Early Zen in Japan

Early Zen in Japan


This master, Bukko, was a Chinese and he never learned much Japanese. The first sermon was, “Dharma is different from seeing, from hearing, from perceiving, from knowing. Seeing, hearing, perceiving and knowing are all dharma. This mountain priest makes a home for the people of the wide earth.  Without moving a speck of dust, they enter the realm of paradise. Lifting high his staff, he said, ‘Om, Om, Om. Hare, hare, hare. Quick, quick, quick. Bow as you enter. Bow, bow.’”

The second one was, “Soaring high, not reaching it in the sky. Going down, not finding it in the earth. All the Buddhas and patriarchs find no hold at all. Hold, no hold. [Om. Soro, Soro Sirichi].”  This last is a dharani, much older than Buddhism, which they adopted. Well, I assume that you know that long paragraph, which appears in most of the books on Zen.

The word Zen is the Japanese approximation to the Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit, dhyana. You know about that and how it went to China; then it came to Japan. Its principles, a separate tradition outside the scriptures: not setting up words and letters. Although then they go on to talk quite a lot about it, but not setting up words and letters. ‘The finger direct to the human heart’. ‘See the nature to be Buddha’. These are truths – but the truth isn’t always as it stands, incorporated.

People who’ve been in prison, with very bad treatment, when they come out of prison, they’re free. They’re among friends. They’ve nothing on their conscience, perhaps they were prisoners of war.  They’re free. They know they’re free; but when they’re talking, or walking, or sitting, suddenly they begin to become tense. They begin to shake and fear comes over them. There’s no use saying, “Oh, but you’re free, you’re free.  There’s nothing that needs to be done.  You’re all right.”  It doesn’t have any effect. They’re bad for each other because they talk about their past experiences. If that tension is constantly reinforced, it becomes a habit, and the man doesn’t recover.

It’s best for him to be with people who are free and who, in their ordinary conversation, are not saying, “Free, free”.  But they’re talking about choice – about going this way, or that way; of having a meal at this time, or of having a meal at all. In all these ways, they’re expressing freedom – and then that man’s tension gradually goes down. Well, the Zen training is sometimes compared to something like that. In a certain sense, as Bukko says, “Without raising a speck of dust, they enter Paradise.”  There’s no movement, nothing to be done.

But in another sense, there is something to be done. Without that, the expressions of truth are what they call ‘dragon head and snake tail’. The dragon’s head is this immense awe-inspiring vision of omnipotence; behind it, there’s a great body whose claws can catch the clouds.  But if it’s just the head and then behind it, the body tapers off to a little snake tail, it’s nothing. This is the phrase, ‘dragon head and snake tail’, used in Zen to mean a great declaration of truth from one who doesn’t understand it.

The mind doesn’t follow the logic and reason and truth. A duelist who knows that the next day he’s going to fight for his life, who knows the next day, he must be fresh, he must be in best physical condition – but he can’t sleep. Logic says to him, “Sleep now,” but his mind is worried. It says, “Your very worry is making you tired. That’s more likely to get you killed. The thing is to sleep now, isn’t it, then you won’t have to worry.” But it’s no good. To realize that this is no good is the beginning of a training.  The Zen people have their own methods of attracting the mind.  When Zen came to Japan, this had to be done with very few words, in the school which came from the Chinese master.

There were two main transmissions. One from Japanese who went to China and learned the spoken Chinese – they could mostly read it already – and who saw and felt and experienced the tradition there. They were given a mission to teach by their Chinese teacher: Eisai in 1191; Dogen, who left an enormous imprint on Japanese Zen and came back to Japan in 1227 and [Dayo] in 1267.  They were all Japanese who went to China, learnt and incorporated the tradition then came back to Japan.  They made some modifications in their tradition to suit the Japanese people, without affecting the essence of it.

The other tradition was a Chinese who came to Japan, Daikaku. This is the same man, Daikaku Lan-ch’i Rankei Doryu. In 1246, he was the first teacher at Kencho-ji Temple.  The second man also a Chinese, [Ho Tan] in 1260. The third, Bukko, was the first teacher in Engaku-ji Temple in 1280. None of these really learned Japanese, Bukko learned very little and Daikaku wrote it well, but didn’t speak well. As a result, Bukko gave his instruction, and Daikaku to some extent, with very few words – because everything they said had to be first of all translated into standard Chinese, because two out of the three came from Sichuan and spoke a dialect, and then from the standard Chinese into Japanese. Then they had to be understood by the disciple, and the disciple had to reply.  That had to be translated into standard Chinese, and from the standard Chinese into the Sichuan. You can imagine the interviews were cumbersome affairs, and they became short.

