooming of flowers.” Why does Buddha appear? But Buddha is what appears. Why has a Buddha a Brahma-voice, strong, pure and melodious? That is the nature of a Buddha. Without his Brahma-voice, Buddha would not be Buddha. Ummon asked a monk, “Where have you been?” “Paying my respects at the graves,” said the monk. “You’re joking !” said Ummon. “I’ve really been pay¬ ing my respects at the graves !” said the monk. “You don’t keep the Five Commandments !” said Ummon. The Five Commandments are against, killing, steal¬ ing, lying, adultery, and drinking. Ummon probably refers to the third. Zen is not so much opposed to funerals, marriages, and ceremonies of all kinds as in¬ different to them, as it is indifferent to morality, beauty, and even so-called truth itself. In another anecdote concerning the visiting of graves, Ummon asks the monk, “Did the (dead) patriarch say anything?” This kind of sarcasm concerning superstitions, religious, social, political and so on, is not really Zen at all, but common sense, which should not at least decrease with an un¬ derstanding of Zen. Ummon said, “The real Emptiness does not destroy things, ; the real Emptiness is not different from materiality, fe.” A monk thereupon asked, “ What is this real Emptiness?” Ummon said, “Do you hear the sound of a bell?” “That’s the sound of a bell,” said the monk. “Even when you have reached the Year of the Donkey, will you still be a-dream?” said Ummon. Emptiness is transcendental, and yet it is all-inclusive. Things exist because of the Emptiness; otherwise, they would fall into emptiness, nothingness. The concrete exists because of the abstract, not because of their con¬ trariness, but because an object needs the abstractions



to hold it together, so to speak. What would white chalk do without whiteness? This is the teaching of

Shiki soku ze ku; ku soku ze shiki, Emptiness is form, form is Emptiness. Ummon chooses the sound of a bell because of its poetry, and because it is as nearly “empty” a thing as we can perceive. Ummon said, “The entire Universe, the Cosmos and the Great Earth, and I, this old monk in this world ! With my staff I give it one blow, and say, ‘It is smashed to smithereens !’ ” It is in this spirit that we must face death, and, more important by far, face impudent children, and hysterical women, and our own pusillanimity. One day Ummon ascended the rostrum and said, “Vasubandhu happened to transform himself into a staff of chestnut wood, and, striking the earth once, all the innumerable Buddhas were released from their entangling words.” So saying he descended from the pulpit. Vasubandhu was the twenty first (Indian) patriarch, who lived perhaps in the 5th century A.D. He was the author of the Yuishikiron. Where this anecdote came from, or whether it was Ummon’s own invention I don’t know, but this Chuangtsean story means that the spirit of worship, the “Idea of the Holy,” is the very opposite of true religion, and that the Bibles and sacred writ¬ ings must be destroyed together with the universe it¬ self before a man can be as free as God was until its creation. Ummon held up his staff, and said, “We are told in the scriptures that an ordinary man thinks the staff is a real existence; that those of the Hinayana take it as nothing, ; that those believing in the pratyekabuddha take it as an illusory existence; that bodhisattvas say its reality is emptiness. But I say unto you, take the staff as just a staff; movement is movement; sitting is sitting, but don’t wabble under any circumstances !” Ummon picked up his staff, and, showing it to the

A Staff


assembled monks, said, “My staff has turned into a dragon and swallowed up the whole world. Where are the poor mountains and rivers and great earth now?” The above two anecdotes, taken together, show what a staff is and what Zen is, but the second needs some comment. To explain the staff becoming a dragon and gulping down the universe, without falling into mys¬ ticism, wdiich is odious, or pantheism, which is intel¬ lectual, or literature, which is artificial,—this is difficult. What is needed is first of all energy of mind; second, imagination, a Shakespearian one that Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven. Ummon is going back to the Indian (and the ancient Taoist) view of the world as mutually interpenetrative, each thing containing all things, all-things concentrat¬ ing itself into each thing. Each thing has every quality; every quality is the same as every other quality, even opposite ones. The question is, how to lift up the whole universe when we lift up a spoon, how to dissolve it together with the sugar in the tea, for if we can do this, there is never a dull moment. It is clear that we approach this state the more we are interested in things. “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact”; they have what Kierkegaard calls “purity of heart,” for they think of one thing only. What is that One Thing? No one can say what it is, completely, for if we could really say it completely, we should be it, and all the search would be over, and life be at an end. Ummon once said: "Monk Sei1 declared that if we strike the empty air, it makes a sound, and that a piece of wood when hit, makes none.” Ummon struck the air with his stick and cried “Ouch !” and struck the floor and said, “Hear anything?” A monk said, “A sound !” Ummon exclaimed, “Duffer !” and struck the 1.

Who was Sei?

I can’t say.



floor again, and asked, “Sound of what?” Ummon was a man of great courage, who would put any statement to the test of practical experience, and any practical experience into a statement. Even ordi ¬ nary people, or shall we say, with Wordsworth, especialty ordinary people sometimes feel that a stone is hurt, and feel sympathy for it. A mother can’t hear her own child squalling and making a nuisance of itself. Some people feel horror at the sight of a snake. The question is, what does God feel? We have to feel what he feels, what the poet, the artist, the musician feels. And Zen should feel most of all, because the back of the picture, the unheard melodies, the dull and the stale, and cheap and vulgar are all of infinite value. Thoreau said. If I were confined to a corner in a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts. The staff was a favourite tool with Zen masters, who of course knew nothing of Freud, or they might have hesitated to use it so much. Blessed are the impure in heart. Funnyo (Fenyang) Sill, the 9th in descent from Nangaku, said, holding up his old staff, “If you understand this staff, you monks, your travels (frKP) are ended !” This reminds us of Stevenson’s fable of The Touchstone, ,but the meaning is different. The staff has the meaning of the horse-shoe, “and it rusty,” in another of his fables, The Poor Thing. A monk asked, “What is this sword that cuts a hair that falls on it?” Ummon said, “A patriarch.” This keen sword may be used to signify the Buddha nature or Buddha wisdom, but such symbols are not merely dangerous, they are deadly. Ummon’s answer is better because it is more material and practical. Buddhism is the man Buddha. Christianity is Christ. Love is God. We must always emphasise the personal over the impersonal. In the last Case of the Hekiganroku, Haryo (Paling) El^, the next in line of Ummon,



is asked the same question. He answers, “Branches of coral enfolding the moonlight,” a quotation from Zengetsu. Shozan (Chiangshan) M iff, replied, “A black lacquer outside-post.”1 Rinzai exclaimed, “Bad luck! Bad luck !” and when the monk who asked the ques¬ tion bowed, he struck him. These answers are all aspects, or uses, of the sword. Ummon’s answer is less interesting than usual, but perhaps the most correct of them all. A monk asked Ummon, “Has Buddhism good points and defects?” Ummon answered, “This bamboo blind is five feet long.” In the Chinese, “good points and defects” is “long and short.” The blind is five feet long and it is five feet short. Long is short, and short is long; what is the question? What is the length of a short question? What is the shortness of a long answer? One day Ummon hit on the stove with his staff once. All the monk’s eyes moved in the same way, and Ummon said, “The stove dances up to the Thirty-third, Indra Heaven. Do you see it?” The monk were speechless. “Explain things to stupid people?” said Ummon. “Your heads would be pulverised !” Again, during meal-time he pointed to a white jar and said, “This transcends the words of the Buddhas and the Patriarchs, you know.” Answering himself he said, “Five times nine is forty five !” Again he said, “Let me eat by myself !” Then another day he said, “An ancient sage said, “All that touches the eye is the Way,” and lifted up the soy-pot and said, “Is this the Way?” The monks had nothing to say. Ummon said, “Good Heavens !” and then in answer to the former question, “Funny cast of mind that is !” From such an account we feel that Ummon had a mind that in ordinary persons and in ordinary cases would be called frenzied. Here is a man mad to teach, 1.

fSfi means the post standing out in the Hall, usually round.



but with nobody wanting to learn. Christ and Socrates seem to have been similar in character, and similarly unlucky in their disciples. The world of today does not listen to any of the three. Ummon said to the head monk in the Hall, “Tell me, are you the same as the universe, or different?” “The same,” said the head monk. “All living things, moths, butterflies, ants,—are you the same or different?” “The same,” said the head monk. “Why do you fight with them?” asked Ummon. Ummon seems to have disliked insects, and dogs and animals in general. This is a serious defect, that is, a defect of Zen, but the point is, if we are the same as noxious things, how is it possible for us to destroy one another? Ummon does not resolve this problem, be¬ cause nobody can. Ummon said to his monks, “I don’t ask you about any¬ thing up to the fifteenth of the month, but say some¬ thing for after the fifteenth.” Answering himself, he said, “Every day is a good day.” This can hardly be called Zen, though it forms the 6th Case of the Hekigctnroku. However, though it must be called a trick, it is a Zen trick, and just as we must not be deceived by the words, “before the fifteenth,” “after the fifteenth,” so we must not be deceived by the days themselves, which appear as sacred, or ominous, or amiable, or hateful, or reproachful as in Emerson’s poem, Days.


