Zen sayings of Master Gyodo

Zen sayings of Master Gyodo

Here are a few things from those days with Master Gyodo which still often come to my mind:-

  • Zen is something about which someone who doesn’t really know can still manage to write without giving himself away. But if you hear him speak just a couple of words, you know his inner state exactly.
  • For Seeing the Nature, it has to be fierce as a lion, but after that realization, the practice has to go slow like an elephant.
  • If you get through the first barrier (the first koan) without much trouble, you get stuck afterward and can’t get on. It’s as if you’d thrust your hand into a glue pot.
  • However much you go to Zen interviews, and however many koans you notch up, if you don’t get to the Great Peace ….
  • Going simply by the number of koans you pass— well, however many they may be, it’s no good unless you come to the samadhi of no-thought. In the samadhi of no-thought, there’s no soul, there’s no body, there are no objects of the senses, much less any koan!
  • For Going the Rounds (visiting a number of teachers in turn for interviews) you have got to have an eye that can see a teacher.
  • You have to be able to enter freely and come out of the world of the absolute (infinite non-distinction) or the world of the relative (limited distinction) at will.
  • You may go the rounds, but unless you learn the strong points of each teacher, you will get nothing out of it. If you are simply looking for weak points in teachers, however much you may go round it will be no good.
  • I can’t understand what they call reputation in the world. There are people who, when you go and see them, are completely different from what you have heard about them.
  • Whatever koan it may be, it comes down to the absolute, or the relative, or an unobstructed harmony of absolute and relative.
  • When one has attained realization (satori) the practice has to be taken to the point where even the first syllable, sa, meaning “distinguishing” has ceased to exist.
  • (Of a certain teacher.) He is supposed to be a teacher, but I find something peculiar about him; and somehow even what he writes has got a smell about it.
  • If someone goes right through the training, he goes back to his original temperament. With one who likes rice-wine, it’s rice-wine; with one who likes women, it’s women — that’s the sort of thing.

Note by Tsuji Roshi: This remark by Master Gyodo did not mean assenting to sexual practices and other desires: the one who has gone right through the training has come to the state of the true no-I (mu-ga) and no-Minding (mu-shin). The Master is pointing here to the heart of heavenly truth, the great life of nature. I feel that this was what was meant by Confucius when he said: “At seventy years of age, I could follow the desires of my heart, and they never transgressed the moral rules.

  • A man who does things without “hidden virtue” (on-doku) will surely have no good end to his life.
  • So-and-so Roshi used to say he wanted to test teachers, and went round to a number of training halls, boasting of “taking away their announcement bells” and so on. But this sort of thing has no hidden virtue about it, and so his last years were not good.
  • In Case 19 of the Mumonkan collection of koans, called “The Ordinary is the Way,” Mumon has a comment: “Even when Joshu had realized, he had to start on a further thirty years of practice.” I asked about this thirty years, and Master Gyodo said: “Thirty years means the lifetime, practice is the whole life long.”

In his sermons, when the subject of the Sixth Patriarch Eno came up, Master Gyodo seemed to burn with enthusiasm as he spoke of how the patriarch had a first enlightenment on hearing a phrase from the Diamond Sutra, that the mind should move without making a home anywhere, had gone to Mount Obai to be under Master Konin, and there was treated not as a priest but as a lay pilgrim and set to pounding rice, and how he was recognized through the poem: “The bodhi (wisdom) is not a tree, nor has the mirror any stand: from the very beginning not a single thing — on what could the dust alight?” Then how he was chosen as successor out of the hundreds of disciples, and entrusted with the Transmission by the Fifth Patriarch, who helped him to leave Obai secretly under cover of darkness to escape the jealousy and spite of some other disciples.

  • There is a Zen phrase: “In the cold, the hair stands on end.” When the Master used to speak of these dramatic events in the history of Chinese Zen, I experienced this literally. The impact of his words was so tremendous that I felt my hair standing on end.
  • Around about this time my favourite reading was the lives of Shido Bunan and Shoju Rojin, teacher of Hakuin. Occasionally Master Gyodo used to say something to the effect that perhaps things were going to become something like they were in the times of Bunan and Shoju. He said that though they were priests, in fact they had much of the attitude of laymen (koji), and that possibly in the future, for a time, the dharma might be propagated by these laymen.




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