Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in the Otani University, Kyoto






  2. On Opening the Sutra
  3. Confession
  4. The Threefold Refuge
  5. The Four Great Vows
  6. The Worshipping of the Sarira
  7. The Teaching of the Seven Buddhas
  8. The Gatha of Impermanence
  9. The Yemmei Kwamon Ten-Clause Sutra
  10. Prayer on the Occasion of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts
  11. General Prayer
  12. Prayer of the Bell
  14. Dharani of Removing Disasters
  15. Dharani of the Great Compassionate One
  16. Dharani of the Victorious Buddha-Crown


  1. The Prajnaparamita-hridaya-sutra, or Shingyo (complete)
  2. The Kwannongyo, or "Samantamukha Parivarta" (complete)
  3. The Kongokyo, or Vajracchedika (the first half and extracts from the second half)
  4. The Lankavatara Sutra, or Ryogakyo (extracts)
  5. The Ryogonkyo, or Surangama Sutra (résumé)
  7. Bodhidharma on the Twofold Entrance to the Tao
  8. The Third Patriarch on "Believing in Mind"
  9. From Hui-neng's Tan-ching
  10. Yoka Daishi's "Song of Enlightenment"
  11. Baso (Ma-tsu) and Sekito (Shih-tou)
  12. Obaku's (Huang-po) Sermon from "Treatise on the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind"
  13. Gensha on the Three Invalids (from the Hekiganshu or Pi-yen Chi)
  14. The Ten Oxherding Pictures, I

The Ten Oxherding Pictures, II

  2. Daio Kokushi on Zen
  3. Daio Kokushi's Admonition
  4. Daito Kokushi's Admonition and Last Poem
  5. Kwanzan Kokushi's Admonition
  6. Muso Kokushi's Admonition
  7. Hakuin's "Song of Meditation"

Buddhas; Bodhisattvas; Arhats; Protecting Gods; Historical Figures


Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, D.Litt., Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in the Otani University, Kyoto, was born in 1870. He is probably now the greatest living authority on Buddhist philosophy, and is certainly the greatest authority on Zen Buddhism. His major works in English on the subject of Buddhism number a dozen or more, and of his works in Japanese as yet unknown to the West there are at least eighteen. He is, moreover, as a chronological bibliography of books on Zen in English clearly shows, the pioneer teacher of the subject outside Japan, for except for Kaiten Nukariya's Religion of the Samurai (Luzac and Co., 1913) nothing was known of Zen as a living experience, save to the readers of The Eastern Buddhist (1921-1939), until the publication of Essays in Zen Buddhism (Volume I) in 1927.

Dr. Suzuki writes with authority. Not only has he studied original works in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese, but he has an up-to-date knowledge of Western thought in German and French as well as in the English which he speaks and writes so fluently. He is, moreover, more than a scholar; he is a Buddhist. Though not a priest of any Buddhist sect, he is honored in every temple in Japan, for his knowledge of spiritual things, as all who have sat at his feet bear witness, is direct and profound. When he speaks of the higher stages of consciousness he speaks as a man who dwells therein, and the impression he makes on those who enter the fringes of his mind is that of a man who seeks for the intellectual symbols wherewith to describe a state of awareness which lies indeed "beyond the intellect".

To those unable to sit at the feet of the Master his writings must be a substitute. All these, however, were Out of print in England by 1940, and all remaining stocks in Japan were destroyed in the fire which consumed three-quarters of Tokyo in 1945. When, therefore, I reached Japan in 1946, I arranged with the author for the Buddhist Society, London--my wife and myself as its nominees--to begin the publication of his Collected Works, reprinting the old favorites, and printing as fast as possible translations of the many new works which the Professor, self-immured in his house at Kyoto, had written during the war.

This undertaking, however, was beyond the powers of the Buddhist Society, and we therefore secured the assistance of Rider and Co., who, backed by the vast resources of the House of Hutchinson, can honor the needs of such a considerable task.

Of Zen itself I need say nothing here, but the increasing sale of books on the subject, such as The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts (Murray), and the series of original translations of Chinese Zen Scriptures and other works published by the Buddhist Society prove that the interest of the West is rising rapidly. Zen, however, is a subject extremely easy to misunderstand, and it is therefore important that the words of a qualified Master should come readily to hand.


President of the Buddhist Society, London



All references to the Author's Essays in Zen Buddhism, Series One and Two, and to his Introduction to Zen Buddhism, are to the second edition of these works, published in "The Complete Works of D. T. Suzuki."


In my Introduction to Zen Buddhism (published 1934), an outline of Zen teaching is sketched, and in The Training of the Zen Monk (1934) a description of the Meditation Hall and its life is given. To complete a triptych the present Manual has been compiled. The object is to inform the reader of the various literary materials relating to the monastery life. Foreign students often express their desire to know about what the Zen monk reads before the Buddha in his daily service, where his thoughts move in his leisure hours, and what objects of worship he has in the different quarters of his institution. This work will partly, it is hoped, satisfy their desire. Those who find my Essays too bulky or too elaborate may prefer these smaller works on Zen.



August 1935


Gatha is a Sanskrit term meaning "verse" or "hymn". In Buddhist literature it is used to designate the versified portion of the sutras. Chinese scholars have adopted this word for their Versified compositions, which are known as chieh, an abbreviation of chieh-t'o, or as chieh-sang, which is the combination of the Sanskrit and the Chinese. The gathas collected here are not exclusively those of the Zen sect; some belong to general Buddhism.




The Dharma incomparably profound and exquisite
Is rarely met with, even in hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas;
We are now permitted to see it, to listen to it, to accept and hold it;
May we truly understand the meaning of the Tathagata's words!



All the evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
On account of greed, anger, and folly, which have no beginning,
Born of my body, mouth, and thought--
I now make full open confession of it.



I take refuge in the Buddha;
I take refuge in the Dharma;
I take refuge in the Sangha.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the incomparably honored one;
I take refuge in the Dharma, honorable for its purity;
I take refuge in the Sangha, honorable for its harmonious life.
I have finished taking refuge in the Buddha;
I have finished taking refuge in the Dharma;
I have finished taking refuge in the Sangha.



However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them;
However inexhaustible the passions are, I vow to extinguish them;
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to master them;
However incomparable the Buddha-truth is, I vow to attain it.

[1. These vows are recited after every service.]



We prostrate ourselves in all humbleness before the holy Sarira representing the body of Shakyamuni, the Tathagata, who is perfectly endowed with all the virtues, who has the Dharmakaya as the ground of his being, and Dharmadhatu as the stupa dedicated to him. To him we pay our respect with due deference. Manifesting himself in a bodily form for our sakes, the Buddha enters into us and makes us enter into him. His power being added to us, we attain Enlightenment; and [again] dependent on the Buddha's miraculous power, all beings are benefited, become desirous for Enlightenment, discipline themselves in the life of the Bodhisattva, and equally enter into perfect quietude where prevails infinite wisdom of absolute identity. We now prostrate ourselves before him.



Not to commit evils,
But to do all that is good,
And to keep one's thought pure--
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.



All composite things are impermanent,
They are subject to birth and death;
Put an end to birth and death,
And there is a blissful tranquility.

[1. For the sake of the second half of this gatha the Buddha is said to have been willing to sacrifice his own life. For this reason this is also known as the "gatha of sacrifice".]



[Adoration to] Kwanzeon!
Adoration to the Buddha!
To the Buddha we are related
In terms of cause and effect.
Depending on the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha,
[Nirvana is possible which is] eternal, ever-blessed, autonomous, and free from defilements.
Every morning our thoughts are on Kwanzeon,
Every evening our thoughts are on Kwanzeon.
Every thought issues from the Mind,
Every thought is not separated from the Mind.

[1. Yemmei means "Prolonging life"; when one daily recites this short document in ten clauses relating to Kwannon, one's health is assured for doing good not only for oneself but for the whole world.]



If one wishes to know all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, one should contemplate the nature of this Dharmadhatu essentially as the creation of Absolute Mind.
Adoration to the Buddhas in the ten quarters;
Adoration to the Dharma pervading the ten quarters; Adoration to the Sangha in the ten quarters;
Adoration to Shakyamuni the Buddha who is our Master; Adoration to Kwanzeon the Bodhisattva, who is the great compassionate and pitying one, ready to save beings from afflictions;
Adoration to Ananda the Arhat who is the expounder of the Teaching.
Namu sabo totogyato boryakite, yen!
Sammola sammola, un!
Namu suryoboya totogyatoya tojito, yen!
Suryo suryo boya suryo boya suryo, somoko!
Namu samanda motonan, ban![1]
Adoration to Hoshin[2] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Taho[3] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Myoshishin[4] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Kohashin[5] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Rifui[6] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Kanroo[7] the Tathagata;
Adoration to Omito[8] the Tathagata.
Namu omitoboya totogyatoya,
Omirito bigyaratei,
Omirito bigyarato gyamini,
Gyagyano shitogyari,

[1. It is difficult to tell how this dharani came to be inserted here. As most dharanis are, it is devoid of sense from the human point of view; but it may not be necessarily so to the hungry ghosts, for whom the prayer is offered.

Can this be restored to the original Sanskrit as follows?

Namah sarva-tathagatavalokite! Om!
Sambala, sambala! Hum!
Namah surupaya tathagataya!
Om, suru[paya], surupaya, surupaya, suru[paya], svaha!
Namah samantabuddhanam, vam!

