Transmission of the Lamp

8. Butsudanandai

Upon meeting Bashumitsu, Butsudanandai said, “My reason for coming here today is to debate with you as to what ‘Truth’ is.” Bashumitsu responded, “Good sir, when there is a debate, then there is no TRUTH; when there is TRUTH, then there is nothing to debate. If you propose to debate as to what TRUTH is, then there cannot be a debate.” Realizing that Bashumitsu’s TRUTH had bested him, Butsudanandai awoke to the principle of the UNBORN.

Butsudanandai (S. Buddhanandi, ‘He Who Is the Joy of the Buddhas’) was from Kamala and belonged, like Shakyamuni, to the Gautama clan; upon the crown of his head was a fleshy protuberance; Shakyamuni had one also. His cleverness in debate was unrestrained. Bashumitsu, whilst travelling about converting others, arrived at Kamala to propagate Buddhism. Butsudanandai stood in front of Bashumitsu, who was on his teaching seat, and said, “I am called Butsudanandai and my reason for coming here today is to debate with you as to what ‘Truth’ is.” Bashumitsu responded, “Good sir, when there is a debate, then there is no TRUTH; when there is TRUTH, then there is nothing to debate.” Real TRUTH is not debatable and genuine debate is not concerned with TRUTH; therefore, if you attempt to ‘debate as to what TRUTH is’, you end up with neither TRUTH nor debate. This is why Bashumitsu said, “If you propose to debate as to what TRUTH is, then it will not be a true debate.” Ultimately there is not a single thing to consider as TRUTH, not a single thing to debate. For the Buddha there were not two ways of talking, that is, one for expressing TRUTH and one for debating opinions. Seeing the words uttered by the Buddha is seeing the ‘body’ of the Buddha; to see this Buddha body is to understand what the Buddha spoke with His own tongue. Therefore, even though He taught that ORIGINAL NATURE and the phenomenal world are not two separate entities, this teaching is still not His debating as to what REALITY is. Even if someone asserts that nothing changes, this assertion will still not be the TRUTH. Even though you may say that IT is beyond any words of description or any principle to be manifested, this is still not ‘piercing to the TRUTH’. Although He taught that TRUE NATURE is what is REAL and ORIGINAL NATURE is what is ABSOLUTE, this is not debating. Even though you say that the mind and the objects it lights upon have been transcended, this is still not debating what REALITY is. Even if the mind and its objects have not been transcended, this again will not be TRUTH therefore, although He explained the meaning of ‘guest’ and ‘host’ and of ‘are one’ and ‘are the same’, this again is not true debating.

Even the noble Monju’s(Monjusri) teaching, without using words or speech in the Vimalakirti-Nirdesha Scripture, was not some proclaiming of what REALITY is, nor was the noble Yuima’s (Vimalakirti) sitting in silence some ‘meaningful discussion of TRUTH’. It is as though, having reached this point, Monju was confused over what he saw and Yuima over what he should say. Even less did Sharihotsu (Shariputra), with all his unsurpassed enlightened wisdom and benevolence, or Mokkenren (Moggallana) with all his unequalled transcendent faculties, ever see this TRUTH even in their dreams; they were just like someone born blind who sees not the color and shape of things. The Buddha Himself said that BUDDHA NATURE is something that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas do not even dream of.

In the chapter on ‘The Tathagata’s Nature’ in the Nirvana Scripture the Buddha says,
“O good disciples, a BUDDHA NATURE such as this only a Buddha can know; it is beyond the ken of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas.”

Bodhisattvas in any of the Ten Abiding Places of Bodhisattvic Wisdom, upon seeing a crane far off in the distance, may be uncertain and confused as to whether it is water or a crane that they see. Even though, after giving the matter considerable thought, they conclude that, yes, it is indeed a crane they see, still they lack certainty.

In the same chapter of the Nirvana Scripture the Buddha says,
“O good disciples, consider the analogy of a parched man crossing a vast plain who, spurred by his thirst, wanders off in all directions seeking water when suddenly he sees, far off, a clump of bushes wherein roosts a white crane; the man, in his delirium and agony, is unable to distinguish whether it is a pool of water or a clump of bushes; peering more sharply he sees that it is indeed a white crane and that it is a clump of bushes. O good disciples, any Bodhisattva in the Ten Abiding Places of Wisdom who catches a glimpse of the Tathagata’s NATURE and thereby has some knowledge of IT is just like this man.”
Bodhisattvas in the Ten Abodes are still not completely certain that they have seen BUDDHA NATURE.

In the same chapter of the same Scripture the Buddha says,
“Even though Bodhisattvas in the Ten Abodes have seen the Tathagata’s NATURE within their own beings, again it is still not absolutely clear to them that they have done so.”

Whilst the Tathagata preaches and, knowing that their own NATURE exists, such Bodhisattvas say in delight, “For untold aeons we have transmigrated through births and deaths; our failure to discern THAT which eternally abides has been due to our bewilderment and delusion about THAT which is beyond self.”

