The Quest for Enlightenment

sidgau-tm.jpg On a certain day when the Buddha dwelt at Jetavana, a celestial deva came to him in the shape of a Brahman. The deva asked the Buddha, “What is the sharpest sword? What is the deadliest poison? What is the fiercest fire? What is the darkest night?”

The Buddha replied, “A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword. Covetousness is the deadliest poison. Hatred is the fiercest fire. Ignorance is the darkest night.”

The deva asked, “What causes ruin in the world? What breaks off friendships? What is the most violent fever? What is the best physician?”

The Buddha replied, “Ignorance causes ruin in the world. Envy and selfishness break off friendships. Hatred is the most violent fever. The Buddha is the best physician.”

from: Teachings of Buddha edited by Jack Kornfield, Shambhala Publications 1996


sidgau-tm.jpg The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life. A beautiful Japanese girl, whose parents owned a food store, lived near him.

One day, her parents discovered she was with child. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was but after much harassment, named Hakuin. In great anger the parent went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he said.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologise at length, and to get the child back.

In yielding the child, all he said was, “Is that so?”

from: Zen Koan

sidgau-tm.jpg A young father was away on business when bandits came, burnt down the whole village and took his son away. When the father returned, he came upon the ruins of the village and wept uncontrollably when he found a burnt corpse of an infant he thought to be his son. A cremation ceremony was organised and the father collected the ashes in a little bag which he always kept with him.

Soon afterwards, the real son escaped from the bandits and found his way home. He arrived at midnight at his father’s new cottage and knocked at the door. The father still grieving, asked, “Who is it?”

The child answered, “It is me Papa, open the door!” But convinced that his son was dead, the father thought that some young boy was making fun of him. He shouted: “Go away!” and after a while, the child left. The father and son never saw each other again.

Sometime, somewhere, you take something to be the truth. If you cling to it so much, even when the truth comes in person and knocks on your door, you will not open it.

Buddhist Stories: The Lost Son

mandala.gif We have an objective in mind or a goal to achieve, and accomplishing this objective is either easy or difficult. When difficult, how do we remain strong in spite of obstacles to accomplishing it?

At a monastery to learn zazen meditation with Buddhist monks, one of the daily chores was to shine the floor of a long wooden corridor. Silly it was, I thought, all the monks shining this floor everyday, with everybody at the monastery walking across it in socks. You could have your meals off this floor, it was so clean.

Then it dawned upon me–my moment of enlightenment. I realised that there was more to this chore of shining the floor. It was meant to strengthen character–a blind resolve to accomplish what is meant to be accomplished. It was an exercise in determination. But the monks won’t tell you that. Buddhists are fond of enigmas, and you have to find out those hidden meanings on your own.

So when we come across people who don’t finish what they’ve started, they could learn a thing or two from shining floors.

sidgau-tm.jpg Mokurai, the master at Kennin temple had a young protégé named Toyo. Every morning and evening, Toyo observed the older disciples visit the master’s room to receive instruction in sanzen and to be given koans to prevent their minds from wandering.

Toyo wished to do sanzen as well, and Mokurai told him, “Wait a while. You are too young,” but the 12 year-old child insisted until the teacher finally consented.

In the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to Mokurai’s sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed three times outside the door and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.

“You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together,” said Mokurai. “Now show me the sound of one hand.”

Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. “Ah, I have it!” he proclaimed.

The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas. “No, no,” said Mokurai. “That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand.”

Thinking that the music coming from his window might distract him, Toyo moved to a quiet place. What can the sound of one hand be? He happened to hear some water dripping. “I have it,” imagined Toyo.

When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water. “What is that?” asked Mokurai. “That is not the sound of one hand. Try again.”

Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But that sound was rejected by the master. He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused. Neither were the locusts the sound of one hand. Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. And for almost a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.

“I collect no more,” he finally said, “I have reached the soundless sound.”

At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. Toyo had realised the sound of one hand.

(Re-written from: Zen Koans)

sidgau-tm.jpg Birthday of Imprisoned Panchen Lama: The World’s Youngest Political Prisoner Turns 16: On May 17th, 1995 the Chinese government abducted Gendun Choekyi Nyima who was then six years old and had just been recognized by the Dali Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama – which is the second most prominent holy man in Tibetan Buddhism. He is considered to be the youngest political prisoner in the world. He turns 16 today.

Interview with Robert Thurman (Chair of Religious Studies at Columbia University, where he is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies): Tibet has always been a separate country and a separate culture. The Tibetan language is different from Chinese. The people are different. They live in especially rugged high-altitude territory over two miles in height, average altitude actually 14,000 feet, almost three miles. So they are very, very different.

However, during two periods of history, one was when the Mongol Empire controlled all of East Asia and actually much of Central Asia, and the second was where the Manchurians, which are non-Chinese people also, they controlled a large amount of Eastern and Central Asia. In those two periods, the Tibetans were under the protection of them, although those two people, the Mongols and Manchus, never directly inhabited Tibet, and no Chinese people inhabited Tibet.

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• Zen exists in one form: the Absolute Now. Now, Here, and Yourself is all that matters. Go for everything Now. Your Past and your Future depends on Now. Everything that matters is Now. Now is never anywhere but Now.

• Sincerity is the Reality. Everything in your head is a Mirage.

• Your body is like a mirror: what you see, hear, smell and taste does not remain. And because nothing remains, the heart and mind is at peace. Meet each instance with a new mind and a new thought.

• Zen is all that is simple.

(Zen meditating at the Soto Zen Sect Soji-ji Head Monastery with Soto Buddhist monks: Tsurumi Ward at Yokohama City, Japan)

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