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Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in the Otani University, Kyoto 

With a Foreword by 

C. G. JUNG, M.D., LL. D., D.Litt., D.Sc. 

Mew York 



ot Southern Califc 

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Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, D.Litt., Professor of Buddhist 
Philosophy in the Otani University, Kyoto, was born in 1869. 
He is probably now the greatest living authority on Buddhist 
philosophy, and is certainly the greatest authority on Zen 
Buddhism. His major works in English on the subject of 
Buddhism number a dozen or more, and of his works in Japanese 
as yet unknown to the West there are at least eighteen. He is, 
moreover, as a chronological bibliography of books on Zen in 
English clearly shows, the pioneer teacher of the subject outside 
Japan, for except for Kaiten Nukariya’s Religion of the Samurai 
(Luzac and Co., 1913) nothing was known of Zen as a living 
experience, save to the readers of The Eastern Buddhist (1921- 
j 939), until the publication of Essays in £en Buddhism (Volume I) 
in 1927. 

Dr. Suzuki writes with authority. Not only has he studied 
original works in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese, but he 
has an up-to-date knowledge of Western thought in German and 
French as well as in the English, which he speaks and writes so 
fluently. He is, moreover, more than a scholar: he is a Buddhist. 
Though not a priest of any Buddhist sect, he is honoured in 
every temple in Japan, for his knowledge of spiritual things, as 
all who have sat at his feet bear witness, is direct and profound. 
When he speaks of the higher stages of consciousness he speaks as 
a man who dwells therein, and the impression he makes on 
those who enter the fringes of his mind is that of a man who 
seeks for the intellectual symbols wherewith to describe a state 
of awareness which lies indeed ‘beyond the intellect 5 . 

To those unable to sit at the feet of the Master his writings 
must be a substitute. All these, however, were out of print in 
England by 1940, and all remaining stocks in Japan were 
destroyed in the fire which consumed three quarters of Tokyo 
in 1945. When, therefore, I reached Japan in 1946, I arranged 
with the author for the Buddhist Society, London—my wife and 
myself as its nominees—to begin the publication of his Collected 



Works, reprinting the old favourites, and printing as fast as 
possible translations of the many new works which the Professor, 
self-immured in his house at Kyoto, had written during the war. 

This undertaking, however, was beyond the powers of the 
Buddhist Society, and we therefore secured the assistance of 
Rider and Co., who, backed by the vast resources of the House 
of Hutchinson, can honour the needs of such a considerable task. 

Of Zen itself I need say nothing here, but the increasing sale 
of books on the subject, such as The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts 
(Murray) and the series of original translations of Chinese Zen 
Scriptures and other works published by the Buddhist Society, 
prove that the interest of the West is rising rapidly. Zen, 
however, is a subject extremely easy to misunderstand, and it is 
therefore important that the words of a qualified Master should 
come readily to hand. 

It is proposed to publish the works of Dr. Suzuki in groups of 
three, each group to contain, if possible, one of his larger works, 
a smaller work, and a work as yet unpublished in English. The 
first three chosen are the first volume of his Essays in Z en 
Buddhism , his valuable Introduction to Z en Buddhism , with a trans¬ 
lation by Miss Constance Rolfe of Dr. C. G. Jung’s long 
Foreword to the German edition, and a new work which the 
author handed to me in Japan as a fourth volume of his Essays in 
Zen Buddhism . I pointed out, however, that this was in fact a 
Commentary on the Sutra of Hui-neng (Wei-lang), the 6th 
Patriarch, and would be better published as such. To this he 
agreed, and it therefore appears under the title of Ihe Z en 
Doctrine of No-Mind , The Significance of the Sutra of Hui-neng (Wei 
Lang). The Sutra itself is published for the Buddhist Society by 
Luzac and Co. as The Sutra of Wei Lang. 

The second group will probably include the second volume 
of Essays in Z en Buddhism , another of the smaller works, such as 
The Manual of Z en Buddhism , and a completely new work which 
it is proposed to call Living by Zen. The choice for later groups will 
be influenced by popular demand. 

Christmas Humphreys 
i 948 President of the Buddhist Society , London 



Editor’s Foreword Page 5 

Author’s Preface 8 

Foreword by G. G. Jung, M.D., LL.D., 
D.Litt., D.Sc. 9 

I Preliminary 31 

II What is Zen? 38 

hi Is Zen Nihilistic? 48 

iv Illogical Zen 58 

v Zen a Higher Affirmation 66 

vi Practical Zen 74 

vii Satori, or Acquiring a New Viewpoint 88 

viii The Koan 99 

ix The Meditation Hall and the Monk’s 

Life 118 

Index 133 



A he articles collected here were originally written for the 
New East , which was published in Japan during the Great 
War under the editorship of Mr. Robertson Scott. The editor 
suggested publishing them in book-form, but I did not feel 
like doing so at that time. Later, they were made the basis 
of the First Series of my Z en Essays (1927), which, therefore, 
naturally cover more or less the same ground. 

Recently, the idea came to me that the old papers might be 
after all reprinted in book form. The reason is that my Z en 
Essays is too heavy for those who wish to have just a little pre¬ 
liminary knowledge of Zen. Will not, therefore, what may be 
regarded as an introductory work be welcomed by some of my 
foreign friends? 

With this in view I have gone over the entire MS., and 
whatever inaccuracies I have come across in regard to diction 
as well as the material used have been corrected. While there 
are quite a few points I would like to see now expressed some¬ 
what differently, I have left them as they stand, because their 
revision inevitably involves the recasting of the entire context. 
So long as they are not misrepresenting, they may remain as 
they were written. 

If the book really serves as a sort of introduction to Zen 
Buddhism, and leads the reader up to the study of my other 
works, the object is attained. No claim is made here for a 
scholarly treatment of-the subject-matter. 

The companion book, Manual of Zfin Buddhism , is 
recommended to be used with this Introduction. 

D. T. S. 

Kamakura, August 1934 



by Dr. C. G. Jung 

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s works on Zen Buddhism are 
among the best contributions to the knowledge of living Budd¬ 
hism that recent decades have produced, and Zen itself is the 
most important fruit that has sprung from that tree whose 
roots are the collections of the Pali-Canon. 1 We cannot be 
sufficiendy grateful to the author, first for the fact of his having 
brought Zen closer to Western understanding, and secondly 
for the manner in which he has achieved this task. Oriental 
religious conceptions are usually so very different from our V' 
Western ones that even the very translation of the words brings 
one up against the greatest difficulties, quite apart from the 
meaning of the ideas exposed, which under certain circumstances 
are better left untranslated. I have only to mention die Chinese 
“Tao”, which no European translation has yet achieved. The 
original Buddhist writings themselves contain views and ideas 
which are more or less unassimilable by the average Western 
understanding. I do not know, for example, just what spiritual 
(or perhaps climatic?) background or preparation is necessary 
before one can deduce any completely clear idea from the 
Buddhist Kamma. In spite of all that we know about the 
essence of Zen, here too there is the question of a central percep¬ 
tion of unsurpassed singularity. This strange perception is called 
Satori, and may be translated as “Enlightenment”. Suzuki 
says (see page 95), “Satori is the raison d’etre of Zen, and without 
it there is no Zen”. It should not be too difficult for the Western 
mind to grasp what a mystic understands by “enlightenment”, 

:>r what is known as “enlightenment” in religious parlance. 
fytori, h owever, depicts an art and a way of enlightenment 
which is practically impossible for the European to appreciate. 

1 The origin, as Oriental authors themselves admit, is the “Flower Sermon” 

>f Buddha. On this occasion he held up a flower to a gathering of students, 
vithout uttering a word. Only Kasyapa understood him. (Shuej Ohasama: 

Zen. Der lebendige Buddhismus in Japan , 1925, p. 3.) 



I would point out the enlightenment of Hyakujo (Pai-chang 
Huai-hai, a.d. 724-814) on page 89, and the legend on pages 
92-3 of this book. 

The following may serve as a further example: A monk 
once went to Gensha, and wanted to learn where the entrance 
to the path of truth was. Gensha asked him, “Do you hear the 
murmuring of the brook?” “Yes, I hear it, 55 answered the 
monk. “There is the entrance,” the master instructed him. 

I will be content with these few examples, which illustrate 
clearly the opacity of the satori experiences. Even if we take 
example after example, it is still extremely hazy how such an 
enlightenment comes and of what it consists; in other words, by 
' what or about what one is enlightened. Kaiten Nukariya, who 
was himself a Professor at the So-To-Shu Buddhist College in 
Tokyo, 1 says, speaking of enlightenment: 

“When we have freed ourselves from the misconception 
of self we must then awake our inmost pure and godly 
wisdom. This is what the masters of Zen call the Mind of 
Buddha, or Bodhi (the knowledge whereby man experiences 
enlightenment) or Prajna (the highest wisdom). It is the 
godly light, the inner heaven, the key to all the treasures 
of the mind, the focal point of thought and consciousness, the 
source of power and might, the seat of goodness, of justice, 
of sympathy, of the measure of all things. When this inmost 
knowledge is fully awakened, we are able to understand that 
each one of us is identical in spirit, in being and in nature 
with universal life, or Buddha, that each one of us lives face 
to face with Buddha, that each one of us receives the over¬ 
flowing mercy of the Holy One (Buddha), that Pie rouses 
our moral force, opens our spiritual eyes, unfolds our new 
powers, communicates with us, and that life is not a sea of 
birth, sickness, old age and death, nor yet a vale of tears, 
but rather the holy temple of Buddha, the ‘Pure Land’ 
(, Sukhavati , the land of blessedness), where we can enjoy the 
bliss of Nirvana. Then is our spirit fully transformed. We 
are no longer racked with anger and hatred, no longer hurt 

1 See his book: The Religion of the Samurai , 1913, p. 133 


by envy and ambition, no longer sickened with cares and 
troubles, and no longer overcome by sorrows and doubts,” 

That is how an Oriental, himself a disciple of Zen, describes 
he essence of enlightenment. It must be admitted that this 
)assage would need only the most minute alterations in order 
lot to be out of place in any Christian mystical book of devo- 
ion. Yet somehow it fails to help us as regards understanding 
he satori experience described by this all-embracing casuistry. 
Presumably Nukariya is speaking to Western rationalism, of 
vhich he himself has acquired a good dose, and that is why 
t all sounds so flatly edifying. The abstruse obscurity of the 
Sen anecdotes is preferable to this adaptation: ad usum Delphini; 
t conveys a great deal more, while saying less. 

Zen is anything but a philosophy in the Western sense of the word . 1 
Hiis is the opinion expressed by Rudolf Otto in his introduction 
o Ohasama’s book on Z en > when he says that Nukariya has 
itted the magic oriental world of ideas into our Western philo- 
ophic categories, and confused it with these. If psycho-physical 
>arallelism, the most wooden of all doctrines, is invoked in 
>rder to explain this mystical intuition of Not-twoness 
Nichtzweiheit ) and Oneness and the coincidentia oppositorium , one 
s completely ejected from the sphere of koan and kwatsu and 
atori . 2 It is far better to allow oneself to become deeply imbued 
)eforehand with the exotic obscurity of the Zen anecdotes, and 
o bear in mind the whole time that satori is a mysterium meffabile i 
is indeed the Zen masters wish it to be. Between the anecdotes 
rnd the mystical enlightenment there is, for our understanding, 
i gulf, the possibility of bridging which can at best be indicated 
)ut never in practice achieved. 3 One has the feeling of touching 
ipon a true secret, not something that has been imagined or 
>retended; this is not a case of mystifying secrecy, but rather of 

1 “Zen is neither psychology nor philosophy.” 

2 Otto in Ohasama: Z en * P* viii. 

3 If in spite of this I attempt “explanations” in what follows, I am still 
jlly aware that in the sense of satori what I say can only be useless. I could not 
esist, however, the attempt to manoeuvre our Western understanding at least 
nto the proximity of an understanding—a task so difficult that in so doing 
me must take upon oneself certain crimes against the spirit of Zen. 


an experience that baffles all languages. Satori comes as some¬ 
thing unexpected, not to be expected. 

When within the realm of Christianity visions of the Holy 
Trinity, the Madonna, the Crucifixion or the Patron Saint are 
vouchsafed, one has the impression that this is more or less as 
it should be. That Jacob Boehme should obtain a glimpse into 
the centrum naturae by means of the sunbeam reflected in the tin 
plate is also understandable. It is harder to accept Master 
Eckehart’s vision of “the little naked boy 55 , 1 or even Sweden¬ 
borg’s “man in the red coat” who wanted to wean him from 
overeating, and whom, in spite of this or perhaps because oi 
it, he recognized as the Lord God. 2 Such things are difficull 
to accept, bordering as they do on the grotesque. Many of the 
satori experiences, however, do not merely border on the gro¬ 
tesque; they are right there in the midst of it, sounding like 
complete nonsense. 

For anyone, however, who has devoted considerable time tc 
studying with loving and understanding care the flowerlike 
nature of the spirit of the Far East, many of these amazing 
things, which drive the all too simple European from one 
perplexity to another, fall away. Zen is indeed one of the mos 
wonderful blossoms of the Chinese spirit, 3 which was readib 
impregnated by the immense thought-world of Buddhism. He 
therefore, who has really tried to understand Buddhist doctrine 
if only to a certain degree—i.e. by renouncing various Westeri 
prejudices—will come upon certain depths beneath the bizarr< 
cloak of the individual satori experiences, or will sense disquietin| 
difficulties which the philosophic and religious West has up t< 
now thought fit to disregard. As a philosopher, one is exclusive! 
concerned with that understanding which, for its own part, ha 
nothing to do with life. And as a Christian, one has nothing to d< 
with paganism (“I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as othe 
men”). There is no satori within these Western bounds—that i 
an Oriental affair. But is it really so? Have we in fact no satori 

1 See Texte aus der deutschen Mystik des 14 und 13, Jahrhunderts y published b 
Adolf Spamer, 1912, p. 143. 

2 William White: Emanuel Swedenborg , 1867, Vol I, p. 243. 

8 “Zen is undoubtedly one of the most precious and in many respects or 
of the most remarkable spiritual graces with which Oriental man has bee 
blessed.” (Suzuki: Essays , I, p, 249.) 



When one examines the Zen text attentively, one cannot 
escape the impression that, with all that is bizarre in it, satori 
is, in fact, a matter of natural occurrence , of something so very 
simple 1 that one fails to see the wood for the trees, and in attempt¬ 
ing to explain it, invariably says the very thing that drives 
others into the greatest confusion. Nukariya 2 therefore is right 
when he says that any attempt to explain or analyse the contents 
of Zen with regard to enlightenment would be in vain. Never¬ 
theless, this author does venture to say of^enhghtenment that it 
embraces an insight into the nature of self and that it is an eman¬ 
cipation of the conscious from an illusionary conception of 
self. 3 The illusion regarding the nature of self is the common 
confusion of the ego with self. Nukariya understands by “self 55 
the All-Buddha, i.e. simply a total consciousness ( Bewusstsein - 
stotalitat) of life. He quotes Pan Shan, who says, “The world 
of the mind encloses the whole universe in its light 55 , adding, 
“It is a cosmic life and a cosmic spirit, and at the same time an 
individual life and an individual spirit 55 . 4 

However one may define self, it is always something other 
than the ego, and inasmuch as a higher understanding of the 
ego leads on to self the latter is a thing of wider scope, embracing 
the knowledge of the ego and therefore surpassing it. In the 
same way as the ego is a certain knowledge of my self so is the 
self a knowledge of my ego, which, however, is no longer ex¬ 
perienced in the form of a broader or higher ego, but in the 
form of a non-ego (, Nicht-Ich ). 

Such thoughts are also familiar to the author of Deutsche 
Theologie 5 : “Any creature who is to become conscious of this 
perfection must first lose all creaturelikeness (Geschopfesart ), 
something-ness ( Etwasheit ) and self. 55 If I take any good to my- 

1 A Master says: “Before a man studies Zen, mountains are mountains to 
him, and waters are waters. But when he obtains a glimpse into the truth of 
Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains are no longer moun¬ 
tains, nor waters waters; later, however, when he has really reached the place 
of Rest (i.e. has attained satori), mountains are again mountains and waters 
waters.” (Suzuki: Essays, I, p. 12.) 

2 Religion of the Samurai, p. 123. 

3 “Enlightenment includes an insight into the nature of self. It is a libera¬ 
tion of the mind from deception regarding self.” 

4 l.c. p. 132. 

6 Das Buchlein vom vollkommen Leben. Published by H. Buttner, 1907. 



self, that comes from the delusion that it is mine, or that I am 
Good. That is always a sign of imperfection and folly. Were I 
conscious of the truth, I would also be aware that I am not Good, 
that Good is not mine and is not of me. 95 “Man says, ‘Poor 
° fool that I am, I was under the delusion that I was it, but I 
find it is and was truly God 5 . 55 

That already states a considerable amount regarding the 
contents of enlightenment. The occurrence of satori is interpreted 
and formulated as a break-through of. a consciousness limited 
to the ego-form in the form of the non-ego-like self. This con¬ 
ception answers to the nature of Zen, but also to the mysticism 
of Master Eckehart. 1 The Master says, in his sermon on “Blessed 
are the poor in spirit”: “When I came out from God, all things 
said, ‘There is a God !’ But that cannot make me blissful, for 
with it I conceive myself to be a creature. But in the break¬ 
through, 2 when I wish to remain empty in the will of God, and 
empty also of this will of God and of all his works, and of God 
himself—then I am more than all creatures, for I am neither 

* God nor creature: I am what I am , and what I will remain , now 
and forever! Then I receive a jerk, which raises me above all 
the angels. In this jerk I become so rich that God cannot suffice 
me, in spite of all that he is as God, in spite of all his Godly 
works; for in this break-through I perceive what God and I 
are in common. I am then what I was, 3 I grow neither less nor 
more, for I am an immovable being who moves all things. 
Here God no longer abides in man, for man through his poverty 
has won back what he has always been and will always be.” 

Here the Master is actually describing a satori experience, 
a release of the ego through self, to which “Buddha-Nature”, or 
godly universality, is added. Since, out of scientific modesty, 
I do not here presume to make any metaphysical declaration, 
but mean a change of consciousness that can be experienced, 

* I treat satori first of all as a psychological problem. For anyone 

1 Meister Eckehart's Schriften und Predigten. Published by H. Buttner, 1912. 

a There is a similar image in Zen: when a Master was asked of what 
Buddhahood consisted, he answered, “The bottom of a pitcher is broken 
through”. (Suzuki: Essays in Z en Buddhism , I, p. 217.) Another analogy is the 
“bursting open of the sack”. (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , II, p. 100.) 

* Cf. Suzuki: Essays in Z en Buddhism , pp. 220, 241. Zen signifies a glimpse 
- into the original nature of mankind, or the recognition of original man. (See 
also p. 144.) 



who docs not share or understand this point of view, the 
“explanation 55 will consist of nothing but words which have no 
tangible meaning for him. He is not then able to make of these 
abstractions a bridge to the facts related; in other words, he 
cannot understand how the perfume of the blossoming laurel 
(p. 90-1) or the tweaked nose (p. 87) should effect such a con¬ 
siderable change of consciousness. The simplest thing would 
be, of course, to relegate all these anecdotes to the realm of 
amusing fairy stories, or at least, if one accepts the facts as they 
are, to dispose of them as instances of self-deception. (One 
would also willingly use here the expression “auto-suggestion 55 , 
that pathetic white elephant from the store of spiritual inade¬ 
quacies!) A serious and responsible examination of the strange 
phenomena cannot lightly pass over these facts. We can of course 
never decide definitely whether a person is really “enlightened 55 
or “redeemed 55 , or whether he merely imagines it. We have no 
criteria for this. Moreover, we know well enough that an 
imaginary pain is often far more painful than a so-called real 
one, in that it is accompanied by a subtle moral suffering 
caused by the gloomy feeling of secret self-accusation. It is not, 
therefore, a question of “actual fact 55 but of spiritual reality ; 
that is to say, the psychic occurrence of the happening known 
as safari. 

Every spiritual happening is a picture and an imagination; 
were this not so, there could be no consciousness and no 
phenomenality of the occurrence. The imagination itself is a 
psychic occurrence, and therefore whether an “enlightenment 55 
is called “real 55 or “imaginary 55 is quite immaterial. The man 
who has enlightenment, or alleges that he has it, thinks in any 
case that he is enlightened. What others think about it can 
determine nothing whatever for him with regard to his ex¬ 
perience. Even if he were to lie, his lie would be a spiritual 
fact. Yes, even if all religious reports were nothing but conscious 
inventions and falsifications, a very interesting psychological 
treatise could still be written on the fact of such lies, with the 
same scientific treatment with which the psychopathology of 
delusions is presented. The fact that there is a religious movement 
upon which many brilliant minds have worked over a period 
of many centuries is sufficient reason for venturing at least 



upon a serious attempt to bring such happenings within the 
realm of scientific understanding. 

Earlier on I raised the question of whether we have anything 
like satori in the West. If we except the sayings of our Western 
mystics, a superficial glance discloses nothing that could be 
likened to it in even the faintest degree. According to our 
thinking, the possibility that there are steps in the development 
of consciousness does not exist. The mere thought that there is a 
tremendous psychological difference between the consciousness 
of the existence of an object and the “consciousness of the con¬ 
sciousness” of an object borders on a subtlety which can scarcely 
be answered. One could hardly bring oneself to take such a 
problem so seriously as to take account of the psychological 
conditions of the setting of any such problem. It is characteristic 
that the posing of such and similar questions does not as a rule 
arise from any intellectual need, but where it exists is nearly 
always rooted in a primitive religious practice. In India it was 
Yoga and in China Buddhism which supplied the motive power 
for these attempts to wrest oneself from the bonds of a certain 
state of consciousness which was felt to be incomplete. As far as 
Western mysticism is concerned, its texts are full of instructions 
as to how man can and must release himself from the “I-ness” 
(Ichhaftigkeit) of his consciousness, so that through the know¬ 
ledge of his being he may raise himself above it and reach the 
inward (godlike) man. Ruysbroeck makes use of an image which 
is also known to Indian philosophers, namely the tree that 
has its roots above and its top below, 1 “And he must climb up 
into the tree of belief, which grows downwards, since it has 
its roots in the godhead”. 2 Ruysbroeck also says, like Yoga, 
“Man shall be free and without images, freed from all attach¬ 
ments and empty of all creatures”. 3 “He must be untouched by 
lust and suffering, profit and loss, rising and falling, concern 

1 “There is the old tree, her roots grow upwards, her branches down¬ 
wards. ... It is called Brahman, and he alone is the undying.” ( Katha-Upanishad , 
II Adhyaya, 6 Valli, i.) 

It cannot be supposed that this Flemish mystic, who was born in 1273, 
borrowed this image from any Indian text. 

2 John of Ruysbroeck: The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage . Transl. from 
the Flemish by C. A. Wynschek Dom, 1916, p. 47. 

3 P. 5i- 



about others, enjoyment and fear, and he shall not cling to any 
creature. 5,1 It is in this that the “unity” of the being consists, 
and this means “being turned inwards”. This means “that a 
man is turned inwards, in his own heart, so that thereby he can 
feel and understand the inner working and the inner words 
of God”. 2 This new condition of consciousness, arising from 
religious practice, is distinguished by the fact that outward 
things no longer affect an ego-like consciousness, whence a 
reciprocal attachment has arisen, but that an empty conscious¬ 
ness stands open to another influence. This “other” influence 
will no longer be felt as one’s own activity, but as the work 
of a non-ego which has consciousness as its object. 3 It is as 
though the subject-character of the ego had been overrun, or 
taken over, by another subject which has taken the place of the 
ego. 4 It is a question of that well-known religious experience 
which has been formulated by St. Paul (Gal. ii, 20). Here a 
new condition of consciousness is undoubtedly described, 
separated from the former condition of consciousness by means 
of a far-reaching process of religious transformation. 

It could be objected that consciousness in itself was not changed, 
but only the consciousness of something , just as though one had 
turned over the page of a book and now saw a different picture 
with the same eyes. I am afraid this conception is no more than 
an arbitrary interpretation, as it does not conform with the 
facts. The fact is that in the text it is not merely a different 
picture or object that is described, but rather the experience 
of a transformation, often resulting from the most violent 
convulsions. The erasing of one picture and its substitution by 
another is quite an everyday occurrence which has none of 
the attributes of a transformation experience. It is not that 
something different is seen , but that one sees differently. It is as though 
the spatial act of seeing were changed by a new dimension. 
When the Master asks, “Do you hear the murmuring of the 
brook?” he obviously means something quite different from 

1 Op cit. p. 57. 

2 Op cit. p. 62. 

3 “O Lord. . . . Instruct me in the doctrine of the non-ego,” etc. (Quoted 
from Lankavatara-sutra. Suzuki: Essays in Z en Buddhism, I, p. 76.) 

4 A Zen Master says, “Buddha is none other . . . who strives to see this 
mind.” (Suzuki: Essays in Z en Buddhism , I, p. 76.) 




ordinary “hearing”. 1 Consciousness is something like percep¬ 
tion, and just as the latter is subjected to conditions and limits, 
so is consciousness. For instance, one can be conscious at various 
stages, in a narrower or wider sphere, more superficially or 
more deeply. These differences of degree are, however, often 
differences of character, in that they depend completely upon 
the development of the personality—that is to say, upon the 
nature of the perceiving subject. 

The intellect has no interest in the condition of the perceiving 
subject, in so far as the latter thinks only logically. The intellect 
is of necessity occupied with the digesting of the contents of 
the consciousness, and with the methods of digesting. It needs 
a philosophical passion to force the attempt to overcome the 
intellect and to push through to perception of the perceiving. 
Such a passion, however, is practically indistinguishable from 
religious motive power, and this whole problem belongs, there¬ 
fore, to the religious transformation process, which is incom¬ 
mensurable with intellect. Antique philosophy is undoubtedly 
to a great extent at the service of the transformation process, 
which can be said less and less of the new philosophy. 
Schopenhauer is implicitly antique. Nietzsche’s Zardthnsim is, 
however, no philosophy but a dramatic transformation pro¬ 
cess, which has completely swallowed up intellect. It is no 
longer a question of thought, but in the highest sense of the thinker 
of thought—and this on every page of the book. A new man, a 
completely transformed man, is to appear on the scene, one who 
has broken the shell of the old man and who not only looks 
upon a new heaven and a new earth, but has created them. 
Angelus Silesius has expressed it rather more modestly than 
Zarathustra : 

Mein Leib ist ein Schal , in dem ein Kiichelein 
Vom Geist der Ewigkeit will ausgebriitet sein. 

(My body is a shell, in which a chicken will be hatched 
from the spirit of eternity.) 

Satori corresponds in the province of Christianity to a religious 
transformation experience. As there are, however, various 

1 Suzuki says of this change, “The earlier form of contemplation is for¬ 
saken . . . the new beauty of the ‘refreshing mind* or the ‘glittering jewel’ ”. 
(Essays in Z™ Buddhism , I, p. 235.) See also p. 123. 



degrees and types of such an experience, it would not be super¬ 
fluous to designate more exactly that category which corresponds 
most closely to the Zen experience. This is undoubtedly the 
mystic experience, distinguishable from similar experiences in 
that its preparation consists of “letting oneself go 55 (sick lassen), 
an “emptying of images 55 and other such things; this is in contrast 
to religious experiences which, like the Exercises of St. Ignatius, 
are based upon the practice and envisaging of holy images. I 
should like to include in this latter category transformation 
through belief and prayer, and through communal experience 
in Protestantism, since in this a very definite supposition plays 
the decisive role, and by no means £ 'emptiness 55 or “release 55 . 
The statement, characteristic of the latter state, “God is a 
Nothing 55 , would be incompatible in principle with the contem¬ 
plation of passion, with belief and communal expectation. 

Thus the analogy of satori with Western experience is confined 
to those few Christian mystics whose sayings for the sake of 
paradoxy skirt the border of heterodoxy or have actually over¬ 
stepped it. It was avowedly this quality that drew down upon 
Meister Eckehart the condemnation of the Church. If Buddhism 
were a “Church 55 in our sense of the word, the Zen movement 
would certainly have been an intolerable burden to her. The 
reason for this is the extremely individual form of the methods, 1 
as also the iconoclastic attitude of many masters. 2 In so far as 
Zen is a movement, collective forms have been shaped in the 
course of the centuries, as can be seen from Suzuki’s works on 
The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk , 3 but in form and content 
they concern externals only. Apart from the type of habits, the 
way of spiritual training or forming seems to consist of koan 
methods. By koan is understood a paradoxical question, 
expression or action of the Master. According to Suzuki’s 
description it seems to be chiefly a matter of master questions 

1 “i Satori is the most intimate of all individual experiences.” (Suzuki: 
Essays in Zen Buddhism , I, p. 247.) 

2 A Master says to his student, “I have actually nothing to tell you . . . 
and will never be your own”. (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , II, p. 69.) 

A monk says to the Master, “I have sought Buddha . . . upon which you 
are riding”. (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , II, p. 59.) 

A Master says: “Understanding which does not understand, that is Buddha. 
There is no other.” (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , II, p. 57.) 

3 Suzuki: The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk. Kyoto, 1934. 



handed down in the form of anecdotes. These are submitted 
by the teacher to the student for meditation. A classic example 
is the Wu- or Mu-anecdote. A monk once asked the Master, 
“Has a dog Buddhist nature, too? 55 , whereupon the Master 
answered, “Wu 55 . As Suzuki remarks, this “Wu 55 means quite 
simply “Wu 55 , obviously just what the dog himself would have 
said in answer to the question* 

At first glance it would appear that the submission of such a 
question as food for meditation would mean an anticipation or 
prejudicing of the final result, and that the contents of the 
meditation would be determined thereby, rather like the Jesuit 
Exercises, or certain Yogi meditations, the substance of which 
is determined by a task submitted by the teacher. The koans, 
however, are of such great variety, such ambiguity, and above 
all of such overwhelming paradoxy, that even an expert is 
completely in the dark as to what may emerge as a suitable 
solution. Moreover, the descriptions of the experiences are so 
obscure that in no single case could one perceive any unobjec¬ 
tionable rational connection between the koan and the ex¬ 
perience. Since no logical succession can ever be proved, it is 
to be supposed that the koan method lays not the smallest 
restriction upon the freedom of the spiritual occurrences, and 
that the final result therefore comes from nothing but the 
individual predisposition of the initiate. The complete destruction 
of the rational intellect aimed at in the training creates an al¬ 
most perfect lack of supposition of the consciousness. Conscious 
supposition is thereby excluded as far as possible, but not 
unconscious supposition; that is, the existing but unperceived 
psychological disposition, which is anything but emptiness and 
lack of supposition. It is a nature-given factor, and when it 
answers—as is obviously the satori experience—it is an answer 
of Nature, who has succeeded in conveying her reactions direct 
to the consciousness. 1 What the unconscious nature of the 
student opposes to the teacher or to the koan as an answer is 
manifestly satori. This, at least, appears to me to be the view 
which, by all descriptions, would express the essence of satori 
more or less correctly. This view is also supported by the fact 

1 Suzuki ( Essays in Z en Buddhism , II, p. 46) says, “. . . Zen consciousness 
. . . which is a glimpse into the unconscious”. 


that the “glimpse into one’s own nature”, the “original man” 
and the depth of the being are often to the Zen Master a matter 
of supreme concern. 1 

Zen differs from all other philosophic and religious medita¬ 
tion practices in its principle of lack of supposition ( Voraussetzung ). 
Buddha himself is sternly rejected; indeed, he is almost blas¬ 
phemously ignored, although—or perhaps just because—he 
could be the strongest spiritual supposition of all. But he too 
is an image and must therefore be set aside. Nothing must be 
present except what is actually there; that is, man with his com¬ 
plete, unconscious supposition, of which, simply because it is 
unconscious, he can never, never rid himself. The answer which 
appears to come from a void, the light which flares up from the 
blackest darkness, these have always been experiences of wonder¬ 
ful and blessed illumination. 

The world of consciousness is inevitably a world full of 
restrictions, of walls blocking the way. It is of necessity always 
one-sided, resulting from the essence of consciousness. No 
consciousness can harbour more than a very small number of 
simultaneous conceptions. All else must lie in shadow, withdrawn 
from sight. To increase the simultaneous content creates imme¬ 
diately a dimming of consciousness; confusion, in fact, to the 
point of disorientation. Consciousness does not simply demand, 
but is , of its very essence, a strict limitation to the few and * 
hence the distinct. For our general orientation we are indebted 
simply and solely to the fact that through attentiveness we are 
able to effect a comparatively rapid succession of images. 
Attentiveness is, however, an effort of which we are not per¬ 
manently capable. We have therefore to make do, so to speak, 
with a minimum of simultaneous perceptions and successions 
of images. Hence wide fields of possible perceptions are per- 

1 The 4th Maxim of Zen says: “Seeing into one’s nature and the attain¬ 
ment of Buddhahood” (Suzuki : Essays in Z en Buddhism , I, p. 7). When a monk 
asked Hui-Neng for instruction he answered, “Show me your original face 
before you were born” {Ibid. 210). A Japanese Zen book says, “If you wish to 
seek the Buddha, see into your own Nature, for this Nature is the Buddha 
himself” {Ibid. p. 219). A satori experience reveals the “original man” to a 
Master {Ibid. 241). Hui-Neng said, “Think not of good, think not of evil, but 
see what at the moment thy own original features are, which thou hadst before 
coming into existence” {Ibid. 11, p. 28). 



manently eliminated, and consciousness is always bound to the 
narrowest circle. What would happen if an individual conscious¬ 
ness were to succeed in embracing at one glance a simultaneous 
picture of all that it could imagine is beyond conception. 
If man has already succeeded in building up the structure of 
the world from the few clear things that he can perceive at one 
and the same time, what godly spectacle would present itself to 
his eyes were he able to perceive a great deal all at once and 
distinctly? This question only concerns perceptions that are 
possible to us. But if we add to those the unconscious contents 
—i.e. contents which are not yet, or no longer, capable of 
consciousness—and then try to imagine a complete spectacle, 
why, this is beyond the most audacious fantasy. This unimagin¬ 
ableness is of course a complete impossibility in the conscious 
form, but in the unconsciousness form it is a fact, inasmuch 
as all that is seething below is an ever-present potentiality of 
conception. The unconscious is an unglimpsable completeness 
of all subliminal psychic factors, a ££ total exhibition” of potential 
nature. It constitutes the entire disposition from which con¬ 
sciousness takes fragments from time to time. Now if conscious¬ 
ness is emptied as far as possible of its contents, the latter will 
fall into a state (at least a transitory state) of unconsciousness. 
This displacement ensues as a rule in Zen through the fact of 
the energy of the conscious being withdrawn from the contents 
and transferred either to the conception of emptiness or to the 
koan. As the two last-named must be stable, the succession of 
images is also abolished, and with it the energy which maintains 
the kinetic of the conscious. The amount of energy that is saved 
goes over to the unconscious, and reinforces its natural supply 
up to a certain maximum. This increases the readiness of the 
unconscious contents to break through to the conscious. Since 
the emptying and the closing down of the conscious is no easy 
matter, a special training and an indefinitely long period of 
time 1 is necessary to produce that maximum of tension which 
leads to the final break-through of unconscious contents into 
the conscious. 

The contents which break through are by no means com- 

1 Bodhidharma, the Founder of Zen in China, says, “. . . Every effort of 
such men must miscarry”. (Suzuki: Essays in £en Buddhism , I, p. 176.) 



pletely unspecified. As psychiatric experience with insanity 
shows, peculiar relations exist between the contents of the 
conscious and the delusions and deliria that break in upon it. 
They are the same relations as exist between the dreams and 
the working conscious of normal men. The connection is in 
substance a compensatory 1 2 relationship 2, : the contents of the uncon¬ 
scious bring to the surface everything necessary 3 in the broadest 
sence for the completion, i.e. the completeness , of conscious orientation . 
If the fragments offered by, or forced up from, the unconscious 
are successfully built into the life of the conscious, a psychic 
existence form results, which corresponds better to the whole 
of the individual personality, and therefore abolishes fruitless 
conflict between the conscious and the unconscious personality. 
Modern psycho-therapy rests upon this principle, inasmuch 
as it was able to break away from the historic prejudice that 
the unconscious harbours only infantile and morally inferior 
contents. There is certainly an inferior corner, a lumber-room 
of dirty secrets, which are however not so much unconscious as 
hidden and only half forgotten. But this has about as much to 
do with the whole of the unconscious as a hollow tooth has with 
the complete personality. The unconscious is the matrix of all 
metaphysical assertions, of all mythology, all philosophy (in so 
far as it is not merely critical) and all forms of life which are 
based upon psychological suppositions. 

Every invasion of the unconscious is an answer to a definite 
condition of the conscious, and this answer follows from the 
whole of the idea-possibilities that are present; that is to say, 
from the complete disposition which, as explained above, is a 
simultaneous image in potentia of psychic existence. The splitting 
up into the single, the one-sided, the fragmentary character 
suits the essence of the conscious. The reaction from the dis¬ 
position always has the character of completeness, as it corres¬ 
ponds with a nature which has not been divided up by any 

1 More probable than one that is purely complementary. 

2 For this I must refer the reader to medico-psychological specialist litera¬ 

s This “necessity” is a working hypothesis. People can be, and are, of very 
different opinions about it. For instance, are religious conceptions “necessary”? 
Only the course of the individual life can decide this, i.e. individual experience. 
There are no abstract criteria for this. 



discriminating conscious. 1 Hence its overpowering effect. It is 
the unexpected, comprehensive, completely illuminating answer, 
which operates all the more as illumination and revelation, since 
the conscious has wedged itself into a hopeless blind-alley. 2 

When therefore, after many years of the hardest practice 
and the most strenuous devastation of rational understanding, 
the Zen student receives an answer—the only true answer— 
from Nature herself, everything that is said of satori can be 
understood. As can easily be seen, it is the naturelike-ness 
(JVaturhaftigkeit) of the answer which shines forth from most 
of the Zen anecdotes. Yes, one can accept with complete com¬ 
plaisance the enlightened student who, as one story relates, 
wished his master a sound thrashing as a reward (see page 93-4). 
How much wisdom lies in the Master’s “Wu”, the answer to the 
question about the Buddha nature of the dog! One must always 
consider, however, that on the one hand there are any number 
of people who cannot distinguish between a spiritual witticism 
and nonsense, and on the other hand very many people who are 
convinced of their own cleverness to such an extent that they 
have never in their lives met any but fools. 

Great as is the value of Zen Buddhism for the understanding 
* of the religious transformation process, its use among Western 
people is very improbable. The spiritual conceptions necessary 
to Zen are missing in the West. Who amongst us would produce 
such implicit trust in a superior Master and his incomprehensible 
ways? This respect for the greater human personality exists 
only in the East. Who could boast of believing in the possibility 
of a transformation experience paradoxical beyond measure; 
to the extent, moreover, of sacrificing many years of his life 
to the wearisome pursuit of such an object? And finally, who 
would dare to take upon himself the authority of a heterodoxical 
transformation experience? Let it be a man of little trust¬ 
worthiness, one who, maybe from pathological reasons, has too 
much to say for himself; such a man would have no cause to 

1 “When mind discriminates, there is manifoldness of things; when it does not 
it looks into the true state of things.” (Suzuki: Essays in Z en Buddhism , I, p. 88.) 

* See the passage beginning, “Have your mind like unto space....” (Suzuki: 
Essays in Z en Buddhism 3 I, p. 209.) 



complain of any lack of following among us. But if the “Master” 
sets a hard task, which requires more than a lot of parrot talk, 
the European begins to have doubts, for the steep path of 
self-development is to him as mournful and dark as Hell. 

I have no doubt that the satori experience does occur also 
in the West, for we too have men who scent ultimate ends and 
will spare themselves no pains to draw near to them. But they 
will keep silence, not only out of shyness but because they 
know that any attempt to convey their experiences to others 
would be hopeless. For there is nothing in our culture approach¬ 
ing these aspirations, not even the Church, the custodian of 
religious goods. It is in fact her function to oppose all such 
extreme experiences, for these can only be heterodox. The only 
movement within our culture which partly has, and partly 
should have, some understanding of these aspirations is psycho¬ 
therapy. It is therefore not a matter of chance that this foreword 
is written by a psychotherapist. 

Taken basically, psychotherapy is a dialectic relationship 
between the doctor and the patient. It is a discussion between 
two spiritual wholes, in which all wisdom is merely a tool. The 
goal is transformation; not indeed a predetermined, but rather 
an indeterminable, change, the only criterion of which is the 
disappearance of I-ness. No efforts on the part of the doctor force 
the experience. The most he can do is to make easy the path 
of the patient towards the attainment of an attitude which will 
oppose the least resistance to the decisive experience. If know¬ 
ledge plays no small part in our Western procedure, this is 
equivalent to the importance of the traditional spiritual atmo¬ 
sphere of Buddhism in Zen. Zen and its technique could only 
exist on the basis of Buddhist spiritual culture, and this is its 
premise. You cannot destroy a rationalist intellect that was 
never present. A Zen adept is not the outcome of ignorance and 
lack of culture. Hence even with us it happens not infrequently 
that a conscious ego and a conscious, cultivated understanding 
must first be produced by therapy before one can even think 
about abolishing I-ness or rationalism. Moreover, psychotherapy 
is by no means dealing with men who, like Zen monks, are 
ready to make any sacrifice for the sake of truth, but very often 
with the most stubborn of all Europeans. Thus the tasks of 



psychotherapy are of course much more varied, and the indi¬ 
vidual phases of the long process meet with far more opposition 
than in Zen. 

For these and many other reasons a direct transmission of 
Zen to Western conditions is neither commendable nor even 
possible. The psychotherapist, however, who is seriously con¬ 
cerned with the question of the aims of his therapy cannot be 
unmoved when he sees what ultimate result an oriental method 
of spiritual “healing”—i.e. “making whole”—is striving for. 
It is a well-known fact that this problem has been seriously 
occupying the most venturesome minds of the East for more 
than two thousand years, and that in this respect methods and 
philosophical doctrines have been developed which simply put 
all Western attempts in the same line into the shade. Our 
attempts—with a few exceptions—have all stopped short at 
either magic (mystery cults, among which Christianity must 
be counted) or the intellectual (philosophers from Pythagoras 
to Schopenhauer). It is only the spiritual tragedies of Goethe’s 
Faust and Nietzsche’s garathustra which mark the first glim¬ 
merings of the break-through of a total experience ( Ganz - 
heitserlebnis) in our Western hemisphere. 1 And we do not even 
know today what these, the most promising of all products 
of the European mind, may at length signify, so overlaid are 
they with all the materiality and obviousness of our preformed 
Greek spirit. 2 Although our intellect has brought well-nigh to 
perfection the ability of the bird of prey to espy the tiniest 
mouse from the greatest height, the gravity of earth seizes him 
and the Sangskaras entangle him in a world of confusing pic¬ 
tures if he no longer looks for booty but turns at least one eye 
inwards to find him who seeks . Yes, he falls into the travail of a 
demoniacal birth, beset with unknown terrors and dangers and 
menaced by deluding mirages and labyrinthine mazes. The 
worst of all fates threatens the venturer; the silent, abysmal 
loneliness in the time which he calls his own. Who knows anything 

1 In this connection I must mention also the English mystic, William 
Blake. Gf. the excellent representation in Milton O. Percival’s William Blake's 
Circle of Destiny. Columbia University Press, 1938. 

2 The genius of the Greek signifies the break-through of the conscious into 
the materiality of the world, whereby the latter was robbed of her original 



about the deep motives for the “masterpiece”, as Goethe called 
Faust , or the shudders of the “Dionysus Experience”? One 
must read Bardo Thodol , the Tibetan Book of the Dead, back¬ 
wards, as I have suggested, 1 in order to find an Eastern parallel 
to the torments and catastrophies of the Western “way of release” 
to completeness. This is what matters—not good intentions, . 
clever imitations or even intellectual acrobatics. Such, in inti¬ 
mations or in greater or lesser fragments, appears before the 
psychotherapist who has freed himself from rash and short¬ 
sighted doctrinal opinions. If he is a slave to his quasi-biological 
creed he will always try to reduce what he observes to the 
banal familiar, and to bring it thereby to a rationalistic 
denominator which only suffices one who is content with illu¬ 
sions. The foremost of all illusions, however, is that something 
can suffice someone. That illusion stands behind all that is 
unendurable and in front of all progress, and it is one of the most 
difficult things to overcome. If the psychotherapist finds time 
from his helpful activities for a little reflection, or if by any 
chance he is forced into seeing through his own illusions, it may 
dawn upon him how hollow and flat, indeed how contrary to 
life are all rationalistic reductions when they come upon some¬ 
thing alive, that will develop. If he follows this up he soon 
gets an idea of what it means “to tear open those doors which 
everyone would gladly slink past”. 

I would not under any circumstances have it understood 
that in what I have said above I am making any recommen¬ 
dation or offering any advice. But when Western men begin to 
talk about Zen I consider it my duty to show the European 
where our entrance lies to that “longest of all roads” which 
leads to satori , and what difficulties strew that path, which 
has been trodden by only a few of our great men—perhaps as 
a beacon on a high mountain, shining out in the hazy future. It 
would be an unhealthy mistake to assume that satori or samadlii 
are to be met with anywhere below those heights. For a complete 
experience there can be nothing cheaper or smaller than the 
whole. The psychological significance of this can be understood 
by the simple consideration of the fact that the conscious is only 
a part of the spiritual, and is never therefore capable of spiritual 

1 W. Y. Evans-Wentz: Das Tibetanische Totenbuch, Rascher, Zurich, 1934. 



completeness: for that the indefinite expansion of the uncon¬ 
scious is needed. The latter, however, can neither be captured 
with skilful formulae nor exorcized by means of scientific dogmas, 
for there is something of Destiny clinging to it—yes, it is some¬ 
times Destiny itself, as Faust and Zarathustra show all too clearly. 
The attainment of completeness calls for the use of the whole. 
Nothing less will do; hence there can be no easier conditions, 
no substitution, no compromise. Inasmuch as both Faust and 
Zarathustra , despite the highest appreciation, are only on the 
border-line of what is comprehensible to the European, one can 
scarcely expect a cultured public who have only just begun 
to hear about the dim world of the soul to be able to form any 
adequate conception of the spiritual state of a man who has 
fallen into the confusions of the individuation process , by which 
term I have designated the “becoming whole 59 (Ganzwerdung). 
People drag forth the vocabulary of pathology, they console 
themselves with “neurosis 95 and “psychosis 99 terminology, 
whisper about “creative mystery"—but what can a man who 
is probably not a poet create? The last-mentioned misunder¬ 
standing has in modern times caused not a few people to call 
themselves of their own grace “artists". As if “art" had nothing 
at all to do with “ability"! If you have nothing to “create", 
perhaps you create yourself. 

Zen shows how much “becoming whole" means to the East. 
Preoccupation with the riddles of Zen may perhaps stiffen the 
spine of the faint-hearted European, or provide a pair of spec¬ 
tacles for his shortsightedness, so that from his “gloomy hole 
in the wall" he may enjoy at least a glimpse of the world of 
spiritual experience, which until now has been shrouded in 
mist. It will certainly not end badly, for those who are terrified 
will be effectively protected from further corruption, as also 
from everything of significance, by the helpful idea of “auto¬ 
suggestion" (see page 93). I should like to warn the. attentive 
and sympathetic reader, however, not to underestimate the 
spiritual depth of the East, or to assume any kind of cheapness 
in Zen. 1 The zealously nurtured attitude of literal credulity 

1 “Zen is not a pastime, but the most serious task in life. No empty head 
will ever venture near it.” (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , I, p. 16) See also 
p. 78. 



towards the oriental treasure of thought is in this case a lesser 
danger, as in Zen there are fortunately none of those mar¬ 
vellously incomprehensible words, as in Indian cults. Neither 
does Zen play about with complicated Hatha-yoga techniques, 1 
which delude the physiologically thinking European with the 
false hope that the spirit can be obtained by sitting and by 
breathing. On the contrary, Zen demands intelligence and 
will-power, as do all the greater things which desire to become 

1 “When you seek Buddhahood . . . you will never attain the truth,” says 
a Master. (Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism , I, p. 222.) 




Buddhism in its course of development has completed a form 
which distinguishes itself from its so-called primitive or original 
type—so greatly, indeed, that we are justified in emphasizing 
its historical division into two schools, Hinayana and Mahayana, 
or the Lesser Vehicle and the Greater Vehicle of salvation. As 
a matter of fact, the Mahayana, with all its varied formulae, is 
no more than a developed form of Buddhism and traces back 
its final authority to its Indian founder, the great Buddha 
Sakyamuni. When this developed form of the Mahayana was 
introduced into China and then into Japan, it achieved further 
development in these countries. This achievement was no 
doubt due to the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist leaders, who 
knew how to apply the principles of their faith to the ever- 
varying conditions of life and to the religious needs of the people. 
And this elaboration and adaptation on their part has still fur¬ 
ther widened the gap that has already been in existence between 
the Mahayana 1 and its more primitive type. At present the 
Mahayana form may be said not to display, superficially at 
least, those features most conspicuously characteristic of original 

1 To be accurate, the fundamental ideas of the Mahayana are expounded 
in the Prajnaparamita group of Buddhist literature, the earliest of which must 
have appeared at the latest within three hundred years of the Buddha’s 
death. The germs are no doubt in the writings belonging to the so-called 
primitive Buddhism. Only their development, that is, a conscious grasp of 
them as most essential in the teachings of the founder, could not be effected 
without his followers’ actually living the teachings for some time through 
the variously changing conditions of life. Thus enriched in experience and 
matured in reflection, the Indian Buddhists came to have the Mahayana 
form of Buddhism as distinguished from its primitive or original form. In 
India two Mahayana schools are known: the Madhyamika of Nagarjuna 
and the Vijnaptimatra or Yogacara of Asanga and Vasubandhu. In China 
more schools developed: the Tendai ( t'ien-tai ), the Kegon (avatamsaka ), the 
Jodo ( ching-t'u ), the Zen (cA‘an), etc. In Japan we have besides these the 
Hokke, the Shingon, the Shin, the Ji, etc. All these schools or sects belong to 
the Mahayana wing of Buddhism. 



For this reason there are people who would declare that 
this branch of Buddhism is in reality no Buddhism in the sense 
that the latter is commonly understood. My contention, how¬ 
ever, is this: anything that has life in it is an organism, and it is 
in the very nature of an organism that it never remains in the 
same state of existence. An acorn is quite different, even as a 
young oak with tender leaves just out of its protective shell is 
quite different from a full-grown tree so stately and gigantic 
and towering up to the sky. But throughout these varying phases 
of change there is a continuation of growth and unmistakable 
marks of identity, whence we know that one and the same plant 
has passed through many stages of becoming. The so-called 
primitive Buddhism is the seed; out of it Far-Eastern Buddhism 
has come into existence with the promise of still further growth. 
Scholars may talk of historical Buddhism, but my subject here 
is to see Buddhism not only in its historical development but 
from the point of view of its still vitally concerning us as a 
quickening spiritual force in the Far East. 

Among the many sects of Buddhism that have grown up, 
especially in China and Japan, we find a unique order claiming 
to transmit the essence and spirit of Buddhism directly from its 
author, and this not through any secret document or by means 
of any mysterious rite. This order is one of the most significant 
aspects of Buddhism, not only from the point of view of its 
historical importance and spiritual vitality, but from the point 
of view of its most original and stimulating manner of demon¬ 
stration. The “Doctrine of the Buddha-heart ( buddhahridaya )” 
is its scholastic name, but more commonly it is known as “Zen”. 
That Zen is not the same as Dhyana, though the term Z en 
derived from the Chinese transliteration ( cftan-na; zenna in 
Japanese) of the original Sanskrit, will be explained later on. 

This school is unique in various ways in the history of religion. 
Its doctrines, theoretically stated, may be said to be those of 
speculative mysticism, but they are presented and demonstrated 
in such a manner that only those initiates who, after long train¬ 
ing, have actually gained an insight into the system can under¬ 
stand their ultimate signification. To those who have not acquired 
this penetrating knowledge, that is, to those who have not 
experienced Zen in their everyday active life—its teachings, or 


rather its utterances, assume quite a peculiar, uncouth, and even 
enigmatical aspect. Such people, looking at Zen more or less 
conceptually, consider Zen utterly absurd and ludicrous, or 
deliberately making itself unintelligible in order to guard its 
apparent profundity against outside criticism. But, according to 
the followers of Zen, its apparently paradoxical statements are 
not artificialities contrived to hide themselves behind a screen 
of obscurity; but simply because the human tongue is not an 
adequate organ for expressing the deepest truths of Zen, the 
latter cannot be made the subject of logical exposition; they are 
to be experienced in the inmost soul when they become for the 
first time intelligible. In point of fact, no plainer and more 
straightforward expressions than those of Zen have ever been 
made by any other branch of human experience. “Coal is 
black 55 —this is plain enough; but Zen protests, “Coal is not 
black. 55 This is also plain enough, and indeed even plainer than 
the first positive statement when we come right down to the truth 
of the matter. 

Personal experience, therefore, is everything in Zen. No 
ideas are intelligible to those who have no backing of experience. 
This is a platitude. A baby has no ideas, for its mentality is not 
yet so developed as to experience anything in the way of ideas. 
If it has them at all, they must be something extremely obscure 
and blurred and not in correspondence with realities. To get the 
clearest and most efficient understanding of a thing, therefore, 
it must be experienced personally. Especially when the thing is 
concerned with life itself, personal experience is an absolute 
necessity. Without this experience nothing relative to its pro¬ 
found working will ever be accurately and therefore efficiently 
grasped. The foundation of all concepts is simple, unsophisticated 
experience. Zen places the utmost emphasis upon this foundation- 
experience, and it is around this that Zen constructs all the 
verbal and conceptual scaffold which is found in its literature 
known as “Sayings 55 (goroku, J.; yu-lu, Ch.). Though the scaffold 
affords a most useful means to reach the inmost reality, it is still 
an elaboration and artificiality. We lose its whole significance 
when it is taken for a final reality. The nature of the human 
understanding compels us not to put too much confidence in 
the superstructure. Mystification is far from being the object 
G 33 


of Zen itself, but to those who have not touched the central fact 
of life Zen inevitably appears as mystifying. Penetrate through 
the conceptual superstructure and what is imagined to be a 
mystification will at once disappear, and at the same time 
there will be an enlightenment known as satori . 1 

Zen, therefore, most strongly and persistently insists on an 
inner spiritual experience. It does not attach any intrinsic im¬ 
portance to the sacred sutras or to their exegeses by the wise and 
learned. Personal experience is strongly set against authority and 
objective revelation, and as the most practical method of attain¬ 
ing spiritual enlightenment, the followers of Zen propose the 
practice of Dhyana, known as zazen 2 in Japanese, of which Zen 
is the abbreviation. 

A few words must be said here in regard to the systematic 
training by Zen of its followers in the attainment of the spiritual 
insight which has been referred to before as the foundation- 
experience of Zen. For this is where Zen pre-eminently distin¬ 
guishes itself from other forms of mysticism. To most mystics 
such spiritual experience, so intensely personal, comes as some¬ 
thing sporadic, isolated, and unexpected. Christians use prayer, 
or mortification, or contemplation so called, as the means of 
bringing this on themselves, and leave its fulfilment to divine 
grace. But as Buddhism does not recognize a supernatural 
agency in such matters, the Zen method of spiritual training is 
practical and systematic. From the beginning of its history in 
China there has been such a tendency well marked; but, as 
time went on, a regular system has finally come into existence, 
and the Zen school at present has a thoroughgoing method for 
its followers to train themselves in the attainment of their object. 
Herein lies the practical merit of Zen. While it is highly specu¬ 
lative on the one hand, its methodical discipline on the other 
hand produces most fruitful and beneficial results on moral 
character. We sometimes forget its highly abstract character 
when it is expressed in connection with the facts of our everyday 
practical life; but here it is where we have to appreciate the real 

1 See below. 

2 Z a means ‘ to sit”, and zazen may be summarily taken as meaning “tc 
sit in meditation”. What it exactly signifies will be seen later in connectior 
with the description of “The Meditation Hall” {zendo, J.; ch'an-Vang , Ch.). 



value of Zen, for Zen finds an inexpressibly deep thought even 
in holding up a finger, or in saying a “good morning” to a 
friend casually met on the street. In the eye of Zen the most 
practical is the most abstruse, and vice versa. All the system of 
discipline adopted by Zen is the outcome of this fundamental 

I said that Zen is mystical. This is inevitable, seeing that 
Zen is the keynote of Oriental culture; it is what makes the 
West frequently fail to fathom exactly the depths of the Oriental 
mind, for mysticism in its very nature defies the analysis of 
logic, and logic is the most characteristic feature of Western 
thought. The East is synthetic in its method of reasoning; it 
does not care so much for the elaboration of particulars as for a 
comprehensive grasp of the whole, and this intuitively. There¬ 
fore the Eastern mind, if we assume its existence, is necessarily 
vague and indefinite, and seems not to have an index which at 
once reveals the contents to an outsider. The thing is there before 
our eyes, for it refuses to be ignored; but when we endeavour to 
grasp it in our own hands in order to examine it more closely 
or systematically, it eludes and we lose its track. Zen is provo- 
kingly evasive. This is not due of course to any conscious or 
premeditated artifice with which the Eastern mind schemes to 
shun the scrutiny of others. The unfathomableness is in the 
very constitution, so to speak, of the Eastern mind. Therefore, 
to understand the East we must understand mysticism; that 
is, Zen. 

It is to be remembered, however, that there are various types 
of mysticism, rational and irrational, speculative and occult, 
sensible and fantastic. When I say that the East is mystical, 
I do not mean that the East is fantastic, irrational, and altogether 
impossible to bring within the sphere of intellectual comprehen¬ 
sion. What I mean is simply that in the working of the Eastern 
mind there is something calm, quiet, silent, undisturbable, which 
appears as if always looking into eternity. This quietude and 
silence, however, does not point to mere idleness or inactivity. 
The silence is not that of the desert shorn of all vegetation, nor 
is it that of a corpse forever gone to sleep and decay. It is the 
silence of an “eternal abyss” in which all contrasts and con¬ 
ditions are buried; it is the silence of God who, deeply absorbed 



in contemplation of his works past, present, and future, sits 
calmly on his throne of absolute oneness and allness. It is the 
“silence of thunder” obtained in the midst of the flash and 
uproar of opposing electric currents. This sort of silence pervades 
all things Oriental. Woe unto those who take it for decadence 
and death, for they will be overwhelmed by an overwhelming 
outburst of activity out of the eternal silence. It is in this sense 
that I speak of the mysticism of Oriental culture. And I can 
affirm that the cultivation of this kind of mysticism is principally 
due to the influence of Zen. If Buddhism were to develop in 
the Far East so as to satisfy the spiritual cravings of its people, 
it had to grow into Zen. The Indians are mystical, but their 
mysticism is too speculative, too contemplative, too compli¬ 
cated, and, moreover, it does not seem to have any real, vital 
relation with the practical world of particulars in which we are 
living. The Far-Eastern mysticism, on the contrary, is direct, 
practical, and surprisingly simple. This could not develop into 
anything else but Zen. 

All the other Buddhist sects in China as well as in Japan 
bespeak their Indian origin in an unmistakable manner. For 
their metaphysical complexity, their long-winded phraseology, 
their highly abstract reasoning, their penetrating insight into the 
nature of things, and their comprehensive interpretation of 
affairs relating to life, are most obviously Indian and not at all 
Chinese or Japanese. This will be recognized at once by all 
those who are acquainted with Far-Eastern Buddhism. For 
instance, look at those extremely complex rites as practised 
by the Shingon sect, and also at their elaborate systems of 
“Mandala”, by means of which they try to explain the universe. 
No Chinese or Japanese mind would have conceived such an 
intricate net-work of philosophy without being first influenced 
by Indian thought. Then observe how highly speculative is the 
philosophy of the Madhyamika, the Tendai ( T‘ien-tai in C.), 
or Kegon (Avatamsaka in Sanskrit). Their abstraction and 
logical acumen are truly amazing. These facts plainly show 
that those sects of Far-Eastern Buddhism are at bottom foreign 

But when we came to Zen, after a survey of the general field 
of Buddhism, we are compelled to acknowledge that its sim- 


plicity, its directness, its pragmatic tendency, and its close 
connection with everyday life stand in remarkable contrast to 
the other Buddhist sects. Undoubtedly the main ideas of Zen 
are derived from Buddhism, and we cannot but consider it a 
legitimate development of the latter; but this development has 
been achieved in order to meet the requirements peculiarly 
characteristic of the psychology of the Far-Eastern people. 
The spirit of Buddhism has left its highly metaphysical super¬ 
structure in order to become a practical discipline of life. The 
result is Zen. Therefore I make bold to say that in Zen are 
found systematized, or rather crystallized, all the philosophy, 
religion, and life itself of the Far-Eastern people, especially of 
the Japanese. 




Before proceeding to expound the teaching of Zen at some 
length in the following pages, let me answer some of the ques¬ 
tions which are frequently raised by critics concerning the real 
nature of Zen. 

Is Zen a system of philosophy, highly intellectual and 
profoundly metaphysical, as most Buddhist teachings are? 

It was stated in the Introduction that we find in Zen all the 
philosophy of the East crystallized, but this ought not to be 
taken as meaning that Zen is a philosophy in the ordinary 
application of the term. Zen is decidedly not a system founded 
upon logic and analysis. If anything, it is the antipode to logic, 
by which I mean the dualistic mode of thinking. There may 
be an intellectual element in Zen, for Zen is the whole mind, and 
in it we find a great many things; but the mind is not a com¬ 
posite thing that is to be divided into so many faculties, leaving 
nothing behind when the dissection is over. Zen has nothing to 
teach us in the 1 way of intellectual analysis; nor has it any set 
doctrines which are imposed on its followers for acceptance. In 
this respect Zen is quite chaotic if you choose to say so. Prob¬ 
ably Zen followers may have sets of doctrines, but they have 
them on their own account, and for their own benefit; they do 
not owe the fact to Zen. Therefore, there are in Zen no sacred 
books or dogmatic tenets, nor are there any symbolic formulae 
through which an access might be gained into the signification 
of Zen. If I am asked, then, what Zen teaches, I would answer, 
Zen teaches nothing. Whatever teachings there are in Zen, 
they come out of one’s own mind. We teach ourselves; Zen 
merely points the way. Unless this pointing is teaching, there is 
certainly nothing in Zen purposely set up as its cardinal doctrines 
or as its fundamental philosophy. 

Zen claims to be Buddhism, but all the Buddhist teachings 
as propounded in the sutras and sastras are treated by Zen as 
mere waste paper whose utility consists in wiping off the dirt of 


intellect and nothing more. Do not imagine, however, that Zen 
is nihilism. All nihilism is self-destructive, it ends nowhere. 
Negativism is sound as method, but the highest truth is an 
affirmation. When it is said that Zen has no philosophy, that it 
denies all doctrinal authority, that it casts aside all so-called 
sacred literature as rubbish, we must not forget that Zen is 
holding up in this very act of negation something quite positive 
and eternally affirmative. This will become clearer as we 

Is Zen a religion? It is not a religion in the sense that the 
term is popularly understood; for Zen has no God to worship, 
no ceremonial rites to observe, no future abode' to which the 
dead are destined, and, last of ah, Zen has no soul whose wel¬ 
fare is to be looked after by somebody else and whose immor¬ 
tality is a matter of intense concern with some people. -Zen is 
free from all these dogmatic and “religious’ 5 encumbrances. 

When I say there is no<Iod in Zen, the pious reader may 
be shocked, but this does not mean that Zen denies the existence 
of God; neither denial nor affirmation concerns Zen. When a 
thing is denied, the very denial involves something not denied. 
The same can be said of affirmation. This is inevitable in logic. 
Zen wants to rise above logic, Zen wants to find a higher affir¬ 
mation where there are no antitheses. Therefore, in Zen, God 
is neither denied nor insisted upon; only there is in Zen no such 
God as has been conceived by Jewish and Christian minds. 
For the same reason that Zen is not a philosophy, Zen is not a 

As to all those images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas 
and Devas and other beings that one comes across in Zen 
temples, they are like so many pieces of wood or stone or metal; 
they are like the camellias, azalias, or stone-lanterns in my 
garden. Make obeisance to the camellia now in full bloom, and 
worship it if you like, Zen would say. There is as much religion 
in so doing as in bowing to the various Buddhist gods, or as 
sprinkling holy water, or as participating in the Lord’s Supper. 
All those pious deeds considered to be meritorious or sanctifying 
by most so-called religiously minded people are artificialities in 
the eyes of Zen. It boldly declares that “the immaculate Yogins 
do not enter Nirvana and the precept-violating monks do not 



go to hell”. This, to ordinary minds, is a contradiction of the 
common law of moral life, but herein lies the truth and life of 
Zen. Zen is the spirit of a man. Zen believes in his inner purity 
and goodness. Whatever is superadded or violently torn away, 
injures the wholesomeness of the spirit. Zen, therefore, is 
emphatically against all religious conventionalism. 