One day Ummon put his hand into the mouth of a wooden lion and cried, “He is biting me ! Help ! Help !” This playing at Zen is excellent. “By mere playing to go to Heaven” is infinitely better than the terrible seriousness that produced the Inquisition and the cor¬ responding dislike of religion. Zen is laughing at the world, laughing with the world. A monk asked Ummon, “Why does Samantabhadra ride on an elephant? Why does Manjusri ride on a lion?” Ummon said, “I have no elephant to ride on, nor a lion, so I ride on the temple and go out of the temple gate.” Manjusri, the embodiment of wisdom, rides either on a lion or a peacock; he often hold a book. Samantab¬ hadra is the lord of law, 3. Ummon says that we ride on what we please. He himself rides on Buddhism and goes out into the world to save people. Fukuju (Fushou) fsi?, when asked why Shaka didn’t ride on anything, threw up his hands, and said, “He’s no good ! He’s no good !” A monk asked, “How about when the lion growls?” Ummon said, “Never mind about when it growls, try roaring.” The monk did so, but Ummon said, “It’s an old rat squeaking.” What is important in a question, perhaps the only important thing about it, is the tone of voice, the man¬ ner, the intonation, the enunciation. This decides the Zen of the question, that is, if it is a real question or not. If it is a real question, it answers itself. The actual answer is only the wind that blows the crest



of the wave over. Ummon asked a monk, “Did you hear the long-beaked birds preaching Zen in Kozei, Konan?” “No, I didn’t,” replied the monk. Ummon raised his staff, and said, “Zen !” “Long-beaked” means garrulous. Ummon himself was fond of talking, and not, apparently, of listening. However, Ummon never forgets that Zen is talking things, not talking about things. A monk asked Ummon, “How about when a blind turtle finds a hole in a floating log?” Ummon answered, “The old monk folds his hands and departs !” The blind turtle and so on is a symbol of the difficulty, the unlikelihood of hearing about Zen in this world. Ummon answers simply that we can only say, “Now thou lettest thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes....” When Joshu was asked this question, he answered, rather superstitiously, “It is not an accident.” Ummon said, “Within the cosmos, within the universe there is a Treasure. It hides within the body. We pick up the lamp and take it into the Buddha Hall. We take the Great Gate and put it on the lamp.” The word “in,” which Ummon uses, is misleading. Is the soul “in” the body? If so, it must have the shape of the body, which it fills completely. What is the Treasure? Is it the Buddha nature, or God, or the universal soul, or 2en? I would rather say it is the poetical nature, which enables us to do all things, ordinary and extraordinary,—if there be two kinds of things, as Ummon suggests by his two examples of what the enlightened man can do. Ummon said, “The ancient Buddhas and the outside post are always having intercourse with each other; is this subjective?” The monks were dumb. Himself replying, “When clouds rise over the Southern Mountain, rain falls on the Northern Mountain.” The lifeless outside post of the temple, and the (ap¬ parently) lifeful Buddhas, — what separates them?



“Whom God hath joined let no (unpoetical, unimagina¬ tive, inartistic, unmusical, irreligious) man put asunder.” Wordsworth says: Love, now a universal birth, From heart to heart is stealing, From earth to man, from man to eaifh: —It is the hour of feeling. This intercourse, of which Ummon gives an example in the Buddhas and the post, is universal. It is not merely from man to man, or man to woman, but from the heart of each thing to the heart of another. Man loves the earth; the earth loves man. But Wordsworth not only universalises, he particularises. It is in spring, “the first mild day of March,” that this “feeling,” this mutual intuition has its hour. Ummon, like Wordsworth, does not leave us with this animism that is only “in hours of insight willed,” but says that the ordinary things of Nature are no less miraculous, the clouds, the moun¬ tains, the rain. Ummon said to his monks, “Give me a sentence ex¬ pressing the tips of a hundred weeds.” The monks made no reply. Ummon said, “Together, {j| Being such an individualist, Ummon knew, like Dr. Johnson, that man is a social animal; he lives with others, or not at all. This double nature of man is brought out by another anecdote, in which Ummon was asked about (solitary) wall-meditation. He said, “It is repeating the Buddha’s name all together.” A monk asked Ummon, “How about before Gozu met the Fourth Patriarch?”2 Ummon said, “Kannon in every house.” “And after?” asked the monk. “A centipede in the fire, swallowing a tiger,” answered Ummon. Before Gozu met the Fourth Patriarch, his life was as ordinarily pious as the next-door Buddhist, but after he met him, he lived transcendentally, every act 2.

See page




miraculous, every thought supernatural. Ummon said to a monk, “What nationality are you?” He said, “I am from Silla.” “What did you bring with you across the sea?” asked Ummon. “The small robber makes a big failure,” answered the monk. “Why are you in my hands?” asked Ummon. “It is just so,” replied the monk. Ummon said, “I allow you to jump out.” “The small robber makes a big failure,” means, “Don’t try your tricks on me !” The monk rejects Ummon’s. “What did you bring with you?” as being a worn-out Zen question. Ummon admits the monk’s independent attitude, but reproves him, saying, “(If so) why are you here before me, asking for my help?” The monk maintains his independence, and say he is there, be¬ cause he happens to be there, not from any necessity of being taught, but by chance or fate. Ummon says, “You may be independent of me if you wish.” A monk said to Ummon, “How can we spend the twelve hours of the day without wasting them?” Um¬ mon said, “What are you getting at?” The monk said, “I don’t understand; please tell me.” Ummon made a verse, and gave it to him: It is bad not to look at what is pointed out to you; If you intend just to dichotomise, in what eternity will you become enlightened? Ummon saw that the monk was just a simpleton, and gave him a couplet to think over. What is most difficult of all is just to look at what you see, without being for it or against it, without being indifferent to it, believing in it. A monk asked Ummon, “What is Ummon’s one tune?” Ummon answered, “The twenty fifth of December.” “How about the one who sings it?” asked the monk. “Not a care in the world !” said Ummon. One tune, —ft, means Ummon’s unique and most pro-



found view of the world. Ummon’s answer means that his speciality is his pure nonsense, like that of Lear and Lewis Carroll. The singer is, while he is singing his song at least, care-free, and always, so as far as he is himself concerned. Ummon said, “Buddhism is just terrific ! The tongue is so short.” Then he added, “So long.” Also he said, “When we have finished cutting with a great axe, we rub our hands together.” The expression dkMi Japanese hanahada, and ictt, iSSfc, Ife, SS, were all vulgarisms of the Sung Period, and meant “killing,” “enormous,” “awful,” in the slang sense. Buddhism is difficult to explain; our ability is insufficient. On the other hand, it is difficult because we talk too much. And when we have finished our lecture, or our chapter, we feel a kind of nausea, a reaction, from over-strain. A monk asked Reiju (Lingshu) IS©, “What is the meaning of Daruma’s coming to the West?” Reiju was silent. After he died, people wanted to inscribe his doings on his tomb-stone, and this incident was decided on. At this time Ummon was the chief monk, and one of the monks asked him how to put the incident of the remaining silent on the grave-stone. Ummon said, “Write, ‘Teacher’.” We teach silently, and only silently, though we may be silent or talk. Reiju did not teach by his being silent, but by his silence, a Silence which never stopped, even with his death and eternal silence. Ummon composed a verse: A sentence which does not reveal its meaning Attains its end before being spoken. You press forward, with mouth a-chatter, Betraying your not knowing what to do. The first two lines look like mere perverse contra¬ dictoriness, but this is not so. In actual daily experience, or rather, in monthly and yearly, not to say lifely ex-



