The Danger of False Teachings
Presented here are the best sections of the autobiography of arguably the greatest teacher of Buddhism that has ever lived, Zen master Hakuin Ekaku. Nowadays, teaching as direct and powerful as Hakuin's is suffocated by the stinking algae bloom of the "compassion and love" school: the false Buddhist teaching led by the 14th Dalai Lama. If Hakuin had lived, he would have identified Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism as little better than psychotherapy; as he has not, it is my fortune to do it for him. The exact traditions he spent his life denouncing - foolish debates over doctrinal subtleties, zazen meditation without wisdom - have continued with little change, and yet he seems to have predicted it, leaving almost no weaknesses or loopholes in his words for false interpretations. But, in the rare places where Hakuin was weak, I have used my licence as a Dharma grand-child to make sure such interpretations will not stick.
The Danger of False Teachings
Crossing the Threshold
The Mind of Enlightenment
1. AUTHENTIC ZEN
The Danger of False Teachings
Anyone who wants to achieve the Way of enlightenment must drive forward the wheel of the Four Great Vows.1 But even when you gain entry through the Gate of Nonduality, if you lack the Mind of Enlightenment, you will still sink back into the paths of evil. In the past, the priest Tz'u-ming underwent great hardship while living and studying at Fen-yang. He made it his practice to always sit through the long nights, totally unmindful of the piercing cold found east of the river and never allowing himself so much as a wink of sleep. When the demon of sleep approached him, he would tell himself, "You pitiful wretch! What are you? If you're unable to utter a single word to benefit others while you live, when you die not a syllable you speak will be known to them," and jab himself in the thigh with a gimlet. Here, truly, is a model to stand for a thousand future generations.2
Anyone who would call himself a member of the Zen family must first of all achieve kenshō — realization of the Buddha's Way. If a person who has not achieved kensho says he is a follower of Zen, he is an outrageous fraud. A swindler pure and simple. A more shameless scoundrel than Kumasaka Chōhan.3
It is commonly said that there are eight different schools of Buddhism in our land. Doctrinal schools that devote themselves to mastering sutras and commentaries. Pure Land schools whose followers constantly recite the name of Amida Buddha. The Zen school — members of the Rinzai, Sōtō, and Ōbaku lineages — is regarded as being foremost among them all. In recent times, however, the Zen schools have been engaging in the practice of "silent illumination," doing nothing but sitting lifelessly like wooden blocks. What, aside from that, do you suppose they consider their most urgent concern? Well, they witter on about being "men of nobility" who have "nothing at all to do." They proceed to live up to that self-proclaimed role. Consuming lots of good rice. Passing day after day in a state of seated sleep. The surplice and cotton robe they wear as Buddhist priests is no more than a disguise. There's one old priest lives near here who just sits in his hermitage all day long, beating on the wooden fish and chanting in a loud voice, "Namu kara taru nō...." True, there's a surplice hanging around his neck — but the man has never once experienced kenshō. I'd like to ask him: "What do the words 'tora ya ya' that follow 'Namu kara taru nō' mean? I'll tell him what they mean: "Future existence is more terrifying than a hungry tiger!" I have a verse that pours scorn on this odious race of pseudopriests:
Earth's vilest thing? From which all men recoil?
Crumbly charcoal? Firewood that's wet? Watered lamp oil?
A cartman? A boatman? A stepmother? Skunks?
Mosquitoes? Lice? Blue flies? Rats? Thieving monks.
Ahh! Monks! Priests! You can't all be thieves, every last one of you. And when I talk about thieving priests, I refer to those "silent illumination" Zennists who now infest the land.
Where our Zen school is concerned, anyone who achieves kenshō and leaves the house of birth-and-death is a house-leaver.
Not just someone who forsakes the family home and goes off to get his skull shaved. Still, you find people going around making unfounded claims: "I've left home, I'm a priest. I'm a priest."
If that weren't bad enough, they then proceed to pocket the charity and donations they hoodwink laypeople, the "householders," into giving them.
