Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ryutan's Lantern

The next day, Ryutan ascended the rostrum and declared, "Among you, there is a fellow who's fangs are like trees of swords and who's mouth is like a pool of blood.  Even if you strike him with a stick, he won't turn his head to look at you.  Some day, he will climb to the highest of all peaks and establish the way there."
- excerpted from Case 28 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)
Tokusan would later become known for his wild, fierce teaching style, including shouts and striking his students. Trees of swords and bowls of blood are reputed to be among the implements of torture in the hell realms. "Strike him with a stick, and he won't turn his head" means that he is exceptionally confident and steadfast. But the late John Daido Loori says that, like an overly meddling grandparent, Ryutan was spoiling Tokusan with his praise.

Zen Master Dogen tells us that studying the way is not at all easy, and that Tokusan remained for thirty years as an attendant for Ryutan, attending to towels and carrying water for washing, and still did not understand Ryutan's mind.  "Deeply we should sympathize; deeply we should sympathize" (Eihei Koroku, Dharma Hall Discourse 291).  In Shobogenzo Shin-Fukatoku (Mind Cannot Be Grasped)Dogen says that Tokusan does not appear to have experienced any great enlightenment, but only the odd moment of violent behavior. "We see merely that his paper candle was blown out, which is not enough for the transmission of the torch."

Zen Master Tanka once said that Tokusan had not "awakened to entering the grasses and searching for people with his whole body soaked in muddy water," and that he was endowed with only one single eye (meaning he could only see things from one perspective).
After meeting Tokusan himself, Zen Master Isan declared, "Some day, this disciple will go and build a grass hut on a solitary mountain peak where he'll revile the buddhas and curse the ancestors" (The Blue Cliff Record, Case 4).

So here we have two Zen Masters, Ryutan and Isan, both recognized Buddhist patriarchs, one declaring that Tokusan will climb the highest of all peaks and establish the way there, and the other declaring that he will revile the buddhas and curse the ancestors from his solitary peak.  Further, we have Dogen and Tanka both denying any evidence for Tokusan's awakening, yet Tokusan is considered a recognized Zen Master and a Buddhist patriarch.

What did Tokusan see when Ryutan blew out the candle?  This warrants closer examination.

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