perience, it is always the unspoken intention that is effective, not the words which follow. Ummon said to his monks, “The Old Barbarian, when he was born, with one hand he pointed his finger at the sky, with the other he pointed his finger to the earth, looked in the four directions, took seven steps and said, ‘Above Heaven, and below Heaven, I am the only Honoured One.’ If I had seen him at that time, I would have beaten him to death with my staff, and fed him to the dogs, so as to bring peace to the world.” Ummon is not merely praising by blame. Evil arises together with good, delusion with enlightenment. The world of animals, for all the eating and being eaten, is a world of peace, and even the enlightened man can scarcely retain the peace that passeth misunderstanding. Ummon is perhaps the greatest man China produced. He is a mixture of Selden, Swift, Sidney Smith, and Oscar Wilde. He has his superstitions, it is true, Buddhist and Taoist, for example the belief in rein¬ carnation, but it is easy for us, more than a thousand years later, to look back upon him and see how he could not in every way transcend his age and place, but for boldness, succinctness, profundity, universality, transcendentality, only Eckhart and Thoreau come near him. For this reason, he is unknown outside China and Japan. Even in Japan almost no one knows his name, and his goroku, the account of his life and say¬ ings, is practically unobtainable. Ummon’s chief disciple, and the only one really worthy of him was Tozan, to be distinguished from the co-founder of the Soto sect, whose name was Ryokai; Ummon’s Tozan was Shusho (Shouch'u) ,^10 . His dates are unknown, and nothing is known of his life, but he is responsible for one of the most famous of all koans. A monk asked Tozan, “What is the Buddha?” “Three pounds of flax,” he answered. This reply is spontaneous, mysterious, satisfactory. There is nothing more to ask, nothing more to say. It reminds one a



little of Hiju’s3 answer to a monk’s question, “What is the Buddha?” “It’s a cat climbing the great round pillar of the Hall.” When the poor chap said, “I don’t understand,” he replied, “Ask the pillar !” When Tozan went to learn from Ummon, he was asked where he had come from. “From Sato (Ch'atu) SEilx,” he replied. Ummon asked, “Where did you spend the summer?” “At Hoji Temple, in Konan.” “When did you leave there?” “On the 25th of August.” Ummon said, “I forgive you thirty blows with the stick.” The next day Tozan asked Ummon, “How did I deserve those blows yesterday? Where was I at fault?” Ummon said, “You big rice-bag ! You wander from West of the river to South of the Lake like that!” At this, Tozan was greatly enlightened, and said, “From now on, I will go where there is no smoke of human habitation, keep not a grain of rice, but will entertain all the people from the ten directions of the world, dissolve the glue [of their attachment] and release them from their ’ bonds !” Ummon said, “Your body is no bigger than a coconut, but what a big mouth when you open it !” What was Tozan’s enlightenment? What did he perceive? He suddenly saw himself, a traveller, as a non-traveller; a religious spirit, as a rice-bag; immortal, because un-born. Ummon’s remark was the simplest and least meaningful he could make, and therefore, all the more Tozan perceived the divine simplicity and sublime meaninglessness of the world. As Goethe said, renunciation is the secret of life, for renunciation means death, that is, rice-bag-ness. A monk asked Tozan, “What is the Pure Dharma Body?” Tozan said, “The crow-black turtle not enter¬ ing the water, but going about in the dust of the earth.” The Pure Dharma Body means a reality beyond purity and impurity, thus, the true nature of man. The 3.

pfjg}, disciple of Yakusan.



activity of this true nature is super-natural, but at the same time is what makes natural things natural. Tozan asked a monk, “You are a new-comer?” “Yes,” he replied. “You stayed here overnight; how is it this morning?” The monk answered, “The wind is blowing rather strongly, blowing up the back of the blue moun¬ tains.” Tozan said, “That won’t do; try again !” “Goodbye,” said the monk. Tozan hit him. The monk answered rather impudently, quoting some verse, aping the teacher. This sort of thing increased with time, until it became the task of the student-monk only to find some quotation to fit the problem. A monk said to Tozan, “A monk, U7K> is one who mixes with others; what kind of man is he who arrives at the summit of the mountain?” Tozan said, “A man without legs goes well; a man without hands gets hold of things easily.” A man without ambition gets to the top. “By that sin fell the angels.” A monk said to Tozan, “How about when the cart stops, but the ox doesn’t?” Tozan said, “Why not employ a driver?” The monk says, “The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.” Tozan says, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” In (Indian) Buddhism, the ox is the most im¬ portant of animals. In the Hokke Sutra, Buddhism is compared to a cart drawn by a white ox, and in the Yuikyo Sutra, M&tM, religious practices are illustrated by a pasture cow. In Zen there are many mondo connected with cows, and there are the bull-herding pictures, the problem, as with the monk, being to control the bull. Who is the driver? It is Buddha, the Buddha nature, the nature of Nature, Something beyond all these, but closer than breathing. Tozan asked a monk, “Where have you come from?” “From Joshu, ft .” “How far was that?” “Seven hundred leagues.” “How many straw-sandals did you wear out?” “Three pairs.” “How did you get the



money to buy them?” “By making umbrellas.” Tozan said, “Go back to the monks’ Hall !” The monk made his salutations, and off he went. I think it would have been more hopeful if he had robbed a bank or got the money from pin-ball machines. Such an honest and faithful fellow is as hopeless as the most ambitious villain. A monk asked Tozan, “What is a formless tower?” Tozan replied, “A stone lion at the crossways.” It is important never to fall into the absolute, the formless, the spiritual, and never to fall into the re¬ lative, the form-ful, the material. “Formless, MS is literally “seamless.” Tozan tries to get the monk into the region between the two.

Chapter XVIII THE SANDOKAI The Sandokai (Ts‘ant‘ungch‘i) was written by Shiht‘ou (Sekito) SSt, 700-790, the disciple of Chingyuan (Seigen) . When Shiht'ou was twelve or thirteen years old he met the Sixth Patriarch, Eno, who died soon afterwards. He lived at the Southern Temple, $3#, where he found a flat stone, built a hut over it, and did zazen there. From this he was called Shiht'ou, “Stone-head.” It is said that when he was young, like the poet Po Chiii (see page 14) he got angry at the sight of people killing cows and offering wine to the shrine of the gods; he broke down the altars and led the cows back home. His enlightenment was attain¬ ed in rather an unusual way, by reading. The book was Chaolun, Sjlfra, written by Sengchao, MU , one of Kumarajiva’s four disciples, about 400 A.D. This was composed in prison while waiting to be executed. The passage which brought on Shiht'ou’s enlightenment was: “He who makes himself to be all the things of the universe, is not he the real sage?” I’ftSIA3}2'. The title of the poem, Ts‘ant‘ungch‘i, has an in¬ teresting meaning. Ts‘an means that all things are in a different condition from one another; t‘ung that all things are equal and identical in their essential charac¬ ter; ch‘i that the difference of the phenomena is the state of equality. Ts‘ant‘ungch‘ithus means “condition, funda¬ mental being, and their united activity.” The object of the Sandokai is to see the universe as it really is, but the question is, with what eye? That it is possible for the intellect, a part of the microcosmos, to grasp the whole of the macrocosmos must be con-

The Sanddkai


sidered highly unlikely (upon intellectual grounds) and Zen—the essence of the universe, and the universe of which it is the essence—must be expounded in the Zen, not the rational way. However, the Sanddkai may be taken more generously as a valiant attempt to show that the Zen experience (the experience by the universe of the universe) is at least not contradicted by reason and a systematic consideration of existence. The Sanddkai is in verse form, forty four lines of five characters each.




