Anabotei asked Funayasha, “I want to know Buddha but what precisely is Buddha?” Funayasha said, “So you want to know what BUDDHA is; THAT which does not know is BUDDHA.” Anabotei asked, “Since Buddha does not know, what knows what Buddha is?” Funayasha responded, “Since you do not know BUDDHA, what knows that it does not know?” Anabotei said, “This is what ‘being like the teeth in a saw’ means.” Funayasha said, “This is what ‘being a felled tree’ means” adding, “What does ‘the teeth in a saw’ mean?” Anabotei replied, “That you and I are lined up together as equals, Master. What does ‘the felled tree’ mean?” Funayasha said, “You have been sawn free by me.” Anabotei awoke at once to his TRUE SELF.
Anabotei was from Harana (S. Varanasi); he was also called ‘He Who Is Superior in Meritorious Effort’ because he was unsurpassed in all manner of virtuous deeds in both the worldly and the monastic sense. When he went to train under Funayasha, the first thing he asked was, “I want to know Buddha but what precisely is Buddha?” Funayasha replied, “So you want to know what BUDDHA is; THAT which does not know is BUDDHA.”
In your training the very first matter that you must reflect on, and inquire into, is what BUDDHA is. All the Buddhas in the three worlds of past, present and future, as well as the numerous generations of Ancestors and Masters, are all referred to as persons who pursued the question of what BUDDHA is; those who do not inquire into what BUDDHA is are called non- Buddhists. HE is not something to be sought through the saying of the word or something to be hunted for in forms or through characteristics, nor will it do to think of BUDDHA in terms of the thirty-two major and eighty minor auspicious marks. This is why Anabotei asked, “I want to know Buddha but what precisely is Buddha?” Pointing right at him, Funayasha replied, “So you want to know what BUDDHA is; THAT which does not know is BUDDHA.”
‘THAT which does not know’ refers, of course, to none other than Anabotei himself for how could it possibly be anyone else? Be it at a time before you knew HIM or at the time when you know HIM, there will be no special way that HE will be nor will HE have some different appearance for, from the beginning of time to the present, HE has been as this: Sometimes HE possesses the thirty-two major marks, accompanied by the eighty minor marks of a Buddha, takes on the three heads and eight arms of a quardian deity or is submerged in the five signs of corporeal decay and the eight forms of emotional distress of a dying celestial being; at other times HE is covered in hair and crowned with horns like some animal or is burdened down with iron chains and trussed up with iron shackles like some being in hell. HE continually dwells in the Three Worlds of desire, form and beyond form, shouldering the responsibility for the way HE comes forth, emerging from, and disappearing within, HIS OWN NATURE, taking on different faces. When HE comes to be born, we do not know who HE is; when HE passes away in death, we do not know who HE was. Although we try to give HIM some shape and form, HE is not something that can be manufactured by us; although we try to content ourselves by giving HIM a name, HE is not something that can be created by us. This is why, from aeon to aeon, HE is never known; even though HE accompanies us, going hand in hand with us, HE is never wholly discernible.
Hearing this story, many interpret it by saying, “Whatever is knowable to us will be different from what Buddha is; what we cannot know or discern will surely be what Buddha is.” Such people are going from one form of darkness into another. If this is what Funayasha meant by ‘not knowing BUDDHA’, why, pray, did he point it out in such a complicated manner? Because this is simply not the way the matter is, Funayasha pointed directly to the right way by saying, “THAT which does not know is BUDDHA.” Since Anabotei was still not clear about this and interpreted what had just been pointed out to him as referring simply to the conventional notion of ‘not knowing’, he said, “Since the Buddha does not know, what knows what Buddha is?” to which Funayasha again pointed the matter out by saying, “Since you do not know BUDDHA, what knows that it does not know?” HE is not something to search for outside of yourself. How can you possibly say that the statement, ‘THAT which does not know is BUDDHA’ is incorrect?
