False Teachers and False Zen


False Teachers and False Zen

Zen Master Joso Shogaku of Torin, a Dharma heir of master Oryo, used to tell his students:

"Senior priests Maido and Shinjo, fellow students of mine under master Oryo, were only able to penetrate our late teacher's Zen. They were unable to attain his Way."

Master Daie said: Shogaku said that because for him, attaining the "Way" meant remaining as he was and doing nothing all the time -- keeping thoughts, views, and the like from arising in his mind, instead of seeking beyond that for wondrous enlightenment. He constructed a teaching out of the Dharma gate of kensho, the true sudden enlightenment of Buddha-patriarchs such as Tokusan, Rinzai, Tosan, Sozan, and Ummon. He took what the Ryogon Sutra says about mountains and rivers and the great earth all being manifestations that appear within the inconceivable clarity of the true mind, and rendered it into words devoid of substance -- constructions erected in the head. In fabricating his Zen from profound utterances and wondrous teachings of Zen masters of the past he blackened the good name of these Dharma ancestors -- and he robbed later generations of students of their eyes and ears. Beneath his skin not a drop of blood flowed. ln his eyes there was not a shred of strength. He and men like him infallibly get things turned upside down. Then they forge on, blissfully unaware, into ever-increasing ignorance. How pitiful they are!

ln the Sutra on Perfect Enlightenment we read that "In the latter day of the Dharma, sentient beings who aspire to attain the Buddha Way should not be made to seek enlightenment, for if they do they will just end up amassing large stores of knowledge and deepening their self-made delusions."

ln the same sutra: "In the latter day, even sentient beings who seek out a good teacher encounter those who hold false views and they are thus never able to attain right enlightenment. This is a known pedigree for heresy. It is the fault of the false teachers. It is not the fault of the sentient beings who come to them for help."

Could these statements from a sutra be merely empty words?

It was this same problem that prompted priest Shinjo to declare in an informal talk to his monks:

"These days priests everywhere latch on to phrases such as 'everyday mind is the Way,' and set them up as some sort of Ultimate principle. You hear that 'Heaven is heaven.' 'Earth is earth.' 'Mountains are mountains.' 'Streams are streams.' 'Monks are monks.' 'Laymen are laymen.'

They tell you that long months last thirty days and short ones last twenty-nine. The fact of the matter is, the whole bunch of them are unable to stand on their own legs. They sit about like disembodied spirits. Clinging onto trees. Leaning onto plants and grasses. Blinded by ignorance, unawakened, they plod their blinkered one-track ways.

"Confront one of them and suddenly ask, 'Why does this hand of mine resemble a Buddha's hand?' and he says, 'But that's your hand.'

"Ask him, 'How does my foot resemble a donkey's?' 'That's your foot,' he retorts.

"'Everyone has causes which determine his birth. What are yours, senior priest?' 'I am so and so,' he responds. 'l'm from such and such province.'

"Now what kind of answers are those? They proceed from a mistaken understanding that should never be allowed. These priests distribute the same teaching to everyone. All you have to do is make yourself one-track like them and remain that way through thick and thin. This, they assure you, is attainment of the final state of complete tranquillity. Everything is settled. Everything is understood. Nothing doubting. Nothing seeking. There is no questioning at all. They will not venture a single step beyond this, terrified they might fall and tumble down into a hole. They tread the long pilgrimage of human life as if they were blind from birth, grasping their staff with a clutch of death, refusing to venture forward an inch unless they have it along to prop them up."

Priest Maido told his students: "Go to Mount Lu [where Shogaku's temple was located] and plant yourselves firmly within the realm of non-doing."

But Torin's descendants have now all disappeared. His line is deader than last night's ashes. For that we must feel intense regret.

Zen master Nando Genjo says that, "you must see your own nature (kensho) as clearly as you see the palm of your hand. After kensho, each one of you must diligently continue to cultivate your own native ground."

