The Religion of the Samurai, by Kaiten Nukariya, , at sacred-texts.com
1. Scripture is no More than Waste Paper.--Zen is based on the highest spiritual plane attained by Shakya Muni himself. It can only be realized by one who has
[1. Zen is not based on any particular sutra, either of Mahayana or of Hinayana. There are twofold Tripitakas (or the three collections of the Buddhist scriptures)-namely, the Mahayana-tripitaka and the Hinayana-tripitaka. The former are the basis of the Mahayana, or the higher and reformed Buddhism, full of profound metaphysical reasonings; while the latter form that of the Hinayana, or the lower and early Buddhism, which is simple and ethical teaching. These twofold Tripitakas are as follows:
The Sutra Pitaka.-The Saddharma-pundarika-sutra, Samdhi-nirmocana-sutra, Avatamsaka-sutra, Prajñaparamita-sutra, Amitayus-sutra, Mahaparinirvana-sutra, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka.--Brahmajala-sutra, Bodhisattva-caryanirdeça, etc.
The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Mahaprajñaparamita-sutra, Mahayana-craddhotpada-çastra, Madhyamaka-çastra, Yogacarya bhumi-çastra, etc.
The Sutra Pitaka.--Dirghagama, Ekottaragama, Madhyamagama, Samyuktagama, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka.--Dharmagupta-vinaya, Mahasamghika-vinaya, Sarvastivada-vinaya, etc.
The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Dharma-skandha-pada, Samgiti-paryaya-pada, Jñanaprasthana-çastra, Abhidharma-kosa-çastra, etc,
The term 'Tripitaka,' however, was not known at the time of Shakya Muni, and almost all of the northern Buddhist records agree in stating that the Tripitaka was rehearsed and settled in the same year in which the Muni died. Mahavansa also says: "The book called Abhidharma-pitaka was compiled, which was preached to god, and was arranged in due order by 500 Budhu priests." But we believe that Shakya Muni's teaching was known to the early Buddhists, not as Tripitaka, but as Vinaya and Dharma, and even at the time of King Açoka (who ascended the throne about 269 B.C.) it was not called Tripitaka, but Dharma, as we have it in his Edicts. Mahayanists unanimously assert the compilation of the Tripitaka in the first council of Rajagrha, but they differ in opinion as to the question who rehearsed the Abhidharma; notwithstanding, they agree as for the other respects, as you see in the following:
The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Ananda--according to Nagarjuna (Mahaprajñaparamita-çastra).
The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Kaçyapa according to Hüen Tsang (Ta-tan-si-yü-ki).
The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Purna--according to Paramartha ('A Commentary on the History of the Hinayana Schools').
The above-mentioned discrepancy clearly betrays the uncertainty of their assertions, and gives us reason to discredit the compilation of Abhidharma Pitaka at the first council. Besides, judging from the Dharma-gupta-vinaya and other records, which states that Purna took no part in the first council, and that he had different opinions as to the application of the rules of discipline from that of Kaçyapa, there should be some errors in Paramartha's assertion.
Of these three collections of the Sacred Writings, the first two, or Sutra and Vinaya, of Mahayana, as well as of Himayana, are believed to be the direct teachings of Shakya Muni himself, because all the instructions are put in the mouth of the Master or sanctioned by him. The Mahayanists, however, compare the Hinayana doctrine with a resting-place on the road for a traveller, while the Mahayana doctrine with his destination. All the denominations of Buddhism, with a single exception of Zen, are based on the authority of some particular sacred writings. The Ten Dai Sect, for instance, is based on Saddharma-pundarika-sutra; the Jo Do Sect on Larger Sukhavati-vyuha, Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha, and Amitayus-dhyana-sutra; the Ke Gon Sect on Avatamsaka-sutra; the Hosso Sect on Samdhi-nirmocana-sutra.]
attained the same plane. To describe it in full by means of words is beyond the power even of Gotama himself. It is for this reason that the author of Lankavatara-sutra insists that Shakya Muni spoke no word through his long career of forty-nine years as a religious teacher, and that of Mahaprajñaparamita-sutra also express the same opinion. The Scripture is no more nor less than the finger pointing to the moon of Buddhahood. When we recognize the moon and enjoy its benign beauty, the finger is of no use. As the finger has no brightness whatever, so the Scripture has no holiness whatever. The Scripture is religious currency representing spiritual wealth. It does not matter whether money be gold, or sea-shells, or cows. It is a mere substitute. What it stands for is of paramount importance. Away with your stone-knife! Do not watch the stake against which a running hare once struck its head and died. Do not wait for another hare. Another may not come for ever. Do not cut the side of the boat out of which you dropped your sword to mark where it sunk. The boat is ever moving on. The Canon is the window through which we observe the grand scenery of spiritual nature. To hold communion directly with it we must get out of the window. It is a mere stray fly that is always buzzing within it, struggling to get out. Those who spend most of their lives in the study of the Scriptures, arguing and explaining with hair-splitting reasonings, and attain no higher plane in spirituality, are religious flies good for nothing but their buzzing about the nonsensical technicalities. It is on this account that Rin-zai declared:  'The twelve divisions of the Buddhist Canon are nothing better than waste paper.'
