一 Searching for the Ox
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.
A boy, an ox herder, is deep in the mountains, searching for his ox. Consternated, he searches here and there to no avail. The picture is accompanied by a short verse:
Searching in the mountains, no ox in sight. Only the empty sound of the cicada.
To use shin-shin tōitsu method terminology, the ox herder is like the man confronted with impossible hardships—a life-threatening malaise or financial destitution, for example. After exhausting all the obvious options, he begins to wonder if there isn’t another way out of his predicament; isn’t there something he is overlooking. This is the original spark of wonder that asks, isn’t there a better way? Isn’t there a way of living that is an expression of my humanity—one that is fulfilling?
Zen calls this “the onset of the searching mind” (初発心、shohasshin). It is the perplexed man’s first impulse to discover his original and innate nature, the innate luminosity of mind. That is what this picture is meant to portray.
According to Zen, seekers on the path are of three minds. The Sōdō sect’s Dōgen Zenji said—I don’t remember his exact words but it was something like the following: The three minds of the seeker are, first, “joyful mind” (喜心、kishin); second, “mature mind” (老心、rōshin); and third, “big mind” (大心、daishin).
So, kishin, “the joyful mind.” Just as it is written. But what does that mean? From the name alone there is no way of knowing what it is that the mind is supposed to be joyful about. But then, whatever it is, it’s almost certainly not ordinary circumstances, don’t you think?
In the old days, when a young woman came to town from the countryside to be wed, she was delighted with the silver ring her groom placed on her finger, but these days, women brought up in the city are hardly satisfied with a silver ring: what they want is a sparkling diamond. And even then. The young bride is delighted with the diamond she receives. But after a few years—after she has become a matron—just any diamond is no longer good enough: now she wants a diamond of at least twenty carats. This is the way it works. This kind of joy or pleasure is of a secondary, relative nature—not the joy of kishin, the joyful mind.
So then, what kind of joy is true joy? In Zen, it is said that the realization of that which is not easily realized is the origin of true joy. This is what is called ningen nan’u (人間難有), that which is realized through hardship. It’s the joy experienced when you are truly grateful. If you are partial to Buddhist terminology, then you can use the term ningen nan’u. Just know that I, Tempū, choose otherwise.
Not that I have anything against Buddhism. It’s just that I never underwent Buddhist training; that’s why I came up with the shin-shin tōitsu method. But what you decide is up to you.
It’s said that the Buddha said:
Though he gives up his evil ways, for a man to become a respectable human being is not easy.
Though he becomes a respectable human being, to be fulfilled as a man yet resist the temptation of women is not easy.
Though he be fulfilled as a man, to be fully endowed with the faculties of the six senses [sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and intuition] is not easy.
Though he be fully endowed with the six senses, to have the fortune of being born in China is not easy.
To our ears, that last sentence sounds just a little chauvinistic. But, after all, Buddhism came to Japan from China—which the Buddhists called “the Beautiful Country” (美國). It was assumed that there was no other country in the world more beautiful than China. More or less the same state of affairs as during the Meiji and Taisho eras when we called Japan “the Land of the Gods” (神の国).
Though he be born in China, to encounter one who realizes his Buddha nature is not easy.
Though he encounters one who realizes his Buddha nature, to meet one who lives the teachings is not easy.
Though he meets one who lives the teachings, to call forth faith is not easy.
Though he calls forth faith, to aspire to enlightenment is not easy.
Though he aspires to enlightenment, to do so without faith or practice is not easy. [i]
Do you understand? “Though he gives up his evil ways, for a man to become a respectable human being is not easy.” As a function of our maturity, we develop a sense of what is good and what is evil; but the thing is, good exists because of evil and evil exists because of good. Take away one and you take away the other. Because there is evil, there is good—in fact, it is precisely because there is so much evil in the world that there is good. It’s impossible to be human and to never indulge in devious doings of some kind. That is why shugyō (ascetic training or practice) exists: because we aspire to goodness and seek our Buddha nature. No one ever completely leaves his evil ways behind; that’s why we seek to change—why we seek the illumination of our Buddha nature.
Next, “Though he becomes a respectable human being, to be fulfilled as a man while resisting the temptation of women is not easy.” You are probably wondering, what about the women? Here, I need to take exception to Shakyamuni. In Buddhism, just as in all the great religions, women are assigned less-than-fully-human status. This is an unforgiveable travesty. In my teachings, I have always insisted that men and women are equal.
I digress, but I once raised this issue with Iwamatsu Saburō, the constitutional advisor and former Supreme Court justice. I told him, “Our constitution is a national disgrace. What I am talking about is the notion that a married man can fool around all he wants with impunity, while his wife, if she does the same, can be thrown into jail for adultery. What kind of idiocy is that? Men and women are both subject to the same temptations. So, if you are going to punish women, then you need to extend the same punishment to men.”
To which Iwamatsu replied, “If we did that, I would be the first to go to jail.”