I’m going to read to you some accounts of these interviews from a very rare text which I’ve stumbled on, and have been doing some research on in Japan. I should say here that, although I may make some fairly learned pronouncements from time to time, please don’t think that this is the tip of the iceberg, that there’s a vast amount of learning underneath. It’s just the tip – probably it’s all I know.

The first of these incidents is called the one-word sutra. It concerns Daikaku, and the regent, Tokiyori.  He was the ruler of Japan and a great Buddhist who lived as in fact a Buddhist monk. The regent Tokiyori invited Zen master Daikaku to found Kencho-ji temple. The followers of other sects rejoiced but little at this and deeply resented the fact that a foreigner, a Chinese master, should come to Japan and be invited to teach. As a result of their intrigues, the master was transferred for a time to [Koshu] province. The teacher was not put out, he cheerfully agreed.

There was a regional official who was an enthusiastic follower of the repetition of the mantra of the Lotus.  There are two mantra in Japan, the mantra of the Lotus and the mantra of Light. One is six syllables, one is five.  This man one day came to the Zen temple, and he remarked that the main sutra of the Zen sect, which is the Heart Sutra, only just over two hundred words is still very long. The mantra is only six syllables. He said, “Nichiren teaches the mantra of the Lotus. Ippen teaches the mantra of the name of Buddha, but the Zen sect recite the Heart Sutra, which is very long and in difficult language.”  The Master listened to this and said, “What should a Zen monk want with a long sutra? If you want to recite the Zen Sutra do it with one word. It is the six and seven words that are too long.”

At Kencho-ji this used to be presented as a koan or riddle to catch the mind and the riddle is in this form, “It is said that the gold-faced Buddha of India in the 49 years after enlightenment, when he was preaching, never really said a single word. But our old Buddha Daikaku in his time proclaimed one word to carry the people to salvation. Now, what was it? That one word. Speak.  If you don’t grasp it, your whole life is spent tangled up in a cave. But if you can speak it out by grasping that one hidden pivot of all, you make heaven and earth beggars at your door.”

To express the Sutra in one word.  Those who met this koan of one word tried ‘heart’. It is the Heart Sutra, but nobody came out to say they’d passed. Then others tried ‘Buddha, the Buddha teacher.  Buddha contains the heart’. No, it never passed. Then they said, ‘Truth. Buddha, heart – they’re concepts. Truth’. No. They tried other words. Then the teacher died.

After the death of Master Daikaku, the priest of Hachiman shrine, [Suramanoka], went to see Master Bukko and raised the question of the sutra of one word. He said, “I don’t ask about the words of other sects but what is this one word of Zen?” The teacher said, “Our Zen does not set up even one word, because the truth is from heart to heart – separate from words. If you penetrate into it, your priest’s life will be a mantra, your death will be a mantra. What do you need with a word, or half a word? Old Daikaku went deep into the grasses and he set down one word there. The whole Zen world was lost in the thorny undergrowth looking for it. Oh, Holy One, if you want that one word don’t open your mouth – read the sutra of no word.” Then there’s a little more, and he says finally, “Now is there a word or no word? Speak, speak.” The account finishes: “The golden needle did not penetrate the embroidered cloth and the priest without a word bowed and went out.” This was the sort of Zen which came up.

Now you see this is not a classical incident from the life of someone else, which has to be brought to life by the teacher.  One might say, “Oh. The classical koans, well, they’re riddles – but, after all, what does it matter? It doesn’t matter in the end. You read, ‘Oh yes, this question was asked and then the Master did that, and you think about it for an afternoon, a week and think, ‘Well, after all that’s a picture of something.’”

The problem is to bring these things to life. The same thing happens with these koans. They’re living incidents.  A man really wants to know what the one word is, but now when it’s told, “Well after all, doesn’t matter”. What they say is, that these stories are like striking flint against iron. I don’t know if any of you have ever done it, but it’s quite a procedure. You have to hold this specially prepared tinder and then you strike.  Sometimes there’s no spark, sometimes there’s a little spark this way or a little spark that way. You have to go on striking these sparks until one of them catches the tinder and it begins to smoulder.