"Be adored! O all the Tathagatas who are regarded [as our protectors]; Om! Provision, provision! Hum! Adored be the Tathagata Beautifully Formed! Namely: Om! To the Beautifully-formed One! To the Beautifully formed One! To the Beautifully-formed One! Hail! Adored be all the Buddhas! Vam!"

  1. "Jewel-excelled" (ratnaketu).
  2. "Abundant-in-jewel" (prabhutaratna).
  3. "Fine-form-body" (surupakaya).
  4. "Broad-wide-body" (vipulakaya).
  5. "Freed-from-fear" (abhayankara).
  6. "Nectar-king" (amritaraja).
  7. "Amida" (amitabha).]


By the supernatural power of this Dharani the food and drink is purified, and this we offer to the spiritual beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganga. We pray that they shall all be fully satisfied and abandon their greed; that they shall all leave their abodes of darkness and be born in the blissful paths of existence; and further that taking refuge in the Triple Treasure they shall awaken the desire for supreme enlightenment and finally come to the realization of it. The merit they thus attain is inexhaustible and will continue on to the end of time, making all beings equally share in this Dharma-food.

O you hosts of spiritual beings, we make this offering of food to you all, which we pray will fill the ten quarters and that all beings of your kind will partake of it.

By the practice of this meritorious deed we pray that we repay what we owe to our parents, who have done all they could for our sakes. May those who are still alive continue to enjoy their happy and prosperous lives for ever, while those who are no more with us be released from suffering and born in the land of bliss.

We pray that all sentient beings in the triple world who are recipients of the fourfold benefaction, together with those beings suffering in the three evil paths of existence and tormented with the eight kinds of calamities, may repent of all their sins and be cleansed of all their sores, so that they may all be released from the cycle of transmigration and be born in the land of purity.

We pray to all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the ten quarters, of the past, present, and future, and to Maha prajna-paramita, that by virtue of this merit universally prevailing, not only we but all beings shall equally attain Buddhahood.

[1. Namo 'mitabhaya tathagataya! Tadyatha, amritodbhave, amritasiddhe, (?)-bhave, amritavikrante, amrita-vikranta-gamine, gaganakirtikare! Svaha!

"Adored be the Tathagata of Infinite Light! Namely: O Nectar-raising one! O Nectar-perfecting one! [O Nectar-] producing one! O One who makes nectar pervade! O One who makes nectar universally pervade! O One who makes nectar known as widely as space! Hail!"]



By the Bhikshus all present here
The mystic formula of Suramgama has been recited as above,
Which is now dedicated to all the Nagas and Devas who are protectors of the Dharma,
And also to all the holy assemblies of the spiritual beings who are guardians of this monastery and surrounding district.
May all beings in the three evil paths of existence variously suffering the eight kinds of disasters be thereby released from the afflictions!
May all beings in the triple world who are recipients of the fourfold benefaction thereby participate in the merit!
May the state continue in peaceful prosperity with all its warlike activities stopped!
May the wind blow in time, the rain fall seasonably, and the people live happily!
May the entire congregation sharing in the exercise cherish the higher aspirations!
To go beyond the ten stages with a cap, and this without much difficulty!
May this monastery keep on its quiet life, free from disturbances.
And the patrons and devotees grow not only in faith but in wisdom and bliss!
[We pray this to] all the Buddhas and Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the ten quarters, of the past, present, and future, and to Mahaprajna-paramita!

[1. This is read, as can be inferred from the text, after the recitation of the Surangama dharani.]



Would that the sound of the bell might go beyond our earth,
And be heard even by all the denizens of the darkness outside the Iron Mountains (cakravala) !
Would that, their organ of hearing becoming pure, beings might attain perfect interfusion [of all the senses],
So that every one of them might come finally to the realization of supreme enlightenment![1]

[1. It is customary in the Zen monastery to recite the Kwannongo while striking the big bell, which is done three times a day. The present gatha is recited when the striking is finished. As will be seen below, from Kwannon issues a sound which is heard by those who sincerely believe in his power of releasing them from every form of disaster. Each sound emitted by the bell is the voice of Kwannon calling on us to purify our sense of hearing, whereby a spiritual experience called "interfusion" will finally take place in us. See under the Ryogonkyo and the Kwannongyo below.]


Properly speaking, the dharani has no legitimate place in Zen. That it has nevertheless crept into its daily service is clue to the general characteristics of Chinese Buddhism of the Sung dynasty, when the Japanese Zen masters visited China and imported it as they found it then, together with the Shingon elements of Chinese Zen. In China the Shingon did not thrive very long but left its traces in Zen.

Dharani, the root of which is dhr, "to hold" or "to convey", is ordinarily translated by the Chinese tsung-ch'ih, "general holder", at neng-ch'ih, "that which holds". A dharani is considered as holding magical power in it or bearing deep meaning. When it is pronounced, whatever evil spirits there are ready to interfere with the spiritual effect of a ritual, are kept away from it.

In the following pages the three most frequently read dharanis are given. When translated they convey no intelligent signification. They mostly consist of invocations and exclamations. The invocation is an appeal to the higher powers, and the exclamation is to frighten away the evil spirits. That the practical result of these utterances is not to be judged objectively goes without saying.




Adoration to all the Buddhas! Adoration to the Teaching that knows no obstructions!
Thus: Om! Khya khya khyahi khyahi (speak, speak)!
Hum hum!
Jvala jvala prajvala prajvala (blaze, blaze)!
Tistha tistha (up, up)!
Stri Stri (?)!
Sphata (burst, burst)!
One who is quiescent!
To the glorious one, hail!



Adoration to the Triple Treasure!
Adoration to Avalokiteshvara the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who is the great compassionate one!
Om, to the one who performs a leap beyond all fears!
Having adored him, may I enter into the heart of the blue-necked one known as the noble adorable Avalokiteshvara! It means the completing of all meaning, it is pure, it is that which makes all beings victorious and cleanses the path of existence.
Om, the seer, the world-transcending one!
O Hari the Mahabodhisattva!
All, all!
Defilement, defilement!
The earth, the earth!
It is the heart.
Do, do the work!
Hold fast, hold fast! O great victor!
Hold on, hold on! I hold on.
To Indra the creator I
Move, move, my defilement-free seal!
Come, come!
Hear, hear!
A joy springs up in me!
Speak, speak! Directing!
Hulu, hulu, mala, hulu, hulu, hile!
Sara, Sara! siri, siri! suru, suru!
Be awakened, be awakened!
Have awakened, have awakened!
O merciful one, blue-necked one!
Of daring ones, to the joyous, hail!
To the successful one, hail!
To the great successful one, hail!
To the one who has attained mastery in the discipline, hail!
To the blue-necked one, hail!
To the boar-faced one, hail!
To the one with a lion's head and face, hail!
To the one who holds a weapon in his hand, hail!
To the one who holds a wheel in his hand, hail!
To the one who holds a lotus in his hand, hail!
To the blue-necked far-causing one, hail!
To the beneficent one referred to in this Dharani beginning with "Namah," hail!
Adoration to the Triple Treasure!
Adoration to Avalokiteshvara!
May these [prayers] be successful!
To this magical formula, hail!



Adoration to the Blessed One who is the most excellent one in the triple world!
Adoration to the Enlightened One, to the Blessed One!
Om! Cleanse [us], cleanse [us]! O one who is always impartial! One who, being in possession of all-pervading, all-illuminating light, is pure in his self-nature, cleansed of the darkness of the five paths of existence!
Baptize us, O Sugata, with an immortal baptism which consists of the best words, of the great true phrases!
Remove disasters, remove disasters, O one who holds an eternal life!
Cleanse us, cleanse us, O one who is as pure as the sky!
O one who is as pure as the victorious Buddha-crown!
O one who is inflamed with a thousand rays of light!
O all the Tathagatas who look over [the entire world]!
O one who is perfect in the Six Paramitas!
O one who holds the great seal empowered with the spiritual power which emanates from the heart of every Tathagata!
O one whose body is as hard and pure as Vajra!
O one who is thoroughly pure, cleansed of all impediments, all fears, and all the evil paths!
Turn us away [from evils] O one who enjoys a purified life!
O one who empowers us with [the power of] the original covenant! O jewel, jewel, the great jewel! O Suchness which is reality-limit and absolute purity!
O one who is pure in his evolved enlightenment!
Be victorious, be victorious, be ever victorious, be ever victorious!
Bear in mind, bear in mind!
O one who is pure being empowered by all Buddhas!
O Vajragarbha who holds the Vajra! Let my body be like Vajra! Let those of all beings too be like Vajra!
O one who is in possession of an absolutely pure body! O one who is absolutely pure from all the paths of existence! And let me be consoled by all the Tathagatas!
O one who is empowered with the consoling power of all the Tathagatas!
Be enlightened, be enlightened, be ever enlightened, be ever enlightened!
Have them enlightened, have them enlightened, have them ever enlightened, have them ever enlightened!
O one who is most pure in a most thoroughgoing way!
O one who holds a great seal empowered with the spiritual power which emanates from the heart of every Tathagata!


The sutras most read in Zen are the Shingyo (Prajnaparamitahridaya), the Kwannongyo (Samantamukha-parivarta), and the Kongokyo (Vajracchedika). The Shingyo being the shortest is read on almost all occasions. The Ryoga (Lankavatara) is historically significant, but being difficult to understand is very little studied nowadays by followers of Zen. For further information see the author's works on the sutra. The Ryogon (Suramgama) is not so neglected as the Ryoga. It is full of deep thoughts, and was studied very much more in China than in Japan. There are some more sutras of the Mahayana school with which Zen students will do well to become better acquainted, for example, the Kongosammaikyo (Vajrasamadhi), the Yengakukyo (Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment), the Yuimakyo (Vimalakirti-sutra), and the Hannyakyo (Prajnaparamita). None of them have been translated into English, except the Yuima which is difficult to obtain now.




