Transmission of the Lamp

14. Nagyaarajuna

One day, when Kabimora paid a visit to the Lord of the Naga-dragons at the latter’s invitation, he received the wish-fulfilling Nyoi Pearl. Nagyaarajuna said to him, “This Pearl is the most treasured thing in the world; does it have a form or is it formless?” Kabimora replied, “You only know what ‘having form’ or ‘not having form’ is; you do not understand that the PEARL has neither form nor is without form, furthermore, you have not yet grasped that the PEARL is not a pearl.” Upon hearing this, Nagyaarajuna was profoundly enlightened to TRUTH. 

Nagyaarajuna was from Western India and was also known as ‘He with the Strength of a Naga-dragon’ and ‘He Who Has Overcome the Naga-dragons’. At the time when Kabimora arrived in Western India, having already become a monk and had the Teaching Transmitted to him, there was a prince named Unjizai (S. Meghesvara, ‘He Who Is Lord of the Clouds’) who, out of respect for Kabimora’s reputation, invited him to the palace so that he might present the sainted one with various offerings. Kabimora said, “The Tathagata taught that a mendicant monk was not to socialize with ruling families, ministers of state and other people of powerful influence.” The prince said, “Just north of my capital is a large mountain in which there is a cave. Would the Master be able to practise His meditation there?” Kabimora said yes and, accordingly, travelled several miles into the mountains where he chanced upon a huge python. As Kabimora proceeded straight on without turning his head to take a look, the python came after him and coiled itself around the monk’s body. Kabimora gave the Three Refuges to the python who departed after hearing Them. 

When Kabimora was just about to enter the cave, an old man, wearing plain white clothes, came out from the cavern and, with hands in gasshá, made a deep bow. Kabimora said, “Where do you live?” The old man replied, “Long ago I used to be a mendicant monk who greatly enjoyed his peaceful solitude and lived in obscurity within a mountain forest. From time to time a novice monk would come asking for instruction but, as I regarded answering questions to be a nuisance, I would give rise to indignant and angry thoughts. After my death I was reborn in the body of a python and have lived in this cave for nigh on a thousand years, now, having chanced to meet you, O Sainted One, I have heard your Teaching of the Precepts and have accepted Them therefore I have come simply to offer you my thanks.” When Kabimora asked him whether there were any others who had taken up residence on the mountain, the man answered, “A few miles north of here there is a huge tree that gives shelter and protection to five hundred great Naga-dragons. The lord of that tree is called Nagyaarajuna (S. Nagarjuna, ‘He Who Is a Sheltering Tree for Naga-dragons’). He is continually giving teaching for the benefit of his dragon community. I also go just to hear and receive his teaching.” 

Kabimora then called on Nagyaarajuna amidst his assembly of followers. Nagyaarajuna came forth to greet him saying, “The deep mountains are solitary and deserted except for the dragons and pythons that reside here. Why does a great, sainted and supreme one like you turn his holy feet in our direction?” Kabimora replied, “I am not a ‘supreme one’ but someone who has come to pay a visit to a virtuous and worthy person.” Nagyaarajuna fell silent as he wondered to himself, “Could this master have realized certainty and clarified what the Eye of the Way is? Is this great and holy one heir to the genuine Vehicle?” Kabimora said, “Although you are talking things over in your mind, I already know what your thoughts are. Just handle the matter of your becoming a monk. Why concern yourself over whether I am sainted or not?” After Nagyaarajuna heard this, he thanked Kabimora contritely and asked to become a monk. Kabimora therewith had him free himself from his defilements; his community of five hundred Naga-dragons received the full Precepts as well. 

Subsequently Nagyaarajuna became Kabimora’s follower and, after four years had passed, Kabimora paid an invited visit to the Naga Lord who bestowed on him the wish-fulfilling Pearl. When Nagyaarajuna asked him about this Pearl being the most treasured thing in the world, what is recounted above occurred up to the moment when Nagyaarajuna realized the TRUTH. Ultimately he became ranked as the Fourteenth Ancestor. 

Nagyaarajuna had followed non-Buddhist ways in his studies and possessed wondrous spiritual powers; he was continually going to the Naga-dragon palace to see the Scriptures and writings of the Seven Buddhas: by just looking at their titles he understood the spirit and essence of these Scriptures and customarily taught these to his five hundred dragon followers. The Naga Lords Nanda and Upananda, as well as the others in the Naga palace, were indeed all equally enlightened Bodhisattvas. At the behest of the former Buddhas, they had respectfully enshrined all Their various Scriptures; when the present Great Master Shakyamuni’s Scriptural teachings have exhausted their effectiveness in transforming humans and celestial beings they too will be collected together in the palace of the Nagas. 

