Instruction and New Awareness
Instruction is generally considered to be one of the teacher's most important tasks and verbal communication is its usual mode. The good teacher cultivates verbal communication to high degrees of subtlety and complexity. His power of ideation is so refined that words flow from him effortlessly, communicating difficult ideas with precision and expressiveness. Striking phrases formulated in inspired moments illumine the minds of pupils with ease and joy. He can expound the same idea in several different ways to suit the preparedness and intelligence of his pupils.
A good teacher is a spontaneous innovator, and he often invents new devices of formal or informal instruction. He realizes the importance of individual attention and finds or creates opportunities for personal conversation with each of his pupils. In an ideal system of education, these individual meetings can prove to be extraordinary occasions if a teacher has mastered the art of communicating with brevity and wit. Even non-verbal communication can be used most effectively. Every good teacher knows that silence often says more than long discourses. Profound ideas can often be expressed in short phrases, and they are very effective if communicated in an atmosphere of intensity and contemplation. In the Indian tradition, the pupil was given a short formula containing deep meaning and then left to himself for long hours or days or years of contemplation. Tat tvam asi (That art thou) was one such formula which pupils used to ponder day after day while taking the teachers cattle for grazing. The sutra system of Indian sciences and philosophies was a great help for teachers and students in promoting individual
explorations based on reflection and understanding.
All over the world wise teachers acquire a capacity to instruct without instructing. Sometimes even a gesture is enough to give a meaningful lesson. Among Zen teachers, in particular, we find a remarkably developed art that is well worth studying.
Zen is best understood as psychological exploration leading to experience that illumines what is real. Since education is a psychological cultivation of the faculties and capacities of consciousness leading to a knowledge of reality, we can appreciate how Zen can be useful to those who aim at perfecting the art and science of education.
Zen developed first in China, but it matured to a high degree of excellence in Japan. It is believed that Bodhidharma of India founded Zen in China. It is said that when he came to China he simply declared, "'Directly pointing to one's own soul, my doctrine is unique, and is not hampered by the canonical teachings; it is the absolute transmission of the true seal. "1
The term "Zen" is derived from the Chinese transliteration (ch'an-na) of the original Sanskrit term dhyana (meditation), which in Japanese becomes zenna. Zen masters, however, make it clear that Zen is not the same as dhyana. They admit that one may meditate on a philosophical or religious subject while disciplining oneself in Zen, but they point out that this is only incidental, and not the essence of Zen. Meditation implies fixing the thought on an object while Zen emphasizes the attainment of freedom from all unnatural encumbrances. According to the Zen masters, thought is an artificial and unnatural encumbrance that prevents the direct experience of reality. As Suzuki points out, "Zen . . . is more than meditation and dhyana in its ordinary sense. The discipline of Zen consists in opening the mental eye in order to look into the very reason of existence. "2
Zen is a state of awareness beyond the state of dhyana, and can be compared to the samadhi of Patanjali's system of Yoga.3 In Zen, thought-consciousness is transcended; there is a new awareness, called satori, and the object of knowledge is apprehended in its purity, its objectivity, its real reality.
Zen may be looked upon as a system of Yoga, having its own object and its own methods. Like Yoga, Zen is quite distinct from religion and philosophy. Yoga and Zen aim at rising above the level of rational search; they aim at direct experience by
1. D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism (London: Rider, 1983), p. 46.
2. Ibid., p. 40.
3. Patanjali's yoga system has come to be called Raja Yoga, which is distinct from other systems of Yoga. According to Patanjali, yoga means cessation of the modifications of the stuff of consciousness (chittavritti nirodhah), so that in stillness of consciousness the object of knowledge reveals all its contents. That state of stillness is called samadhi. The process for reaching samadhi has eight stages: yama, self-control; niyama, discipline; asana, stability of posture; pranayama, breath control; pratyahara, withdrawal of consciousness from multiplicity of objects; dharana, fixing of consciousness on a single object; dhyana, continuous concentration on a single object; and finally, samadhi.
extending psychological consciousness beyond the thought-process of thesis and antithesis. If philosophy is a process of intellectual "understanding", Yoga and Zen may be regarded as processes of experiential "overstanding".
