Sunday, January 23, 2011
Lighting the Holy Candle
Case 1 Joshu's "MU"
A monk asked Joshu, "Has a dog the Buddha Nature?" Joshu answered, "MU"
In order to master Zen, you must pass the barrier of the patriarchs. To attain this subtle realization, you must completely cut off the way of thinking. If you do not pass the barrier, and do not cut off the way of thinking, then you will be like a ghost clinging to the bushes and weeds. Now, I want to ask you, what is the barrier of the patriarchs? Why, it is the single word "Mu." That is the front gate to Zen. Therefore it is called the "Mumonkan of Zen." If you pass through it, you will not only see Joshu face to face, but you will also go hand in hand with the successive patriarchs, entangling your eyebrow with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears. Isn't that a delightful prospect? Wouldn't you like to pass this barrier?
Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate on this word "Mu," Carry it continuously day and night. Do not form a nihilistic conception of vacancy, or a relative conception of "has" or "has not." It will be just as if you swallow a red-hot iron ball, which you cannot spit out even if you try. All the illusory ideas and delusive thoughts accumulated up to the present will be exterminated, and when the time comes, internal and external will be spontaneously united. You will know this, but for yourself only, like a dumb man who has had a dream. Then all of a sudden an explosive conversion will occur, and you will astonish the heavens and shake the earth.
It will be as if you snatch away the great sword of the valiant general Kan'u and hold it in your hand. When you meet the Buddha, you kill him; when you meet the patriarchs, you kill them. On the brink of life and death, you command perfect freedom; among the sixfold worlds and four modes of existence, you enjoy a merry and playful samadhi.
Now, I want to ask you again, "How will you carry it out?" Employ every ounce of your energy to work on this "Mu." If you hold on without interruption, behold: a single spark, and the holy candle is lit!
The dog, the Buddha Nature,
The pronouncement, perfect and final.
Before you say it has or has not,
You are a dead man on the spot.
(Taken from Two Zen Classics,The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records, translated by Katsuki Sekida)
Again I go sit,
Waiting for the lighted match.
Holy candle lit!