Then you stop striking sparks and you preserve, you nurse, that little glow by blowing very steadily and carefully until it increases. Then you can light your cigarette, or you can light your fire from it and then that cigarette or that fire will be self-supporting. Well, now this example is given, these stories are like striking sparks. If it doesn’t strike a spark, then another one. If it strikes a spark, it still may not catch the tinder of our heart. If it doesn’t, strike another one.  Sooner or later, one will come which strikes something in the heart, and then the man really wants to know.  Then he stops reading more stories, or having more stories given to him, and he has to nurse that one until it grows into a flame.

Well, this is the explanation that’s given, and it applies in many other things too. In Judo we teach different throws until we see, in the beginner’s effort, the one that’s going to suit him. An experienced teacher can almost from the beginning tell which throw to recommend, but a young teacher has to suggest a number and see what happens; and then one strikes, then that one has to be nursed very carefully.

These riddles are known in other traditions but in the Zen, it became a system. For instance, in a similar tradition, a man came to a teacher with three riddles.  This was a theistic tradition and he said, “Where is God? Unless you can produce Him, you can’t expect us to take it seriously.” Then he said, “If God is responsible for the whole world as you say He is, His will determines whether I believe or not. What can I do?”  And lastly, he said, “By the Quran, Satan is tormented in hell-fire but it also says that Satan is made of fire. How could it happen?”

He persisted and the teacher hit him on the head. The man was furious and he took the teacher to the magistrate. The magistrate said, “Why didn’t you answer his question? You’re a teacher.” He said, “I did answer.”  The magistrate said, “Well, explain.” He said, “Yes I can explain but if I explain, it will be no use to him.” The magistrate said, “Well, you better explain.”  He said,” Well, he says he has a pain – where is this pain? Let him produce it. We can’t take seriously something that can’t be shown and produced. Then he says that he suffers from my blow; but his head is bone and skin and flesh, and my fist is bone and skin and flesh. These elements are the same. Lastly, if he thinks God is responsible for all actions, why does he make me responsible hitting him?”

Now, the teacher’s point is a very important one. You get this Zen tradition in other traditions – but generally it’s just an isolated case, it didn’t suit perhaps the mentality of the other people. What the teacher said, “If I tell him, it will be useless to him.”  It’s just like the man who’s come out of prison, he’s like that. It’s no use saying, “But you’re free”. It’s no use. To express these truths like that, to set the riddle, to give the answer – yes, it produces a satisfaction. But it has no effect at all.  If that man had worked out for himself why that teacher hit him, then it would have had an effect. It would have mattered to him.

In this tradition and it’s followed generally in Japan, the warrior is thought to be in an advantageous position because his Zen matters to him. They were facing the Mongol invasion. The Mongols took North China in 1230.  (These dates are only approximate you could catch me out, but if you do I should take refuge in a lot of old texts. I will never mind.)  [laughter]  The Mongols took North China in 1230. They launched two big invasions against Japan, in 1274 and 1281 and the regent, Tokimune, met those invasions and repelled them. One of the very few defeats that the Mongols had. He took charge when he was 18.

Now, it’s worth looking a little bit at him. He was a brilliant boy and a terrible coward. He suffered from this consciousness that he was the son of the regent and that he was going to have to take on that role. He was full of fear.  This was one reason he took up Zen, because he was so frightened, he was so timid. The teacher said he must practice physically and then psychologically and finally spiritually.  Physically to keep your mind centred, keep your mind on the centre.  In this practice it’s just below the navel. Bodies are different sizes, but traditionally – and we use this in Judo – it’s this distance, the middle joint of the middle finger, below the navel. Meditate on this point.

Sometimes they pinch there.  Sometimes they put a sash around, and they put a little stone in it, and then they put the attention there. Then if the attention waivers, they just swell out the abdomen a little bit and the stone presses and the attention can be brought back. This is very important thing. We use it in judo technique. If you know a champion well enough, you might ask him how he brings off a very good throw called o-uchi-gari. He doesn’t say, “I took my left foot past the central line. I managed to effect the [move] to his right back corner; then sweeping with the lower edge of the foot along the mat, I upset him. ” He doesn’t say that. I can’t find any fault with it, it’s a technically accurate description, but no champion would ever say it. That’s like the theoretical descriptions, which come in Buddhism. It’s correct. It’s right. What the champion actually says is, “I just felt him here, and it just came off, you know?”  It doesn’t mean anything to an outsider, but it means a great deal to somebody who knows that throw well.