When[1] the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was engaged in the practice of the deep Prajnaparamita, he perceived that there are the five Skandhas;[2] and these he saw in their self-nature to be empty.[3]

"O Shariputra, form is here emptiness,[4] emptiness is form; form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form; that which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness is form. The same can be said of sensation, thought, confection, and consciousness.

"O Shariputra, all things here are characterized with emptiness: they are not born, they are not annihilated; they are not tainted, they are not immaculate; they do not increase, they do not decrease. Therefore, O Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no thought, no confection, no consciousness; no eye,[5] ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; no form,[6] sound, colour, taste, touch, objects; no Dhatu of vision,[7] till we come to[8] no Dhatu of consciousness; there is no knowledge, no ignorance," till we come to there is no old age and death, no extinction of old age and death; there is no suffering,[10] no accumulation, no annihilation, no path; there is no knowledge, no attainment, [and] no realization,[*] because there is no attainment. In the mind of the Bodhisattva who dwells depending on the Prajnaparamita there are no obstacles;[+] and, going beyond the perverted views, he reaches final Nirvana. All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, depending on the Prajnaparamita, attain to the highest perfect enlightenment.

"Therefore, one ought to know that the Prajnaparamita is the great Mantram, the Mantram of great wisdom, the highest Mantram, the peerless Mantram, which is capable of allaying all pain; it is truth because it is not falsehood: this is the Mantram proclaimed in the Praynaparamita. It runs: 'Gate, gate, Paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha!' (O Bodhi, gone, gone, gone to the other shore, landed at the other shore , Svaha!)"


1 There are two texts with the title of The Hridaya: the one is known as the Shorter and the other the Larger. The one printed above is the shorter sutra in general use in Japan and China.

The opening passage in the larger text in Sanskrit and Tibetan, which is missing in the shorter one, is as follows: [The Tibetan has this additional passage: "Adoration to the Prajnaparamita, which is beyond words, thought, and praise, whose

[* Nabhisamayah is missing in the Chinese translations as well as in the Horyuji MS.

+ For varana all the Chinese have "obstacle", and this is in full accord with the teaching of the Prajnaparamita. Max Muller's rendering, "envelop", is not good.]

self-nature is, like unto space, neither created nor destroyed, which is a state of wisdom and morality evident to our inner consciousness, and which is the mother of all Excellent Ones of the past, present, and future".] "Thus I heard. At one time World-honored One dwelt at Rajagriha, on the Mount of the Vulture, together with a large number of Bhikshus and a large number of Bodhisattvas. At that time the World-honored One was absorbed in a Samadhi (Meditation) known as Deep Enlightenment. And at the same moment the Great Bodhisattva Aryavalokitesvara was practicing himself in the deep Prajnaparamita."

The concluding passage, which is also missing in the shorter text, runs as follows:

"O Shariputra, thus should the Bodhisattva practice himself in the deep Prajnaparamita. At that moment, the World-honored One rose from the Samadhi and gave approval to the Great Bodhisattva Aryavalokitesvara, saying: Well done, well done, noble son! so it is! so should the practice of the deep Prajnaparamita be carried on. As it has been preached by you, it is applauded by Tathagatas and Arhats. Thus spoke the World-honored One with joyful heart. The venerable Shariputra and the Great Bodhisattva Aryavalokitesvara together with the whole assemblage, and the world of Gods, Men, Asuras, and Gandharvas, all praised the speech of the World-honored One."

  1. From the modern scientific point of view, the conception of Skandha seems to be too vague and indefinite. But we must remember that the Buddhist principle of analysis is not derived from mere scientific interest; it aims at saving us from the idea of an ultimate individual reality which is imagined to exist as such for all the time to come. For when this idea is adhered to as final, the error of attachment is committed, and it is this attachment that forever enslaves us to the tyranny of external things. The five Skandhas ("aggregates" or "elements") are form (rupam), sensation or sense-perception (vedana), thought (samjna), confection or conformation (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The first Skandha is the material world or the materiality of things, while the remaining four Skandhas belong to the mind. Vedana is what we get through our senses; samjna corresponds to thought in its broadest sense, or that which mind elaborates; samskara is a very difficult term and there is no exact English equivalent; it means something that gives form, formative principle; vijnana is consciousness or mentation. There arc six forms of mentation, distinguishable as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking.
  2. Hsuan-chuang's translation has this added: "He was delivered from all suffering and misery."
  3. "Empty" (sunya) or "emptiness" (sunyata) is one of the most important notions in Mahayana philosophy and at the same time the most puzzling for non-Buddhist readers to comprehend. Emptiness does not mean "relativity", or "phenomenality", or "nothingness", but rather means the Absolute, or something of transcendental nature, although this rendering is also misleading as we shall see later. When Buddhists declare all things to be empty, they are not advocating a nihilistic view; on the contrary an ultimate reality is hinted at, which cannot be subsumed under the categories of logic. With them, to proclaim the conditionality of things is to point to the existence of something altogether unconditioned and transcendent of all determination. Sunyata may thus often be most appropriately rendered by the Absolute. When the sutra says that the five Skandhas have the character of emptiness, or that in emptiness there is neither creation nor destruction, neither defilement nor immaculacy, etc., the sense is: no limiting qualities are to be attributed to the Absolute; while it is immanent in all concrete and particular objects, it is not in itself definable. Universal negation, therefore, in the philosophy of Prajna is an inevitable outcome.
  4. No eye, no ear, etc., refer to the six senses. In Buddhist philosophy, mind (manovijnana) is the special sense organ for the apprehension of dharma, or objects of thought.
  5. No form, no sound, etc., are the six qualities of the external world, which become objects of the six senses.
  6. "Dhatu of vision etc." refer to the eighteen Dhatus or elements of existence, which include the six senses (indriya), the six qualities (vishaya), and the six consciousnesses (vijnana).
  7. "Till we come to" (yavat in Sanskrit, and nai chih in Chinese) is quite frequently met with in Buddhist literature to avoid repetition of well-known subjects. These classifications may seem somewhat confusing and overlapping.
  8. "There is no knowledge, no ignorance, etc." is the wholesale denial of the Twelvefold Chain of Causation (pratityasamutpada), which are ignorance (avidya), deed (samskara), consciousness (vijnana), name and form (namarupa), six sense-organs (sadayatana), contact (sparsa), sense-perception (vedana), desire (trishna), attachment (upadana), being (bhava), birth (jati), and old age and death (jaramarana). This Chain of Twelve has been a subject of much discussion among Buddhist scholars.
  9. The allusion is of course to the Fourfold Noble Truth (satya): 1. Life is suffering (duhkha); 2. Because of the accumulation (samudaya) of evil karma; 3. The cause of suffering can be annihilated (nirodha); 4. And for this there is the path (marga).



At that time Mujinni[2] Bosatsu rose from his seat, and, baring his right shoulder, turned, with his hands folded, towards the Buddha, and said this: World-honoured One, for what reason is Kwanzeon Bosatsu so named?

The Buddha said to Mujinni Bosatsu: Good man, when those innumerable numbers of beings--hundred-thousands of myriads of kotis of them--who are suffering all kinds of annoyances, hearing of this Kwanzeon Bosatsu, will utter his name with singleness of mind, they will instantly hear his voice and be released.

Even when people fall into a great fire, if they hold the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu, the fire will not scorch them because of the spiritual power of this Bosatsu. When they are

[1. Generally known as Kwannon-gyo in Japanese and Kuan-yin Ching in Chinese. It forms the Twenty-fifth Chapter in Kumarajiva's translation of the Saddharma-pundarika, "the Lotus of the Good Law". Its Sanskrit title is Samantamukha Parivarta. It is one of the most popular sutras in Japan, especially among followers of the Holy Path, including Zen, Tendai, Shingon, Nichiren, etc.

The Sanskrit for Kwannon seems, according to some Japanese authorities, originally to have been Avalokitasvara, and not Avalokitesvara. If so, Kwannon is a more literal rendering than Kwanzeon (Kuan-shih-yin) or Kwanjizai (Kuan-tzu-tsai). The Bodhisattva Avalokitasvara is "the owner of voice which is viewed or heard". From him issues a voice which is variously heard and interpreted by all beings, and it is by this hearing that the latter are emancipated from whatever troubles they are in.

The present translation is from Kumarajiva's Chinese. In the reading of the proper names, the Japanese way of pronunciation has been retained.

  1. Bodhisattva Akshayamati in Sanskrit, that is, Bodhisattva of Inexhaustible Intelligence.]

tossed up and down in the surging waves, if they pronounce his name they will get into a shallower place.

When hundred-thousands of myriads of kotis of people go out into the great ocean in order to seek such treasures as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, conch shells, cornelian, coral, amber, pearls, and other precious stones, their boats may be wrecked by black storms, and they may find themselves thrown up into the island of the Rakshasas; if among them there is even a single person who will utter the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu all the people will be released from the disaster [which is likely to befall them at the hand] of the Rakshasas. For this reason the Bosatsu is called Kwanzeon.

