Transmission of the Lamp

15. Kanadaiba

This is what happened when Kanadaiba had his first audience with Nagyaarajuna, the Noble One. No sooner had Kanadaiba entered the gate than Nagyaarajuna realized what an astute person he was so he dispatched his jisha to fetch a bowl filled to the brim with water and place it in front of where they were sitting. Nagyaarajuna gazed at it, held up a needle which he plunged into the water and then offered the bowl to Kanadaiba. Their eyes met and Kanadaiba, in great joy, realized his ORIGINAL NATURE.

Kanadaiba (S. Kanadeva ‘The Single-eyed Deva’) was a man from Southern India; he was of the merchant caste and, above all, sought after profitable actions which he combined with a delight in persuasion. Nagyaarajuna had arrived in Southern India to teach and guide others after having realized the TRUTH; many of the people in this area put their trust in profitable actions so, when they heard him expounding the wondrous Teaching, they said amongst themselves, “Actions that produce profitable effects are what are of primary importance in the world; he speaks, to no purpose, of some Buddha Nature. Who can lay eyes on that?” Nagyaarajuna said, “If you wish to see BUDDHA NATURE, you must first rid yourselves of your self-pride.” Someone asked, “Is this Buddha Nature something large or something small?” Nagyaarajuna answered, “BUDDHA NATURE is neither large nor small, broad nor narrow; IT is beyond profit or recompense and IT is undying and unborn.” Once they had heard of the superiority of this PRINCIPLE they completely reverted to their beginner’s mind. Among them was the highly perceptive Kanadaiba who sought an audience with Nagyaarajuna and, as stated above, realized his ORIGINAL NATURE in great joy. Following this Nagyaarajuna offered half his preaching seat to Kanadaiba just as Shakyamuni had shared half His with Makakashá on Vulture Peak. Nagyaarajuna, whilst remaining seated for his expounding of the Teaching, manifested the appearance of the lunar orb. Kanadaiba addressed the assembly, saying, “Behold the saintly Nagyaarajuna! By displaying the form of BUDDHA NATURE he points IT out for us. How do I know this? Because the samadhi that goes beyond aspects is, in form, like a full moon, and the term ‘Buddha Nature’ signifies THAT which is utterly clear, pure and immaculately luminous.” After Kanadaiba had finished speaking, Nagyaarajuna concealed the circular form.

Kanadaiba now took his seat beside Nagyaarajuna and spoke in verse,

“His body displayed the form of the perfectly full moon
By means of which the BODY of the Buddhas is shown;
Expounding the Dharma has no fixed shape
But one must still take pains to make clear
that IT is neither sound nor form.”

In consequence of these events it is difficult to distinguish master from disciple; their life-lines interpenetrate. What is happening in this story is in no wise conventional. From the very first Kanadaiba had been at one with the Way; since Nagyaarajuna had not preached a single word and Kanadaiba had not heard a single one, it is all but impossible for ‘master and disciple’ to exist for how can ‘guest and host’ be differentiated? As a direct result of this Kanadaiba began to expound that tradition of training which ultimately became known throughout all parts of India as the Daiba (S. Deva) Tradition which is the same as saying ‘He piles snow upon a silver plate, he hides a heron in the bright moonlight.’ Because of this Nagyaarajuna had a bowl placed before them filled full of water when they met face to face for the very first time. How could there possibly be any front or back, inside or outside? Since the bowl is full, it accordingly lacks for nothing; this water that completely fills it is pure and clear. Although pierced through and through, it remains absolutely pure; although completely full, it remains wondrously bright. This is why Nagyaarajuna held up a needle and, subsequently, Kanadaiba realized his ORIGINAL NATURE . You must, by all means, pierce through to ITS very bottom, pierce through to ITS very top; IT is neither absolute nor relative. At this juncture there is no way to differentiate between master and disciple; although they are similar they are never the same; although they have become intermingled there is no trace.

Shakyamuni made this matter manifest by raising His eyebrows and blinking His eyes; Reiun (C. Ling-yu ̈n) displayed it upon seeing the form of a peach blossom and Kyágen (C. Hsiang-yen) upon hearing the sound of a pebble hitting bamboo, however, there is nothing that can be called ‘sound’ or ‘form’ and there is no seeing or hearing to be discarded. IT is completely perfect, luminous and formless and is like the transparency of clear water; IT resembles the moment when you have pierced through to the wondrous PRINCIPLE and seek ITS sharp spiritual point. IT bares ITS sharp point everywhere, penetrating your mind and heart with ITS brilliance. ITS water flows everywhere and permeates everything, boring through mountains, flooding the heavens; ITS needle penetrates sacking and pierces a mustard seed. Since ITS water is not overcome by anything, how can a wake ever be created in IT? ITS needle surpasses all others, even a diamond, in its hardness.

How can such a needle, or such water, possibly be something that belongs to someone else since they are nothing other than your own body and mind? When you have completely swallowed IT, IT is simply a single needle. When you have vomited IT back up, IT is again this clear water. This is why, when the paths of master and disciple interpenetrated, there was no self and other whatsoever. At the very moment when their life-lines merged they became a pure, immaculate luminosity; IT could not be quenched anywhere in all the ten quarters; they were entwined just as a bottle-gourd vine entwines its fruit when nurturing it. Climbing here, climbing there, IT is simply your own ORIGINAL NATURE.

Although all of you may have succeeded in knowing about the Clear Water, you must grasp what IT is directly through your own experience and make clear to yourselves that, at ITS very bottom, there is the needle. If you ever, by mistake, become attached to IT, you will end up with ITS ripping out your throat as you might expect. Do not create some kind of duality. Just try to swallow IT completely, and disgorge IT completely, strive meticulously. Even though you perceive ITS utter immaculacy and ITS complete and all-encompassing pervasiveness, there will, without doubt, always be ITS vastness and hardness. If you realize this, the three calamities of flood, fire and wind, i.e., inundating defilements, raging passions and misleading delusions, will never violate you and you will remain unmoved during the four cosmic time periods.

Here again are my humble words which attempt to divulge what is going on. Do you wish to hear them?

Once the SINGLE NEEDLE has fished up all the sky-blue waters of the ocean,
The FIERCE DRAGON, wherever HE may go, will not conceal HIMSELF.

(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.)