TO BE ATTACHED TO THINGS,6 THIS IS ILLU1. Buddha. 2. From India. 3. See Vol. I, page 214. 4. Phenomena. 5. Nothingness. The water of the Source is no different from that of the tributaries, though one is light, the other is dark. This is what Dante means when he says, in Paradiso, V 7; E s’altra cosa vostro amor seduce, Non e, se non di quella alcun vestigio Mai conosciuto che quivi traluce. And if some other (earthly) thing draw your love away, Naught is it but a vestige of the Light, Half-understood, which shines through that thing. 6. Their variety and difference.

The Sandokai





THE 7. ment, 8. "All”



To grasp that all things are one is only for all things are also “Each” means ears, is

“flowers 9.


colours, of



half of enlighten¬

etc., whose activity




is subjective. of




Objects have



one hand

and are merely relations in the mind; is an isolated






object in rise






but on the other an object

apart from any






The Dark is the Mysterious Source which before was taken

as light. 12.

This is the Darkness of a few lines before, that is, pheno-

menalising 13.


differentiation. Four Elements


Including human beings themselves.




things in

the world,

The Sandokai



JkW-AUsbM’ zk'Sft&SElo




This nature is the Buddha nature. These lines remind us of the Anglo-Saxon gnomic verses. “Each” means each “thing” resulting from external objects

and internal faculties. 17. This is Laotse’s “Way that cannot be called a Way.” 18. They have no meaning, any more than the words “absolute” and “relative” have, as far as the Great Reality is concerned.





I SAY RESPECTFULLY TO THOSE WHO WISH TO BE ENLIGHTENED. “DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME IN VAIN.” The Sanddkai is an exposition of the Tendai Kegon philosophy, in that it identifies opposites and equates the individual person to the Universal Soul. The 19. Is absolute. 20. Is relative. 21. This refers to a story of two masters of archery. When they shot at each other, their skill was so great, so “equal,” that the two arrows met head-on, and fell to the ground. 22. Walking, real Walking, is not from here to there.

The Sandokai


Sandokai, however, hardly strikes one as a Zen com¬ position, rather as a Buddhist one. It lacks the simplicity of the Hsinhsinming, the concreteness of Hakuin’s Wasan, and the humour of the Mumonkan. Worst of all, it is deficient in poetry. In a word, it belongs to an early period in the history of Zen when religion was still uneasily allied to philosophic abstrac¬ tion. The poetry of Zen, in which words are things and things are words, is quite different from this. There have been an enormous number of treatises on the Sandokai, beginning with Hogen (Fayen) and including Seccho (Hsiiehtou) f g. In Japan, Tenkei Denson, , 1648-1735, of the Soto Sect, who also wrote commentaries on the Hekiganroku, Shobogenzo, etc., criticised the Sandokai in Todokuko,

Chapter XIX THE HOKYOZAMMAI The Hokyozammai, Sli—5ft, Paoching Sammei, “The Treasure-Mirror of Heavenly Bliss,” is a verse com¬ position which has been ascribed to various authors. At the present time, Tozan (Tungshan) Plh , 807-869, is considered to be the most likely, but comparing this incoherent and pettifogging “poem” with the account given of Tozan in his goroku, a far less gifted Zen master would be more suitable. However, the other names suggested are Yakusan and Ungan, whom also one would not like to saddle with it. The Hokyozammai consists of 376 characters, 94 lines of 4 characters each. It is commonly read daily in temples of the Soto branch of the Zen Sect. I doubt whether most of the monks understand what they are reciting. Even an English translation can hardly make the short-lined original appear interesting. Tozan says that the world is made out of the two elements of same¬ ness and difference; that words are dangerous; that the relative and absolute are one thing; that no-thought, that is, freedom from discrimination and dichotomy, is the salvation of the soul; that all things must obey one another. When Zen adepts turn to literature they often show some fundamental shortcomings. They should stick to their shouts and blows.


The Hokyozammai




\m-3oto RmmrBo &¥rJEwa

mw&go EXPRESSED IN LITERARY TERMS, IT IS SMEARED AND SMIRCHED. AT MIDNIGHT IT IS BRIGHT, IN THE DAWN IT IS DARK. FOR THE SAKE OF ALL BEINGS IT BECOMES 1. These similes illustrate the truth of the sameness and dif¬ ference of all things. 2. This is a dangerous half-truth. The meaning is not in the words, but neither is it in things or actions. As Goethe says, “Things are themselves the meaning,” and we may add, “When the words are real words, the words are themselves the meaning.” 3. If you get near it (Buddha, The Law, Things, Reality) you will be burnt to death; if you go away from it you are frozen to death.

The Hokyozammai



o sgiEjt&o


SnV&H0 £n^jp:3£0 ftJr&Ht'F,, THE SIX LINES OF THE CHUNGLI HEXAGON, SHOWING INTERDEPENDENCE, WHEN OVERLAID, THE VARIATIONS ARE THREE, WHICH TRANSFORM THEMSELVES INTO FIVE,6 ?9, LIKE THE GRASS CALLED CHI, WHICH HAS 4. All things, even words, speak of It. 5. The form is not its reflection, but the reflection is of) the form. 6. I don’t understand this.


The Hokyozammai







%wmm0 NOWADAYS THERE IS THE SUDDEN, AND THE GRADUAL SCHOOL. 7. Which may be single, like a septre, or five-pronged or nine¬ pronged. We are reminded here of the doctrine of the Trinity. 8. In active phenomena. 9. Supporters.

The Hokyozammai




ffiPJi&Mo if* SfFo +Sj1S©o


KitTTs&o 10.


11. Good (the colour of the monk’s clothes) becomes bad (the colour of ordinary people’s clothes). 12. Of truth. 13. Thoreau says, “Turn to the old; return to them. do not change; we change.” 14. 15.


In the case, for example, of Mahabhinjna Jnanabhibhu. Looking at the Tree of Knowledge.

The Hokyozammai






o £nri£nf-0 fiiffilo A RETAINER SERVES HIS LORD; A CHILD OBEYS HIS FATHER. WITHOUT OBEDIENCE, THERE IS NO FAITH¬ FULNESS; WITHOUT SERVICE THERE IS NO RETAINERSHIP. A SPLENDID ACTION, A MYSTERIOUS USE,— THIS IS BEING LIKE A FOOL, LIKE A BOOBY. 16. It was said that in its ears. 17. For the wooden all that is necessary is life and maintain the another.

a tiger which injured a man had a blemish man to sing or the stone woman to dance, to perform perfectly the ordinary tasks of natural relations between one person and



This kind of thing can hardly be found in English religious literature. It reminds us of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the religious writings of ancient Assyria, or of the gnostics; of Swedenborg, Boehme, and the prophetical works of Blake. There is no Zen in it.



It is perhaps not possible to have a clear picture of Hanshan (Kanzan) J Was he a Taoist? a Buddhist? a Zen monk? an eccentric? a natural? a Timon of Athens? a poseur? or a little of each? The Japanese have turned him into a kind of Zen madman, and artists especially, for example Mincho, PfPli, Indra, EPTH, Liangk'ai, , show him together with Shihte as a couple of poetical lunatics, with matted hair and a perpetual grin on their faces. This aspect of Hanshan has its origin in the Preface to the Poems of Hanshan written by Liich'iuyin, [HJfnML. of whom no more is known, historically, than in the case of Hanshan himself. He says he was personally acquainted with Hanshan, Shihte, and Fengkan. Fengkan was head priest of Kuoch'ing Temple in Tient'ai (Tendai) Mountains, and Hanshan and Shihte often visited the temple and were on very good terms with Fengkan, though not always with the other monks, who often drove them away. Shihte, whose name means “picked up,” was an orphan, and as a baby was picked up by Fengkan and given to someone to rear him. Shihte was far from being a poet, but wrote verses; the following is an example: &ik g*ui. Hanshan is of himself Hanshan; Shihte is of himself Shihte. How can the common or garden man really know them? 1. In this chapter the Chinese name is given first, as belonging to Chinese literature. In the other chapters, the Japanese pro¬ nunciation is used, for it is the Japanese who have preserved Zen.


