By RT. REV. ARAI
(The Rt. Rev. Arai was the Abbot of Sojiji,
Head Monastery of the Soto Sect,
Which belongs to the School of Meditation,
One of the largest Buddhist denominations of Japan,
founded in 1310.)
We conceive Buddha, the Enlightened One, as an infinite, all-pervading, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent Being. He is too sublime to be named after a traditional or a national deity; too spiritual to be symbolized by human art; too full of life to be formulated in terms of mechanical science; too free to be rationalized by intellectual philosophy; too universal to be perceived by bodily senses. But everybody can feel His irresistible power; see His invisible presence and touch His heart and soul ...within himself. "This mysterious Spirit", says one of the ancient masters, "is higher than the highest, deeper than the deepest, limitless in all directions. There is no center in it. No distinction of East and West, and Above and Below. Is it empty? Yes, but not empty like space. Has it a form? Yes, but has not form ...dependent on another for existence. Is it intelligent? Yes, but not intelligent like your mind. Is it non-intelligent? Yes, but not non-intelligent like trees and stone. Is it conscious? Yes, but not conscious like your waking state. Is it bright? Yes, but not bright like the sun or the moon." Thus Buddha is unnameable, indescribable, and indefinable.
It is He that moves, stirs, inspires, enlivens, and vitalizes everything. It is He that pillars the heavens, supports the earth, glorifies the sun and the moon, gives voice to thunder, tinges clouds, adorns the pasture with flowers, enriches the field with harvest, gives animals —beauty and strength. We may say that even a dead clod of earth ...is imbued with the divine life, just as Lowell expresses a similar idea when he says:
"Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it
...That reaches and towers,
And groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers."
The poet must be in the right, not only in his esthetic, but in his scientific point of view, in saying—
"I must confess that I am only dust.
But once a rose within me grew;
Its rootlets shot, its flowerets flew;
And all rose's sweetness
Rolled throughout the texture of my mould;
And so it is that I impart perfume
To those, whoever thou art."
Buddha's divine life pervades the grandest ...as well as the minutest —works of nature, and it may fitly be said 'greater than the greatest, and smaller than the smallest.' It cannot be defined. It cannot be subjected to exact analysis. But it is directly experienced and recognized within us, just as the beauty of the rose is to be perceived and enjoyed, but not reduced to exact analysis. This life in the microcosmos is identical with that of the macrocosmos, and the Divine Life of the macrocosmos ...That is Buddha —the common source of lives.
The universe is the holy temple of Buddha and nature is His gospel. Every flower that blooms by the wayside ...sings a song in praise of His glory. And every Star that twinkles above our heads ...shines forth His sacred law. The holy writ that we admire ...is not one of parchment, nor of palm-leaves, nor in black and white —but one written in heart and mind. Our faith is based not on the dead Scriptures, but on living facts. We want not to turn over the gilt pages of the Holy Writ ...but to read —between the lines— in the holy pages of daily life. Buddha should be prayed to ...not by word of mouth, but by actual deed and work. "The so-called Sutra," says Dogen, the founder of our sect, "covers the whole Universe. It transcends time and space. It is written with the characters of heaven, of man, of beasts, of Asuras, of hundreds of grasses, and of thousands of trees. There are characters ...some long, some short, some round, some square, some blue, some red, some yellow and some white—in short, all the phenomena in the Universe ...are the characters with which the Sutra is written."
Re-iun read the Sutra through the lovely flowers of a peach-tree in spring ...after some twenty years of his search for Light, and said:
"A score of years I looked for Light:
There came and went
—Many a spring and fall.
E'er since the peach blossoms
Came in my sight,
I never doubt anything at all."
So-Shoku also read it through a waterfall, one evening, and said:
"The brook speaks forth
The Ta-tha-ga-ta's word divine,
—The hills reveal
His glorious forms that shine."
