Transmission of the Lamp

18. Kayashata

Once, whilst Kayashata was serving as a jisha to Ságyanandai, they heard a sound as the wind blew a temple bell. Ságyanandai asked Kayashata, “Is that the sound of the bell or the sound of the wind?” Kayashata answered, “Neither the wind nor the bell, merely the sound of the TRUE NATURE.” Ságyanandai asked, “And who is the TRUE NATURE?” Kayashata responded, “The REASON why all alike are silent and still.” Ságyanandai exclaimed, “Excellent! The disciple to inherit my Way is none other than you!” Accordingly he gave the Treasury of the Law to Kayashata.


Kayashata was from Magadha; he was of the clan of Udraka Ramaputra, one of the Buddha’s teachers before His enlightenment. His father was Tengai (‘A Heavenly Canopy of Light’), and his mother was Hásei (‘Saintly in All Ways’); she had become pregnant after having dreamt of a great deva holding a mirror—about seven days later she gave birth to Kayashata. The lustre of his body was like porcelain: even before he was given his first bath he was clean and sweet smelling.

From the time of his birth it was evident that the child had the Completely Perfect Mirror which accompanied him wherever he went. He was always fond of quietude and was untainted by worldly attachments, that is to say, whenever the child sat down the Perfect Mirror was before him; everyone knew that the doings of Buddhas of every age floated across this Mirror, It was brighter than a mind illumined by Scriptural teaching. Wherever the child went this Mirror followed him like a halo yet without the child’s form being concealed by It. When the child lay down to sleep, the Mirror would cover his bed like a heavenly canopy of light. In short, this Mirror accompanied him everywhere, whether he was walking, standing, sitting or lying down.

Now at this time Ságyanandai was on a preaching tour. Upon reaching Magadha a cool breeze suddenly arose and swept over him and his entourage bringing great pleasure to their bodies and spirits. Since his followers did not know why this should be so, Ságyanandai said, “This is the wind, or breath, of religious virtue. There must be some saintly person who, having renounced the world, continues on as heir to the Lamp of the Ancestors.” Having spoken thus, he led his great assembly of followers through the mountains and valleys by means of his divine powers. By mealtime they had reached the base of a mountain peak and he addressed them, saying, “Over the summit of this peak is a purple cloud that hangs like a canopy; a saintly person must surely reside there- abouts.” So, for some time, he travelled on with his great assembly until he caught sight of a mountain dwelling and the child in possession of the Perfect Mirror. The boy walked directly up to Ságyanandai who asked him, “How old are you?” The boy replied, “A hundred years old.” Ságyanandai then said, “But you are still a child. Why do you say that you are a hundred years old?” Kayashata answered, “I do not know the reason why: it is just that I am a hundred years old.” Ságyanandai asked, “Are you skilled in the liberating activities of a Buddha?” Kayashata answered, “The Buddha says that if a man were to live a hundred years without having comprehended the liberating activities of the Buddhas, it would still not equal living a single day and being able to settle the one great issue for good.” Ságyanandai asked, “And That which is in your hand, what does It show?” The child replied, “The Great Perfect Mirror of the Buddhas has no flaw or blemish inside or out: all people will be able to see IT alike because the eyes of the TRUE NATURE all resemble each other.” When his parents heard their child speaking in this manner, they allowed him to leave home and become a monk. Ságyanandai led him back to his own homeland where he gave him the Precepts and named him Kayashata (S. Sanghayas, ‘The Renowned of the Sangha’). Then came the time that he heard the sound made when the wind blew the temple bell; he was given the Treasury of the Law and ultimately became the Eighteenth Ancestor.

After the child became a monk his Perfect Mirror was suddenly no longer visible for this is, in fact, a part of everyone’s LIGHT. Like a perfect mirror, IT is right now, without blemish or flaw inside or out: such is the TRUE NATURE of all of us without exception.