Can anyone in the world support the tenuous thread of human existence without a home of some kind? Why do we use a special term like layman? Layman — a householder — is used in contrast to priest — a house-leaver. A layman's life is a precarious one — a hard and ceaseless struggle. Tilling the soil, plying a trade, running a shop, he is faced with almost constant adversity. He never has a moment's respite from the toils of birth-and-death.
The house-holder's immersion in birth-and-death is not his worldly activities, but rather his lack of kenshō. The one with kenshō still lives in a home, and needs to maintain his human existence with food, water, clothes, and the like. I need hardly add that one with wisdom is not identified by the robe or surplice, but by wisdom alone. In fact, if someone wears a religious robe, it is certain they are not wise. — KJ
And so, from time to time, he offers donations to the priest, creating favorable karmic conditions that may enable him, in a future existence, to break free of birth-and-death.
The donation could be money, or, more helpfully, it could be his own respectful intention to break open the eye of wisdom. Money is used by the priest to ensure he does everything needed to fulfil his Bodhisattva vows, for otherwise he is not a priest and should not accept donations. — KJ
For his part, the priest, in order to assist others to attain salvation, kindles a great burning faith in his heart. He opens the matchless eye of wisdom through the experience of kenshō, and then he works tirelessly to bestow the great gift of the Dharma, leading his fellow beings toward salvation in place of the Buddha patriarchs.
Priests and laity are thus like the wheels of a cart: they move forward in unison. But the sad assortment of today's priests we see spending their lives sitting like wood blocks in the complacent self-absorption of their "silent illumination" are incapable even of freeing themselves from birth-and-death. How can they possibly hope to assist laypeople to achieve a more favourable karma? Without giving so much as a thought to that, however, they freely and willingly accept donations from the lay community. Without a single scruple. I ask you, if they aren't thieves, what are they?
The day their parents sent them forth from their family homes to become Buddhist monks, little could they have dreamed their children would turn out to be the thieves you now see. It's all because of these counterfeit teachers with their plausible doctrines. They sink their hooks into people's fine, stalwart youngsters, and they turn them into a pack of blind and hairless dunces. The evil they wreak is truly immense. Blacker than the five great sins. Preaching the Buddha's Dharma is a truly awesome responsibility. Something to be undertaken only with the greatest circumspection.
Four Great Vows: "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them. The Dharma gates are manifold, I vow to enter them. The Buddha Way is supreme, I vow to enter it."
Tz'u-ming is a posthumous name of the Chinese priest Shih-shuang Ch'u-yüan (986-1039).
Kumasaka Chōhan was a master thief of late Heian Japan who plied his trade as a member of the Buddhist priesthood.
Crossing the Threshold
From then on, I took Spurring Students through the Zen Barrier as my master. Rededicated to my practice, I began pushing myself mercilessly day and night. While reading the Three Teachings of the Buddha Patriarchs, I came upon a passage that made me leap up with joy. It compared a student practising the Great Vehicle to a log floating down a river: never touching at either bank, it finally makes its way out into the great ocean.1
In the spring, at the urging of a former brother-monk, I traveled to Fukuyama and joined the brotherhood at the Tenshō-ji. There, by virtue of hard and continuous application to my practice, I entered a pitch-dark cave. When I walked around or engaged in other activities, I wasn't even aware of what I was doing. When autumn came, I set out for home with a party of my fellow monks.
We skirted the shores of the Inland Sea at Maiko, over the beaches of Suma. We passed the burial mound of the poet Hito-maru and the grave of Atsumori. We walked through the fields of Koyano and beside the woods of Ikuta. But my eyes were not open to any of those famous sights. All the way home, it seemed as if I were not moving at all but standing in the road alone, and the people, houses, and trees that lined the way were all moving westward.
It took about a fortnight to reach home. My family, relatives, and friends all gathered to welcome me. They were anxious to hear me tell them tales of everything, good and bad, I had experienced during my absence. But all they got for their questions was an unresponsive series of sublingual grunts: "Uh...Uh..." This bewildered them. They accused me of having somehow changed. They told me that I had become a "strange fellow."