Again, in the same chapter of the same Scripture, the Buddha says,
“Although they are within the Ten Abodes, they still cannot see the BUDDHA NATURE in all respects. Once the Tathagata has explained the matter, they are able to see a little of IT; once Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas succeed in seeing IT, then they exclaim with deep and selfless feeling, ‘How exceedingly wondrous IT is! O World-honored One, we have undergone untold births and deaths, constantly bewildered about THAT which lies beyond self.’”

Even though you say that you have cut yourself free from seeing and hearing, forgotten about body and mind, stayed aloof from delusion and enlightenment and kept clear of defilement and purity, you cannot see this TRUTH even in your dreams, therefore do not seek IT by turning toward emptiness or search for IT in forms, to say nothing of hunting for IT in Buddhas and Ancestors!

O monks, for vast aeons up to this very day, how many cycles of birth and death have you passed through? How many times have body and mind come to arise and disappear? On the other hand, you may feel that the coming and going of this cycle of birth and death is but a dream, a hallucination, a phantasm. How comical! What kind of fairy tale is this? In the first place, is there any ‘person’ that comes and goes through birth and death? What does ‘real human existence’ mean? What are you referring to as ‘a dream, a hallucination, a phantasm’? Do not conceive of existence as a sham or as a reality. If you reach a state where you think of it as a sham or as a reality then this is false through and through. It is imperative that you resolve this prime matter by penetrating deeply into IT through meditation; do not deceive yourself by imagining that such a place is to be reached by equating IT with emptiness or with absoluteness. Even though you are certain about ITS being like untroubled water pure and clear, or like the empty sky unstained with pollution, you have still not succeeded in clarifying what this PLACE is.

The Reverend Monk Tázan (C. Tung-shan), who trained under Isan (C. Kuei-shan) and Ungan (C. Yun-yen), said that, when he suddenly became one with the myriad phenomena, everything in the whole universe preached the Dharma; nevertheless, this was still not good enough. As a result, Ungan, out of his compassion, urged him on, saying, “You must take care to attend to this great matter.” As a consequence, he separated himself from Ungan for a while since doubt still remained; whilst on his way to other parts, he was crossing a river when he saw his reflection in the water and promptly realized the TRUTH whereupon he composed this poem:

Truly I should not seek for the TRUTH from others
For then IT will be far from me;
Now I am going alone.
Everywhere I am able to meet HIM;
HE is ME now,
I am not HIM.
When we understand this,
We are instantaneously with the TRUTH.

Through his understanding the matter in this way, he immediately became, as Ungan’s heir, the root and foundation of the Tázan line. Moreover, not only did he comprehend that the whole body of the universe preaches the Dharma, but also that the temple pillars and the votive lanterns, as well as every particle of dust, do so; every moment in time does so, every atom does so. Although he said that he had come to realize that everything in the three worlds preaches the Dharma, there was still that PLACE which he had not yet reached and so was urged on by Ungan.

People today comprehend through their personal opinions and views that ‘the mind is Buddha’ or ‘the body is Buddha’ whilst failing to grasp what the Way of the Buddha is! They see the Way merely as ‘blossoms opening in the spring’ or as ‘leaves scattering in autumn’ or think about it as ‘all things are abiding in their natural Dharma state’. These views are laughable for, were this what the Buddha Dharma is, why would Shakyamuni have appeared in the world or Bodaidaruma come from the West? From the Venerable Shakyamuni down through the Ancestors and Masters of T’ang China and those since, there has been no distinction of rank among the Buddhas and Ancestors. Which did not have a great awakening to his TRUE SELF? If every one of them had understood what TRUTH is by merely relying on the written word, or considered TRUTH to be a matter for debate, how many Buddhas and Ancestors would there have been? If you discard such notions and train yourself to penetrate to that PLACE, you will quite naturally succeed in becoming one of the Buddhas and Ancestors.

Above all, if you do not awaken to your TRUE SELF and pierce through to the Way of the Buddhas and Ancestors, you will not be a REAL PERSON, hence do not abide in absolute purity or in the bright clarity of the immaculacy of emptiness. This is why the Reverend Monk Sensu (C. Ch’uan-tzu) said, “There is a PLACE that has no whereabouts in which to store oneself and do not store a self in that PLACE which has no whereabouts. For thirty years I stayed on Medicine Mountain and was clear only about this one thing: absolute purity is, indeed, not a place in which to store yourself.” Although you may say that you have transcended both the mind and the objects it lights upon, still, as Sensu said, do not store yourself in such a place.

To reiterate, there is no need to argue over things past and present or debate about delusion and enlightenment. When, through meditation, you have penetrated to IT, there are no walls in all the ten quarters to fall down, no barrier gates in any direction. Everywhere IT is stripped bare and is pure as a dewdrop, therefore act with the utmost care and do not be precipitous.

This morning I have some humble words that attempt to break open what is happening in this story. Do you wish to hear them?

Subhuti and Vimalakirti
did not reach IT through their conversations
And Moggallana and Shariputra
saw IT as though blind.
If anyone personally wishes
to understand the meaning of this,
When will a pinch of salt to season the experience
not be suitable?

(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.)