Zen and the Eastern Spirit

Zen as the Principal Great Way

Buddhist dharma and zen are other names for the “fundamental one mind” of human beings. The foundation of the practices of the East provide a vast opportunity to the human mind. It’s direct inquiry into the “fundamental one mind” provides a path leading to the acquisition of the state of selflessness through experience.

1, The Great Way in Our Mind

We have previously introduced the teachings of Confucius, Tesshu, Baigan and Munetada. These eminent people had achieved the wonderful state of mind of selflessness and sincerity.
In introducing them, I have introduced representatives of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto. But which of these teachings should we study?

Of course, we can attain to selflessness by following any one of them. However, adhering soley to a particular one can also easily lead us into being prejudiced, and this would involve excluding others. From olden times, the Confucians' dislike of Buddhism and "Zentenma" (the purported self-conceit of Zen monks) is a typical example of this prejudice.

Regarding this problem, Master Kosen Imakita writes in his noteworthy book Soryu-koroku : "Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto are all, in the end, just teaching one fundamental great Way; so we should learn this great Way."

This great Way is nothing but the selflessness and sincerity we spoke of earlier. Master Kosen said: "Seek the great Way in your mind, do not seek outside your mind. The act spontaneously springing forth from the source of your own mind is nothing but the great Way!"

When learning the Way, do not let the difference between Confucianism or Buddhism get in the way. Therefore, people reading this book to learn the Way shouldn’t stick to the words of Confucianism nor be constrained by the words of Buddhism. Each person should strain to inquire after the great Way, the Way within their own mind.

Also Takusui Zenji ( a Japanese Zen master who is reported to have been about 160 years old when he died in 1740 ) said:
"Buddha Dharma is another name for people’s single mind. Someone who is ignorant of this fact may say that because he is not a Buddhist priest, Buddhism is hard to believe; or he may be led to dislike or slander Buddhism. But this would mean that he is disliking and slandering his own single mind! Isn’t this quite foolish? If a Confucian rejects the Buddha Dharma, he does not know the secret essence of Confucianism. If a man following Shinto rejects the Buddha Dharma, he has not yet appreciated the secret essence of Shinto. If a Buddhist criticizes Confucianism and Shinto, then he is a Buddhist who will never know the Buddha Dharma even in his dreams. And, finally, Buddhists arguing about their own sect’s doctrine is, it goes without saying, truly shameful. The Buddha Dharma includes the sublime teachings of the martial arts, and it is the root which nourishes Haiku poetry. The ultimate gateway to all other Ways leads through the single mind (that is, through the Buddha Dharma.)”

2, Zen as Embodied Awakening to the True Self

It is only to be expected that a man following Shinto would insist that Shinto is the fundamental teaching, and a man of Nenbutsu (prayer to the Buddha) would insist that Nenbutsu is the fundamental teaching.
Indeed, Kanetomo Yoshida, the founder of Yuiitsu-Shinto, (“the one and only Shinto”), insisted that Shinto is the most fundamental teaching. I can understand why he says that. I, myself, have never intended to conform exclusively to Buddhism or Zen Buddhism.

In other words, Confucianism, Shinto and Buddhism each, starting from their own fundamental experience, progress towards the fundamental single mind--which is what the true self really is.

On the other hand, because Zen in particular is committed entirely to self-inquiry, our opinion that these teachings all lead back to Zen is not without reason.

Now we would like to talk about koan practice in Rinzai Zen as a general method to achieve the fundamental experience of selflessness.

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