Daikaku is the formal title of a Chinese monk named Tao Lung, pronounced by the Japanese Doryu, and also called by them Rankei. He was born in Szechuan in 1205. Then as now the people speak a dialect different from that of other regions of China. He became a monk at the age of thirteen, and visited various teachers (including Mujun, later the teacher of Bukko) without making a ‘connection’. Finally he met a teacher with whom he practised for a long time. He was set the koan of the water-buffalo going through the window (all of it got through except the tail which stuck). Suddenly one day the age-old illusion vanished like morning mist and he saw the true landscape which had been hidden. This was some time before he was thirty-four, when he met Japanese monks who invited him to Japan, where he arrived in 1246.
Daikaku went first to Hakata in Kyushu, and in the next year to Kyoto where he was warmly welcomed by Japanese monks whom he had met in China. Shortly afterwards he was invited to Kamakura by Tokiyori the regent, who was the military ruler of Japan and an ardent Zen Buddhist. In 1255 Tokiyori built the great Kenchoji temple and training monastery, and installed Daikaku as the first teacher there. He was however accused of being a spy for the Mongols, and so persistent was the whispering campaign that Tokiyori moved him to Koshu for three years, before returning him again to Kenchoji.
Daikaku remained in Japan till his death in 1278. He had many pupils to hand on his Zen two who appear in the Kamakura koan collection are Gio, who was a Chinese from Szechuan like himself, and Chokei who became the fourth teacher at Enkakuji.
Daikaku had very little knowledge of spoken Japanese in his first years, and Imai reports that there were at Kenchoji many old records of his Szechuan Chinese taken down approximately (in the
Japanese phonetic syllabary) by Japanese who did not understand it. There is an interview of his with Toyama Tangonokami which contains these words by Daikaku: ‘Maku-maa-sun, maku-maa-sun, nyuzu kunrii fuya.’ This was not standard Sung dynasty Chinese, but it was translated into Chinese characters later by Ri Sentoku, a Chinese living in Kamakura who was also from Szechuan. Then these Chinese characters were translated into Japanese by Endo Moritsugu, to mean, ‘No delusive thoughts, no delusive thoughts! It is you who are from the very beginning Buddha.’ In Japanese pronunciation these characters would read, ‘Maku-mo-zo, maku-mo-zo, nyoze ganrai butsuya.’
On another occasion Daikaku was at sea in a storm, and to the anxiety expressed by other passengers he replied by laughing ‘Hinten, hinten!’ This was later found out to be ‘Even and same’ (byodo), a well-known Buddhist phrase for the state beyond distinctions.
In this and some other cases, the Chinese master repeats his phrase; there are some who believe this is still a characteristic of Chinese speech, whereas Japanese do not do it so much (except occasionally in imitation of a Chinese original). Maku-mo-zo (no delusive thoughts!) is a phrase often used in Zen interviews; in the Soto sect some of the teacher-pupil confrontations take place in public on formal occasions called hossen, or battle of the dharma, and this phrase is sometimes thundered out by the teacher presiding, but once only and not repeated.
The difficulty with the language was one of the causes which led to the special quality of Kamakura Zen. Very few of the Japanese
pupils had a good knowledge of Chinese, and the Chinese teachers knew little Japanese. As the interviews had to take place through interpretation, they tended to be of few words. In the beginning some of the Chinese teachers set classical koans involving knowledge of the Chinese background, but later they developed a technique of creating koans out of incidents which mattered to their pupils then and there. It might seem that once the early generations of Chinese teachers had created Japanese successors, the Zen would change, but Japanese pupils tend to follow the style of their teachers very exactly, and this kind of Zen lasted over three hundred years.
For the same reason of language, the Chinese teachers did not expect the ‘comment’ on even a classical koan to be one of the classical Chinese poetic phrases. Their lay pupils made up their own, or quoted something they thought suitable. For instance it is recorded that Tokiyori was set the classical koan ‘the tree in the courtyard’, and his teacher accepted as a ‘comment’ a Japanese verse: ‘Split open the cherry-tree and you find no colour there; yet this is the source of the spring blossoms.’ After the Kamakura Zen lines largely disappeared at the end of the sixteenth century, this kind of comment was not permitted; all comments had to be from collections like the Zenrinkushu anthology of pithy Chinese phrases, which the Japanese put together for just this purpose.
Soon after arriving in Japan, Daikaku wrote a short work on Zen called ‘Zazenron’, which was translated into Japanese. The translation which follows is from the Japanese version. There are also some collections of his sermons, and a few extracts from these are given.
Daikaku was subject to some hostility from other sects at first, but towards the end of his life he was universally admired. A contemporary of his was Nichiren, one of the greatest figures in Japanese Buddhism though no particular friend of the Zen sect, who remarked of Daikaku: ‘In Kamakura high and low revere him as a very Buddha.’