But my behavior at this time was perfectly in keeping with that described in traditional accounts of other Zen practicers passed down through the centuries. The National Master Kanzan, for example, is said to have walked the entire length of the Great Eastern Road twenty times without once looking up to notice Mount Fuji as he passed beneath it. I still remember the deep impression that story made on me when I first heard it. It filled me with an admiration for Master Kanzan that has never diminished.
Some time after that, I came upon a passage in Spurring Students through the Zen Barrier about the Bodhisattva Ever-Weeping. He was addressed by a voice, arising from nowhere, telling him not to look to the right or left, not to turn his gaze up or down, or in any of the four directions, as he walked along. I have trusted in these words ever since, have treated them as a koan. Perhaps that's why I've turned into such a foolish fellow!
It was around that same time that I heard reports of a Zen monk in Echigo Province who had received Dharma sanction [[[inka]]] from the Ōbaku master Egoku Dōmyō. A series of lectures on The Eye of Men and Gods was to be held soon at the Eigan-ji in Echigo. Availing myself of that opportunity, when spring came, I got three other monks to accompany me to the city of Takada to attend the meeting. The first thing I did on arriving was to seek out the monk I had heard about. We had a long discussion, which gave me an opportunity to observe in detail the depth of his understanding. I realized he was not the enlightened man he had been made out to be.
Disappointed, I hid myself inside a shrine room dedicated to the lords of the province, vowing to fast and concentrate single-mindedly on my practice for a period of seven days. No one in the temple knew where I was or what I was doing, not even the monks I had come with. Unable to find me, they assumed I had left secretly for home.
At around midnight on the seventh and final night of my practice, the boom of a bell from a distant temple reached my ears: suddenly, my body and mind dropped completely away. I rose clear of even the finest dust. Overwhelmed with joy, I hollered out at the top of my lungs, "Old Yen-t'ou is alive and well!"
My yells brought my companions running from the monks' quarters. We joined hands, and they shared with me the intense joy of the moment. After that, however, I became extremely proud and arrogant. Everyone I encountered seemed to me like so many lumps of dirt.
Five hundred monks had gathered to take part in the lecture-meeting. As the regular residence hall was small in the extreme, the main hall of the neighbouring Sōtō temple was borrowed and put to use as a detached residence. I was named senior monk and placed in charge of a group of thirty men that was sent from the main temple to be quartered in the hall. Among them were seven or eight of my comrades. One of them, a monk named Dan Zennin (later known as Kyōsui Oshō, he served as resident priest of the Rinzai-ji) who acted as my assistant, came scurrying back from the main temple in a state of high excitement. "An extraordinary new monk has just arrived," he told us. "He is well over six feet tall and has a menacing look on his face. He planted himself in the entrance with a gigantic staff under his arm. Just stood there straight and motionless, like a great, withered tree, calling out for permission to stay in the rough, booming accents of the Bandō region. I can tell you, he's no ordinary monk. I don't know if it's wise to let someone like that stay here." Undisguised signs of disapproval showed on the faces of the other monks as well.
Shortly after that, Dan came scurrying back again. "They held a discussion back at the main temple," he blurted out excitedly. "They decided to send him over here to us. They seem to think this is some sort of dumping ground for all their misfits and troublemakers."
I scolded Dan: "Why are you running back and forth like this circulating bits of gossip you pick up? You're distracting your fellow monks from their practice! Why don't you take a look at The Eye of Men and Gods and prepare yourself for the lecture?"
Just then, Chō Jōza, the senior monk from the main temple (the person I had travelled to Echigo to meet), appeared at the detached residence, bringing the new arrival with him. He announced in an earnest and obliging manner, "This new monk is from Shinano Province. He will stay here with you in the annex. We've placed him at the bottom of the monks' roster. We request that you afford him the benefit of your guidance and assign some task such as sweeping or cleaning."
"I don't understand why you brought him here," I said. "We already have six or seven monks staying here who are notorious for causing disturbances in training halls. This building isn't even ours. We borrowed it from a Sōō temple. Don't you think it would be better to put serious-minded students here? That fellow may look well-mannered to you know, but when he finds out what those others are like, there's going to be hell to pay. He's a rogue monk. A real trouble-maker.