Right from his birth Kayashata continually extolled the doings of Buddhas and did not mix in worldly matters. In his Bright Mirror he could see what Buddhas did in past and present. He truly understood that the eyes, hearts and minds of all resemble each other but, even so, he felt that he had not yet met with the liberating activities of Buddhas which is why he had said that he was a hundred years old. To meet the Buddhas, be it for just one day, surpasses not only a mere hundred years but also countless lifetimes. This is why he ultimately relinquished the Perfect Mirror.

You should understand through what has been related here that the Buddhas do not neglect, or treat lightly, accounts of the Great Undertaking. When you really comprehend the meaning of the Great Perfect Mirror of the Buddhas, what is left to be understood? Yet this is not the very bottom of TRUTH. After all, why should there be a Great Perfect Mirror of the Buddhas and why should any two people be able to see IT alike? What is there that has no flaw or blemish inside or out? What comprises a blemish or a flaw? How can the eyes possibly resemble each other? Faced with such questions he forgot about his Perfect Mirror but how could this be different from the child’s ‘forgetting about his skin and flesh’? Even if you share this viewpoint by realizing that there is no distinction amongst eyes, and that all persons see IT alike, this viewpoint is actually dualistic and hardly the basis for clarifying what the TRUE SELF is.

Do not hold to an opinion of what ‘perfect’ is or what ‘body’ is. It is imperative that you look into your mind and probe deeply into yourself so that you can quickly break through your outer karmic conditions and your inner karmic tendencies to realize that your TRUE NATURE is beyond intellectual knowing: unless you reach this stage you will simply be a karmically conditioned sentient being who has not yet comprehended the liberating activities of Buddhas. In this manner, Kayashata repented his past wrong-doings and bowed in gratitude, whereupon he became a monk and received all the Precepts. After this he spent his years in training and in serving Ságyanandai as a jisha.

Once, when he heard a sound as the wind blew the bell in the temple hall, Ságyanandai asked Kayashata, “Is that the sound of the bell or of the wind?” What is happening here must indeed be studied carefully. Although Ságyanandai never actually saw either bell or wind, still he put the question as ‘Is THAT the sound of the bell or the sound of the wind’? because he wanted to get Kayashata to know this ‘THAT’. This ‘THAT’ cannot be grasped in terms of wind or bell; they are not the everyday ‘wind’ and ‘bell’ for this would amount to saying, “There was a bell that hung in the corner of the hall which was called the Great Bell and such a bell now hangs in a temple tower in the Southern Capital of Nara,” since this is the way in which people discriminate among such things as humans and buildings. Originally, in the Northern Capital of Peking they used to hang a Great Bell in a temple building, but in our time this custom has fallen into disuse and lost its meaning. Nevertheless, in India, whenever the wind blew the Great Bell in this manner, this káan was signified.

When Kayashata answered, “Neither the wind nor the bell, merely the sound of the TRUE NATURE ,” he truly understood at last; he had no need to set up boundaries for even a single mote of dust. Hence, were someone to say, “The wind makes no sound nor does the bell, but if you think there is a sound, then there is a sound,” with such a view there would still be no silence in the mind. This is precisely why he said, “It is the TRUE NATURE that resounds.”

People, hearing this story, misinterpret it. They have in their heads that it is not necessarily the resounding of the wind, that it is ‘merely a resounding in the mind’, which is why, they suppose, Kayashata put the matter the way he did but, if you are truly in a naive and spontaneous state wherein all things have no arising, how can you even say, “It is not the bell’s resounding”? Thus he said, “It is the TRUE NATURE that resounds.”

Kayashata and the Sixth Chinese Ancestor Ená are separated by a long distance in time; on the other hand, they are not separated at all. Thus the latter said, “The wind and the banner do not move; it is ORIGINAL NATURE , kind sirs, which moves.” Now, when all of you likewise pierce through the foundation of your mind, the three temporal worlds will, from the first, not be separated into past, present and future and the Transmission from heart to heart will be continuous through all ages, so what differences do you discern? Do not discriminate from your everyday viewpoint. From the beginning you can know IT by ITS not being the wind’s resounding or the bell’s resounding. If you feel you want to know what IT is, you must realize that ‘it is ORIGINAL NATURE which is resounding’.