Zen wants us to acquire an entirely new point of view on the mysteries of life and the secrets of nature. Zen has come to the conclusion that ordinary logical reasoning is powerless to satisfy our deepest psychological needs. To bring home this point, Zen masters often speak in what seem to be illogical terms. For example, the famous Zen master Fudaishi describes the point of view of Zen in the following lines:
Empty-handed I go, and behold the spade is
in my hands;
I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox
I am riding;
When I pass over the bridge,
Lo, the water floweth not, but the bridge doth flow.
Commenting on these lines, Suzuki writes:
Nothing can be more illogical and contrary to common sense than these few lines. The critic will be inclined to call Zen absurd, confusing and beyond the ken of ordinary reasoning. But Zen is inflexible and would protest that the so-called common-sense way of looking at things is not final, and that the reason why we cannot attain to a thoroughgoing comprehension of the truth is due to our unreasonable adherence to a "logical" interpretation of things. If we really want to get to the bottom of life, we must abandon our cherished syllogisms, we must acquire a new way of observation whereby we can escape the tyranny of logic and the one-sidedness of our everyday phraseology. However paradoxical it may seem, Zen insists that the spade must be held in your empty hands, and that it is not the water but the bridge that is flowing under your feet.'1
Here are some other puzzling statements of the Zen masters:
"When Tom drinks, Dick gets tipsy. "
"Who is the teacher of all the Buddhas, past, present and future ? John the cook. "
"Last night a wooden horse neighed and a stone man cut capers. "
"Lo, a cloud of dust is rising from the ocean, and the roaring of the waves is heard
over the land. "2
1. Ibid., p. 58
2.Ibid., p. 59
Zen masters tell us that words are words and facts are facts, and that Zen deals with facts and not with verbal representations. Direct simplicity is the soul of Zen and the source of its vitality, freedom and originality. Zen often compares the mind to a spotless mirror. To be simple, therefore, will be "to keep this mirror always bright and pure and ready to reflect simply and absolutely whatever comes before it. "' According to the Zen masters, we are too much the slaves of words and common-sense logic. So long as we remain thus fettered, we are miserable and suffering. They maintain that if we want to know something really worth knowing, we must endeavour once and for all to free ourselves from all conditions; we must gain a new point of view from which the world is seen in its wholeness and life comprehended inwardly. In this sense, Zen is pre-eminently practical. It avoids abstractions and dialectical subtleties. Logic.. Zen says, is self-conscious and contains a trace of effort and pain. Life, on the other hand is an art, and like perfect art it should be unself-conscious; there should be no trace of effort or pain. Life ought to be lived as simply as a bird flies through the air or a fish swims in the water.
Central to Zen is an experience called satori, which may be translated as "new, awareness" or enlightenment. Attempting to explain satori, C. G. Jung writes:
1. Ibid., p. 61.
It is far better... to bear in mind the whole time that satori is a mysterium ineffabile as indeed the Zen masters wish it to be... One has the feeling of touching upon a true secret, not something that has been imagined or pretended; this is not a case of mystifying secrecy, but rather of an experience that baffles all languages.'1
And in the words of William Johnston:
It rarely comes when one is sitting silently in meditation. Master Hui-neng, for example, got enlightenment by listening to the chanting of the Diamond Sutra, Master Teshan got it by observing that Master Lung-fan blew a candle flame out. Master Lung-yun got it by seeing a peach flower falling, Master Po-chang got it when his master Ma-tsun twisted his nose in his young days, Master Hakuin got it by hearing the sound of the temple gong. About enlightenment little can be said that will even remotely express the reality. It is a great crash accompanied by joy and followed by deep peace. It has been practically compared to the smashing of a layer of ice or the pulling down of a crystal tower; or the clouds have parted and the bright sun pierces through — others will say that it is as though their skull were broken into a thousand pieces.2
Satori may be regarded as a reversal of consciousness. Things remain the same and yet they are different. As Jung explains:
It is not that something different is seen, but that one sees differently. It is as though the spatial act of seeing were changed by a new dimension. When the master asks, "Do you hear the murmuring of the brook? " he obviously means something quite different from ordinary "hearing". Consciousness is something like perception, and just as the latter is subjected to conditions and limits, so is consciousness. For instance, one can be conscious at various stages, in a narrower or wider sphere, more superficially or more deeply. These differences of degree are, however, often differences of character, in that they depend completely upon the development of the personality — that is to say, upon the nature of the perceiving subject.3
Satori is said to come upon us unawares, when we feel that we have exhausted our whole being. Spiritually, it is a new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new garment which seems to cover all the unsightly division. Zen is freedom from 'egoistic consciousness and a widening into awareness of a deeper self without walls and boundaries. As Jung explains:
1. Ibid, pp 11-12,From A Forward by C. G. Jung.
2. William Johnston, Examples of Religious Experience (Victoria: Deakin University, 1983), p. 27.
1. C. G. Jung, A Forward, in Suzuki, pp. 17-18.
However one may define self, it is always something other than the ego, and inasmuch as a higher understanding of the ego leads on to self the latter is a thing of wider scope, embracing the knowledge of the ego and therefore surpassing it. In the same way as the ego is a certain knowledge of my self, so is the self a knowledge of my ego, which, however, is no longer experienced in the form of a broader or higher ego, but in the form of a non-ego (Nicht-Ich).1
In Zen literature, we come across a very important word, koan, which denotes an anecdote, statement or question put forward by a teacher, or a dialogue between a master and pupils, all of which are means for opening one's mind to the truth of Zen. Koans look like mere riddles or witty remarks, but in actuality they have the objective of arousing doubt and pushing it to its furthest limits. Consider the two, following koans
"When both hands are clapped a sound is produced: listen to the sound of one hand."
"If you have heard the sound of one hand, can you make me hear it too? "2
There is no logical way to grasp the meaning of a koan. The pupil feels arrested, he hesitates and doubts, he is troubled and agitated, not knowing how to break through what seems like an impenetrable wall. When this climax is reached, the whole personality of the pupil — his inmost will, his deepest nature — determined to bring the situation to an issue, throws itself with no thought of self or no-self of this or of that, directly and unreservedly against the iron wall of thekoan. This throwing of the entire being against the koan unexpectedly opens up an unknown region of consciousness. In the words of Suzuki:
Intellectually, this is the transcending of the limits of logical dualism, but at the same time it is a regeneration, the awakening of an inner sense which enables one to look into the actual working of things. For the first time the meaning of the koan becomes clear, and in the same way that one knows that ice is cold and freezing. The eye sees, the ear hears, to be sure, but it is the mind as a whole that has satori; it is an act of perception, no doubt, but it is a perception of the highest order. Here lies the value of the Zen discipline, as it gives birth to the unshakable conviction that there is something indeed going beyond mere intellection.
l. Ibid., p 13.
2. Suzuki, p.59.
3. Ibid., p. 109.
At the same time, Zen teachers warn their students against regarding the koan as an end in itself, and forgetting that the true object of Zen is the unfolding of the inner life and consciousness. To avoid this danger, the student Daiye burned up the book of one hundred koans compiled by his master, Yengo. The total number of koans is traditionally estimated at 1700, but only one may be sufficient to open the student's mind to the ultimate truth of Zen. The necessary requirement is personal effort, without which Zen is a mere bubble. And more often than not, pupils continue their effort for many years before they experience satori.
The relevance of Zen to our theme of the good student and the good teacher is that it shows how the proper attitude and state of consciousness need to be vigorously prepared by both the teacher and the pupil if one aspires to higher knowledge and experience. Zen stories and koans provide striking examples of the efforts made in this regard by the good teachers and good pupils of the Far East, as I the reader will discover in the following passages.
The master Soy en Shaku passed from this world when he was sixty-one years of age. Fulfilling his life's work, he left a great teaching, far richer than that of most Zen masters. His pupils used to sleep in the daytime during midsummer, and while he overlooked this he himself never wasted a minute.
When he was but twelve years old he was already studying Tendai philosophical speculation. One summer day the air had been so sultry that little Soyen stretched his legs and went to sleep while his teacher was away.
Three hours passed when, suddenly waking, he heard his master enter, but it was too late. There he lay, sprawled across the doorway.
"I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon," his teacher whispered, stepping carefully over Soyen's body as if it were that of some distinguished guest. After this, Soyen never slept again in the afternoon.1
Bankci (1622-1693) Leisurely Clouds — Ink on silk
Sen no Rikyu, a tea-master, wished to hang a flower basket on a column. He asked a carpenter to help him, directing the man to place it a little higher or lower, to the right or left, until he had found exactly the right spot. ''That's the place, ''said Sen no Rikyu finally.
