十 Entering the Marketplace, Hands Open
This is the continuation of a lecture by Nakamura Tempū on the meaning of the “Ten Ox Herding Pictures” of Zen Buddhism. To go to the beginning of the lecture, click here.
So now, the last one, picture ten. Picture ten shows Hotei-sama (布袋、Chinese: Budai; folk deity, sometimes called the Laughing Buddha). It’s called “Entering the Marketplace, Hands Open.”[i] The verse goes,
When the bodily self is concerned with itself, the mind suffers. Let things be just as they are; this way, they are always just as they should be.
Hotei is carrying his sack. He has a companion with him.
First, let’s talk about Hotei. Hotei is a familiar figure to us; he appears often in pictures or as a figurine. It’s the same in China. He’s often been described as the incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha (弥勒菩薩、Miroku Bosatsu), probably because he looks like the Buddha. If you look into his provenance, however, you’ll discover that he was from Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. It was said that he was long in the trunk and short in the legs.
He was born into wealth, but his face was marked by six deep creases from the time he was a child, and he suffered from rickets. When he spoke, the only sound that came out of his mouth was “Ooh, ooh, ooh.” Nevertheless, he travelled around carrying a large sack containing all his worldly possessions. This was before there was any kind of strict feudal governance, and when he was hungry, he’d just go into a village and show up at someone’s door at mealtime; then, when he’d eaten his fill, he’d just say “Goodbye” and leave.
In the year 916, in the third month—I’m just repeating what is written; I can’t vouch for its accuracy—as he was lying on his deathbed and preparing to leave this world, he uttered these last words: “The Maitreya, the true Maitreya, takes on 110 billion forms.” In other words, I will be incarnated 110 billion times over. “Sometimes I reveal myself; but other times, even the person who embodies me never knows.” Whereupon he quietly passed away.
It’s a great last line, don’t you think? I want to use it when I die.
Thereafter, he is said to have reincarnated many times among the masses. But that’s a little difficult to believe. Even for classical Buddhism, it’s a stretch. Most likely, every time someone who looked like Hotei-san came along, he was said to be Hotei’s reincarnation.
He was a man of extraordinary generosity, and he was impervious to either praise or criticism. Whatever happened, he was always smiling, always laughing. So, even today, when someone’s smiling or laughing a lot, we say he is just like Hotei-san. Just like our Ebisu-san (恵比寿; a Japanese folk deity associated with good luck and good fortune).
Zen tells us that the market he is entering is a roadside shop. But it makes more sense, I think, to suppose that he’s entering a village marketplace.
The Ten Ox Herding Pictures are, in any event, opaque; it’s difficult to make sense out of them until you look at them through the lens of our shin-shin tōitsu method. We would say, the realization of a spiritual life—or, to put it in other terms, a life lived for the sake of humanity and filled to the brim with nothing but sincerity and love—such is what it means to be genuinely human; such is the life lived by a realized human being. You can look at Hotei as a symbol for someone living such a life, someone who righteously accepted the circumstances he was dealt and fulfilled his highest potential.
In short, the Ten Ox Herding Pictures are, from beginning to end, about the cultivation of spiritual awakening; they suggest what the seeker should be aiming for at each stage of his development. Pictures one through eight are all about personal fulfillment. Pictures nine and ten are about contributing to the fulfillment of others. Or, in more modern terms, pictures one through eight are about provisional shugyō, the preparation of one to be of service to others, while pictures nine and ten are about living the life of service.
Properly interpreted, this means that, as a natural progression, the first goal of shugyō is the polishing and perfection of the self; but once that is complete, the real training begins: learning to live in the service and for the benefit of others. This is the true purpose of shugyō.
I’ll say it even more simply: The reason that we take up shugyō, or that we study, or that we work, or that we engage in business or seek profit or become entrepreneurs—these and indeed everything we do is for what Buddhism calls the enlightenment of the masses (衆生済度、shujyō-saido); it’s to increase happiness in the human domain. Not for self but for other. Our purpose for living is the betterment of this human world.
Never thought of it this way?
When a woman dresses up and puts on makeup, she doesn’t do it for herself; she does it to add beauty to the world and to please others. Likewise, when a man puts his all into his work or the success of his enterprise, he does so for the enrichment of society.
I repeat. The reason we devote time and energy to the practice of this noble path of mind-body unification is not for personal gain. Its only purpose is the betterment of human society; don’t ever forget that. Unless you hold that purpose foremost, what you are doing will never be genuine shugyō. If you’re thinking “if only I could have a little more in the way of wealth and success”—as long as you are focused on such trivial objectives, your training will inevitably become unsustainable. It’ll break down.