"We sent him here because we thought we could count on you to handle him," said the head monk.
"In that case," I replied, "we must bow to your decision. But at the first sign of any irregular behaviour, he goes right back to you. Is that agreed?"
He gave his unqualified assurance that there would be no objection to my condition. That settled things, and he returned to the main temple.
The next day, the opening of the lecture-meeting went off without a hitch. Senior priests went around the Monks Hall congratulating the men. Chō Jōza came over from the main temple to pay his respects as well. While he was there, he picked up a copy of The Eye of Men and Gods that he saw lying nearby. Flipping some pages, he pointed out several places in the text and addressed questions to some of the monks around him.
"What is your interpretation of this passage?" he asked one.
"How about here? How do you explain this?" he asked another.
When he had finished examining them in this way, he left. After he was gone, the new monk said, "Was that the senior monk?"
"What business is it of yours?" I replied.
"I admit what he said showed some insight," the monk replied. "But his understanding of that one passage certainly wasn't sound."
I challenged him to say something about a few of the passages himself. He proceeded to explain them one by one, in a way that showed great discernment and clarity.
The judgment that the monks in the hall had formed of the man (who turned out to be called Kaku; he was a student of a priest named Shoju)2 underwent an abrupt and radical change. They now sat in hushed silence, trembing apprehensively. Some other monks who had been hanging around the hall freely dispensing their personal views and opinions seemed to suffer a sudden attack of timidity as well. I didn't see their faces after that.
To me, he was like a fresh rain after a long drought. I felt as thought I had met an old and trusted friend from my native village. From then on, we spent our days and nights debating matters of the Dharma. I could not have wished for a greater pleasure.
The evening of the final lecture arrived all too soon, and it was time for us to leave. I invited Kaku to meet me privately so I could ask him about his teacher.
"He's an old hermit named Etan Zōsu. He lives at the Shōju-an, a hermitage in Iiyama," he told me.
I secretly yearned to go to Iiyama and pay my respects to the old man.
"Just what I was hoping you would propose," Kaku replied when I asked him what he thought of the idea. "If you go, I'll go along with you."
The next day, we waited for the bell to announce the close of the meeting, then we slipped unnoticed out the temple gate. We made our way up over the pass at Mount Tomikura and from there proceeded directly on to Iiyama.
Great Vehicle: Maha-yana. Minor Vehicle: Hineyana. The one who has kenshō can take either vehicle. The Mahayanist is the one with bodhicitta, the Mind of Enlightenment, which is the unrelenting and uncompromising will to truth. But the Hineyanist will not apply kenshō in this way, owing to lack of faith. The difference between the two vehicles is infinite.
Shoju Rojin: Dōkyō Etan (1642-1721), better known as Shōju Etan or Shōju Rōjin, "The Old Man of Shōju-an Hermitage." Born the natural son of Sanada Nobuyuki, the lord of Matsushiro in Shinano Province, Shōju was adopted and raised by Matsudaira Tadatomo inside Iiyama Castle. He is said to have displayed an early aptitude for religion and to have experienced a great enlightenment in his fifteenth year, occasioned by a sudden tumble down a flight of stairs. At eighteen, he accompanied his stepfatehr to Edo, where he was ordained by Shidō Munan at the Tōhoku-an hermitage; a year later, he received Munan's certification of enlightenment. After a six-year pilgrimage, during which he studied with teachers in northeastern Japan, he returned to Munan. He was offered, but refused the abbotship of a large new temple and remained with Munan at Tōhoku-an until the latter's death in 1676. He then returned to Iiyama, spending the rest of his life living and teaching at the Shōju-an hermitage.
When we arrived at the Shōju-an hermitage, I received permission to be admitted as a student, then hung up my travelling staff to stay.
Once, after I had set forth my understanding to the master during dokusan [personal interview], he said to me, "Commitment to the study of Zen must be genuine. How do you understand the koan about the Dog and the Buddha-Nature?"1
"No way to lay a hand or foot on that," I replied.
He abruptly reached out and caught my nose. Giving it a sharp push with his hand, he said, "Got a pretty good hand on it there!"