When, again, a man is about to suffer an injury, if he will utter the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu, the sword or the stick that is held [by the executioner] will be at once broken to pieces and the man be released.

When all the Yakshas and Rakshasas filling the three thousand chiliocosms come and annoy a man, they may hear him utter the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu, and no wicked spirits will dare look at him with their evil eyes, much less inflict injuries on him.

When again a man, whether guilty or innocent, finds himself bound in chains or held with manacles, he uttering the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu will see all these broken to pieces and be released.

When all the lands in the three thousand chiliocosms are filled with enemies, a merchant and his caravan loaded with precious treasures may travel through the dangerous passes. One of the company will say to the others: "O good men, have no fear; only with singleness of thought utter the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu. As this Bosatsu gives us fearlessness, utter his name and you will be delivered from your enemies." Hearing this, all the company join in the recitation, saying, "Kwanzeon Bosatsu be adored!" Because of this uttering the name of the Bosatsu they will be released. O Mujinni, such is the awe-inspiring spiritual power of Kwanzeon Bosatsu Makasatsu.

When people are possessed of excessive lust, let them always reverentially think of Kwanzeon Bosatsu and they will be freed from it. If they are possessed of excessive anger, let them always reverentially think of Kwanzeon Bosatsu, and they will be freed from it. When they are possessed of excessive folly let them always reverentially think of Kwanzeon Bosatsu, and they will be freed from it. O Mujinni, of such magnitude is his spiritual power which is full of blessings. Therefore, let all beings always think of him.

If a woman desire a male child, let her worship and make offerings to Kwanzeon Bosatsu, and she will have a male child fully endowed with bliss and wisdom. If she desire a female child, she will have one graceful in features and in possession of all the characteristics (of noble womanhood], and because of her having planted the root of merit the child will be loved and respected by all beings. O Mujinni, such is the power of Kwanzeon Bosatsu.

If all beings worship and make offerings to Kwanzeon Bosatsu, they will derive benefits unfailingly from this. Therefore, let all beings hold the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu. O Mujinni, if there is a man who holds the names of all the Bodhisattvas equal in number to sixty-two billion times as many as the sands of the Ganga, and till the end of his life makes them offerings of food and drink, clothing and bedding and medicine, what do you think? Is not the merit accumulated by such a man very great?

Mujinni said: Very great, indeed, World-honored One!

The Buddha said: Here is another man; if he should hold the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu even for a while and make offerings to the Bosatsu, the merit so attained by this one is fully equal to that [of the previous one], and will not be exhausted even to the end of hundred-thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas. Those who hold the name of Kwanzeon Bosatsu gain such immeasurable and innumerable masses of blissful merit.

Mujinni Bosatsu said to the Buddha: "World-honored One, how does Kwanzeon Bosatsu visit this Saha world?[1]

[1. That is, sahaloka, world of patience.]

How does he preach the Dharma to all beings? What is the extent of his skilful means?

The Buddha said to Mujinni Bosatsu: O good man, if there are beings in any country who are to be saved by his assuming a Buddha-form, Kwanzeon Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Buddha and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Pratyekabuddha-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Pratyekabuddha and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Sravaka-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Sravaka and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Brahma-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Brahma and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Sakrendra-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Sakrendra and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming an Isvara-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of an Isvara and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Mahesvara-form, he will manifest himself in the form of a Mahesvara and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Chakravartin-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Chakravartin and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Vaisravana-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Vaisravana and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming the form of a Provincial chief, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a provincial chief and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a householder's form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a householder and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a lay-disciple's form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a lay-disciple and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a state-officer's form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a state-officer and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Brahman-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself to them in the form of a Brahman and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Bhikshu-form, or a Bhikshuni-, or an Upasaka-, or an Upasika-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a Bhikshu, or a Bhikshuni, or an Upasaka, or an Upasika, and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a female form of the family of a householder, or a lay-disciple, or a state-officer, or a Brahman, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of such a female and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a youth- or a maiden-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of a youth or a maiden and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Deva-, Naga-, Yaksha-, Gandharva-, Asura-, Garuda-, Kinnara-, Mahoraga-, Manushya-, or Amanushya-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in any of these forms and preach them the Dharma.

If beings are to be saved by his assuming a Vajrapani-form, the Bosatsu will manifest himself in the form of Vajrapani and preach them the Dharma.

O Mujinni, this Kwanzeon Bosatsu performs such meritorious deeds by assuming varieties of forms, and by visiting different lands saves and releases beings. Therefore, you will make offerings with singleness of thought to Kwanzeon Bosatsu. In the midst of fears, perils, and disasters, it is he who gives us fearlessness,[1] and for this reason he is called in this Saha world the one who gives fearlessness.

Mu inni Bosatsu said to the Buddha: I wish now to make j

[1. "Safety", or better "faith".]

offering to Kwanzeon Bosatsu. So saying, he took off his necklace strung with all kinds of precious gems worth hundreds of thousands of gold pieces, and presented it to Kwanzeon Bosatsu with this word: Venerable Sir, accept this necklace of precious gems as a Dharma offering.

Kwanzeon Bosatsu refused to accept it, whereupon Mujinni said to him: Venerable Sir, Pray accept this out of compassion for us all.

Then the Buddha said to Kwanzeon Bosatsu: Out of compassion for Mujinni Bosatsu and all the four classes of beings, and also for the Devas, Nagas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Asuras, Garudas, Kinnaras, Mahoragas, Manushyas, Amanushyas and others, accept, O Kwanzeon Bosatsu, this necklace of his.

Then because of his compassion for all the four classes of beings and for Devas, Nagas, Manushyas, Amanushyas and others, Kwanzeon Bosatsu accepted the necklace, and dividing it into two parts he presented the one to Shakamunibutsu (Shakyamuni Buddha) and the other to the shrine of Tahobutsu (Prabhutaratna Buddha).

O Mujinni, Kwanzeon Bosatsu who is the possessor of such a miraculous spiritual power, visits in this wise this Saha world.

At that time Mujinni Bosatsu asked in verse, saying:

O World-honored One who is in possession of exquisite features, I now again ask him: For what reason is the son of the Buddha called Kwanzeon?

The Honoured One in possession of exquisite features answered Mujinni in verse: just listen to the life of Kwanzeon! He is always ready to respond to calls from all quarters. His universal vows are as deep as the ocean. For ages beyond conception, he has served myriads of Buddhas and made great vows of purity.

I will briefly tell you about them. When people hear his name and see his body and think of him in their minds not vainly, they will see every form of ill effaced in all the worlds.

If an enemy wishing to harm a man pushes him down to a pit of great fire, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon and the fiery pit will be transformed into a pond.

Or if drifting in the vast ocean a man is about to be swallowed up by the Nagas, fishes, or evil beings, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and the waves will not drown him.

Or if from the top of Mount Sumeru a man is hurled down by an enemy, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and he will stay in the air like the sun.

Or if pursued by wicked persons a man falls on the Vajra mountain, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and not a hair on him will be injured.

Or if surrounded by an army of enemies a man is threatened by them, each of whom with a sword in hand is about to injure him, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and the enemies will cherish a compassionate heart.

Or if persecuted by a tyrant a man is about to end his life at the place of execution, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and the executioner's sword will at once be broken to pieces.

Or if a man should find himself imprisoned and enchained with his hands and feet manacled and fettered, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and he will be released from the shackles.

If harm is going to be done to a man by means of magic or poisonous herbs, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and the curse will revert to the people from whom it started.

Or if a man should encounter a party of Rakshasas, or Nagas exhaling poison, or evil spirits, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and no harm will ever be done to him.

If a man is surrounded by wild beasts whose sharp teeth and claws are to be dreaded, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and they will quickly run away in all directions.

If a man is attacked by venomous snakes and scorpions breathing poisonous gas ready to scorch him, let his thought the power of Kwannon, and they will all turn away from him shrieking.

When thunder-clouds burst with flashes of lightning, a storm of hailstones or pouring rain in torrents, thought dwell on the power of Kwannon and the storm will in no time clear away.

If a calamity falls on beings and they are tortured with interminable pain, [let them resort to] Kwannon who, being endowed with the mysterious power of wisdom, will save them from all troubles in the world.

Kwannon is the possessor of miraculous powers, widely disciplined in knowledge and skilful means, and in all the lands of the ten quarters there is not a place where he does not manifest himself.

The various evil paths of existence such as hells, evil spirits, beastly creatures, etc., and the pains arising from birth, old age, disease, and death--they will all by degrees be annihilated.

[Kwannon is] the one who views the world in truth, free from defilement, with knowledge extending far, and full of love and compassion; he is to be always prayed to and always adored.

He is a pure, spotless light and, like the sun, dispels all darkness with wisdom, and also subverts the disastrous effects of wind and fire; his all-illuminating light fills the world.

His body of love he keeps under control like thunder that shakes the world; his thought of compassion resembles a great mass of cloud from which a rain of the Dharma comes down like nectar, destroying the flames of evil passions.

If a man is held at court with a case against him, or if he is intimidated at a military camp, let his thought dwell on the power of Kwannon, and all his enemies will beat retreat.

[His is] a most exquisite voice, a voice that surveys the World, the voice of Brahma, the voice of the ocean-one that excels all the voices of the world. For this reason let our thought always dwell on him.

Let us never cherish thoughts of doubt about Kwanzeon who is thoroughly pure and holy and is really a refuge and protector in trouble, grief, death, and disaster.