Maybe you are ridding yourself of desire, you are becoming less and less prone to extraneous thoughts and delusions, and you are cultivating the habit of mental positivity—you’re becoming ever the model of dignity, strength, righteousness, and purity, and you revel all alone in the pleasure of having so much to be grateful for. This kind of self-satisfaction is what Buddhism calls narrow-minded satisfaction (小乗の満足、shōjyō-no-manzoku). In the shin-shin tōitsu method, I call it relative happiness. It’s not absolute.
Not to mention simple avoidance of pain and negation of sorrow and fear, all in the interest of preserving one’s own peaceful composure; such conduct is to be scorned and ridiculed.
As a member of the Tempūkai, you are forbidden to be satisfied just with the pursuit of satori. To say it another way, our purpose is to realize genuine human compassion and to make manifest divine benevolence through service to society. To the best of our abilities, we should cultivate the kind of right mindfulness that acts in the interest of others over the interest of self.
So, take inventory of your internal state of affairs. Really investigate. If you are straight with yourself, how much of your attention is devoted to concern for other people and how much is devoted to concern for yourself? When you board a train or bus, are you looking out for others or are you only looking out for yourself?
Over-concern for yourself is no good. It stands in the way of the mission with which you were endowed when you born, the mission to grow and develop. Why do humans need to develop concern for others? Well, just think about it. The very fact that any of us is alive is a consequence of grace. When you realize that, you are filled with such gratitude that it’s impossible not to feel concern for others.
Just because you had the good luck to be born into the species that stands at the leading edge of evolution does not mean you are entitled to take whatever you want for yourself. Maybe you’re thinking, “Sensei, come on. You can talk about providence because you are so well provided for by the people around you. But in my case, I need to fend for myself.”
Really? If you think about it, isn’t everything had for free? You don’t see? In that case, I’ll tell you a story.
Long, long ago, during the flowering of spring—it was the time of the girls’ festival on the third day of the third month. Peach tree leaves are a must in the girls’ festival, and back then the children would go into the mountains to cut small branches off peach trees and then go around town selling them to earn spare change: “Peach leaves here, peach leaves!”
This happened, almost certainly, somewhere in Edo; where exactly, I don’t know. But, as a little boy went around crying “Peach leaves here, peach leaves!” a fish monger came up behind him (in those days, fish mongers would carry their wares on a rack across their backs and go door to door).
“Hey, little boy. I’ll take some of your peach leaves,” the fish monger called out.
“Thank you. One bunch, three mon.” That was the currency they used back then.
“Three mon? You mean you charge for them?”
“That’s why I’m going around: to sell them,” the boy answered.
“You little scoundrel. Those leaves are growing on trees in the mountains, free for the taking. All you did was pick them, and now you want to charge for them? What’s taken for free should be given for free, so let me have some.”
“Uncle, excuse me for my ignorance. I didn’t know. What’s had for free should be given for free. In that case, I’ll take one of your fish.”
“You twerp! This is my livelihood. I paid good money for these fish at the market.”
“And where did the fish market get them?”
“From fishermen, of course.”
“And where did the fishermen get the fish?”
“From the ocean, of course. They caught them.”
“The fishermen caught them? In the ocean? Well, in that case, weren’t they originally had for free? If what’s had for free should be given for free, then give me one of your fish!”
That’s the story.
You people say you spent your money to buy this or that, but all the things you spent your money on were originally had for free, weren’t they? What’s free was somehow turned into something of monetary value. What if the money were there from the beginning? No one would sell anything!
On top of which, all the while you look at me as if you wouldn’t hurt a flea, you nonchalantly go about butchering animals and bludgeoning fish—you even slaughter defenseless cabbages and radishes—all to sustain life. What did any of those life forms do to you? When faced with a woman carrying a bamboo ladle [a woman in the kitchen] or a man with red headband [typical of men working in the marketplace], what can they do? They don’t even complain; they go quietly.
Meanwhile, you take it for granted that this is the way things are supposed to be. The most developed of all species, and yet, does it ever occur to you to be grateful when you bite into that sardine? Of course not; you take it for granted. Because you’re so special.
Or are you? Given the circumstances that allow you to continue living, isn’t gratitude the more natural response? Give it a try. The experience of true gratitude is something sacred; you’ll feel like hugging yourself, it’s such a noble and exalted feeling.
It’s that feeling that prompted me to begin this work all those years ago. I was so thankful that I had to do something for others. I had no choice, I couldn’t just stand by. I began teaching because I couldn’t not teach.
But then, even though I couldn’t just stand by and not help other people—and when I couldn’t help them, I couldn’t not try to teach them to help themselves—even then, when people didn’t understand what I was trying to teach them, I agonized over it. I’d go over and over my teachings in my mind, I’d ask myself, “How can I explain what I want to say in a way that makes sense to people?” It was the hardest thing I had ever done, and at times, I really thought I was finished. No matter what I said or how hard I tried, people just didn’t seem to understand; they just didn’t get it.
