Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Outside the scriptures and not through words
Bassui Tokushō (1327-1387)
A layman said: "Though Zen is said to be transmitted outside the scriptures and not through words, there are many more incidents of monks questioning teachers and inquiring of the Way than in the teaching sects.''~ How can Zen be said to be outside the scriptures? And can reading the records of the old masters and seeing how they dealt with k6ans ever be considered outside the realm of words? What is the true meaning of the statement, 'Outside the scriptures, and not through words'?"
The master [Bassui] called to him at once: "Layman!"
He responded immediately: "Yes?"
The master said: "From which teachings did that yes come?" The layman lowered his head and bowed.
The master then said: "When you decide to come here, you do so by yourself. When you want to ask a question, you do it by yourself. You do not depend on another nor do you use the teachings of the Buddha. This mind which directs the self is the essence of the transmission outside the scriptures and not through words. It is the pure Zen of the Tathagata. Clever worldly statements, the written word, reason and duty, discrimination and understanding, cannot reach this Zen. One who looks penetratingly into his true self and does not get ensnared in words, nor stained by the teachings of the buddhas and ancestors, one who goes beyond the singular road which advances toward enlightenment
and who does not let cleverness become his downfall, will, for the first time, attain the Way.
"This does not necessarily mean that one who studies the scriptures and revels in the words of the buddhas and ancestors is a monk of the teaching sects, and one who lacks knowledge of the scriptures is a monk of Zen--which is independent of the teaching and makes no use of words. This doctrine of nondependence on the scriptures is not a way that was first set up by the buddhas and ancestors. From the beginning everyone is complete and perfect. Buddhas and ordinary people alike are originally the Tathagata. The movement of a newborn baby's legs and arms is also the splendid work of its original nature. The bird flying, the hare running, the sun rising, the moon sinking, the wind blowing, the clouds moving, all things that shift and change are due to the spinning of the right Dharma wheel of their own original nature, depending neither on the teachings of others nor on the power of words, it is from the spinning of my right Dharma wheel that I am now talking like this, and you are all listening likewise through the splendor of your Buddha-nature.The substance of this Buddha-nature is like a great burning fire. When you realize this, gain and loss, right and wrong, will be destroyed as will your own life functions. Life, death, and nirvana will be yesterday's dream. The countless worlds will be like foam on the sea. The teachings of the buddhas and ancestors will be like a drop of snow over a burning red furnace. Then you will not be restrained by Dharma, nor will you rid yourself of Dharma. You will be like a log thrown into a fire, your whole body ablaze, without being aware of the heat.
"When you have penetrated the truth in this manner and do not stop where practice and enlightenment show their traces, you will be called a Zen practitioner. One who comes into close contact with a Zen master is likened to one entering a burning cave--he dies and is reborn. The cave of ignorance is burned out, giving rise to the great function that goes beyond ordinary standards. It is as though a burning forge were applied to a dull piece of steel converting it instantly into a sacred sword. This is the most important point for a Zen practitioner who meets a master and inquires about the Dharma."