“In that case, why don’t you abolish the law as it applies to women?”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Of course, I’m right. Your wife should be just as free to fool around as you are.”
“Oh, she’s well past fooling around. She’s almost sixty.”
In any event, “Though he becomes a respectable human being, to be fulfilled as a man while resisting the temptation of women is not easy.” I have another story to tell while we’re on this subject. We have the Aiichi Prefectural Chief of Police in the room today, so I’ll need to restrain myself.
Once, when my revered teacher Tōyama Mitsuru was about the same age as I am now [eighty-nine]—he lived to be ninety-three [Tempū is a little off in his reckoning; Tōyama was eighty-nine when he died, so he was probably about eighty-five at the time of this incident]—I accompanied him to Odawara, to his country house in Furukawa. Tōyama called over the most famous geisha in Odawara, a lady named Oshaku, about sixty, to entertain us. While the evening was progressing, Tōyama-sensei turns to me and says, “Tempū, please make the necessary arrangements to have her stay the night.”
I looked at him and said, “Sensei, you mean you can still do it?”
To which he scowled. “If you can do it, so can I.”
When you attend my lectures, you get to hear stories like this. The point is, he was a typical man. “Though he becomes a respectable human being, to be fulfilled as a man yet resist the temptation of women is not easy.” Anyone who says he has no use for women might as well drop dead. What is the purpose of living if you don’t have a sexual appetite?
“Though he be fulfilled as a man, to be fully endowed with the faculties of the six senses is not easy.” So even when a man becomes a man—are you with me? —that doesn’t mean he is perfect. Hardly does it guarantee that he is exemplary in all his ways and mentally free of vice.
“Though he be fully endowed with the six senses, to have the fortune of being born in China is not easy.” Nobody gets to choose where they were born. At the time this was said, it was assumed that the only fortunate place to be born was in China.
“Though he be born in China, to encounter one who realizes his Buddha nature is not easy.” It’s not everybody who has the good fortune to meet someone who is awakened to the Truth. So, you people are lucky.
“Though he encounters one who realizes his Buddha nature, to meet one who lives the teachings is not easy.” What this is saying is, even though you meet someone awakened to the Truth, it is extremely rare to meet someone who practices that Truth.
“Though he meets one who lives the teachings, to call forth faith is not easy.” What this means is—listen up—even the good fortune of meeting a genuine teacher who practices the Truth is not enough to awaken the power of faith within you. So, you people really are very fortunate. [Not only have I shown you the Truth and how to practice it, but I have also shown you how to call forth the power of faith.]
“Though he calls forth faith, to aspire to enlightenment is not easy.” There is a difference between the way bodaishin (菩提心; aspiration to Buddhist enlightenment) is explained in Zen and the way I explain it. I equate bodaishin with daigo (大悟; the great awakening, satori). You cannot aspire to enlightenment unless you are first liberated by a great awakening, unless you have a mind that knows no hate but is filled with love for all of creation. So, Shakyamuni’s bodaishin and my bodaishin are a little different. The way I see it, bodaishin is daigo, “the great awakening.”
“Though he aspires to enlightenment, to do so without faith or practice is not easy.” What this is saying is, even though you have a great awakening, that doesn’t mean you will automatically be awake in everything you do. It’s invoking the difficulties of human existence.
Buddhism is saying that to attain even one of the items on this list is to know joy without equal. It’s saying that he who is so fortunate as to realize any one of these items will get to experience supreme happiness. However, my way of thinking is a little different. Not to cast aspersions on the teachings of the Buddha: my opinion is only my opinion; you are free to choose whichever interpretation you prefer.
What I think is, the heart that is grateful is the heart of joy—true joy comes out of a heart filled with gratitude. Most people get this wrong. Instead of recognizing the primacy of gratitude as a universal truth, they think that unless they feel joy first they are somehow being short-changed. This is what is called, in English, to “put the cart before the horse.”
Just think about it. You people only feel grateful when you have something to be happy about. “Oh, I am so grateful ….” But Tempū is different. When you extend gratitude in payment for whatever comes your way, then joy naturally and necessarily follows. So, if you believe that gratitude in the absence of joy is silly, then I recommend to you the teachings of the Buddha. But if you think it is more natural to be grateful first and then to reap joy as a benefit, then you can adopt my interpretation of these sayings. As I say, either way is fine. It’s up to you.
But, even though I say it in front of Hamada-san, I nevertheless argue that my interpretation makes more sense; don’t you agree? It allows you to obtain that which you can’t get out of Buddhism—joy. I am telling you that you can obtain the kind of joy that is unattainable. Usually, what is unobtainable is unobtainable. Maybe if you wait until after you have attained enlightenment it will then become obtainable. But what about before you are enlightened? Difficult, isn’t it?
The second mind is the “mature mind.” This is what, in English, is called the “sympathetic mind.” In Japanese, it’s omoiyari-no-kokoro (思いやりの心; compassionate heart or mind).