Its irreligion, however, is merely apparent. Those who are 
truly religious will be surprised to find that after all there is so 
much of religion in the barbarous declaration of Zen. But to 
say that Zen is a religion, in the sense that Christianity or Mo¬ 
hammedanism is, would be a mistake. To make my point 
clearer, I quote the following. When Sakyamuni was born, it is 
said that he lifted one hand toward the heavens and pointed 
to the earth with the other, exclaiming, “Above the heavens and 
below the heavens, I alone am the Honoured One!” Ummon 
(Yun-men), founder of the Ummon School of Zen, comments 
on this by saying, “If I had been with him at the moment of 
his uttering this, I would surely have struck him dead with one 
blow and thrown the corpse into the maw of a hungry dog. 55 
What unbelievers would ever think of making such raving 
remarks over a spiritual leader? Yet one of the Zen masters 
following Ummon says : “Indeed, this is the way Ummon desires 
to serve the world, sacrificing everything he has, body and 
mind! How grateful he must have felt for the love of 
Buddha ! 55 

Zen is not to be confounded with a form of meditation as 
practised by “New Thought 55 people, or Christian Scientists, 
or Hindu Sannyasins, or some Buddhists. Dhyana, as it is under¬ 
stood by Zen, does not correspond to the practice as carried on 
in Zen. A man may meditate on a religious or philosophical 
subject while disciplining himself in Zen, but that is only inci¬ 
dental; the essence of Zen is not at all there. Zen purposes to 
discipline the mind itself, to make it its own master, through 
an insight into its proper nature. This getting into the real 
nature of one’s own mind or soul is the fundamental object of 
Zen Buddhism. Zen, therefore, is more than meditation and 
Dhyana in its ordinary sense. The discipline of Zen consists in 
opening the mental eye in order to look into the very reason 
of existence. 



To meditate, a man has to fix his thought on something; 
for instance, on the oneness of God, or his infinite love, or on 
the impermanence of things. But this is the very thing Zen 
desires to avoid. If there is anything Zen strongly emphasizes 
it is the attainment of freedom; that is, freedom from all un¬ 
natural encumbrances. Meditation is something artificially put 
on; it does not belong to the native activity of the mind. Upon 
what do the fowl of the air meditate? Upon what do the fish 
in the water meditate? They fly; they swim. Is not that enough? 
Who wants to fix his mind on the unity of God and man, or 
on the nothingness of this life? Who wants to be arrested in the 
daily manifestations of his life-activity by such meditations as 
the goodness of a divine being or the everlasting fire of hell? 

We may say that Christianity is monotheistic, and the 
Vedanta pantheistic; but we cannot make a similar assertion 
about Zen. Zen is neither monotheistic nor pantheistic; Zen 
defies all such designations. Hence there is no object in Zen upon 
which to fix the thought. Zen is a wafting cloud in the sky. No 
screw fastens it, no string holds it; it moves as it lists. No amount 
of meditation will keep %en in one place. Meditation is not Zen. 
Neither pantheism nor monotheism provides Zen with its subjects 
of concentration. If Zen is monotheistic, it may tell its followers 
to meditate on the oneness of things where all differences and 
inequalities, enveloped in the all-illuminating brightness of the 
divine light, are obliterated. If Zen were pantheistic it would tell us 
that every meanest flower in the field reflects the glory of God. 
But what Zen says is “After all things are reduced to oneness, 
where would that One be reduced? 55 Zen wants to have one’s 
mind free and unobstructed; even the idea of oneness or allness is 
a stumbling-block and a strangling snare which threatens the 
original freedom of the spirit. — 

Zen, therefore, does not ask us to concentrate our thought 
on the idea that a dog is God, or that three pounds of flax are 
divine. When Zen does this it commits itself to a definite system 
of philosophy, and there is no more Zen. Zen just feels fire warm 
and ice cold, because when it freezes we shiver and welcome fire. 
The feeling is all in all, as Faust declares; all our theorization fails 
to touch reality. But “the feeling” here must be understood in 
its deepest sense or in its purest form. Even to say that “This is the 



feeling” Zen is no more there. Zen defies all concept-making. 
That is why Zen is difficult to grasp. 

Whatever meditation Zen may propose, then, will be to take 
things as they are, to consider snow white and the raven black. 
When we speak of meditation we in most cases understand its 
abstract character; that is, meditation is known to be the con¬ 
centration of the mind on some highly generalized proposition, 
which is, in the nature of things, not always closely and directly 
connected with the concrete affairs of life. Zen perceives or feels, 
and does not abstract nor meditate. Zen penetrates and is finally 
lost in the immersion. Meditation, on the other hand, is out¬ 
spokenly dualistic and consequently inevitably superficial. 

One critic 1 regards Zen as “the Buddhist counterpart of the 
‘Spiritual Exercises’ of St. Ignatius Loyala”. The critic shows 
a great inclination to find Christian analogies for things Budd¬ 
histic, and this is one of such instances. Those who have at all a 
clear understanding of Zen will at once see how wide of the mark 
this comparison is. Even superficially speaking, there is not a 
shadow of similitude between the exercises of Zen and those 
proposed by the founder of the Society of Jesus. The contem¬ 
plations and prayers of St. Ignatius are, from the Zen point of 
view, merely so many fabrications of the imagination elaborately 
woven for the benefit of the piously minded; and in reality this 
is like piling tiles upon tiles on one’s head, and there is no true 
gain in the life of the spirit. We can say this, however: that 
those “Spiritual Exercises” in some ways resemble certain medi¬ 
tations of Hinayana Buddhism, such as the Five Mind-quieting 
Methods, or the Nine Thoughts on Impurity, or the Six or Ten 
Subjects of Memory. 

Zen is sometimes made to mean “mind-murder and the curse 
of idle reverie”. This is the statement of Griffis, the well-known 
author of Religions of Japan . 2 By “mind-murder” I do not know 
what he really means, but does he mean that Zen kills the 
activities of the mind by making one’s thought fix on one thing, 
or by inducing sleep? Mr. Reischauer in his book 3 almost endorses 
this view of Griffis by asserting that Zen is “mystical self-intoxi¬ 
cation”. Does he mean that Zen is intoxicated in the “Greater 

1 Arthur Lloyd: Wheat Among the Tares , p. 53. 2 P. 255. 

3 Studies of Buddhism in Japan , p. 118. 



Self 55 so called, as Spinoza was intoxicated in God? Though 
Mr. Reischauer is not quite clear as to the meaning of 4 'intoxi¬ 
cation 55 , he may think that Zen is unduly absorbed in the thought 
of the "Greater Self 55 as the final reality in this world of parti¬ 
culars. It is amazing to see how superficial some of the uncritical 
observers of Zen are! In point of fact, Zen has no "mind 55 to 
murder; therefore, there is no "mind-murdering 55 in Zen. Zen 
has again no "self 55 as something to which we can cling as a 
refuge; therefore, in Zen again there is no "self 55 by which we 
may become intoxicated. 

The truth is, Zen is extremely elusive as far as its outward 
aspects are concerned; when you think you have caught a glimpse 
of it, it is no more there; from afar it looks so approachable, but 
as soon as you come near it you see it even further away from you 
than before. Unless, therefore, you devote some years of earnest 
study to the understanding of its primary principles, it is not 
to be expected that you begin to have a generally fair grasp of 

"The way to ascend unto God is to descend into one’s self 55 ;— 
these are Hugo’s words. "If thou wishest to search out the deep 
things of God, search out the depths of thine own spirit 55 ;—this 
comes from Richard of St. Victor. When all these deep things 
are searched out there is after all no "self 55 . Where you can 
descend, there is no "spirit 55 , no "God” whose depths are to be 
fathomed. Why? Because Zen is a bottomless abyss. Zen declares, 
though in a somewhat different manner: "Nothing really exists 
throughout the triple world; where do you wish to see the mind 
(or spirit =hsin)? The four elements are all empty in their 
ultimate nature; where could the Buddha’s abode be?—but lo! 
the truth is unfolding itself right before your eye. This is all there 
is to it—and indeed nothing more 1 ” A minute’s hesitation and 
Zen is irrevocably lost. All the Buddhas of the past, present, and 
future may try to make you catch it once more, and yet it is a 
thousand miles away. "Mind-murder” and "self-intoxication”, 
forsooth ! Zen has no time to bother itself with such criticisms. 

The critics may mean that the mind is hypnotized by Zen to 
a state of unconsciousness, and that when this obtains, the 
favourite Buddhist doctrine of emptiness (sunyata) is realized, 
where the subject is not conscious of an objective world or of 



himself, being lost in one vast emptiness, whatever this may be. 
This interpretation again fails to hit Zen aright. It is true that 
there are some such expressions in Zen as might suggest this kind 
of interpretation, but to understand Zen we must make a leap 
here. The “vast emptiness 55 must be traversed. The subject must 
be awakened from a state of unconsciousness if he does not wish to 
be buried alive. Zen is attained only when “self-intoxication 55 is 
abandoned and the “drunkard 55 is really awakened to his deeper 
self. If the mind is ever to be “murdered 55 , leave the work in the 
hand of Zen; for it is Zen that will restore the murdered and 
lifeless one into a state of eternal life. “Be born again, be awak¬ 
ened from the dream, rise from the death, O ye drunkards! 55 
Zen would exclaim. Do not try, therefore, to see Zen with the 
eyes bandaged; and your hands are too unsteady to take hold 
of it. And remember I am not indulging in figures of speech. 

I might multiply many such criticisms if it were necessary 
but I hope that the above have sufficiently prepared the reader’s 
mind for the following more positive statements concerning Zen. 
The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings 
of our being, and to do this in the most direct way possible, 
without resorting to anything external or superadded. Therefore, 
anything that has the semblance of an external authority is 
rejected by Zen. Absolute faith is placed in a man’s own inner 
being. For whatever authority there is in Zen, all comes from 
within. This is true in the strictest sense of the word. Even the 
reasoning faculty is not considered final or absolute. On the 
contrary, it hinders the mind from coming into the directest 
communication with itself. The intellect accomplishes its mission 
when it works as an intermediary, and Zen has nothing to do with 
an intermediary except when it desires to communicate itself to 
others. For this reason all the scriptures are merely tentative and 
provisory; there is in them no finality. The central fact of life as it 
is lived is what Zen aims to grasp, and this in the most direct and 
most vital manner. Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Budd¬ 
hism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. 
When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is 
attained, and a man lives as he ought to live. What more may we 

Some say that as Zen is admittedly a form of mysticism it 


cannot claim to be unique in the history of religion. Perhaps so; 
but Zen is a mysticism of its own order. It is mystical in the sense 
that the sun shines, that the flower blooms, that I hear at this 
moment somebody beating a drum in the street. If these are 
mystical facts, Zen is brim-full of them. When a Zen master was 
once asked what Zen was, he replied, “Your everyday thought.” 
Is this not plain and most straightforward? It has nothing to do 
with any sectarian spirit. Christians as well as Buddhists can 
practise Zen just as big fish and small fish are both contentedly 
living in the same ocean. Zen is the ocean, Zen is the air, Zen is 
the mountain, Zen is thunder and lightning, the spring flower, 
summer heat, and winter snow; nay, more than that, Zen is the 
man. With all the formalities, conventionalisms, and superaddi¬ 
tions that Zen has accumulated in its long history, its central fact 
is very much alive. The special merit of Zen lies in this: that we 
are still able to see into this ultimate fact without being biased by 

As has been said before, what makes Zen unique as it is 
practised in Japan is its systematic training of the mind. Ordinary 
mysticism has been too erratic a product and apart from one’s 
ordinary life; this Zen has revolutionized. What was up in the 
heavens, Zen has brought down to earth. With the development 
of Zen, mysticism has ceased to be mystical; it is no more the 
spasmodic product of an abnormally endowed mind. For Zen 
reveals itself in the most uninteresting and uneventful life of a 
plain man of the street, recognizing the fact of living in the midst 
of life as it is lived. Zen systematically trains the mind to see this; 
it opens a man’s eye to the greatest mystery as it is daily and 
hourly performed; it enlarges the heart to embrace eternity of 
time and infinity of space in its every palpitation; it makes us live 
in the world as if walking in the garden of Eden; and all these 
spiritual feats are accomplished without resorting to any doctrines, 
but by simply asserting in the most direct way the truth that lies 
in our inner being. 

Whatever else Zen may be, it is practical and commonplace 
and at the same time most living. An ancient master, wishing to 
show what Zen is, lifted one of his fingers, another kicked a ball, 
and a third slapped the face of his questioner. If the inner truth 
that lies deep in us is thus demonstrated, is not Zen the most 



practical and direct method of spiritual training ever resorted to 
by any religion? And is not this practical method also a most 
original one? Indeed, Zen cannot be anything else but original 
and creative because it refuses to deal with concepts but with 
living facts of life. When conceptually understood, the lifting of 
a finger is one of the most ordinary incidents in everybody’s life. 
But when it is viewed from the Zen point of view it vibrates with 
divine meaning and creative vitality. So long as Zen can point 
out this truth in the midst of our conventional and concept- 
bound existence we must say that it has its reason of being. 

The following quotation from a letter of Yengo (Yuan-wu in 
C.) may answer, to a certain extent, the question asked in the 
beginning of this chapter, “What is Zen?” 

/ “It is presented right to your face, and at this moment the 
whole thing is handed over to you. For an intelligent fellow, one 
word should suffice to convince him of the truth of it, but even 
then error has crept in. Much more so when it is committed to 
paper and ink, or given up to wordy demonstration or to logical 
quibble, then it slips farther away from you. The great truth of 
Zen is possessed by everybody. Look into your own being and 
seek it not through others. Your own mind is above all forms; it is 
free and quiet and sufficient; it eternally stamps itself in your six 
senses and four elements. In its light all is absorbed. Hush the 
dualism of subject and object, forget both, transcend the intellect, 
sever yourself from the understanding, and directly penetrate deep 
into the identity of the Buddha-mind; outside of this there are no 
realities. Therefore, when Bodhidharma came from the West, 
he simply declared, 'Directly pointing to one’s own soul, my 
doctrine is unique, and is not hampered by the canonical 
teachings; it is the absolute transmission of the true seal.’ Zen has 
nothing to do with letters, words, or sutras. It only requests you 
to grasp the point directly and therein to find your peaceful abode. 
When the mind is disturbed, the understanding is stirred, things 
are recognized, notions are entertained, ghostly spirits are 
conjured, and prejudices grow rampant. Zen will then forever be 
\ lost in the maze. 

“The wise Sekiso (Shih-shuang) said, 'Stop all your hanker¬ 
ings ; let the mildew grow on your lips; make yourself like unto 
a perfect piece of immaculate silk; let your one thought be 


eternity; let yourself be like dead ashes, cold and lifeless; again 
let yourself be like an old censer in a deserted village shrine F 
“Putting your simple faith in this, discipline yourself accord¬ 
ingly; let your body and mind be turned into an inanimate 
object of naturelike a stone or a piece of wood; when a state of 
perfect motionlessness and unawareness is obtained all the signs 
of life will depart and also every trace of limitation will vanish. 
Not a single idea will disturb your consciousness, when lo ! all of a 
sudden you will come to realize a light abounding in full glad¬ 
someness. It is like coming across a light in thick darkness; it is 
like receiving treasure in poverty. The four elements and the five 
aggregates are no more felt as burdens; so light, so easy, so free 
you are. Your very existence has been delivered from all limita¬ 
tions ; you have become open, light, and transparent. You gain an 
illuminating insight into the very nature of things, which now 
appear to you as so many fairy-like flowers having no graspable 
realities. Here is manifested the unsophisticated self which is the 
original face of your being; here is shown all bare the most 
beautiful landscape of your birthplace. There is but one straight 
passage open and unobstructed through and through. This is so 
when you surrender all—your body, your life, and all that belongs 
to your inmost self. This is where you gain peace, ease, non¬ 
doing, and inexpressible delight. All the sutras and sastras are no 
more than communications of this fact; all the sages, ancient as 
well as modern, have exhausted their ingenuity and imagination 
to no other purpose than to point the way to this. It is like 
unlocking the door to a treasury; when the entrance is once 
gained, every object coming into your view is yours, every 
opportunity that presents itself is available for your use; for are 
they not, however multitudinous, all possessions obtainable 
within the original being of yourself? Every treasure there is but 
waiting your pleasure and utilization. This is what is meant by 
‘Once gained, eternally gained, even unto the end of time. 5 Yet 
really there is nothing gained; what you have gained is no gain, 
and yet there is something truly gained in this. 55 




In the history of Zen, Yeno (Hui-neng, 1 638-713), traditionally 
considered the Sixth Patriarch of the Zen sect in China, cuts a 
most important figure. In fact, he is the founder of Zen as 
distinguished from the other Buddhist sects then existing in China. 
The standard set up by him as the true expression of Zen faith is 
this stanza: 

The Bodhi (True Wisdom) is not like the tree; 

The mirror bright is nowhere shining: 

As there is nothing from the first, 

Where does the dust itself collect? 

This was written in answer to a stanza composed by another 
Zen monk who claimed to have understood the faith in its purity. 
His lines run thus: 

This body is the Bodhi-tree; 

The soul is like the mirror bright; 

Take heed to keep it always clean, 

And let no dust collect upon it. 

They were both the disciples of the Fifth Patriarch, Gunin 
(Hung-jen, died 675); and he thought that Yeno rightly com¬ 
prehended the spirit of Zen, and, therefore, was worthy of wearing 
his mantle and carrying his bowl as his true successor in Zen. 
This recognition by the master of the signification of the first 
stanza by Yeno stamps it as the orthodox expression of Zen faith. 
As it seems to breathe the spirit of nothingness, many people 
regard Zen as advocating nihilism. The purpose of the present 
chapter is to refute this. 

It is true there are many passages in Zen literature which may 
be construed as conveying a nihilistic doctrine; for example, the 

1 Hui-neng is pronounced Wei-lang in Shanghai dialect. 



theory of Sunyata (emptiness) . x Even among those scholars who are 
well acquainted with the general teaching of Mahayana Budd¬ 
hism, some still cling to the view that Zen is the practical 
application of the “Sanron” ( san-lun ) philosophy, otherwise 
known as the Madhyamika school. Sanron means the “three 
treatises”, which are Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika Sastra and The 
Discourse of Twelve Sections , and Deva’s Discourse of One Hundred 
Stanzas. They comprise all the essential doctrines of this school. 
Nagarjuna is thought to be its founder, and as the Mahayana 
sutras classified under the head of Prajnaparamita expound more 
or less similar views, the philosophy of this school is sometimes 
designated as the Prajna doctrine. Zen, therefore, they think, 
practically belongs to this class; in other words, the ultimate 
signification of Zen would be the upholding of the Sunyata 

To a certain extent, superficially at least, this view is justi¬ 
fiable. For instance, read the following: 

“I come here to seek the truth of Buddhism,” a disciple asked 
a master. 

“Why do you seek such a thing here?” answered the master. 
“Why do you wander about, neglecting your own precious 
treasure at home? I have nothing to give you, and what truth of 
Buddhism do you desire to find in my monastery ? There is nothing, 
absolutely nothing.” 

A master would sometimes say: “I do not understand Zen. 
I have nothing here to demonstrate; therefore, do not remain 
standing so, expecting to get something out of nothing. Get 
enlightened by yourself, if you will. If there is anything to take 
hold of, take it by yourself.” 

Again. “True knowledge ( bodhi ) transcends all modes of 
expression. There has been nothing from the very beginning 
which one can claim as having attained towards enlightenment.” 

Or. “In Zen there is nothing to explain by means of words, 
there is nothing to be given out as a holy doctrine. Thirty blows 
whether you affirm or negate. Do not remain silent; nor be 

1 What the theory of Sunyata really means is explained somewhat in 
detail, in my Essays in %en Buddhism , Series III, under “The Philosophy and 
Religion of the Prajnaparamita-Sutra” (pp. 207-88). 




The question “How can one always be with Buddha?” 
called out the following answer from a master: “Have no stirrings 
in your mind; be perfectly serene toward the objective world. To 
remain thus all the time in absolute emptiness and calmness is 
the way to be with the Buddha.” 

Sometimes we come across the following: “The middle way 
is where there is neither middle nor two sides. When you are 
fettered by the objective world, you have one side; when you are 
disturbed in your own mind, you have the other side. When 
neither of these exists, there is no middle part, and this is the middle 

A Japanese Zen master who flourished several hundred years 
ago used to say to his disciples, who would implore him to instruct 
them in the way to escape the fetters of birth-and-death, “Here is 
no birth-and-death.” 

Bodhidharma (Daruma, J.: Tamo, C.), the First Patriarch 
of the Zen sect in China, was asked by Wu, the first Emperor 
(reigned a.d. 502-549) of the Liang dynasty, as to the ultimate 
and holiest principle of Buddhism. The sage is reported to have 
answered, “Vast emptiness and nothing holy in it.” 

These are passages taken at random from the vast store of Zen 
literature, and they seem to be permeated with the ideas of 
emptiness (, sunyata ), nothingness ( nasti ), quietude (santi), no¬ 
thought ( acinta ), and other similar notions, all of which we may 
regard as nihilistic or as advocating negative quietism. 

A quotation from the Prajnaparamita-Hridaya Sutra 1 may prove 
to be more astounding than any of the above passages. In fact, 
all the sutras belonging to this Prajna class of Mahayana litera¬ 
ture are imbued thoroughly with the idea of Sunyata, and those 
who are not familiar with this way of thinking will be taken aback 
and may not know how to express their judgment. This sutra, 
considered to be the most concise and most comprehensive of 
all the Prajna sutras, is daily recited in the Zen monasteries; in 
fact it is the first thing the monks recite in the morning as well 
as before each meal. 

1 See also the quotation from Sekiso, supra , often misunderstood as expressly 
advocating the doctrine of annihilation. For the original Sanskrit, Hsuan- 
chuang’s Chinese translation, and a more literary and accurate English 
rendering, see my Z en Essays, Series III, pp. 190-206, where the author gives 
his own interpretation of the signification of this important sutra. 



“Thus, Sariputra, all things have the character of emptiness, 
they have no beginning, no end, they are faultless and not 
faultless, they are not perfect and not imperfect. Therefore, O 
Sariputra, here in this emptiness there is no form, no perception, 
no name, no concepts, no knowledge. No eye, no ear, no nose, no 
tongue, no body, no mind. No form, no sound, no smell, no taste, 
no touch, no objects. . . . There is no knowledge, no ignorance, 
no destruction of ignorance. . . . There is no decay nor death; 
there are no four truths, viz. there is no pain, no origin of pain, no 
stoppage of pain, and no path to the stoppage of pain. There is no 
knowledge of Nirvana, no obtaining of it, no not-obtaining of it. 
Therefore, O Sariputra, as there is no obtaining of Nirvana, a man 
who has approached the Prajnaparamita of the Bodhisattvas 
dwells unimpeded in consciousness. When the impediments of 
consciousness are annihilated, then he becomes free of all fear, is 
beyond the reach of change, enjoying final Nirvana. 55 

Going through all these quotations, it may be thought that 
the critics are justified in charging Zen with advocating a philo¬ 
sophy of pure negation, but nothing is so far from Zen as this 
criticism would imply. For Zen always aims at grasping the central 
fact of life, which can never be brought to the dissecting table 
of the intellect. To grasp this central fact of life, Zen is forced to 
propose a series of negations. Mere negation, however, is not the 
spirit of Zen, but as we are so accustomed to the dualistic way of 
thinking, this intellectual error must be cut at its root. Naturally 
Zen would proclaim, “Not this, not that, not anything. 55 But we 
may insist upon asking Zen what it is that is left after all these 
denials, and the master will perhaps on such an occasion give us 
a slap in the face, exclaiming, “You fool, what is this? 55 Some 
may take this as only an excuse to get away from the dilemma, or 
as having no more meaning than a practical example of ill- 
breeding. But when the spirit of Zen is grasped in its purity, it 
will be seen what a real thing that slap is. For here is no negation, 
no affirmation, but a plain fact, a pure experience, the very 
foundation of our being and thought. All the quietness and 
emptiness one might desire in the midst of most active mentation 
lies therein. Do not be carried away by anything outward or con¬ 
ventional. Zen must be seized with bare hands, with no gloves on. 

Zen is forced to resort to negation because of our innate ignor- 



ance ( avidya ), which tenaciously clings to the mind as wet clothes 
do to the body. 44 Ignorance” 1 is all very well as far as it goes, 
but it must not go out of its proper sphere. “Ignorance 55 is another 
name for logical dualism. White is snow and black is the raven. 
But these belong to the world and its ignorant way of talking. 
If we want to get to the very truth of things, we must see them 
from the point where this world has not yet been created, where 
the consciousness of this and that has not yet been awakened and 
where the mind is absorbed in its own identity, that is, in its 
serenity and emptiness. This is a world of negations but leading to 
a higher or absolute affirmation—an affirmation in the midst of 
negations. Snow is not white, the raven is not black, yet each in 
itself is white or black. This is where our everyday language fails 
to convey the exact meaning as conceived by Zen. 

Apparently Zen negates; but it is always holding up before 
us something which indeed lies right before our own eyes; and if 
we do not pick it up by ourselves, it is our own fault. Most people, 
whose mental vision is darkened by the clouds of ignorance, pass 
it by and refuse to look at it. To them Zen is, indeed, nihilism 
just because they do not see it. When Obaku (Huang-po, died 
850) was paying reverence to the Buddha in the sanctuary, a pupil 
of his approached and said, 44 When Zen says not to seek it 
through the Buddha, nor through the Dharma, nor through the 
Sangha, why do you bow to the Buddha as if wishing to get 
something by this pious act? 55 

“I do not seek it, 55 answered the master, “through the Buddha, 
nor through the Dharma, nor through the Sangha; I just go on 
doing this act of piety to the Buddha. 55 

The disciple grunted, 44 What is the use, anyway, of looking so 
sanctimonious? 55 

The master gave him a slap in the face, whereupon the 
disciple said, “How rude you are! 55 

“Do you know where you are, 55 exclaimed the master; “here 
I have no time to consider for your sake what rudeness or polite¬ 
ness means. 55 With this another slap was given. 

Intelligent readers will see in this attitude of Obaku some¬ 
thing he is anxious to communicate in spite of his apparent 

1 This may be regarded as corresponding to Heraclitus* Enantiodromia, the 
regulating function of antithesis. 



brusqueness to his disciple. He forbids outwardly, and yet in the 
spirit he is affirming. This must be comprehended if Zen is to be 
at all understood. 

The attitude of Zen towards the formal worship of God may 
be gleaned more clearly from Joshu’s (Chao-chou, 778-897) 
remarks given to a monk who was bowing reverently before 
Buddha. When Joshu slapped the monk, the latter said, “Is it 
not a laudable thing to pay respect to Buddha?’ 5 “Yes,” answered 
the master, “but it is better to go without even a laudable thing.” 
Does this attitude savour of anything nihilistic and iconoclastic? 
Superficially, yes; but let us dive deep into the spirit of Joshu out 
of the depths of which this utterance comes, and we will find 
ourselves confronting an absolute affirmation quite beyond the 
ken of our discursive understanding. 

Hakuin (1685-1768), the founder of modern Japanese Zen, 
while still a young monk eagerly bent on the mastery of Zen, had 
an interview with the venerable Shoju. Hakuin thought that he 
fully comprehended Zen and was proud of his attainment, and 
this interview with Shoju was in fact intended to be a demon¬ 
stration of his own high understanding. Shoju asked him how 
much he knew of Zen. Hakuin answered disgustingly, “If there is 
anything I can lay my hand on, I will get it all out of me.” So 
saying, he acted as if he were going to vomit. Shoju took firm 
hold of Hakuin’s nose and said: “What is this? Have I not after 
all touched it?” Let our readers ponder with Hakuin over this 
interview and find out for themselves what is that something which 
is so realistically demonstrated by Shoju. 

Zen is not all negation, leaving the mind all blank as if it were 
pure nothing; for that would be intellectual suicide. There is in 
Zen something self-assertive, which, however, being free and 
absolute, knows no limitations and refuses to be handled in 
abstraction. Zen is a live fact, it is not like an inorganic rock or 
like an empty space. To come into contact with this living fact— 
nay, to take hold of it in every phase of life—is the aim of all Zen 

Nansen (Nan-chuan, 748-834) was once asked by Hyakujo 
(Pai-chang, 720-814), one of his brother monks, if there was 
anything he dared not talk about to others. The master answered, 



Whereupon the monk continued, “What then is this some¬ 
thing you do not talk about?” 

The master’s reply was, “It is neither mind, nor Buddha, nor 

This looks to be the doctrine of absolute emptiness, but even 
here again we observe a glimpse of something showing itself 
through the negation. Observe the futher dialogue that took place 
between the two. The monk said: 

“If so, you have already talked about it.” 

“I cannot do any better. What would you say?” 

“I am not a great enlightened one,” answered Hyakujo. 

The master said, “Well, I have already said too much about 

This state of inner consciousness, about which we cannot make 
any logical statement, must be realized before we can have any 
intelligent talk on Zen. Words are only an index to this state; 
through them we are enabled to get into its signification, but do 
not look to words for absolute guidance. Try to see first of all in 
what mental state the Zen masters are so acting. They are not 
carrying on all those seeming absurdities, or, as some might say, 
those silly trivialities, just to suit their capricious moods. They 
have a certain firm basis of truth obtained from a deep personal 
experience. There is in all their seemingly crazy performances a 
systematic demonstration of the most vital truth. When seen from 
this truth, even the moving of the whole universe is of no more 
account than the flying of a mosquito or the waving of a fan. The 
thing is to see one spirit working throughout all these, which is an 
absolute affirmation, with not a particle of nihilism in it. 

A monk asked Joshu, “What would you say when I come to 
you with nothing?” 

Joshu said, “Fling it down to the ground.” 

Protested the monk, “I said that I had nothing; what shall 
I let go?” 

“If so, carry it away,” was the retort of Joshu. 

Joshu has thus plainly exposed the fruitlessness of a nihilistic 
philosophy. To reach the goal of Zen, even the idea of “having 
nothing” ought to be done away with. Buddha reveals himself 
when he is no more asserted; that is, for Buddha’s sake Buddha 
is to be given up. This is the only way to come to the realization 


of the truth of Zen. So long as one is talking of nothingness or of 
the absolute one is far away from Zen, and ever receding from 
Zen. Even the foothold of Sunyata must be kicked off. The only 
way to get saved is to throw oneself right down into a bottomless 
abyss. And this is, indeed, no easy task. 

“No Buddhas, 55 it is boldly asserted by Yengo (Yuan-wu, 
1566-1642), “have ever appeared on earth; nor is there anything 
that is to be given out as a holy doctrine. Bodhidharma, the First 
Patriarch of Zen, has never come east, nor has he ever transmitted 
any secret doctrine through the mind; only people of the world, 
not understanding what all this means, seek the truth outside of 
themselves. What a pity that the thing they are so earnestly looking 
for is being trodden under their own feet! This is not to be 
grasped by the wisdom of all the sages. However, we see the thing 
and yet it is not seen; we hear it and yet it is not heard; we talk 
about it and yet it is not talked about; we know it and yet it is not 
known. Let me ask, How does it so happen? 55 

Is this an interrogation as it apparently is? Or, in fact, is it an 
affirmative statement describing a certain definite attitude of 

Therefore, when Zen denies, it is not necessarily a denial in the 
logical sense. The same can be said of an affirmation. The idea 
is that the ultimate fact of experience must not be enslaved by 
any artificial or schematic laws of thought, nor by any antithesis 
of “yes 55 and “no 55 , nor by any cut and dried formulae of epis¬ 
temology. Evidently Zen commits absurdities and irrationalities 
all the time; but this only apparently. No wonder it fails to escape 
the natural consequences—misunderstandings, wrong inter¬ 
pretations, and ridicules which are often malicious. The charge 
of nihilism is only one of these. 

When Vimalakirti asked Manjusri what was the doctrine of 
non-duality as realized by a Bodhisattva, Manjusri replied: “As 
I understand it, the doctrine is realized when one looks upon all 
things as beyond every form of expression and demonstration and 
as transcending knowledge and argument. This is my compre¬ 
hension; may I ask what is your understanding? 55 Vimalakirti, 
thus demanded, remained altogether silent. The mystic response— 
that is, the closing of the lips—seems to be the only way one can 
get out of the difficulties in which Zen often finds itself involved, 



when it is pressed hard for a statement. Therefore, Yengo (Yuan- 
wu), commenting on the above, has this to say: 

“I say, ‘yes 5 , aR d there is nothing about which this affirmation 
is made; I say, ‘no 5 , and there is nothing about which this is 
made. I stand above ‘yes’ and ‘no 5 ,1 forget what is gained and what 
is lost. There is just a state of absolute purity, a state of stark 
nakedness. Tell me what you have left behind and what you see 
before. A monk may come out of the assembly and say, T see 
the Buddha-hall and the temple gate before me, my sleeping 
cell and living room behind. 5 Has this man an inner eye 
opened? When you can discriminate him, I will admit that 
you really have had a personal interview with the ancient 
sages. 55 

When silence does not avail, shall we say, after Yengo 
(Yuan-wu), “The gate of Heaven opens above, and an un¬ 
quenched fire burns below 55 ? Does this make clear the ultimate 
signification of Zen, as not choked by the dualism of “yes 55 and 
“no 55 ? Indeed, so long as there remains the last trace of conscious¬ 
ness as to this and that, meum et tuum , none can come to a fuller 
realization of Zen, and the sages of old will appear as those with 
whom we have nothing in common. The inner treasure will 
remain forever unearthed. 