Since Universal Life permeates the Universe ...the poetical intuition of man never fails to find it, and to delight in everything typical of that Life. "The leaves of the plantain" says a Zen poet, "unfold themselves, hearing the voice of thunder. The flowers of the hollyhock turn towards the sun, looking at it all day long." Jesus could see in the lily ...the Unseen Being who clothed it so beautifully. Wordsworth found the most profound thing —in all the world— to be the Universal Spiritual Life, which manifests itself most directly in nature, clothed in its own proper dignity and peace. "Through every star" says Carlyle, "through every grass blade, but most through every soul ...the glory of present God —still beams." It is not only grandeur and sublimity that indicate Universal Life ...but smallness and commonplace do the same. A sage of old awakened to the faith, when he heard a bell ringing; another, when he heard the frogs croaking; and another, when he saw his own form reflected in a river. The minutest particles of dust ...form a world. The meanest grain of sand under our foot ...proclaims a divine truth. Therefore To-shi, pointing to a stone in front of the temple, said: "All the Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future are living therein."
In addition to these considerations, which mainly depend on indirect experience, we can have direct experience of Life within us. In the first place, we experience that our life is not a bare mechanical motion or change, but is a spiritual, purposive, and self-directing force. In the second place, we directly experience that it knows, feels, and wills. In the third place, we experience that there exists some power ...unifying the intellectual, emotional, and volitional activities ...so as to make Life uniform and rational. Lastly, we experience that there lies ...deeply rooted within us ...Enlightened Mind, which neither psychologists speak of nor most philosophers believe in, but which Zen Masters ...expound with strong conviction. Enlightened Mind is the center of spiritual life. It is the Mind of minds, and the Spirit of spirits. It is Universal Spirit ...awakened in the human mind. It is not the mind that feels joy or sorrow; nor is it the mind that reasons and infers; nor is it the mind that fancies and dreams; nor is it the mind that hopes and fears; nor is it the mind that distinguishes good from evil. It is the Mind that holds communion with the Universal Spirit of Buddha, and realizes that ...individual lives are inseparably united with Universal Life and are of one and the same nature. It is always bright ...as a burnished mirror, and cannot be dimmed by doubt and ignorance. It is ever pure as a lotus flower, and cannot be polluted by the mud of evil and folly. Although all sentient beings are endowed with this Enlightened Mind, they are not aware of its existence ...excepting men who can discover it ...by the practice of Meditation. It may be compared with a precious stone ...ever fresh and pure, even if it be buried in the heaps of dust. Let us quote a Chinese poem to see how Zen treats it:
"I have an image of Buddha,
—The worldly people know It not.
It is not made of clay or cloth.
Nor is It carved out of wood.
Nor is It moulded of earth nor of ashes.
No artist can paint It.
No robber can steal It.
There It exists from dawn of time.
It's clean, although not swept and wiped.
Although It is but One,
—Divides Itself to a hundred million forms."
It is Buddha ...dwelling in the individual mind. It enables its possessor to acquire, not a relative knowledge of things as his intellect does, but the profoundest insight in reference to Universal Brotherhood of all beings, and to understand the absolute holiness of their nature, and the highest goal for which all of them are striving. Enlightened Mind —once It is awakened within us ...serves as a guiding principle, and leads us to —hope, bliss, and life; consequently, it is called the Master of both mind and body. You might call it God in man, if you like.
Thus relying on our inner experience, which is the only direct way of knowing Buddha, we conceive Him, as a Being having profound wisdom and boundless mercy, who loves all beings as his children ...whom He is fostering, bringing up, guiding, and teaching. "These three worlds are His, and all beings living in them ...are His children." "Buddha is the Mother of all sentient beings, and gives them all ...the milk of mercy." Some people named Him—Absolute, as He is all light, all hope, all mercy and all wisdom; some, Heaven, as He is high and enlightened; some, God, as He is sacred and mysterious; some, Truth, as He is true to Himself; some, Creator, as He is the creative force immanent in the Universe; some, Path, as He is the way we must follow; some, Unknowable, as He is beyond relative knowledge; some, Self, as He is the Self ...of individual selves. All these names are applied to One Being, whom we designate by the name of Universal Spirit or Buddha.
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