Transmission of the Lamp

5. Daitaka

Daitaka said, “The one who leaves home to become a monk has no attachment to a self or to a world of selves; his Original Nature is not born nor does It perish, this is the way things are in truth. All the Buddhas are also just like this; Their Original Nature has no form or characteristics and Their bodies are no different.” Ubakikuta said, “You must awaken to your own TRUE SELF; you must penetrate all the way to IT!” whereupon Daitaka had a great awakening to his TRUE SELF.

Daitaka was from the kingdom of Magadha and, just after he was born, his father dreamt that a golden sun shone forth from his house illumining the heavens and the earth with its splendour whilst, before him, rose a huge mountain bedecked with all manner of jewels; atop the mountain a spring gushed forth in great abundance, flowing down in all four directions. When Daitaka called upon Ubakikuta for the first time he recounted the above straightway. Ubakikuta interpreted the dream in this manner, “I am the large mountain whereas the gushing spring is your giving rise to that enlightened wisdom and discernment whose Teachings are inexhaustible. The sun streaming forth from the house is your present entering the monastic path; the illumination of the heavens and the earth in splendour represents the pre-eminence of your enlightened wisdom and discernment.” Although Daitaka was originally named Kozo (S. Gandhahastin, ‘He Who Is Like an Impassioned Elephant’), his name was changed to Daitaka (S. Dhitika), which in our country means ‘He Who Is Intimate with the Magnanimity of TRUTH’, after receiving this interpretation.

Upon hearing Ubakikuta’s interpretation, Daitaka composed this verse which he recited to Ubakikuta,

“The towering mountain,
bejewelled with the seven gems,
Ceaselessly gives forth
a spring of discerning wisdom;
Flowing out,
its flavour is that of the true Teaching
Whose power liberates
all who are karmically drawn to It.”

Ubakikuta responded with a verse of his own,

“My Teaching will be Transmitted to you
So that you may manifest your great wisdom
and benevolence
Just as the golden sun shone forth from the house
To illumine all heaven and earth with its splendor.”

Thereupon Daitaka paid reverence to Ubakikuta and became his follower, immediately seeking to leave home and become a monk. Ubakikuta asked him, “Since your intention is to leave home to become a monk, are you leaving home in body or in mind?” Daitaka replied, “I am seeking to leave home for the sake of neither body nor mind.” Ubakikuta said, “If you are not seeking to leave home for the sake of your body or your mind, who, then, is leaving home?” Daitaka answered as in the opening story, and continued until he had his great awakening to his TRUE SELF.

One who has truly left home reveals the SELF which is self-less therefore IT is not something to be differentiated in terms of body or mind. This SELF which is selfless is nothing other than the way things are in TRUTH for IT is not something measurable in terms of life or its cessation, hence IT is neither the Buddhas nor sentient beings and is in no way the four elements or any of the five skandhas, to say nothing of the three worlds of time or the six realms of existence, for ORIGINAL NATURE has no form or characteristics. Even though there is seeing and hearing as well as experiencing and comprehending, in the last analysis, IT is neither something that comes and goes nor something that moves or is still. He who has come to see things in this way, that is, the sort of person who has an ‘understanding’ of Original Nature, is still one who, it must be said, has worked things out on the basis of hearsay.

Although Daitaka had resolved matters in this way, Ubakikuta, in order to point this out, said, “You must awaken to your own TRUE SELF and you must penetrate all the way to IT!” This resembles the putting of the imperial seal on commercial goods; when you see the royal seal, you know that the object is not poisonous, mislabelled or restricted to official use and is therefore available for anyone to make use of; this is the way things are when the paths of master and disciple coincide. Even though, beyond question, you have understood IT in principle and, without a doubt, have clarified that IT is the Way, nevertheless, only when you have had a great awakening to your TRUE SELF will you, of necessity, realize what IT is for the very first time. If you have never awakened to your TRUE SELF, you will be an outsider with a useless intellectual grasp, one who has not penetrated to his very foundation. If, therefore, you have still not escaped from your own views of what ‘Buddha’ is and your own opinions of what ‘Teaching’ is, when will you be free from your bondage to ‘self’ and ‘other’?

Even though you do not leave out a single word of what the Buddha bequeathed from His forty-nine years of preaching, do not stumble over a single teaching with regard to the Three Vehicles for carrying someone to the Other Shore and the Five Vehicles of practice which convey one to more karmically favourable rebirths, it would be nigh on impossible to acknowledge you as a real monk if you have never had a great awakening to your TRUE SELF. Even though you may be able to lecture on a thousand Scriptures and ten thousand commentaries so effectively that you get a Buddha to respond by appearing before your audience, make the whole earth tremble and shake for them and cause heavenly flowers to rain down in profusion upon them, you still have the perspective of a lecturer and are not yet a real monk.

Do not try to comprehend what a Scriptural phrase, such as ‘the three temporal worlds are nothing but Mind’ and ‘all phenomena are themselves Ultimate Reality’, means; do not try to understand ‘all things have the Buddha Nature’ or ‘all is absolutely empty and quiescent’ for then a term like ‘Ultimate Reality’ will still be involved in some speculative form of category; ‘all is empty’ will be no different from nihilism, ‘all things having the Buddha Nature’ will resemble the notion of a soul and ‘nothing but Mind’ will not escape confusion with discriminative thought. If someone, wishing to search after the great matter, seeks for IT within the thousand Scriptures and the ten thousand commentaries, alas, he is like the prodigal fellow in the Lotus Scripture who abandoned his father and ran off in all directions. At the moment, therefore, when each of you, one by one, opens wide the Treasure House and carries out the whole of the GREAT CANON, the Holy Scriptures will naturally be yours.

If you do not approach the matter in this way, the Buddhas and Ancestors will be as enemies to you: this is why the monk Godai Hima (C. Wu-t’ai Pi-mo) said, “What deceiving demon urged you to leave home and become a monk? What evil creature counselled you to journey abroad seeking a teacher? Whether you can say what IT is or not, you will perish beneath my staff!” Because Daitaka understood in this way he said that his leaving home to become a monk was not for the sake of his body or his mind for, though he had worked out the matter in this way, he was still not a real monk. When Ubakikuta again pointed out the Way to him, he awoke to his TRUE SELF and succeeded in piercing through to the TRUTH.

Therefore, O virtuous monks, carefully practise in the Way and be meticulous in your endeavour. Never depend on the written word to unravel meaning or depend on acquired knowledge to discern the spiritual; completely demolish such concepts as ‘Heaven and Earth’, ‘the sacred and the mundane’ and ‘external karmic conditions and internal karmic tendencies’, then, even though you move back and forth between past and present, you will meet not the least shred of obstruction and, even though you go seeking wisdom from those above you or give spiritual succour to those below you, there will not be the slightest disparity between the two. Make a hole in emptiness, make waves on the barren earth, catch sight of the Buddha’s FACE, experience for yourselves the path of waking to your TRUE SELF, to your own bright ORIGINAL NATURE. Just as a bottle-gourd becomes entwined in its own vines and a jewel becomes encircled with a halo of light, so will you, personally and directly, know THAT which lies within the Hall of the Buddhas and Ancestors and immediately realize IT for yourself.

I would venture to append my humble words to today’s story. Do you wish to hear them?

and you will know the splendour and clarity
of THAT which you have realized;
Even so, the master artisan Lun-pien
encountered such wondrous subtleties
that they lay beyond his expression!

(from The DENKOROKU: The Record of the Transmission of the Light by Zen Master Keizan Jokin. Translated by Reverend Hubert Nearman, Shasta Abbey Press, 2001.)