A monk asked, “According to Vimalakirti, one who wishes 
for the Pure Land ought to have his mind purified; but what is 
the purified mind? 55 Answered the Zen master: “When the mind 
is absolutely pure, you have a purified mind, and a mind is said 
to be absolutely pure when it is above purity and impurity. You 
want to know how this is to be realized? Have your mind 
thoroughly void in all conditions, then you will have purity. But 
when this is attained, do not harbour any thought of it, or you 
get non-purity. Again, when this state of non-purity is attained, 
do not harbour any thought of it, and you are free of non-purity. 
This is absolute purity. 55 Now, absolute purity is absolute affirma¬ 
tion, as it is above purity and non-purity and at the same time 
unifies them in a higher form of synthesis. There is no negation in 
this, nor any contradiction. What Zen aims at is to realize this 
form of unification in one’s everyday life of actualities, and not 
to treat life as a sort of metaphysical exercise. In this light all 
Zen “Questions and Answers 55 are to be considered. There are no 


quibblings, no playing at words, no sophistry; Zen is the most 
serious concern in the world. 

Let me conclude this chapter with the following quotation 1 
from one of the earliest Zen writings. Doko (Tao-kwang), a 
Buddhist philosopher and a student of the Vijnaptimatra 
(absolute idealism), came to a Zen master and asked: 

“With what frame of mind should one discipline oneself in 
the truth?” 

Said the Zen master, “There is no mind to be framed, nor is 
there any truth in which to be disciplined.” 

“If there is no mind to be framed and no truth in which to be 
disciplined, why do you have a daily gathering of monks who are 
studying Zen and disciplining themselves in the truth?” 

The master replied: “I have not an inch of space to spare, 
and where could I have a gathering of monks ? I have no tongue, 
and how would it be possible for me to advise others to come to 

The philosopher then exclaimed, “How can you tell me a lie 
like that to my face?” 

“When I have no tongue to advise others, is it possible for me 
to tell a lie?” 

Said Doko despairingly, “I cannot follow your reasoning.” 

“Neither do I understand myself,” concluded the Zen master. 

1 This is taken from a work by Daiju Yekai (Tai-chu Huihai), disciple of 
Baso (Ma-tsUj died 738). For other quotations see elsewhere. 




Empty-handed I go, and behold the spade is 
in my hands; 

I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox 
I am riding; 

When I pass over the bridge, 

Lo, the water floweth not, but the bridge doth 

This is the famousgatha of Jenye (Shan-hui, a.d. 497-569), who 
is commonly known as Fudaishi (Fu-tai-shih), and it summarily 
gives the point of view as entertained by the followers of Zen. 
Though it by no means exhausts all that Zen teaches, it indicates 
graphically the way toward which Zen tends. Those who desire 
to gain an intellectual insight, if possible, into the truth of Zen, 
must first understand what this stanza really means. 

Nothing can be more illogical and contrary to common sense 
than these four lines. The critic will be inclined to call Zen 
absurd, confusing, and beyond the ken of ordinary reasoning. 
But Zen is inflexible and would protest that the so-called common- 
sense way of looking at things is not final, and that the reason 
why we cannot attain to a thoroughgoing comprehension of the 
truth is due to our unreasonable adherence to a “logical 55 inter¬ 
pretation of things. If we really want to get to the bottom of life, 
we must abandon our cherished syllogisms, we must acquire a 
new way of observation whereby we can escape the tyranny of 
logic and the one-sidedness of our everyday phraseology. How¬ 
ever paradoxical it may seem, Zen insists that the spade must be 
held in your empty hands, and that it is not the water but the 
bridge that is flowing under your feet. 

These are not, however, the only irrational statements Zen 
makes. There are many more equally staggering ones. Some may 
declare Zen irrevocably insane or silly. Indeed, what would our 
readers say to such assertions as these ? 



“When Tom drinks, Dick gets tipsy. 5 5 

“Who is the teacher of all the Buddhas, past, present, and 
future? John the cook.” 

“Last night a wooden horse neighed and a stone-man cut 

“Lo, a cloud of dust is rising from the ocean, and the roaring 
of the waves is heard over the land.” 

Sometimes Zen will ask you such questions as the following: 

“It is pouring now; how would you stop it?” 

“When both hands are clapped a sound is produced: listen 
to the sound of one hand.” 

“If you have heard the sound of one hand, can you make me 
hear it too?” 

“When we see about us mountains towering high and seas 
filling hollow places, why do we read in the sacred sutras that the 
Dharma is sameness, and there is nothing high, nothing low?” 

Have the followers of Zen lost their senses? Or are they given 
up to deliberate mystification? Have all these statements no 
inner meaning, no edifying signification except to produce 
confusion in our minds? What is Zen through these apparent 
trivialities and irrationalities really driving us to comprehend? 
The answer is simple. Zen wants us to acquire an entirely new 
point of view whereby to look into the mysteries of life and the 
secrets of nature. This is because Zen has come to the definite 
conclusion that the ordinary logical process of reasoning is 
powerless to give final satisfaction to our deepest spiritual needs* 

We generally think that “A is A” is absolute, and that the 
proposition “A is not-A” or “A is B” is unthinkable. We have 
never been able to break through these conditions of the under¬ 
standing; they have been too imposing. But now Zen declares 
that words are words and no more. When words cease to corres¬ 
pond with facts it is time for us to part with words and return to 
facts. As long as logic has its practical value it is to be made use 
of; but when it fails to work, or when it tries to go beyond its 
proper limits, we must cry, “Halt!” Ever since the awakening of 
consciousness we have endeavoured to solve the mysteries of 
being and to quench our thirst for logic through the dualism of 
“A” and “not-A”; that is, by calling a bridge a bridge, by making 
the water flow, and dust arise from the earth; but to our great 



disappointment we have never been able to obtain peace of mind, 
perfect happiness, and a thorough understanding of life and the 
world. We have come, as it were, to the end of our wits. No 
further steps could we take which would lead us to a broader 
field of reality. The inmost agonies of the soul could not be 
expressed in words, when lo! light comes over our entire being. 
This is the beginning of Zen. For we now realize that “A is 
not-A” after all, that logic is onesided, that illogicality so-called is 
not in the last analysis necessarily illogical; what is superficially 
irrational has after all its own logic, which is in correspondence 
with the true state of things. “Empty-handed I go, and behold 
the spade is in my hands !” By this we are made perfectly happy, 
for strangely this contradiction is what we have been seeking for 
all the time ever since the dawning of the intellect. The dawning 
of the intellect did not mean the assertion of the intellect but the 
transcending of itself. The meaning of the proposition “A is A” 
is realized only when “A is not-A”. To be itself is not to be itself 
—this is the logic of Zen, and satisfies all our aspirations. 

“The flower is not red, the willow is not green.” This is 
regarded by Zen devotees as most refreshingly satisfying. So long 
as we think logic final we are chained, we have no freedom of 
spirit, and the real facts of life are lost sight of. Now, however, 
we have the key to the whole situation; we are master of realities; 
words have given up their domination over us. If we are pleased 
to call a spade not a spade, we have the perfect right to do so; 
a spade need not always remain a spade; and, moreover, this, 
according to the Zen master, expresses more correctly the state 
of reality which refuses to be tied up to names. 

This breaking up of the tyranny of name and logic is at the same 
time spiritual emancipation; for the soul is no longer divided 
against itself. By acquiring the intellectual freedom the soul is in 
full possession of itself; birth and death no longer torment it; for 
there are no such dualities anywhere; we live even through death. 
Hitherto we have been looking at things in their contradicting 
and differentiating aspect, and have assumed an attitude toward 
them in accordance with that view, that is, more or less antagon¬ 
istic. But this has been revolutionized, we have at last attained 
the point where the world can be viewed, as it were, from within. 
Therefore, “the iron trees are in full bloom”; and “in the midst 


of pouring rain I am not wet”. The soul is thus made whole, 
perfect, and filled with bliss. 

Zen deals with facts and not with their logical, verbal, pre¬ 
judiced, and lame representations. Direct simplicity is the soul 
of Zen; hence its vitality, freedom, and originality. Christianity 
speaks much of simplicity of heart, and so do other religions, but 
this does not always mean to be simple-hearted or to be a Simple 
Simon. In Zen it means not to get entangled in intellectual 
subtleties, not to be carried away by philosophical reasoning that 
is so often ingenuous and full of sophistry. It means, again, to 
recognize facts as facts and to know that words are words and 
nothing else. Zen often compares the mind with a mirror free 
from stains. To be simple, therefore, according to Zen, will be to 
keep this mirror always bright and pure and ready to reflect 
simply and absolutely whatever comes before it. The result will 
be to acknowledge a spade to be a spade and at the same time 
not to be a spade. To recognize the first only is a common-sense 
view, and there is no Zen until the second is also admitted along 
with the first. The common-sense view is flat and tame, whereas 
that of Zen is always original and stimulating. Each time Zen is 
asserted things get vitalized; there is an act of creation. 

Zen thinks we are too much of slaves to words and logic. So 
long as we remain thus fettered we are miserable and go through 
untold suffering. But if we want to see something really worth 
knowing, that is conducive to our spiritual happiness, we must 
endeavour once for all to free ourselves from all conditions; we 
must see if we cannot gain a new point of view from which the 
world can be surveyed in its wholeness and life comprehended 
inwardly. This consideration has compelled one to plunge 
oneself deep into the abyss of the “Nameless” and take hold 
directly of the spirit as it is engaged in the business of creating the 
world. Here is no logic, no philosophizing; here is no twisting of 
facts to suit our artificial measures; here is no murdering of 
human nature in order to submit it to intellectual dissections; 
the one spirit stands face to face with the other spirit like two 
mirrors facing each other, and there is nothing to intervene 
between their mutual reflections. 

In this sense Zen is pre-eminently practical. It has nothing 
to do with abstractions or with subtleties of dialectics. It seizes the 



spade lying in front of you, and, holding it forth, makes the bold 
declaration, “I hold a spade, yet I hold it not.” No reference is 
made to God or to the soul; there is no talk about the infinite or a 
life after death. This handling of a homely spade, a most ordinary 
thing to see about us, opens all the secrets we encounter in life. 
And nothing more is wanted. Why? Because Zen has now cleared 
up a new approach to the reality of things. When a humble 
flower in the crannied wall is understood, the whole universe and 
all things in it and out of it are understood. In Zen the spade is the 
key to the whole riddle. How fresh and full of life it is—the way 
Zen grapples with the knottiest questions of philosophy! 

A noted Christian Father of the early Middle Ages once 
exclaimed: “O poor Aristotle! Thou who hast discovered for the 
heretics the art of dialectics, the art of building up and destroying, 
the art of discussing all things and accomplishing nothing!” So 
much ado about nothing, indeed! See how philosophers of all 
ages contradict one another after spending all their logical 
acumen and analytical ingenuity on the so-called problems of 
science and knowledge. No wonder the same old wise man, 
wanting to put a stop once for all to all such profitless discussions, 
has boldly thrown the following bomb right into the midst of 
those sand-builders: “Certum est quia impossible est”) or, more 
logically, “Credo quia absurdum est” I believe because it is irrational; 
is this not an unqualified confirmation of Zen? 

An old master brought out his stick before an assemblage of 
monies and said: “O monks, do you see this? If you see it, what 
is it you see? Would you say, ‘It is a stick 5 ? If you do you are 
ordinary people, you have no Zen. But if you say, ‘We do not see 
any stick, 5 then I would say, ‘Here I hold one, and how can you 
deny the fact? 5 55 There is no trifling in Zen. Until you have a 
third eye opened to see into the inmost secret of things, you 
cannot be in the company of the ancient sages. What is this third 
eye that sees the stick and yet sees it not? Where does one get this 
illogical apprehension of things? 

Zen says, “Buddha preached forty-nine years and yet his 
‘broad tongue 5 ( tanujihva ) never once moved.” Can one talk 
without moving one’s tongue? Why this absurdity? The ex¬ 
planation given by Gensha (Hsuan-sha, 831-908) follows: “All 
those piously inclined profess to bless others in every possible 


way; but when they come across three kinds of invalids, how 
would they treat them? The blind cannot see even if a stick or a 
mallet is produced; the deaf cannot hear however fine the preach¬ 
ing may be; and the dumb cannot talk however much they are 
urged to do so. But if these people severally suffering cannot 
somehow be benefited, what good is there after all in Bud¬ 
dhism?” The explanation does not seem to explain anything after 
all. Perhaps Butsugen’s (Fo-yen) comment may throw more light 
on the subject. He said to his disciples: “You each have a pair of 
ears; what have you ever heard with them? You each have one 
tongue; what have you ever preached with it? Indeed, you have 
never talked, you have never heard, you have never seen. From 
whence then do all these forms, voices, odours, and tastes come?” 
(That is to say, where does this world come from?) 

If this remark still leaves us where we were before, let us see 
whether Ummon (Yun-men, died 966), one of the greatest of 
Zen masters who ever lived, can help us. A monk came to 
Ummon and asked to be enlightened upon the above remark by 
Gensha. Ummon ordered him first to salute him in the formal 
way. When the monk stood up after prostrating himself on the 
ground, Ummon pushed him with his stick, and the monk 
stepped back. The master said, “You are not blind, then.” He 
now told the monk to come forward, which he did. The master 
said, “You are not deaf, then.” He finally asked the monk if he 
understood what all this was about, and the latter replied, “No, 
sir.” Ummon then concluded, “You are not dumb, then.” 

With all these comments and gestures, are we still travelling 
through a terra incognita ? If so, there is no other way but to go back 
to the beginning and repeat the stanza: 

Empty-handed I go, and behold the spade is 
in my hands; 

I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox 
I am riding; 

A few more words: the reason why Zen is so vehement in its 
attack on logic, and why the present work treats first of the 
illogical aspect of Zen, is that logic has so pervasively entered into 
life as to make most of us conclude that logic is life and without 
it life has no significance. The map of life has been so definitely 



and so thoroughly delineated by logic that what we have to do is 
simply to follow it, and that we ought not to think of violating 
the laws of thought, which are final. Such a general view of life 
has come to be held by most people, though I must say that in 
point of fact they are constantly violating what they think 
inviolable. That is to say, they are “holding a spade and yet not 
holding it”, they are making the sum of two and two sometimes 
three, sometimes five; only they are not conscious of this fact 
and imagine that their lives are logically or mathematically 
regulated. Zen wishes to storm this citadel of topsy-turvydom and 
to show that we live psychologically or biologically and not 

In logic there is a trace of effort and pain; logic is self-conscious. 
So is ethics, which is the application of logic to the facts of life. 
An ethical man performs acts of service which are praiseworthy, 
but he is all the time conscious of them, and, moreover, he may 
often be thinking of some future reward. Hence we should say 
that his mind is tainted and not at all pure, however objectively 
or socially good his deeds are. Zen abhors this. Life is an art, and 
like perfect art it should be self-forgetting, there ought not to be 
any trace of effort or painful feeling. Life, according to Zen, 
ought to be lived as a bird flies through the air or as a fish swims 
in the water. As soon as there are signs of elaboration, a man is 
doomed, he is no more a free being. You are not living as you 
ought to live, you are suffering under the tyranny of circum¬ 
stances ; you are feeling a constraint of some sort, and you lose 
your independence. Zen aims at preserving your vitality, your 
native freedom, and above all the completeness of your being. 
In other words, Zen wants to live from within. Not to be bound 
by rules, but to be creating one’s own rules—this is the kind of life 
which Zen is trying to have us live. Hence its illogical, or rather 
superlogical, statements. 

In one of his sermons a Zen master 1 declares: “The sutras 
preached by the Buddha during his lifetime are said to amount 
to five thousand and forty-eight fascicles; they include the 
doctrine of emptiness and the doctrine of being; there are 
teachings of immediate realization and of gradual development. 
Is this not an affirmation? 

1 Goso Hoyen (Fa-ycn of Wu-tsu-shan). 



“But, according to Yoka, 1 ‘There are no sentient beings, 
there are no Buddhas; sages as numerous as the sands of the 
Ganges are but so many bubbles in the sea; sages and worthies 
of the past are like flashes of lightning.’ Is this not a negation? 

“O you, my disciples, if you say there is, you go against 
Yoka; if you say there is not, you contradict our old master 
Buddha. If he were with us, then how would he pass through the 
dilemma? If you know, however, just exactly where we are, we 
shall be interviewing Buddha in the morning and saluting him 
in the evening. If, on the other hand, you confess your ignorance, 
I will let you see into the secret. When I say there is not, this does 
not necessarily mean a negation; when I say there is, this also does 
not signify an affirmation. Turn eastward and look at the Western 
Land; face the south and the North Star is pointed out there!” 

1 Yung-chia in his “Song of Enlightenment”. 





Shuzan (Shou-shan, 926-992) once held up his shipfie 1 to an 
assembly of his disciples and declared : “Call this a shippe and you 
assert; call it not a shippe and you negate. Now, do not assert nor 
negate, and what would you call it? Speak, speak!” One of the 
disciples came out of the ranks, took the shippe away from the 
master, and breaking it in two, exclaimed, “What is this?” 

To those who are used to dealing with abstractions and high 
subjects this may appear to be quite a trivial matter, for what 
have they, deep learned philosophers, to do with an insignificant 
piece of bamboo? How does it concern those scholars who are 
absorbed in deep meditation, whether it is called a bamboo stick 
or not, whether it is broken, or thrown on the floor? But to the 
followers of Zen this declaration by Shuzan is pregnant with 
meaning. Let us really realize the state of his mind in which he 
proposed this question, and we have attained our first entrance 
into the realm of Zen. There were many Zen masters who 
followed Shuzan’s example, and, holding forth their shippe , 
demanded of their pupils a satisfactory answer. 

To speak in the abstract, which perhaps will be more accept¬ 
able to most readers, the idea is to reach a higher affirmation 
than the logical antithesis of assertion and denial. Ordinarily, 
we dare not go beyond ah antithesis just because we imagine we 
cannot. Logic has so intimidated us that we shrink and shiver 
whenever its name is mentioned. The mind made to work, ever 
since the awakening of the intellect under the strictest discipline 
of logical dualism, refuses to shake off its imaginary cangue. It 
has never occurred to us that it is possible for us to escape this 
self-imposed intellectual limitation; indeed, unless we break 
through the antithesis of “yes” and “no” we can never hope to 
live a real life of freedom. And the soul has always been crying 

1 A stick about one and a half feet long, made of split bamboo bound 
with ratan. To be pronounced ship-pei. 



for it, forgetting that it is not after all so very difficult to reach 
a higher form of affirmation, where no contradicting distinctions 
obtain between negation and assertion. It is due to Zen that this 
higher affirmation has finally been reached by means of a stick 
of bamboo in the hand of the Zen master. 

It goes without saying that this stick thus brought forward 
can be any one of myriads of things existing in this world of 
particulars. In this stick we find all possible existences and also 
all our possible experiences concentrated. When we know it— 
this homely piece of bamboo—we know the whole story in a most 
thoroughgoing manner. Holding it in my hand, I hold the whole 
universe. Whatever statement I make about it is also made of 
everything else. When one point is gained, all other points go 
with it. As the Avatamsaka (Kegon) philosophy teaches: “The 
One embraces All, and All is merged in the One. The One is All, 
and All is the One. The One pervades All, and All is in the One. 
This is so with every object, with every existence. 55 But, mind 
you, here is no pantheism, nor the theory of identity. For when 
the stick of bamboo is held out before you it is just the stick, 
there is no universe epitomized in it, no All, no One; even when 
it is stated that “I see the stick 55 or that “Here is a stick, 55 we all 
miss the mark. Zen is no more there, much less the philosophy 
of the Avatamsaka. 

I spoke of the illogicalness of Zen in one of the preceding 
chapters; the reader will now know why Zen stands in opposition 
to logic, formal or informal. It is not the object of Zen to look 
illogical for its own sake, but to make people know that logical 
consistency is not final, and that there is a certain transcendental 
statement that cannot be attained by mere intellectual cleverness. 
The intellectual groove of “yes 55 and “no 55 is quite accom-" 
modating when things run their regular course; but as soon as 
the ultimate question of life comes up, the intellect fails to 
answer it satisfactorily. When we say “yes”, we assert, and by 
asserting we limit ourselves. When we say “no 55 , we deny, and to 
deny is exclusion. Exclusion and limitation, which after all are 
the same thing, murder the soul; for is it not the life of the soul 
that lives in perfect freedom and in perfect unity? There is no 
freedom or unity in exclusion or in limitation. Zen is well aware 
of this. In accordance with the demands of our inner life, there- 

0 ? 


fore, Zen takes us to an absolute realm wherein there are no 
antitheses of any sort. 

We must remember, however, that we live in affirmation and 
not in negation, for life is affirmation itself; and this affirmation 
must not be the one accompanied or conditioned by a negation; 
such an affirmation is relative and not at all absolute. With such 
an affirmation life loses its creative originality and turns into a 
mechanical process grinding forth nothing but soulless flesh and 
bones. To be free, life must be an absolute affirmation. It must 
transcend all possible conditions, limitations, and antitheses that 
hinder its free activity. When Shuzan held forth his stick of 
bamboo, what he wanted of his disciples to understand was to 
have them realize this form of absolute affirmation. Any answer 
is satisfactory if it flows out of one’s inmost being, for such is 
always an absolute affirmation. Therefore, Zen does not mean a 
mere escape from intellectual imprisonment, which sometimes 
ends in sheer wantonness. There is something in Zen that frees 
us from conditions and at the same time gives us a certain firm 
foothold, which, however, is not a foothold in a relative sense. 
The Zen master endeavours to take away all footholds from the 
disciple which he has ever had since his first appearance on earth, 
and then to supply him with one that is really no foothold. If the 
stick of bamboo is not to the purpose, anything that comes handy 
will be made use of. Nihilism is not Zen, for this bamboo stick 
or anything else cannot be done away with as words and logic 
can. This is the point we must not overlook in the study of Zen. 

Some examples will be given for illustration. Toku-san (Teh- 
shan, 782-865) used to swing his big stick whenever he came out 
to preach in the hall, saying, “If you utter a word I will give you 
thirty blows; if you utter not a word, just the same, thirty blows 
on your head.” This was all he would say to his disciples. No 
lengthy talk on religion or morality; no abstract discourse, no 
hair-splitting metaphysics; on the contrary, quite rough-shod 
riding. To those who associate religion with pusillanimity and 
sanctimoniousness the Zen master must appear a terribly 
unpolished fellow. But when facts are handled as facts, without 
any intermediary, they are generally rude things. We must 
squarely face them, for no amount of winking or evading will be 
of any avail. The inner eye is to be opened under a shower of 


thirty blows. An absolute affirmation must rise from the fiery 
crater of life itself. 

Hoyen (Fa-yen, died 1104), °f Gosozan (Wu-tsu-shan), once 
asked, “When you meet a wise man on your way, if you do not 
speak to him or remain silent, how would you interview him?” 
The point is to make one realize what I call an absolute affirma¬ 
tion. Not merely to escape the antithesis of “yes” and “no”, but 
to find a positive way in which the opposites are perfectly 
harmonized—this is what is aimed at in this question. A master 
once pointed to a live charcoal and said to his disciples, “I call 
this fire, but you call it not so; tell me what it is.” The same thing 
here again. The master intends to free his disciples 5 minds from 
the bondage of logic, which has ever been the bane of humanity. 

This ought not to be regarded as a riddle proposed to puzzle 
you. There is nothing playful about it ; if you fail to answer, you 
are to face the consequences. Are you going to be eternally 
chained by your own laws of thought, or are you going to be 
perfectly free in an assertion of life which knows no beginning or 
end*' You cannot hesitate. Grasp the fact or let it slip—between 
these there is no choice. The Zen method of discipline generally 
consists in putting one in a dilemma, out of which one must 
contrive to escape, not through logic indeed, but through a mind 
of higher order. 

Yakusan (Yueh-shan, 751-834) studied Zen first under 
Sekito (Shih-t‘ou, 700-790) and asked him: “As to the three 
divisions and twelve departments of Buddhism, I am not alto¬ 
gether unacquainted with them, but I have no knowledge what¬ 
ever concerning the doctrine of Zen as taught in the South. 1 Its 
followers assert it to be the doctrine of directly pointing at the 
mind and attaining Buddhahood through a perception of its 
real nature. If this is so, how may I be enlightened?” Sekito 
replied: “Assertion prevails not, nor does denial. When neither 
of them is to the point, what would you say?” Yakusan remained 
meditative, as he did not grasp the meaning of the question. The 
master then told him to go to Badaishi (Ma Tai-shih) of Chiang- 
hsi, who might be able to open the monk’s eye to the truth of Zen. 
Thereupon, the monk Yakusan went to the new teacher with the 

1 Zen, in contradistinction to the other Buddhist schools, originated in the 
southern provinces of China. 



same problem. His answer was, “I sometimes make one raise the 
eyebrows, or wink, w'hile at other times to do so is altogether 
wrong.” Yakusan at once comprehended the ultimate purport 
of this remark. When Baso asked, “What makes you come to 
this?” Yakusan replied, “When I was with Sekito, it was like 
a mosquito biting at an iron bull.” Was this a satisfactory reason 
or explanation? How strange this so-called affirmation! 

Riko (Li-k‘u), a high government officer of the 'Pang 
dynasty, asked Nansen (Nan-chuan): “A long time ago a man 
kept a goose in a bottle. It grew larger and larger until it could 
not get out of the bottle any more; he did not want to break the 
bottle, nor did he wish to hurt the goose; how would you get it 
out?” The master called out, “O Officer!”—to which Riko at once 
responded, “Yes!” “There, it is out!” This was the way Nansen 
produced the goose out of its imprisonment. Did Riko get his 
higher affirmation? 

Kyogen (Hsiang-yen) 1 said: “Suppose a man climbing up 
a tree takes hold of a branch by his teeth, and his whole body is 
thus suspended. His hands are not holding anything and his feet 
are off the ground. Now another man corqes along and asks the 
man in the tree as to the fundamental principle of Buddhism. 
If the man in the tree does not answer, he is neglecting the 
questioner; but if he tries to answer he will lose his life; how can 
he get out of his predicament?” While, this is put in the form of 
a fable its purport is like those already mentioned. If you open 
your mouth trying to affirm or to negate, you are lost. Zen is no 
more there. But merely remaining silent will not do, either. A 
stone lying there is silent, a flower in bloom under the window is 
silent, but neither of them understands Zen. There must be a 
certain way in which silence and eloquence become identical, 
that is, where negation and assertion are unified in a higher form 
of statement. When we attain to this we know Zen. 

What, then, is an absolute affirmative statement? When 
Hyakujo (Pai-chang, 720-814) wished to decide who would be 
the next chief of Tai-kuei-shan monastery, he called in two of his 
chief disciples, and producing a pitcher, which a Buddhist monk 
generally carries about him, said to them, “Do not call it a pitcher 
but tell me what it is.” The first one replied, “It cannot be called 

1 A younger contemporary of Kuei-shan (771-853). 



a piece of wood.” The abbot did not consider the reply quite to 
the mark; thereupon the second one came forward, lightly pushed 
the pitcher down, and without making any remark quietly left 
the room. He was chosen to be the new abbot, who afterwards 
became “the master of one thousand and five hundred monks”. 
Was this upsetting a pitcher an absolute affirmation? You may 
repeat this act, but you will not necessarily be regarded as 
understanding Zen. 

Zen abhors repetition or imitation of any kind, for it kills. 
For the same reason Zen never explains, but only affirms. Life is 
fact and no explanation is necessary or pertinent. To explain is to 
apologize, and why should we apologize for living? To live—is 
that not enough? Let us then live, let us affirm! Herein lies Zen 
in all its purity and in all its nudity as well. 

In the monastery of Nansen (Nan-ch £ uan, 748-834), monks 
of the eastern wing quarrelled with those of the western wing 
over the possession of a cat. The master seized it and lifting it 
before the disputing monks, said, “If any of you can say some¬ 
thing to save the poor animal, I will let it go.” As nobody came 
forward to utter a word of affirmation, Nansen cut the object of 
dispute in two, thus putting an end forever to an unproductive 
quarrelling over “yours” and “mine”. Later on Joshu (Chao- 
chou) came back from an outing and Nansen put the case before 
him, and asked him what he would have done to save the animal. 
Joshu without further ado took off his straw sandals and, putting 
them on his head, went out of the room. Seeing this, Nansen 
exclaimed, “If you were here at the time you would have saved 
the cat.” 

What does all this mean? Why was a poor innocent creature 
sacrificed? What has Joshu’s placing his sandals over his head 
to do with the quarrelling? Did Nansen mean to be irreligious 
and inhuman by killing a living being? Was Joshu really a fool 
to play such a strange trick? And then “absolute denial” and 
“absolute affirmation”—are these really two? There is something 
fearfully earnest in both these actors, Joshu and Nansen. Unless 
this is apprehended, Zen is, indeed, a mere farce. The cat cer¬ 
tainly was not killed to no purpose. If any of the lower animals 
is ever to attain Buddhahood, this cat was surely the one so 



The same Joshu was once asked by a monk, “All things are 
reducible to the One; where is this One to be reduced?” The 
master’s reply was, “When I was in Tsin district I had a monk’s 
robe made that weighed seven chin.” This is one of the most noted 
sayings ever uttered by a Zen master. One may ask: “Is this what 
is meant by an absolute affirmation? What possible connection is 
there between a monk’s robe and the oneness of things?” Let me 
ask: You believe that all things exist in God, but where is the 
abode of God? Is it in Joshu’s seven -chin cassock? When you say 
that God is here, he can no more be there; but you cannot say 
that he is nowhere, for by your definition God is omnipresent. 
So long as we are fettered by the intellect, we cannot interview 
God as he is; we seek him everywhere, but he ever flies away from 
us. The intellect desires to have him located, but it is in his very 
nature that he cannot be limited. Here is a great dilemma ever 
put to the intellect, and it is an inevitable one. How shall we find 
the way out? Joshu’s priestly robe is not ours; his way of solution 
cannot be blindly followed, for each of us must beat out his own 
track. If someone comes to you with the same question, how will 
you answer it? And are we not at every turn of life confronted 
with the same problem? And is it not ever pressing for an 
immediate and most practical solution? 

Gutei’s (Chu-chih) 1 favourite response to any question put to 
him was to lift one of his fingers. His little boy attendant imitated 
him, and whenever the boy was asked by strangers as to the teach¬ 
ing of the master he would lift his finger. Learning of this, the 
master one day called the boy in and cut off his finger. The boy in 
fright and pain tried to run away, but was called back, when the 
master held up his finger. The boy tried to imitate the master, as was 
his wont, but the finger was no more there, and then suddenly the 
significance of it all dawned upon him. Copying is slavery. The 
letter must never be followed, only the spirit is to be grasped. 
Higher affirmations live in the spirit. And where is the spirit? 
Seek it in your everyday experience, and therein lies abundance 
of proof for all you need. 

We read in a sutra: “There was an old woman on the east 
side of the town who was born when the Buddha was born, and 
they lived in the same place throughout all their lives. The old 

1 A disciple of T‘ien-lung, of the ninth century. 



woman did not wish to see the Buddha; if he ever approached she 
tried in every way to avoid him, running up and down, hiding 
herself hither and thither. But one day, finding it impossible to 
flee from him, she covered her face with her hands, and lo, the 
Buddha appeared between each of her ten fingers. Let me ask, 
‘Who is this old lady? 5 ” 

Absolute affirmation is the Buddha; you cannot fly away from 
it, for it confronts you at every turn; but somehow you do not 
recognize it until you, like Gutei’s little boy, lose a finger. It is 
strange, but the fact remains that we are like “those who die of 
hunger while sitting beside the rice bag”, or rather like “those who 
die of thirst while standing thoroughly drenched in the midst 
of the river”. One master goes a step further and says that “We 
are the rice itself and the water itself.” If so, we cannot truthfully 
say that we are hungry or thirsty, for from the very beginning 
nothing has been wanting in us. A monk came to Sozan (T‘sao- 
shan, 840-901) asking him to be charitable, as he was quite 
destitute. Sozan called out, “O my venerable sir!” to which the 
monk immediately responded. Then said Sozan, “You have 
already had three big bowlfuls of rich home-made chu (liquor), 
and yet you insist that it has never yet wetted your lips!” Perhaps 
we are all like this poor opulent monk; when we are already 
quite filled up, we never realize the fact. 