2. No Need of the Scriptural Authority for Zen.--Some Occidental scholars erroneously identify Buddhism with the primitive faith of Hinayanism, and are inclined to call Mahayanism, a later developed faith, a degenerated one. If the primitive faith be called the genuine, as
[1. Mahaprajñaparamita-sutra, vol. 425.
these scholars think, and the later developed faith be the degenerated one, then the child should be called the genuine man and the grown-up people be the degenerated ones; similarly, the primitive society must be the genuine and the modern civilization be the degenerated one. So also the earliest writings of the Old Testament should be genuine and the four Gospels be degenerated. Beyond all doubt Zen belongs to Mahayanism, yet this does not imply that it depends on the scriptural authority of that school, because it does not trouble itself about the Canon whether it be Hinayana or Mahayana, or whether it was directly spoken by Shakya Muni or written by some later Buddhists. Zen is completely free from the fetters of old dogmas, dead creeds, and conventions of stereotyped past, that check the development of a religious faith and prevent the discovery of a new truth. Zen needs no Inquisition. It never compelled nor will compel the compromise of a Galileo or a Descartes. No excommunication of a Spinoza or the burning of a Bruno is possible for Zen.
On a certain occasion Yoh Shan (Yaku-san) did not preach the doctrine for a long while, and was requested to give a sermon by his assistant teacher, saying: "Would your reverence preach the Dharma to your pupils, who long thirst after your merciful instruction?" "Then ring the bell," replied Yoh Shan. The bell rang, and all the monks assembled in the Hall eager to bear the sermon. Yoh Shan went up to the pulpit and descended immediately without saying a word. "You, reverend sir," asked the assistant, "promised to deliver a sermon a little while ago. Why do you not preach?" "Sutras are taught by the Sutra teachers," said the master; "Çastras are taught by the Çastra teachers. No wonder that I say nothing." This little episode will show you that Zen is no fixed doctrine embodied in a Sutra or a
[1. Zen-rin-rui-shu and E-gen.]
Çastra, but a conviction or realization within us. To quote another example, an officer offered to Tüng Shan (To-zan) plenty of alms, and requested him to recite the sacred Canon. Tüng Shan, rising from his chair, made a bow respectfully to the officer, who did the same to the teacher. Then Tüng Shan went round the chair, taking the officer with him, and making a bow again to the officer, asked: "Do you see what I mean?" "No, sir," replied the other. "I have been reciting the sacred Canon, why do you not see?" Thus Zen does not regard Scriptures in black and white as its Canon, for it takes to-days and tomorrows of this actual life as its inspired pages.
3. The Usual Explanation of the Canon.--An eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar, well known as Ten Dai Dai Shi (A.D. 538-597), arranged the whole preachings of Shakya Muni in a chronological order in accordance with his own religious theory, and observed that there were the Five Periods in the career of the Buddha as a religious teacher. He tried to explain away all the discrepancies and contradictions, with which the Sacred Books are encumbered, by arranging the Sutras in a line of development. His elucidation was so minute and clear, and his metaphysical reasonings so acute and captivating, that his opinion was universally accepted as an historical truth, not merely by the Chinese, but also by the Japanese Mahayanists. We shall briefly state here the so-called Five Periods.
Shakya Muni attained to Buddhaship in his thirtieth year, and sat motionless for seven days under the Bodhi tree, absorbed in deep meditation, enjoying the first bliss of his Enlightenment. In the second week he preached his Dharma to the innumerable multitude of Bodhisattvas,
[1. Zen-rin-rui-sha and To-zan-roku.
2 Bodhisattva is an imaginary personage, or ideal saint, superior to Arhat, or the highest saint of Hinayanism. The term 'Bodhisattva' was first applied to the Buddha before his Enlightenment, and afterwards was adopted by Mahayanists to mean the adherent of Mahayanism in contradistinction with the Çravaka or hearers of Hinayanism.]
celestial beings, and deities in the nine assemblies held at seven different places. This is the origin of a famous Mahayana book entitled Buddhavatamsaka-mahavaipulya-sutra. In this book the Buddha set forth his profound Law just as it was discovered by his highly Enlightened mind, without considering the mental states of his hearers. Consequently the ordinary hearers (or the Buddha's immediate disciples) could not understand the doctrine, and sat stupefied as if they were 'deaf and dumb,' while the great Bodhisattvas fully understood and realized the doctrine. This is called the first period, which lasted only two or three weeks.
Thereupon Shakya Muni, having discovered that ordinary bearers were too ignorant to believe in the Mahayana doctrine and appreciate the greatness of Buddhahood, thought it necessary to modify his teaching so as to adjust it to the capacity of ordinary people. So he went to Varanasi (or Benares) and preached his modified doctrine--that is, Hinayanism. The instruction given at that time has been handed down to us as the four Agamas, or the four Nikayas. This is called the second period, which lasted about twelve years. It was at the beginning of this period that the Buddha converted the five ascetics, who became his disciples. Most of the Çravakas
[1. Bodhiruci says to the effect that the preachings in the first five assemblies were made in the first week, and the rest were delivered in the second week. Nagarjuna says that the Buddha spoke no word for fifty-seven days after his Enlightenment. It is said in Saddharma-pundarika-sutra that after three weeks the Buddha preached at Varanasi, and it says nothing respecting Avatamsaka-sutra. Though there are divers opinions about the Buddha's first sermon and its date, all traditions agree in this that he spent some time in meditation, and then delivered the first sermon to the five ascetics at Varanasi.