I couldn't make a single move, either forward or backward. I was unable to spit out a single syllable.
That encounter put me into a very troubled state. I was totally frustrated and demoralized. I sat red-eyed and miserable, my cheeks burning from the constant tears.
The master took pity on me and assigned me some koans to work on: Su-shan's Memorial Tower, The Water Buffalo Comes through the Window, Nan-ch'üan's Flowering Shrub, The Hemp Robe of Ching-chou, Yün-men's Dried Stick of Shit."2
"Anyone who gets past one of these fully deserves to be called a descendant of the Buddhas and patriarchs," he said.
A great surge of spirit rose up inside me, stiffening my resolve. I chewed on those koans day and night. Attacking them from the front. Gnawing at them from the sides. But not the first glimmer of understanding came. Tearful and dejected, I sobbed out a vow: "I call upon the evil kings of the ten directions and all the other leaders of the heavenly host of demons. If after seven days I fail to bore through one of these koans, come quickly and snatch my life away."
I lit some incense, made my bows, and resumed my practice. I kept at it without stopping for even a moment's sleep. The master came and spewed abuse at me. "You're doing Zen down in a hole!" he barked.
Then he told me, "You could go out today and scour the entire world looking for a true teacher — someone who could revive the fortunes of 'closed-barrier' Zen — you'd have a better chance finding stars in the midday skies."
I had my doubts about that. "After all," I reasoned, " there are great monasteries all over the country that are filled with celebrated masters: they're as numerous as sesame or flax seed. That old man in his wretched ramshackle old poorhouse of a temple — and that preposterous pride of his! I'd be better off leaving here and going somewhere else."
Early the next morning, still deeply dejected, I picked up my begging bowl and went into the village below Iiyama Castle.
I was totally absorbed in my koan — never away from it for an instant. I took up a position beside the gate of a house, my bowl in my hand, fixed in a kind of trance. From inside the house, a voice yelled out, "Get away from here! Go somewhere else!" I was so preoccupied, I didn't even notice it. This must have angered the occupant, because suddenly she appeared flourishing a broom upside down in her hands. She flew at me, flailing wildly, whacking away at my head as if she were bent on dashing my brains out. My sedge hat lay in tatters. I was knocked over and ended heels up on the ground, totally unconscious. I lay there like a dead man.
Neighbors, alarmed by the commotion, emerged from their houses with looks of concern on their faces. "Oh, now look what the crazy old crone has done," they cried, and quickly vanished behind locked doors. This was followed by a hushed silence; not a stir or sign of life anywhere. A few people who happened to be passing by approached me in wonderment. They grabbed hold of me and hoisted me upright.
"What's wrong?" "What happened?" they exclaimed.
As I came to and my eyes opened, I found that the unsolvable and impenetrable koans I had been working on — all those venomous cat's-paws — were now penetrated completely. Right to their roots. They had suddenly ceased to exist. I began clapping my hands and whooping with glee, frightening the people who had gathered around to help me.
"He's lost his mind!" "A crazy monk!" they shouted, shrinking back from me apprehensively. Then they turned heel and fled, without looking back.
I picked myself up from the ground, straightened my robe, and fixed the remnants of my hat back on my head. With a blissful smile on my face, I started, slowly and exultantly, making my way back toward Narasawa and the Shōju-an.
I spotted an old man beckoning to me. "Honorable priest," he said, addressing me, "that old lady really put your lights out, didn't she?"
I smiled faintly but uttered not a word in response. He gave me a bowl of rice to eat and sent me on my way.
I reached the gate of Shōju's hermitage with a broad grin on my face. The master was standing on the veranda. He took one look at me and said, "Something good has happened to you. Try to tell me about it."
I walked up to where he was standing and proceeded to explain at some length about the realization I had experienced. He took his fan and stroked my back with it.