Hanshan (But Feng knows them through and through.) If you want really to see them you mustn’t just look at them. When you want to find them, where will you seek for them? I ask, “What is the relation between them?” And hasten to answer, “They are ^ men with the omnipotence of doing ‘nothing.’ ”

Fengkan also wrote verses, of an equally mystical character, for example:

Hanshan came specially to see me, Shihte too, a rare visitor. We spoke unaffectedly and without reserve of the Mind, How vast and free the Great Emptiness, How boundless the universe, Each thing containing within itself all things. The poems of Shihte and Fengkan are usually printed together with those of Hanshan. The famous poet-monk Ch'anyiieh (Zengetsu) 832912, speaks of Hanshan in a poem sent to Shutaoshih, ±, of Ch'ihsung, , which is fairly near Mount T‘ient‘ai. This suggests that Hanshan must belong to about the 8th century A.D. T‘ient‘ai, the highest peak of which is about 180,000 feet, is the most remarkable group of mountains in South-East China. It was used by Buddhists. In the 6th century T‘ient‘aistudied Bud¬ dhism there, and Zen at Kuoch'ing Temple, frequented by Hanshan. This temple, by the way, still exists, and the three, Hanshan, Shite, and Fengkan are “wor¬ shipped” there. The influence of T‘ient‘aiupon Hanshan must have been great; Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen are almost equally mingled in him. In this region also in the 8th century, Nanyiieh (Nangaku) 677-744, and Matsu (Baso) ffitB., 709-788, were exercising a great



influence in the flourishing Southern School of Zen. The prevalence of Zen in the poetry of Hanshan is seen in the fact that by the end of the T‘ang dynasty, it was being read in Zen temples everywhere. In Japan also, where commentaries were written from the Edo Period, these were all by Zen priests. Hakuin Zenji wrote a Zen commentary, Senteikimon, IKiSSM , which treats Hanshan’s poems as though he were a Zen master. There are 314 poems in the largest edition of Han¬ shan’s poetry. They have no titles, and the order is different. How many are Hanshan’s we may ask, but we may say the same thing of the sutras and the gospels. Some of the verses are Buddhistic, some Buddhistically moralistic, some moralistic without the Buddhism, some of practical and worldly advice. Hanshan is the name of a mountain; it is the name of a man who lived there; it is the Godhead which Wordsworth also perceived, but to the English poet mountains are at once more homely, more sexual, more fearful, more personal. The Chinese poet’s mountain is more inward, more inexpressive, more Eckhartian, more transcendental. To be noted is the way in which Hanshan used his own name as a kind of first person singular. This is unknown in Chinese poetry, and also in Buddhist or Zen verses. It may be interesting to compare Hanshan with some other English poets. Christopher Smart had the religion and the insanity, but not Hanshan’s kind of mysticism. Perhaps Blake’s “madness” in the closest to Hanshan’s alleged preposterousness, but there is a human joy in Blake which contrasts with the rarefaction, isolation, and other-worldliness of Hanshan. Clare’s love of nature in its minute variety, and hatred of (Words¬ worth’s) mysticism distinguish him distinctly from Hanshan, but they are alike in misanthropy and failure to be loved by women. This was also the case with Thoreau, who has the same perversity but not the eccentricity, uncouthness, deliberate mystification and



wanton wilfulness we sometimes feel in Hanshan. Cowper’s madness has not Hanshan’s Chinese toughness of fibre which enabled him (at times) to “overcome the world.” Cowper was too sensitive for this, Christ also. A certain amount of (womanly) poise, the insensitivity of nature, the “enlightenment” of Zen is necessary not merely for the lowest, but for the highest life. A super¬ sensitive God would go out of his mind; perhaps He has. The following are the most poetical of Hanshan’s verses, and (therefore) those with most Zen in them. They are in a kind of chronological order.

mmm l* 'M¥f n 91 *


J® H gfc

My mother and father left me enough to live on, I have no need to grudge others their lands and fields. My wife works at the loom; creak ! creak ! it goes. My children prattle and play; Clapping their hands, they dance with the flowers, They listen to the song of the birds, chin on hand. Who comes to pay his respects? A woodcutter, occasionally. This seems to have been written before Hanshan left his home to become a wanderer, until he settled at Hanshan, the Cold Mountain from which he took his name. Such an earthly paradise as he describes here is not possible in this world. Heaven is a room for one person.

Beams with a thatch over them,—a wild man’s dwelling ! Before my gate pass horses and carts seldom enough;

Kanzan and Jittoku On the right is Kanzan, reading his own poems:

Reciting the verses, he does not know the tune; Reading the sutras, he can’t explain the meaning. The tune cannot be separated from the notes; the meaning cannot be divided from the words. On the left is Jittoku: % m * & m

ft J3 * & m

Leaning on the broom, he does not remove the dust; Pointing at the moon, he does not forget the finger. The broom

has an absolute

Wilde said, “All (art) is useless.”



The finger

and the moon (and the broom) are ends, not means.

Indeed, the pointing finger is in a

way superior to the moon of truth it points at.



The lonely wood gathers birds; The broad valley stream harbours fish; With my children I pluck the wild fruits of the trees; My wife and I hoe the rice-field; What is there in my house? A single case of books. This also is Hanshan’s pre-Robinson Crusoe life. It is exactly the same as that of Toemmei. It is the ideal life of everyman; ideal, not real, not realisable.

I live in a village; And everybody praises me to the skies, But yesterday I went to the town. Even the dog watched me suspiciously; The people don’t like the cut of my coat, Or my trousers are too long or too short for them. If an eagle is struck blind, The sparrows fly openly. The real difference between the town and the village is not so much that the villagers are all trusting and true-hearted fellows, and the townsfolk mean and suspicious, but that the town is bigger than the village. We cannot be known in a crowd. The point of the last two lines seems to be that Hanshan has no economic or social power, and the townsfolk behave to him like the vulgar and stupid people they are. We are irre¬ sistibly reminded of Kierkegaard.

fW^fgfn KiVWmiFE


I was pretty poor before, Today I am wretchedness and misery itself. Everything is at sixes and sevens.



I meet suffering everywhere I go. I often slip about on the muddy roads; I get belly-ache when I sit with my neighbours. When the tabby cat is lost, Rats occupy the rice-chest. Kanzan here shows us his grumbling Zen. On some days everything goes wrong, and life hardly seems worth living; energy (sexual?) is at a low ebb. How¬ ever, it is not that some days must be dark and gloomy. It is that darkness and gloom are good in themselves, not as contrasted with bright and cheerful days, nor as a chance for resignation. It is rather The Devil’s in Hell, All’s wrong with the world !





Here’s a fine chap, strong in mind and body, He has the Six Accomplishments; But when he goes South he’s driven North, And when he goes West he’s sent away East, Always floating like duckweed, Like “flying grass,” never at rest. You ask, “What kind of man may this be?” His surname is Poverty; the first name is Extremity. The last line reminds us of the Rich Young Ruler m reverse. The Six Accomplishments are: deportment, music, archery, horsemanship, calligraphy, mathematics.

Last night I dreamed I was back home again, And was looking at my wife weaving. She stopped the loom, and seemed deep in thought,



And as though she had not the strength to begin again. I called to her and she looked up at me, But did not recognise me, and stared vacantly. The years are many since we parted, And my hair is not the colour it used to be. This poem would not ordinarily be quoted as an example of Zen, but I wish to take it so. Zen is not medicine for the spiritually afflicted, nor a tonic for the potential hero. It is Something not too bright or good For human nature’s daily food. Hanshan has a yearning for his old life. His dream is a clear example of Freud’s “wish-fulfilment.” And this is as it should be, because it is as it is. Illusion is (a form of) enlightenment. To forgive (one’s own erring) is divine.



Hanshan, like every other man, and especially a poet, is more unexpected, more varied than we suppose. He was not always a hermit, and not always a man of the world. To put it more clearly, he was always a hermit, always a man of the world. So we find mingled in his writings poems of ambition and of profundity, of wit and of anguish, of no Zen and of Zen. He has something of Hamlet about him.

