Transmission of the Lamp

20. Shayata

One day Kumorata pointed out to Shayata, “Although you already believe in the three types of karma, you still have not awakened to the fact that karma is born from confusion, that confusion results from consciousness, that consciousness depends on the sleep of ignorance and that the sleep of ignorance depends on ORIGINAL MIND. ORIGINAL MIND is naturally pure and unstained, IT is not born nor does IT die, IT does not concoct things, IT does not reward or punish, IT does not gain or lose anything; IT is utterly still and utterly vital. If you enter this gate to the Dharma, you can be the same as the Buddhas. All good and evil deeds, whether intentional or unintentional, are like dreams and fantasies.” When Shayata heard these words, he grasped their import and realized the wisdom that was stored up from his past lives. 

Shayata (S. Jayata, ‘The Victorious One’) was from Northern India. His wisdom and understanding were as the silent depths of the ocean, his persuasive instruction and spiritual guidance were beyond measure. One day, whilst in Central India, he met Kumorata and asked him, “My parents have always had faith in the Triple Treasure but they have continually been subject to illnesses and all their endeavours have come to naught, whereas our neighbour, who persists in behaving like Chandala the Outlaw, has always been fit and healthy and his undertakings successful. Why has he had such good fortune and where have we gone wrong?” Kumorata replied, “Why do you entertain such doubts? The karmic effects of good and bad actions will come to fruition in one of three temporal phases. In general, people see that the benevolent may suffer untimely or violent deaths whilst the cruel may live long, or that the wicked may be fortunate whilst the morally upright meet with misfortune. As a result of this they say that there is no cause and effect and that vice and good deeds are empty words. Above all they do not understand that consequences follow upon actions which are influenced by even the slightest vacillations, that even were a thousand million kalpas to elapse these consequences would still not be wiped away and that cause and effect are, of necessity, in accord with each other.” By the time Shayata had heard these words his doubts had forthwith been clarified. It was then that Kumorata said the words quoted above and Shayata, as a result, realized the wisdom that was stored up from his past lives. 

As practitioners of meditation, you should handle this passage with care. Consider the section that says, “They have always had faith in the Triple Treasure but have continually been subject to illnesses and all their endeavours have come to naught, whereas our neighbour, who persists in behaving like Chandala the Outlaw, has always been fit and healthy and his undertakings successful.” In effect Shayata was saying, “By believing in the Buddha’s Teaching our lives ought to be long; by dint of the Buddha’s Teaching our bodies ought to be in continual good health. Experiences ought to accord with what we fancy but they do not; our body falls victim to illness. What have we done wrong? From the outset Chandala committed evil acts and cultivated no good deeds whatsoever yet his body was fit and healthy; assuming here that this is a significant ‘favourable sign’, how is this good fortune possible?” People still think this today; even some of you monks harbour such thoughts to say nothing of lay people who are all prone to this kind of thinking. This is why Kumorata asked, “Why do you entertain such doubts? The karmic effects of good and bad actions will come to fruition in one of three temporal phases.” 

In general people observe that others, who are basically benevolent, are in the midst of calamities whilst some violent one is living a long life; even ‘getting away with’ grievous offences may be viewed as a sign of good luck whilst one who is deeply moral is suffering misfortunes. Such spectators are not awake to the past and do not comprehend the future. Seduced by just what is before their eyes, they think that cause and effect do not exist, that vice and good deeds are empty words. Nothing could be more foolish and deluded. They think this way because the path to enlightenment seems too dull or trifling for them. 

The three types of karma are, first, the karma that affects the present life by producing good and bad karmic consequence in this life; second, the karma that affects the next life by yielding its fruits in the next life—the five grievous offences and the seven rebellious acts, for instance, will undoubtedly yield their fruits in the next life—and, third, the karma that affects lives following the next by producing a karmic consequence within the next three or four lives up to untold lives. Since this is so, even though people receive good effects in the present life due to past good karma, it is nevertheless possible that, due to karma from some past life, the present karmic effects can be altered. Those who have purely good or bad karmic causes will feel purely good or bad effects in their present life; those who have mixed good and bad karmic causes will receive mixed good and bad karma. The strength of their practice of the Buddha’s Teaching can turn heavy karma around so that they incur light karma and can turn light karma around so that it comes to naught in the present. What are called the bad causes from past kalpas are experienced as heavy suffering in the future but, when people’s practice of the Buddha’s Teaching is strong, their experience of such suffering is light; some are cloaked in illness, some do not get what they wish for, some find that what they say is not taken seriously by others; these are all cases of future heavy suffering received lightly in the present life. Thus, the strength of your practice of the Buddha’s Teaching should be ever more relied upon. The fruits of practice from the distant past will make everything seem sprightly simply because of your dauntless devotion to training. 

