Transmission of the Lamp

23. Kakurokuna

One day Manura observed, “Here is the UNSURPASSED TREASURE OF THE GREAT LAW, hearken to IT, accept IT and in the future teach IT.” Upon hearing this, Kakurokuna realized enlightenment.


Kakurokuna (S. Haklena) was a Brahman from the kingdom of Kushana; his father was Senshá which means ‘A Thousand Victories’ and his mother was Kinká which means ‘Golden Light’. Because she was childless, she prayed before the golden banners of the Seven Buddhas whereupon she dreamt of a holy child atop Mount Sumeru, holding a gold ring, who said, “I have come.” When she awoke she found that she was pregnant.

When Kakurokuna was in his seventh year he wandered off to a village where he saw some people worshipping a heathenish deity. He entered their shrine and scolded them, saying, “You are deluding people by recklessly indulging yourselves in your prosperity and misfortunes; year after year you squander animals in sacrifices.” No sooner had he spoken of their harmful behaviour than the shrine suddenly crashed to the ground; as a consequence his fellow villagers called him the Holy Child. When he was in his twenty-second year he left home to become a monk and in his thirtieth year he met Manura who gave him the name of Kakurokuna.

Rokuna is a transcription of the Sanskrit word lena meaning ‘flock’; kaku comes from the Chinese character for ‘crane’; by combining the two his name means ‘He of the Flock of Cranes’: he was called this because all sorts of cranes flocked after him. Now when he first met Manura various extraordinary events occurred; although I should relate each and every one of them, I shall cite just one here.

Kakurokuna asked Manura, “Why is a flock of cranes attracted to me?” Manura answered, “At one time, during the fourth period of cosmic emptiness, you were a monk. Once, when you were about to pay a visit to the Dragon Palace, your disciples wanted to go with you but you saw that not one amongst your five hundred followers was in a condition to be entrusted with the wondrous offerings of the King of the Dragons. At the time your disciples said, ‘You have always preached the Dharma that those who are equals when it comes to eating are also equals when it comes to the Teaching. What is so sacred in this situation that you refuse to let us come with you?’ As a result of this you let them attend. After you died, you were reborn so as to convert many countries but your previous five hundred followers were reborn among feathered creatures because their merit was slight and their virtue scant. Now, sensing your benevolence, they have become a flock of cranes and follow after you.” Hearing this explanation, Kakurokuna said, “By what skillful means am I to liberate them?” Manura answered, “Here is the UNSURPASSED TREASURE OF THE GREAT LAW….”

Actually, the principle of equality in food and equality in the Teaching makes no distinction between sages and ordinary people but it should be kept in mind that, even though both the master and his followers paid a visit to the Dragon Palace, those slight of merit and scant of virtue were in no condition to receive the wondrous offerings so they became feathered creatures. What happened here should really be a warning to neophytes in training.

Now there is no discrimination in the preaching of the Dharma and there should be equality with regard to food but there are some who can digest the donations of the faithful and there are others who are harmed by those gifts; at this point it may seem that they are not equals. A distinction needs to be made for, when you look at food or at the Teaching, even if you see them as equal for all or understand that they are one and the same for all, you are still making a distinction of seeing something as ‘food’ and something as ‘the Teaching’; you have not escaped from a dualistic view. Infatuated and deluded by their covetous and indulgent hearts, those disciples followed after their master and, as a result, ultimately became feathered creatures. They had not arrived at the principle of equality in food and equality in the Teaching; they were undoubtedly fettered by names and appearances.

For instance, the UNSURPASSED GREAT TEACHING of which we have been speaking has nothing to do with what we call ‘food’ or call ‘the Teaching’. What is it that we can designate as ‘holy’, what as ‘ordinary’? IT is nothing that can be arrived at through forms and their shadows. It is even difficult to call IT ORIGINAL NATURE. After all, this TEACHING is not something bestowed by the Buddhas or Ancestors; IT is not imparted to one’s children or inherited from one’s father, IT is nothing that can be called ‘self’ or ‘other’. Where could such terms as ‘food’ and ‘Teaching’ have come from? Moreover, is there any place to go to when invited? Is there ever any turning into a flock of cranes? Therefore, fix your eyes upon this carefully, exert your- self in your meditation and, above all, know that your own ORIGINAL NATURE is marvellously clear, vast and wondrously bright; know that by preserving well and devoting yourself to fully ripening, there will be a Transmitting of the LIGHT of the Buddhas and Ancestors which you will undoubtedly find.

Even if you are clear about the meaning of your ORIGINAL NATURE and are already liberated the same as the Buddhas and Ancestors, there is still the UNSURPASSED TREASURE OF THE GREAT LAW that you must listen to attentively: IT will quite transform your future. This is not the principle of ORIGINAL NATURE, much less the spheres of sight and hearing; IT goes far beyond past and present feelings or sensations, and, of course, has never abided on the side of sentient beings or of Buddhas. Therefore, in designating what is the REAL PERSON, you should not consider HIM a Buddha or an ordinary person.

Even when such a PERSON is not sitting upright in the meditation hall, HE never lapses into leaning to either side; neither HIS shadow can be found nor any trace of HIM be located. When you have reached this threshold, what is ‘ORIGINAL NATURE’? What is enlightenment? In one cough, spit it all out; in one spurt, empty it all out. When you can do it like this, you are an adult beyond measure. If you have not reached such a point, you are still an ordinary person, ultimately a sentient being transmigrating in samsara. Because of this, you should all scrutinize carefully, and aspire to, shouldering the UNSURPASSED TREASURE OF THE GREAT LAW; this will be nothing other than our venerable master Shakyamuni, His flesh still warm. Do not get attached to this name or labour over appearances. In practising meditation and studying the Way you must, without fail, discern what is REAL.

These are my humble words which I hope point to this principle:

A whitened wall breaks through the clouds,
snow on its massive crags;
Perfectly pure and without a blotch,
it stands out against the blue 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.)