2. (1) Anguttara, (2) Majjhima, (3) Digha, (4) Samyutta.
3. Kondañña, Vappa, Baddiya, Mahanana, Assaji.]
or the adherents of Hinayanism were converted during this period. They trained their hearts in accordance with the modified Law, learned the four noble truths, and worked out their own salvation.
The Buddha then having found his disciples firmly adhering to Hinayanism without knowing that it was a modified and imperfect doctrine, he had to lead them up to a higher and perfect doctrine that he might lead them up to Buddhahood. With this object in view Shakya Muni preached Vimalakirtti-nirdeça-sutra, Lankavatara-sutra, and other sutras, in which he compared Hinayanism with Mahayanism, and described the latter in glowing terms as a deep and perfect Law, whilst he set forth the former at naught as a superficial and imperfect one. Thus he showed his disciples the inferiority of Hinayanism, and caused them to desire for Mahayanism. This is said to be the third period, which lasted some eight years.
The disciples of the Buddha now understood that Mahayanism was far superior to Hinayanism, but they thought the higher doctrine was only for Bodhisattvas and beyond their understanding. Therefore they still adhered to the modified doctrine, though they did no longer decry Mahayanism, which they had no mind to
[1. The first is the sacred truth of suffering; the second the truth of the origin of suffering--that is, lust and desire; the third the sacred truth of the extinction of suffering; the fourth the sacred truth of the path that leads to the extinction of suffering. There are eight noble paths that lead to the extinction of suffering--that is, Right faith, Right resolve, Right speech, Right action, Right living, Right effort, Right thought, and Right meditation.
2 This is one of the most noted Mahayana books, and is said to be the best specimen of the sutras belonging to this period. It is in this sutra that most of Shakya's eminent disciples, known as the adherents of Hinayanism, are astonished with the profound wisdom, the eloquent speech, and the supernatural power of Vimalakirtti, a Bodhisattva, and confess the inferiority of their faith. The author frequently introduces episodes in order to condemn Hinayanism, making use of miracles of his own invention.]
practise. Upon this Shakya Muni preached Prajñaparamita-sutras in the sixteen assemblies held at four different places, and taught them Mahayanism in detail in order to cause them to believe it and practise it. Thus they became aware that there was no definite demarcation between Mahayanism and Hinayanism, and that they might become Mahayanists. This is the fourth period, which lasted about twenty-two years.
Now, the Buddha, aged seventy-two, thought it was high time to preach his long-cherished doctrine that all sentient beings can attain to Supreme Enlightenment; so he preached Saddharma-pundarika-sutra, in which he prophesied when and where his disciples should become Buddhas. It was his greatest object to cause all sentient beings to be Enlightened and enable them to enjoy the bliss of Nirvana. It was for this that he had endured great pain and hardships through his previous existences. It was for this that he had left his heavenly abode to appear on earth. It was for this that he had preached from time to time through his long career of forty-seven years. Having thus realized his great aim, Shakya Muni had now to prepare for his final departure, and preached Mahaparinirvana-sutra in order to show that all the animated and inanimate things were endowed with the same nature as his. After this last instruction he passed to eternity. This is called the fifth period, which lasted some eight years.
These five periods above mentioned can scarcely be called historical in the proper sense of the term, yet they are ingeniously invented by Ten Dai Dai Shi to set the Buddhist Scriptures in the order of doctrinal development, and place Saddharma-pundarika in the highest rank among the Mahayana books. His argument, however dogmatic and anti-historical in no small degree, would be
[1. Nagarjuna's doctrine depends mainly on these sutras.]
not a little valuable for our reader, who wants to know the general phase of the Buddhist Canon, consisting of thousands of fascicles.
4. Sutras used by Zen Masters.--Ten Dai failed to explain away the discrepancies and contradictions of which the Canon is full, and often contradicted himself by the ignoring of historical facts. To say nothing of the strong
[1. Let us state our own opinion on the subject in question. The foundation of Hinayanism consists in the four Nikayas, or four Agamas, the most important books of that school. Besides the four Agamas, there exist in the Chinese Tripitaka numerous books translated by various authors, some of which are extracts from Agamas, and some the lives of the Buddha, while others are entirely different sutras, apparently of later date. Judging from these sources, it seems to us that most of Shakya Muni's original teachings are embodied into the four Agamas. But it is still a matter of uncertainty that whether they are stated in Agamas now extant just as they were, for the Buddha's preachings were rehearsed immediately after the Buddha's death in the first council held at Rajagrha, yet not consigned to writing. They were handed down by memory about one hundred years. Then the monks at Vaisali committed the so-called Ten Indulgences, infringing the rules of the Order, and maintained that Shakya Muni had not condemned them in his preachings. As there were, however, no written sutras to disprove their assertion, the elders, such as Yaça, Revata, and others, who opposed the Indulgences, had to convoke the second council of 700 monks, in which they succeeded in getting the Indulgences condemned, and rehearsed the Buddha's instruction for the second time. Even in this council of Vaisali we cannot find the fact that the Master's preachings were reduced to writing. The decisions of the 700 elders were not accepted by the party of opposition, who held a separate council, and settled their own rules and doctrine. Thus the same doctrine of the Teacher be.-an to be differently stated and believed.