As practitioners of meditation you comprehend what the Way is yet some of you may receive bad reputations whilst others may not get what they desire as an occupation and still others may not have fit and healthy bodies. This being so, if you wish to turn heavy karma around and incur light karma, never resent others even though they despise you, never find fault with others even though they revile you. Even though you always respectfully bow in the face of their slanders, do not despise them, for your practice of the Way will thereby be spoiled and the good karma that you have stored up from past lives will, in time, vanish. By all means keep on practising until you master this in full. 

Although you may already believe in the three types of karma, you may still not know the roots of your karma. Karma is distinguished by its good and bad fruit the quality of which differs for ordinary people and sages. The three temporal worlds, the six realms of existence, the four modes of birth and the nine blissful abodes are the fruit of karma; this karma arises from delusion. ‘Delusion from being infatuated and wandering off the path’ means to desire, or hate, that which we ought not to desire or hate, to judge as right or wrong what we ought not to judge as right or wrong, whereas ‘delusion from being confused’ means to perceive as masculine that which is not masculine and to perceive as feminine that which is not feminine; these states set you apart and separate others. ‘Ignorance from being asleep’ means not to know the roots of self, not to know the birthplace of all ten thousand things that comprise the universe, whereas to be bereft of wisdom at every turn is called ‘ignorance from being in the dark’. These states lack prudence and fail to recognise sensory pollutants. 

The SOURCE of this mind, being pure and unstained, never runs counter to residual conditions. To turn this mind in the opposite direction is called ‘being unenlightened’; when you awaken to this ‘being unenlightened’ you realize that the SOURCE of your own mind is pure and unstained, that your own TRUE NATURE is vital and luminous. When you can ‘see’ in this way, ignorance is, of course, routed, the turning of the wheel of the twelve stages of dependent origination is at last fruitless and the four types of birth and the six realms of existence quickly vanish; everyone’s ORIGINAL NATURE is thus. Because of this there is no longer the distinction of birth and death; difficulties disappear, hence there is no hate or desire, no increasing or decreasing, just stillness and vitality. 

If you feel you would like to gain a glimpse of your ORIGINAL NATURE, give up everything, cut all ties, think of neither good nor evil, let your eyes look down the ridge of your nose for a while and look into your ORIGINAL NATURE. When your whole mind is still, all appearances will come to an end and your ignorance of that SOURCE will be on the point of being routed; the branches and leaves, karma and its fruit, in fact, do not exist. Do not grow stagnant, therefore, in the place of non-discrimination, do not be caught up in the moments when discriminating thoughts do not arise. IT is neither immutable nor impermanent, neither ignorant nor immaculate; IT makes no distinctions among the Buddhas and treats all sentient beings alike. When you arrive at this clear, white, perfect, luminous state, only then will you be a true kesa-clad monk. If you are like this, you will be the same as all the Buddhas. 

At this stage, all that you encounter, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will be like a dream or a fantasy. Try to grab hold of IT, your hand will be empty; try to see IT, your eyes will have nothing to connect with. When you have reached this stage you will have awakened to the principle that the Buddhas have not yet entered the world and will have arrived at the state where sentient beings have not yet become confused and contrary. Unless your practice of meditation has reached this point, even though you worship the Buddha throughout the day and harmonize your body and mind whilst engaged in the four dignified activities of walking, standing, sitting and lying down, you will merely experience the superior effect of being a human or a deva which is the karmic recompense of being in a heavenly state whilst still afflicted with defiling passions. Such a condition is like a shadow following a form; it exists but it is not the TRUTH. Therefore, everyone, arouse your vigour that you may awaken to your TRUE NATURE . 

As usual, I affix my humble words. Do you wish to hear them? 

The camphor tree, as of old, grows up into the sky;
Its branches and leaves, roots and trunk flourish beyond the clouds.

(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.)