Many of the Zen koans are difficult to understand by people who haven’t practiced them. Some people think, “Well, they don’t mean anything. You just say anything with confidence and they’ll believe it and that will be the answer.” No, it isn’t. Tokimune was given that practice. Then the teacher said, “Keep yourself like pure water, don’t clutch after any outer thing. Remain in the state. ‘I alone am the Honoured One’.” The declaration of Buddha is, “Always keep a spirit of daring. A daring spirit that does not hesitate to tread on the sword.  If your vision is narrow, your courage also will be narrow. Try to keep your thoughts universal.”

When the armada came, Tokimune had a famous interview with Bukko and he said, “The great thing has come.” The teacher said to him, “Can you avoid it?” He jumped up in the air and shouted – and the teacher said, “Yes, it’s a lion cub and he makes a lion’s roar. Now, dash straightforward.” Tokimune met two invasions successfully.  Bukko said he was a bodhisattva.  Tokimune died of no known cause soon after the second invasion had been repulsed. In the funeral oration, Bukko said, “He had been a bodhisattva. For nearly 20 years, he ruled without showing joy, or anger. When the victory came, he showed no elation. He sought for the truth of Zen and found it.”

He gave three characters, that he wrote out for Tokimune – and they still exist, or are said to exist – three big characters: ‘maku mozo’. These are in the records, the old records at Kencho-ji. They have a phonetic representation.  When Bukko said these, the meaning wasn’t known, and they wrote down what it sounded like: ‘maku ma sun’. It’s written twice. Even today, Chinese tend to repeat the phrase. Although if you say to them, “Why do you repeat phrases?” They say, “We don’t. We don’t.”

Those three characters, twice repeated are, “Don’t have delusive thoughts”. It became one of the greatest central phrases in Zen. Some masters only use this to an inquirer. “Don’t have delusive thoughts. Don’t have delusive thoughts”. If it comes with not only a dragon head, but a dragon body behind it, then it can solve many riddles. If it’s just the dragon head…  There was one disciple who used to imitate this, when inquiries came he used to say, “Maku mozo, maku mozo!”  Then one of the juniors whispered to the other one, “They say he’s so clever, but I think he’s an absolute fool.”  The man whirled around said, “What did you say?” So the little boy said, “Oh, I only said, “Maku mozo”.  Dragon head and snake tail.

There are a hundred of these stories.  Records were kept in Kencho-ji Temple and in Engaku-ji Temple of interviews with certain people, especially with the warriors. Some of those were selected in 1554, or thereabouts, by one of the teachers and published by one of the greatest aristocratic families. They published a little edition of 500 copies, which disappeared completely; but a few manuscript copies remained. One of them was owned by Tesshu, a great Zen master and fencing master, at the end of last century. This copy was then reproduced, probably about 1910 and somebody who thinks he remembers somebody who saw it, says that it was reproduced on mimeograph paper. It wasn’t a proper printed edition.

There were only 500 and they almost all disappeared. In fact, they can’t be found now.  But a great scholar and philosopher during the war, published a twelve volume anthology on very poor paper and a very small edition, in which he put in all the texts that he could think of and this was one of them. That edition has almost disappeared, but there are a few copies, and this text has been almost unnoticed, or completely unnoticed, in volume seven.  Now, the historians I’ve consulted, who specialized in this, they say that it looks as though it’s a genuine book of the early 16th century, the historical incidents are in the language of the 16th century, although they go back to Bukko and Tokimune.  But still, [Tamamura] thought some of them very likely genuine historical incidents of the teachers.

The other thing I want to bring to your attention is that the pupils of this tradition were warriors and women. In the Zen tradition, there are many women.  On one particular point, there was a resemblance. The warriors in Kamakura, at this time, were busy men facing a Mongol invasion. They didn’t know Chinese in general, they had just had a very weak knowledge. The women at the time were highly educated, but they never learned Chinese. It was thought unfeminine, but they came in the front rank of every branch of Japanese literature. I don’t know, but I believe it’s unique in the world.

But in Japan, if you take any branch of literature, the novel or the travel diary or poetry, you will find not one, not two, but a whole group of women right at the top. Among the very top geniuses, the groups – they have certain groups of the six poetic geniuses, or the 10 poetic geniuses – and there are women among them. In this Zen, the pupils didn’t know Chinese, couldn’t read the classical koans, couldn’t find the classical comments, which were offered on the koans. We have records of some of them.  In Kyoto people who knew Chinese could make some of these comments but, in Kamakura, because they didn’t know Chinese, and there were no Japanese Zen classics at that time, the pupils had to make up their own comment, they had to be creative.