The carpenter, to test the master, marked the spot and then pretended he had forgotten. Was this the place? "Was this the place, perhaps?" the carpenter kept asking, pointing to various places on the column. But so accurate was the tea-master's sense of proportion that it was not until the carpenter reached the identical spot again that its location was approved.2
The cook monk Dairyo, at Bankei's monastery, decided that he would take good care of his old teacher's health and give him only fresh miso, a paste of soy beans mixed with wheat and yeast that often ferments. Bankei, noticing that he was being served better miso then his pupils, asked: ''Who is the cook today?''
Dairyo was sent before him. Bankei learned that according to his age and position he should eat only fresh miso. So he said to the cook: "Then you think I shouldn't eat at all." With this he entered his room and locked the door. Dairyo, sitting outside the door, asked his teacher's pardon. Bankei would not answer. For seven days Dairyo sat outside and Bankei within.
Finally in desperation an adherent called loudly to Bankei: "You may be all right, old teacher, but this young disciple here has to eat. He cannot go without food forever!"
At that Bankei opened the door. He was smiling. He told Dairyo: "I insist on eating the same food as the least of my followers. When you become the teacher I do not want you to forget this."3
Nobutada (1565-1614) Daruma meditating — Ink on paper
Kasan was asked to officiate at the funeral of a provincial lord.
He had never met lords and nobles before so he was nervous. When the ceremony started, Kasan sweat.
Afterwards, when he had returned, he gathered his pupils together. Kasan confessed that he was not yet qualified to be a teacher for he lacked the sameness of bearing in the world of fame that he possessed in the secluded temple. Then Kasan resigned and became the pupil of another master. Eight years later he returned to his former pupils, enlightened.4
A Zen student came to Bankei and complained:
"Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"
"You have something very strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."
"Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.
"When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.
"It arises unexpectedly," replied the student.
"Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it
were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did
not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over."5
Encho was a famous storyteller. His tales of love stirred the hearts of his listeners. When he narrated a story of war, it was as if the listeners themselves were on the field of battle.
One day Encho met Yamaoka Tesshu, a layman who had almost embraced masterhood in Zen. "I understand," said Yamaoka, "you are the best storyteller in our land and that you make people cry or laugh at will. Tell me my favorite story of the Peach Boy. When I was a little tot I used to sleep beside my mother, and she often related this legend. In the middle of the story I would fall asleep. Tell it to me just as my mother did."
Encho dared not attempt to do this. He requested time to study. Several months later he went to Yamaoka and said: "Please give me the opportunity to tell you the story."
"Some other day," answered Yamaoka. Encho was keenly disappointed. He studied further and tried again.
Yamaoka rejected him many times. When Encho would start to talk Yamaoka would stop him, saying: "You are not yet like my mother."
It took Encho five years to be able to tell Yamaoka the legend as his mother had told it to him.
In this way, Yamaoka imparted Zen to Encho.6
Many pupils were studying meditation under the Zen master Sengai. One of them used to arise at night, climb over the temple wall, and go to town on a pleasure jaunt.
Sengai, inspecting the dormitory quarters, found this pupil missing one night and also discovered the high stool he had used to scale the wall. Sengai removed thestool and stood there in its place.
When the wanderer returned, not knowing that Sengai was the stool, he put his feet on the master's head and jumped down into the grounds.
Discovering what he had done, he was aghast.
Sengai said: "It is very chilly in the early morning. Do be careful not to catch cold yourself."
The pupil never went out at night again.7
Fugai (1568-1654) Hotei pointing to the moon Ink on paper
The Sound of One Hand
Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. "What can the sound of one hand be?" He happened to hear some water dripping. "I have it," imagined Toyo.
When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water.
"What is that?" asked Mokurai. "That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again."
In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound was rejected.
He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused.
The sound of one hand was not the locusts.
For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost, a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.
At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. "I could collect no more," he explained later, "so I reached the soundless sound."
Toyo had realized the sound of one hand.8
What Are You Doing! What Are You Saying!
In modem times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim
I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary. The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju.
After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are
the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."
"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."
"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."
The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.
Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"
Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"9
Sengai ( 1750- 1838 )Smiling frog
A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"10