In the citadel there is a beautiful lady; The pearls at her waist tinkle silverly. Among the flowers she dandles a parrot, And plays the lute under the moon. The long tones of her song still linger after three months; The short dance,—all come to see. But this will not continue forever; The lotus flower cannot bear the frost. In the last word of the poem, M, cold, the first half of Hanshan’s name, it is not perhaps fanciful to see a reference to his own way of living as compared with that of the beautiful lady. Bunyan’s “He that is low need fear no fall” is also Hanshan’s motto.




I live in a nice place, Far from dust and bustle. By treading the turf, I have three paths; The clouds I see I make my four walls. To help Nature express itself there are the voices of birds; Here there is nobody to ask about Buddhist philosophy. The Tree of the World is still growing; My short span of spring,—how many years will it be? This is the ideal life, pervasive melancholy.


even here there is a


The way to Hanshan is a queer one; No ruts or hoof-prints are seen. Valley winds into valley, Peak rises above peak; Grasses are bright with dew, And pine-trees sough in the breeze. Even now you do not know? The reality is asking the shadow the way. The last lines, as usual, are suddenly meaning is perhaps that the reality is it is useless to question outward things, ings,” for the reality. “Hanshan” is mountain, the man, and reality.


difficult. The ourselves, and these “vanishof course the


Quietly I visited a famous monk; Mountains rose one after another through the mist. The master pointed out my way back; The moon, a circle of light, hung in the sky. The journey, the mountains, the mist, the way home,



and the moon have some obscure mystical meaning. The monk would be perhaps at Tientai, twenty-five miles from Mount Han.





I dwell below boulders piled one upon another. A path fit for birds ! It only prevents people from coming. The garden,—can you call it a garden? The white clouds embrace ineffable rocks; How long have I lived among them all? How many times have I seen spring depart, seen winter come again? But avoid the dinner bell and banquets galore, Beware of names empty and profitless. The last two lines are as usual what old Mr. Weller would have called “a sudden pull-up.”

My hut is beneath a green cliff, The garden a wilderness; The latest creepers hang down in coils and twinings, Ancient rocks stand sharp and tall. Monkeys come and pick the wild fruits; The white heron swallows the fish of the pools. Under the trees I read some Taoist books; My voice intones the words and phrases. This is both ideal and real, like Thoreau’s life at Walden, but has a faint undertone of something else in it, however skilfully hidden.

it# JS5t*U]8t



A Fool


:fA^,lS ®&ffleXo



These past twenty years !—thinking of them, How I have walked quietly back from Kuoch'ing Temple, And all the people of the temple Say of Hanshan, “What a nincompoop he is !” Why do they call me a fool, I wonder? But I can’t decide the question, For I myself don’t know who “I” is, So how can others possibly know? I hang my head; what’s the use of their asking? What good can thinking about it do? People come and laugh at me. I know quite well what they think of me, But I am not foolish enough to retort to them, Because they do just what I want them to do. This reminds us of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: Listen to the fool’s reproach !

It is a kingly title !

And this is not to be taken in a cynical or scornful way but more philosophically. It takes a great man to know a great man, and a fool sees only fools. If a fool saw a wise man as wise the wise man would be a fool.




4»|0 Chuangtse told us about his funeral, How Heaven and Earth would be his coffin. There is a time to die, And just one hurdle will do. Dead, I shall be the food of blow-flies; I won’t give white cranes the trouble of mourning for me. To starve on Mount Shouyang,— It’s a gallant life, a joyful death.



In the Chapter entitled JWM, we are told that when Chuangtse was about to die his disciples met and dis¬ cussed what kind of funeral they should give him. Chuangtse said, My coffin will be Heaven and Earth; for the funeral ornaments of jade, there are the Sun and Moon; for my pearls and jewels, I shall have the Stars and Constellations; all things will be my mourners. Is not everything ready for my burial? What should be added to this? It would not be easy to defend Hanshan from the charge of being both a misanthropist and misogynist. He himself says in one of his poems:

I lived with my older brother, But I was treated cruelly by my neighbours, Moreover, I was neglected by my wife. Hanshan says that “anyone who wants to read my poems must keep his mind pure,” In the same poem Hanshan says that “to attain enlightenment today, we must be a swift as the Juling Demon,” jf.fi, The Juling Demon is said to be the same as the Thunder Spirit, and thus Hanshan is telling us to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents, for Zen wisdom consists in being too quick to allow thought and emotion to assert their independence. Hanshan had not a very high opinion of the average man, and especially poetry he felt to be above his head. “If you write a poem on a rice-cake, even a stray dog won’t eat it.” Of himself, and his ideals, he says:

A Zen-less Zen


People ask the way to Hanshan, But there is no way to Hanshan. The ice does not melt even in summer, And even if the sun should rise, dense vapours clothe it round. As in Kafka, the road, the way, The Way, is “No Thoroughfare !” Hanshan, as said at the beginning, is a very mixed character. His Zen is mingled with a spirit of despair, even desperation, which is the anti¬ thesis of Zen. But as Thoreau says, it is wrong to systematise our thought and our experience. Let it be as it is, contradictions and all, and we shall then become even more real, more human than Hamlet and Hanshan.

Chapter XXII ZEN. MYSTICISM, AND EXISTENTIALISM Of these three, existentialism has the most Zen, I would say. This statement suggests two things, first, that “Zen” is very difficult to use with a single mean¬ ing; second, that however much I may speak ill of (other people’s) Zen, and indeed to that extent, it is “yet the fountain light of all our day, A master-light of all our seeing.” (World) mysticism is the experience of an ever¬ present, aboriginal oneness. It is the reunion of the I and the not-I. (Chinese) Zen, in its historical origins in the Upanishads, and for Laotse and Chuangtse, is the same; only in its method, its style, is it dissimilar, and of course a difference of style is a difference of essence. (European) existentialism is the experience of the eternal separation of the I, not from the not-I, but from the Personal Absolute that stands outside both. Mysticism is a re-union of the individual soul with the Over-soul. Its mark is joy; it grasps Eternity for only short times. Zen also is an identification (together with an equally “real” separation) of the self and the Self, and thus enlightenment is the same enlighten¬ ment for everybody (in spite of the alleged “separa¬ tion.”) Its mark is peace of mind, and the Eternal is now, or never. Existentialism is, we must suppose, different for every person; even if it is the same, we have no way of experiencing the fact. Its mark is anguish, which is never-ending, for the relative cannot really grasp the absolute, and yet it is somehow “absolutely” bound to try to do so.

A Personal God


Mysticism has no thought. It is pure sensation ap¬ plied to the Divine. Al-Ghazzali, a Persian mystic of the 11th century, wrote in his autobiography, “The transport which one attains by the method of the Sufis is like an immediate perception, as if one touched the objects with one’s hand.” In Zen we think and think until thought is confronted with the abyss of Un¬ thought, and we then jump into that abyss. Existential¬ ism is similar, but the thinking never stops. “If the Sun and Moon should doubt, They’d immediately Go Out,” says Blake the mystic. In existentialism the sun and moon are always flickering, guttering. Death and resurrection are simultaneous and endless. Mysticism is an experience of allness, Zen of this-thing-ness. Only existentialism is modest enough to say that the existence of an Absolute at the back of all the relatives is not something that can be known, and that our separation from God is repeated in our equally absolute separation from each other. One defect of Zen is its lack of personality, and of Personality. Zennists make fun, in very poor taste, of a personal God and of an individual soul. I myself believe in neither, but there is nothing ludicrous in the idea that personality, human or divine, is the highest form of being we can conceive. Fifty million Jews can’t be wrong. In actual fact, not only we, but every¬ thing else is personal. If the I is personal, so is the not-I, for it is the universe which is thus chopped into two; animism is the essence of all true poetry and religion. This of course has nothing to do with the im¬ mortality of the soul, or a divinity that shapes our ends. Since Zen, mysticism, and existentialism are forms of experience, the claims of all three must be conceded, for real experience is infallible. All three would say that, not in spite of, but rather because of the contradic¬ tions of experience, it must be believed. However, the intellect should not be forgotten. It is the intellect which tells us that the moment these three step beyond


