Transmission of the Lamp

9. Fudamitta

Fudamitta heard Butsudanandai say in verse,
“When your speech is congenial with the LORD of your heart,
Even the tender affection of parents cannot begin to compare with it;
When your actions are in accord with the WAY,
The hearts and minds of all the Buddhas will be so also.
Should you seek outside yourself for some flesh-and-blood Buddha,
He will bear no resemblance to you;
Should you wish to perceive your own BUDDHA NATURE,
IT will be neither comparable to, nor separate from, His.”
Thereupon Fudamitta had a great awakening to his TRUE SELF.


Fudamitta (S. Buddhamitra, ‘He Who Is a Friend of the Buddhas’) was a member of a merchant family in the country of Deiga (S. Daigya). When Butsudanandai was travelling about converting others, he went by the merchant’s house in the city of Deiga and saw a white light rising from the top of that dwelling so he said to his followers, “There certainly must be a holy person within this house. Untoward words have never passed his lips and thus he is truly a vessel for the Mahayana; knowing that contact would be polluting, he has not permitted his feet to tread through dirt; he will be my Dharma heir.” No sooner had he finished speaking than the aged head of the family came out to greet him, saying, “What is your wish?” Butsudanandai replied, “I am seeking an attendant.” The old man responded, “I have but one child who is already fifty years old and has never spoken an untoward word or taken a wayward step.” Butsudanandai said, “If he is as you say, then he is truly the disciple I seek.” When Fudamitta saw Butsudanandai and his father talking and heard what they said, he suddenly rose to his feet and then, whilst making a prostration, recited the following verse,

“If my father and mother are not the closest to me,
With whom then would I be the closest?
If the Buddhas are not those with whom I should tread the Way,
With whom then am I to congenially tread the path?”

Butsudanandai replied with the poem quoted above. Upon hearing that wondrous poem Fudamitta immediately took seven steps and Butsudanandai said, “Long ago this child of yours once met a Buddha and made compassionate vows that were great and far reaching; because the renouncing of the loving affections of his parents has been too painful for him even to consider, he has not spoken an untoward word or taken a wayward step.”

One’s father and mother are truly not one’s ‘PARENT’ and the Buddhas are not the ‘WAY’; if you wish to know THAT which is genuinely closest to you, IT is not something to be compared with a father or mother; if you wish to know what the WAY really is, IT is not something that needs learning from the Buddhas. Why is this so? Because you do not need to borrow another’s eyes and ears to see and hear with and others do not need to employ your hands and feet with which to make their movements. Sentient beings are such as they are, Buddhas are such as They are; the former studying the latter, or the latter studying the former, is ultimately not what closeness is. How could such activity possibly be considered the WAY? Because Fudamitta was maintaining and preserving such a principle, nothing improper passed his lips and his foot took no wayward step whilst some fifty years went by; truly a vessel of Mahayana, he had no wish to abide where contact could defile him.

“If my father and mother are not the dearest to me” were, indeed, your very words, Fudamitta, and they go hand in glove with your mind. In saying “If the Buddhas are not the WAY for me” you succeeded in not taking a false step, this is indeed your practice and accords with the WAY for to seek outside oneself for a flesh-and-blood Buddha is forthwith not the way to practise. This is why the Ancestors and Masters have carried on our tradition by not depending on texts but directly pointing to ORIGINAL NATURE in another and realizing Buddhahood through seeing their own NATURE. As a consequence they have no other method than to get people to realize IT by directly pointing to IT personally on a one-to-one basis. They proceed simply by having people sit in order to cut the roots of discriminative thinking completely and ‘let the moss grow round their mouths’. This does not mean that speech is taboo or silence is to be extolled; it is nothing other than trying to get you to realize that your ORIGINAL NATURE is THAT WHICH IS.

ORIGINAL NATURE is like clear water or empty space, pure and still, interpenetrating all things without the least obstruction; there is not a single thing to be revealed outside your own ORIGINAL NATURE, not a single particle of dust to hamper your own TRUE NATURE. ITS brilliance completely surpasses that of any gem; do not liken ITS luminosity to that of sun and moon, do not compare ITS eye with the sparkle of a fiery gem. Have you not seen where it says, “The brightness of people’s own brilliance is like the shining of a thousand suns. Those in the dark search for IT outside themselves whereas those who are bright do not even think to look within. Think about this at some quiet and relaxed time: there is nothing to consider within as close, nothing to consider outside as far away.”

Although it has been this way from past to present, do not let yourself become arrogant or willful. This is why, in all kindliness, Butsudanandai and Fudamitta met each other face to face; in such a way they merely encountered each other which is why they had so few disciples. Clarify this by means of today’s story, which is not saying that you must arrive at IT as the result of confirmed practice or that you must investigate IT thoroughly through training and study; to put it simply, your ORIGINAL NATURE is intimate with you and you, beyond any doubt, are the WAY. There is no need to seek for some flesh-and- blood Buddha outside yourself, no need to search for some abstract Buddha. There is really no need to ask with whom you are at one or from whom you are separated since, ultimately, there is no ‘being at one with’ or ‘being separated from’. Even though we may speak of IT as ‘body’, IT is not separate from us; even though we may speak of IT as ‘Original Nature’, IT is not something united with us. Although you arrive at such a realization, do not search for ORIGINAL NATURE outside your body. Even though we are born and die, come and go, this is not something our minds and bodies do.

All Buddhas have realized THAT WHICH IS and always attest to IT in the three periods of past, present and future; all Ancestors realize THAT WHICH IS and have thus appeared in the three countries of India, China and Japan. Because all of you good monks will also realize THAT WHICH IS, do not behave outside the proper limits of the Precepts or get confused about what is going on throughout the day and night since the twelve conditions of dependent origination are the turning of the Wheel of the Law. When you reach this REALM, your rebirths through the five other realms of existence are nothing but the revolving of the axle of the Great Vehicle. Receiving the karma from the four forms of birth is undoubtedly the workings of the TRUE SELF. Even though we talk of something being ‘sentient’ or ‘non-sentient’ these are different names for the same thing just as the Japanese words me and manako both mean ‘eye’: even though we speak of ‘sentient beings’ and ‘Buddhas’ the difference between them is as that between the Japanese words kokoro and i both of which signify ‘mind’; do not think that kokoro is superior since it sometimes signifies ‘ORIGINAL NATURE’ and i is inferior since it sometimes signifies ‘the discriminative mind’. How can you possibly hold the word manako in contempt because it refers to the organ of sight whilst esteeming me which sometimes means ‘spiritual insight’? In the last analysis, this ‘REALM’ is neither some territory delimited by the sense organs and their objects nor some region mapped out by the thinking mind and its ideas. Everyone is, without exception, nothing but the WAY and there is nothing that has ever been other than ORIGINAL NATURE.

This morning here again are my humble words which try to point out what is happening in this story. Do you in the com- munity wish to hear them?

Do not say that speech or silence
is the way to manifest the wondrousness of the HEART
For how can your sense organs and their objects ever possibly defile your own SELF NATURE?

(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.)