To conclude, here is another of the innumerable statements 
that abound in Zen literature, absolutely affirming the truth of 
Zen. Seihei (Tsing-ping, 845-919) asked Suibi (T‘sui-wei) i 1 

“What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?” 

“Wait,” said Suibi; “when there is no one around I will tell 

After a while Seihei repeated the request, saying, “There is 
no one here now; pray enlighten me.” 

Coming down from his chair, Suibi took the anxious inquirer 
into the bamboo grove, but said nothing. When the latter pressed 
for a reply, Suibi whispered, “How high these bamboos are ! And 
how short those over there!” 

1 The Transmission of the Lamp (Chuan-teng Lu ), Vol. XV. 





So far Zen has been discussed from the intellectual point of view, 
in order to see that it is impossible to comprehend Zen through 
this channel; in fact it is not doing justice to Zen to treat it thus 
philosophically. Zen abhors media, even the intellectual medium; 
it is primarily and ultimately a discipline and an experience, 
which is dependent on no explanation; for an explanation wastes 
time and energy and is never to the point; all that you get out of 
it is a misunderstanding and a twisted view of the thing. When 
Zen wants you to taste the sweetness of sugar, it will put the 
required article right into your mouth and no further words are 
said. The followers of Zen would say, A finger is needed to point 
at the moon, but what a calamity it would be if one took the 
finger for the moon ! This seems improbable, but how many times 
we are committing this form of error we do not know. Ignorance 
alone often saves us from being disturbed in our self-complacency. 
The business of a writer on Zen, however, cannot go beyond the 
pointing at the moon, as this is the only means permitted to him 
in the circumstances; and everything that is within his power 
will be done to make the subject in hand as thoroughly com¬ 
prehensible as it is capable of being so made. When Zen is 
metaphysically treated, the reader may get somewhat discouraged 
about its being at all intelligible, since most people are not 
generally addicted to speculation or introspection. Let me ap¬ 
proach it from quite a different point, which is perhaps more 
genuinely Zen-like. 

When Joshu (Ghao-chou) was asked what the Tao (or the 
truth of Zen) was, he answered, “Your everyday life, that is the 
Tao.” In other words, a quiet, self-confident, and trustful 
existence of your own—this is the truth of Zen, and what I mean 
when I say that Zen is pre-eminently practical. It appeals directly 
to life, not even making reference to a soul or to God, or to 


anything that interferes with or disturbs the ordinary course of 
living. The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing 
extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand; I take 
a book from the other side of this desk; I hear the boys playing 
ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the 
neighbouring woods:—in all these I am practising Zen, I am 
living Zen. No wordy discussion is necessary, nor any explanation. 
I do not know why—and there is no need of explaining, but 
when the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and every¬ 
body’s heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must 
be taken hold of here. 

Therefore, when Bodhidharma (Daruma in J.; Ta-mo in 
C.) was asked who he was, he said, “I do not know.” This was 
not because he could not explain himself, nor was it because he 
wanted to avoid any verbal controversy, but just because he did 
not know what or who he was, save that he was what he was and 
could not be anything else. The reason was simple enough. When 
Nangaku (Nan-yueh, 677-744.) was approaching the Sixth 
Patriarch, and was questioned, “What is it that thus walks toward 
me?” he did not know what to answer. For eight long years he 
pondered the question, when one day it dawned upon him, and 
he exclaimed, “Even to say it is something does not hit the 
mark.” This is the same as saying, “I do not know.” 

Sekito (Shih-t c ou, 700-790) once asked his disciple, Yakusan 
(Yueh-shan), “What are you doing here?” “I am not doing any¬ 
thing,” answered the latter. “If so you are idling your time away.” 
“Is not idling away the time doing something?” was Yakusan’s 
response. Sekito still pursued him. “You say you are not doing 
anything; who then is this one who is doing nothing?” Yakusan’s 
reply was the same as that of Bodhidharma: “Even the wisest 
know it not.” There is no agnosticism in it, nor mysticism either, 
if this is understood in the sense of mystification. A plain fact is 
stated here in plain language. If it does not seem so to the reader, 
it is because he has not attained to this state of mind which 
enabled Bodhidharma or Sekito to make the statement. 

The Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty requested Fu Daishi 
(Fu-ta-shih, 497-569) to discourse on a Buddhist sutra. The 
Daishi taking the chair sat solemnly in it but uttered not a word. 
The Emperor said, “I asked you to give a discourse, and why do 



you not begin to speak?” Shih, one of the Emperor’s attendants, 
said, “The Daishi has finished discoursing.” What kind of a 
sermon did this silent Buddhist philosopher deliver? Later on, 
a Zen master commenting on the above says, “What an eloquent 
sermon it was!” Vimalakirti, the hero of the sutra bearing his 
name, had the same way of answering the question, “What is the 
absolute doctrine of non-duality?” Someone remarked, “Thun¬ 
dering, indeed, is this silence of Vimalakirti.” Was this keeping 
the mouth closed really so deafening? If so, I hold my tongue 
now, and the whole universe, with all its hullabaloo and hurly- 
burly, is at once absorbed in this absolute silence. But mimicry 
does not turn a frog into a green leaf. Where there is no creative 
originality there is no Zen. I must say: “Too late, too late! The 
arrow’ has gone off the string.” 

A monk asked Yeno (Hui-neng), the Sixth Patriarch, “Who 
has inherited the spirit of the Fifth Patriarch (Hung-jen) ?” 

Answered Yeno, “One who understands Buddhism.” 

“Have you then inherited it?” 

“No,” replied Yeno, “I have not.” 

“Why have you not?” was naturally the next question of the 

“Because I do not understand Buddhism,” Yeno reasoned. 

How hard, then, and yet how easy it is to understand the 
truth of Zen! Hard because to understand it is not to understand 
it; easy because not to understand it is to understand it. A master 
declares that even Buddha Sakyamuni and Bodhisattva Maitreya 
do not understand it, where simple-minded knaves do under¬ 
stand it. 

We can now see why Zen shuns abstractions, representations, 
and figures of speech. No real value is attached to such words as 
God, Buddha, the soul, the Infinite, the One, and suchlike words. 
They are, after all, only words and ideas, and as such are not 
conducive to the real understanding of Zen. On the contrary, 
they often falsify and play at cross purposes. We are thus com¬ 
pelled always to be on our guard. Said a Zen master, “Cleanse 
the mouth thoroughly when you utter the word Buddha.” Or, 
“There is one word I do not like to hear; that is, Buddha.” Or, 
“Pass quickly on where there is no Buddha, nor stay where he is.” 
Why are the followers of Zen so antagonistic toward Buddha? 



Is not Buddha their Lord? Is he not the highest reality o 
Buddhism? He cannot be such a hateful or unclean thing as to be 
avoided by Zen adherents. What they do not like is not the Buddha 
himself, but the odium attached to the word. 

The answers given by Zen masters to the question “Who or 
what is the Buddha? 55 are full of varieties; and why so? One 
reason at least is that they thus desire to free our minds from all 
possible entanglements and attachments such as words, ideas, 
desires, etc., which are put up against us from the outside. Some 
of the answers are, then, as follows: 

“One made of clay and decorated with gold. 55 

“Even the finest artist cannot paint him. 55 

“The one enshrined in the Buddha Hall. 55 

“He is no Buddha. 55 

“Your name is Yecho. 55 

“The dirt-scraper all dried up. 55 

“See the eastern mountains moving over the waves. 55 

“No nonsense here. 55 

“Surrounded by the mountains are we here. 55 

“The bamboo grove at the foot of Chang-lin hill. 55 

“Three pounds of flax. 55 

“The mouth is the gate of woe. 55 

“Lo, the waves are rolling over the plateau. 55 

“See the three-legged donkey go trotting along. 55 

“A reed has grown piercing through the leg. 55 

“Here goes a man with the chest exposed and the legs all naked. 55 

These are culled at random from a few books I am using for 
the purpose. When a thorough systematic search is made in the 
entire body of Zen literature we get quite a collection of the 
most strange statements ever made concerning such a simple 
question as, “Who is the Buddha? 55 Some of the answers given 
above are altogether irrelevant; they are, indeed, far from being 
appropriate so far as we judge them from our ordinary standard 
of reasoning. The others seem to be making sport of the question 
or of the questioner himself. Can the Zen masters who make such 
remarks be considered to be in earnest and really desiring the 
enlightenment of their followers? But the point is to have our 
minds work in complete union with the state of mind in which 
the masters uttered these strange words. When this is done, every 



one of these answers appears in an altogether new light and 
becomes wonderfully transparent. 

Being practical and directly to the point, Zen never wastes 
time or words in explanation. Its answers are always curt and 
pithy; there is nothing circumlocutory in Zen; the master’s 
words come out spontaneously and without a moment’s delay. 
A gong is struck and its vibrations instantly follow. If we are not 
on the alert we fail to catch them; a mere winking and we miss 
the mark forever. They justly compare Zen to lightning. The 
rapidity, however, does not constitute Zen; its naturalness, its 
freedom from artificialities, its being expressive of life itself, its 
originality—these are the essential characteristics of Zen. 
Therefore, we have always to be on guard not to be carried away 
by outwards signs when we really desire to get into the core of 
Zen. How difficult and how misleading it would be to try and 
understand Zen literally and logically, depending on those 
statements which have been given above as answers to the 
question “What is the Buddha?” Of course, so far as they are 
given as answers they are pointers by which we may know where 
to look for the presence of the Buddha; but we must remember 
that the finger pointing at the moon remains a finger and under 
no circumstances can it be changed into the moon itself. Danger 
always lurks where the intellect slyly creeps in and takes the index 
for the moon itself. 

Yet there are philosophers who, taking some of the above 
utterances in their literary and logical sense, try to see something 
of pantheism in them. For instance, when the master says, “Three 
pounds of flax,” or “A dirt-scraper,” by this is apparently meant, 
they would insist, to convey a pantheistic idea. That is to say that 
those Zen masters consider the Buddha to be manifesting himself 
in everything: in the flax, in a piece of wood, in the running 
stream, in the towering mountains, or in works of art. Mahayana 
Buddhism, especially Zen, seems to indicate something of the 
spirit of pantheism, but nothing is in fact farther from Zen than 
this representation. The masters from the beginning have foreseen 
this dangerous tendency, and that is why they make those ap¬ 
parently incoherent statements. Their intention is to set the 
minds of their disciples or of scholars free from being oppressed 
by anv fixed ouinions or prejudices or so-called logical inter¬ 


pretations. When Dozan (Tung-shan, a disciple of Ummon) 
answered, “Three pounds of flax,” to the question, “What is the 
Buddha?”—which, by the way, is thesame thing as asking, “What 
is God?”—he did not mean that the flax he might have been 
handling at the time was a visible manifestation of Buddha, that 
Buddha when seen with an eye of intelligence could be met with 
in every object. His answer simply was, “Three pounds of flax.” 
He did not imply anything metaphysical in this plain matter-of- 
fact utterance. These words came out of his inmost consciousness 
as water flows out of a spring, or as a bud bursts forth in the sun. 
There was no premeditation or philosophy on his part. Therefore, 
if we want to grasp the meaning of “Three pounds of flax,” we 
first have to penetrate into the inmost recess of Dozan’s conscious¬ 
ness and not to try to follow up his mouth. At another time he 
may give an entirely different answer, which might directly 
contradict the one already given. Logicians will naturally be 
nonplussed ; they may declare him altogether out of mind. But the 
students of Zen will say, “It is raining so gently, see how fresh and 
green the grass is,” and they know well that their answer is in full 
accord with Dozan’s “Three pounds of flax.” 

The following will perhaps show further that Zen is not a form 
of pantheism, if we understand by this any philosophy that 
identifies the visible universe with the highest reality, called God, 
or Mind, or otherwise, and states that God cannot exist inde¬ 
pendent of his manifestations. In fact, Zen is something more 
than this. In Zen there is no place for time-wasting philosophical 
discussion. But philosophy is also a manifestation of life-activity, 
and therefore Zen does not necessarily shun it. When a philo¬ 
sopher comes to be enlightened, the Zen master is never loath to 
meet him on his own ground. The earlier Zen masters were 
comparatively tolerant toward the so-called philosophers and 
not so impatient as in the case of Rinzai (Lin-chi, died 867) or 
Tokusan (Te-shan, 779-865), whose dealings with them were 
swift and most direct. What follows is taken from a treatise by 
Daiju 1 on some principles of Zen compiled in the eighth (or 

1 Daiju Ekai, or Ta-chu Hui-hai in Chinese, was a disciple of Ma-tsu 
(died 788), and his work, which may be rendered “A Treatise on the Essence 
of Sudden Awakening’*, in two fascicles, gives the principal teachings of Zen 
as then understood. 



ninth) century, when Zen had begun to flourish in all its brilliancy 
and with all its uniqueness. A monk ask Daiju: 

“Q. Are words the Mind? 

“A. No, words are external conditions (yen in J.; yuan in C.); 
they are not the Mind. 

“Q,. Apart from external conditions, where is the Mind to be 

“A. There is no Mind independent of words. [That is to say, 
the Mind is in words, but is not to be identified with them.] 

“Q. If there is no Mind independent of words, what is the 

“A. The Mind is formless and imageless. The truth is, it is 
neither independent of nor dependent upon words. It is eternally 
serene and free in its activity. Says the Patriarch, ‘When you 
realize that the Mind is no Mind, you understand the Mind and 
its workings. 9 99 

Daiju further writes: “That which produces all things is 
called Dharma-nature, or Dharmakaya. By the so-called Dharma 
is meant the Mind of all beings. When this Mind is stirred up, all 
things are stirred up. When the Mind is not stirred up, there is 
nothing stirring and there is no name. The confused do not 
understand that the Dharmakaya, in itself formless, assumes 
individual forms according to conditions. The confused take the 
green bamboo for Dharmakaya itself, the yellow blooming tree 
for Prajna itself. But if the tree were Prajna, Prajna would be 
identical with a non-sentient. If the bamboo were Dharmakaya, 
Dharmakaya would be identical with a plant. But Dharmakaya 
exists, Prajna exists, even when there is no blooming tree, no 
green bamboo. Otherwise, when one eats a bamboo-shoot, this 
would be eating up Dharmakaya itself. Such views as this are 
really not worth talking about. 99 


Those who have only read the foregoing treatment of Zen as 
illogical, or of Zen as a higher affirmation, may conclude that 
Zen is something unapproachable, something far apart from our 
ordinary everyday life, something very alluring but very elusive; 


and we cannot blame them for so thinking. Zen ought, therefore, 
to be presented also from its easy, familiar, and approachable side. 
Life is the basis of all things; apart from it nothing can stand. 
With all our philosophy, with all our grand and enhancing ideas, 
we cannot escape life as we live it. Star-gazers are still walking 
on the solid earth. 

What is Zen, then, when made accessible to everybody? 
Joshu (Chao-chou) once asked a new monk: 

‘‘Have you ever been here before?” 

The monk answered, “Yes, sir, I have.” 

Thereupon the master said, “Have a cup of tea.” 

Later on another monk came and he asked him the same 
question, “Have you ever been here?” 

This time the answer was quite opposite. “I have never been 
here, sir.” 

The old master, however, answered just as before, “Have 
a cup of tea.” 

Afterwards the Inju (the managing monk of the monastery) 
asked the master, “How is it that you make the same offering of 
a cup of tea no matter what a monk’s reply is?” 

The old master called out, “O Inju!” who at once replied, 
“Yes, master.” Whereupon Joshu said, “Have a cup of tea.” 

Joshu (778-897) was one of the most acute Zen masters during 
the T‘ang dynasty, and the development of Zen in China owes 
much to him. He is said to have itinerated even when he was 
eighty years of age, his object being to perfect himself in the 
mastery of Zen. He died in his one hundred and twentieth year. 
Whatever utterances he made were like jewels that sparkled 
brightly. It was said of him, “His Zen shines upon his lips.” A 
monk who was still a novice came to him and asked to be in¬ 
structed in Zen. 

Joshu said, “Have you not had your breakfast yet?” 

Replied the mortk, “Yes, sir, I have had it already.” 

“If so, wash your dishes.” This remark by the old master 
opened the novice’s eye to the truth of Zen. 

One day he was sweeping the ground when a monk asked him, 
“You are such a wise and holy master; tell me how it is that dust 
ever accumulates in your yard.” 

Said the master, “It comes from the outside.” 




Another time he was asked, C£ \V'hy does this holy place attract 
dust? 55 To which his reply was, “There, another particle of 
dust! 55 

There was a famous stone bridge at Joshu’s monastery, which 
was one of the sights there. A stranger monk inquired of him, 
“I have for some time heard of your famous stone bridge, but 
I see no such thing here, only a plank. 55 

Said Joshu, “You see a plank and don’t see a stone bridge. 55 

“Where then is the stone bridge? 55 

“You have just crossed it, 55 was the prompt reply. 

At another time when Joshu was asked about this same stone 
bridge, his answer was, “Horses pass it, people pass it, everybody 
passes it. 55 

In these dialogues do we only see trivial talks about ordinary 
things of life and nature? Is there nothing spiritual, conducive to 
the enlightenment of the religious soul? Is Zen, then, too practical, 
too commonplace? Is it too abrupt a descent from the height of 
transcendentalism to everyday things? Well, it all depends on how 
you look at it. A stick of incense is burning on my desk. Is this 
a trivial affair? An earthquake shakes the earth and Mt. Fuji 
topples over. Is this a great event? Yes, so long as the conception 
of space remains. But are we really living confined within an 
enclosure called space? Zen would answer at once: “With the 
burning of an incense-stick the whole triloka burns. Within 
Joshu’s cup of tea the mermaids are dancing. 55 So long as one is 
conscious of space and time, Zen will keep a respectable distance 
from you; your holiday is ill-spent, your sleep is disturbed, and 
your whole life is a failure. 

Read the following dialogue between Yisan (Kuei-shan) and 
Kyozan (Yang-shan). At the end of his summer’s sojourn 
Kyozan paid a visit to Yisan, who said, “I have not seen you this 
whole summer coming up this way; what have you been doing 
down there? 55 

Replied Kyozan, “Down there I have been tilling a piece of 
ground and finished sowing millet seeds.” 

Yisan said, “Then you have not wasted your summer.” 

It was now Kyozan’s turn to ask Yisan as to his doings during 
the past summer, and he asked, “How did you pass your summer? 

“One meal a day and a good sleep at night.” 



This brought out Kyozan’s comment, “Then you have not 
wasted your summer. 55 

A Confucian scholar writes, “They seek the truth too far 
away from themselves, while it is right near them. 55 The same 
thing may be said of Zen. We look for its secrets where they are 
most unlikely to be found, that is, in verbal abstractions and 
metaphysical subtleties, whereas the truth of Zen really lies in 
the concrete things of our daily life. A monk asked the master: 
“It is some time since I came to you to be instructed in the holy 
path of the Buddha, but you have never given me even an 
inkling of it. I pray you to be more sympathetic. 55 To this the 
following answer was given: “What do you mean, my son? 
Every morning you salute me, and do I not return it? When you 
bring me a cup of tea, do I not accept it and enjoy drinking it? 
Besides this, what more instructions do you desire from me? 55 

Is this Zen ? Is this the kind of life-experience Zen wants us 
to have? A Zen poet sings: 

How wondrously strange, and how miraculous this! 

I draw water, I carry fuel. 

When Zen is said to be illogical and irrational, timid readers 
are frightened and may wish to have nothing to do with it, but 
I am confident that the present chapter devoted to practical Zen 
will mitigate whatever harshness and uncouthness there may have 
been in it when it was intellectually treated. In so far as the truth 
of Zen is on its practical side and not in its irrationality, we must 
not put too much emphasis on its irrationality. This may tend 
only to make Zen more inaccessible to ordinary intellects, but 
in order to show further what a simple and matter-of-fact 
business Zen is, and at the same time to emphasize the practical 
side of Zen, I will cite some more of the so-called “cases 55 in 
which appeal is made to the most naiVe experience one may have 
in life. NaiVe they are, indeed, in the sense of being free from 
conceptual demonstration or from intellectual analysis. You see 
a stick raised, or you are asked to pass a piece of household 
furniture, or are simply addressed by your name. Such as these 
are the simplest incidents of life occurring every day and being 
passed without any particular notice, and yet Zen is there—the 


Zen that is supposed to be so full of irrationalities, or, if you like 
to put it so, so full of the highest speculations that are possible 
to the human understanding. The following are some more of 
these instances, simple, direct, and practical, and yet pregnant 
with meaning. 

Sekkyo (Shih-kung) 1 asked one of his accomplished monks, 
“Can you take hold of empty space?” 

“Yes, sir,” he replied. 

“Show me how you do it.” 

The monk stretched out his arm and clutched at empty 

Sekkyo said: “Is that the way? But after all you have not got 

“What then,” asked the monk, “is your way?” 

The master straightway took hold of the monk’s nose and 
gave it a hard pull, which made the latter exclaim: “Oh, oh, 
how hard you pull at my nose! You are hurting me terribly!” 

“That is the way to have good hold of empty space,” said 
the master. 

When Yenkwan (Yen-kuan), one of Ma-tsu’s disciples, was 
asked by a monk who the real Vairochana Buddha was, he 
told the monk to pass over a water-pitcher which was near by. 
The monk brought it to him as requested, but Yenkwan now 
ordered it to be taken back to its former place. After obediently 
following the order, the monk again asked the master who the 
real Vairochana Buddha was. “The venerable old Buddha is 
no more here,” was the reply. Concerning this incident another 
Zen master comments, “Yes, the venerable old Buddha has 
long been here.” 

If these incidents are regarded as not entirely free from 
intellectual complications, what would you think of the follow¬ 
ing case of Chu (Chung, died 775), the national teacher of 
Nan-yang, who used to cal] his attendant three times a day, 
saying, “O my attendant, my attendant!” To this the atten¬ 
dant would respond regularly, “Yes, master.” Finally the master 
remarked, “I thought I was in the wrong with you, but it is you 

1 A disciple of Ma-tsu. He was a hunter before conversion, and for his 
interview with Ma-tsu see my Z en Essays, III, under “Shih-kung and San- 
ping”, by Motonobu Kano. 



that is in the wrong with me.” Is this not simple enough?—just 
calling one by name? Chu’s last comment may not be so very 
intelligible from an ordinary logical point of view, but one 
calling and another responding is one of the commonest and 
most practical affairs of life. Zen declares that the truth is 
precisely there, so we can see what a matter-of-fact thing Zen 
is. There is no mystery in it, the fact is open to all: I hail you, 
and you call back; one “hallo!” calls forth another “hallo!” 
and this is all there is to it. 

Ryosui (Liang-sui) was studying Zen under Mayoku (Ma-ku, 
a contemporary of Rinzai), and when Mayoku called out, “O 
Ryosui!” he answered, “Yes!” Thus called three times, he 
answered three times, when the master remarked, “O you 
stupid fellow!” This brought Ryosui to his senses; he now 
understood Zen and exclaimed: “O master, don’t deceive me 
any more. If I had not come to you I should have been miserably 
led astray all my life by the sutras and the sastras.” Later on 
Ryosui said to some of his fellow-monks who had been spending 
their time in the mastery of Buddhist philosophy, “All that you 
know, I know; but what I know, none of you know.” Is it not 
wonderful that Ryosui could make such an utterance just by 
understanding the significance of his master’s call? 

Do these examples make the subject in hand any clearer 
or more intelligible than before? I can multiply such instances 
indefinitely, but those so far cited may suffice to show that 
Zen is after all not a very complicated affair, or a study requiring 
the highest faculty of abstraction and speculation. The truth and 
power of Zen consists in its very simplicity, directness, and 
utmost practicalness. “Good morning; how are you today?” 
“Thank you, I am well”—here is Zen. “Please have a cup of 
tea”—this, again, is full of Zen. When a hungry monk at work 
heard the dinner-gong he immediately dropped his work and 
showed himself in the dining-room. The master, seeing him, 
laughed heartily, for the monk had been acting Zen to its 
fullest extent. Nothing could be more natural; the one thing 
needful is just to open one’s eye to the significance of it all. 

But here is a dangerous loophole which the student of Zen 
ought to be especially careful to avoid. Zen must never be 
confused with naturalism or libertinism, which means to follow 



one’s natural bent without questioning its origin and value. 
There is a great difference between human action and that of 
the animals, which are lacking in moral intuition and religious 
consciousness. The animals do not know anything about exert¬ 
ing themselves in order to improve their conditions or to progress 
in the way to higher virtues. Sekkyo was one day working 
in the kitchen when Baso, his Zen teacher, came in and asked 
what he was doing. “I am herding the cow,” said the pupil. 
“How do you attend her?” “If she goes out of the path even 
once, I pull her back straightway by the nose; not a moment’s 
delay is allowed.” Said the master, “You truly know how to 
take care of her.” This is not naturalism. Here is an effort to do 
the right thing. 

A distinguished teacher was once asked, “Do you ever make 
any effort to get disciplined in the truth?” 

“Yes, I do.” 

“How do you exercise yourself?” 

“When I am hungry I eat; when tired I sleep.” 

“This is what everybody does; can they be said to be exer¬ 
cising themselves in the same way as you do?” 


“Why not?” 

“Because when they eat they do not eat, but are thinking of 
various other things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed; 
when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand 
and one things. This is why they are not like myself.” 

If Zen is to be called a form of naturalism, then it is so 
with a rigorous discipline at the back of it. It is in that sense, 
and not as it is understood by libertines, that Zen may be desig¬ 
nated naturalism. The libertines have no freedom of will, they are 
bound hands and feet by external agencies before which they are 
utterly helpless. Zen, on the contrary, enjoys perfect freedom; 
that is, it is master of itself. Zen has no “abiding place”, to use 
a favourite expression in the Prajnaparamita Sutras . When a 
thing has its fixed abode, it is fettered, it is no more absolute. 
The following dialogue will very clearly explain this point. 

A monk asked, “Where is the abiding place for the mind?” 

£ ‘The mind,” answered the master, “abides where there is 
no abiding.” 



“What is meant by ‘there is no abiding* ?** 

“When the mind is not abiding in any particular object, 
we say that it abides where there is no abiding.*’ 

“What is meant by not abiding in any particular object?” 
“It means not to be abiding in the dualism of good and 
evil, being and non-being, thought and matter; it means not 
to be abiding in emptiness or in non-emptiness, neither in 
tranquillity nor in non-tranquillity. Where there is no abiding 
place, this is truly the abiding place for the mind.” 

Seppo (Hsueh-feng, 822-908) was one of the most earnest 
truth-seekers in the history of Zen during the T £ ang dynasty. 
He is said to have carried a ladle throughout the long years of his 
disciplinary Zen peregrinations. His idea was to serve in one of 
the most despised and most difficult positions in the monastery 
life—that is, as cook—and the ladle was his symbol. When he 
finally succeeded Tokusan (Teh-shan) as Zen master a monk 
approached him and asked: “What is that you have attained 
under Tokusan? How serene and self-contained you are!” 
“Empty-handed I went away from home, and empty-handed 
I returned.” Is not this a practical explanation of the doctrine 
of “no abiding place”? The monks wanted their master Hyakujo 
(Pai-chang) to give a lecture on Zen. He said, “You attend to 
the farming and later on I will tell you all about Zen.” After they 
had finished the work the master was requested to fulfil his 
promise, whereupon he opened out both his arms, but said not 
a word. This was his great sermon. 

8 ? 



T„ e object of Zen discipline consists in acquiring a new view¬ 
point for looking into the essence of things. If you have been 
in the habit of thinking logically according to the rules of dualism, 
rid yourself of it and you may come around somewhat to the 
viewpoint of Zen. You and I are supposedly living in the same 
world, but who can tell that the thing we popularly call a stone 
that is lying before my window is the same to both of us? You 
and I sip a cup of tea. That act is apparently alike to us both, 
but who can tell what a wide gap there is subjectively between 
your drinking and my drinking? In your drinking there may 
be no Zen, while mine is brim-full of it. The reason for it is: you 
move in a logical circle and I am out of it. Though there is in 
fact nothing new in the so-called new viewpoint of Zen, the term 
“new 55 is convenient to express the Zen way of viewing the world, 
but its use here is a condescension on the part of Zen. 

This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called safari 
(wu in C.) and its verb form is satoru. Without it there is no 
Zen, for the life of Zen begins with the “opening of safari”. 
Safari may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contra¬ 
distinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever 
the definition, safari means the unfolding of a new world hitherto 
unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind. With this 
preliminary remark I wish the reader to ponder the following 
mondo (literally, “asking and answering 55 ), which I hope will 
illustrate my statement. 

A young monk asked Joshu to be instructed in the faith of 
Zen. Said the master: 

“Have you had your breakfast, or not? 55 

“Yes, master, I have, 55 answered the monk. 

1 This subject is more fully treated in my Z™ Essays , I, pp. 215-50, and 
also in II. pp. 4 ff. 



“Go and get your bowls washed, 5 * was the immediate 
response. And this suggestion at once opened the monk’s mind 
to the truth of Zen. 

Later on Ummon commented on the response, saying: “Was 
there any special instruction in this remark of Joshu, or was 
there not? If there was, what was it? If there was not, what satori 
was it which the monk attained?” Still later Suigan had the 
following retort on Ummon: “The great master Ummon does 
not know what is what; hence this comment of his. It is altogether 
unnecessary; it is like painting legs to a snake, or painting a 
beard to the eunuch. My view differs from his. That monk who 
seems to have attained a sort of satori goes to hell as straight as 
an arrow!” 

What does all this mean—-Joshu’s remark about washing the 
bowls, the monk’s attainment of satori , Ummon’s alternatives, 
and Suigan’s assurance? Are they speaking against one another, 
or is it much ado about nothing? To my mind, they are all 
pointing one way and the monk may go anywhere, but his 
satori is not to no purpose. 

Tokusan was a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra. Learning 
that there was such a thing as Zen, ignoring all the written 
scriptures and directly laying hands on one’s soul, he went to 
Ryutan to be instructed in the teaching. One day Tokusan was 
sitting outside trying to look into the mystery of Zen. Ryutan 
said, “Why don’t you come in?” Replied Tokusan, “It is pitch 
dark.” A candle was lighted and held out to Tokusan. When he 
was at the point of taking it Ryutan suddenly blew out the light, 
whereupon the mind of Tokusan was opened. 

Hyakujo (Pai-chang) went out one day attending his master 
Baso (Ma-tsu), when they saw a flock of wild geese flying. Baso 

“What are they?” 

“They are wild geese, sir.” 

“Whither are they flying?” 

“They have flown away.” 

Baso, abruptly taking hold of Hyakujo’s nose, gave it a twist. 
Overcome with pain, Ayakujo cried out: “Oh ! Oh !” 

Said Baso, “You say they have flown away, but all the 
same they have been here from the very first.” 

8 9 


This made Hyakujo’s back wet with perspiration; he had 

Is there any possible connection between the washing of the 
bowls and the blowing out of the candle and the twisting of the 
nose? We must say with Ummon: If there is none, how could 
they have all come to a realization of the truth of Zen? If there 
is, what is the inner relationship? What is this satori ? What new 
point of view of looking at things is this? 

Under Daiye (Ta-hui), 1 the great Zen master of the Sung 
dynasty, there was a monk named Doken (Tao-ch‘ien), who had 
spent many years in the study of Zen, but who had not as 
yet uncovered its secrets, if there were any. He was quite dis¬ 
couraged, when he was sent on an errand to a distant city. A 
trip requiring half a year to finish would be a hindrance rather 
than a help to his study. Sogen (Tsung-yuan), one of his fellow- 
students, was most sympathetic and said, “I will accompany you 
on this trip and do all I can for you; there is no reason why you 
cannot go on with your meditation even while travelling. 55 
One evening Doken despairingly implored his friend to assist 
him in the solution of the mystery of life. The friend said, “I am 
willing to help you in every way I can, but there are some 
things in which I cannot be of any help to you; these you must 
look after for yourself. 55 Doken expressed the desire to know 
what these things were. Said his friend: “For instance, when 
you are hungry or thirsty, my eating of food or drinking will not 
fill your stomach; you must eat and drink for yourself. When 
you want to respond to the calls of nature you must take care 
of yourself, for I cannot be of any use to you. And then it will 
be nobody else but yourself that will carry your body along this 
highway. 55 This friendly counsel at once opened the mind of the 
truth-seeking monk, who was so transported with his discovery 
that he did not know how to express his joy. Sogen said that his 
work was now done and that his further companionship would 
have no meaning after this; so he left Doken to continue his 
journey all by himself. After a half year Doken returned to his 
own monastery. Daiye, on his way down the mountains, hap¬ 
pened to meet Doken and at once made the following remark, 
“This time he knows it all. 55 What was it, let me ask, that flashed 

1 1089-1163. A disciple of Yengo. See p. 116. 



through Doken’s mind when his friend Sogen gave him such 
matter-of-fact advice? 

