Zen and the Eastern Spirit

Recommendation to be a "Great Fool"

Just being selfless will enable us to think of ourselves as being in the other person's situation. Just being a great fool will turn suffering into non suffering. And being selfless and a “great fool” will allow us to act from a true, sincere heart.

1, The state of mind of the famous Japanese Zen monk, Ryokan.

There is a short poem entitled "Okiagari-koboshi," which refers to a traditional Japanese toy called "Daruma" (a kind of roly-poly doll that bounces back up when knocked down).

"Just being tossed around or laughed at.
Not being bothered by this at all.
In my opinion, if my life were like yours (Daruma),
then I would be able to live without any cares."

In this poem, Ryokan, who called himself a "great fool," is in fact revealing the secret to living a peaceful life. We show emotions in situations and are not able to imitate the doll Daruma by bouncing back when difficulties knock us down. If we were to just go along with the circumstances, not upset by anything that comes our way, all difficulties would disappear naturally.

Ryokan is also famous for saying,

"When encountering disaster, just let it come.
When facing death, just accept it."

This is saying the same thing as the "Okiagari-koboshi" poem. Therefore, Ryokan stated confidently that this is in fact “the unique way to avoid disasters." It is the state of mind of a "great fool," and it has been said that Ryokan was the best example of someone who indeed lived this kind of life.

2, Suffering Comes from Our Attachments

Illusions and attachment create our worries and suffering. The Buddha has emphasized this. Being attached to things gives rise to our ego-consciousness and makes us act selfishly, only thinking about ourselves. What is more, because we don't think about others first, quarrels and battles have continued ceaselessly in this world. Anyone can easily see that this is true by looking at the world situation of today.

Eastern saints and sages, the Buddha and the patriarchs; they were all concerned with this situation. They emphasized the necessity of learning the "way of saints" by studying the classics, and of cultivating the state of "selflessness"-- the way of the "great fool."

The truth is that there is nothing we should be attached to as “my own possession.” Even though we are each very attached to our own body, we still aren't able to keep it for ever. However, this uncertainty is in truth good news, because it teaches us that we don't have to suffer by trying to hold on to our own egoistic self.

Even though we have the impression that we possess permanent substance of our own, there is really nothing permanent or substantial at all. The ancients have described this situation in the following poem.

"Gathering grass and making lumber from trees permits us to build a hermitage;
But without even having to tear it down, it remains a field."

The poem is saying that even without the hermitage being literally torn down, in reality it is not there in any permanent substantial sense; therefore, it is "empty."

We should be aware that "there is nothing to be attached to" and should not be emotionally apprehensive about coming events. If we do this, thenwe will gradually become free of self-attachment, and our minds will become light and bright.

Only then are we assured of a joyful life.

3, The "Great Fool" and "Selflessness"

As stated previously, the original formless self has been variously called "benevolence" , "sincerity" , and "Buddha-nature."

The Chinese Zen master, Linchi(Rinzai), who is the founder of the Rinzai school, also quotes the ancients' words.

"The body with a form is not the true way of our enlightened being.
The formless self,as it exists without the body and mind, is our true figure."

Just being selfless will enable us to think of ourselves as being in the other person's situation. Just being a great fool will turn suffering into not-suffering. And being selfless and a great fool will allow us to act from a true, sincere heart.

The Zen master Linchi also declared,

"Stopping all egoistic discriminations,
and dwelling free of concerns is the best way to be.
A delusion that has already occurred should not delude one again.
Even if this is possible, it would take more than ten years of your pilgrimage practice to accomplish."

If we avoid all unnecessary thoughts, we will not be bothered by anything, and our joy will never leave us. It is not so difficult to live in this state of mind. Let us stop thinking about what bothers us and embrace the selflesssness of the one called the "great fool."

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