The appearance of that resounding is like the pinnacles of a mountain being high or the depths of an ocean being deep; the towering up of plants and trees, the brightness in people’s eyes, are forms of ORIGINAL NATURE resounding, but you must not think that it is a sound that is resounding, although a sound, as well, is ORIGINAL NATURE resounding. The four elements, the five skandhas and every single one of all the ten thousand things are the ORIGINAL NATURE resounding; there is no time when ORIGINAL NATURE does not resound throughout everything; ultimately there is not a tinge of a reverberation. IT cannot be heard by the ears because the ears themselves are the resounding which is why Kayashata said, “All is silent and still.”

When IT appears like this, all the ten thousand elements are nowhere to be seen; there is no mountain form or ocean form and no taking on the appearance of a single element. It is just as if, in a dream, one is sailing the ocean deep in a magnolia blossom for a boat. Whether you are raising your pole to part the waves or stopping the boat to take note of the current’s flow, there is no sky to float in or ocean bottom to sink to.

What mountains and oceans can we make rise on the outside and what self can we set afloat within the boat? Though we have eyes, they never listen, though we have ears, they never see, therefore it cannot be said that the six organs of perception merge into each other; the six organs need not be tinged with one another, all is silent and still.

When you try to grasp the six sense organs there are none to grasp; when you try to abandon the six fields of perception there are none to abandon. Ridding oneself of all sense objects, we forget both mind and fields. When we look closely, there are no sensory objects to abandon or any mind or fields to put an end to, this is true tranquility, no discussion of sameness or difference, no feeling of inside or outside. When you really arrive at such a stage you will truly be in charge of the Buddhas’ Treasure House of the Law and rightly take your place among the ranks of the Buddhas and Ancestors.

If you do not develop in this way, even though you understand that the ten thousand elements are fine just as they are, this still preserves an idea of self; you will speak of there being ‘others’ and then discriminate and organize those ‘elements’. If you are busy discriminating and structuring things, how will you approach the Buddhas and Ancestors and communicate with them? It will be just as if you are thrusting boundary walls into the sky to divide space. How serene the sky must be! We ourselves alone make the boundaries and the obstructions; once the bounding ridge of a rice paddy is broken through, what is there to distinguish an inside from an outside? At this juncture even the Great Master Shakyamuni is not the beginning nor are you the end; all the Buddhas were, are and will be faceless, all people were, are and will be without form. When you reach this stage, just like clear water giving rise to waves, the Buddhas and the Ancestors go on, one after the other, arising and flourishing. Although the Scripture says, ‘increasing not, decreasing not’, the water goes on flowing and the waves go on churning up. Since this is the case, look into your heart and probe deeply into yourself so that you will reach such a stage.

From beginningless time, and extending forever into the future, we may keep on creating boundary ridges and string out time into past, present and future yet, aeon after aeon, it is all simply thus. You cannot comprehend this clear and unequivocal ORIGINAL NATURE by working your flesh off or discern IT by means of physical movement or stillness; this state cannot be grasped by body or mind, IT cannot be understood by movement or stillness. IT can be found, first of all, by looking into your mind and probing deeply into yourself, by living fully at peace within your own still heart and by realizing the TRUTH for yourself. If IT is not clear to you in this way, you will be carrying your body and mind about futilely as if bearing a heavy load on your shoulders twenty-four hours a day; neither body nor mind will ultimately grow tranquil.

If you let body and mind drop off, whilst keeping your mind open and empty of any deliberate thought, you will find a state of the utmost normalcy, however, even though you may be in such a state, if you cannot give expression to, and illumine, what ‘ORIGINAL NATURE resounds’ is about in the fortuitous events related in the previous story, you will not understand the arising and flourishing of the Buddhas nor will you understand sentient beings’ finding Buddhahood. Because of this I wish to append my humble words to express the resounding of ORIGINAL NATURE:

Silent and still, ORIGINAL NATURE resounds,
reverberating in a myriad ways,
Ságyanandai and Kayashata as well as wind and bell.

(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.)