Ariyan Ascesis & Zen share Similar Preparation to

“Reflect in Yourself & Recognize your own Face as it was Before the World”

(from “The Doctrine of Awakening”)

[…] A Zen formula, which in some ways sums up its doctrine, is: "Reflect in yourself and recognize your own face as it was before the world" (Huei-neng).

Together with the message of the inanimate, there is a manner in which signs, gestures, and symbols take the place of words. We have already mentioned the master of Zen who, before the assembly of monks collected to hear his discourse, confined himself to stretching his arms. Another simply raises his finger. Another presents a stick. It is said that Mahākassapa was chosen by the Buddha for the transmission of the esoteric doctrine in similar circumstances: the Buddha, in the midst of his disciples, had raised a bunch of flowers into the air; only Mahākassapa among those present had smiled and inclined his head in assent. Words limit. A sign can, however, at a suitable time, cause moments of illumination.

From these antecedents, it is not difficult to understand that Zen insists above all on a spiritual awakening, or change of inner state, that is sudden and discontinuous. The opening of the third eye, satori, illumination, is a condition that happens suddenly, destroying all that has gone before, appearing to be without origin, without "becoming." The theme of the Vajracchedikā is echoed in Zen: the Tathāgata is so called because he does not come from anywhere and does not go anywhere. "When he appears, he comes from nowhere, and when he disappears, he goes nowhere - and this is Zen." And again: "Where there really is a coming in or a going out, there great contemplation is not. Zen, [the contemplative state, the state of illumination-awakening] in its essence, is without birth.”

At one period, nevertheless, Zen became divided into two different schools: that of the south (yuga-pad) which lays greater emphasis on the discontinuity of the awakening: and that of the north (krama-vrittya) which, instead, allows of a certain gradualness. But both agree that it is essential, at a particular moment, to know how to "jump out of the 'I'," how to "vomit forth the 'I." This may be brought about also by violent sensations, even by a physical pain, by something, according to a Chinese saying, that "twists the bowels nine times and more." We have already told of the episode of the broken arm; and there are many like it. It seems that, in some places at the present time, an operation not unlike strangulation is carried out, by means of which the disciple, who is suitably prepared, is forced forward toward a void into which he cannot but jump.

As for preparation, the methods of Zen do not differ essentially from what we have already described as Ariyan ascesis.

First, make oneself master of external objects by substituting a condition of activity for the usual one of passivity. Realize that wherever a desire pushes a man toward a thing, it is not he who has the thing, but the thing that has him. "He who takes a liquor believes that he drinks it; whereas it is the liquor that drinks him." Detach oneself. Discover and love the active principle in oneself.

Second is mastery of the body. Establish one's own authority over the entire organism. "Imagine that your body is separate from you: if it shouts, make it be silent, as a severe father does his child. If it shows temper, hold it in, as one does a curbed horse. If it is ill, administer to it what is necessary, as a doctor to his patient. If it disobeys, chastise it, as the master chastises the turbulent pupil." Temper oneself physically. Establish with oneself a "trial of endurance" by accustoming oneself, for example, to undergoing freezing cold in winter and in summer a torrid heat. And so on.

Third is the control of mental and emotive life in order to promote and consolidate a state of equilibrium. There is the appeal to one's inner nobility: "It is ridiculous” - it is said in Zen - “that a being endowed with the nature of a Buddha, born to be master of every material reality, should be enslaved by little cares or frightened by phantasms that he himself has created, should let his mind he swayed by passions or dissipate his vital energy in irrelevant things.” Anxieties, recriminations, or nostalgias for the past, imaginings or anticipations for the future, enmity, shame, and disturbance, all these must be put aside. One may help oneself, eventually, by means of the "idealistic" theory (cf. p.223) - which may help one to realize the irrationality of so many of the mind's impulses, and to regaining power over one's heart. Furthermore, one must simplify oneself, one must resolutely cut down the parasitical overgrowth of vain and muddled thoughts. To the question: "How shall I learn the law?" a Zen master, Poh Chang, replied: "Eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired." Calm and equilibrium - the samatha that we have frequently mentioned - must become a habit. Here is an anecdote: When commanding an army in battle, even in his headquarters, O-yo-mei would discuss Zen doctrines. He was informed, on one occasion, that his advanced troops had been defeated; he calmly continued his discourse. Shortly after, he was told that, in the later developments of the battle he had become the victor. The commander remained as calm as before, and did not, even then, change his discourse. This is how one gradually apprehends the existence of a principle that cannot be altered by doubt or fear any more than the light of the sun can be destroyed by fog or clouds.