I want to fully impress all you patricians who probe the secret depths - great men all - with the need to put your innate powers to work for you as vigorously and relentlessly as you can. The moment your kensho is unmistakably clear, throw it aside. Dedicate yourself to boring through the difficult-to-pass koans. Once you are beyond those barriers, you are certain to understand exactly what the Buddha meant when he said in the Nirvana Sutra that a Buddha can see the Buddha-nature with his own eyes as distinctly as he sees a fruit lying in the palm of his hand. Upon penetrating to see the ultimate meaning of the patriarchal teachers, you will be armed for the first time with the fangs and claws of the Dharma Cave. You will sport the divine, life-usurping talisman. You will pass into the realm of the Buddhas, stroll leisurely through the realms where evil demons dwell, pulling out nails and wrenching free chocks and dispersing great clouds of compassion as you go, practicing the great Dharma giving, and immensely benefitting the monks who come to you from the four quarters. But you will be the same worthless old duffer of a monk you were before, doing nothing at all with your time. Your eyes will stare out from your face from the same position as before. Your nose will be where it always was. At this point you will be the genuine article, an authentic descendant of the Buddhas and patriarchs, to whom you will have repaid in full that incalculable debt of gratitude you owe them.

You will be at liberty to spend your days free from the clutch of circumstances. Drinking tea when given it, eating rice when it comes. Doing and non-doing will be firmly in your grasp. Not even the Buddha-patriarchs will be able to touch you. You will now be ready to use millions in gold.

* An unenlightened priest would do harm with such wealth.

If, on the other hand, you follow the trend of the times, when you gain entry into the eighth consciousness's dark cave of unknowing you will begin crowing about what you have achieved. You will go around telling one and all how enlightened you are. You will proceed to accept, under false pretenses, the veneration and charity of others, and become one of those arrogant creatures who declares he has attained realization when he has not.

If that is the course you follow, a horrifying future lies before you. Every grain of rice that you have received as a donation will turn into a red-hot particle of iron or a burning grain of sand. Every drop of water you have received will become a speck of molten bronze or boiling excrement. Each thread of the cloth you have accepted will become part of a flaming wire net or white-hot chain.

Ahh! Hoping to free yourseIves from the press of birth and death you men have your heads shaved. You put on a black robe. But then you make the mistake of falling under the spell of a false teacher. You live out the rest of your life like this as an irresponsible, no-account man of the Way. If you die with your eyes in this unopened state, you are destined for harrowing retribution. You will head straight back to your old home in the three evil paths -- as though you had not suffered enough already! You, who have worn the surplice of a Buddhist priest, will sink to the bottom of a loathsome hellish mire and experience unending agonies. No more horrible fate is conceivable than to fall victim to the delusions these false teachers serve up to you.

Once, at the time of Shakyamuni, a group of seven women was walking through a graveyard. Coming upon a fresh corpse, one of them pointed to it and said: "Here is a man's body. Where has he gone?"

Another answered: "What . . . "

Hearing this, the women all realized the truth that she spoke and were instantly enlightened.

Taishaku, Lord of the Devas, was moved by this to shower a rain of flowers down upon them.

"Tell me," he said to them, "if there is anything that any of you holy ladies desires. I will see to it that you have it as long as you live."

Take a good hard look at this story. If people today are right in paying no attention to it, the realization these ladies attained long ago must have been mistaken. But why would the Lord of the Devas have spoken to them as he did if they had not attained realization?

In response to Taishaku's offer, one of the women said: "All of us have the four basic necessities of life. We have the seven rare treasures as well. There are, however, three things we would like. A tree without roots. A piece of land where there is neither light nor shade. Some corner of a mountain valley where a shout does not echo."

"Anything else, ladies," replied Taishaku, "and I will gladly provide it to you. But the things you ask for ... to tell the truth, I just don't have them to give you."

"If you don't have them," said the women, "how can you possibly expect to help others liberate themselves?"

Taishaku found himself at a loss for words. He decided to confer with the Buddha.

Do you see what that wise young girl says! "If you can't give us such things, how do you expect to save others?" Compare that with the fellows today who quake with fear when they encounter a few touches of poison. How infinitely superior she is -- the difference between a crown and an old shoe is not nearly so great.

You men set out on your religious quest with fire in your blood. You go through great difficulties, suffer untold hardship, as you bore into the secret depths. Isn't it all because you intend at some later date to do great work by bringing the benefits of salvation to your fellow beings? What about you? Don't you think you'd be lacking if you couldn't come up with these three things?

When the Buddha learned why Taishaku had come, he said, "As far as that's concerned, Taishaku, none of the Arhats in my assembly has the slightest clue either. It takes a great Bodhisattva to grasp it."

Why did the Buddha utter these words, instead of quaking and quivering with fear? Or do you think he was unaware of the deadly poison contained in the girl's utterance?

Try to fathom the Buddha's intent here. Don't you suppose he was hoping to make Taishaku realize the true meaning of the young girl's words? To enable him to leap directly beyond the gradual steps of the four attainments and three ranks and arrive at the stage of the great Bodhisattvas?