Zen, Mysticism, Existentialism

experience into explanation or synthesis or analysis or proof and disproof, we should not merely refuse to accept it but declare that it is not only not true, but false. In the world of poetry (and poetry is the com¬ mon element of Zen, mysticism, and existentialism) commonsense judgements are not simply invalid; the more they are right the more they are wrong. Zen, with its twenty-eight Indian patriarchs and a line of “mind to mind” continuing down to the present day, has persisted for 2,500 years, 3,000, if we include pre-Buddhistic Hinduism—unchanged; how can we improve on Nirvana? The mysteries—pantomimic Egyptian, official Eleusynian, orgiastic Orphic, gushing Phrygian, militaristic Mithraic—were all private and individual, not public and social. Indeed, if man is a social animal, the mystic is not a man. Later came the mysticism of the Montanists; the Gnostics; the Neoplatonists; the 13th century Beghards and Beguines; the 14th century Brethren of the Free Spirit; the Friends of God, under Eckhart, Tauler, and Suso; the 16th century Christian Kabalists; the 17th century Philadel¬ phians, the Ranters, Seekers, Muggletonians, Family of Love, the Levellers, the Diggers; the Cambridge Platonists; the 18th century Martinists; the Quietists; the Moravian Brethren, the Rosicrucians; the Dukhobortsy, not to speak of the Hasidists, Dunkers, Bahaists, and so on. In spite of all these, mysticism has in it something un-integrating, which, more than its heretical “doctrines,” has always made it suspect to the Catholic Church. Existentialism is positive disintegration, anarchy, (civil) disobedience. “Souls are not saved in bundles.” (The) Zen (sect) will one day disappear; as Shakamuni the first Zennist said on his death-bed, “All the constituents of being are transitory.” Mysticism is already practically non-existent. Only existentialism gambles on its inconsequentiality, its uniqueness, its discontinuity, on its very lack of suc¬ cession; existentialism alone will continue, or not.



When we think of the names mentioned in connec¬ tion with existentialism—Kierkegaard: “It is not a distinguishing quality of the way that it is hard, but a distinguishing quality of the affliction that it is the way;” Nietzsche: “My opinion is my opinion; another person has not easily a right to it;” Jaspers: “One does not prove Transcendence, one bears witness to it;” Marcel: “Esse est co-esse;” Sartre: “My death is the one moment of my life I do not have to live;” Heidegger: “Grief separated from mere melancholy by a gap, is joy which is serenified for the Most Joyous, so long as it reserves itself and hesitates;” to whom some would add Pascal: “The I is hateful;” Dostoevsky: “Always and in everything I go to the extreme limit;” and Kafka: “Think of me as a dream;” I would include Thoreau: “I say God. I am not sure that is the name. You will know whom I mean;”—what a motley crew ! A crew without a ship. (Zen) Buddhism is the religion of (the escape from) suffering. Nirvana is a state beyond (pleasure and) pain. Mysticism also is the desire for “a repose that ever is the same,” an escape from loneliness. Existential¬ ism, on the contrary, is the escaping from comfort and tranquillity of mind. It is not masochism, at least in theory, for its aim is suffering, not the pleasure of suffering. Kierkegaard says in his Journal, 1853, “To love God is to suffer.” The aim of existentialism is to reign, and to reign with Him we must suffer with Him, but to suffer is to reign, to reign is to suffer. (One oblique proof of the existence of God, which Kierke¬ gaard would have sneered at, is: God is love; love is suffering; suffering exists, therefore God does.) In any case, as far as suffering is concerned, existentialism wins all hands down, leaving Zen and mysticism trail¬ ing far behind with their joy of enlightenment and ecstasy of union. Zen may be called the religion of death, the cessation of the desire to exist. (Primitive) Buddhism, with its


Zen, Mysticism, Existentialism

doctrine of no-soul, taught that we never really live; we only think we do, and when we know we don’t, when we know that we are not we, and life is illusion, this is Nirvana. The positive side of this doctrine is brought out by the following. I once received a letter from Dr. Suzuki Daisetz. On the envelope my name was transliterated into three Chinese characters, . Furai-shi, which also means, “You haven’t come (to see me for a long time).” But it has further a Zen mean¬ ing, “Mr Not-coming One,” that is, (the real) you has not come, will not go; you cannot die, because you are a “not-born-person.” Mysticism has the same attitude. It is so enamoured of timeless life that it “never thinks of anything less than death.” (However, the “dark night of the soul,” described by Madame Guyon, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa, and others, is the fear of a third kind of death, spiritual emptiness.) The existential attitude to (another’s) death is that it is what you make it. Thoreau says, “Friends are as often brought nearer as separated by death.” Jaspers agrees with him. It is my fidelity to a dead person which maintains his (objective) existence (for me) just as it did during his lifetime. For Kierkegaard true prepara¬ tion for one’s own death is death itself. He says, in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, “We wish to know how the conception of death will transform a man’s entire life, when in order to think its uncertainty he has to think it in every moment, so as to prepare him¬ self for it.” Death is to Sartre “a cancellation always possible of what I can be, which is outside my possibili¬ ties;” it is simply a fact, and the fate of the dead is in the hands of the living. Heidegger, however, says that death is something we have the free resolution to take upon ourselves. Love (as we learned from Born Free, and Living Free) means making another free, freeing others. Love is wanting what God wants, that is, what the other person really, freely wants. The love of two people is



not, as Plato pretended, the combining of complementary characteristics; nor does it derive from similarity of character or tastes; it is not that you like cats, or Bach, so do I, so let’s live together. It is not even Wordsworth and Dorothy and the glowworm, and “Oh ! joy it was for her and joy for me !” Love is the unbreakable relation between faith and faithfulness. The man says, “I am an existentialist.” The woman says, “I love an existentialist; let’s get married, or not, just as you like.” (If they are sincere, which is most unlikely, their life together will be a success.) Perhaps Thoreau’s love letter to Emerson’s wife is an example: “To hear that you have sad hours is not sad to me.” There is no love in Zen, other than the beating and cursing, and none in mysticism, except of a nauseating, perverted, unnatural, impossible kind—the “Divine Embrace” of Suso; “my cheek on Him,” (St. John of the Cross); “the Divine Bridegroom” of St. Theresa—all of which go back to the eroticism of the Orphic mysteries. In The Hound of Heaven, love is a cosmic bestialism. Two thousand years of the deep experience of Christian mysticism convinces us of the existence of the God with whom certain men and women attained union (■which may well be reunion). Fifteen hundred years of equally strenuous search for the truth in China and Japan under the aegis of Zen has never once, even by accident, produced the slightest inkling of a personal Deity: A god, a god their severance ruled ! There is thus no (personal) God in Zen (Buddhism); that is the defect of Zen. There is a God in (Christian) mysticism; that is the defect of Christianity. But I believe Thoreau, as I believe the Bible (when I believe it), in the following: “His work does not lack com¬ pleteness, that the creature consents.” “He has not made us to do without Him.” “Though we must abide our destiny, will He not abide it with us?” Who or what