Now, I’ll read one or two of the poems, which were made by women. Well, Shido – she was a nun who had been the wife of Tokimune. After he died, she became a nun and the first teacher at the famous temple of Tokei-ji, a woman’s temple, which still exists today.  She was given a practice of sitting in front of a big mirror and meditating. The tradition was that she attained enlightenment when doing that. In the meditation hall at Tokei-ji there was a big mirror. As part of their meditation, the nuns used to polish it, and also sit in front of it for a time. The tradition was that each teacher of Tokei-ji should compose a poem on the subject, ‘mirror’.  Eight of these poems have been preserved. They became koans themselves, these poems written by the women teachers, and a few of the extra comments added to them in the interviews have been recorded.

The poem of the founder, Shido: “If the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding of the mirror and talk of polishing, is a fancy.  Test (there’s a test question on the koan): “If the mind does not rest on anything, then how will things be seen or heard or known or understood?” To that test, there’s another poem. “Rising and sinking according to the current, going and coming, no footprint remained.”  Test: “A mirror which does not cloud and needs no polishing – set it before the teacher now.”

In the classical, black and white, painting of Japan, some of the best artists today (there aren’t so many of them) are women. A few of them won’t paint anything else. They are idealists. They will only do these pictures and they’re not willing to sell, although many of them are not well off. In this poem, the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding, and talk of polishing is offensive. I commissioned one of these women artists, for a good fee to make a picture of this. After about six weeks, she produced a picture which I accepted, and I expect to publish.  She then said that she was not going to take a fee for it, that it had been a Zen experience. I said, “How many did you make?” She said “Oh, well over 100.” As part of her devotion or her meditation every day she used to draw and paint two or three.

The poem of the second teacher:  “There is the reflection, yet its surface is unscarred.  From the very beginning, unclouded, a pure mirror.”  Test: “When it reflects variously, how is it then?”  Answer: “The mind turns in accordance with the 10,000 things, the pivot; where it turns is verily in the depths.” Test again  “From the very beginning the mirror is unclouded. How then are there reflections of karmic obstacles in it?  Answer:  “Within the pure mirror, never clashing with each other, the reflections of pine and bamboo are in harmony.” The last test on that is:  “Show the pure mirror right before the teacher’s face.”

Well, there are more of them, but it gives you some idea. Now, this is not on the warrior as are most of the koans, but on a priest. The head monk at Hokokuji Temple was dead and could not hear the preaching of the Dharma.  So he asked to take charge of the sutras as a librarian, and for more than 10 years he perused them. He found that the accounts of the Buddha’s life in the various sutras did not agree. He asked Abbot Hakido, the fifth master of the temple, which one was right. The abbot said, “What is in the Sutras is as a finger pointing to the moon, or a net to catch fish.  What is the Zen monk doing muddying his mind with Sutra praises and inferences about various teachings and wanting to know which is right and which is wrong?  Your practice is itself the Buddha practice. When you left home, that was the Buddha leaving home. When you attained the Way, that was itself, the Buddha attaining the Way. When you enter Nirvana, that is the Buddha entering Nirvana. You have already left home and are far advanced in the Way but have not yet entered Nirvana. You are today in the stage of the years of preaching. Now for the sake of men and heaven, and the 10,000 beings, try giving a sermon.  Attention all!” The koan is, “Say what sermon it is, that the great ones of the sangha give as the sermon for men and heaven.”

Now there are 15 tests on this koan, and I’ll read some of them rapidly. “You’re giving a sermon in the high heaven world and suddenly rise to the world of ‘no form’, to that which has no colour or form. What is your sermon? Say.”  “You enter the dragon palace in the ocean, for the eight dragon kings, how will be your sermon? Say.”  “A man comes and asks you to give a sermon to a baby less than a month old. How do you make the sermon? Say.”  “There is a deaf old man of over 100. You are asked to give him a sermon, but he cannot hear anything of the Dharma teaching because of his deafness.  To this deaf man, how do you make the sermon? Say.” “There is a furious brigand who yet has no belief in the three treasures of Buddhism. In the middle of the night he comes to your room, waves a naked sword over your head, and demands money.  You have nothing to give him. Your life will be cut off by his sword. For this man, what will be your sermon? Say.”

