When Manura asked Bashubanzu, “Just what is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” Bashubanzu answered, “It is none other than your ORIGINAL NATURE.” Manura then asked, “What is ORIGINAL NATURE like?” Bashubanzu replied, “The eighteen realms of the senses (i.e., all experiences) are void, unstained and pure.” When Manura heard this, he understood enlightenment.
Manura (S. Manorhita, ‘Good for Mankind’) was the son of King Jájizai (S. Sasvatesvara, ‘The Eternally Free One’) of the country of Nadi; he was in his thirtieth year when he met Bashubanzu who had arrived in Nadi whilst on a preaching tour. This king, who called himself the Eternally Free One, had two sons; the first was named Makara which means ‘The Leviathan’ and the second Manura. The king asked Bashubanzu, “How do the customs of your native Rajagriha differ from those here?” Bashubanzu answered, “In that land there have been three Buddhas who have renounced the world. In your Majesty’s kingdom there are at present two teachers to instruct and guide others.” The king said, “Who are these two teachers?” Bashubanzu replied, “The Buddha prophesied that, in the second five-hundred-year period, there would be a noble being of great spiritual power who would leave home to become a monk and perpetuate holiness; he is none other than your Majesty’s second son. Of the two teachers, Manura is one and, although my good roots are meagre, I venture to say that I am the other.” The king said, “If what you say is true, then I must give up my son so that he can become a monk.” Bashubanzu said, “Excellent! Your Majesty has strengthened the Buddha’s intention.” Accordingly, he had Manura take the Precepts and, after that, Manura attended on Bashubanzu. One day he asked Bashubanzu, “Just what is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” and Bashubanzu answered, “It is none other than your ORIGINAL NATURE .”
This question is truly one that should be asked at the beginning of anyone’s study of the Way. Since ‘enlightenment’ is synonymous with the Way, the meaning of this question is, “What is this Way?” Because people today never ask about the Teaching with open minds, or come to teachers with a beginner’s heart, they do not ask this question. If your aspirations are genuine, you should not behave in this way. What you should first ask is, “Just what is Buddha?” and then you should ask, “Just what is the Buddha’s Way?” This is why Manura raised the first question in the present instance whilst Bashubanzu pointed the way by saying, “It is none other than your ORIGINAL NATURE.” Because Manura was not in the mind of duality or clinging to even a single hair, he then asked, “Just what is my ORIGINAL NATURE?” and Bashubanzu answered, “IT is nothing but the immaculacy of emptiness of the eighteen realms of the senses,” whereupon Manura understood enlightenment.
What we call ‘Buddha’ is your ORIGINAL NATURE. Ultimately ORIGINAL NATURE cannot be grasped by the intellect or perceived by the senses for, beyond doubt, IT is the SUPREME WAY. Since this is so, IT is without form or location. To be sure, ‘Buddha’ and ‘the Way’ are terms of convenience; thus, ‘Buddha’ is not ‘that which knows everything’, ‘the Way’ is not ‘something to be cultivated’ and ‘ORIGINAL NATURE’ is not ‘that which perceives things’. In this state neither perceived objects nor sensory organs exist wherein consciousness can arise. This is why Bashubanzu said, “The eighteen realms of the senses are void, unstained and pure.” Since this is so, do not talk about this state in terms of ‘mental objects’, do not try to grasp it in terms of ‘perceptual, or sensory, knowledge’.
When you reach this state, the Buddhas no longer appear in some form and the ineffable Way needs no cultivation. Furthermore, granting that seeing, hearing and knowing show no traces of their whereabouts, neither can sound, colour or motion have boundaries. Therefore, as a verse says,
“Even though this sight and hearing
are not sight and hearing,
Even more is it impossible
to present you with sound or colour.
If you fully grasp
that there is nothing whatsoever within these,
What difference does it make
whether you distinguish ULTIMATE REALITY
from ITS functioning or not?”
In this context, do not explain ‘sound’ in terms of tone and pitch; do not think of ‘colour’ in terms of blue, yellow, red or white; do not treat ‘seeing’ as something corresponding to ‘the light of the eyes’; do not consider ‘hearing’ as a faculty of the ears. No one has eyes that respond to colour or ears that relate to sound. If you say that the ear is allied to sound or the eye is connected to colour or form, you are not clear about ‘sound’ and ignorant about ‘eyes’ for, if you say that there is some element responded to, some object related to, then how could sound possibly enter the ear or form and colour be seen by the eye? Unless the relationship is like space merging into space or water merging into water, hearing and seeing are impossible but, because this is not so, the eye merges with form and colour and the ear with sound; they blend without creating boundaries, mix without leaving traces. This being so, even a sound that makes heaven and earth reverberate enters an ear barely an inch square; how could this be other than the extremely large being the same as the small? With an eyeball, barely an inch square, you flash over the whole world; how could this be other than the extremely small being the same as the large? Is it not that the eye is colour and form, that sound is the ear? This is how we perceive; this is how we discern. This ‘ORIGINAL NATURE’ has no borders, boundaries, sides or surfaces. Needless to say, the eye never ‘gains’ anything; colours and forms likewise cannot be divided. Are not these three categories of sensory information, sense organs and perceptions all void, unstained and pure? Therefore, when you reach this state, you can speak of ‘sound’ and of ‘eye’ and of ‘consciousness’. ‘Thus’ is all right to use; ‘not thus’ is all right; ‘thus’ and ‘not thus’ are both all right together. There is not even the tiniest speck of anything that enters the senses from outside; not the least bit of distinction that is brought forth from within the mind, therefore, when people speak of ‘sound’, hearing and speaking become distinguished within sound; when they speak of ‘form and colour’, both a perceiver and a perceived are established within form and colour. There is no basis whatsoever for these judgments.
Not having mastered this principle, you may fancy that sound, form and colour are chimera that arbitrarily arise. You must by all means sweep away such a notion as ‘ORIGINAL NATURE is by nature immutable and, moreover, cannot change or move’ for this is quite laughable. For that matter, what is there that changes or does not change? What is there that is real or not real? If you do not see these matters clearly, not only are you in the dark about sound, form and colour, you have still not mastered ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’. As a result you roll your eyeballs up into their sockets and believe you do not see; you stop up your ears so that you cannot hear. This is nothing more than marching on whilst you bind yourself with a rope that does not exist or fall into a hole where there is none, hence it is difficult for you to avoid defiling feelings flowing out from the senses. Since this is so, train yourself thoroughly; if you penetrate to the bottom of this so that your seeing of your ORIGINAL NATURE is clear and unmistakable, you will reach the very heights without hindrance.
Again I trust my humble words illustrate what is happening in this story. Do you wish to hear them?
The spirit of SHUNYATA
is neither inside nor outside;
Seeing and hearing, sound and form, are all as the empty sky.
(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.)