This being the first open schism, one disruption after another took place among the Buddhistic Order. There were many different schools of the Buddhists at the time when King Açoka ascended the throne (about 269 B.C.), and the patronage of the King drew a great number of pagan ascetics into the Order, who, though they dressed themselves in the yellow robes, yet still preserved their religious views in their original colour. This naturally led the Church into continual disturbances and moral corruption. In the eighteenth year of Açoka's reign the King summoned the council of 1,000 monks at Pataliputra (Patna), and settled the orthodox doctrine in order to keep the Dharma pure from heretical beliefs. We believe that about this time some of the Buddha's preachings were reduced to writing, for the missionaries despatched by the King in the year following the council seem to have set out with written sutras. In addition to this, some of the names of the passages of the Dharma are given in the Bharbra edict of the King, which was addressed to the monks in Magadha. We do not suppose, however, that all the sutras were written at once in these days, but that they were copied down from memory one after another at different times, because some of the sutras were put down in Ceylon 160 years after the Council of Patna.
In the introductory book of Ekottaragama (Anguttara Nikaya), now extant in the Chinese Tripitaka, we notice the following points: (1) It is written in a style quite different from that of the original Agama, but similar to that of the supplementary books of the Mahayana sutras; (2) it states Ananda's compilation of the Tripitaka after the death of the Master; (3) it refers to the past Buddhas, the future Buddha Maitreya, and innumerable Bodhisattvas; (4) it praises the profound doctrine of Mahayanism. From this we infer that the Agama was put in the present form after the rise of the Mahayana School, and handed down through the hand of Mahasanghika scholars, who were much in sympathy with Mahayanism.
Again, the first book of Dirghagama, (Digha Nikaya), that describes the line of Buddhas who appeared before Shakya Muni, adopts the whole legend of Gotama's life as a common mode of all Buddhas appearing on earth; while the second book narrates the death of Gotama and the distribution of his relies, and refers to Pataliputra, the new capital of Açoka. This shows us that the present Agama is not of an earlier date than the third century B.C. Samyuktagama (Samyutta Nikaya) also gives a detailed account of Açoka's conversion, and of his father Bindusara. From these evidences we may safely infer that the Hinayana sutras were put in the present shape at different times between the third century B.C. and the first century A.D.
With regard to the Mahayana sutras we have little doubt about their being the writings of the later Buddhist reformers, even if they are put in the mouth of Shakya Muni. They are entirely different from the sutras of Hinayanism, and cannot be taken as the preachings of one and the same person. The reader should notice the following points:
(1) Four councils were held for the rehearsal of the Tripitaka namely, the first at Rajagrha, in the year of Shakya Muni's death; the second at Vaisali, some 100 years after the Buddha; the third at the time of King Açoka, about 235 years after the Master; the fourth at the time of King Kanishka, the first century A.D. But all these councils were held to compile the Hinayana sutras, and nothing is known of the rehearsal of the Mahayana books. Some are of opinion that the first council was held within the Sattapanni cave, near Rajagrha, where the Hinayana Tripitaka was rehearsed by 500 monks, while outside the cave there assembled a greater number of monks, who were not admitted into the cave, and rehearsed the Mahayana Tripitaka. This opinion, however, is based on no reliable source.
(2) The Indian orthodox Buddhists of old declared that the Mahayana sutras were the fabrication of heretics or of the Evil One, and not the teachings of the Buddha. In reply to this, the Mahayanists had to prove that the Mahayana sutras were compiled by the direct disciples of the Master; but even Nagarjuna could not vindicate the compilation of the doubtful books, and said (in Mahaprajñaparamita-çastra) that they were compiled by Ananda and Manjuçri, with myriads of Bodhisattvas at the outside of the Iron Mountain Range, which encloses the earth. Asanga also proved (in Mahayanalankara-sutra-çastra) with little success that Mahayanism was the Buddha's direct teachings. Some may quote Bodhisattva-garbhastha-sutra in favour of the Mahayana; but it is of no avail, as the sutra itself is the work of a later date.
(3) Although almost all of the Mahayana sutras, excepting Avatamsaka-sutra, treat of Hinayanism as the imperfect doctrine taught in the first part of the Master's career, yet not merely the whole life of Gotama, but also events which occurred after his death are narrated in the Hinayana sutras. This shows that the Mahayana sutras were composed after the establishment of early Buddhism.
(4) The narratives given in the Hinayana sutras in reference to Shakya Muni seem to be based on historical facts, but those in the Mahayana books are full of wonders and extravagant miracles far from facts.
(5) The Hinayana sutras retain the traces of their having been classified and compiled as we see in Ekottaragama, while Mahayana books appear to have been composed one after another by different authors at different times, because each of them strives to excel others, declaring itself to be the sutra of the highest doctrine, as we see in Saddharma-pundarika, Samdhinirmocana, Suvarnaprabhasottamaraja, etc.
(6) The dialogues in the Hinayana sutras are in general those between the Buddha and his disciples, while in the Mahayana books imaginary beings called Bodhisattvas take the place of disciples. Moreover, in some books no monks are mentioned.
(7) Most of the Mahayana sutras declare that they themselves possess those mystic powers that protect the reader or the owner from such evils as epidemic, famine, war, etc.; but the Hinayana sutras are pure from such beliefs.