Fourth: When we come to the aforesaid "throwing out of the mind" or "of the 'I';" we find that we are here faced with some sort of discontinuity, for which there is no means of preparing, because it is an actual change of state. To one who was astonished at the saying, that the world enters into the mind, a Zen master replied saying that the difficulty consists, rather, in making the mind enter into the world. It is a matter of the breaking of the shell constituted by the mind, of which a Mahāyāna text we have already quoted, speaks; only then does one have the intuition that nirvāna, when understood as one term of an opposition, is itself an illusion, a bond, the object of an imperfect knowledge.

Zen uses a twofold symbolism for the structure of its discipline: that of the "five degrees of merit" and that of the vicissitudes of the man and the bull.

The "first degree of merit" corresponds to the “conversion" - similar to pabbajjā, the "departure" of the ancient Buddhist teaching: a man turns from the outer world toward the inner world. The illuminated, extrasamsāric "I" is here portrayed as a king to whom one declares allegiance. The second degree of merit is “service" - that is to say, faithfulness and loyalty to this inner sovereign. The third degree is "valor," what one must show when confronting and combating all opposition to the king. Then there is the "merit of him who cooperates," due to one who is not simply good at defense and fighting, but who is admitted to the positive government of the state. The final degree of merit: "beyond merit" or "merit that is not merit" (an expression to be understood in the same sense as "acting without acting") is the degree of the king himself, whose nature one assumes. Here action ceases or, if you prefer, action is manifested in the form of nonaction, of spontaneity. The being and the law are here identical.

And now the second Zen symbolism, made up of ten well-known illustrations corresponding to ten episodes in the adventures of a drover and a bull. The mind - represented in the preceding allegory, by the king - or rather, "illumination," the bodhi element, is conceived as a precious stone, always fresh and pure, even when buried in dust. It has to be found as the drover seeks a bull. The first figure is, in fact, uncertain search. The second is hope: the animal has not yet been seen, but its tracks have been sighted. Third: the bull is seen in the distance, and a cautious advance toward it is made. Fourth: the animal is suddenly seized, and it tries in vain to escape. Fifth: the animal is tamed, mastered, and fed, so that finally it follows the drover as if it were his shadow. Sixth: the drover is carried home by this animal that serves him as a mount. Seventh: "the forgetting of the animal and the remembering of the man." Eighth: "the forgetting both of the bull and of the man” - the corresponding figure gives only a large empty circle: we are at the point of overcoming all dualism in the "void," in liberated consciousness. Ninth: return to the origins and to the source - we remember the Zen saying: "rediscover your own face as it was before the world." Last figure: going into the town with the hands open; this phase should be compared with that in which, once again, "mountains are mountains and waters, waters." It is the point at which transcendency becomes the clarity of an immanence that is free from the stain of the "I"; it is the state in which there is nothing that comes or goes, that enters or leaves. As a corollary of this, some Zen masters have declared that self-application and self- concentration and the seeking of solitary and silent places belong to the heterodox teachings. "Do not be attached to anything whatsoever: if you understand this, walking or standing, sitting or lying, you will never cease to be in the state of Zen, in the state of contemplation and of illumination.”

The Zen masters teach that the blessed order of the ancient Ariya, seated round Prince Siddhattha, is even now gathered at the Vulture's Peak, that is to say, at the symbolical place where, in the Mahāyana texts, the Awakened One is supposed most frequently to have spoken and that expresses the traditional idea of the "center," the "center of the world."





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