Kyogen (Hsiang-yen) was a disciple of Hyakujo (Pai-chang). 
After his master’s death Kyogen went to Yisan (Kuei-shan), 
who had been a senior disciple of Hyakujo. Yisan asked him: 
“I am told that you have been studying under my late master, 
and also that you have remarkable intelligence. The understand¬ 
ing of Zen through this medium necessarily ends in intellectual 
analytical comprehension, which is not of much use; but never¬ 
theless you may have had an insight into the truth of Zen. Let 
me have your view as to the reason of birth and death; that 
is, as to your own being before your parents had given birth 
to you.” 

Thus asked, Kyogen did not know how to reply. He retired 
into his own room and assiduously made research into the 
notes which he had taken of the sermons given by their late 
master. He failed to come across a suitable passage which he 
might present as his own view. He returned to Yisan and 
implored him to teach him in the faith of Zen, but Yisan replied : 
“I really have nothing to impart to you, and if I tried to do so 
you might have occasion to make me an object of ridicule. 
Besides, whatever I can tell you is my own and can never be 
yours.” Kyogen was disappointed and considered him unkind. 
Finally he came to the decision to burn up all his notes and 
memoranda, which seemed to be of no help to his spiritual 
welfare, and, retiring altogether from the world, to spend the 
rest of his life in solitude and the simple life in accordance 
.with Buddhist rules. He reasoned : “What is the use of studying 
Buddhism, which is so difficult to comprehend and which is too 
subtle to receive as instruction from another? I will be a plain 
homeless monk, troubled with no desire to master things too deep 
for thought.” He left Yisan and built a hut near the tomb of Chu, 
the National Master at Nan-yang. One day he was weeding and 
sweeping the ground when a pebble which he had swept away 
struck a bamboo; the unexpected sound produced by the 
percussion elevated his mind to a state of safari. His joy was 
boundless. The question proposed by Yisan became transparent; 
he felt as if meeting his lost parents. Besides, he came to realize 
the kindness of Yisan in refusing him instruction, for now he 



realized that this experience could not have happened to 
him if Yisan had been unkind enough to explain things 
to him. 

Cannot Zen be so explained that a master can lead all his 
pupils to enlightenment through explanation? Is satori some¬ 
thing that is not at all capable of intellectual analysis? Yes, it 
is an experience which no amount of explanation or argument 
can make communicable to others unless the latter themselves 
had it previously. If satori is amenable to analysis in the sense 
that by so doing it becomes perfectly clear to another who has 
never had it, that satori will be no satori. For a satori turned into 
a concept ceases to be itself; and there will no more be a Zen 
experience. Therefore, all that we can do in Zen in the way of 
instruction is to indicate, or to suggest, or to show the way so 
that one’s attention may be directed towards the goal. As to 
attaining the goal and taking hold of the thing itself, this must be 
done by one’s own hands, for nobody else can do it for one. 
As regards the indication, it lies everywhere. When a man’s 
mind is matured for satori it tumbles over one everywhere. An 
inarticulate sound, an unintelligent remark, a blooming flower, 
or a trivial incident such as stumbling, is the condition or 
occasion that will open his mind to satori. Apparently, an insig¬ 
nificant event produces an effect which in importance is alto¬ 
gether out of proportion. The light touch of an igniting wire, 
and an explosion follows which will shake the very foundation 
of the earth. All the causes, all the conditions of satori are in the 
mind; they are merely waiting for the maturing. When the mind 
is ready for some reasons or others, a bird flies, or a bell rings, 
and you at once return to your original home; that is, you dis¬ 
cover your now real self. From the very beginning nothing has 
been kept from you, all that you wished to see has been there 
all the time before you, it was only yourself that closed the 
eye to the fact. Therefore, there is in Zen nothing to explain, 
nothing to teach, that will add to your knowledge. Unless it 
grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only a 
borrowed plumage. 

Kozankoku (Huang Shan-ku), a Confucian poet and states¬ 
man of the Sung, came to Kwaido (Hui-t c ang) to be initiated 
into Zen. Said the Zen master: “There is a passage in the 


text with which you are perfectly familiar which fitly describes 
the teaching of Zen. Did not Confucius declare: ‘Do you think 
I am hiding things from you, O my disciples? Indeed, I have 
nothing to hide from you’. 55 Sankoku tried to answer, but 
Kwaido immediately checked him by saying, “No, no!” The 
Confucian scholar felt troubled in mind but did not know 
how to express himself. Some time later they were having a 
walk in the mountains; the wild laurel was in full bloom and 
the air was redolent with its scent. Asked the Zen master, “Do 
you smell it?” When the Confucian answered affirmatively, 
Kwaido said, “There, I have nothing to hide from you.” This 
reminder at once led Kozankoku’s mind to the opening of a 

These examples will suffice to show what satori is and how it 
unfolds itself. The reader may ask, however: “After all the perusal 
of your explanations or indications, we are not a whit wiser. 
Can you not definitely describe the content of satori , if there is 
any? Your examples and statements are tentative enough, but 
we simply know how the wind blows; where is the port the 
boat finally makes for?” To this the Zen devotee may answer: 
As far as content goes, there is none in either satori or Zen that 
can be described or presented or demonstrated for your intellec¬ 
tual appreciation. For Zen has no business with ideas, and satori 
is as ort of inner perception—not the perception, indeed, of a 
single individual object but the perception of Reality itself, 
so to speak. The ultimate destination of satori is towards the 
Self; it has no other end but to be back within oneself. There¬ 
fore, said Joshu, “Have a cup of tea.” Therefore, said Nansen, 
“This is such a good sickle, it cuts so well.” This is the way the 
Self functions, and it must be caught, if at all catchable, in the 
midst of its functioning. 

As satori strikes at the primary root of existence, its attain¬ 
ment generally marks a turning point in one’s life. The attain¬ 
ment, however, must be thoroughgoing and clear-cut; a luke¬ 
warm satori , if there is such a thing, is worse than no satori . 
See the following examples: 

When Rinzai (Lin-chi) was meekly submitting to the thirty 
blows of Obaku (Huang-po), he presented a pitiable sight, but 
as soon as he had attained satori he was quite a different per- 



sonage. His first exclamation was, “There is not much after all 
in the Buddhism of Obaku.” And when he again saw the 
reproachful Obaku, he returned his favour by giving him 
a slap in the face. “What arrogance! What impudence! 5 ’ 
one may think. But there was reason in Rinzai’s rude¬ 
ness ; no wonder Obaku was quite pleased with this 

When Tokusan (Te-shan) gained an insight into the truth 
of Zen he immediately took out all his commentaries on the 
Diamond Sutra , once so valued and considered indispensable 
that he had to carry them wherever he went, and set fire to them, 
reducing all the manuscripts to ashes. He exclaimed, “However 
deep one’s knowledge of abstruse philosophy, it is like a piece 
of hair flying in the vastness of space; however important one’s 
experience in things worldly, it is like a drop of water thrown 
into an unfathomable abyss.” 

One day, following the incident of the flying geese, to which 
reference was made elsewhere, Baso appeared in the preaching 
hall and was about to speak before a congregation, when 
Hyakujo, whose nose was literally put out of joint, came forward 
and began to roll up the matting which is spread before the 
Buddha for the master to kneel. The rolling up generally means 
the end of the sermon. Baso, without protesting, came down from 
the pulpit and returned to his room. He sent for Hyakujo and 
asked him why he rolled up the matting before he had even 
uttered a word. Replied Hyakujo, “Yesterday you twisted my 
nose and it was quite painful.” Said Baso, “Where were 
your thoughts wandering?” Hyakujo replied, “Today it 
is no longer painful.” With this Baso admitted Hyakujo’s 

These examples are sufficient to show what changes are 
produced in one’s mind by the attainment of satori. Before 
satori > how helpless those monks were! They were like travellers 
lost in the desert. But after satori they behave like absolute 
monarchs; they are no longer slaves to anybody, they are them¬ 
selves master. 

After these remarks the following points about the opening 
of the mind that is called satori may be observed and sum¬ 



1. People often imagine that the discipline of Zen is to 
produce a state of self-suggestion through meditation. This 
entirely misses the mark, as can be seen from the various instances 
cited above. Satori does not consist in producing a certain pre¬ 
meditated condition by intensely thinking of it. It is acquiring 
a new point of view for looking at things. Ever since the un- 
foldment of consciousness we have been led to respond to the 
inner and outer conditions in a certain conceptual and analytical 
manner. The discipline of Zen consists in upsetting this ground¬ 
work once for all and reconstructing the old frame on an 
entirely new basis. It is evident, therefore, that meditating 
on metaphysical and symbolical statements, which are 
products of a relative consciousness, play no part in 

2. Without the attainment of satori no one can enter into 
the truth of Zen. Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness 
of a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental 
catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of 
matters intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached 
a limit of stability and the whole edifice has come tumbling to 
the ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full survey. 
When the freezing point is reached, water suddenly turns into 
ice; the liquid has suddenly turned into a solid body and no 
more flows freely. Satori comes upon a man unawares, when he 
feels that he has exhausted his whole being. Religiously, it is a 
new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new viewpoint. 
The world now appears as if dressed in a new garment, which 
seems to cover up all the unsightliness of dualism, which is called 
delusion in Buddhist phraseology. 

3. Satori is the raison d'etre of Zen without which Zen is no 
__Zen. Therefore every contrivance, disciplinary or doctrinal, is 

directed toward satori. Zen masters could not remain patient for 
satori to come by itself; that is, to come sporadically or at its own 
pleasure. In their earnestness to aid their disciples in the search 
after the truth of Zen their manifestly enigmatical presentations 
were designed to create in their disciples a state of mind which 
would more systematically open the way to enlightenment. 
All the intellectual demonstrations and exhortatory persuasions 
so far carried out by most religious and philosophical leaders 



had failed to produce the desired effect, and their disciples 
thereby had been farther and farther led astray. Especially 
was this the case when Buddhism was first introduced into 
China, with all its Indian heritage of highly metaphysical ab¬ 
stractions and most complicated systems of Yoga discipline, 
which left the more practical Chinese at a loss as to how to 
grasp the central point of the doctrine of Sakyamuni. Bodhid- 
harma, the Sixth Patriarch, Baso, and other Chinese masters 
noticed this fact, and the proclamation and development of Zen 
was the natural outcome. By them safari was placed above 
sutra-learning and scholarly discussions of the sastras and 
was identified with Zen itself. Zen, therefore, without 
safari is like pepper without its pungency. But there is 
also such a thing as too much safari , which is to be 

4. This emphasizing of safari in Zen makes the fact quite 
significant that Zen is not a system of Dhyana as practised in 
India and by other Buddhist schools in China. By Dhyana is 
generally understood a kind of meditation or contemplation 
directed towards some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism 
it was the thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was 
more often the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been 
so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in 
which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense 
of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when 
all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the 
field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of 
every speck of cloud, a mere broad expanse of blue, Dhyana 
is said to have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy 
or trance, but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be safari ; there 
must be a general mental upheaval which destroys the old 
accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for 
a new life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which 
will review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle 
of observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for 
it is merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana 
doubtless has its own merit, but Zen must not be identified 
with it. 

5. Safari is not seeing God as he is, as might be contended 


by some Christian mystics. Zen has from the beginning made 
clear and insisted upon the main thesis, which is to see into the 
work of creation; the creator may be found busy moulding 
his universe, or he may be absent from his workshop, but Zen 
goes on with its own work. It is not dependent upon the support 
of a creator; when it grasps the reason for living a life, it is satis¬ 
fied. Hoyen (Fa-yen, died 1104) of Go-so-san used to produce 
his own hand and ask his disciples why it was called a hand. 
When we know the reason, there is satori and we have Zen. 
Whereas with the God of mysticism there is the grasping of a 
definite object; when you have God, what is no-God is excluded. 
This is self-limiting. Zen wants absolute freedom, even from 
God. “No abiding place” means that very thing; “Cleanse your 
mouth when you utter the word Buddha” amounts to the 
same thing. It is not that Zen wants to be morbidly unholy and 
godless, but that it recognizes the incompleteness of a mere 
name. Therefore, when Yakusan (Yueh-shan, 751-834) was 
asked to give a lecture, he did not say a word, but instead came 
down from the pulpit and went off to his own room. Hyakujo 
merely walked forward a few steps, stood still, and then 
opened out his arms, which was his exposition of the great 

6. Satori is not a morbid state of mind, a fit subject for the 
study of abnormal psychology. If anything, it is a perfectly 
normal state of mind. When I speak of a mental upheaval, some 
may be led to consider Zen as something to be shunned by 
ordinary people. This is a most mistaken view of Zen, but one 
unfortunately often held by prejudiced critics. As Joshu de¬ 
clared, “Zen is your everyday thought”; it all depends on the 
adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens 
out. Even in the twinkling of an eye the whole affair is changed 
and you have Zen, and you are as perfect and as normal as 
ever. More than that, you have acquired in the meantime some¬ 
thing altogether new. All your mental activities will now be 
working to a different key, which will be more satisfying, more 
peaceful, and fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced 
before. The tone of life will be altered. There is something 
rejuvenating in the possession of Zen. The spring flowers look 
prettier, and the mountain stream runs cooler and more trans- 
g 97 


parent. The subjective revolution that brings about this state 
of things cannot be called abnormal. When life becomes more 
enjoyable and its expanse broadens to include the universe 
itself, there must be something in satori that is quite precious 
and well worth one’s striving after. 





2 ven is a unique product of the Oriental mind and its unique¬ 
ness consists, so far as its practical aspect goes, in its methodical 
training of the mind in order to mature it to the state of satori, 
when all its secrets are revealed. Zen may be called a form of 
mysticism, but it differs from all other forms of it in system, in 
discipline, and in final attainment. By this I mean principally 
the koan exercise and zazen. 

Zazen, or its Sanskrit equivalent dhyana, means sitting cross- 
legged in quietude and in deep contemplation. The practice 
originated in India and spread all over the East. It has been 
going on through centuries now, and the modern followers of 
Zen still strictly observe it. In this respect zazen is the prevailing 
practical method of spiritual discipline in the East, but when 
it is used in connection with the koan it assumes a special feature 
and becomes the monopoly of Zen. 

To explain fully what zazen or Dhyana is is not the object 
of this chapter, which is chiefly concerned with the koan as the 
most essential feature of Zen now practised in the Far East. 
Originally in Buddhism, Dhyana was one of its three branches 
of discipline: Sila (moral precepts), Dhyana (contemplation), and 
Prajna (wisdom). Good Buddhists are supposed to be morally 
observant of all the precepts laid down by the Buddha, to be 
thoroughly versed in the methods for keeping their inordinate 
passions well under control, and finally to be intellectual 8 enough 
to know all the intricacies of logic in the advancement of Budd¬ 
hist metaphysics. When a man lacks in any of these qualifica¬ 
tions he cannot be said to be a very good follower of Sakyamuni. 
But as time went on differentiation took place, and some Budd¬ 
hists came to emphasize one of the three more strongly than the 

1 For a fuller treatment of the subject, see my Z en Essays, II. 

a Prajna is the highest power of intuition which sounds the depths of our 
soul-life, and is naturally much more than merely intellectual. For further 
information read a chapter on the Prajnaparamita in my Z m Essays, III. 



others. Some were moralists more than anything else, others 
were students of Dhyana, and still others were devoted to the 
mastery of intellectual subtleties implied in the teachings of 
Buddhism. Zen followers may be considered practisers of Dhyana, 
but in Zen Dhyana has ceased to be understood in its primitive 
sense; for Zen has now its own object in the practice of this 
particular Indian form of spiritual exercises. 

According to the Mahay ana Sastra quoted in the Dhyana - 
Paramita Systematically Expounded by Chi-sha Daishi, the founder 
of the T‘ien-tai sect, Dhyana is practised in order to fulfil the 
four great vows 1 cherished by every pious Buddhist: 

Dhyana is the storage of good wisdom, 

And the farm of blissful merits; 

Like unto water free from impurities, 

Dhyana washes all the dust of passion; 

Dhyana is the armour wrought of vajra, 

Which shields the wearer from the arrows of 
evil desires; 

Though you may not yet have attained to a 
state of non-doing, 

You are already gaining towards Nirvana; 

For you will gain the Vajra-samadhi, 

You will break in pieces the Hindrances and 

Restrictions, though mountain-high they are, 

You will attain the Six Miraculous Powers, 

And you will be able to deliver numberless 

When the dust of Annoyance rises so high as 
to screen the heavenly sun, 

Great showers may wash it away, 

The wind of Intellectual Enlightenment may 
remove it, 

But it is Dhyana that will destroy it altogether. 

Dhyana comes from the root dhi, meaning “to perceive 5 ’, 
“to reflect upon”, “to fix the mind upon”; while dhi etymologi¬ 
cally may have some connection with dha, “to hold”, “to keep”, 

1 i. All sentient beings, however infinite, I vow to save. 2. All the passions’ 
however inexhaustible, I vow to cut asunder. 3. All the holy teachings, how¬ 
ever innumerable, I vow to learn. 4. All the Buddha-ways, however unsur¬ 
passable, I vow to fulfil, 


“to maintain”. Dhyana thus means to hold one’s thought 
collected, not to let thought wander away from its legitimate 

path; that is, it means to have the mind concentrated on a 

single subject of thought. Therefore, when Zen or Dhyana is 

practised, all the outer details are to be so controlled as to 

bring the mind into the most favourable condition in which it 
will gradually rise above the turbulence of passions and sen¬ 
sualities. For instance, eating and drinking have to be properly 
regulated; sleep is not to be too much indulged in; the body 
is to be kept in an easy and comfortable position, but straight 
and erect; and as to the control of breathing, the Indians are, 
as is well known, consummate artists. Next, the choice of the 
place where the Dhyana-practiser is to sit is another important 
consideration, and naturally such places as the market, the 
factory, or the business office may better be avoided. There 
are many more rules or suggestions relating to the control of 
the body and the mind, which are fully treated in Chi-sha’s 
work on Dhyana-Paramita . 1 

As is evident even from this brief account of Dhyana, zazen 
as is practised by Zen devotees has not the same object in mind 
as is the case with Buddhists generally. In Zen, Dhyana or 
zazen is used as the means of reaching the solution of the koan. 
Zen does not make Dhyana an end in itself, for apart from the 
koan exercise, the practising of zazen is a secondary consideration. 
It is no doubt a necessary accompaniment to the mastery of 
Zen; even when the koan is understood, its deep spiritual truth 
will not be driven home to the mind of the Zen student if he is 
not thoroughly trained in zazen . Koan and zazen are the two 
handmaids of Zen; the first is the eye and the second is the foot. 

In the early days of Buddhism in China, philosophical dis¬ 
cussion first attracted the attention of the earnest students of 
Buddhism and such sutras as the Avatamsaka , Pundarika , Prajna- 
paramita , Nirvana , etc., were early translated into Chinese. The 
deep metaphysical thoughts contained in these sacred texts 
interested Chinese scholars more than did other matters that 
were also to be found in them, and it was probably chiefly due 
to the incomparable Kumarajiva that a great impetus was given 

1 As regards the practice of zazen in Japan, see my Z en Essays, II, pp. 
284-7. University of Southern California Library 


to the Chinese Buddhists to the intellectual mastery of the 
texts. The ethical study of Buddhism came next. When Bodhid- 
harma, the First Patriarch of Zen, came to China in the sixth 
century, he was looked upon somewhat askance as a sort of 
heretic. Scholars of Buddhist philosophy did not understand 
him and disliked him. Even when Yeno (Hui-neng), the Sixth 
Patriarch, came out of obscurity and self-concealment to 
announce himself as the rightful transmitter of Zen, he was not 
very much noticed by the other practisers of Dhyana. So far 
Dhyana or zazen had been practised chiefly after the Hinayana 
fashion, as we read in the biographical writings of earlier Budd¬ 
hism in China, and also as we can infer from the sutras on 
Dhyana which were translated down to those days. It was a 
generation or two after Yeno that Zen, as we understand it 
now, really came into existence, which thereafter rapidly 
developed so as to overshadow all the other Buddhist schools. 
At present there are no Buddhist monasteries in China which 
do not belong to the Zen sect, and most of them are of the Rinzai 
school of Zen. 1 One reason among others for this conquest is to 
be found in the practice of zazen as the means of mastering the 
koan and thus attaining safari. 

Ko-an literally means “a public document” or “authorita¬ 
tive statute”—a term coming into vogue toward the end of the 
T‘ang dynasty. It now denotes some anecdote of an ancient 
master, or a dialogue between a master and monks, or a state¬ 
ment or question put forward by a teacher, all of which are 
used as the means for opening one’s mind to the truth of Zen. 
In the beginning, of course, there was no koan as we understand 
it now; it is a kind of artificial instrument devised out of the 
fullness of heart by later Zen masters, who by this means would 
force the evolution of Zen consciousness in the minds of their less 
endowed disciples. 

The mind may grow by itself even when it is left to nature 
to achieve her own ends, but man cannot always wait for 
her, he likes to meddle for better or worse. He is never patient; 
whenever there is a chance to put his fingers in, he is sure to do so. 

1 At present Chinese Buddhism is a strange mixture of Zen and Nembutsu, 
though most monasteries profess to belong to the Zen sect. They recite the 
Amitabha sutra along with the Prajnahridaya. 



The interference is sometimes helpful, sometimes decidedly not. 
As a rule it works two ways. We welcome human interference 
when more is to be gained than lost and call it improvement 
and progress; but when it turns out otherwise we call it retro¬ 
gression. Civilization is human and artificial; some are not 
satisfied with it and want to go back to nature. Well, so-called 
modern progress is by no means unmitigated bliss, but on the 
whole, at least on the material side of life, we seem to be better 
off these days than ever before, and we see some signs of further 
improvement. Therefore, our grumblings generally are not very 
vehemently asserted. 

In a similar way, the introduction of the system of koan into 
Zen, pure, natural, and elementary, is at once a deterioration 
and an improvement. But once brought out into existence, the 
system seems very hard to do away with. It was, of course, quite 
human on the part of the Zen master to be thinking of his less 
fortunate brothers whose natural endowments were not so rich 
as his own, and who, therefore, would be likely to miss oppor¬ 
tunities to come into the truth of Zen. He wanted to impart 
to them, if possible, the same wonderful bliss of the understanding 
which he had gained through the mastery of Zen. His motherly 
instinct made him think of some way to open or even to coerce 
the minds of his disciples to the unknown beauties of satori , 
which, when left to their own ignorant ways, would never come 
upon them except by a happy rare chance. The master knew 
that the device of a koan was an artificiality and a superfluity; 
for unless Zen grew out of a man’s own inner activity it could 
not be truly genuine and full of creative vitality as it ought 
to be. But even a semblance would be a blessing when the 
genuine thing is so difficult and rare to have; and, moreover, 
it was likely, if it is left to itself, to disappear altogether out 
of the lore of human experience. The semblance is not necessarily 
a mere makeshift but may have in it something quite true and 
full of possibilities; for the system of koan and zazen , when 
properly made use of, really does unfold the mind to the truth 
of Zen. Why then should we not adopt it and work it out to its 

At the beginning, a Zen master was a kind of self-made 

man, he had no school education, he had not been sent to 



college to pass through a certain course of studies, but out of an 
inner impelling necessity which stirred up his spirit he could 
not help going about and picking up whatever knowledge he 
needed. He was perfected by himself. Of course, he had a teacher, 
but the teacher did not help him in the way scholars nowadays 
are helped—helped too frequently, indeed, beyond the actual 
needs of the disciple, more than is really good for him. This 
lack of soft education made the ancient Zen master all the 
stronger and more full of virility. This was the reason why, in 
those early days of Zen—that is, during the T £ ang dynasty—it 
was so active, so brilliant, so intense. When the koan system 
came into vogue during the Sung dynasty the halcyon days of 
Zen were almost over and it gradually showed signs of decline 
and senility. 

Here then is one of the first koans given to latter-day students. 
When the Sixth Patriarch was asked by the monk Myo (Ming) 
what Zen was, he said: “When your mind is not dwelling on 
the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before 
you were born ? 55 (Show me this “face 55 and you get into the 
mystery of Zen. Who are you before Abraham was born? When 
you have had a personal, intimate interview with this personage, 
you will better know who you are and who God is. The monk 
is here told to shake hands with this original man, or, if meta¬ 
physically put, with his own inner self.) 

When this question was put to the monk Myo, he was already 
mentally ready to see into the truth of it. The questioning is 
merely on the surface, it is really an affirmation meant to open 
the mind of the listener. The Patriarch noticed that Myo 5 s 
mind was on the verge of unfolding itself to the truth of Zen. 
The monk had been groping in the dark long and earnestly; 
his mind had become mature, so mature indeed that it was 
like a ripe fruit which required only a slight shaking to cause 
it to drop on the ground; his mind required only a final touch 
by the hand of the master. The demand for “the original face 55 
was the last finish necessary, and Myo 5 s mind instantly opened 
and grasped the truth. But when this statement in the form of a 
question about “the original face 55 is given to a novice, who 
has had no previous discipline in Zen as Myo had, it is usually 
given with the intention to awaken the student’s mind to the 


fact that what he has so far accepted as a commonplace fact, or 
as a logical impossibility, is not necessarily so, and that his 
former way of looking at things was not always correct or 
helpful to his spiritual welfare. After this is realized, the student 
might dwell on the statement itself and endeavour to get at its 
truth if it has any. To force the student to assume this inquiring 
attitude is the aim of the koati. The student must then go on with 
his inquiring attitude until he comes to the edge of a mental 
precipice, as it were, where there are no other alternatives but 
to leap over. This giving up of his last hold on life will bring 
the student to a full view of “his original face”, as desired by 
the statement of the Sixth Patriarch. Thus it can be seen that the 
koan is not handled now in precisely the same way that it was in 
those earlier days. As first proposed, it was the culmination, so 
to speak, of all that had been working in the mind of the monk 
Myo, whose elaboration herein received its final finish; instead 
of coming at the beginning of the Zen exercise, as it does now, the 
Sixth Patriarch’s question came at the end of the race. But 
in modern days the koan is used as a starter; it gives an initial 
movement to the racing for Zen experience. More or less 
mechanical in the beginning, the movement acquires the tone 
needed for the maturing of Zen consciousness; the koan works 
as a leaven. When the sufficient conditions obtain, the mind un¬ 
folds itself into the full bloom of a satori. To use a koan thus 
instrumentally for the opening of the mind to its own secrets is 
characteristic of modern Zen. 

Hakuin used to produce one of his hands and demand of 
his disciples to hear the sound of it. Ordinarily a sound is heard 
only when two hands are clapped, and in that sense no possible 
sound can come from one hand alone. Hakuin wants, however, 
to strike at the root of our everyday experience, which is con¬ 
structed on a so-called scientific or logical basis. This funda¬ 
mental overthrowing is necessary in order to build up a new 
order of things on the basis of Zen experience. Hence this 
apparently most unnatural and therefore illogical demand made 
by Hakuin on his pupils. The former koan was about “the 
face”, something to look at, while the latter is about “the 
sound”, something that appeals to the sense of hearing; but the 
ultimate purport of both is the same; both are meant to open up 



the secret chamber of the mind, where the devotees can find 
numberless treasures stored. The sense of seeing or hearing has 
nothing to do with the essential meaning of the koan ; as the Zen 
masters say, the koan is only a piece of brick used to knock at the 
gate, an index-finger pointing at the moon. It is only intended 
to synthesize or transcend—whichever expression you may 
choose—the dualism of the senses. So long as the mind is not 
free to perceive a sound produced by one hand, it is limited and 
is divided against itself. Instead of grasping the key to the secrets 
of creation, the mind is hopelessly buried in the relativity of 
things, and, therefore, in their superficiality. Until the mind 
is free from the fetters, the time never comes for it to view 
the whole world with any amount of satisfaction. The sound 
of one hand as a matter of fact reaches the highest heaven as 
well as the lowest hell, just as one’s original face looks over the 
entire field of creation even to the end of time. Hakuin and 
the Sixth Patriarch stand on the same platform with their hands 
mutually joined. 

To mention another instance. When Joshu was asked 
about the significance of Bodhidharma’s coming east (which, 
proverbially, is the same as asking about the fundamental 
principle of Buddhism), he replied, “The cypress-tree in the 

“You are talking,” said the monk, “of an objective symbol.” 

“No, I am not talking of an objective symbol.” 

“Then,” asked the monk again, “what is the ultimate 
principle of Buddhism?” 

“The cypress-tree in the courtyard,” again replied Joshu. 

This is also given to a beginner as a koan. 

Abstractly speaking, these koans cannot be said to be alto¬ 
gether nonsensical even from a common-sense point of view, 
and if we want to reason about them there is perhaps room 
enough to do so. For instance, some may regard Hakuin’s one 
hand as symbolizing the universe or the unconditioned, and 
Joshu’s cypress-tree as a concrete manifestation of the highest 
principle, through which the pantheistic tendency of Buddhism 
may be recognized. But to understand the koan thus intellectually 
is not Zen, nor is such metaphysical symbolism at all present 
here. Under no circumstances ought Zen to be confounded 


with philosophy; Zen has its own reason for standing for itself, 
and this fact must never be lost sight of; otherwise, the entire 
structure of Zen falls to pieces. The “cypress-tree” is forever 
a cypress-tree and has nothing to do with pantheism or any other 
ism. Joshu was not a philosopher even in its broadest and 
most popular sense; he was a Zen master through and through, 
and all that comes forth from his lips is an utterance directly 
ensuing from his spiritual experience. Therefore, apart from this 
much of “subjectivism”, though really there are no such dualities 
in Zen as subject and object, thought and the world, the 
“cypress-tree” utterly loses its significance. If it is an intellectual 
or conceptual statement, we may endeavour to understand its 
meaning through the ratiocinative chain of ideas as contained 
in it, and we may come to imagine that we have finally solved the 
difficulty; but Zen masters will assure you that even then Zen 
is yet three thousand miles away from you, and the spirit of 
Joshu will be heard laughing at you from behind the screen, 
which after all you had failed to remove. The koan is intended 
to be nourished in those recesses of the mind where no logical 
analysis can ever reach. When the mind matures so that it 
becomes attuned to a similar frame to that of Joshu, the meaning 
of the “cypress-tree” will reveal itself, and without further 
questioning you will be convinced that you now know it all. 

A disciple of Joshu called Kaku-tetsu-shi (Chueh T‘ieh-tzu) 
was asked after the death of his master whether he had really 
made the statement about the cypress-tree in response to the 
question, “What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?” 
The disciple unhesitatingly declared, “My master never made 
that statement.” This was a direct contradiction of the fact, for 
everybody then knew that Joshu had made it, and the one who 
asked Kaky-tetsu-shi about it was himself not ignorant of it. 
His questioning was to see what insight this disciple of Joshu had 
into the meaning of the story of the cypress-tree. Therefore, the 
questioner further pursued Tetsu by saying, “But this is asserted 
by everybody, and how can you deny it?” Tetsu insisted, 
“My master never said it; and you will do well if you do not thus 
disparage him.” What an audacious statement! But those that 
know Zen know that this flat denial is the irrevocable proof 
that Tetsu thoroughly understood the spirit of his master. His 



Zen was beyond question. But from our common-sense point of 
view no amount of intellectual resourcefulness can be brought 
upon his flat denial so that it can somehow be reconciled with 
the plain fact itself. Zen is, therefore, quite merciless toward 
those critics who take the story of the cypress-tree for an 
expression savouring of Mahayana pantheism. 

The koans , therefore, as we have seen, are generally such as 
to shut up all possible avenues to rationalization. After a few 
presentations of your views in the interview with the master, 
which is technically called san-zen , you are sure to come to the 
end of your resources, and this coming to a cul-de-sac is really the 
true starting point in the study of Zen. No one can enter into 
Zen without this experience. When this point is reached the 
koans may be regarded as having accomplished a half of the 
object for which they stand. 

