Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
1. Man is Good-natured according to Mencius.
Oriental scholars, especially the Chinese men of letters, seem to have taken so keen an interest in the study of human nature that they proposed all the possible opinions respecting the subject in question-namely, (1) man is good-natured; (2) man is bad-natured; (3) man is good-natured and bad-natured as well; (4) man is neither good-natured nor bad-natured. The first of these opinions was proposed by a most reputed Confucianist scholar, Mencius, and his followers, and is still adhered to by the majority of the Japanese and the Chinese Confucianists. Mencius thought it as natural for man to do good as it is for the grass to be green. 'Suppose a person has happened,' he would say, 'to find a child on the point of tumbling down into a deep well. He would rescue it even at the risk of his life, no matter how morally degenerated he might be. He would have no time to consider that his act might bring him some reward from its parents, or a good reputation among his friends and fellow-citizens. He would do it barely out of his inborn good-nature.' After enumerating some instances similar to this one, Mencius concludes that goodness is the fundamental nature of man, even if he is often carried away by his brutal disposition.
 Mencius (372-282 B.C.) is regarded as the best expounder of the doctrine of Confucius. There exists a well-known work of his, entitled after his own name. See 'A History of Chinese Philosophy,' by R. Endo, and also 'A History of Chinese Philosophy' (pp. 38-50), by G. Nakauchi.
2. Man is Bad-natured according to Siun Tsz (Jun-shi).
The weaknesses of Mencius's theory are fully exposed by another diametrically opposed theory propounded by Siun Tsz (Jun-shi) and his followers. 'Man is bad-natured,' says Siun Tsz, 'since he has inborn lust, appetite, and desire for wealth. As he has inborn lust and appetite, he is naturally given to intemperance and wantonness. As he has inborn desire for wealth, he is naturally inclined to quarrel and fight with others for the sake of gain.' Leave him without discipline or culture, he would not be a whit better than the beast. His virtuous acts, such as charity, honesty, propriety, chastity, truthfulness, are conduct forced by the teachings of ancient sages against his natural inclination. Therefore vices are congenial and true to his nature, while virtues alien and untrue to his fundamental nature.
 Siun Tsz's date is later by some fifty years than Mencius. Siun Tsz gives the reason why man seeks after morality, saying that man seeks what he has not, and that he seeks after morality simply because he has not morality, just as the poor seek riches. See 'A History of Chinese Philosophy' (pp. 51-60), by G. Nakauchi, and 'A History of Development of Chinese Thought,' by R. Endo.
These two theories are not only far from throwing light on the moral state of man, but wrap it in deeper gloom. Let us raise a few questions by way of refutation. If man's fundamental nature be good, as Mencius maintains, why is it easy for him to be vicious without instruction, while he finds it hard to be virtuous even with instruction. If you contend that good is man's primary nature and evil the secondary one, why is be so often overpowered by the secondary nature? If you answer saying that man is good-natured originally, but he acquires the secondary nature through the struggle for existence, and it gradually gains power over the primary nature by means of the same cause, then the primitive tribes should be more virtuous than the highly civilized nations, and children than grownup people. Is this not contrary to fact?
If, again, man's nature is essentially bad, as Siun Tsz holds, how can he cultivate virtue? If you contend that ancient sages invented so-called cardinal virtues and inculcated them against his natural inclination, why does he not give them up? If vices be congenial and true to man's nature, but virtues be alien and untrue to him, why are virtues honoured by him? If vices be genuine and virtue a deception, as you think, why do you call the inventors of that deceiving art sages? How was it possible for man to do good before these sages' appearance on earth?
3. Man is both Good-natured and Bad-natured according to Yan Hiung (Yo-yu).
According to Yang Hiung and his followers, good is no less real than evil, and evil is no more unreal than good. Therefore man must be double-natured-that is, partly good and partly bad. This is the reason why the history of man is full of fiendish crimes, and, at the same time, it abounds with godly deeds. This is the reason why mankind comprises, on the one hand, a Socrates, a Confucius, a Jesus, and, on the other, a Nero and a Kieh. This is the reason why we find to-day a honest fellow in him whom we find a betrayer to-morrow.
 Yan Hiung (died A.D. 18) is the reputed author of Tai Huen (Tai-gen) and Fah Yen (Ho-gen). His opinion in reference to human nature is found in Fah Yen.
This view of man's nature might explain our present moral state, yet it calls forth many questions bard to answer. If this assertion be true, is it not a useless task to educate man with the purpose of making him better and nobler? How could one extirpate man's bad nature implanted within him at his origin? If man be double-natured, how did he come to set good over evil? How did he come to consider that he ought to be good and ought not to be bad? How could you establish the authority of morality?