He is in possession of all merits, regards all things with an eye of compassion, and like the ocean holds in himself an inestimable mass of virtues. For this reason he is to be adored.

At that time Jiji Bosatsu[1] rose from his seat, and standing before the Buddha said: World-honored One, they are truly furnished with no small amount of merit who listen to his Chapter on Kwanzeon Bosatsu, in which his life of perfect activities is described--the life of one who endowed with miraculous powers, manifests himself in all directions.

When the Buddha finished preaching this Chapter on the All-sided One all the people in the assembly, amounting to 84,000 in number, cherished the desire for the supreme enlightenment with which there is nothing to compare.



  1. Thus I have heard.

At one time the Buddha stayed at Anathapindika’s Garden in the grove of Jeta in the kingdom of Shravasti; he was together with 1,250 great Bhikshus. When the meal time came the World-honored One put on his cloak and, holding his bowl, entered the great city of Shravasti, where he begged for food. Having finished his begging from door to door, he came back to his own place, and took his meal.

[1. Dharanindhara in Sanskrit, "the supporter of the earth".

2 Kongokyo in Japanese. The full title in Sanskrit is Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita-sutra. It belongs to the Prajna class of Mahayana literature. Those who are not accustomed to this kind of reasoning may wonder what is the ultimate signification of all these negations. The Prajna dialectic means to lead us to a higher affirmation by contradicting a simple direct statement. It differs from the Hegelian in its directness and intuitiveness.

The present English translation is from Kumarajiva's Chinese version made between 402-412 C.E.]

When this was done, he put away his cloak and bowl, washed his feet, spread his seat, and sat down.

  1. Then the Venerable Subhuti, who was among the assembly, rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, set his right knee on the ground, and, respectfully folding his hands, addressed the Buddha thus:

"It is wonderful, World-honored One, that the Tathagata thinks so much of all the Bodhisattvas and instructs them so well. World-honored One, in case good men and good women ever raise the desire for the Supreme Enlightenment, how would they abide in it? how would they keep their thoughts under control?"

The Buddha said: "Well said, indeed, O Subhuti! As you say, the Tathagata thinks very much of all the Bodhisattvas, and so instructs them well. But now listen attentively and I will tell you. In case good men and good women raise the desire for the Supreme Enlightenment, they should thus abide in it, they should thus keep their thoughts under control."

"So be it, World-honored One, I wish to listen to You."

  1. The Buddha said to Subhuti: "All the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas should thus keep their thoughts under control. All kinds of beings such as the egg-born, the womb-born, the moisture-born, the miraculously-born, those with form, those without form, those with consciousness, those without consciousness, those with no-consciousness, and those without no-consciousness--they are all led by me to enter Nirvana that leaves nothing behind and to attain final emancipation. Though thus beings immeasurable, innumerable, and unlimited are emancipated, there are in reality no beings that are ever emancipated. Why, Subhuti? If a Bodhisattva retains the thought of an ego, a person, a being, or a soul, he is no more a Bodhisattva.
  2. "Again, Subhuti, when a Bodhisattva practices charity he should not be cherishing any idea, that is to say, he is not to cherish the idea of a form when practicing charity, nor is he to cherish the idea of a sound, an odor, a touch, or a quality.[1] Subhuti, a Bodhisattva should thus practice charity without cherishing any idea of form. Why? When a Bodhisattva practices charity without cherishing any idea of form, his merit will be beyond conception. Subhuti, what do you think? Can you have the conception of space extending eastward?"

"No, World-honored One ' I cannot."

"Subhuti, can you have the conception of space extending towards the south, or west, or north, or above, or below?"

"No, World-honored One, I cannot."

"Subhuti, so it is with the merit of a Bodhisattva who practices charity without cherishing any idea of form; it is beyond conception. Subhuti, a Bodhisattva should cherish only that which is taught to him.

  1. "Subhuti, what do you think? Is the Tathagata to be recognized after a body-form?"

"No, World-honored One, he is not to be recognized after a body-form. Why? According to the Tathagata, a body-form is not a body-form."

The Buddha said to Subhuti, "All that has a form is an illusive existence. When it is perceived that all form is no-form, the Tathagata is recognized."

  1. Subhuti said to the Buddha: "World-honored One, if beings hear such words and statements, would they have a true faith in them?"

The Buddha said to Subhuti: "Do not talk that way. In the last five hundred years after the passing of the Tathagata, there may be beings who, having practiced rules of morality and, being thus possessed of merit, happen to hear of these statements and rouse a true faith in them. Such beings, you must know, are those who have planted their root of merit not only under one, two, three, four, or five Buddhas, but already under thousands of myriads of asamkhyeyas of Buddhas have they planted their root of merit of all kinds. Those who hearing these statements rouse even one thought

[1. Dharma, that is, the object of manovijnana, thought, as form (rupa) is the object of the visual sense, sound that of the auditory sense, odor that of the olfactory sense, and so forth.]

of pure faith, Subhuti, are all known to the Tathagata, and recognized by him as having acquired such an immeasurable amount of merit. Why? Because all these beings are free from the idea of an ego, a person, a being, or a soul; they are free from the idea of a dharma as well as from that of a no-dharma. Why? Because if they cherish in their minds the ,idea of a form, they are attached to an ego, a person, a being, or a soul. If they cherish the idea of a dharma, they are attached to an ego, a person, a being, or a soul. Why? If they cherish the idea of a no-dharma, they are attached to an ego, a person, a being, or a soul. Therefore, do not cherish the idea of a dharma, nor that of a no-dharma. For this reason, the Tathagata always preaches thus: 'O you Bhikshus, know that my teaching is to be likened unto a raft. Even a dharma is cast aside, much more a no-dharma.'

  1. "Subhuti, what do you think? Has the Tathagata attained the supreme enlightenment? Has he something about which he would preach?"

Subhuti said: "World-honored One, as I understand the teaching of the Buddha, there is no fixed doctrine about which the Tathagata would preach. Why? Because the doctrine he preaches is not to be adhered to, nor is it to be preached about; it is neither a dharma nor a no-dharma. 'How is it so? Because all wise men belong to the category known as non-doing (asamskara), and yet they are distinct from one another.

  1. "Subhuti, what do you think? If a man should fill the three thousand chiliocosms with the seven precious treasures and give them all away for charity, would not the merit he thus obtains be great?"

Subhuti said: "Very great, indeed, World-honored One."

"Why? Because their merit is characterized with the quality of not being a merit. Therefore, the Tathagata speaks of the merit as being great. If again there is a man who, holding even the four lines in this sutra, preaches about it to Others, his merit will be superior to the one just mentioned. Because, Subhuti, all the Buddhas and their supreme enlightenment issue from this sutra. Subhuti, what is known as the teaching of the Buddha is not the teaching of the Buddha.

  1. "Subhuti, what do you think? Does a Srotaapanna think in this wise: 'I have obtained the fruit of Srotapatti'?"

Subhuti said: "No, World-honored One, he does not. Why? Because while Srotaapanna means 'entering the stream' there is no entering here. He is called a Srotaparma who does not enter [a world of] form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and quality.

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does a Sakridagamin think in this wise, 'I have obtained the fruit of a Sakridagamin'?"

Subhuti said: "No, World-honored One, he does not. Why? Because while Sakridagamin means 'going-and-coming for once', there is really no going-and-coming here, and he is then called a Sakridagamin."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does an Anagamin think in this wise: 'I have obtained the fruit of an Anagamin'?"

Subhuti said: "No, World-honored One, he does not. Why? Because while Anagamin means 'not-coming' there is really no not-coming and therefore he is called an Anagamin."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does an Arhat think in this wise: 'I have obtained Arhatship'?"

Subhuti said: "No, World-honored One, he does not. Why? Because there is no dharma to be called Arhat. If, World-honored One, an Arhat thinks in this wise: 'I have obtained Arhatship,' this means that he is attached to an ego, a person, a being, or a soul. Although the Buddha says that I am the foremost of those who have attained Aranasamadhi,[1] that I am the foremost of those Arhats who are liberated from evil desires, World-honored One, I cherish no such thought that I have attained Arhatship. World-honored One, [if I did,] you would not tell me: 'O Subhuti,

[1. That is, Samadhi of non-resistance. Arana also means a forest where the Yogin retires to practice his meditation.]

are one who enjoys the life of non-resistance.' Just because Subhuti is not at all attached to this life, he is said to be the one who enjoys the life of non-resistance."

  1. The Buddha said to Subhuti: "What do you think?

When the Tathagata was anciently with Dipankara Buddha did he have an attainment in the Dharma?"

"No, World-honored One, he did not. The Tathagata while with Dipankara Buddha had no attainment whatever the Dharma."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does a Bodhisattva set any Buddha-land in array?"

"No, World-honored One, he does not."

"Why? Because to set a Buddha-land in array is not to set it in array, and therefore it is known as setting it in array. Therefore, Subhuti, all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas should thus rouse a pure thought. They should not cherish any thought dwelling on form; they should -not cherish any thought dwelling on sound, odor, taste, touch, and quality; they should cherish thoughts dwelling on nothing whatever. Subhuti, it is like unto a human body equal in size to Mount Sumeru; what do you think? Is not this body large?"

Subhuti said: "Very large indeed, World-honored One. Why? Because the Buddha teaches that that which is no-body is known as a large body."

  1. "Subhuti, regarding the sands of the Ganga, suppose there are as many Ganga rivers as those sands, what do you think? Are not the sands of all those Ganga rivers many?"

Subhuti said: "Very many, indeed, World-honored one."