To speak conventionally—and I think it is easier for the 
general reader to see Zen thus presented—there are unknown 
recesses in our minds which lie beyond the threshold of the 
relatively constructed consciousness. To designate them as 
“sub-consciousness” or “supra-consciousness” is not correct. 
The word “beyond” is used simply because it is a most convenient 
term to indicate their whereabouts. But as a matter of fact 
there is no “beyond”, no “underneath”, no “upon” in our 
consciousness. The mind is one indivisible whole and cannot 
be torn in pieces. The so-called terra incognita is the concession 
of Zen to our ordinary way of talking, because whatever field of 
consciousness that is known to us is generally filled with concep¬ 
tual riffraffs, and to get rid of them, which is absolutely necessary 
for maturing Zen experience, the Zen psychologist sometimes 
points to the presence of some inaccessible region in our minds. 
Though in actuality there is no such region apart from our 
everyday consciousness, we talk of it as generally more easily 
comprehensible by us. When the koan breaks down all the 
hindrances to the ultimate truth, we all realize that there are, 
after all, no such things as “hidden recesses of mind” or even the 
truth of Zen appearing all the time so mysterious. 

The koan is neither a riddle nor a witty remark. It has a 
most definite objective, the arousing of doubt and pushing it to 
its furthest limits. A statement built upon a logical basis is 


approachable through its rationality; whatever doubt or diffi¬ 
culty we may have had about it dissolves itself by pursuing the 
natural current of ideas. All rivers are sure to pour into the 
ocean; but the koan is an iron wall standing in the way and 
threatening to overcome one’s every intellectual effort to pass. 
When Joshu says “the cypress-tree in the courtyard”, or when 
Hakuin puts out his one hand, there is no logical way to get 
around it. You feel as if your march of thought had been sud¬ 
denly cut short. You hesitate, you doubt, you are troubled and 
agitated, not knowing how to break through the wall which 
seems altogether impassable. When this climax is reached, 
your whole personality, your inmost will, your deepest nature, 
determined to bring the situation to an issue, throws itself with 
no thought of self or no-self, of this or that, directly and un¬ 
reservedly against the iron wall of the koan. This throwing 
your entire being against the koan unexpectedly opens up an 
hitherto unknown region of the mind. Intellectually, this is the 
transcending of the limits of logical dualism, but at the same 
time it is a regeneration, the awakening of an inner sense which 
enables one to look into the actual working of things. For the 
first time the meaning of the koan becomes clear, and in the 
same way that one knows that ice is cold and freezing. The eye 
sees, the ear hears, to be sure, but it is the mind as a whole 
that has satori ; it is an act of perception, no doubt, but it is a 
perception of the highest order. Here lies the value of the Zen 
discipline, as it gives birth to the unshakable conviction that 
there is something indeed going beyond mere intellection. 

The wall of koan once broken through and the intellectual 
obstructions well cleared off, you come back, so to speak, to 
your everyday relatively constructed consciousness. The one 
hand does not give out a sound until it is clapped by the other. 
The cypress-tree stands straight before the window; all human 
beings have the nose vertically set and the eyes horizontally 
arranged. Zen is now the most ordinary thing in the world. A 
field that we formerly supposed to lie far beyond is now found to 
be the very field in which we walk, day in, day out. When we come 
out of satori we see the familiar world with all its multitudinous 
objects and ideas together with their logicalness, and pronounce 
them “good”. 



When there was as yet no system of koan , Zen was more 
natural and purer perhaps, but it was only the few elect who 
could get into the spirit of it. Supposing you had lived in those 
days, what would you do if you were roughly shaken by the 
shoulder? How would you take it if you were called a dry dirt- 
scraper? Or if you were simply requested to hand the cushion 
over there, and, when you had handed it to the master, to be 
struck with it? If you had a determination to fathom the depths 
of Zen as strong as steel, and a faith in the “reasonableness 55 
of Zen which was as firm as the earth, you, after many years of 
meditation, might succeed in mastering Zen; but such examples 
are rare in our modern days; we are so distracted with all 
kinds of business that we are unable to walk all by ourselves 
into the labyrinthine passageway of Zen. In the early days of 
the T‘ang dynasty people were more simple-hearted and 
believing, their minds were not crammed with intellectual 
biases. But this state of affairs could not, in the nature of things, 
last very long; to maintain the vitality of Zen it was necessary 
to find some device whereby Zen could be made more approach¬ 
able and to that extent more popular; the koan exercise had to be 
established for the benefit of the rising generations and also 
for the coming ones. Though it is in the being of Zen that it can 
never be a popular religion in the sense that Shin Buddhism or 
Christianity is, yet the fact that it has kept up its line of trans¬ 
mission unbroken for so many centuries is, in my view, prin¬ 
cipally due to the system of koan. In China, where Zen originated, 
it no longer exists in its pure form; the line of transmission is no 
more, so transfused is it with the Pure Land practice of invoking 
the Buddha-name. It is only in Japan that Zen is still virile and 
still finds its orthodox exponents; and there is every reason to 
believe that this is due to the system of reviewing the koans in 
connection with the practice of zazen. There is no doubt that this 
system is largely artificial and harbours grave pitfalls, but the 
life of Zen runs through it when it is properly handled. To 
those who pursue it judiciously under a really competent master, 
Zen-experience is possible and a state of safari will surely come. 

Thus we can see that this Zen-experience is something 
realizable by going through a certain process of training. That 
is, the koan exercise is a system definitely set up with a definite 


object in view. Zen is not like other forms of mysticism, entirely 
left to the sporadicalness or capriciousness of luck for its ex¬ 
perience. The systematization of koati is, therefore, the one thing 
that is most characteristic of Zen. It is this that saves Zen from 
sinking into trance, from becoming absorbed in mere contem¬ 
plation, from turning into an exercise in tranquillization. Zen 
attempts to take hold of life in its act of living; to stop the 
flow of life and to look into it is not the business of Zen. The 
constant presence of the koan before our mental vision keeps the 
mind always occupied; that is, in full activity. Satori is attained 
in the midst of this activity and not by suppressing it, as some 
may imagine. How much Zen differs from “meditation’ 5 as the 
latter is generally understood, and practised, we now can see 
better from what has been said above as regards the nature of 
the koan . 

The systematization of Zen began as early as the Five 
Dynasties in China—that is, in the tenth century—but its com¬ 
pletion was due to the genius of Hakuin (1683-1768) who lived 
in the Tokugawa era. Whatever one may say against the abuses 
of the koan , it was the koan that saved Japanese Zen from total 
annihilation. Consider how Chinese Zen is faring these days; 
so far as we can gather it is more or less a mere name; and 
again notice the general tendency shown in the practice of 
Zen by adherents of the Soto school in present-day Japan. We 
cannot deny that there are many good points in Soto, which 
ought to be carefully studied, but as to the living of Zen there 
is perhaps greater activity in the Rinzai, which employs the koan 

One may say, “If Zen is really so far beyond the intellectual 
ken as you claim it to be, there ought not to be any system 
in it; in fact, there could not be any, for the very conception of a 
system is intellectual. To be thoroughly consistent, Zen should 
remain a simple absolute experience excluding all that savours 
of process or system or discipline. The koan must be an ex¬ 
crescence, a superfluity, indeed a contradiction. 55 Theoretically, 
or rather from the absolute point of view, this is quite correct; 
therefore, when Zen is asserted “straightforwardly 55 it recognizes 
no koan and knows of no round-about way of proclaiming itself. 
Just a stick, a fan, or a word ! Even when you say, “It is a stick,” 



or “I hear a sound/ 3 or “I see the fist, 33 Zen is no more there. 
It is like a flash of lightning, there is no room, no time, in Zen 
even for a thought to be conceived. We speak of a koan or a 
system only when we come to the practical or conventional side 
of it. As has been said before, it is really a condescension, an 
apology, a compromise, that this present work has been written; 
much more the whole systematization of Zen. 

To outsiders this “systematization” appears to be no systema¬ 
tization, for it is full of contradictions and even among the Zen 
masters themselves there is a great deal of discrepancy, which 
is quite disconcerting. What one asserts another flatly denies 
or makes a sarcastic remark about it, so that the uninitiated are 
at a loss what to make out of all these everlasting and hopeless 
entanglements. But the fact is that Zen really ought not to be 
considered from its surface; such terms as system, rationality, 
consistency, contradiction, or discordance belong to the surface 
of Zen; to understand Zen we are to turn up the whole piece 
of brocade and examine it from the other side, where we can 
trace at a glance all the intricacies of woof and warp. This 
reversing of the order is very much needed in Zen. 

Let us quote an example to see how it is treated by different 
masters. Funyo, a great Zen master of the T £ ang dynasty, said, 
“If a man knows what this staff is, his study of Zen comes 
to a close. 53 This seems to be a simple enough koan . The master 
generally carries a long staff which is now a kind of insignia of 
his religious authority, but in ancient days it was really a travel¬ 
ling stick that was useful in climbing mountains or fording 
streams. Being one of the most familiar objects, it is produced 
any time by a master before his congregation to illustrate a 
sermon; it is often the subject of a great discussion among the 
monks. Gho of Rokutan, another Zen master, apparently opposed 
the view of the preceding master, Funyo, when he declared, 
“If a man knows what the staff is, he will go to hell as straight 
as an arrow flies.” If this is the case, no one will be induced to 
study Zen; but what does Cho really mean? Ho-an, still another 
Zen master, makes a statement about this staff, which is not 
radical; he is quite rational and innocent when he says, “If a 
man knows what the staff is, let him take it and put it up against 
the wall over there. 55 Are these masters all asserting the same 


fact and pointing to the same truth? Or are they not only in 
words but in fact and truth contradicting one another? Let us 
examine more masters concerning the staff. 

Suiryu one day ascended the pulpit and bringing forth his 
staff made this confession: “My twenty years’ residence in this 
monastery is due to the virtue of this.” 

A monk stepped forward and asked, “What virtue did you 
gain out of that?” 

“Supporting myself with this, I cross the streams, I pass 
over the mountains; indeed, without it, what can I do?” 

Later Shokei, another master, hearing of this remark, said, 
“If I were he, I would not say that.” 

“What would you say?” came quickly from the monk. 

Shokei now took the staff, came down to the ground, and 
walked away. 

Ho-an now makes the observation about these two masters: 
“Suiryu’s staff was a pretty good one, but what a pity! it has a 
dragon’s head with a snake’s tail. It makes Shokei follow him up, 
and the result is another pity: his was like putting speckles on a 
painted tiger. When the monk asked what power of the staff he 
had got, why did he not take it out and throw it away before the 
congregation? Then there would have been a real dragon, a 
real tiger, calling forth clouds and mists.” 

Now let me ask, Why all this—shall we say—much ado 
about nothing? If modern Zen is a system, what kind of a system 
is it? It seems chaotic, and how conflicting are the masters’ 
views! Yet from the Zen point of view there is one current 
running through all these confusions, and each master is sup¬ 
porting the others in a most emphatic manner. An apparent 
contradiction in no way hinders the real endorsement. In thus 
mutually complementing each other, not indeed logically but 
in a fashion characteristically Zen, we find the life and truth 
of the koan. A dead statement cannot be so productive of results. 
Hakuin’s “one hand”, Joshu’s “cypress-tree”, or the Sixth 
Patriarch’s “original face”, 1 are all alive to the very core. 
Once touch the heart of it and the whole universe will rise from 
its grave where we have buried it with our logic and analysis. 

For the benefit of students who wish to know more about 

1 These are some of the first koans for Zen students. 




the koans which are given to Zen students for solution, a few of 
them are given here. When Kyosan received a mirror from Yisan, 
he brought it out before an assemblage of monks and said: “O 
monks, Yisan has sent here a mirror; shall it be called Yisan’s 
or mine? If you call it mine, how is it that it comes from Yisan? 
If you call it Yisan’s, how do you account for its being in my 
hands? If you can make a statement that hits the mark, the 
mirror will be retained; if you cannot, it will be broken in 
pieces.” This he declared three times and as nobody came 
forward to make a statement the mirror was destroyed. 

Tozan came to Ummon for instruction; the latter asked: 

“Where do you come from?” 

“From Sato.” 

“Where have you spent the summer?” 

“At Hoji of Konan.” 

“When did you leave there?” 

“On the twenty-fifth of the eighth month.” 

Ummon suddenly raised his voice and said: “I spare you 
thirty blows. You may now retire.” 

In the evening Tozan went to Ummon’s room and asked 
what his fault was, so grave as to deserve thirty blows. Said the 
master, “Is this the way you wander all over the country? 
O you rice-bag!” 

Yisan was having a nap, when Kyosan came in. Flearing 
the visitor, Yisan turned about toward the wall. 

Said Kyosan, “I am your disciple; no formality is needed.” 

The master made a movement as if he were awakening 
from sleep; Kuosan started to leave the room, but the master 
called him back. Said Yisan, “I am going to tell you about 
my dream.” 

Kyosan leaned forward as if listening. 

Yisan said, “You guess.” 

Kyosan went out and brought a basin filled with water 
and a towel. With the water the master washed his face, but 
before he had resumed his seat another monk, Kyogen, came 
in. The master said, “We have been performing a miracle— 
and not a trivial one at that.” 

Kyogen replied, “I have been below and know all that 
has been going on between you.” 



“If so, tell me how it is, 55 demanded the master. 

Kyogen then brought him a cup of tea. 

Yisan remarked : “O you two monks, what intelligent fellows 
you are! Your wisdom and miraculous deeds indeed surpass 
those of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana!” 

Sekiso (Shih-shuang) died and his followers thought that the 
head monk ought to succeed him. But Kyuho (Chin-feng), who 
had been an attendant to the late master, said: “Wait, I have 
a question, and the successor ought to be able to answer it. The 
old master used to teach us thus: ‘Stop all your hankerings; be 
like cold ashes and withered plants; keep the mouth tightly 
closed until mould grows about it; be like pure white linen, 
thoroughly immaculate; be as cold and dead as a censer in a 
deserted shrine. 5 How is this to be understood? 55 

“This, 55 said the head monk, “illustrates a state of absolute 
annihilation. 55 

“There, he utterly fails to grasp the meaning. 55 

“Do I? If so, have an incense-stick lighted; if I do not 
really understand the old master, I shall not be able to enter 
into a trance before the stick burns up. 55 

So saying, the head monk fell into a state of unconsciousness 
from which he never arose. Stroking the back of his departed 
fellow-monk, Kyuho said, “As to getting into a trance you have 
shown a splendid example, but as to understanding the old 
master you have just the same significantly failed. 55 This well 
illustrates the fact that Zen is entirely different from being 
absorbed in nothingness. 

The number of koans is traditionally estimated at 1,700, 
which, however, is a very generous way of counting them. 
For all practical purposes, less than ten, or even less than five, 
or just one may be sufficient to open one’s mind to the ultimate 
truth of Zen. A thoroughgoing enlightenment, however, is 
attained only through the most self-sacrificing application of the 
mind, supported by an inflexible faith in the finality of Zen. 
It is not to be attained by merely climbing up the gradation of 
the koans one after another, as is usually practised by followers 
of the Rinzai school. The number really has nothing to do 
with it; the necessary requirements are faith and personal effort, 
without which Zen is a mere bubble. Those who regard Zen as 


speculation and abstraction will never obtain the depths of it, 
which can be sounded only through the highest will-power. 
There may be hundreds of koans, or there may be an infinite 
number of them as there are infinite numbers of objects filling 
up the universe, but it does not necessarily concern us. Only 
let one gain an all-viewing and entirely satisfying insight into 
the living actuality of things and the koans will take care of 

This is where lurks the danger of the koan system. One is apt 
to consider it as everything in the study of Zen, forgetting the 
true object of Zen, which is the unfolding of a man’s inner life. 
There are many who have fallen into this pitfall and the inevitable 
result has been the corruption and decay of Zen. Daiye (Ta-hui) 
was quite apprehensive of this when he burned up the book 
on one hundred koans which was compiled by his master Yengo 
(Yuan-wu). These one hundred koans were selected from Zen 
literature by Seccho (Hsueh-ton), who commented on them with 
verses, one to each. Daiye was a true follower of Zen. He knew 
well the object which his master had in view when he gave 
remarks upon these selections; he knew very well also that they 
would subsequently prove a self-murdering weapon against 
Zen; so he committed them all into flame. 

The book, however, has survived the fire and is still in our 
possession as one of the most important treatises on Zen; indeed, 
it is a standard text and authority, to which appeal is still made 
to settle points of doubt in the study of Zen. The work is known 
in Japanese as Hekigan-shu (Pi-yen Chi). To outsiders it is a sealed 
book; in the first place the Chinese is not after the classical 
model but is filled with colloquialisms of the T‘ang and Sung 
period, which can now be traced only in Zen literature, while 
it is most vigorously written. Secondly, the style is peculiar to 
this kind of work, and its thoughts and expressions seem to be so 
unexpected as to stagger the reader who expects to find in it 
ordinary Buddhist nomenclature or at least tame classicalism. 
Besides these literary difficulties, the Hekigan is naturally full of 
Zen. However, those who want to know how koans are handled 
by Zen followers will do well to consult the book. 

There are some other books dealing with the koans which are 
more or less after the style of the Hekigan ; such are the Shoyoroku , 


Mumonkwan , Kwaiatikokugo, etc. In fact, all the Zen writings 
known as Goroku ( Wu-lu , “sayings and dialogues”) as well as the 
biographical histories of Zen masters, of which we have a large 
list, treat the koans in the way peculiar to Zen. Almost every 
master of note has left his Goroku , which largely constitute what 
is known as Zen literature. Where the philosophical study of 
Buddhism abounds with all sorts of annotations and exegeses 
and analyses which are often very detailed and complicated, 
Zen offers pithy remarks, epigrammatic suggestions, and ironical 
comments, which conspicuously contrast with the former. 
Another characteristic of Zen literature is its partiality to 
poetry: the koans are poetically appreciated or criticized. Of this 
the Hekigan-shu [Pi-yen Chi) or Shoyo-roku ( Vsung-yung Lu) are 
most significant examples. The first is by Seccho, as was already 
mentioned, and the latter is by Wanshi (Hung-chih), who also 
poetically comments on a different collection of koans . Zen 
naturally finds its readiest expression in poetry rather than in ‘ 
philosophy because it has more affinity with feeling than with 
intellect; its poetic predilection is inevitable. 



T<. Meditation Hall ( zendo ) is where Zen educates its monks. 
To see how it is regulated is to get a glimpse into the practical 
and disciplinary aspect of Zen. It is a unique institution and 
most of the main monasteries in Japan of the Zen sect are pro¬ 
vided with it. In the life of the Zen monks in the Meditation 
Hall we are reminded of the life of the Sangha in India. 

The system was founded by the Chinese Zen master, Hyakujo 
(Pai-chang, 720-814), more than one thousand years ago. He 
left a famous saying which had been the guiding principle of 
his life: “A day of no work is a day of no eating, 55 which is to 
say, “No eating without working. 552 When he was thought by 
his devoted disciples to be too old to work in the garden, which 
had been his favourite occupation, they hid all his garden tools, 
as he would not listen to their repeated remonstrances. He 
then refused to eat. “No work, no living. 55 At all the Meditation 
Halls work, especially that which is commonly regarded as 
menial, is the vital element in the life of the monk. It thus 
implies a great deal of manual labour, such as sweeping, cleaning, 
cooking, fuel-gathering, tilling the farm, or going about begging 
in the villages far and near. No work is considered to be beneath 
their dignity, and a perfect feeling of brotherhood prevails among 
them. They believe in the sanctity of manual work; no matter 
how hard or how mean the work may be, they will not shun it, 
and they keep themselves busy in every way they can; for they 
are no idlers, as some of the so-called monks or mendicants are, 
as for instance in India. 

Psychologically considered, this is splendid; for muscular 
activity is the best remedy for the dullness of mind which may 
grow out of the meditative habit, and Zen is very apt to produce 
this undesirable effect. The trouble with most religious recluses 

1 This is fully treated in my recent work entitled The Training of the Z en 
Buddhist Monk , richly illustrated by Rev. Zenchu Sato, of Kamakura. Also 
see Z en Essays, I, p. 299 et seq. 

2 Cf. Psalm 128: “Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; happy shalt 
thou be, and it shall be well with thee.’ , 



is that their mind and body do not act in unison; their body is 
always separated from their mind, and the latter from the 
former; they imagine that there is the body and there is the mind 
and forget that this separation is merely ideational, and there¬ 
fore artificial. The aim of the Zen discipline being to annul this 
most fundamental discrimination, it is always careful to avoid any 
practice which tends to emphasize the idea of onesidedness. 
Satori in truth consists in reaching the point where all our 
discriminatory notions are done away with, though this is by no 
means a state of emptiness. The sluggishness of mind which is so 
frequently the product of quietistic meditation, we can thus 
see, is not at all conducive to the maturing of satori , and those 
who want to advance in the study of Zen have naturally to be 
always on guard in this respect lest it should finally altogether 
stop the fluidity, as it were, of mental activity. This is at least one 
reason why Zen followers object to the mere practice of Dhyana. 
The body kept busy will also keep the mind busy, and therefore 
fresh, wholesome, and alert. 

Morally, any work involving an expenditure of physical 
force testifies to the soundness of ideas. Especially in Zen is this 
true; abstract ideas that do not reflect themselves forcibly and 
efficiently in practical living are regarded as of no value. Con¬ 
viction must be gained through experience and not through 
abstraction. Moral assertion ought everywhere to be over and 
above intellectual judgment; that is, truth ought to be based 
upon one’s living experience. Idle reverie is not their business, 
insist the followers of Zen. They, of course, sit quietly and prac¬ 
tise zazen ; that must be done if they are to assimilate whatever 
lessons they have gained while working. But as they are opposed 
to “chewing the cud” all the time, they put into action whatever 
reflections they have made during hours of quiet-sitting and thus 
test their validity in the vital field of actualities. It is my strong 
conviction that if the Zen monastery did not put faith in working 
and keeping the blood of the monks circulating, the study of 
Zen would have sunk into the level of a mere somniferous and 
trance-inducing system, and all the treasures garnered by the 
masters in China and Japan would have been cast away as of 
no more value than heaps of rotten stuff. 

The Meditation Hall, or Zendo as it is called in Japan, is a 



rectangular building of different sizes according to the number 
of monks to be accommodated. The one at Engakuji, Kamakura, 
is about 35 X 65 feet and will take in thirty or forty monks. 
The space allotted to each monk is one tatami , or a mat 3x6 
feet, where he sits, meditates, and sleeps. The bedding for each 
never exceeds one large wadded quilt about 5X6 feet, be it 
winter or summer. He has no regular pillow except that which is 
temporarily made out of his own private property. This latter, 
however, is next to nothing: it consists of a kesa ( kasaya ) and 
koromo (priestly robes), a few books, a razor, and a set of bowls, 
all of which are carried in a papier-mache box about 13 X 10 
X 3-| inches. In travelling this box is carried in front, suspended 
from the neck with a broad sash. His entire property thus moves 
with its owner. “One dress and one bowl, under a tree and on a 
stone” graphically describes the monk’s life in India. Compared 
with this, the modern Zen monk must be said to be abundantly 
supplied. Still his wants are reduced to a minimum and none 
can fail to lead a simple, perhaps the simplest, life if he models 
his after the life of a Zen monk. The desire to possess is con¬ 
sidered by Buddhism to be one of the worst passions mortals 
are apt to be obsessed with. What, in fact, causes so much misery 
in the world is the universal impulse of acquisition. As power is 
desired, the strong always tyrannize over the weak; as wealth 
is coveted, the rich and poor are always crossing swords of bitter 
enmity. International wars rage, social unrest ever increases, 
unless this impulse to get and to hold is completely uprooted. 
Cannot society be reorganized upon an entirely different basis 
from what we have been used to see from the beginning of 
history? Cannot we ever hope to stop the massing of wealth and 
the accumulation of power merely from the desire for individual 
or national aggrandizement? Despairing of the utter irrationality 
of human affairs, Buddhist monks have gone to the other extreme 
and cut themselves off even from reasonable and perfectly 
innocent enjoyments of life. However, the Zen ideal of putting 
a monk’s belongings into a tiny box is his mute protest, though 
so far ever ineffective, against the present order of society. 

In India the Bhikshu never eats in the afternoon; he properly 
eats only once a day; for his breakfast, in the American or 


English sense, is no breakfast. The Zen monk is supposed to 
have no evening meal, but the climatic necessity being impossible 
to ignore, he has a meal after a fashion, but to ease his conscience 
he calls it “medicinal food”. The breakfast, which is taken very 
early in the morning while still dark, consists of rice gruel and 
pickled vegetables. The principal meal is at about ten in the 
morning and consists of rice (or rice mixed with barley), vegetable 
soup, and pickles. In the afternoon, at four, they have what was 
left from dinner, and no special cooking is done. Unless invited 
out or given an extra treatment at home by some generous 
patron, their meals are as described above, year in, year out. 
Poverty and simplicity is their rule. 

We ought not, however, to conclude that asceticism is an 
ideal of life for Zen monks; for as far as the ultimate significance 
of Zen is concerned, it is neither asceticism nor any other ethical 
system. If it appears to advocate either the doctrine of suppres¬ 
sion or that of detachment, it is merely so on the surface, for 
Zen as a school of general Buddhism inherits more or less an 
odium of the Hindu ascetic discipline. The central idea, how¬ 
ever, of the monk’s life is not to waste but is to make the best 
possible use of things as they are given us, which is also the 
spirit of Buddhism everywhere. In truth, the intellect, the 
imagination, and all the other mental faculties as well as the 
physical objects that surround us, our own bodies not being 
excepted, are given for the unfolding and enhancing of the highest 
powers possessed by us, and not merely for the gratification of 
individual whims and desires, which are sure to conflict with and 
injure the interests and rights to be asserted by others. These 
are some of the inner ideas underlying the simplicity and poverty 
of the monk’s life. 

At meal-time a gong is struck and the monks come out of 
the Zendo in procession carrying their own set of bowls to the 
dining-room, but do not sit until the leader rings a bell. The 
bowls which each brings are made of wood or paper and are well 
lacquered; they are usually four or five in number and fit into 
one another like a nest. The sutra (Hridaya Sutra) and the “five 
meditations” are recited, and then the monks who are serving 
as waiters serve the soup and rice. They are now ready to take 
up their chopsticks, but before they actually partake of their 


sumptuous dinner, they think of those departed spirits and other 
beings who are living in this and other worlds, and each taking 
out about seven grains of rice from his portion offers them to the 
unseen. While eating perfect quietude prevails; the dishes are 
handled noiselessly, no word is uttered, no conversation goes on, 
and all their desires are indicated by folding and rubbing their 
hands. Eating is a serious affair with them. When another bowl 
of rice is wanted, the monk holds out his folding hands, the waiter 
notices it and sits with the rice receptacle before the hungry one; 
the latter takes up his bowl, lightly passes his hand around the 
bottom to wipe off whatever dirt may have attached itself 
and be likely to soil the hand of the waiter. While the bowl is 
being filled, the eater keeps his hands folded; the rubbing of his 
palms against each other shows that the waiter has put enough 
rice or soup in his bowl. 

The rule is that each monk should eat up all that is served 
him, “gathering up the fragments that remain”; for that is their 
religion. After a third or fourth helping of rice, the meal comes 
to an end. The leader claps the wooden blocks and the waiters 
bring hot water; each monk fills his largest bowl with it and in it 
all the other bowls are neatly washed and wiped with the tiny 
napkin which is carried by him. Then a wooden pail goes round 
to receive the slop; each monk gathers up his dishes and wraps 
them up once more; the tables are now empty as before except 
for the grains of rice that had been offered at the beginning of the 
meal to the spiritual beings. The wooden blocks are clapped 
again and the monks leave the room in the same quiet and orderly 
procession as they entered. 

The industry of the monks is proverbial. When the day is not 
set for study at home, they are generally seen soon after breakfast, 
about half past five in summer and half past six in winter, out in 
the monastery grounds or tilling the farm attached to the Zendo. 
Later, certain groups of them go into the neighbouring villages 
to beg for rice. They keep the monastery, inside and outside, in 
perfect order. When we say, “This is like a Zen temple,” it means 
that the place is kept in the neatest possible order. Commonly 
attached to a Zendo are some patrons whose homes are visited 
regularly for a supply of rice or vegetables. When begging they 


will often go out miles away; they may often be seen along a 
country road pulling a cart loaded with pumpkins or potatoes or 
daikons. They sometimes go to the woods to gather fuel and 
kindling. They know something of agriculture, too. As they have 
to support themselves they are at once farmers, skilled workmen, 
and unskilled labourers; they often build their own Zendo and 
other buildings under the direction of an expert. Their labour is 
not at all perfunctory, they work just as hard as ordinary labourers, 
perhaps harder, because to work so is their religion. 

The monks are a self-governing body; they have their own 
cooks, proctors, managers, sextons, masters of ceremony, etc. 
Though the master or teacher of a Zendo is its soul, he is not 
directly concerned with its government, which is left to the senior 
members of the community, whose character has been tested 
through many years of discipline. When the principles of Zen are 
discussed, one may well marvel at their deep and subtle 4 ‘meta¬ 
physics 5 ’ and imagine what a serious, pale-faced, head-drooping, 
and world-forgetting group of people these monks must be; but 
in their actual life they are very common mortals engaged in 
menial work. They are cheerful, crack jokes, are ready to help 
one another, and despise no work which is usually considered low 
and unworthy of a cultured person. The spirit of Hyakujo is ever 
manifest here. The faculties of the monks thus receive an all¬ 
round development. They receive no formal or literary education, 
which is gained mostly from books and abstract instructions; but 
what they do gain is practical and efficient, for the basic principle 
of the Zendo life is “learning by doing 55 . They disdain soft edu¬ 
cation and look upon it as a predigested food meant for con¬ 
valescents. When a lioness gives birth to her cubs it is proverbially 
believed that after three days she pushes them over a precipice 
to see if they can climb back to her. Those that fail to meet this 
test are no longer cared about. Whether this is true or not, 
something like it is aimed at by the Zen master, who will often 
treat his monks with every manner of seeming unkindness. The 
monks often have not enough clothes for comfort, not enough 
food to satisfy hunger, not enough time to sleep, and, to cap these, 
they have plenty of work, both menial and spiritual. These outer 
necessities and inner aspirations, working together upon the 



character of the monk, often end in producing a fine specimen 
of humanity called a full-fledged Zen master. This unique system 
of education, which is still going on in every Rinzai Zendo, is not 
very well known among the laity, although there is at present the 
tendency for the latter to get as much information as possible 
of the life in the Zen monastery. But the merciless tide of modern 
commercialism and mechanization is rolling all over the East, 
so that almost no corners are left for a quiet retreat, and before 
long even this solitary island of Zen may be buried under the 
waves of sordid materialism. Even the monks themselves are 
beginning to misunderstand the spirit of the early masters. 
Though we cannot deny the fact that there are some things in 
this monastic education which may be improved, its highly 
religious and reverential spirit toward life and work must be 
preserved if Zen is to live at all for many years to come. 

Theoretically, Zen envelops the whole universe and is not 
bound by the rule of antithesis. But this is a very slippery ground 
and there are many who fail to walk upright; and when they 
tumble the fall is quite disastrous. Like some of the medieval 
mystics, Zen students sometimes turn into libertines, losing all 
control of themselves; history is a witness of such, and psychology 
can readily explain the process of such degeneration. A Zen 
master once said: “Let a man’s ideal rise as high as the crown 
of Vairochana (highest divinity), but let his life be so full of 
humility as to be prostrate even at the feet of a baby.” The life in a 
Zen monastery is minutely regulated and all the details are 
enforced in strict obedience to the above spirit. This is what has 
saved Zen from sinking to the level of some of the medieval 
mystics, and it is why the Zendo plays so great a part in the 
teaching of Zen. 

When Tanka (Tan-hsia) of the T‘ang dynasty stopped at 
Yerinji in the Capital, it was severely cold; so taking down one 
of the Buddha images enshrined there, he made a fire of it and 
warmed himself. The keeper of the shrine, seeing this, was greatly 
incensed, and exclaimed: 

“How dare you burn my wooden image of the Buddha?” 

Tanka began to search in the ashes as if he were looking for 
something, and said: 



“I am gathering the holy sariras 1 from the burnt ashes. 3 ’ 

“How,” said the keeper, “can you get sariras from a wooden 

Tanka retorted, “If there are no sariras to be found in it, may 
I have the remaining two Buddhas for my fire?” 

The shrine-keeper later lost both his eyebrows for remon¬ 
strating against this apparent impiety of Tanka, while the 
Buddha’s wrath never fell on the latter. 

Though I am doubtful of its historic accuracy, this story is 
notable and all Zen masters agree as to the spiritual attainments 
of this Buddha-desecrating Tanka. When a monk once asked his 
master about Tanka’s idea of burning a statue of Buddha, the 
master replied: 

“When cold we sit around the hearth with fire burning.” 