Exactly when, I don’t remember, but somewhere along the way, it just became natural to me. I was no longer trying, I was just speaking the truth. When you speak the truth, people are naturally attracted to what you have to say—no need to try to help them or to try to teach them anything. The desire to help others and to teach others is still in the realm of desire; it’s a sign of attachment. Give up that attachment and you become entirely natural, just as you are.
Later, when I read somewhere that this is what’s called, in Buddhism, the duty of the bodhisattvas, it made perfect sense. A bodhisattva is a being who has attained enlightenment, who is realized. When you’re realized, you don’t have to want to help other people; you just help them. You don’t look at someone and say, “I will teach you;” he just learns from you.
The Aichi Chief of Police, Utsumi Rin-san, sitting over there, attended my lectures for the first time yesterday evening. Seems that the current master of the Urasenke [school of tea ceremony] served under him during the war; not long ago, Utsumi-san was in Kyoto so he called on him. As the man is a master of tea ceremony, he’s heard of me—I’ve been to Daitoku-ji [a Rinzai Zen sect temple in Kyoto] to practice zazen. Utsumi-san didn’t call on this man to ask him about me; my name just came up in conversation. But based only on that, he found out where I was speaking and arranged to attend. When I heard this story, I was awed. It’s not that I tried to help Utsumi-san, it’s that he helped himself; it’s not that I decided to instruct him, it’s that he discovered my instruction on his own. That’s just as it should be.
What about it? No matter how hard you try to convince your family and friends to come to the Tempūkai with you, they don’t come, do they? You coax and plead, but they don’t budge. But, on the other hand, if you were not to say a word but just walked your path with confidence, integrity, and dignity, they would dutifully follow along behind you—I guarantee it. If people don’t follow you, the problem is with you, not with them.
To be governed by your opinions or emotional attachments is no good. To be just as you are is to distance yourself from your opinions and attachments. When you are just as you are, the brilliance of your innate nature becomes apparent to all.
I was the same way in the beginning. I thought of myself as separate from others; that’s why it took so much effort, as I just told you. But once I realized that I was no different from anyone else, that we were all part of the same humanity, things became so much easier. I realized there is no separation between self and other.
All it requires is a small shift in perception. Really, there is no separation between self and other. You don’t see? Take even the most trivial undertaking: you can’t accomplish it all on your own, can you? Do you people mean to tell me that you don’t need others, that you can carry on without help? It’s just as I often tell you.
On the road to Hakone, the rider in the palanquin and the people carrying the palanquin.
Then there are the people who weave the straw sandals the palanquin bearers wear.
This is the point. Self-satisfaction. “Oh, I’m so happy,” “I’m so sad,” “I’m having so much fun,” “I’m so important,” “I’m so enlightened,” “I’m so unenlightened,” I feel so secure,” “I’m so at peace” … and so on. “I slipped,” “I fell” … all these create distance between you and others.
You think it’s okay that you take credit for the things you have done— “I did this, I did that.” To say that you are working for the good of others or for the good of humanity, well, that’s just a social convention, an expediency. But what I’m saying is different. I’m talking about the desire to help others—not self-satisfaction—as the motive for what you do with your life.
Ignite the passion necessary to become that kind of person. You need to be on fire. A fire that smolders but doesn’t burn doesn’t generate any heat.
Well, anyway, this is the end of this discussion. What did you get out of my explanation of the Ten Ox Herding Pictures? That will depend upon your listening. But within this group, I think it’s safe to say there is a common base of understanding. This philosophy of mind-body unification that I’ve been espousing for over fifty years now—the stages one goes through in one’s training in pursuit of that state of unity, as well as the reason and purpose for training—all this is contained in these ten depictions of a simple ox herder and his ox. If you understand just that much, that’s sufficient.
Where are you in this journey? Self-reflect to determine which of these ten pictures best describes your current stage of development. And once you have determined that, do your best to reach stage nine or ten as soon as possible. If all of you were at stage nine or ten, just think of the great difference it would make and the great light it would shine on the world.
No need, mind you, to think, “That’s what I want to become.” Because that’s what you will become. Any flower road, if followed, will lead to the garden in full bloom. The walking of that road is the human endeavor—that’s all I’m asking you to remember. The Shinkansen [Japan’s high-speed railway] gets to where it’s going because of the rails it rides on. The shin-shin tōitsu method is the set of rails leading to the realization of human potential. If you understand this, then let’s meet again. Until then, be well.
[i] 入廛垂手。The title has also been less literally but perhaps more meaningfully translated as “Returning to the World.”