"Considering such Gangas alone, they must be said to be numberless; how much more the sands of all those Ganga rivers! Subhuti, I will truly ask you now. If there is a good man or a good woman who, filling all the worlds in the three thousand chiliocosms--all the worlds as many as the sands of these Ganga rivers--with the seven precious treasures, Uses them all for charity, would not this merit be very large?"

Subhuti said: "Very large indeed, World-honored One."

Buddha said to Subhuti: "If a good man or a good woman holding even four lines from this sutra preach it to others, this merit is much larger than the preceding one.

  1. "Again, Subhuti, wherever this sutra or even four lines of it are preached, this place will be respected by all beings including Devas, Asuras, etc., as if it were the Buddha's own shrine or chaitya; how much more a person who can hold and recite this sutra! Subhuti, you should know that such a person achieves the highest, foremost, and most wonderful deed. Wherever this sutra is kept, the place is to be regarded as if the Buddha or a venerable disciple of his were present."
  2. At that time, Subhuti said to the Buddha: "World-honored One, what will this sutra be called? How should we hold it?"

The Buddha said to Subhuti: "This sutra will be called the Vajra-prajna-paramita, and by this title you will hold it. The reason is, Subhuti, that, according to the teaching of the Buddha, Prajnaparamita is not Prajnaparamita and therefore it is called Prajnaparamita. Subhuti, what do you think? Is there anything about which the Tathagata preaches?"

Subhuti said to the Buddha: "World-honored One, there is nothing about which the Tathagata preaches."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Are there many particles of dust in the three thousand chiliocosms?"

Subhuti said: "Indeed, there are many, World-honored One."

"Subhuti, the Tathagata teaches that all these many particles of dust are no-particles of dust and therefore that they are called particles of dust; he teaches that the world is no-world and therefore that the world is called the world.

"Subhuti, what do you think? Is the Tathagata to be recognized by the thirty-two marks [of a great man]?"

"No, World-honored One, he is not."

"The Tathagata is not to be recognized by the thirty-two marks, because what are said to be the thirty-two marks are told by the Tathagata to be no-marks and therefore to the thirty-two marks. Subhuti, if there be a good man or a good woman who gives away his or her lives as many as the sands of the Ganga, his or her merit thus gained does not exceed that of one who, holding even one gatha of four lines from this sutra, preaches them for others."

  1. At that time Subhuti, listening to this sutra, had a deep understanding of its signification, and, filled with tears of gratitude, said this to the Buddha: "Wonderful, indeed, World-honored One, that the Buddha teaches us this sutra full of deep sense. Such a sutra has never been heard by me even with an eye of wisdom acquired in my past lives. World-honored One, if there be a man who listening to this sutra acquires a pure believing heart he will then have a true idea of things. This one is to be known as having achieved a most wonderful virtue. World-honored One, what is known as a true idea is no-idea, and for this reason it is called a true idea.

"World-honored One, it is not difficult for me to believe, to understand, and to hold this sutra to which I have now listened; but in the ages to come, in the next five hundred years, if there are beings who listening to this sutra are able to believe, to understand, and to hold it, they will indeed be most wonderful beings. Why? Because they will have no idea of an ego, of a person, of a being, or of a soul. For what reason? The idea of an ego is no-idea [of ego], the idea of a person, a being, or a soul is no-idea [of a person, a being, or a soul]. For what reason? They are Buddhas who are free from all kinds of ideas."

The Buddha said to Subhuti, "It is just as you say. If there be a man who, listening to this sutra, is neither frightened nor alarmed nor disturbed, you should know him as a wonderful person. Why? Subhuti, it is taught by the Tathagata that the first Paramita is no-first-Paramita and therefore it is called the first Paramita. Subhuti, the Paramita of humility (patience) is said by the Tathagata to be no-Paramita of humility, and therefore it is the Paramita of humility. Why? Subhuti, anciently, when my body was cut to pieces by the King of Kalinga, I had neither the idea of an ego, nor the idea of a person, nor the idea of a being, nor the idea of a soul. Why? When at that time my body was dismembered, limb after limb, joint after joint, if I had the idea either of an ego, or of a person, or of a being, or a soul, the feeling of anger and ill-will would have been awakened in me. Subhuti, I remember, in my past five hundred births, I was a rishi called Kshanti, and during those times I had neither the idea of an ego, nor that of a person, nor that of a being, nor that of a soul.

"Therefore, Subhuti, you should, detaching yourself from all ideas, rouse the desire for the supreme enlightenment. You should cherish thoughts without dwelling on form, you should cherish thoughts without dwelling on sound, odor, taste, touch, or quality. Whatever thoughts you may have, they are not to dwell on anything. If a thought dwells on anything, this is said to be no-dwelling. Therefore, the Buddha teaches that a Bodhisattva is not to practice charity by dwelling on form. Subhuti, the reason he practices charity is to benefit all beings.

"The Tathagata teaches that all ideas are no-ideas, and again that all beings are no-beings. Subhuti, the Tathagata is the one who speaks what is true, the one who speaks what is real, the one whose words are as they are, the one who does not speak falsehood, the one who does not speak equivocally.

"Subhuti, in the Dharma attained by the Tathagata there is neither truth nor falsehood. Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva should practice charity, cherishing a thought which dwells on the Dharma he is like unto a person who enters the darkness, he sees nothing. If he should practice charity without cherishing a thought that dwells on the Dharma, he is like unto a person with eyes, he sees all kinds of forms illumined by the sunlight.

"Subhuti, if there are good men and good women in the time to come who hold and recite this sutra, they will be seen and recognized by the Tathagata with his Buddha-knowledge, and they will all mature immeasurable and innumerable merit.

  1. "Subhuti, if there is a good man or a good woman who would in the first part of the day sacrifice as many bodies of his or hers as the sands of the Ganga, and again in the middle part of the day sacrifice as many bodies of his or hers as the sands of the Ganga, and again in the latter part of the day sacrifice as many bodies of his or hers as the sands of the Ganga, and keep up these sacrifices through hundred-thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas; and if there were another who listening to this sutra would accept it with a believing heart, the merit the latter would acquire would far exceed that of the former. How much more the merit of one who would copy, hold, learn, and recite and expound it for others!

"Subhuti, to sum up, there is in this sutra a mass of merit, immeasurable, innumerable, and incomprehensible. The Tathagata has preached this for those who were awakened in the Mahayana (great vehicle), he has preached it for those who were awakened in the Sreshthayana (highest Vehicle). If there were beings who would hold and learn and expound it for others, they would all be known to the Tathagata and recognized by him, and acquire merit which is unmeasured, immeasurable, innumerable, and incomprehensible. Such beings are known to be carrying the supreme enlightenment attained by the Tathagata. 'Why? Subhuti, those who desire inferior doctrines are attached to the idea of an ego, a person, a being, and a soul. They are unable to hear, hold, learn, recite, and for others expound this sutra. Subhuti, wherever this sutra is preserved, there all beings, including Devas and Asuras, will come and worship it. This place will have to be known as a chaitya, the object of worship and obeisance, where the devotees gather around, scatter flowers, and burn incense.

  1. "Again, Subhuti, there are some good men and good women who will be despised for their holding and reciting this sutra. This is due to their previous evil karma for the reason of which they were to fall into the evil paths of existence; but because of their being despised in the present life, whatever evil karma they produced in their previous lives will be thereby destroyed, and they will be able to attain the supreme enlightenment.

"Subhuti, as I remember, in my past lives innumerable asamkhyeya kalpas ago I was with Dipankara Buddha, and at that time I saw Buddhas as many as eighty-four hundred. thousands of myriads of nayutas and made offerings to them and respectfully served them all, and not one of them was passed by me.

"If again in the last [five hundred] years, there have been people who hold and recite and learn this sutra, the merit they thus attain [would be beyond calculation], for when this is compared with the merit I have attained by serving all the Buddhas, the latter will not exceed one hundredth part of the former, no, not one hundred thousand ten millionth part. No, it is indeed beyond calculation, beyond analogy.

"Subhuti, if there have been good men and good women in the last five hundred years who hold, recite, and learn this sutra, the merit they attain thereby I cannot begin to enumerate in detail. If I did, those who listen to it would lose their minds, cherish grave doubts, and not believe at all how beyond comprehension is the significance of this sutra and how also beyond comprehension the rewards are."[1]

  1. The Buddha said to Subhuti: "Of all beings in those innumerable lands, the Tathagata knows well all their mental traits. Why? Because the Tathagata teaches that all those mental traits are no-traits and therefore they are

[1. This finishes the first part of the Diamond Sutra as it is usually divided here and passes on to the second part. The text goes on in a similar strain through its remaining section. Indeed, there are some scholars who think that the second part is really a repetition of the first, or that they are merely different copies of one and the same original text, and that whatever variations there are in these two copies arc the result of the glosses mixed into the text itself. While I cannot wholly subscribe to this view, the fact is that passages containing similar thoughts recur throughout the whole Prajnaparamita literature. In view of this I quote in the following only such ideas as have not fully been expressed in the first part.]

known to be mental traits. Subhuti, thoughts[1] of the past are beyond grasp, thoughts of the present are beyond grasp, and thoughts of the future are beyond grasp."

  1. "Again, Subhuti, this Dharma is even and has neither elevation nor depression; and it is called supreme enlightenment. Because a man practices everything that is good, without cherishing the thought of an ego, a person, a being, and a soul, he attains the supreme enlightenment. Subhuti, what is called good is no-good, and therefore it is known as good."
  2. "Subhuti, what do you think? Can a man see the Tathagata by the thirty-two marks [of a great man]?"

