One day Dogen said,
In the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, there’s a story about a monk in the assembly of a certain Zen master. The monk worshiped a golden image of the Buddha as well as the relics of the Buddha. Even in the dormitory, he constantly burned incense and prostrated himself before them, honoring and making offerings.
One day, the master said to the monk, “The image and relics of the Buddha which you worship will eventually be harmful to you.”
The monk was not convinced.
The master continued, “This is the doing of the demon Papiyas. Throw them away right now.”
As the monk was leaving in anger, the master shouted after him, “Open the box and look inside!”
Although angry, the monk opened up the box; he found a poisonous snake lying coiled up inside.
As I think about this story, the images and relics of the Buddha should be revered since they are the form and bones left by the Tathagata; nevertheless, it is a false view to think that you will be able to gain enlightenment only through worshipping them. Such a view will cause you to become possessed by the demon and the poisonous snake.
Since the merit of the Buddha’s teaching does not change, reverence of images and relics will certainly bring blessings to human and heavenly beings equal to paying reverence to the living Buddha. In general, it is true that if you revere and make offerings to the world of the Three Treasures, your faults will disappear and you will gain merit; the karma that leads you to the evil realms will be removed, and you will be reborn in the realms of human and heavenly beings. However, it is a mistaken view to expect to gain enlightenment of the dharma in this way.
Since being the Buddha’s child is following the Buddha’s teachings and reaching buddhahood directly, we must devote ourselves to following the teaching and put all our efforts into the practice of the Way. The true practice which is in accordance with the teaching is nothing but shikantaza, which is the essence of the life in this monastery today. Think this over deeply.