4. Man is neither Good-natured nor Bad-natured according to Su Shih (So-shoku).
The difficulty may be avoided by a theory given by Su Shih and other scholars influenced by Buddhism, which maintains that man is neither good-natured nor bad-natured. According to this opinion man is not moral nor immoral by nature, but unmoral. He is morally a blank. He is at a crossroad, so to speak, of morality when he is first born. As he is blank, he can be dyed black or red. As he is at the cross-road, he can turn to the right or to the left. He is like fresh water, which has no flavour, and can be made sweet or bitter by circumstances. If we are not mistaken, this theory, too, has to encounter insurmountable difficulties. How could it be possible to make the unmoral being moral or immoral? We might as well try to get honey out of sand as to get good or evil out of the blank nature. There can be no fruit of good or evil where there is no seed of good or bad nature. Thus we find no satisfactory solution of the problem at issue in these four theories proposed by the Chinese scholars—the first theory being incompetent to explain the problem of human depravity; the second breaking down at the origin of morality; the third failing to explain the possibility of moral culture; the fourth being logically self-contradictory.
 Su Shih (1042-1101), a great man of letters, practiser of Zen, noted for his poetical works.
5. There is no Mortal who is Purely Moral.
By nature man should be either good or bad; or he should be good as well as bad; or he should be neither good nor bad. There can be no alternative possible besides these four propositions, none of which can be accepted as true. Then there must be some misconception in the terms of which they consist. It would seem to some that the error can be avoided by limiting the sense of the term 'man,' saying some persons are good-natured, some persons are bad-natured, some persons are good-natured and bad-natured as well, and some persons are neither good-natured nor bad-natured. There is no contradiction in these modified propositions, but still they fail to explain the ethical state of man. Supposing them all to be true, let us assume that there are the four classes of people: (1) Those who are purely moral and have no immoral disposition; (2) those who are half moral and half immoral; (3) those who are neither moral nor immoral; (4) those who are purely immoral and have no moral disposition. Orthodox Christians, believing in the sinlessness of Jesus, would say he belongs to the first class, while Mohammedans and Buddhists, who deify the founder of their respective faith, would in such case regard their founder as the purely moral personage. But are your beliefs, we should ask, based on historical fact? Can you say that such traditional and self-contradictory records as the four gospels are history in the strict sense of the term? Can you assert that those traditions which deify Mohammed and Shakya are the statements of bare facts? Is not Jesus an abstraction and an ideal, entirely different from a concrete carpenter's son, who fed on the same kind of food, sheltered himself in the same kind of building, suffered from the same kind of pain, was fired by the same kind of anger, stung by the same kind of lust as our own? Can you say the person who fought many a sanguinary battle, who got through many cunning negotiations with enemies and friends, who personally experienced the troubles of polygamy, was a person sinless and divine? We might allow that these ancient sages are superhuman and divine, then our classification has no business with them, because they do not properly belong to mankind. Now, then, who can point out any sinless person in the present world? Is it not a fact that the more virtuous one grows the more sinful he feels himself? If there be any mortal, in the past, the present, and the future, who declares himself to be pure and sinless, his very declaration proves that he is not highly moral. Therefore the existence of the first class of people is open to question.
6. There is no Mortal who is Non-Moral or Purely Immoral.
The same is the case with the third and the fourth class of people who are assumed as non-moral or purely immoral. There is no person, however morally degraded he may be, but reveals some good nature in his whole course of life. It is our daily experience that we find a faithful friend in the person even of a pickpocket, a loving father even in a burglar, and a kind neighbour even in a murderer. Faith, sympathy, friendship, love, loyalty, and generosity dwell not merely in palaces and churches, but also in brothels and gaols. On the other hand, abhorrent vices and bloody crimes often find shelter under the silk hat, or the robe, or the coronet, or the crown. Life may fitly be compared with a rope made of white and black straw, and to separate one from the other is to destroy the rope itself; so also life entirely independent of the duality of good and bad is no actual life. We must acknowledge, therefore, that the third and the fourth propositions are inconsistent with our daily experience of life, and that only the second proposition remains, which, as seen above, breaks down at the origin of morality.
7. Where, then, does the Error Lie?
Where, then, does the error lie in the four possible propositions respecting man's nature? It lies not in their subject, but in the predicate-that is to say, in the use of the terms 'good' and 'bad.' Now let us examine how does good differ from bad. A good action ever promotes interests in a sphere far wider than a bad action. Both are the same in their conducing to human interests, but differ in the extent in which they achieve their end. In other words, both good and bad actions are performed for one end and the same purpose of promoting human interests, but they differ from each other as to the extent of interests. For instance, burglary is evidently bad action, and is condemned everywhere; but the capturing of an enemy's property for the sake of one's own tribe or clan or nation is praised as a meritorious conduct. Both acts are exactly the same in their promoting interests; but the former relates to the interests of a single individual or of a single family, while the latter to those of a tribe or a nation. If the former be bad on account of its ignoring others' interests, the latter must be also bad on account of its ignoring the enemy's interests. Murder is considered bad everywhere; but the killing of thousands of men in a battle-field is praised and honoured, because the former is perpetrated to promote the private interests, while the latter those of the public. If the former be bad, because of its cruelty, the latter must also be bad, because of its inhumanity.
The idea of good and bad, generally accepted by common sense, may be stated as follows: 'An action is good when it promotes the interests of an individual or a family; better when it promotes those of a district or a country; best when it promotes those of the whole world. An action is bad when it inflicts injury on another individual or another family; worse when it is prejudicial to a district or a country; worst when it brings harm on the whole world. Strictly speaking, an action is good when it promotes interests, material or spiritual, as intended by the actor in his motive; and it is bad when it injures interests, material or spiritual, as intended by the actor in his motive.'
According to this idea, generally accepted by common sense, human actions may be classified under four different heads: (1) Purely good actions; (2) partly good and partly bad actions; (3) neither good nor bad actions; (4) purely bad actions. First, purely good actions are those actions which subserve and never hinder human interests either material or spiritual, such as humanity and love of all beings. Secondly, partly good and partly bad actions are those actions which are both for and against human interests, such as narrow patriotism and prejudiced love. Thirdly, neither good nor bad actions are such actions as are neither for nor against human interests—for example, an unconscious act of a dreamer. Lastly, purely bad actions, which are absolutely against human interests, cannot be possible for man except suicide, because every action promotes more or less the interests, material or spiritual, of the individual agent or of someone else. Even such horrible crimes as homicide and parricide are intended to promote some interests, and carry out in some measure their aim when performed. It follows that man cannot be said to be good or bad in the strict sense of the terms as above defined, for there is no human being who does the first class of actions and nothing else, nor is there any mortal who does the fourth class of actions and nothing else. Man may be called good and bad, and at the same time be neither good nor bad, in that he always performs the second and the third class of actions. All this, nevertheless, is a more play of words. Thus we are driven to conclude that the common-sense view of human nature fails to grasp the real state of actual life.
8. Man is not Good-natured nor Bad-natured, but Buddha-natured.
We have had already occasion to observe that Zen teaches Buddha-nature, which all sentient beings are endowed with. The term 'Buddha-nature,' as accepted generally by Buddhists, means a latent and undeveloped nature, which enables its owner to become Enlightened when it is developed and brought to actuality. Therefore man, according to Zen, is not good-natured nor bad-natured in the relative sense, as accepted generally by common sense, of these terms, but Buddha-natured in the sense of non-duality. A good person (of common sense) differs from a bad person (of common sense), not in his inborn Buddha-nature, but in the extent of his expressing it in deeds. Even if men are equally endowed with that nature, yet their different states of development do not allow them to express it to an equal extent in conduct. Buddha-nature may be compared with the sun, and individual mind with the sky. Then an Enlightened mind is like the sky in fair weather, when nothing prevents the beams of the sun; while an ignorant mind is like the sky in cloudy weather, when the sun sheds faint light; and an evil mind is like the sky in stormy weather, when the sun seems to be out of existence. It comes under our daily observation that even a robber or a murderer may prove to be a good father and a loving husband to his wife and children. He is an honest fellow when he remains at home. The sun of Buddha-nature gives light within the wall of his house, but without the house the darkness of foul crimes shrouds him.
 For a detailed explanation of Buddha-nature, see the chapter entitled Buddha-nature in Sho-bo-gen-zo.
 Mahaparinirvana-sutra may be said to have been written for the purpose of stating this idea.
9. The Parable of the Robber Kih.
Chwang Tsz (So-shi) remarks in a humorous way to the following effect: "The followers of the great robber and murderer Kih asked him saying: 'Has the robber also any moral principles in his proceedings?' He replied: 'What profession is there which has not its principles? That the robber comes to the conclusion without mistake that there are valuable deposits in an apartment shows his wisdom; that he is the first to enter it shows his bravery; that he makes an equal division of the plunder shows his justice; that he never betrays the fellow-robbers shows his faithfulness; and that he is generous to the followers shows his benevolence. Without all these five qualities no one in the world has ever attained to become a great robber.'" The parable clearly shows us Buddha-nature of the robber and murderer expresses itself as wisdom, bravery, justice, faithfulness, and benevolence in his society, and that if he did the same outside it, he would not be a great robber but a great sage.
 The parable is told for the purpose of undervaluing Confucian doctrine, but the author thereby accidentally touches human nature. We do not quote it here with the same purpose as the author's.
10. Wang Yang Ming (O-yo-mei) and a Thief.
One evening when Wang was giving a lecture to a number of students on his famous doctrine that all human beings are endowed with Conscience, a thief broke into the house and hid himself in the darkest corner. Then Wang declared aloud that every human being is born with Conscience, and that even the thief who had got into the house had Conscience just as the sages of old. The burglar, overhearing these remarks, came out to ask the forgiveness of the master; since there was no way of escape for him, and he was half-naked, he crouched behind the students. Wang's willing forgiveness and cordial treatment encouraged the man to ask the question how the teacher could know such a poor wretch as he was endowed with Conscience as the sages of old. Wang replied: "It is your Conscience that makes you ashamed of your nakedness. You yourself are a sage, if you abstain from everything that will put shame on you." We firmly believe that Wang is perfectly right in telling the thief that he was not different in nature from the sages of old. It is no exaggeration. It is a saving truth. It is also a most effective way of saving men out of darkness of sin. Any thief ceases to be a thief the moment he believes in his own Conscience, or Buddha-nature. You can never correct criminals by your severe reproach or punishment. You can save them only through your sympathy and love, by which you call forth their inborn Buddha-nature. Nothing can produce more pernicious effects on criminals than to treat them as if they were a different sort of people and confirm them in their conviction that they are bad-natured. We greatly regret that even in a civilized society authorities neglecting this saving truth are driving to perdition those criminals under their care, whom it is their duty to save.
 It is not conscience in the ordinary sense of the term. It is 'moral' principle, according to Wang, pervading through the Universe. 'It expresses itself as Providence in Heaven, as moral nature in man, and as mechanical laws in things.' The reader will notice that Wang's Conscience is the nearest approach to Buddha-nature.
11. The Bad are the Good in the Egg.
This is not only the case with a robber or a murderer, but also with ordinary people. There are many who are honest and good in their homesteads, but turn out to be base and dishonest folk outside them. Similarly, there are those who, having an enthusiastic love of their local district, act unlawfully against the interests of other districts. They are upright and honourable gentlemen within the boundary of their own district, but a gang of rascals without it. So also there are many who are Washingtons and William Tells in their own, but at the same time pirates and cannibals in the other countries. Again, there are not a few persons who, having racial prejudices, would not allow the rays of their Buddha-nature to pass through a coloured skin. There are civilized persons who are humane enough to love and esteem any human being as their brother, but so unfeeling that they think lower creatures as their proper food. The highly enlightened person, however, cannot but sympathize with human beings and lower creatures as well, as Shakya Muni felt all sentient beings to be his children.
These people are exactly the same in their Buddha-nature, but a wide difference obtains among them in the extent of their expressing that nature in deeds. If thieves and murderers be called bad-natured, reformers and revolutionists should be called so. If, on the other hand, patriotism and loyalty be said to be good, treason and insurrection should likewise be so. Therefore it is evident that a so-called good person is none but one who acts to promote wider interests of life, and a so-called bad person is none but one who acts to advance narrower ones. In other words, the bad are the good in the egg, so to speak, and the good are the bad on the wing. As the bird in the egg is one and the same as the bird on the wing, so the good in the egg is entirely of the same nature as the bad on the wing. To show that human nature transcends the duality of good and evil, the author of Avatamsaka-sutra declares that 'all beings are endowed with the wisdom and virtue of Tathagata.' Kwei Fung (Kei-ho) also says: "All sentient beings have the Real Spirit of Original Enlightenment (within themselves). It is unchanging and pure. It is eternally bright and clear, and conscious. It is also named Buddha-nature, or Tathagata-garbha."
12. The Great Person and Small Person.
For these reasons Zen proposes to call man Buddha-natured or Good-natured in a sense transcendental to the duality of good and bad. It conveys no sense to call some individuals good in case there is no bad individual. For the sake of convenience, however, Zen calls man good, as is exemplified by Shakya Muni, who was wont to address his hearers as 'good men and women,' and by the Sixth Patriarch in China, who called everybody 'a good and wise one.' This does not imply in the least that all human beings are virtuous, sinless, and saintly-nay, the world is full of vices and crimes. It is an undeniable fact that life is the warfare of good against evil, and many a valiant hero has fallen in the foremost ranks. It is curious, however, to notice that the champions on the both sides are fighting for the same cause. There can be no single individual in the world who is fighting against his own cause or interest, and the only possible difference between one party and the other consists in the extent of interests which they fight for. So-called bad persons, who are properly designated as 'small persons' by Chinese and Japanese scholars, express their Buddha-nature to a small extent mostly within their own doors, while so-called good persons, or 'great persons' as the Oriental scholars call them, actualize their Buddha-nature to a large extent in the whole sphere of a country, or of the whole earth.
Enlightened Consciousness, or Buddha-nature, as we have seen in the previous chapter, is the mind of mind and the consciousness of consciousness, Universal Spirit awakened in individual minds, which realizes the universal brotherhood of all beings and the unity of individual lives. It is the real self, the guiding principle, the Original Physiognomy (nature), as it is called by Zen, of man. This real self lies dormant under the threshold of consciousness in the minds of the confused; consequently, each of them is inclined to regard petty individual as his self, and to exert himself to further the interests of the individual self even at the cost of those of the others. He is 'the smallest person' in the world, for his self is reduced to the smallest extent possible. Some of the less confused identify their selves with their families, and feel happy or unhappy in proportion as their families are happy or unhappy, for the sake of which they sacrifice the interests of other families. On the other hand, some of the more enlightened unite their selves through love and compassion with their whole tribe or countrymen, and consider the rise or fall of the tribe or of the country as their own, and willingly sacrifice their own lives, if need be, for the cause of the tribe or the country. When they are fully enlightened, they can realize the unity of all sentient lives, and be ever merciful and helpful towards all creatures. They are 'the greatest persons' on earth, because their selves are enlarged to the greatest extent possible.
 The expression first occurs in Ho-bo-dan-kyo of the Sixth Patriarch, and is frequently used by later Zenists.
13. The Theory of Buddha-Nature adequately explains the Ethical States of Man.
This theory of Buddha-nature enables us to get an insight into the origin of morality. The first awakening of Buddha-nature within man is the very beginning of morality, and man's ethical progress is the gradually widening expression of that nature in conduct. But for it morality is impossible for man. But for it not only moral culture or discipline, but education and social improvement must be futile. Again, the theory adequately explains the ethical facts that the standard of morality undergoes change in different times and places, that good and bad are so inseparably knit together, and that the bad at times become good all on a sudden, and the good grow bad quite unexpectedly. First, it goes without saying that the standard of morality is raised just in proportion as Buddha-nature or real self extends and amplifies itself in different times and places. Secondly, since good is Buddha-nature actualized to a large extent, and bad is also Buddha-nature actualized to a small extent, the existence of the former presupposes that of the latter, and the mess of duality can never be got rid of. Thirdly, the fact that the bad become good under certain circumstances, and the good also become bad often unexpectedly, can hardly be explained by the dualistic theory, because if good nature be so arbitrarily turned into bad and bad nature into good, the distinction of good and bad nature has no meaning whatever. According to the theory of Buddha-nature, the fact that the good become bad or the bad become good, does not imply in the least a change of nature, but the widening or the narrowing of its actualization. So that no matter how morally degenerated one may be, he can uplift himself to a high ethical plane by the widening of his self, and at the same time no matter how morally exalted one may be, he can descend to the level of the brute by the narrowing of his self. To be an angel or to be a devil rests with one's degrees of enlightenment and free choice. This is why such infinite varieties exist both among the good and the bad. This is why the higher the peak of enlightenment the people climb, the more widely the vista of moral possibilities open before them.
14. Buddha-Nature is the Common Source of Morals.
Furthermore, Buddha-nature or real self, being the seat of love and the nucleus of sincerity, forms the warp and woof of all moral actions. He is an obedient son who serves his parents with sincerity and love. He is a loyal subject who serves his master with sincerity and love. A virtuous wife is she who loves her husband with her sincere heart. A trustworthy friend is he who keeps company with others with sincerity and love. A man of righteousness is he who leads a life of sincerity and love. Generous and humane is he who sympathizes with his fellow-men with his sincere heart. Veracity, chastity, filial piety, loyalty, righteousness, generosity, humanity, and what not-all-this is no other than Buddha-nature applied to various relationships of human brotherhood. This is the common source, ever fresh and inexhaustible, of morality that fosters and furthers the interests of all. To-ju expresses the similar idea as follows:
"There exists the Inexhaustible Source (of morality) within me.
It is an invaluable treasure.
It is called Bright Nature of man.
It is peerless and surpasses all jewels.
The aim of learning is to bring out this Bright Nature.
This is the best thing in the world.
Real happiness can only be secured by it."
Thus, in the first place, moral conduct, which is nothing but the expression of Buddha-nature in action, implies the assertion of self and the furtherance of one's interests. On this point is based the half-truth of the Egoistic theory. Secondly, it is invariably accompanied by a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when it fulfils its end. This accidental concomitance is mistaken for its essence by superficial observers who adhere to the Hedonistic theory. Thirdly, it conduces to the furtherance of the material and spiritual interests of man, and it led the Utilitarians to the confusion of the result with the cause of morality. Fourthly, it involves the control or sacrifice of the lower and ignoble self of an individual in order to realize his higher and nobler self. This gave rise to the half-truth of the Ascetic theory of morality.
 To-ju Naka-e (died A.D. 1649), the founder of the Japanese Wang School of Confucianism, known as the Sage of Omi.
15. The Parable of a Drunkard.
Now the question arises, If all human beings are endowed with Buddha-nature, why have they not come naturally to be Enlightened? To answer this question, the Indian Mahayanists told the parable of a drunkard who forgets the precious gems put in his own pocket by one of his friends. The man is drunk with the poisonous liquor of selfishness, led astray by the alluring sight of the sensual objects, and goes mad with anger, lust, and folly. Thus he is in a state of moral poverty, entirely forgetting the precious gem of Buddha-nature within him. To be in an honourable position in society as the owner of that valuable property, he must first get rid himself of the influence of the liquor of self, and detach himself from sensual objects, gain control over his passion, restore peace and sincerity to his mind, and illumine his whole existence by his inborn divine light. Otherwise he has to remain in the same plight to all eternity.
Lot us avail ourselves of another figure to explain more clearly the point at issue. Universal Spirit may fitly be likened to the universal water, or water circulating through the whole earth. This universal water exists everywhere. It exists in the tree. It exists in the grass. It exists in the mountain. It exists in the river. It exists in the sea. It exists in the air. It exists in the cloud. Thus man is not only surrounded by water on all sides, but it penetrates his very body. But be can never appease his thirst without drinking water. In like manner Universal Spirit exists everywhere. It exists in the tree. It exists in the grass. It exists in the ground. It exists in the mountain. It exists in the river. It exists in the sea. It exists in the bird. It exists in the beast. Thus man is not merely surrounded by Spirit on all sides, but it permeates through his whole existence. But he can never be Enlightened unless he awakens it within him by means of Meditation. To drink water is to drink the universal water; to awaken Buddha-nature is to be conscious of Universal Spirit.
Therefore, to get Enlightened we have to believe that all beings are Buddha-natured—that is, absolutely good-natured in the sense that transcends the duality of good and bad. "One day," to cite an example, "Pan Shan (Ban-zan) happened to pass by a meat-shop. He heard a customer saying: 'Give me a pound of fresh meat.' To which the shopkeeper, putting down his knife, replied: Certainly, sir. Could there be any meat that is not fresh in my shop?' Pan Shan, hearing these remarks, was Enlightened at once."
16. Shakya Muni and the Prodigal Son.
A great trouble with us is that we do not believe in half the good that we are born with. We are just like the only son of a well-to-do, as the author of Saddharma-pundarika-sutra tells us, who, being forgetful of his rich inheritance, leaves his home and leads a life of hand-to-mouth as a coolie. How miserable it is to see one, having no faith in his noble endowment, burying the precious gem of Buddha-nature into the foul rubbish of vices and crimes, wasting his excellent genius in the exertion that is sure to disgrace his name, falling a prey to bitter remorse and doubt, and casting himself away into the jaw of perdition. Shakya Muni, full of fatherly love towards all beings, looked with compassion on us, his prodigal son, and used every means to restore the half-starved man to his home. It was for this that he left the palace and the beloved wife and son, practised his self-mortification and prolonged Meditation, attained to Enlightenment, and preached Dharma for forty-nine years; in other words, all his strength and effort were focussed on that single aim, which was to bring the prodigal son to his rich mansion of Buddha-nature. He taught not only by words, but by his own actual example, that man has Buddha-nature, by the unfoldment of which he can save himself from the miseries of life and death, and bring himself to a higher realm than gods. When we are Enlightened, or when Universal Spirit awakens within us, we open the inexhaustible store of virtues and excellencies, and can freely make use of them at our will.
 See 'Sacred Books of the East,' vol. xxi., chap. iv., pp. 98-118.
17. The Parable of the Monk and the Stupid Woman.
The confused or unenlightened may be compared with a monk and a stupid woman in a Japanese parable which runs as follows: "One evening a monk (who was used to have his head shaved clean), getting drunk against the moral precepts, visited a woman, known as a blockhead, at her house. No sooner had he got into her room than the female fell asleep so soundly that the monk could not wake her nap. Thereupon he made up his mind to use every possible means to arouse her, and searched and searched all over the room for some instrument that would help him in his task of arousing her from death-like slumber. Fortunately, he found a razor in one of the drawers of her mirror stand. With it he gave a stroke to her hair, but she did not stir a whit. Then came another stroke, and she snored like thunder. The third and fourth strokes came, but with no better result. And at last her head was shaven clean, yet still she slept on. The next morning when she awoke, she could not find her visitor, the monk, as he had left the house in the previous night. 'Where is my visitor, where my dear monk?' she called aloud, and waking in a state of somnambulation looked for him in vain, repeating the outcry. When at length her hand accidentally touched her shaven head, she mistook it for that of her visitor, and exclaimed: 'Here you are, my dear, where am I myself gone then?" A great trouble with the confused is their forgetting of real self or Buddha-nature, and not knowing 'where it is gone.' Duke Ngai, of the State of Lu, once said to Confucius: "One of my subjects, Sir, is so much forgetful that he forgot to take his wife when be changed his residence." "That is not much, my lord," said the sage, "the Emperors Kieh and Cheu forgot their own selves."
 The last Emperor of the Ha dynasty, notorious for his vices. His reign was 1818-1767 B.C.
 The last Emperor of the Yin dynasty, one of the worst despots. His reign was 1154-1122 B.C.
18. 'Each Smile a Hymn, each Kindly Word a Prayer.'
The glorious sun of Buddha-nature shines in the zenith of Enlightened Consciousness, but men still dream a dream of illusion. Bells and clocks of the Universal Church proclaim the dawn of Bodhi, yet men, drunk with the liquors of the Three Poisons Still slumber in the darkness of sin. Let us pray to Buddha, in whose bosom we live, for the sake of our own salvation. Let us invoke Buddha, whose boundless mercy ever besets us, for the Sake of joy and peace of all our fellow-beings. Let us adore Him through our sympathy towards the poor, through our kindness shown to the suffering, through our thought of the sublime and the good.
"O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly word a prayer."
Let, then, your heart be so pure that you may not be unworthy of the sunshine beaming upon you the light of Universal Spirit. Let your thought be so noble that you may deserve fair flowers blooming before you, reminding you of merciful Buddha. Let your life be so good that you may not be ashamed of yourself in the presence of the Blessed One. This is the piety of Mahayanists, especially of Zenists.
 Lust, anger, and folly.
19. The World is in the Making.
Our assertion is far from assuming that life is now complete, and is in its best state. On the contrary, it is full of defects and shortcomings. We must not be puffed up with modern civilization, however great victory it has scored for its side. Beyond all doubt man is still in his cradle. He often stretches forth his hands to get at his higher ideal, yet is still satisfied with worthless playthings. It is too glaring a fact to be overlooked by us that faith in religion is dying out in the educated circles of society, that insincerity, cowardice, and double-tongue are found holding high positions in almost ever community, that Lucrese and Ezzeling are looking down upon the starving multitude from their luxurious palace, that Mammon and Bacchus are sometimes preying on their living victims, that even religion often sides with Contention and piety takes part in Cruelty, that Anarchy is ever ready to spring on the crowned beings, that philosophy is disposed to turn the deaf ear to the petition of peace, while science provides fuel for the fire of strife.
Was the golden age of man, then, over in the remote past? Is the doomsday coming instead? Do you bear the trumpet call? Do you feel the earth tremble? No, absolutely no, the golden age is not passed. It is yet to come. There are not a few who think that the world is in completion, and the Creator has finished His work. We witness, however, that He is still working and working, for actually we hear His hammer-strokes resounding through heaven above and earth beneath. Does He not show us new materials for His building? Does He not give new forms to His design? Does He not surprise us with novelties, extraordinaries, and mysteries? In a word, the world is in progress, not in retrogression.
A stream does not run in a straight line. It now turns to the right, now to the left, now leaps down a precipice, now waters rich fields, now runs back towards its source; but it is destined to find its outlet in the ocean. So it is with the stream of life. It now leaps down the precipice of revolution. Now it enriches the fertile field of civilization. Now it expands itself into a glassy lake of peace. Now it forms the dangerous whirlpool of strife. But its course is always toward the ocean of Enlightenment, in which the gems of equality and freedom, jewels of truth and beauty, and treasures of wisdom and bliss can be had.
20. The Progress and Hope of Life.
How many myriads of years have passed since the germs of life first made appearance on earth none can tell; how many thousands of summers and winters it has taken to develop itself into higher animals, no scientist can calculate exactly. Slowly but steadily it has taken its swerving course, and ascending stop by step the series of evolution, has reached at length the plane of the rational animal. We cannot tell how many billions of years it takes to develop ourselves and become beings higher than man himself, yet we firmly believe that it is possible for us to take the same unerring course as the organic germs took in the past. Existing humanity is not the same as primitive one. It is quite another race. Our desires and hopes are entirely different from those of primitive man. What was gold for them is now iron for us. Our thoughts and beliefs are what they never dreamed of. Of our knowledge they had almost none. That which they kept in veneration we trample under our feet. Things they worshipped as deities now serve us as our slaves. Things that troubled and tortured them we now turn into utilities. To say nothing of the customs and manners and mode of living which underwent extraordinary change, we are of a race in body and mind other than the primitive forefathers of good old days. In addition to this we have every reason to believe in the betterment of life. Let us cast a glance to the existing state of the world. While the Turco-Italian war was raising its ferocious outcry, the Chinese revolution lifted its head before the trembling throne. Who can tell whether another sanguinary affair will not break out before the Bulgarian bloodshed comes to an end? Still we believe that, as fire drives out fire, to borrow Shakespeare's phrase, so war is driving out war. As an ocean, which separated two nations in the past, serves to unite them now, so a war, which separated two people in the past, brings them to unity now. It goes without saying, that every nation groans under the burden of cannons and warships, and heartily desires peace. No nation can willingly wage war against any other nation. It is against the national conscience. It is no exaggeration to say the world is wholly the ear to hear the news from the goddess of peace. A time will surely come, if our purpose be steady and our resolution firm, when universal peace will be restored, and Shakya Muni's precept, 'not to kill,' will be realized by all mankind.
21. The Betterment of Life.
Again, people nowadays seem to feel keenly the wound of the economical results of war, but they are unfeeling to its moral injuries. As elements have their affinities, as bodies have their attractions, as creatures have their instinct to live together, so men have their inborn mutual love. 'God divided man into men that they might help each other.' Their strength lies in their mutual help, their pleasure is in their mutual love, and their perfection is in their giving and receiving of alternate good. Therefore Shakya Muni says: "Be merciful to all living beings." To take up arms against any other person is unlawful for any individual. It is the violation of the universal law of life.
We do not deny that there are not a few who are so wretched that they rejoice in their crimes, nor that there is any person but has more or less stain on his character, nor that the means of committing crimes are multiplied in proportion as modern civilization advances; yet still we believe that our social life is ever breaking down our wolfish disposition that we inherited from our brute ancestors, and education is ever wearing out our cannibalistic nature which we have in common with wild animals. On the one hand, the signs of social morals are manifest in every direction, such as asylums for orphans, poorhouses, houses of correction, lodgings for the penniless, asylums for the poor, free hospitals, hospitals for domestic animals, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, schools for the blind and the dumb, asylums for the insane, and so forth; on the other hand, various discoveries and inventions have been made that may contribute to the social improvement, such as the discovery of the X rays and of radium, the invention of the wireless telegraph and that of the aeroplane and what not. Furthermore, spiritual wonders such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, etc., remind us of the possibilities of further spiritual unfoldment in man which he never dreamed of. Thus life is growing richer and nobler step by step, and becoming more and more hopeful as we advance in the Way of Buddha.
22. The Buddha of Mercy.
"Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt;
Surprised by unjust force, but not enthralled.
But evil on itself shall back recoil,
And mix no more with goodness. If this fail,
The pillared firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble."
The world is built on the foundation of morality, which is another name for Universal Spirit, and moral order sustains it. We human beings, consciously or unconsciously, were, are, and will be at work to bring the world into perfection. This idea is allegorically expressed in the Buddhist sutra, which details the advent of a merciful Buddha named Maitreya in the remote future. At that time, it says, there will be no steep hills, no filthy places, no epidemic, no famine, no earthquake, no storm, no war, no revolution, no bloodshed, no cruelty, and no suffering; the roads will be paved smoothly, grass and trees always blooming, birds ever singing, men contented and happy; all sentient beings will worship the Buddha of Mercy, accept His doctrine, and attain to Enlightenment. This prophecy will be fulfilled, according to the sutra, 5,670,000,000 years after the death of Shakya Muni. This evidently shows us that the Mahayanist's aim of life is to bring out man's inborn light of Buddha-nature to illumine the world, to realize the universal brotherhood of all sentient beings, to attain to Enlightenment, and to enjoy peace and joy to which Universal Spirit leads us.
 See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 204-209.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.