"I sincerely hope you live to be my age," he said. "You must firmly resolve you will never be satisfied with trifling gains. Now you must devote your efforts to post-satori training. People who remain satisfied with a small attainment never advance beyond the stage of the Shravakas. Anyone who remains ignorant of the practice that comes after satori will invariably end up as one of those unfortunate Arhats of the Lesser Vehicle. Their rewards are paltry indeed. Why, I'd rather you be reborn into the mangy, suppurating body of an old fox than for you ever to become a priest of the Two Vehicles."3
By post-satori training, he means going forward after your first satori and devoting yourself to continued practice — and when that practice bears fruit, to continue on still further. As you keep proceeding forward, you will arrive at some final, difficult barriers.
What is required is simply "continuous and unremitting devotion to hidden practice, scrupulous application — that is the essence within the essence." The bands of Unborn Zennists you run into nowadays, sitting like withered tree stumps "silently illuminating" themselves, are an even worse lot than those hateful, suppurating old foxes.4
"What is 'hidden practice and scrupulous application'?" someone asked.
It certainly doesn't mean sneaking off to some mountain and sitting like a block of wood on a rock or under a tree "silently illuminating" yourself. It means immersing yourself totally in your practice at all times and in all your daily activities — walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. Hence, it is said that practice concentrated in activity is a hundred, a thousand, even a million times superior to practice done in a state of inactivity.
Upon attain satori, if you continue to devote yourself to your practice single-mindedly, extracting the poison fangs and talons of the Dharma cave, tearing the vicious, life-robbing talismans into shreds, combing through texts of all kinds, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, accumulating a great store of Dharma wealth, whipping forward the wheel of the Four Universal Vows, pledging yourself to benefit and save all sentient beings while striving every minute of your life to practice the great Dharma giving, and having nothing — nothing — to do with fame or profit in any shape or form — you will then be a true and legitimate descendant of the Buddha patriarchs. It's a greater reward than gaining rebirth as a human or a god.
....Of particular importance are the three kinds of succession. That is a distinction you should be aware of.
"Would you tell me about them?" he asked.
One of the ancients said that a superior man succeeds his enemy, a man of average ability succeeds his benefactor, and an inferior man succeeds a figure of authority.
The "enemy" is he whose rigorous scoldings and stinging fists rob you of your heart, liver, and all your other vital organs. What is he if not your enemy?
The benefactor and the figure of authority need no special comment. Even here among the students under my own mallet, a great many of the average and inferior types are to be found. I'm to blame for it. It's my shortcoming, my transgression, not theirs. If I had the strength to push them, don't think they would sweetly submit to being average or inferior. There are some who will succeed their benefactors because the teachers who raise and educated them will tell them to do so, and they will be unable to refuse.
Take my own case. One day, when I was in Iiyama with old Shōju, he summoned me. "I know this mountain hermitage is a very poor place," he said. "But in the future, I want you to come and live out the rest of your days here."
"You are fortunate in already having a senior monk like Kaku," I replied.
His answer to this was: "I can't depend on him."
At the time, the significance of this remark was lost on me. It seemed a strange thing for him to say. Not too many years after that, when Kaku suddenly passed away, I realized for the first time the tremendous penetration of old Shōju's eye. It's a shame I did not succeed my enemy and become a superior man!
Dog and the Buddha-Nature: Q: "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?" A:"Mu." This famous koan simply means Buddha-nature is not something that any thing can own or have. It is one's true nature, always ever-present, and is just a matter of being understood. It's not asking whether a dog can be conscious of no-self, since the dog is immaterial; rather, it is asking, what is the dog that is being perceived?
Su-shan's / Sozan's Memorial Tower is from Katto-shu, in English: Mingling Vines of Ivy and Wisteria (see Hasegawa, Seikan, The Cave of Poison Grass - Essays on the Hannya Sutra. Arlington, Virginia: Great Ocean Publishers. 1975. p136).
The Water Buffalo Comes through the Window: "A water buffalo is going out through a window. Her head, horns and hoofs are through but her tail cannot pass. Why is this?" — from Mumonkan
Nan-ch'üan's Flowering Shrub: While Rikko, a high government official of the T'ang dynasty, had a talk with his Zen master Nansen, the official quoted a saying of Sojo, a noted monk-scholar of an earlier dynasty: "Heaven and earth and I are of the same root / The ten-thousand things and I are of the one substance," and continued, "Is not this a most remarkable statement?" Nansen called the attention of the visitor to the flowering plant in the garden and said, "People of the world look at these flowers as if they were in a dream."
