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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
buddhadharma| 31 |spring 2007 This is an extremely important dharma presentation with the combined effort of three Zen men, namely Obaku, Rinzai, and the head monk. Before delivering my com- mentary, I would like to mention that the most important teaching of Master Rinzai is buji. This term appears more than twenty times in The Book of Rinzai, but there is no English word that reflects exactly what buji expresses. Bu means no or negation. Ji is event, matter, action, phenomenon, affair, or thing. Literally, buji means to negate all ji. What does that mean? Life is ji. Getting old is ji. Sickness is ji. Passing away is also ji. In fact, from morning to night, we are ji itself. We have a tendency to think that by doing various practices (ji), we can reach a point where delusions disappear and there is nothing further to seek. This view is a deception. How could reality be altered by practice? Yet you may ask, if buji implies doing nothing, then why do we have to practice? Isn’t “doing nothing,” in the usual passive sense of the phrase, enough? At the same time, isn’t our very being one of ji? And isn’t our very being the source of all our problems and suffering? Can we negate or transcend our own limited being? When we completely realize the true nature of the universe, what seems to be ji is in fact none other than buji. There is nothing to do, no matter how hard we try. From a slightly different perspec- tive, the closest English word to buji is “now” or “as-it-is.” Right now, can you improve now-ness or as-it-is-ness? The answer is obviously no. At this very moment, can you or your circumstances be otherwise? When you understand that this pres- ent moment is all there is, you have no choice but to come to a radical acceptance. And it is this radi- cal acceptance that is none other than true peace and composure. Buji means to be one with such- ness, the unconditional nature of “let it be,” with nothing wanting, nothing superfluous. Also, I would like to warn you that one of the most dangerous delusions we have is the idea that good and evil exist. This is a major reason why people today are so confused. In the ordinary world, however, this is quite common, and we use these expressions very frequently. So one day, while monks were doing zazen in the zendo, Master Obaku, carrying a staff, came in to check them out, which is known as kentan. When this kind of thing happens, everybody straightens up and pretends as though they have been doing deep zazen. Rinzai was one of the monks, and he was dozing during zazen (don’t say this is bad!). There is a koan that goes, “When you are asleep, someone comes and asks, ‘What is the essence of buddhadharma?’ How would you answer?” This simple and rather interesting question defies all philosophical presentations. At any rate, Rinzai was dozing in the zendo. Obaku struck the platform loudly, not merely to wake him up but also to test how Rinzai would react. Also, he is silently saying, “This is IT!” Rinzai raised his head, and as soon as he noticed that it was his teacher, Obaku, he went back to sleep (don’t say this is rude!). It was as if Rinzai was saying, “I don’t depend on you, teacher; I don’t depend on Buddha; I don’t depend on dharma; I don’t even depend on zazen. I only depend on my present being.” Obaku struck again, this time as if to say, “I understand your silent statement.” He then proceeded to the upper part of the zendo, where the head monk was doing zazen. Obaku said, “The youngster in the lower part of the hall is doing zazen. What kind of delusions are you indulging in here?” This is a different way of testing the head monk’s state of mind, beyond concepts of good and evil. If he were to address the head monk in a mere ordinary fashion, Obaku might say, “Your zazen is great, but the youngster over there is terrible. You need to train him more.” But they were both beyond addressing each other in such a conventional, elementary way. All three of them were in a realm of buji. The head monk scolded his teacher Obaku: “This old fellow, what are you doing?” i.e., “Shut up! Get out of here!” Eido Shimano RoShi iS hEad of thE ZEn StudiES SociEty and abbot of dai boSatSu ZEndo in thE catSkillS mountainS of nEw yoRk and ZEndo Shobo-Ji in nEw yoRk city. Obaku Bangs His Staff The Master (Rinzai) was dozing in the monks’ hall. Obaku (Huangbo) came in. Seeing this, he struck the platform with his staff. The Master raised his head. Noticing it was Obaku, he resumed dozing. Obaku again struck the platform. He then proceeded to the upper part of the hall. Seeing the head monk in zazen, he said, “The youngster in the lower part of the hall is doing zazen. What kind of delu- sions are you indulging in here?” The head monk said, “This old fellow, what are you doing?” Obaku struck the platform once more and left. Later Isan (Weishan) asked Kyozan (Yangshan), “What was the intention of Obaku’s coming to the monks’ hall?” Kyozan said, “One contest, two victories.” — From Rinzai Roku, Book of Pilgrimages, Chapter VI (Opposite) Staff (1923) by Nakahara Nantembo (1839–1926) HoSEi-ancollEcTion