“Was he then at fault or not?” 

“When hot we go to the bamboo-grove by the stream.” 

Whatever the merit of Tanka from a purely Zen point of 
view, there is no doubt that such deeds of Tanka are to be 
regarded as highly sacrilegious and to be avoided by all pious 
Buddhists. Those who have not yet gained a thorough under¬ 
standing of Zen may go to all lengths of committing every manner 
of excess and even crime—this in the name of Zen; and for this 
reason the regulations of the monastery are very rigid that pride 
of heart may depart and the cup of humility be drunk to the dregs. 

When Shuko (Chu-hung) of the Ming dynasty was writing 
a book on the ten laudable deeds of a monk, one of those self- 
assertive fellows came to him, saying: 

“What is the use of writing such a book when in Zen there 
is not even the atom of a thing to be called laudable or not- 

Shuko answered, “The five aggregates ( skandha) are entang¬ 
ling, and the four elements ( mahabhuta) grow rampant, and how 
can you say there are no evils?” 

The monk still insisted, “The four elements are ultimately all 
empty and the five aggregates have no reality whatever.” 

1 Sarira (shari in J. and she-li in C.) literally means the “body”, but in 
Buddhism it is a kind of mineral deposit found in the human body after 
cremation. The value of such deposits is understood by the Buddhists to 
correspond to the saintliness of life. 



Shuko, giving him a slap in the face, said, “So many are mere 
learned ones; you are not the real thing yet; give me another 

But the monk made no answer and started to go away filled 
with angry feelings. 

“There,” said the master smilingly, “why don’t you wipe the 
dirt off your own face?” 

In the study of Zen, the power of an all-illuminating insight 
must go hand in hand with a deep sense of humility and meekness 
of heart. 

There is a period in the monastic life which is exclusively 
set apart for the mental discipline of the monks, when they are 
not hampered by any manual labour except such as is absolutely 
necessary. This period is known as sesshin. It takes place for a few 
times, each time lasting a week, in the season known as the 
“summer sojourn (, ge-ango )”, and again in the one known as the 
“winter sojourn ( setsu-ango )”. Generally speaking, the summer 
sojourn begins in April and ends in August, while the winter one 
begins in October and ends in February. Sesshin means “collecting 
or concentrating the mind”. While these sesshins last, the monks 
are confined in the Zendo, get up earlier than usual and sit 
further into the night. There is a “lecture” (koza or teisho) every 
day during the sesshin . The textbook used may be any one of the 
Zen books such as The Hekiganshu , The Rinzairoku , The Mumon- 
kwan, The Kidoroku, The Kwaian-kokugo , etc. The Rinzairoku is a 
collection of sermons or sayings of the founder of the Rinzai Zen 
sect. The Hekiganshu , as mentioned before, is a collection of one 
hundred koans annotated, expounded, and appreciated. The 
Mumonkwan is also a collection of koans , forty-eight in number, 
with comments peculiar to Zen, and much simpler than the 
Hekigan . The Kidoroku contains the sayings, sermons, poems, and 
other works by Kido (Hsu-t c ang) of the Sung dynasty. He was 
the teacher of Dai-o Kokushi, whose line of Zen transmission is 
the one still flourishing in Japan. The Kwai-an Kokugo is the com¬ 
pilation by Hakuin of Daito Kokushi’s sermons and critical 
commentary verses on some of the old masters. To an ordinary 
reader these books are a sort of obscurum per obscurius. After listen¬ 
ing to a series of lectures, the monk may be left in the same lurch 


as ever unless he has opened an eye to the truth of Zen. This 
inscrutability is not necessarily caused by the abstruse nature of 
the books, but because the listener’s mind is still encrusted with 
the hard shell of relative consciousness. 

During the sesshin , besides the lectures, the monks have what 
is known as “ sanzen ”. To do sanzen is to go to the master and 
present their views on the koan they have for the master’s critical 
examination. In the days when a great sesshin is not going on, 
sanzen will probably take place twice a day, but during the special 
time of “thought collection”—which is the meaning of sesshin — 
the monk has to see the master four or five times a day. This 
seeing the master does not take place openly; the monk is 
required to go individually to the master’s room, where the 
interview takes place in a most formal and solemn manner. 
When the monk is about to cross the threshold, he makes three 
bows, each time prostrating himself on the floor; he now enters 
the room keeping his hands palm to palm in front of his chest, 
and when he comes near the master he kneels down and makes 
still another prostration. This ceremony over, no further worldly 
considerations are entertained; if necessary from the Zen point 
of view, even blows may be exchanged. To make manifest the 
truth of Zen with all sincerity of heart is the sole consideration; 
everything else receives only subordinate attention. The pre¬ 
sentation over, the monk retires from the room with the same 
elaborate ceremony with which he entered. This exercise may be 
very trying on the master, for one sanzen for thirty monks will 
occupy more than an hour and a half of most exacting attention. 

Absolute confidence is placed in the master so far as his 
understanding of Zen goes, but if the monk thinks he has sufficient 
reason for doubting the master’s ability he may settle it with him 
personally at the time of sanzen. This presentation of views, 
therefore, is no idle play for either master or monk. It is, indeed, 
a most serious affair, and because it is so this discipline of Zen has 
great moral value. To illustrate this let us consider an incident 
from the life of Hakuin, the founder of modern Rinzai Zen in 

One summer evening when Hakuin came to present his view 
to his old master, who was cooling himself on the veranda, the 
master rudely said, “Stuff and nonsense!” Hakuin repeated 



loudly, “Stuff and nonsense !” Thereupon the master seized him, 
boxed his ear, and finally pushed him off the veranda. As it had 
been raining, poor Hakuin found himself rolling in mud and 
water. When he recovered himself he returned to the veranda and 
bowed to the master, who retorted, “O you denizen of the dark 
cavern !” 

Another day, thinking that the master failed to really appreci¬ 
ate the depths of his knowledge of Zen, Hakuin desired to have 
a settlement with him anyhow. When the time came Hakuin 
entered the master’s room and exhausted all his ingenuity in 
contest with him, making up his mind this time not to give up an 
inch of ground. The master was furious, and finally taking hold 
of Hakuin gave him several slaps and pushed him off the porch. 
He fell several feet to the foot of a stone wall, where he remained 
for a while almost senseless. The master looked down at him and 
laughed heartily; this brought Hakuin back to consciousness, 
and when he came back to the master he was all in perspiration. 
The master, however, did not release him yet but stigmatized 
him as before, “O you denizen of the dark cavern!” 

Hakuin grew desperate and thought of leaving the old master 
altogether, when one day as he was going about begging in the 
village a certain accident suddenly opened his eye to the truth of 
Zen, which had hitherto been completely hidden from him. His 
joy knew no bounds and he came back to the master in a most 
exalted state of mind. Before he could enter the front gate, the 
master recognized that something had happened to him and 
beckoned to him saying: “What good news have you brought 
home today? Come right in, be quick, quick!” Hakuin then told 
him all about what he had gone through during the day. The 
master tenderly stroked him on the back and said, “You have it 
now; you have it at last!” After this the master never called him 

Such was the training the father of modern Japanese Zen had 
to go through. How terribly hard his old master, Shoju, was when 
he pushed Hakuin over the stone wall! But how motherly he was 
when his disciple, after so much ill-treatment, finally came out 
triumphantly! Indeed, there is nothing lukewarm in Zen; if it is 
lukewarm, it is not Zen. It expects one to penetrate into the 
very depths of truth, and the truth can never be grasped until, 


stripped of all trumperies, intellectual or otherwise, one returns to 
one’s own native nakedness. Each slap dealt by Shoju stripped 
Hakuin of his illusions and insincerities. In fact, we are all living 
under many casings of illusions and insincerities which really have 
nothing to do with our inmost Self. To reach this inmost Self, 
therefore, whereby the disciple gains rea 1 knowledge of Zen, 
the master often resorts to methods seemingly inhuman; indeed, 
far from being kindhearted to say the least 

In the life of the Zendo there is no fixed period of graduation 
as in public education. With some, graduation may not take place 
after twenty years of living there, but with ordinary abilities and 
a good amount of perseverance and indefatigability a monk is 
able to probe within a space of ten years into every intricacy of the 
teachings of Zen. To practise the principles of Zen, however, in 
every moment of life—that is, to become fully saturated in the 
spirit of Zen—is another matter. One life may be too short for it; 
for it is said that even Sakyamuni and Maitreya themselves arc 
yet in the midst of self-training. 

To become a perfectly qualified master, a mere understanding 
of the truth of Zen is not sufficient. He must go through a period 
which is known as “the long maturing of the sacred womb”. The 
term must have come originally from Taoism; but in Zen nowa¬ 
days it means, broadly speaking, living a life harmonious with the 
understanding. Under the direction of a competent master a 
monk may finally attain to a thorough knowledge of all the 
mysteries of Zen, but it will be more or less intellectual though 
in the highest possible sense. The monk’s life, in and out, must 
grow in perfect unison with this attainment. To do this a further 
self-training is necessary, for what he has gained in the Zendo is 
after all only the pointing of the finger in the direction where his 
utmost efforts must further be put forth. But it is no longer 
imperative for him to remain in the Zendo; on the contrary, his 
intellectual attainments must be put on trial by coming into 
actual contact with the world. There are no prescribed rules for 
this “maturing”. Each must act under his own discretion as he 
meets with the accidental circumstances of life. He may retire 
into the mountains and live as a solitary hermit, or he may come 
out into the market and be an active participant in all the affairs 
1 129 


of the world. The Sixth Patriarch is said to have lived among the 
mountaineers for fifteen years after he had left the fifth Patriarch. 
He was quite unknown in the world when he first returned to 
hear a lecture by Inshu (Yin-tsung). Chu (Chung), the national 
teacher, spent forty years in Nan-yang and never showed himself 
out in the city. But his holy life became known far and near, and 
at the earnest request of the Emperor he finally left his hut. 
Yisan (Kuei-shan) spent several years in the wilderness, living on 
nuts and befriending monkeys and deer. He was found out, 
however, and great monasteries were built about his anchorage, 
and he became the master of one thousand and five hundred 
monks. Kwanzan, the founder of the great Myoshinji in Kyoto, 
lived at first a retired life in Mino Province, working for the 
villagers as a day labourer. Nobody recognized him until one day 
an accident disclosed his identity and the court insisted on his 
founding a monastery in the Capital. 

In the beginning of his career Hakuin was the keeper ol a 
deserted temple in Suruga, which was his sole heritage in the 
world. We can picture to ourselves the extent of its dilapidation 
when we read this account: “There were no roofs properly 
speaking, and the stars shone through at night, nor were there 
any decent floors. It was necessary to have a rain-hat and to wear 
high gclas if it rained when anything was going on in the main 
part of the temple. All the property attached to the temple was 
in the hands of creditors, and the priestly belongings were 
mortgaged to the trades-people. . . 

The history of Zen gives many such examples of great masters 
who emerged out in the world after a period of retirement. The 
idea is not the practice of asceticism, but is the “maturing 55 , as 
has been properly designated, of one's moral character. Many 
serpents and adders are waiting at the porch, and if one fails to 
trample them down effectively they raise their heads again, and 
the whole edifice of moral culture built up in vision may collapse 
even in a day. Antinomianism is also a pitfall for the followers ol 
Zen, against which constant vigil is needed. 

In some respects, no doubt, this kind of monastic education 
that prevails in the Zendo is behind the times; but its guiding 
principles, such as the simplification of life, restraint of desires, 


not wasting a moment idly, self-independence, and what they 
call c ‘secret virtue 55 , are sound for all lands and in ail ages. 
Especially is this true of the concept of “secret virtue 55 , which is a 
very characteristic feature of Zen discipline. It means not to waste 
natural resources; it means to make full use, economic and moral, 
of everything that comes your way; it means to treat yourself and 
the world in the most appreciative and reverential frame of mind. 
It particularly means practising goodness without any thought of 
recognition by others. A child is drowning; I get into the water, 
and the child is saved. That is all there is to be done in the case; 
what is done is done. I walk away, I never look backward, and 
nothing more is thought of it. A cloud passes and the sky is as 
blue as ever and as broad. Zen calls it “a deed without merit 55 
(anablwgocarya ), and compares it to a man’s work who tries to 
fill up a well with snow. 

Jesus said, “When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know 
what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret. 55 
This is the “secret virtue 55 of Buddhism. But when the account 
goes on to say that “Thy Father who seeth in secret shall recom¬ 
pense thee 55 , we see a deep cleavage between Buddhism and 
Christianity. As long as there is any thought of anybody, be he 
God or devil, knowing of our doings and making recompense, 
Zen would say, “You are not yet one of us. 55 Deeds that are the 
product of such thought leave “traces 55 and “shadows 55 . If a spirit 
is tracing your doings, he will in no time get hold of you and make 
you account for what you have done; Zen will have none of it. 
The perfect garment shows no seams, inside and outside; it is 
one complete piece and nobody can tell where the work began, 
or how it was woven. In Zen, therefore, no traces of self-conceit 
or self-glorification are to be left behind even after the doing of 
good, much less the thought of recompense, even by God. 

Resshi (Lieh-tzu), the Chinese philosopher, describes this 
frame of mind in a most graphic manner: 

“I allowed my mind without restraint to think of what it 
pleased, and my mouth to talk about whatever it pleased; I then 
forgot whether ‘this and not-this* was mine or others 5 , whether 
the gain or loss was mine or others 5 ; nor did I know whether 
Lao-shang-shih was my teacher and Pa-kao was my friend. In 
and out, I was thoroughly transformed; and then it was that the 


eye became like the ear, and the ear like the nose, and the nose 
like the mouth; and there was nothing that was not identified. 
As the mind became concentrated, the form dissolved, the bones 
and flesh all thawed away; I did not know upon what my frame 
was supported, or where my feet were treading; I just moved 
along with the wind, east or west, like a leaf of the tree detached 
from its stem; I was unconscious whether I was riding on the 
wind, or the wind riding on me. 55 

This kind of virtue is called by the German mystics “poverty” ; 
and Tauler’s definition is, “Absolute poverty is thine when thou 
canst not remember whether anybody has owed thee or been 
indebted to thee for anything; just as all things will be forgotten 
by thee in the last journey of death.” 

In Christianity we seem to be too conscious of God, though 
we say that in him we live and move and have our being. Zen 
wants to have this last trace of God-consciousness, if possible, 
obliterated. That is why Zen masters advise us not to linger where 
the Buddha is, and to pass quickly away where he is not. All the 
training of the monk in the Zendo, in practice as well as in theory, 
is based on this principle of “meritless deed”. Poetically this idea 
is expressed as follows: 

The bamboo-shadows move over the stone steps 
as if to sweep them, but no dust is stirred; 

The moon is reflected deep in the pool, but the 
water shows no trace of its penetration. 

Taking it all in all, Zen is emphatically a matter of personal 
experience; if anything can be called radically empirical, it is 
Zen. No amount of reading, no amount of teaching, no amount 
of contemplation will ever make one a Zen master. Life itself 
must be grasped in the midst of its flow; to stop it for examination 
and analysis is to kill it, leaving its cold corpse to be embraced. 
Therefore, everything in the Meditation Hall and every detail 
of its disciplinary curriculum is so arranged as to bring this idea 
into the most efficient prominence. The unique position main¬ 
tained by the Zen sect among the other Buddhist sects in Japan 
and China throughout the history of Buddhism in the Far East is 
no doubt due to the institution known as the Meditation Hall, or 





abiding' place. 815 
Abraham 104 
Abyss, 35, 43, 55 
icinta, 50 

Affirmation, 30, 56, 70, 72, 104: abso¬ 
lute, 52, 53, 54. 56, 67, 68, 60, 70, 71, 
73; higher. 67, 72, 80; life is, 68 
Aggregates (skanclha), the five. 47. 125 
Agnosticism. 75 
■imitabha sutra, 102 fn. 

Annihilation, 50 fn. 

Annoyance, 100 
Antinomianism, 130 
Antithesis, 30. 52 fn., 55, 66, 67, 68, 
69, 124 
Aristotle, 62 

Arms, Hyakujo opened his, 87 
Arrow, 89, 112 
Art, life is an, 64 
Asanga, 31 fn. 

Asceticism, 137, 140 
Avatamsaka (Kegon), 10, 58, 110 


Candle, blown out, 80, 90 

Cat, quarrel over a, 71 

Censer, in the deserted shrine, 47, 115 

Ch'an-na (zenna), 32 

Charcoal, a live, 69 

Chi-sha Daishi, 100, 101 

Cho of Rokutan. 112 

Christians, 34, 45 

Christian Father, A, 62; -mystics, 97 
Scientists, 4 0 

Christianity, 39, 4J. 61, 110, 131, 132 
Chu (Chung), the national teacher, 84, 
85, 91, 130 
Chu (liquor), 73 
Cloud, Zen like u wafting, 41 
"Coal i3 not, black”, 33 
Concentration, 41 
Confucians, 83, 92 
Confucius, 93 
Cow-herding. 86 

Chip of tea, 81, 85, 88. 93, 115; Joshu’s, 

Cushion, to hand the. 110 
Cypress-tree, 106, 107, 109 


Badaisbi (Ma Tai-shili), 69. See also 

Ball, kicked, 45 

Bamboo, 80, 91; bamboo grove, 73. 

125; bamboo shadows, 151 
Baso (Ma-tsu), 57 fn., 70. 79, 84, 86, 
89, 94, 96 
Bell, ringing, 92 
Bhikshu, 120 
Bird, flying, 64, 92 
Birth-and-death. 50 
Bodhi, not like the tree. 48; transcen¬ 
dental, 49 

Bodhidharma (Daruma, Tamo), the 
First Patriarch, 46, 50, 55, 75, 96, 
102, 100 
Bodhisattva^ 51 

Bowls, carried by monks. 121. 122 
Breakfast, 81, 88, 121 
Breathing, control of, 101 
Brick, a piece of, 106 
Bridge, flows, 58; is bridge, 59; tdone-, 

Brocade, the whole piece of, 112 
Bubbles, sages are. 54 
Buddha, 31, 39, 40, 43, 50, 52. 53. 54. 
55, 62, 64, 65, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 
83, 94, 97, 99, 125, 151 ; images, 124; 
what is the, 78 
Buddha-mind, 46 
Buddha-name, 110 
Eiaddhahridaya , 32 
Butsugen Fo-yen), 63 


Daiju Ekai (Ta-chu Hui-hai), 57 fn., 
79, 79 fn.; a distinguished teacher, 86 
Dai-o Kokushi, 126 
Dalto Kokushi, 126 
Daiye (Ta-hui), 90. 116 
“Deed without merit” ( anabhogacarya), 

Deva, 49 

Dharma, 52, 59. 80 
Dharmakaya, 80 
Dharma nature, 79 

Dhyana, 32, 34, 40, 96. 99, 100. 101, 
102, 119 

Dhyana-Paramita, 100, 101 ; syste¬ 

matically expounded, 100 
Diamond Sutra , 89, 94 
Dinner gong, 85 
Dirt-scraper, 77, 78, 1 10 
Discourse of One Hundred Stanzas. 49 
Discourse of Twelve Sedions, The , 4 9 
Dishes, to handle. 122; to wash. 81 
Dog. a hungry, 40 ; is God, 4 .1 
Doken (Tao-ch'ien), 90, 91 
Doko (Tao-kwang), 57 
Donkey, a three-legged, 7 7 
Dozen (Tung-shan). 79 
Drunkard, 44 

Dualism (dualistic, dualities), 46. 51, 
56, 59, 66, 88, 95, 104. 106. 107 ; 
logical, 109 

Dust, accumulated. SI; collect itself, 
48; not stirred. 132 




Ears, a pair of, 63, 132 

Eating, a serious affair, 122 

Eating and working, 118 

Ecstasy (or trance), 96. See also 

Eden, 43 

Elements (bhuta), the four, 13, 16, 4 7, 

Emptiness ( sunyaia ), 43, 49, 50, 51, 
52, 54, 9(5. 119 

Enant iodromia, 52 fn. 

Engaknji, 120 

Enlightenment, intellectual, 100 

Essays in Zen Buddhism, 49 fn., 50 fn., 
84 fn., 88 fn., 99 fn., 101 fn., 118 

Ethics, G4 

Experience, 34, 35. 55; personal. 33, 
54, 132 

Eye, becomes the ear, 132; -s horizon¬ 
tally arranged, 109; twinkling of an, 

Eye-brows, raising, 70 


Face, slapped, 45, 51, 52; the original, 
104 ft. 

Fan, the waving of a, 54, 111 
Faust. 41 

Fifth Patriarch. See under Gunin 
Finger, held up. 35, 4(1, 72, 73; pointed 
at the moon, 74, 78, 100. 129 
First Patriarch. See Bodhidhnrnm 
Fish, 41. 45, 04 

Five Mind-quieting Methods, 42 
Flax, three pounds of, 41. 77, 78. 79 
Flower, 41, 45, 60, 02, 70, 92 
Fowl of the air, 41 
Fudaishi (Fu-tai-shih), 58, 75, 76 
Fuel, earned, 83 
Funyo (Fen-yang), 112 


Gauges, the, 65 
Garment, the perfect, 131 
Geese, flying, 94; wild, 89 
Gensha (Hsuan-sha), 62, 03 
God, 35, 39, 41. 43, 53, 62, 72, 76, 79, 
97, 104, 131, 132 
Gong, 78, 121 
Goose, in the bottle, 70 
Cioroku fivu-lu), 33. 117 
Gosozan (Wu-tsu-shan), 69 
Griffis, 42 

Gunin (Hung-jen), the Fifth Patriarch, 
48, 76, 130 

Gutei (Chu-chih), 72, 73 

Hakuin, 53,126, 127, 128, 129, 130; and 
one hand, 105, 109, 125 
Hell, 40, 41, 89, 106, 112 
Hekigan-shu (Pi-yen Chi), 116, 117, 126 
Heraclitus, 52 fn. 


Hinayana. 31, 42. 96, 102 
Hindrances, 100 
Ho-an, 112, 113 
Hokke, 31 fn. 

Hoyen (Fa-yen), 69; holds out his 
hands, 97 

Hridaya Sutra, 50, 102 fn., 121 
Hsuan-chuang. 32 fn. 

Hyakujo (Pai-chang), 53, 70, 87, S9, 
90, 94, 97, 118, 123 
Hypnotized, 43 


Ice, cold, 41, 109 
Identity, theory of, 5S 
Ignorance (avidya), 62 
Incense, a stick of, 82, 115 
Industry, of the monks, 122 
Inju, 81 

inshu (Yin-tsung), 130 
Intoxication, 42 
Invalids, the three kinds of. 63 
Iron bull, mosquito on an, 70 
Iron trees, in bloom, 60 
Iron wall, Koan is an. 109 
Irrationality, 83 


Jenye (Shan-hui), 58 
.lesus, 131 
Ji, 31 

Jodo, 31 fn. 

Joshu (Chao-chou), 53, 54, 71, 72, 74, 
81, 82, 88, 89, 93, 97, 106, 107, 109; 
and cypress-tree, 113 


Kaku-tetsu-shi (Chueh T*ieh-tzu), 107 
Kano, Motonobu, 84 fn. 

Kegon, 31, 30 
Kesa (kamya), 120 
Kido (Hsu-t‘ang), 120 
Kidoroku, 120 

Koan, 99 ft., 12G; aim of, 105; number 
of, 115; the first. 104 
Koan system, or Koan exercise, 103, 
111 , 112 

Kokoro ( hsin), 43 
Koromo, 120 
Koza , or teisho, 126 
Kozankoku (Huang Shan-ku), 93 
Kumarajiva, 101 
Kwaiankakugo, 117. 120 
Kwaido (Hui-t’ang), 92, 93 
Kwanzan, 130 

Kyogen (Hsiang-yen), 70, 91, 114, 115 
Kyozan (Yang-shan). 82. 83 
Kvuho (Ohlu-feng), 115 ff. 


Ladle, carried by Seppo, 87 
Laurel, and Kozankoku. 93 
Libertinism, SO 


Lightning, flashes, 64, 112 
Lioness, 123 

Lips, the closing of the, 55 
Lloyd. Arthur, 42 ff. 

Logic, 35. 38, 39, 59, 60. 61, 62, 63, 64, 
66,67, 68,69, 99, 113 
Logical, 54, 55, 58, 108 
Lord’s Supper, 39 


Madbyamika, 81 fn., 36, 49 
Madhyamika Sastra , 49 
Mahayana, 31. 31 fn., 49, 50, 78, 96 
Mahayana pantheism, 108 
Mahayana Sastra , 100 
Maitrcya, 76, 129 
Maxidata, 36 
MnniusrJ, 55 

“Maturing” of moral character, 130 
Moudgalyayana. 115 
Mayoku (Ma-ku), 85 
“Medicinal food”, 121 
Meditation, 40, 4 1. 42, 111; quictistie, 
119; the five. 121 
“Meritless deed”, 132 
Middle way, the, 50 
Mind (hmn), 43, 57. 79, 80, SO, 87; and 
a mirror, 61 

Mirror, and Kyozan, 114; the bright, 
48; compared to the mind, 61 
Mohammedanism, 40 
Mondo, 88 
Monotheism. 11 
Moon. 74, 78. 106. 132 
Mosquito, flying. 54; on an iron bull, 70 
3 I umonkwov . 117, 126 
Myo, 104 

Myoshinji, in Kyoto, 130 
Mysticism, 32, 34, 35, 36, 44, 15, 75, 111 


Nagarjuna, 31 fn., 49 

Nameless, 61 

Nangaku (Nan-yuch), 75 

Nansen (Nan-chuan), 53, 70, 71, 93 

Nap. Yisan’s, 114 

Xasti , 50 

Naturalism, 86, 87 
Negation, 51. 52. 53, 54, 56 
Nembutsn, 102 fn. 

New Thought. 40 

Nihilism, 30, 48, 52, 54, 55 

Nine Thoughts on Impurity. 42 

Nirvana, 39, 51, 100. 101 

“No abiding place”, 87, 97 

Non-duality, 55. 76 

North Star, in the south, 65 

Nose, 53. 84, 86, 89. 90. 94, 109, 132 

Nothingness, 48, 49, 53, 54, 55 


Obaku (Huang-po). 52, 93, 94 
Old Woman, and the Buddha, 72, 73 
One, the, 41, 67, 72, 76; is All, 67 

One hand, 59, 109 

Original faee. 4'7, 104, 105, 113 

Ox, riding on an, 58 


Pantheism, 11, 67, 78, 79, 106, 107 
Pitcher, passing over a, 84 
Plank, and stone bridge, 82 
Poetry, 117 

Poverty. 120, 121. 132 
Prajna, 49. 50, 51, 80. 99, 99 fn. 
Prajnahridayo , 50, 102 fn., 121 
Prajnaparamita, 31 

Prajnaparamita-IIridaya Sutra, 50, 102 
fn., 121 

Prainaparamita-Sutra, 49 fn., 86 
Psalm, 118 fn. 

Pundarika, 101 
Pure Land, 56, 110 
Purity, absolute, 56 


Quietism, 50 


Raven is black, 52 
Reality, 93 

Reed, growing through the leg, 77 

Reisehauer, 42, 43 

Religion* of Japan. 4 2 

Resshi (Lieh-tzu), 131 

Restrictions, 100 

Reverie, 119 

Rice bag, sitting by the, 73 
Richard of St. Victor, 43 
Riko (Li-K‘u), 70 
Rinzai (Lin-elii), 79, 85. 93. 94 
Rinzai school of Zen, 102, 111, 115, 
126 127 
Rineairoku , 126 
River, thirsty by the, 73 
Ryosui (Liang-sui), S5 
Ryutan, 89 



“Sacred Womb”, 129 
Sakyamuni, 31, 40, 76, 96, 99, 129 
Sannyasins, 40 
Sandals, Joshu’s, 71 
Sangha, 52, 118 
San-ping, 84 fn. 

Sanron , 49 
Santit 50 
San-zen, 108, 127 
Sariputra, 51, 115 
Sarira (Shari, she-li). 125, 125 fn. 
Satori, 34. 88 ff., 99. 102. 103, 105, 109, 
111, 119; defined, 88, 95; by Myo, 
104, 105; of Kyogen, 91 
Seccbo (Hsneh-tou), 116, 117 
“Secret Virtue”. 131 
Seihei (Ch‘ing-ping), 73 
Sekiso (Shili-shuang), 46, 50 fn., 115 



Sekito (Shih-t'ou), 69, TO. 75 
Sekkyo (Shih-kung), 84, 86 
Self, 42, 43, 47, 93, 129 
Self-governing: body, the monks are a. 

Self-intoxication. 43 
Self-suggestion. 95 
Senses, six, 4G 
Seppo (Hsueh-feng). 87 
Sesshin, 126, 127 
Shari (see Sari rat 
Shih-kung (Sekkyo), 84 fn. 

Shin Buddhism, 31 fn.. 75. 110 

Shingon, 31 fn., 36 

Shippe, 66 

Shoju, 53, 128 

Shokei, 113 

Shoyo-roku (T'sung-yung Lu), 116. 117 
Shuko (Chu-hung), 125, 126 
Shuzan tShou-shan), 66, 68 
Sickle, that cuts well, 93 
Sila, 99 

Silence (or silent). 35, 36, 55, 56, 70, 

Six Miraculous Powers. 100 

Six, or Ten Subjects of Memory, 42 

Sixth Patriarch (see Yeno) 

Skandha . 125 

Sky, compared to the mind, 96 
Snow, a well filled with. 131; is white. 

Society of Jesus, 42 
Sogen (Tsung-yuan), 90 
Soto school. 111 
Sozan (T‘8ao-shan), 73 
Space, 53, 57, 84, 91 
Spade, in an empty hand, 58, 60, 62 
is spade, 61 
Spinoza, 43 
Spiritual exercises, 42 
St. Ignatius Loyola, 42 
Staff (or stick), and the Zen masters, 
62, 63, 67. 68, 112, 113 
Stone, 70, 88 

Stone man, cutting capers, 59 
Stream, running, 78, 97 
Studies of Buddhism in Japan, by 
Reischauer, 42 
Sub -consciousness, 10 8 
Sugar is sweet, 7 i 
Suibi (T‘sni-wei), 73 
Suigan, 89 
Suiryu, 113 

Summer, as spent by Yisan and 
Kyozan, 114 

Summer sojourn (Geanyo), 82, 126 
Sunyala , 49, 50, 55 


Tokysan (Teh-shan). 68; 79, 87. 89, 94 
Tongue, a broad, 62; ‘T have no”, 57; 

I hold my, 76 
Tozan, 111 
Traces, leaving, 131 
Trance. 96, 111, 115, 119 
Tree, the yellow blooming, 80 
Triple World (triloka), 43 
Truths, the four, 51 


Ummon (Yun-men). 40, 63, 79, 89, 114 
Unconsciousness, 44 


Vairocliana Buddha, 84, 124 
Vajra-samadhi, 100, 31 
Vedanta , 41 

Yijnaptimatra (absolute idealism). 31 

fn., 57 

Vimalakirti, 55, 56, 76 
Vows, the four great, 100 


Wanbki (Himg-cbih), 117 
Water, 58, 73, 79, 83, 95, 132; a drop 
of, 94 

Wei-iang (see under, Yeno (Hui-neng)) 
Wheat Among the Tares , by Arthur 
Lloyd, 42 fn. 

Willow, not green. 60 
Wind, to move with the, 132 
Winter sojourn (setsu-ango), 126 
Wood, a piece of, 78 
Wooden horse neighs, of) 

Words, 54. 59. 60, 61. 68, 80. 81 
Work, in the Zendo. 118. 119 
Wu the Emperor, 75, 76 


Yakusau (Yueh-shan), 69. 70. 75, 97 
Yengo (Yuan-wu). 46, 55, 56, 116 
Yenkwan (Yen-kuan), 84 
Yeno (Hui-neng). the Sixth Patriarch, 
48, 75, 76, 96, 102, 104. 105, 106. 130 
Yisan (Kuei-shan), 70 fn., 82, 91. 114, 
Yoga, 96 
Yogacara, 31 fn. 

Yoka (Yung-chia), 65 

Tai-kuei-shan. 70 
Tanka (Tan-hsia), 124. 125 
Tao, 74 
Taoism. 129 
Tauler, 132 
Tendai, 31 
Third Eye, a, 62 
Thirty blows, 49, 68 
Thought, everyday, 45 
TMen-lung, 72 fn. 

THEOtOGY l tlB^r OUlU * rn 



Za, 34 fn. 

Zazen (dhvana). 34, 34 fn., 99, 101, 
101 fn., 102. 110, 119 
Zen , 32 

Zen sect, 31 fn., 118, 132 
Zendo (cn‘an-t‘ang), 34 fn.