Subhuti said: "So it is, so it is. The Tathagata is seen by his thirty-two marks."

The Buddha said to Subhuti, "If the Tathagata is to be seen by his thirty-two marks, can the Cakravartin be a Tathagata?"

Subhuti said to the Buddha: "World-honored One, as I understand the teaching of the Buddha, the Tathagata is not to be seen by the thirty-two marks."

Then the World-honored One uttered this gatha: "If any one by form sees me, By voice seeks me, This one walks the false path, And cannot see the Tathagata."

  1. "Subhuti, if a man should declare that the Tathagata is the one who comes, or goes, or sits, or lies, he does not understand the meaning of my teaching. Why? The Tathagata does not come from anywhere, and does not depart to anywhere; therefore he is called the Tathagata.

[1. Citta stands for both mind and thought. The idea expressed here is that there is no particularly determined entity in us which is psychologically designated as mind or thought. The moment we think we have taken hold of a thought, it is no more with us. So with the idea of a soul, or an ego, or a being, or a Person, there is no such particular entity objectively to be so distinguished, and which remains as such eternally separated from the subject who so thinks. This un-graspability of a mind or thought, which is tantamount to saying that there is no soul-substance as a solitary unrelated "thing" in the recesses of consciousness, is one of the basic doctrines of Buddhism, Mahayana and Hinayana.]

  1. "How does a man expound it for others? When one is not attached to form, it is of Suchness remaining unmoved. Why?

"All composite things (samskrita)
Are like a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, and a shadow,
Are like a dew-drop and a flash of lightning;
They are thus to be regarded."



This sutra is said to have been given by Bodhidharma to his chief disciple Hui-k'e as containing the essential teaching of Zen. Since then it has been studied chiefly by Zen philosophers. But being full of difficult technical terms in combination with a rugged style of writing, the text has not been so popular for study as other Mahayana sutras, for instance, the Pundarika, the Vimalakirti, or the Vajracchedika.

The chief interlocutor is a Bodhisattva called Mahamati, and varied subjects of philosophical speculation are discussed against a background of deep religious concern. The topic most interesting for the reader of this book is that of svapratyatmagati, i.e. self-realization of the highest truth.

Some of the terms may be explained here: "Birth and death" (samsara in Sanskrit) always stands contrasted to "Nirvana". Nirvana is the highest truth and the norm of existence while birth and death is a world of particulars governed by karma and causation. As long as we are subject to karma we go from one birth to another, and suffer all the ills necessarily attached to this kind of life, though it is a form of immortality. What Buddhists want is not this.

"Mind only" (cittamatra) is an uncouth term. It means absolute mind, to be distinguished from an empirical mind which is the subject of psychological study. When it begins with a capital letter, it is the ultimate reality on which the entire world of individual objects depends for its value. To realize this truth is the aim of the Buddhist life.

By "what is seen of the Mind-only" is meant this visible world including that which is generally known as mind. Our ordinary experience takes this world for something that has its "self-nature", i.e. existing by itself. But a higher intuition tells us that this is not so, that it is an illusion, and that what really exists is Mind, which being absolute knows no second. All that we see and hear and think of as objects of the vijnanas are what rise and disappear in and of the Mind-only.

This absolute Mind is also called in the Lankavatara the Dharma of Solitude (vivikta-dhama), because it stands by itself. It also signifies the Dharma's being absolutely quiescent.

There is no "discrimination" in this Dharma of Solitude, which means that discrimination belongs to this side of existence where multiplicities obtain and causation rules. Indeed, without this discrimination no world is possible.

Discrimination is born of "habit-energy" or "memory", which lies latently preserved in the "alayavijnana" or all-conserving consciousness. This consciousness alone has no power to act by itself. It is altogether passive, and remains Inactive until a particularizing agency touches it. The appearance of this agency is a great mystery which is not to be solved by the intellect; it is something to be accepted simply as such. It is awakened "all of a sudden", according to Asvaghosha.

To understand what this suddenness means is the function of "noble wisdom" (aryajnana). But as a matter of experience, the sudden awakening of discrimination has no meaning behind it. The fact is simply that it is awakened, and no more; it is not an expression pointing to something else.

When the Alayavijnana or the all-conserving consciousness is considered a store-house, or better, a creative matrix from which all the Tathagatas issue, it is called "Tathagata-garbha". The Garbha is the womb.

Ordinarily, all our cognitive apparatus is made to work outwardly in a world of relativity, and for this reason we become deeply involved in it so that we fail to realize the freedom we all intrinsically possess, and as a result we are annoyed on all sides. To turn away from all this, what may psychologically be called a "revulsion" or "revolution" must take place in our inmost consciousness. This is not however a mere empirical psychological fact to be explained in terms of consciousness. It takes place in the deepest recesses of our being. The original Sanskrit is paravrittasraya.

The following extracts are from my English translation (1932) of the original Sanskrit text edited by Bunyu Nanjo, 1923.


Further, Mahamati, those who, afraid of sufferings arising from the discrimination of birth and death, seek for Nirvana, do not know that birth and death and Nirvana are not to be separated the one from the other; and, seeing that all things subject to discrimination have no reality, imagine that Nirvana consists in the further annihilation of the senses and their fields. They are not aware, Mahamati, of the fact that Nirvana is the Alayavijnana where a revulsion takes place by self-realization. Therefore, Mahamati, those who are stupid talk of the trinity of vehicles and not of the state of Mind-only where there are no shadows. Therefore, Mahamati, those who do not understand the teachings of the Tathagatas of the past, present, and future, concerning the external world, which is of Mind itself, cling to the notion that there is a world outside what is seen of the Mind and, Mahamati, go on rolling themselves along the wheel of birth and death.


Further, Mahamati, according to the teaching of the Tathagatas of the past, present, and future, all things are unborn. Why? Because they have no reality, being manifestations of Mind itself; and, Mahamati, as they are not born of being and non-being, they are unborn. Mahamati, all things are like the horns of the hare, horse, donkey, or camel, but the ignorant and simple-minded, who are given up to their false and erroneous imaginations, discriminate things where they are not; therefore, all things are unborn. That all things are in their self-nature unborn, Mahamati, belongs to the realm of self-realization attained by noble wisdom, and does not belong essentially to the realm of dualistic discrimination cherished by the ignorant and simple-minded.

The self-nature and the characteristic marks of body, property, and abode evolve when the Alayavijnana is conceived of by the ignorant as grasping and grasped; and then they fall into a dualistic view of existence where they recognize its rise, abiding, and disappearance, cherishing the idea that all things are born and subject to discrimination as to being and non-being. Therefore, Mahamati, you should discipline yourself therein [i.e. in self-realization].


Further again, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva have a thorough understanding as to the nature of the twofold egolessness. Mahamati, what is this twofold egolessness? [It is the egolessness of persons and the egolessness of things. What is meant by egolessness of persons? It means that] in the collection of the Skandhas, Dhatus, and Ayatanas there is no ego-substance, nor anything belonging to it; the Vijnana is originated by ignorance, deed, and desire, and keeps up its function by grasping objects by means of the sense-organs, such as the eye, etc., and by clinging to them as real; while a world of objects and bodies is manifested owing to the discrimination that takes place in the world which is of Mind itself, that is, in the Alayavijnana.

By reason of the habit-energy stored up by false imagination since beginningless time, this world (vishaya) is subject to change and destruction from moment to moment; it is like a river, a seed, a lamp, wind, a cloud; [while the Vijnana itself is] like a monkey who is always restless, like a fly who is ever in search of unclean things and defiled places, like a fire which is never satisfied. Again, it is like a water-drawing wheel or a machine, it [i.e. the Vijnana] goes on rolling the wheel of transmigration, carrying varieties of bodies and forms, resuscitating the dead like the demon Vetala, causing the wooden figures to move about as a magician moves them. Mahamati, a thorough understanding concerning these phenomena is called comprehending the egolessness of persons.

Now, Mahamati, what is meant by the egolessness of things? It is to realize that the Skandhas, Dhatus, and Ayatanas are characterized with the nature of false discrimination. Mahamati, since the Skandhas, Dhatus, and Ayatanas are destitute of an ego-substance, being no more than an aggregation of the Skandhas, and subject to the conditions of mutual origination which are causally bound up with the string of desire and deed; and since thus there is no creating agent in them, Mahamati, the Skandhas are even destitute of the marks of individuality and generality-, and the ignorant, owing to their erroneous discrimination, imagine here the multiplicity of phenomena; the wise, however, do not. Recognizing, Mahamati, that all things are devoid of the Citta, Manas, Manovijnana, the five Dharmas, and the [three] Svabhavas, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, will well understand what is meant by the egolessness of things.

Again, Mahamati, when the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva has a good understanding as regards the egolessness of things, before long he will attain the first stage [of the Bodhisattva hood], when he gets a definite cognition of the ageless. When a definite acquisition is obtained regarding aspect of the stages [of Bodhisattva hood], the Bodhisattva will experience joy, and, gradually and successively going the scale, will reach the ninth stage where his insight is perfected, and [finally the tenth stage known as] Great Dharma-megha.