The Hemp Robe of Ching-chou:
Yün-men's Dried Stick of Shit: "A monk once asked Ummon, 'What is the Buddha?' Ummon answered thus: 'A dried shit-stick!'
Shravakas: disciples. Two Vehicles: the Hineyanist attitude, that seeks enlightenment for himself, and is unable to realise it perfectly; the Hineyanist never aspired to perfect wisdom in the first place. Satori: enlightened experience, in which a virtually perfect intellectual knowledge of Emptiness is combined with great faith.
Suppurating old fox: false teacher, 'reborn' as a fox for lying. The Mumonkan koan 2, "Hyakujo's / Baizhang's / Dahui's Fox" is as follows:
Every time Baizhang, Zen Master Dahui, gave a dharma talk, a certain old man would come to listen. He usually left after the talk, but one day he remained. Baizhang asked, "Who is there?"
The man said, "I am not actually a human being. I lived and taught on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, 'Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?' I said to him, 'No, such a person doesn't.' Because I said this I was reborn as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. Reverend master, please say a turning word for me and free me from this wild fox body." Then he asked Baizhang, "Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?"
Baizhang said, "Don't ignore cause and effect."
Immediately the man had great realization. Bowing, he said, "I am now liberated from the body of a wild fox. I will stay in the mountain behind the monastery. Master, could you perform the usual services for a deceased monk for me?"
Baizhang asked the head of the monks' hall to inform the assembly that funeral services for a monk would be held after the midday meal. The monks asked one another, "What's going on? Everyone is well; there is no one sick in the Nirvana Hall." After their meal, Baizhang led the assembly to a large rock behind the monastery and showed them a dead fox at the rock's base. Following the customary procedure, they cremated the body.
That evening during his lecture in the dharma hall Baizhang talked about what had happened that day. Huangbo asked him, "A teacher of old gave a wrong answer and became a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. What if he hadn't given a wrong answer?"
Baizhang said, "Come closer and I will tell you." Huangbo went closer and slapped Baizhang's face. Laughing, Baizhang clapped his hands and said, "I thought it was only barbarians who had unusual beards. But you too have an unusual beard!"
The Mind of Enlightenment
What is to be valued above all else is the practice that comes after satori is achieved. What is that practice? It is the pracitce that puts the Mind of Enlightenment first and foremost.
Many years ago, the great deity of the Kasuga Shrine appeared to Gedatsu Shōnin of Kasagi. "Since the time of the Buddha Kuruson," he told him, "every wise and eminent priest who has lacked the Mind of Enlightenment has without exception fallen into the paths of evil."
For years, these words weighed on my mind, greatly troubling me. I couldn't understand it. Wasn't a shaven head and monk's robe the Mind of Enlightenment? Wasn't reciting sutras, mantras, and dharanis the Mind of Enlightenment? Not to mention all those wise and eminent priests throughout the past: the idea that such men could have lacked the Mind of Enlightenment seemed incomprehensible to me. Yet here was a sacred utterance from the august lips of the great deity of Kasuga. It certainly could not be dismissed lightly.
I first began to have these doubts when I was twenty-five. They remained with me until my forty-first year, when I at long last penetrated into the heart of this great matter. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw it — it was as clear as if it were right there in the hollow of my hand. What is the Mind of Enlightenment? It is, I realized, a matter of doing good — benefiting others by giving them the gift of the Dharma teaching.
I pledged that I would from that moment forth drive forward the wheel of the Four Great Universal Vows. Now I am more than eighty years of age, but I have never been remiss in my effort to fulfill that pledge. I go wherever I am asked. Fifty, a hundred leagues — it doesn't faze me in the least. I do everything I possibly can to impart the Dharma to people. How strange it is that nowhere in the Buddhist teachings or in the records of the Zen patriarchs have I seen any clarification of the Mind of Enlightenment. How fortunate it was for me that the great deity of Kasuga, in an oracle of a few short sentences, succeeded so wonderfully in transcending all the sutras and commentaries. My joy could not have been greater.