Even though Nagyaarajuna had great and awesome powers and was continually visiting the great Lords to converse with them, he was not a true follower of the Way for he had only studied as a non-Buddhist does, but once he had taken refuge in Kabimora he was truly a great person with enlightened vision. People think of Nagyaarajuna not only as the Fourteenth Ancestor of our Ancestral tradition but also as an ancestor and master of various other Buddhist families; Shingon consider him their original ancestor and Tendai do likewise. Yin-yang fortune-tellers and silk producers, among others, also regard him as the fountainhead of their practices but these are all various arts that he engaged in much earlier and which he abandoned after he entered the Ancestral ranks; even though disciples of these arts claim him as their founder, they are companions in sorcery or bestial types who, fancying that they are Nagyaarajuna, confuse and mix up truth with error being unable to distinguish jewels from stones. Nagyaarajuna’s Buddha Dharma was properly Transmitted only to Kanadaiba after he had discarded all other traditions; you can infer this from today’s story. 

Although Nagyaarajuna guided the learning of an assembly of five hundred dragons, still, when Kabimora arrived, he came out, bowed low to greet him and then tried to put the Master to the test. For a while Kabimora was guarded and did not disclose his TRUE NATURE. Nagyaarajuna fell silent wondering to himself whether Kabimora was a great, sainted one who had inherited the genuine Vehicle. Kabimora said, “Just handle the matter of your becoming a monk. Why con- cern yourself with whether I am saintly or not?” whereupon Nagyaarajuna was filled with shame which led to his becoming Kabimora’s heir. You should be clear about this from today’s story. 

Nagyaarajuna said, “This Pearl is the most treasured thing in the world. Does this jewel have a form or is it formless?” Actually, from the outset, Nagyaarajuna knew about Kabimora’s receiving the Pearl; his wondering whether it had form or not was due to his holding on tightly, out of his confusion, to the duality of the existent versus the non-existent and this is why Kabimora said what he did. Truly, even if it had been a worldly jewel, when it comes to speaking of TRUTH, IT is neither existent nor non-existent; IT is simply the PEARL. The wondrous, inborn pearl that hung between the brows of the powerful champion wrestler, the pearl that was hidden within the folds of a Universal Monarch’s turban, the pearl that was held tight within the fleshy folds of the dragon king’s neck and the pearl that was sewn into the lining of the drunken man’s cloak, are what people think of as jewels and it is difficult indeed for them to tell whether such things have form or not; we should understand that these ‘pearls’ are all worldly gems and not at all THAT which is the most treasured within the Way. How much less are such people able to grasp that this PEARL is not a pearl? Truly you must understand clearly! 

Gensha (C. Hsu ̈an-sha) said. “The whole of everything is the PEARL but whom should I let know this?” He also said, “The whole universe in all ten directions is this single, lustrous PEARL.” Truly, IT is not something that can be discerned from the vantage point of humans or celestial beings, however, even were it some worldly ‘pearl’, it is not something that comes from outside but makes its appearance completely from within people’s own hearts. Because of this Shakra, Emperor of the Heavens, has made use of it as the wish-fulfilling Pearl or ‘Mani-jewel’. If you can employ this Jewel when you are sick, your illness will be cured forthwith; if you swallow this Jewel when you are anxious, beset or sad, the worry will ebb away on its own. The manifesting of spiritual faculties and transformations depend on this Jewel; among the seven treasures of a 

Universal Monarch there is a Mani-jewel; all rare and precious treasures issue forth from it and its use is inexhaustible. In this way there are the differences as well as the superior and inferior aspects that follow upon the karmic consequences of being a human or a celestial being. 

The wish-fulfilling Pearl among humans has also been called ‘rice’ since we consider that to be a treasured jewel. When compared with the jewels of a celestial being, rice is considered something manufactured or produced, however, we still consider it to be a jewel. When the Buddha Dharma becomes extinct, the Buddha’s remains will become treasured, wish-fulfilling Jewels, pouring down on everything and turning into rice to succour sentient beings. Even though IT may manifest as the Buddha-body, as rice, as the myriad phenomena or as a single, tiny pellet, when your own ORIGINAL NATURE manifests ITSELF, IT becomes your fathom-high body, a figure with three heads, some form covered with hair and crowned with horns or any, and all, manner of thing in the whole universe; thus it is imperative that you discern that PEARL OF THE HEART. 