Zen, Mysticism, Existentialism

is this “He”? In Zen, sinning is to think that we have committed sin. In mysticism, sin and its immediate consequence, or rather, coincidence, Hell, is the soul’s separation of itself from God by self-love. In existentialism, sin is sin; it is the infirmity of the creature as against the power of the Creator. Sin is egoism, not the egoism of Zen, which is given up to gain the enlightenment of egoful egolessness, but the egoism of supposing that we can be saved from our egoism. For existentialism, sin is practically unforgivable sin. Is there such a thing as the ego, which Christianity (mystical and existentialist) violently asserts, and (primitive) Buddhism equally strongly denies? The Zen answer is, or should be, that there is and there isn’t—not partly is and partly is not, or from one point of view is and from another point of view is not—but that the soul is-isn’t. This is the Zen experience. The mystical experience is of no-soul, of Soul. The ex¬ istential experience is of soul in its separation from Soul, though according to Sartre’s philosophy the soul is a nothingness. My grandmother once came home from church laughing. When her children asked her why, she said, “The people were all singing, ‘Oh, to be nothing, nothing !’—and they were nothing, all the time !” This is existentialism. The enlightenment of Zen is the realization that we are everything. Ecstasy in mysticism is the same, the state of our being all things. Existentialism is the realization that it will never be necessary to sing, “Oh, to be nothing !” Zen, in conjunction with Taoism, has produced the greatest art and poetry in China and Japan. Mystical art, if there is any, must be as odious as mystical poetry (see the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse). Wordsworth’s real nature poetry, except for the Immortality and Tintern Abbey Odes, is not mystical or even pantheistic, but Zen; the same may be said of that of Herbert and Vaughan and Traherne. Existentialism can hardly



produce (verse) poetry, which requires a high degree of technique and artifice. It does however manifest itself in the Pensees of Pascal, Fear and Trembling, Thus Spake Zarathustra, the Journals of Thoreau, and, by exception, the poetry of D. H. Lawrence. It should be noted, as far as art is concerned, that just as the ordinary, so-called Christian knows nothing of the real Christianity, so Kierkegaard, in Either/Or, was outside the real aestheticism, which is as profound as we like to make it. Kierkegaard had no more understanding of music than Bernard Shaw. He listened to Don Juan ethically, as the story of a seducer, but Mozart himself was seduced into composing it. Mozart’s best music is full of “fear and trembling,” and of an infinite resigna¬ tion to infinite suffering. (The music of Bach is animism.) There is a great deal of humour in Zen; no irony, but sarcasm is used in teaching. The humour is that of pure nonsense, Lear and Carroll’s transcendentalism. An example. One day Weishan (Isan) called for the chief monk to come to his room, but when he came, Weishan said, “It was the chief monk I called; why on earth did you come?” Mysticism is almost devoid of humour, for one reason because it transcends all con¬ tradiction, the soul of wit. For another, a maliciously smiling mysticism, which would make fun of the hypo¬ critical seriousness of orthodoxy towards the paradoxes of the Incarnation and the Trinity, could not escape excommunication. Kierkegaard has no humour, but a deep irony, which is sometimes almost too direct to be satire: “To let oneself be trampled to death by geese is a slow way of dying !” Sartre’s satire is like that of Swift. Nietzsche is as humorous as a tiger at bay. Heidegger is heavy as only a German can be. In the matter of humour Zen is first and the rest nowhere. A Zen society is unthinkable in so far as it consists of (celibate) monks. A sexless society is a contradic¬ tion in terms, and a Zen society of laymen and lay-


Zen, Mysticism, Existentialism

women of the traditional type would be a return to (religious) feudalism. A society of mystics is not in¬ conceivable, for society itself is a mystical idea, as we realise when we look at the half-insane face of the patriot. For existentialism the great enemy is the world (society), the flesh (comfort, which comes chiefly from society), and the devil (those “principalities and powers,” which are partly personifications of social forces). What has been the effect of the three upon society, upon the average man for whom Buddha lived, and Christ died? The Zen sect has always been, like Athens, a state of “free” men among slaves, living on them more or less, and with no desire to free them socially, politically, or financially. It has no view of society, no idea of human progress, material or spiritual. It is always all things to all men, and will support any gov¬ ernment, fascistic or communistic or democratic. Its organization is unchangeably feudalistic, though on special occasions it has an All Fools’ Day when an absolute equality is de rigueur. The opinion of Zen adepts on world affairs has invariably been a patriotic opportunism dressed in Buddhist platitudes. (Christion) mysticism has always been uncatholic. It has retarded (a false) progress; the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people has been the least of its concerns. Existentialism shows the same Shake¬ spearean indifference to and even dislike of the com¬ monality, though Kierkegaard wrote at the very end of his life, “Thou plain man ! I have not separated my life from thine; thou knowest it, I have lived in the street, am known to all.” The danger of Zen is that of being satisfied with a limited, though illimitable enlightenment. Death has lost its sting, but all other matters, such as sympathy, sensitivity, good taste, humour, modesty, a “passion forreforming the world,” and so on, are usually neglected. The dangers of mysticism are sentimentality, supersti-

What is Zen?


tion, lack of self-criticism, and union with an inferior demiurge. The dangers of existentialism are masochism and demonism. We may say that Hitler had a kind of Zen, in the way he walked, like a panther. His identifi¬ cation of himself with a purely fictitious Deutsche Reich, like his love of Wagner, was mystical. He perpetually chose blessedness (in reality a kind of “cursedness”) instead of happiness; this was his existentialism. In addition, he believed in the non-separation of the animate and the inanimate, and would perhaps have agreed with Thoreau, who wrote (a passage deleted by Lowell) of a pine tree, “It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still.” Up to this point we have distinguished Zen, mysticism, and existentialism. Now let us mix them up a bit, and ourselves into the bargain. Zen is not a religion. It is not “The Highest Doctrine.” There is no “World of Zen.” An “Anthology of Zen” is an absurdity (the Bible of Zen, the Mumonkan plus the Hekiganroku, is the universe laughing at itself.) Zen is not something absolute, that we gradually approach, of which our understanding increases with experience. It is not something “once for all delivered to the (Zen) saints.” It is not Truth smuggled from one esotericist to another. Zen is all that was, wasn’t, is, isn’t, will be, and won’t. It is the billboard we can see just as much as the tree it hides. It is equally and unequally in the village slut and the Virgin Mary, in an empty tin can and “the solid frame of earth / And ocean’s liquid mass.” Heidegger asks, “Why is there something, and not nothing?” Zen is the something, the nothing. Zen is Bramah, and includes the swamis and the swoonies and moonies and baboonies toonies. The Scale of Perfec¬ tion, a 14th century religious treatise, says that when we go home to a smoky house and a scolding wife— do not run out of it, “for behind this nothingness, be¬ hind this formless shape of evil, is Jesus hid in his


Zen, Mysticism, Existentialism

joy.” But even this must be amended; the smoky house, the scolding wife is Jesus in his joy. In this mysticism we have the Zen experience that illusion, that is, reality, the smoky house, is enlightenment, that is, reality, Jesus —but not in the same way, as Hakuin Zenji says, that ice is water. Just as ice is ice, not water, so illusion is enlightenment. And illusion and enlightenment are different, just as water and ice are the same. We may say that there is “something” which is neither ice nor water; which is both ice and water, which is either ice or water, but not both. This “something” would be like Thoreau’s God, mentioned before, like Eckhart’s, which also is nameless, not in the dictionary, but it is also Kierkegaard’s God, not ectoplasm, not less personal but more so than even Kierkegaard himself. Zen is what we can’t say it is, not because it is beyond words or sounds, far from it, but because it is beyond itself. When I lift my hand, there is Zen, and when I don’t, and when there is no hand to lift, and when there’s no lift to hand. As Thoreau says, “Sound tests our soundness,” but any sound will do. “The squeaking of the pump sounds as necessary as the music of the spheres.” And Nietzsche says, “It is a crucial fact that the spirit prefers to descend upon the sick and suffer¬ ing.” God is infinitely near us, as Browning knew, and infinitely far from us, as Cowper also knew. (If only He would be one or the other !) A man is “superior” to a stone. Yes, but why did Wordsworth listen so devoutly to “the music of that old stone wall”? Was it due to his being tone-deaf? Or is a wall somehow “superior” to Thisbe and Pyramus, who gratefully use even a crack in it? On the one hand we know that people are shallow and unteachable, and that there is more difference between Mozart and me than between a man and a monkey; on the other, as Wuyeh (Mugd) said, “If you still retain a hair’s thickness of an idea of there being such things as ordinary men and sages, you cannot avoid being reborn as a donkey or a horse.”

My Religion


The orthodox view of Zen is that without man Zen is impossible. So in Buddhism, if there are no human beings there is no Buddha. This is wrong. The mis¬ take arises from anthropocentricity, which again causes and is caused by the lack of mystical and animistic experiences. A Roman Catholic, Robert Southwell, knew better: Whole may His body be in smallest bread, Whole in the whole, yea, whole in every crumb. The first line of the poem of the 46th Case of the Hekiganroku is:

The sound of the rain-drops in the empty hall. Sengai has a picture of a blind man playing a samisen under the moon, another man looking up at it, and two others just enjoying themselves; the verse on it: _M.