(8) The Mahayana sutras extol not only the merits of the reading, but the copying of the sutras. This unfailingly shows the fact that they were not handed down by memory, as the Hinayana sutras, but written by their respective authors.
(9) The Hinayana sutras were written with a plain style in Pali, while the Mahayana books, with brilliant phraseology, in Sanskrit.
(10) The Buddha in the Hinayana sutras is little more than a human being, while Buddha or Tathagata in the Mahayana is a superhuman being or Great Deity.
(11) The moral precepts of the Hinayana were laid down by the Master every time when his disciples acted indecently, while those of the Mahayana books were spoken all at once by Tathagata.
(12) Some Mahayana sutras appear to be the exaggeration or modification of what was stated in the Hinayana books, as we see in Mahaparinirvana-sutra.
(13) If we take both the Hinayana and the Mahayana as spoken by one and the same person, we cannot understand why there are so many contradictory statements, as we see in the following:
(a) Historical Contradictions.--For instance, Hinayana sutras are held to be the first sermon of the Buddha by the author of Saddharma-pundarika, while Avatamsaka declares itself to be the first sermon. Nagarjuna holds that Prajña sutras are the first.
(b) Contradictions as to the Person of the Master.--For instance, Agamas say the Buddha's body was marked with thirty-two peculiarities, while the Mahayana books enumerate ninety-seven peculiarities, or even innumerable marks.
(c) Doctrinal Contradictions.--For instance, the Hinayana sutras put forth the pessimistic, nihilistic view of life, while the Mahayana books, as a rule, express the optimistic, idealistic view.
(14) The Hinayana sutras say nothing of the Mahayana books, while the latter always compare their doctrine with that of the former, and speak of it in contempt. It is clear that the name 'Hinayana' was coined by the Mahayanists, as there is no sutra which calls itself 'Hinayana.' It is therefore evident that when the Hinayana books took the present shape there appeared no Mahayana sutras.
(15) The authors of the Mahayana sutras should have expected the opposition of the Hinayanists, because they say not seldom that there might be some who would. not believe in and oppose Mahayanism as not being the Buddha's teaching, but that of the Evil One. They say also that one who would venture to say the Mahayana books are fictitious should fall into Hell. For example, the author of Mahaparinirvana-sutra says: "Wicked Bhiksus would say all Vaipulya Mahayana sutras are not spoken by the Buddha, but by the Evil One."
(16) There are evidences showing that the Mahayana doctrine was developed out of the Hinayana one.
(a) The Mahayanists' grand conception of Tathagata is the natural development of that of those progressive Hinayanists who belonged to the Mahasamghika School, which was formed some one hundred years after the Master. These Hinayanists maintained that the Buddha had infinite power, endless life, and limitlessly great body. The author of Mahaparinirvana-sutra also says that Buddha is immortal, his Dharma-kaya is infinite and eternal. The authors of Mahayana-mulagata-hrdayabhumi-dhyana-sutra and of Suvarnaprabha-sottamaraja-sutra enumerate the Three Bodies of Buddha, while the writer of Lankavatara-sutra describes the Four Bodies, and that of Avatamsaka-sutra the Ten Bodies of Tathagata.
(b) According to the Hinayana sutras, there are only four stages of saintship, but the Mahasamghika School increases the number and gives ten steps. Some Mahayana sutras also enumerate the ten stages of Bodhisattva, while others give forty-one or fifty two stages.
(c) The Himayana sutras name six past Buddhas and one future Buddha Maitreya, while the Mahayana sutras name thirty-five, fifty-three, or three thousand Buddhas.
(d) The Hinayana sutras give the names of six Vijñanas, while the Mahayana books seven, eight, or nine Vijñanas.
(17) For a few centuries after the Buddha we hear only of Hinayanism, but not of Mahayanism, there being no Mahayana teacher.
(18) In some Mahayana sutras (Mahavairocanabhisambodhi-sutra, for example) Tathagata Vairocana takes the place of Gotama, and nothing is said of the latter.
(19) The contents of the Mahayana sutras often prove that they were, composed, or rewritten, or some additions were made, long after the Buddha. For instance, Mahamaya-sutra says that Açvaghosa would refute heretical doctrines 600 years after the Master, and Nagarjuna would advocate the Dharma 700 years after Gotama, while Lankavatara-sutra prophesies that Nagarjuna would appear in South India.
(20) The author of San-ron-gen-gi tells us Mahadeva, a leader of the Mahasamghika School, used Mahayana sutras, together with the orthodox Tripitaka 116 after the Buddha. It is, however, doubtful that they existed at so early a date.
(21) Mahaprajñaparamita-çastra, ascribed to Nagarjuna, refers to many Mahayana books, which include Saddharma-pundarika, Vimalakirtti-nirdeça, Sukhavati-vyuha, Mahaprajñaparamita, Pratyutpanna-buddhasammukhavasthita-samadhi, etc. He quotes in his Daçabhumivibhasa çastra, Mahaparinirvana, Daçabhumi, etc.
(22) Sthiramati, whose date is said to be earlier than Nagarjuna and later than Açvaghosa, tries to prove that Mahayanism was directly taught by the Master in his Mahayanavataraka-çastra. And Mahayanottaratantra-çastra, which is ascribed by some scholars to him, refers to Avatamsaka, Vajracchedikka-prajñaparamita, Saddharmapundarika, Crimala-devi-simhananda, etc.