If I’m not mistaken, it was also Dōgen Zenji who said, “Cultivate concern for others.” The concern for others he is talking about is the same thing as the mature mind.
The third is “big mind.” This is the same as bodaishin; it is the awakened mind, the mind of satori. It’s described as a mind as spacious as a great ocean. The teaching is saying that these three minds are all necessary if one is to pursue the path of Buddhism.
You are all nodding your heads as if you understand. But none of these minds are so easy to realize. According to Buddhism, you should rejoice upon every occasion of being blessed with fortunate circumstances. And you should always practice compassion—even toward your enemies. Not so easy. “Compassion?” “Yes, that’s right; compassion.” If you are to some extent already illuminated, then maybe. But otherwise, why should you concern yourself with the fate of others? All you care about is yourself.
And when you are told to hold a mind as spacious as a great ocean, you understand that it is vast, but isn’t that also a problem? Imagine you say “hello” in a vast, empty space: How do you feel when no answer comes back? Don’t you feel like a tiny goldfish in a big pond?
So then, the reason why discovery of your true nature is important is because by realizing these three minds you satisfy your self-needs; however, as ordinary members of the mediocrity, we are usually consumed by the “five desires,” the “six attractions,” and the “seven sentiments”—this is what Buddhism tells us. The five desires are the desire for wealth, the desire for an attractive mate, the appetite for flavorful food, the desire for fame and honor, and the desire for comfort and relaxation—Buddhism calls them simply wealth, sex, appetite, honor, and sleep.
The six attractions—here again we get “color;” it seems that Buddhism is fixated on sex. [“Color” (色、iro) has a double meaning; as well as the visual attribute, it also indicates amorous attractiveness.]
The six attractions are color, voice, scent, flavor, feeling, and law. The inclusion of law in this list may sound strange, but the other five are obvious: color available to sight, voice or sound available to hearing, scent available to sense of smell, flavor available to taste, and feeling available to touch. Law, in this case, is the Buddhist canon.
Then the seven sentiments. These are joy, anger, pity, and pleasure—to which are added fear, jealousy, and, finally, licentiousness. The character for licentiousness is the same as the first character in lechery (淫乱、inran).
You laugh, but the boys in my neighborhood show up at my house all the time. It’s not me they are pining for, you understand; all they are interested in is Masako, my daughter, and the other young women in the house.
Women tell me, “This boy is something else. All he thinks about is sex.”
To which I tell them, “It’s not just him. It’s all boys.”
Even at my age, I care about sex. And it’s the same the other way around: Women care about sex too. Nor is this unique to the human species; it’s true even of flies and grasshoppers.
Don’t look at me so disdainfully. The people with the most disdain on their faces are also the most lecherous. I mean it. The grandmothers in the audience looking at me with resentment are really only doing so to conceal their own desires.
Licentiousness is included in the seven sentiments. Color is included in the six attractions. And sex is included in the five desires. It’s not that Buddhism is obsessed with sex; it’s that even the Buddha experienced these same desires, attractions, and sentiments. Our fixation on the five desires, six attractions, and seven sentiments is as difficult to get rid of as is birdlime on a monkey’s hand. Even though we don’t choose to separate ourselves from our true nature, that’s what happens. And the quality of human existence deteriorates into malaise and misfortune as a result.
So, unless we can escape from this state of affairs, we can have no hope of ever living a meaningful life. It’s just as I often tell you. As long as the human condition is preoccupied with extraneous thoughts (雑念、zatsunen) and delusions (妄念、mōnen), it’s impossible to live with sincerity and conscience. That’s why the practice of “reformation of fundamental concepts” (観念要素の更改、kannenyōso-no-kōkai) is important.
In the Nirvana Sutra, it is written that “the Buddha nature is ever-present in all living things.” The Buddha nature exists in everything—not just humans but even insects. However, as it is also written in the Nirvana Sutra, this Buddha nature is “neither known nor seen, as it is concealed by worldly concerns’’—that is, it is concealed by extraneous thoughts and delusions.
So, you can see, this is why I make such a fuss about the importance of reforming your fundamental concepts: Even though I make a fuss about it, how many of you practice with the same diligence and commitment that I do? That’s why I say that the most ardent practitioner of my shin-shin tōitsu method is me. In any event, maybe if you hear me say it often enough you will begin to understand.
Everyone is endowed with this same true nature from the moment they were born; were they not so endowed, they would not be alive. But that true nature is concealed by worldly concerns. You are looking at me as if you are an exception, that you don’t harbor extraneous thoughts or delusions, when in fact that is all you are, isn’t it? Because extraneous thoughts and delusions are rooted in your subconscious elemental concepts. That’s why you need to continuously reform your elemental concepts. It’s necessary to reform your elemental concepts so you can realize the nature of your true self.
In any event, as you will have gathered from my long explanation, the conditions under which the heart is first prompted to search for the way out of the human predicament are complicated.
[i] My search in both Japanese and English for the origin of these sayings has come up empty. Should you know, I would be grateful for the information; please contact me by email.