Do not wish for peaceful solitude or desire to hide yourself away in some mountain forest as monks of yore did. Truly this was a mistake that those not yet enlightened made in earlier times; it is also a mistake that those not yet enlightened are still making in our day. They say that, because rubbing shoulders with others and being involved with various forms of social intercourse keep them from being tranquil, they wish to retire to a mountain forest and placidly meditate and practise the Way all by themselves. Saying such things, many sequester themselves on mountains and in valleys arbitrarily doing their practices and, for the most part, veering off onto false paths. This happens because they do not know what TRUTH is and have vainly put themselves first. They also say, “Meditation Master Daibai Hájá (C. Ta-mei Fa-ch’ang) sat in the smoke from his pine fire doing his meditation with an iron pagoda atop his head which, should he nod off, would waken him by its falling; Meditation Master Isan Daien (C. Kuei-shan Ta-yu ̈an) cultivated the Way deep within the mountain clouds and mists along with tigers and wolves; we too should train and practise in like manner.” This is truly laughable. You should understand that these ancients had all realized enlightenment and received the Seal and prediction of their future Buddhahood from true masters so, for a while, they trained in this way in order to ripen their understanding of what they had awakened to as they awaited the right circumstances for offering their Teaching. These events occurred after Daibai had received the true Seal from Baso (C. Ma-tsu) and Isan had been Transmitted by Hyakujá (C. Pai-chang); they are not what the deluded see them to be. Ancients such as Inzan (C. Yin-shan) and Razan (C. Lo- shan) never lived alone prior to their realizing enlightenment. They displayed such exemplary conduct during their lifetimes that they have left their names to posterity; they were clear-eyed and great, sainted men, REAL PERSONS who had realized TRUTH. If you fail to practise what you should practise or reach what you should reach whilst living in some mountain recess, you will be just as the monkeys are that live there; this is the epitome of one whose heart has not realized enlightenment. 

If their EYE OF ENLIGHTENMENT is not clear and bright, those who do their training in the harmonization of mind and body in isolation become shravakas or pratyekabuddhas and will destroy the seed of their future Buddhahood. A destroyed seed is one that has been overroasted; they have let the seed of their Buddhahood die; therefore, O good monks, carefully do your training in the monastery, continue to practise with your spiritual teacher over a long period of time, become thoroughly clear about the great matter for which you train until you have, beyond doubt, completely and clearly discerned your TRUE SELF and then, for a while later on, deepen your spiritual roots and tighten up your training that you may become a successor to the former generations of Ancestors. Eihei Dágen, the founder of our lineage, has admonished us against living alone lest people stray onto false paths. His successor, Koun Ejá, said, “My disciples, do not live alone. Even if you have realized TRUTH, you should do your training in the monastery; how much less should those who are still studying the practice live alone. Those who would turn their backs on this admonition are not true branches and leaves of my tradition.” Meditation Master Engo (C. Yu ̈an-wu) said, “After the ancients reached the purpose of their training they went off to live in stone huts deep in the brambled mountains and ate their rice cooked in stub-footed iron pots, forgetting about the world of humans for ten or twenty years, taking their leave of the workaday world of dust and dirt. Nowadays we dare not crave for this.” Üryâ Enan (C. Huang-lung Hui-nan) said, “After you have become old guarding the Way whilst living in some mountain forest, how will you compare with those who have led multitudes into the monastery?” In recent times all masters have had no fondness for solitary living. How much less are people’s talents inferior to those people of long ago! Simply stay in the monastery, do your training and keep up your practice. There is a story of a man of long ago who, recklessly enjoying only his peace and quiet, was negligent in this way of living alone; when novice monks came to seek instruction from him, he did not answer what should be answered and gave rise to indignant wrath. Truly, if your body and mind are not yet in harmony, you must realize that you should not live alone and apart from your spiritual teacher. Even though you preach the Dharma as Nagyaarajuna did, you will only reap the karmic consequences of this. 

O monks, because of your putting down good roots in great abundance, you can now surely hear the Tathagata’s True Law; do not become the intimate of rulers of nations and their great ministers, do not take pleasure from solitary living, simply devote yourself to the workings of the Way and concentrate on penetrating to the SOURCE of the Dharma. These are the true Transmission words of the Tathagata. 

Today I have some humble words to offer you about this story. Do you want to hear them? 

ITS solitary light, wondrously vast, is never darkened
For the wish-fulfilling MANI-JEWEL shines forth illumining everywhere.

(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.)