(23) Chi-leu-cia-chin, who came to China in A.D. 147 or A.D. 164, translated some part of Mahayana books known as Maharatnakuta-sutra and Mahavaipulya-mahasannipata-sutra.
(24) An-shi-kao, who came to China in A.D. 148, translated such Mahayana books as Sukhavati-vyaha, Candra-dipa-samadhi, etc.
(25) Matanga, who came to China in A.D. 67, is said by his biographer to have been informed of both Mahayanism and Hinayanism to have given interpretations to a noted Mahayana book, entitled Suvarnaprabhasa.
(26) Sandhinirmocana-sutra is supposed to be a work of Asanga not without reason, because Asanga's doctrine is identical with that of the sutra, and the sutra itself is contained in the latter part of Yogaçaryabhumi-çastra. The author divides the whole preachings of the Master into the three periods that he might place the Idealistic doctrine in the highest rank of the Mahayana schools.
(27) We have every reason to believe that Mahayana sutras began to appear (perhaps Prajña sutras being the first) early in the first century A.D., that most of the important books appeared before Nagarjuna, and that some of Mantra sutras were composed so late as the time of Vajrabodhi, who came to China in A.D. 719.]
opposition raised by the Japanese scholars, such an assumption can be met with an assumption of entirely opposite nature, and the difficulties can never be overcome. For Zen masters, therefore, these assumptions and reasonings are mere quibbles unworthy of their attention.
[1. The foremost of them was Chuki Tominaga (1744), of whose life little is known. He is said to have been a nameless merchant at Osaka. His Shutsu-jo-ko-go is the first great work of higher criticism on the Buddhist Scriptures.]
To believe blindly in the Scriptures is one thing, and to be pious is another. How often the childish views of Creation and of God in the Scriptures concealed the light of scientific truths; how often the blind believers of them fettered the progress of civilization; how often religious men prevented us from the realizing of a new truth, simply because it is against the ancient folk-lore in the Bible. Nothing is more absurd than the constant dread in which religious men, declaring to worship God in truth and in spirit, are kept at the scientific discovery of new facts incompatible with the folk-lore. Nothing is more irreligious than to persecute the seekers of truth in order to keep up absurdities and superstitions of bygone ages. Nothing is more inhuman than the commission of 'devout cruelty' under the mask of love of God and man. Is it not the misfortune, not only of Christianity, but of whole mankind, to have the Bible encumbered with legendary histories, stories of miracles, and a crude cosmology, which from time to time come in conflict with science?
The Buddhist Scriptures are also overloaded with Indian superstitions and a crude cosmology, which pass under the name of Buddhism. Accordingly, Buddhist scholars have confused not seldom the doctrine of the Buddha with these absurdities, and thought it impious to abandon them. Kaiseki, for instance, was at a loss to distinguish Buddhism from the Indian astronomy, which is utterly untenable in the face of the fact. He taxed his reason to the utmost to demonstrate the Indian theory and at the same time to refute the Copernican theory. One day he called on Yeki-do a contemporary Zen master, and explained the construction of the Three Worlds as described in the Scriptures, Baying that Buddhism would come to naught if the theory of the Three Worlds be overthrown by the Copernican. Then Yeki-do exclaimed: "Buddhism aims to destroy the Three Worlds and to establish Buddha's Holy Kingdom throughout
[1. A learned Japanese Buddhist scholar, who died in 1882.
2. A famous Zen master, the abbot of the So-ji-ji Monastery, who died in 1879.]
the universe. Why do you waste your energy in the construction of the Three Worlds?' In this way Zen does not trouble itself about unessentials of the Scriptures, on which it never depends for its authority. Do-gen, the founder of the Japanese So To Sect, severely condemns (in his Sho-bo-gen-zo) the notions of the impurity of women inculcated in the Scriptures. He openly attacks those Chinese monks who swore that they would not see any woman, and ridicules those who laid down rules prohibiting women from getting access to monasteries. A Zen master was asked by a Samurai whether there was hell in sooth as taught in the Scriptures. "I must ask you," replied he, "before I give you an answer. For what purpose is your question? What business have you, a Samurai, with a thing of that sort? Why do you bother yourself about such an idle question? Surely you neglect your duty and are engaged in such a fruitless research. Does this not amount to your stealing the annual salary from your lord?" The Samurai, offended not a little with these rebukes, stared at the master, ready to draw his sword at another insult. Then the teacher said smilingly: "Now you are in Hell. Don't you see?"
Does, then, Zen use no scripture? To this question we answer both affirmatively and negatively: negatively, because Zen regards all sutras as a sort of pictured food which has no power of appeasing spiritual hunger; affirmatively, because it freely makes use of them irrespective of Mahayana or Hinayana. Zen would not make a bonfire of the Scriptures as Caliph Omar did of the Alexandrian library. A Zen master, having seen a Confucianist burning his books on the thought that they were rather a hindrance to his spiritual growth, observed: "You had better burn your books in mind and heart, but not the books in black and white."
