Transmission of the Lamp

26. Funyomitta

When Funyomitta was a crown prince, Bashashita asked him, “Since you wish to leave home to become a monk, what activities would you undertake to do?” Funyomitta said, “Were I to leave home to become a monk, it would not be to do anything in particular.” Bashashita then asked, “What would you refrain from doing?” Funyomitta answered, “I would refrain from pursuing worldly activities.” Bashashita asked him, “What activities ought you to do?” Funyomitta replied, “I would undertake the activities of Buddha.” Bashashita then said, “Prince, your enlightened wisdom reaches the heavens; you are no doubt a descendant of the sages.” Thereupon, Bashashita permitted him to become a monk.

Crown Prince Funyomitta (S. Punyamitra, ‘A Friend of the Virtuous’) was the son of a king in Southern India who called himself ‘The Victorious One’. After Bashashita had succeeded in converting Mugasongai (S. Anatmanatha, ‘He Who Is Destitute of Spiritual Knowledge and Lacking a Master’) in Central India, he had gone on to Southern India where that country’s ruler, King Tendoku (S. Devaguna, ‘He of Heavenly Virtue’), had welcomed him and given him offerings of food and clothing. The king had two sons; one brutal and physically powerful, the other gentle but afflicted with long-standing ill health. After Bashashita had explained the effects of karma for their benefit, the king’s doubts had been immediately resolved.

Upon King Tendoku’s death, his elder son, Crown Prince Dokushá, ascended the throne. Persisting in his non-Buddhist ways he made trouble for Bashashita and had his son, Crown Prince Funyomitta, arrested for protesting his actions. Then, unexpectedly, the king demanded of Bashashita, “Since my kingdom has always cut itself off from the weird and the strange, I want to know what sort of doctrine you are propagating.” Bashashita replied, “From ancient times your Majesty’s country has indeed kept itself from false teaching by this practice. As to what I am Transmitting, it is nothing other than the Teachings of the Buddha.” The king said, “The Buddha has been dead now for twelve hundred years so from whom did you obtain that Teaching?” Bashashita answered, “Great Master Makakashá personally received the SEAL from the Buddha and IT has been passed on through twenty-four generations. I received IT from Shishibodai.” The king then said, “I have heard that the monk Shishibodai was unable to escape execution, so how was he able to Transmit the Teaching to a successor?” Bashashita said, “Before my master’s difficulties had arisen, unseen by others he entrusted me with the Kesa of Faith and the Teachings in verse; these represent what I have received from him.” The king said, “Where is that robe?” Bashashita took the Kesa from Its case and showed It to the king who commanded that It be burned. Five colours blazed forth from the flames but, when the tinder was exhausted, the Kesa was as It had originally been. The king, in repentance, prostrated himself before Bashashita for it was quite clear that he was Shishibodai’s true successor. The king then pardoned the crown prince who now sought to leave home and become a monk. Bashashita asked him, “Since you wish to leave home to become a monk, what activities would you undertake to do?” and the dialogue related above took place up to the point where Bashashita permitted him to become a monk. After that Funyomitta served as steward to Bashashita for six years. Later, whilst Transmitting to him the EYE AND TREASURY OF THE TATHAGATA’S TRUE LAW, Bashashita said, “Beginning with the Tathagata, IT has been entrusted to successor after successor; now that you have received IT, you must convert all sentient beings.” Having received this private comment, Funyomitta was illumined in body and mind.

The preceding account indicates that Funyomitta was not acting for the sake of anything, that is why, when Bashashita asked him, “Since you wish to leave home to become a monk, what activities would you undertake to do?” he had answered, “I would undertake the activities of Buddha,” but ‘activities’, as Bashashita had used the word, meant ‘worldly activities’.

You must understand that here ‘leaving home to become a monk’ has indeed always implied ‘not for the sake of anything’. Funyomitta’s reference to ‘activities of Buddha’ meant ‘something not done for self or for others’ and so he said that his becoming a monk was not being done with worldly activities in mind. Even though people shave their heads, dye their robes and assume the outer form of a disciple of the Buddha, they are still not exempt from notions of self and other. If they have not detached themselves from the appearance of male and female, whatever they do are worldly activities, not the activities of Buddha. When, at any moment, people speak from the point of view of ORIGINAL NATURE, there are no ‘activities of Buddha’ or ‘worldly activities’. Not to know ORIGINAL NATURE at a particular moment is called ‘worldly activities’, to be already awakened to ORIGINAL NATURE is what is called ‘the activities of Buddha’.

When someone actually finds direct knowledge of ORIGINAL NATURE, there is no longer the appearance of birth or of extinction, much less of a deluded person or of an enlightened one! When you actually see in this way, the four elements and the five skandhas no longer exist so how can the three temporal worlds and the six realms of existence remain? There is no home to leave and no one that must be left behind; this is called ‘leaving home to become a monk’ for there is nowhere that one can dwell, home has been broken up and the person is gone. Birth and death, as well as nirvana, disappear all on their own without having to be swept away; enlightenment and defilement naturally depart without having to be set aside. From kalpa to kalpa IT is unmoved throughout the four cosmic periods of formation, existence, disintegration and emptiness and is not fettered by the four phenomenal forces of birth, life, change and death. Being open, IT is like space, lacking inside and outside; being pure and unsullied, IT resembles water, having neither surface nor depth; each and every person’s ORIGINAL NATURE is like this.

Do not fear to remain at home nor be proud of leaving home; just stop searching outside yourself and progress onward by turning to face yourself. By all means try not to squander your time on this and that. When you do not look around in all directions but keep yourself carefully focused, what is there to designate as self, what is there to designate as other? There is no longer a confrontation of self and other. What can be called good or bad? If you are like this, ORIGINAL NATURE will, of course, manifest ITSELF as bright as the sun and moon; nowhere is it too dark for IT to illumine.

Again, here are my humble words which offer an analogy with what is happening in the preceding story. Hearken to them!

The ORIGINAL GROUND, at all times,
is without even a single blade of grass;
Where do a monk’s personal explanations
add or subtract anything?

(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.)