I was discussing last night, the Bodhisattva doctrine in Mahayana Buddhism, and comparing it, or relating it to, the two great tendencies in Indian spirituality. Anti worldliness,or other worldliness. Affirmation and showing how, the idea that the highest kind of a Buddha is in a certain way a non-Buddha. The highest kind of a Buddha is like an ordinary person. And this comes out very very much in various tendencies in Zen. Where, for example, all the painting, peculiarly characteristic of Zen Buddhism in the Chinese and Japanese tradition, is as it were secular. It has a peculiarly non-religious atmosphere. That is to say, that the painting of ShinGon sect and ten dissect as you saw it in the museum today was a religious painting you could tell at once that the subject matter of these paintings is religious. But with Zen painting, the way of dealing with philosophical or spiritual themes is secular. So that, when an artist like Sendai and the. Being in the seventeenth century Japan paints the Buddha. There is something slightly humorous about the Buddha. He wears his halo over one ear. There is an informality, slight raffishness. And this comes from China, from those great song artists like the young. Who painted the six patriarch of Zen chopping bamboos. Looking like the most extraordinarily unkempt country oaf. So, also, the greatest Zen painting, has as its subject matter not really religious themes at all. It uses pine branches, rocks them bills grasses everything of that kind and you would never know that these things were icons. Likewise also, in poetry, which we will go into more extensively in the future. The superb expression of Zen poetry, is derived from the Chinese poet. Hokoji, who says ‘Wondrous action, supernatural power. Drawing water, carrying fuel.’
Now that’s, that poem is a little bit too religious for Zen taste. And so. Preferable to that is Basho’s famous poem. ‘The old pond. Frog jumps in plop.’ Plop is the only possible English translation for the Japanese Misono Oto, which means literally the waters sound. Pop. But that poem you see is a very high styles and. Because it has nothing in it about religion. There is a poem on the edge which also was written by Basho, which says, when the lightning flashes how admirable he who does not think life is fleeting. And you see, the flash of the lightning is a Buddhist cliche for the transiency of the world. Your life goes by, and it disappears as fast as a flash of lightning. That becomes a cliche. So, all religion, all religious comments about life eventually become cliches. Religion always, is falling apart, and becoming a certain kind of going through the motions, a kind of imitation of attitudes as if one would say we’ve got a book called The Imitation of Christ. It’s a terrible book. Because everybody who imitates Christ is a kind of a fake Jesus.
So in the same way, there’s all kinds of imitation Buddhas. Not just sitting on altars made of wood gilded, but just sitting around in monasteries. So, one might say then that the highest kind of religious or spiritual attainment has no, no sign about it that it is religious or that it is spiritual. And so as a metaphor for this there was used in Buddhism from the very beginning, the idea of the tracks of birds in the sky. They don’t leave any tracks. And so the way of the enlightened man, is like the track of a bird in the sky. And as one poem, a Chinese poem says, entering the forest he does not disturb a blade of grass. Entering the water, he does not make a ripple. In other words, there is no sign about him to indicate that he is self consciously religious. And this goes too for the fact that his not having any religious sign, is also not something contrived. It isn’t like Protestant simplicity. You know all those Catholics with their rituals and how dreadful and insincere that is, the real reason you know why Protestant think Catholic ritual is insincere? You know? It’s expensive. Protestantism started in the burger cities of Europe. Places like. Freiburg, Hamburg, you know. And Geneva. Because, the merchant class, who were the foundation of the Bourgeoisie got annoyed because every time. A saint’s day came around all their employees got a day off because it was a holiday and they had to attend mass. You know so many of these nuisance holidays. And all these contributions that were assessed by the church. Buying your way out of Purgatory and thing masses for the dead, and so on it’s of what they found is not very you cannot handle the priests were getting the money instead of the matching. And so they decried as unbiblical and the religious and wasteful all the finery of the Catholic religion and wanted something plain and simple.