As even deadly poison proves to be medicine in the band of a good doctor, so a heterodox doctrine antagonistic to Buddhism is used by the Zen teachers as a finger pointing to the principle of Zen. But they as a rule resorted to Lankavatara-sutra, Vajracchedika-prajña-paramita-sutra, Vimalakirtti-nirdeça-sutra Mahavaipulya-purnabuddha-sutra Mababuddhosnisa-tathagata-guhyahetu-saksatkrta-prasannatha-sarvabhodhisattvacarya-surangama-sutra, Mahapari-nirvana-sutra, Saddharma-pundarika-sutra, Avatamsaka-sutra, and so forth.
5. A Sutra Equal in Size to the Whole World.-The holy writ that Zen masters admire is not one of parchment nor of palm-leaves, nor in black and white, but one written in heart and mind. On one occasion a King of Eastern India invited the venerable Prajñatara, the teacher of Bodhidharma, and his disciples to dinner at his own palace.
[1. This book is the nearest approach to the doctrine of Zen, and is said to have been pointed out by Bodhidharma as the best book for the use of his followers. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 175, 1761 177.
2. The author of the sutra insists on the unreality of all things. The book was first used by the Fifth Patriarch, as we have seen in the first chapter. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.
3. The sutra agrees with Zen in many respects, especially in its maintaining that the highest truth can only be realized in mind, and cannot be expressed by word of mouth. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149.
4. The sutra was translated into Chinese by Buddhatrata in the seventh century. The author treats at length of Samadhi, and sets forth a doctrine similar to Zen, so that the text was used by many Chinese Zenists. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 427 and 1629.
5. The sutra was translated into Chinese by Paramiti and Mikaçakya, of the Tang dynasty (618-907). The author conceives. Reality as Mind or Spirit. The book belongs to the Mantra class, although it is much used by Zenists. See Nanjo's Catalogue, No. 446.
6. The author of the book sets forth his own conception of Nirvana and of Buddha, and maintains that all beings are endowed with Buddha-nature. He also gives in detail an incredible account about Gotama's death.]
Finding all the monks reciting the sacred sutras with the single exception of the master, the Ring questioned Prajñatara: "Why do you not, reverend sir, recite the Scriptures as others do?" "My poor self, your majesty," replied he, "does not go out to the objects of sense in my expiration nor is it confined within body and mind in my inspiration. Thus I constantly recite hundreds, thousands, and millions of sacred sutras." In like manner the Emperor Wu, of the Liang dynasty, once requested Chwen Hih (Fu Dai-shi) to give a lecture on the Scriptures. Chwen went upon the platform, struck the desk with a block of wood, and came down. Pao Chi (Ho-shi), a Buddhist tutor to the Emperor, asked the perplexed monarch: "Does your Lordship understand him?" "No," answered His Majesty. "The lecture of the Great Teacher is over." As it is clear to you from these examples, Zen holds that the faith must be based not on the dead Scriptures, but on living facts, that one must turn over not the gilt pages of the holy writ, but read between the lines in the holy pages of daily life, that Buddha must be prayed not by word of mouth, but by actual deed and work, and that one must split open, as the author of Avatamsaka-sutra allegorically tells us, the smallest grain of dirt to find therein a sutra equal in size to the whole world. "The so-called sutra," says Do-gen, "covers the whole universe. It transcends time and space. It is written with the characters of heaven, of man, of beasts, of Asuras,[l] of hundreds of grass, and of thousands of trees. There are characters, some long, some short, some round, some square, some blue, some red, some yellow, and some white-in short, all the phenomena in the universe are the characters with which the sutra is written." Shakya Muni read that sutra through the bright star illuminating the broad expanse of the morning skies, when he sat in
[1. The name of a demon.]
meditation under the Bodhi Tree. Ling Yun (Rei-un) read it through the lovely flowers of a peach-tree in spring after some twenty years of his research for Light, and said:
"A score of years I looked for Light:
There came and went many a spring and fall.
E'er since the peach blossoms came in my sight,
I never doubt anything at all."
Hian Yen (Kyo-gen) read it through the noise of bamboo, at which he threw pebbles. Su Shih (So-shoku) read it through a waterfall, one evening, and said:
"The brook speaks forth the Tathagata's words divine,
The hills reveal His glorious forms that shine."
6. Great Men and Nature.--All great men, whether they be poets or scientists or religious men or philosophers, are not mere readers of books, but the perusers of Nature. Men of erudition are often lexicons in flesh and blood, but men of genius read between the lines in the pages of life. Kant, a man of no great erudition, could accomplish in the theory of knowledge what Copernicus did in astronomy. Newton found the law of gravitation not in a written page, but in a falling apple. Unlettered Jesus realized truth beyond the comprehension of many learned doctors. Charles Darwin, whose theory changed the whole current of the world's thought, was not a great reader of books, but a careful observer of facts. Shakespeare, the greatest of poets, was the greatest reader of Nature and life. He could hear the music even of heavenly bodies, and said:
"There's not the smallest orb which thou beholdest,
But in his motion like an angel sings."
Chwang Tsz (So-shi), the greatest of Chinese philosophers, says: Thou knowest the music of men, but not the music
[1. Chwang Tsz, vol. i., p. 10.]
of the earth. Thou knowest the music of the earth, but not the music of the heaven." Goethe, perceiving a profound meaning in Nature, says: "Flowers are the beautiful hieroglyphics of Nature with which she indicates how much she loves us." Son-toku (Ninomiya), a great economist, who, overcoming all difficulties and hardships by which he was beset from his childhood, educated himself, says: "The earth and the heaven utter no word, but they ceaselessly repeat the holy book unwritten."
