Monday, August 21, 2017

D.T. Suzuki on Satori

Does the cat have buddha-nature?

The object of Zen discipline consists in acquiring a new viewpoint for looking into the essence of things. If you have been in the habit of thinking logically according to the rules of dualism, rid yourself of it and you may come around somewhat to the viewpoint of Zen. You and I are supposedly living in the same world, but who can tell that the thing we popularly call a stone that is lying before my window is the same to both of us? You and I sip a cup of tea. That act is apparently alike to us both, but who can tell what a wide gap there is subjectively between your drinking and my drinking? In your drinking there may be no Zen, while mine is brim-full of it. The reason for it is: you move in a logical circle and I am out of it. Though there is in fact nothing new in the so-called new viewpoint of Zen, the term “new” is convenient to express the Zen way of viewing the world, but its use here is a condescension on the part of Zen.

This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called satori {wu in Chinese) and its verb form is satoru. Without it there is no Zen, for the life of Zen begins with the ‘opening of satori.’ Satori may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contradistinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever the definition, satori means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind. With this preliminary remark I wish the reader to ponder the following mondo (literally, ‘asking and answering’), which I hop>c will illustrate my statement.

A young monk asked Joshu to be instructed in the faith of Zen. Said the master: "Have you had your breakfast, or not?" "Yes, master, I have," answered the monk. "Go and get your bowls washed," was the immediate response. And this suggestion at once opened the monk's mind to the truth of Zen.

Later on Ummon commented on the response, saying: "Was there any special instruction in this remark by Joshu, or was there not? If there was, what was it? If there was not, what satori was it which the monk attained?" Still later Suigan had the following retort on Ummon: "The great master Ummon does
not know what is what; hence this comment of his. It is altogether unnecessary; it is like painting legs to a snake, or painting a beard to the eunuch. My view differs from his. That monk who seems to have attained a sort of satori goes to hell as straight as an arrow!"

What does all this mean — Joshu's remark about washing the bowls, the monk's attainment of satori, Ummon's alternatives, and Suigan's assurance? Are they speaking against one another, or is it much ado about nothing? To my mind, they are all pointing one way and the monk may go anywhere, but his satori is not to no purpose.

Tokusan was a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra. Learning that there was such a thing as Zen, ignoring all the written scriptures and directly laying hands on one's soul, he went to Ryutan to be instructed in the teaching. One day Tokusan was sitting outside tr\'ing to look into the mystery of Zen. Ryutan said, "Why don't you come in?" Replied Tokusan, "It is pitch dark." A candle was lighted and held out to Tokusan. When he was at the point of taking it Ryutan suddenly blew out the light, whereupon the mind of Tokusan was opened.

Taken from ‘An Introduction to Zen Buddhism’ by D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966)

No comments: