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Thread: Can anyone help me find a Zen text I'm looking for?

  1. #1

    Can anyone help me find a Zen text I'm looking for?

    I'm counting on my reading audience being well-read in Zen literature, which I'm sure most of you are; and as a result I am hoping this request will be successful. I also hope that this thread is not in the wrong section.

    Many years ago, long before I became interested in Buddhism and Zen as beliefs and a way of life, I read an excerpt of a conversation between a young Japanese warrior noble and a Zen master, naturally a monk, that took place I think, and I stress I think, I could be wrong, in the latter half of the 13th century at the time of a major war in Japan wihich was I think a dynastic struggle for overlordship between feudal Japanese noble houses or it may have been at the time of the attempted Mongol invasions of Japan. My memory is very vague on the matter so I would appreciate any help that I can get.

    Anyway, the conversation went along these lines with the young noble saying to the monk, "What I hate and detest are fear and cowardice" with the monk answering "Would it not be better to cut off the source of fear and cowardice by cutting off the self?"or words to that effect.

    Now what I want to know is the text that this account of the conversation is from, who the monk and the young noble were, and the circumstances and context in which this exchange took place.

    It has been annoying for years not knowing the full details of this exchange and if anyone can help me I'd be most appreciative. Many thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: Can anyone help me find a Zen text I'm looking for?

    Is this what you recall?

    The relationships between many great Zen teachers "back in the day" and warriors can be seen, for example, in the writings of the famous Rinzai Zen teacher Takuan Soho (1573-1645, from The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master). Arguably, Takuan was emphasizing "self defense only", except that was certainly not the reality of warfare in those days, and even Kannon gets into the fight:

    Although you see the sword that moves to strike you, if your mind is not detained by it
    and you meet the rhythm of the advancing sword; if you do not think of striking your
    opponent and no thoughts or judgments remain; if the instant you see the swinging
    sword your mind is not the least bit detained and you move straight in and wrench the
    sword away from him; the sword that was going to cut you down will become your own,
    and, contrarily, will be the sword that cuts down your opponent.

    In Zen this is called "Grabbing the spear and, contrariwise, piercing the man who had
    come to pierce you." The spear is a weapon. The heart of this is that the sword you wrest
    from your adversary becomes the sword that cuts him down. This is what you, in your
    style, call "No-Sword."

    Whether by the strike of the enemy or your own thrust, whether by the man who strikes
    or the sword that strikes, whether by position or rhythm, if your mind is diverted in any
    way, your actions will falter, and this can mean that you will be cut down.

    ...

    Fudo Myoo grasps a sword in his right hand and holds a rope in his left hand. He bares
    his teeth and his eyes flash with anger. His form stands firmly, ready to defeat the evil
    spirits that would obstruct the Buddhist Law. This is not hidden in any country
    anywhere. His form is made in the shape of a protector of Buddhism, while his
    embodiment is that of immovable wisdom. This is what is shown to living things. ... If ten men, each with a sword, come at you with swords slashing, if you parry each sword
    without stopping the mind at each action, and go from one to the next, you will not be
    lacking in a proper action for every one of the ten.
    Although the mind act ten times against ten men, if it does not halt at even one of them
    and you react to one after another, will proper action be lacking?
    But if the mind stops before one of these men, though you parry his striking sword, when
    the next man comes, the right action will have slipped away.
    Considering that the Thousand-Armed Kannon has one thousand arms on its one body, if
    the mind stops at the one holding a bow, the other nine hundred and ninety-nine will be
    useless. It is because the mind is not detained at one place that all the arms are useful.
    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: Can anyone help me find a Zen text I'm looking for?

    The relationship between Buddhists priests (not only Zen Buddhists or only in Japan, but also in China and Korea and other places) and the warriors/military leaders (who ran all those countries) is a complicated one.

    The connection with the "samurai" was just the reality of history ... for the warriors were the government in Japan for centuries. Even Dogen had a sponsor who was a "warlord" (Hatano Yoshishige) ... as did probably all the major temples in Japan (for there was simply no having a temple without official sponsorship). Read pages 30 and 31 here on Lord Hatano ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=BnLOFw ... ge&f=false

    Brian Victoria's book "Zen At War" also discusses how Buddhists of all stripes in Japan sometimes got caught up in the nationalism of the day. (Although, great inaccuracies and exaggerations in that book have since led me to take some of the content with a grain of salt) ...

    viewtopic.php?p=17608#p17608

    But the truth is that, in the realities of the world, Buddhism ... from the beginning ... has been associated with kings, lords and (thus) military power, in India, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, China, Korea.

    The Buddha also seems to have been of two minds on this, and certainly accepted support and donations from powerful people. On the one hand, there are some writings in which he is framed to say that killing is never skillful.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ssage.html

    On the other hand, in other Sutta he did seem to countenance a nation having an army for certain limited purposes, and its discreet use.

    http://www.beyondthenet.net/thedway/soldier.htm

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma6/militarycanon.html

    Now, I believe that a Buddhist would counsel the warrior to make peace whenever possible, but also recognized that societies in this complex world need armies. On the other hand, Master Takuan's comments to the "Sword Master" in the above cited book strike me as going rather too far.

    Gassho, J

  4. #4

    Re: Can anyone help me find a Zen text I'm looking for?

    Interesting, and I'll bookmark this thread with the quotes and links for future reference, but the event or incident I'm looking for is given in the excerpt quoted below. After years googling every aspect of the circumstances and other details that I could recall, and then posting this thread, the details I managed to find are from a rather unlikely source: the August 1976 edition of the American martial-arts magazine Black Belt. The quote below is from an article in that magazine entitled "Zen and the Samurai: Why Zen became associated with a warrior class" by one Dr George R. Parulski, Jr. The actors in this verbal exchange were Hojo Tokimune, eighth shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate, and Bukko, a Zen master.

    Hojo Tokimune (1251-84) was his [Tokuso Tokiyori, 1227-63, fifth shikken of the Kamakura shogunate] only son, and when his father's kingdom fell to him in 1268, he was 18 years of age. Tokimune is perhaps Japan's greatest personage. Without Tokimune, Japan might not be what it is today. It was he that crushed the Mongolian invasion which lasted several years. It seems that Tokimune was almost a heaven-sent agent to stave off the direst calamity that might befall the nation.

    For our purposes, the most wonderful thing about this almost superhuman figure is that he had the time, energy, and aspiration to devote himself to the study of Zen under the masters from China. He erected temples, including the important Enkaku-ji. Some letters still preserved, which were sent to him by his masters, reveal how seriously he took to Zen. In one letter, Tokimune is said to have asked Zen master Bukko, "The worst enemy in our life is cowardice, how can I escape it?"

    Bukko answered, "Cut off the source from whence cowardice comes."

    Tokimune: "Where does it come from?"

    Bukko: "It comes from Tokimune himself."

    Tokimune: "Above all things, cowardice is what I hate most, how can I come out of myself?"

    Bukko: "See how you feel when you throw overboard your cherished self. I will see you again when you have done this."

    Tokimune: "How can this be done?"

    Bukko: "Sit cross-legged in meditation and see into the source of all your thoughts which you imagine as belonging to Tokimune."

    It was with this courage that Tokimune faced the Mongolian invasion and successfully drove it back. Historically speaking, he didn't accomplish this greatest feat in the history of Japan by courage alone. Tokimune planned every detail that was needed for the task and his ideas were carried out by a now Zen-oriented warrior class.

    When Tokimune died, Bukko gave a glorious eulogy: "There were ten wonders in his life, which was the actualization of his vows: he was a filial son to his mother; he was a loyal subject to his emperor; he looked to the welfare of his people; studying Zen, he grasped the Truth; he betrayed no signs of joy or anger; sweeping away by virtue of a gale the threatening clouds raised by the barbarians, he showed no signs of elation; he established Enkaku-ji; following his teachers, he sought the virtue of enlightenment. And in his near-death he managed to rise from his bed, put on his Buddhist robe and write his death song in full possession of his spirit. Such a one as he must be said to be an enlightened being."

    Tokimune was a great Zen spirit and it was due to his encouragement that Zen came to be firmly established in Kamakura and then in Kyoto and began to spread its moral and spiritual influence among the samurai class.

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