So it became, in course of time, a sign of being really religious. To avoid rituals and to avoid colorful clothing and splendor in churches and to be as ordinary as possible. But that is not yet their real religion of me giving no sign of having a religion because this simplicity and absence of ritual itself becomes a sign. A way of advertising how spiritual you are. So, the completely Bodhisattva type of person doesn’t leave any track, either by being religious overtly, or by being non-religious overtly. How will you be neither religious nor non-religious? See that’s the great test how do you avoid that trap? Of being one or the other. It’s like I you a theist Are you an atheist. You see the theist is caught by God. And the idea of God The belief in God but the atheist is equally caught. Because an atheist is very often an atheist because he cannot stand the idea that God is watching him all the time. That there is this constant all-seeing Eye, prying on your most private life. And that there is this is you know how were you when you were a child in school and you’re writing something or doing arithmetic and the teacher walks around the class and looks over your shoulder. Nobody wants to be watched like that, even someone who’s good at writing or arithmetic, doesn’t want somebody looking over their shoulder while they’re doing it it puts you off it bugs you.
So the idea of the Lord God who is watching us all the time he was judging everything that we do puts people off and they can’t stand it so better be an atheist to get rid of teacher. So better be an atheist, you see the man who advertises his disbelief in God, is a very pious person. Nobody believes in God like an atheist. There is no God, and I am his prophet. So then, the true Bodhisattva state is very difficult to pin down as being either, neither supremely religious nor blatantly secular. And people who think that the height of Buddhism, or the height of Zen, is to be perfectly ordinary have still missed the point. That the atheist has missed the point. But, for this reason then, there is an element in the art, the painting the poetry, et cetera, which has been inspired by this kind of Buddhism. This kind of art where the subject matter is non-religious Nevertheless, there is something about the way in which this non-religious subject matter is handled that stops you. And you know there’s something strange about it, this is how I first became interested in oriental philosophy and all that kind of thing. I had an absolute fascination for Chinese and Japanese painting. The secular painting, the landscapes, the treatment of flowers and grasses and bamboos. There was something about it that struck me as astonishing. Even though the subject matter was extremely ordinary. And I had just as a child practically I had to find out. What was this strange element in those bamboo. And those grasses. I was being of course taught by those painters to see grass. But there was something in there that one could never pin down, never put your finger on. And that was this thing that I will call the religion of no religion. The Supreme attainment of being a Buddha who can’t be detected. Who, in this sense then, leaves no trace.
You remember some of you have seen those ten paintings, called the ten stages of spiritual ox herding. And the author, there are two sets of these paintings there’s a heterodox one on and off a ducks one. The heterodox one, has the, as the man catches the ox, it gets progressively whiter, until in the end it disappears altogether and the last picture is an empty circle. But the author ducks set of paintings. Doesn’t end with the empty circle that he and his circle arises to from the end. Three from the end. It is followed by two others. After the man has attained the state of emptiness, the state, in other words, of complete iconoclasm, the state of no attachment to any spiritual or psychological or moral crutch, there are two more steps and one is called returning to the origin. Which is represented by a tree beside a stream. And the final one, called entering the city with hands hanging down. That means hands, giving a hand out, as it were, of the giving bounty. And it shows a picture of the fat water to tie. Or in Japanese known as Hote. Who has an enormous belly big years who carries around a colossal bag. And what do you think this bag has in it? Trash. Wonderful trash, everything the children love. Things that everybody else has thrown away and thought of as valid as this bum collects and gives it away to children. And so it says here. That he goes on his way without following the steps of the ancient sages. His door is closed. His case that sort of his house and no glimpses of his interior life are to be seen so in other words it’s unlike when you erect a building while you’re building it you have all kinds of scaffolding up. That shows you that building is going on, but when the building is complete, the scaffolding is taken down. To open a door as they say in Zen You may need to pick up a brick to knock at the door but when the door is open you don’t carry the brick inside to cross a river you need a boat but when you reach the other side you don’t pick up the boat and carry it. So the brick, the boat, the scaffolding, all these things represent some sort of religious technology or method. And in the end, these are all to disappear.