7. The Absolute and Reality are but an Abstraction.--A grain of sand you, trample upon has a deeper significance than a series of lectures by your verbal philosopher whom you respect. It contains within itself the whole history of the earth; it tells you what it has seen since the dawn of time; while your philosopher simply plays on abstract terms and empty words. What does his Absolute, or One, or Substance mean? What does his Reality or Truth imply? Do they denote or connote anything? Mere name! mere abstraction! One school of philosophy after another has been established on logical subtleties; thousands of books have been written on these grand names and fair mirages, which vanish the moment that your hand of experience reaches after them.
"Duke Hwan," says Chwang Tsz,"seated above in his hall, was"(once) reading a book, and a wheelwright, Phien, was making a wheel below it. Laying aside his hammer and chisel, Phien went up the steps and said: 'I venture to ask your Grace what words you are reading?' The duke said: 'The words of sages.' 'Are these sages alive?' Phien continued. 'They are dead,' was the reply. 'Then, said the other, 'what you, my Ruler, are reading is only the dregs and sediments of those old men.' The duke said:
[1. One of the greatest self-made men in Japan, who lived 1787-1856.
2. Chwang Tsz, vol. ii., p. 24.]
'How should you, a wheelwright, have anything to say about the book which I am reading? If you can explain yourself, very well; if you cannot, you shall die.' The wheelwright said: 'Your servant will look at the thing from the point of view of his own art. In making a wheel, if I proceed gently, that is pleasant enough, but the workmanship is not strong; if I proceed violently, that is toilsome and the joinings do not fit. If the movements of my band are neither (too) gentle nor (too) violent, the idea in my mind is realized. But I cannot tell (how to do this) by word of mouth; there is a knack in it. I cannot teach the knack to my son, nor can my son learn it from me. Thus it is that I am in my seventieth year, and am (still) making wheels in my old age. But these ancients, and what it was not possible for them to convey, are dead and gone. So then what you, my Ruler, are reading is but their dregs and sediments."' Zen has no business with the dregs and sediments of sages of yore.
8. The Sermon of the Inanimate.--The Scripture of Zen is written with facts simple and familiar, so simple and familiar with everyday life that they escape observation on that very account. The sun rises in the east. The moon sets in the west. High is the mountain. Deep is the sea. spring comes with flowers; summer with the cool breeze; autumn with the bright moon; winter with the fakes of snow. These things, perhaps too simple and too familiar for ordinary observers to pay attention to, have had profound significance for Zen. Li Ngao (Ri-ko) one day asked Yoh Shan (Yaku-san): "What is the way to truth?" Yoh Shan, pointing to the sky and then to the pitcher beside him, said: "You see?" "No, sir," replied Li Ngao. "The cloud is in the sky," said Yoh Shan, "and the water in the pitcher." Hüen Sha (Gen-sha) one day went upon the platform and was ready to deliver a sermon when he heard a swallow singing. "Listen," said he, "that small bird preaches the essential doctrine and proclaims the eternal truth." Then he went back to his room, giving no sermon.
The letters of the alphabet, a, b, c, etc., have no meaning whatever. They are but artificial signs, but when spelt they can express any great idea that great thinkers may form. Trees, grass, mountains, rivers, stars, moons, suns. These are the alphabets with which the Zen Scripture is written. Even a, b, c, etc., when spelt, can express any great idea. Why not, then, these trees, grass, etc., the alphabets of Nature when they compose the Volume of the Universe? Even the meanest clod of earth proclaims the sacred law.
Hwui Chung (E-chu) is said first to have given an expression to the Sermon of the Inanimate. "Do the inanimate preach the Doctrine?" asked a monk of Hwui Chung on one occasion. "Yes, they preach eloquently and incessantly. There is no pause in their orations," was the reply. "Why, then, do I not hear them?" asked the other again. "Even if you do not, there are many others who can hear them." "Who can hear them?" "All the sages hear and understand them," said Hwui Chung. Thus the Sermon of the Inanimate had been a favourite topic of discussion 900 years before Shakespeare who expressed the similar idea, saying:
"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
"How wonderful is the Sermon of the Inanimate," says Tüng Shan (To-zan). "You cannot hear it through your ears, but you can hear it through your eyes." You should hear it through your mind's eyes, through your heart's eyes, through your inmost soul's eyes, not through your
[1. Den-to-roku and E-gen.
2 A direct disciple of the Sixth Patriarch.]
intellect, not through your perception, not through your knowledge, not through your logic, not through your metaphysics. To understand it you have to divine, not to define; you have to observe, not to calculate; you have to sympathize, not to analyze; you have to see through, not to criticize; you have not to explain, but to feel; you have not to abstract, but to grasp; you have to see all in each, but not to know all in all; you have to get directly at the soul of things, penetrating their hard crust of matter by your rays of the innermost consciousness. "The falling leaves as well as the blooming flowers reveal to us the holy law of Buddha," says a Japanese Zenist.
Ye who seek for purity and peace, go to Nature. She will give you more than ye ask. Ye who long for strength and perseverance, go to Nature. She will train and strengthen you. Ye who aspire after an ideal, go to Nature. She will help you in its realization. Ye who yearn after Enlightenment, go to Nature. She will never fail to grant your request.