“There is a foreign enemy who invades our country, killing and plundering.  When this man comes and you are asked to give him the sermon for the brigand, you do not know his foreign language. At this moment, what will you do to make your sermon? Say.”  “You are face to face with death. Your life is running out. You can hardly breathe and cannot open your mouth.  Then a man asks you for a sermon on entering Nirvana.  By what means do you make your sermon? Say.”  “When your body has been nailed up in the coffin, a man asks your ghost for a sermon. How then do you make the sermon? Say.”  “You went to hell.  The beings in hell are night and day screaming in pain and have no time to hear the Dharma.  To those on the mountain of swords, or in the lake of blood, how will you give a sermon? Say.”  “When you are asked to give the sermons of the Buddha’s 49 years preaching in one word, how will your sermon be? Say.”

This koan began to be used as such in Kamakura Zen with the 13th master of Hokoku-ji Temple. When he put his disciples under the hammer of this koan, he always made them go through all the 15 questions. They are called the 15 gates of Hokoku-ji.  A doctor attached to the government put up a notice of the great gate of Hokoku-ji Temple which said, “You may pass the five gates of Hokoku-ji – outer gate, great gate, middle gate, mountain gate, main gate, but there are 15 other gates still to pass in the Master’s interview room.  The records state that when young monks came to Hokoku-ji seeking lodging for a night, they were first presented with these 15 questions. If they could meet one of them properly, they were allowed to stay.

Well, we’re coming to an end now. This is at Engaku-ji, where there were women disciples of Bukko. In theory, women were not supposed to go into Engaku-ji, for a time, but if they were taking Zen, they were set a test of the great gate.  If they could pass it, they could go in to see the teacher. After 1334 the rule was made that unless a woman had attained ‘seeing nature’, she was not allowed to go up to the great light hall. So in time, it became the custom that the keeper at the gate, when a woman practicing Zen appeared, presented a test question. According to one Zen tradition, from that time, five tests were used at the great gate of Engaku-ji and they are recorded. One: “The gate has many thresholds, even Buddhas and patriarchs cannot get through. If you would enter, give the password.” Second: “The strong iron door is hardly to be opened. Let one of mighty power tear it off its hinges.”  Three: “Vast outstretched in all directions, no door, no gate? How will you recognize the gate?”  Four:  “84,000 gates open at the same time. He who has the single eye, let him see.”

Now for the fifth test, we have the record of one of the answers given. The test question is:  “What is it, this gate by which all the Buddhas come into the world?” Well, the gate by which all the Buddhas come into the world is the woman herself, but there’s no use saying, “Well, me.” She has to find an answer.  One of them made an answer which I won’t state, but the further test was:  ”If you are the gate through which the Buddhas come into the world, give birth to a Buddha now.”  She couldn’t answer that, but she was passed into the temple.

Well, now this is one between two priests. Most of them are warriors in this collection, but there are some with women and some with priests. A head monk came to teach in [Yokosan]. [He met] the 21st master at Kencho-ji and saluted him.  He said “Master [Dainaku], the founder, gave sermons on the Rinzai [roko] classic. (Which is the classic of the sect.) May I copy them out?” The teacher sat silent for a good time and then said, “Have you copied it?” The head monk said, “I haven’t had the loan of it yet.” The teacher said, “Rinzai Zen is communicated from heart to heart. What do you want with the writings? If you do need a writing, take Mount Ashingara as the brush and [Yuishor] as the ink stone and sea as ink and make your copy.”  The head monk made a shout and said “I have finished the copy.”

The seventh master of [Juhukti] temple (that was one founded by Eisai, the first one) was famous as a painter. [Nobumitsu] one day came to him and asked whether he could paint the invisible. He quoted the line, “After walking over the flowers, the horse’s hoof is fragrant.” The teacher drew a picture of the horse’s hoof and a butterfly fluttering around it. Butterflies are attracted by the scent of flowers, so the hoof must be fragrant for the butterfly to come.

Then he said, “Well, paint this.” and he quoted the line, “The spring breeze over the riverbank” and asked for a picture of the breeze. The teacher drew a branch, the willow, with the leaf slightly raised. Then [Nobumitsu] quoted the Zen phrase, “A finger direct to the human heart.” and he asked for a picture of the heart. The teacher took the brush and splashed the ink all over his face.  He was naturally furious, and the teacher very quickly sketched the furious eyes of the human heart.  At last, he asked for a picture of the Zen phrase, “See the nature to be Buddha, ask for a picture of the nature.” The teacher picked up the brush and broke it. He said, “Do you understand?”  “No”. The teacher said “Well, if you haven’t got the seeing eye you can’t see it.”  So the Samurai said, “Well, pick up the brush and paint the nature.” The teacher said, “If you’ll show me your nature, I’ll paint it.”  The Samurai had no word.



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