So that the Saint will not be found in church. Don’t take what I say literally, the saint can perfectly readily go to church without being solid by church. But ordinary people when they go to church they come out stinking, of religion. There was a great Zen Master once. And one of his disciples asked him, ‘How am I making progress?’ He said you’re all right but you have a trivial fault Well what is that he said you have too much zen. Well he said ‘When you’re studying Zen, don’t you think it’s very natural to be talking about it?’ The Master said, ‘When it’s like an ordinary conversation it is much better.’ And so another monk who is standing by listening to this exchange said to the master, ‘Why do you says special it is like talking about zen?’ and he replied ‘Because it turns one stomach.’
So what did he mean when he said when it’s like an ordinary everyday conversation it is somewhat better? When the old master Joshe was asked at the end of the Kalpa, when everything is destroyed in fire there will be one thing remaining What is that? And Joshi replied It’s windy again this morning. So, in Zen, When you are asked a question about religion, you reply in terms of the secular, when you are asked about something secular you reply in terms of religion. So what is the eternal nature of the self? It’s windy again this morning. Please pass me a knife. The master hands him the night with the blade first. Please give me the other and what would you do with the other and. See, here that could be the the disciple starts out with the ordinary please pass me the knife and suddenly he finds himself involved in a metaphysical problem. But if he starts out with a metaphysical, he’s going to get involved with a knife.
So, now, to go deeply into, the religion of non religion, we have to understand the, what you might call the final ultimate attainment of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. And this is contained in a school of thought which is called in Chinese Wa-Yin and in Japanese Kagan. Kagan is the intellectual foundation for Zen. And there was a great Chinese master by the name of Shumatzu, who was simultaneously a Zen master and the fifth patriarch of the Qua-Yin sect. Qua means flower. Yin, garland, the garland of flowers. And it’s all based on a Sanskrit Sutra called Avantaksura [sic]. This is called simply The Japanese King or The Very Big Sutra. And the subject matter of the sutra, called the four Dharma worlds. And I must explain what these four worlds are so that you get the point. First of all, there is a a level of being, which we will call ji. The word ji, which is Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese chir, is the world of things and events. What you might call the common sense world, the everyday world, that our senses normally record. This the word ji, character in Chinese has a multiplicity of meanings, because it me it can mean a thing or an event. It can also mean business. An affair, not in a love affair but something. In the way the French say laissez faire for business. Something important. You can also mean affectation. Putting something on or showing off. And so a person who is a master in Zen is called booji, which means no business, no affectation, nothing special. The poem says, on Mount Lou, there is misty rain. And the river Jun is at high tide. When you have not been there your heart is filled with longing but when you have been there and come back it was nothing special. Misty rain on Mountain Dew River Jun. But this nothing special is not a way of putting something down. To see that I could say well it was nothing special, it didn’t really amount to anything. That’s one way of saying it was very ordinary. But just as it doesn’t mean it was very ordinary. In the same way that the person who has no religion is really the most religious, do you do see, he’s not just a common ignorant moron. He looks like one, but he isn’t. And you have to know what he knows, in order to see that he isn’t and to recognize him for what he is. So nothing special, booji. It did doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t. As we would say that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. So the world of ji. Then means generally, the world of particulars. The world of multiplicity, the world we ordinarily feel we’re involved in.
So that’s the first world, the second world is called the world of ri. Now re in Chinese Li. Is as I explained to you when we were discussing the idea of the law of nature. The character means the markings in Jade. Or the grain in wood or the fiber in muscle. But in the Wa-Yin philosophy the word really means the universal, underlying all particulars, the one underlying all multiplicity. The unity of principle as distinct from ji, which is the differentiation principle. So as it were, like it’s like this, when you see into the nature of this world. You start from ji. You start from noticing all the particular things, and being baffled by the multiplicity, and dealing with the multiplicity of things, but as you go into this, you discover, as you understand things…What do you mean when you understand things? It means you become aware of their relationships to each other and eventually you see the unity of the mind. And it is as if the multiplicity of the world dissolved into unity.