Anabotei said, “This is what ‘being like the teeth in a saw’ means.” Funayasha said, “This is what ‘being a felled tree’ means,” adding, “What does ‘the teeth in a saw’ mean?” Anabotei replied, “That you and I are lined up together as equals, Master. What does ‘a felled tree’ mean?” Funayasha said, “You have been sawn free by me.” Anabotei awoke at once to his TRUE SELF. You are truly no different from those two, nor am I; Funayasha opened up the matter fully and gave it out to all. Neither you nor I need to receive a speck of it; neither you nor I have the smallest fragment that we need to lend; this is why we are lined up together as equals just like the teeth in a saw, and this is also why, when Anabotei described their relationship as being just like the teeth in a saw, Funa- yasha said, “This is what ‘being a felled tree’ means” for, in the vast unbounded darkness, nothing at all need be known; not a speck is added by the master, not a fragment of knowing is borrowed by the disciple. One is just like a felled tree, or a temple pillar, in its ‘mindlessness’ for, ultimately, there is nothing that needs to be discriminated about; this is why Funayasha, understanding the matter in this way, said, “This is what ‘being a felled tree’ means.”
However, having had the explanation put to him in this manner, Anabotei still had a lingering potential for defiling passions to arise for he did not understand what the master meant. Out of his compassion, Funayasha, once again in order to help Anabotei, asked what ‘the teeth in a saw’ meant and Anabotei answered, “That you and I are lined up together as equals, Master.” At this point, in order to thoroughly understand what the Way is, he asked, “What does ‘being a felled tree’ mean?” Funayasha again gave him a helping hand by saying, “That you have been sawn free by me.” The path of master and disciple had merged, erroneous thoughts and feelings past and present had been destroyed and, making a pathway through his dreams, Anabotei had marched forward into the UNBOUNDED which is why Funayasha said, “You are sawn free by me.” Reaching this juncture, Anabotei was immediately freed from the stagnation of ‘mindlessness’ and, leaving the cavern of brilliant clarity, he awoke to his TRUE SELF. Ultimately he was ranked as the Twelfth Ancestor.
Funayasha told his monastic community, “In ancient times this Noble One was the king of Bishari (S. Vasali). In that kingdom were a tribe of people who, like horses, went about quite naked. The king, through his spiritual powers, ‘divided his body up to make silkworms’, that is, he used whatever resources he had to produce silk, so that the people might be given clothing. He was later reborn in Central India and given the name of Anabotei (S. Asvaghosa, ‘He Who Gave Voice to the Horses or Naked People’) since the people, moved by their gratitude, had given such voice to their grief at his previous passing. The Tathagata made a prediction about him, saying, ‘Six hundred years after my paranirvana there will be a virtuous and worthy person named Anabotei in Bishari who will break down and humble those who follow mistaken paths. Humans and celestial beings far and wide will he ferry to the Other Shore and they will be beyond count. He will be a successor to me and help others to convert.’ Now is that very time!” So saying, Funayasha transmitted the Tathagata’s EYE AND TREASURY OF THE TRUE LAW to Anabotei.
Do not rashly consider this story to mean either that we will not realize TRUTH unless we perceive HIM or that HE cannot be perceived. Even though you do not perceive HIM, look carefully when you are meditating as if you had not yet been conceived in your mother’s womb, that is, before dualistic thinking arose, otherwise you will not succeed even if you feel the features on the face of a Buddha or an Ancestor, nor will you succeed even if you search the faces of humans, demons or animals. HE is not something that is either unchanging or fluctuating or that is ever empty; it is not a matter of HIS being inside or outside nor is it one of distinguishing between absolute and relative. If you perceive beyond doubt that HE is your own ORIGINAL FACE, then, even though HE may appear as an ordinary living being, a sainted one or splits into outer karmic circumstances and inner karmic tendencies, all comes and goes with HIM, rises and disappears with HIM. This is like the arising of waves on the ocean’s surface; though swelling up more and more, they never increase by even a single drop of water; though subsiding more and more, they lose not a drop of water.
Among humans and celestial beings HE may be called, for the time being, ‘the Buddha’, ‘a demon’ or ‘a beast’. This is as though the faces of all sentient beings were, for the nonce, manifest upon a single face but, if you think that any specific face is the face of BUDDHA, you are mistaken.
When it comes to setting up a method for teaching and helping others to convert, there is a knocking by the disciple and an answering by the master. We cultivate our samadhi as if all were fantasy and do the work of a Buddha as if in a dream; this is why the Indian methods of conversion through non-attachment and all-acceptance have flowed down unbroken through the three countries of India, China and Japan, thus turning ordinary people into sainted ones. If you really turn yourselves around and do your training in such a manner, then you will be neither ignorant of, or estranged from, your faults nor be deluded about your own life and death. You will truly be a REAL MONK.
Today I have some humble words to illustrate what this story is offering to you. Do you want to hear them?
In the country village the peach blossoms did not know that they were red
Yet they taught Ling-yu ̈n how to arrive at certainty.
(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.)