Establishing himself here, he will be seated in the great Jewel palace known as "Great Lotus Throne" which is in the shape of a lotus and is adorned with various sorts of jewels and pearls; he will then acquire and complete a world of Maya-nature; surrounded by Bodhisattvas of the same character and anointed like the son of the Cakravarti by the hands of the Buddhas coming from all the Buddha-lands, he will go beyond the last stage of Bodhisattva hood, attain the noble truth of self-realization, and become a Tathagata endowed with the perfect freedom of the Dharmakaya, because of his insight into the egolessness of things. This, Mahamati, is what is meant by the egolessness of all things, and in this you and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas should well exercise yourselves.


At that time, Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said this to the Blessed One: Now the Blessed One makes mention of the Tathagata-garbha in the sutras, and verily it is described by you as by nature bright and pure, as primarily unspotted, endowed with the thirty-two marks of excellence, hidden in the body of every being like a gem of great value, which is enwrapped in a dirty garment, enveloped in the garment of the Skandhas, Dhatus, and Ayatanas, and soiled with the dirt of greed, anger, folly, and false imagination, while it is described by the Blessed One to be eternal, permanent, auspicious, and unchangeable. Is not this Tathagata-garbha taught by the Blessed One the same as the ego-substance taught by the philosophers? The ego as taught in the systems of the philosophers is an eternal creator, unqualified, omnipresent, and imperishable.

The Blessed One replied: No, Mahamati, my Tathagata-garbha is not the same as the ego taught by the philosophers; for what the Tathagatas teach is the Tathagata-garbha in the sense, Mahamati, that it is emptiness, reality-limit, Nirvana, being unborn, unqualified, and devoid of will-effort; the reason why the Tathagatas, who are Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones, teach the doctrine pointing to the Tathagata-garbha is to make the ignorant cast aside their fear when they listen to the teaching of egolessness and to have them realize the state of non-discrimination and image-less-ness.

I also wish, Mahamati, that the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas of the present and future would not attach themselves to the idea of an ego [imagining it to be a soul]. Mahamati, it is like a potter who manufactures various vessels out of a mass of clay of one sort by his own manual skill and labor combined with a rod, water, and thread, Mahamati, that the Tathagatas preach the egolessness of things which removes all the traces of discrimination by various skilful means issuing from their transcendental wisdom; that is, sometimes by the doctrine of the Tathagata-garbha, sometimes by that of egolessness, and like a potter, by means of various terms, expressions, and synonyms. For this reason, Mahamati, the philosophers' doctrine of an ego-substance is not the same as the teaching of the Tathagata-garbha.

Thus, Mahamati, the doctrine of the Tathagata-garbha is disclosed in order to awaken the philosophers from their clinging to the idea of the ego, so that those minds that have fallen into the views imagining the non-existent ego as real, and also into the notion that the triple emancipation is final, may rapidly be awakened to the state of supreme enlightenment. Accordingly, Mahamati, the Tathagatas who are Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones disclose the doctrine of the Tathagata-garbha, which is thus not to be known as identical with the philosopher's notion of an ego-substance.

Therefore, Mahamati, in order to abandon the misconception cherished by the philosophers, you must strive after the teaching of egolessness and the Tathagata-garbha.


At that time, Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva again said this to the Blessed One:

Pray tell me, Blessed One, about the attainment of self-realization by noble wisdom, which does not belong to the path and the usage of the philosophers;

Which is devoid of [all such predicates as] being and non-being, oneness and otherness, both-ness and not-both-ness, existence and non-existence, eternity and non-eternity;

Which has nothing to do with the false imagination, nor with individuality and generality; which manifests itself as the truth of highest reality;

Which, going up continuously by degrees the stages of purification, enters upon the stage of Tathagata hood;

Which, because of the original vows unattended by any striving, will perform its works in infinite worlds like a gem reflecting a variety of colors;

And which is manifested [when one perceives how] signs of individuation rise in all things as one realizes the course and realm of what is seen of Mind itself, and thereby I and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas are enabled to survey things from the point of view which is not hampered by marks of individuality and generality nor by anything of the false imagination, and may quickly attain supreme enlightenment and enable all beings to achieve the perfection of all their virtues.

Replied the Blessed One: Well done, well done, Mahamati! and again, well done, indeed, Mahamati! Because of your compassion for the world, for the benefit of many people, for the happiness of many people, for the welfare, benefit, happiness of many people, both of celestial beings and humankind, Mahamati, you present yourself before me and make this request. Therefore, Mahamati, listen well and truly, and reflect, for I will tell you.

Assuredly, said Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, and gave ear to the Blessed One.

The Blessed One said this to him: Mahamati, since the ignorant and the simple-minded, not knowing that the world is what is seen of Mind itself, cling to the multitudinous-ness of external objects, cling to the notions of being and nonbeing, oneness and otherness, both-ness and not-both-ness, existence and non-existence, eternity and non-eternity, as having the character of self-substance (svabhava), which idea rises from discrimination based on habit-energy, they are addicted to false imaginings.

Mahamati, it is like a mirage in which the springs are seen as if they were real. They are imagined so by the animals who, thirsty from the heat of the season, would run after them. Not knowing that the springs are their own mental illusions, the animals do not realize that there are no such springs. In the same way, Mahamati, the ignorant and simple-minded with their minds impressed by various erroneous speculations and discriminations since beginningless time; with their minds burning with the fire of greed, anger, and folly; delighted in a world of multitudinous forms; with their thoughts saturated with the ideas of birth, destruction, and subsistence; not understanding well what is meant by existent and non-existent, by inner and outer, these ignorant and simple-minded fall into the way of grasping at oneness and otherness, being and non-being [as realities].

Mahamati, it is like the city of the Gandharvas which the un-witted take for a real city, though it is not so in fact. This city appears in essence owing to their attachment to the memory of a city preserved in seed from beginningless time. This city is thus neither existent nor non-existent. In the same way, Mahamati, clinging to the memory (vasana) of erroneous speculations and doctrines since beginningless time, they hold fast to ideas such as oneness and otherness, being and non-being, and their thoughts are not at all clear about what is seen of Mind-only.

Mahamati, it is like a man, who, dreaming in his sleep of a country variously filled with women, men, elephants, horses, cars, pedestrians, villages, towns, hamlets, cows, buffalos, mansions, woods, mountains, rivers, and lakes, enters into its inner apartments and is awakened. While awakened thus, he recollects the city and its inner apartments. What do you think, Mahamati? Is this person to be regarded as wise, who is recollecting the various unrealities he has seen in his dream?

Said Mahamati: Indeed, he is not, Blessed One.

The Blessed One continued: In the same way the ignorant and simple-minded who are bitten by erroneous views and inclined towards the philosophers, do not recognize that things seen of the Mind itself are like a dream, and are held fast by the notions of oneness and otherness, of being and non-being.

Mahamati, it is like the painter's canvas on which there is neither depression nor elevation as imagined by the ignorant. In the same way, Mahamati, there may be in the future some people brought up in the habit-energy, mentality, and imagination based on the philosophers' erroneous views; clinging to the ideas of oneness and otherness, or both-ness and not-both-ness, they may bring themselves and others to ruin; they may declare those people nihilists who hold the doctrine of no-birth apart from the category of being and non-being. They [argue against] cause and effect, they are followers of the wicked views whereby they uproot meritorious causes of unstained purity. They are to be kept away by those whose desires are for things excellent. They are those whose thoughts are entangled in the error of self, other, and both, entangled in the error of imagining being and non-being, assertion and refutation; and hell will be their final resort.

Mahamati, it is like the dim-eyed ones who, seeing a hair-net, would exclaim to one another, saying: "It is wonderful! it is wonderful! Look, O honorable sirs!" And the said hair-net has never been brought into existence. It is in fact neither an entity nor a non-entity, because it is seen and not seen. In the same manner, Mahamati, those whose minds are addicted to discrimination of the erroneous views as cherished by the philosophers, and who are also given up to the realistic ideas of being and non-being, oneness and otherness, both-ness and not-both-ness, will contradict the good Dharma, ending in the destruction of themselves and others.

Mahamati, it is like a firebrand-wheel which is no real wheel but which is imagined to be of such character by the ignorant, but not by the wise. In the same manner, Mahamati, those whose minds have fallen into the erroneous views of the philosophers will falsely imagine in the rise of all beings [the reality of] oneness and otherness, both-ness and not-both-ness.

Mahamati, it is like those water-bubbles in a rainfall which have the appearance of crystal gems, and the ignorant taking them for real crystal gems run after them. Mahamati, they are no more than water-bubbles, they are not gems, nor are they not-gems, because of their being so comprehended [by one party] and being not so comprehended [by another] - In the same manner, Mahamati, those whose minds are impressed by the habit-energy of the philosophical views and discriminations will regard things born as non-existent and those destroyed by causation as existent.


Further, Mahamati, there are four kinds of Dhyanas. What are the four? They are: (1) The Dhyana practiced by the ignorant, (2) the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning, (3) the Dhyana with Suchness for its object, and (4) the Dhyana of the Tathagatas.

What is meant by the Dhyana practiced by the ignorant? It is the one resorted to by the Yogins exercising themselves the discipline of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, who perceiving that there is no ego-substance, that things are characterized with individuality and generality, that the body is a shadow and a skeleton which is transient, full of suffering, and is impure, persistently cling to these notions which are regarded as just so and not otherwise, and who starting from them successively advance until they reach the cessation where there arc no thoughts. This is called the Dhyana practiced by the ignorant.

Mahamati, what then is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning? It is the one [practiced by those who,] having gone beyond the egolessness of things, individuality and generality, the un-tenability of such ideas as self, other, and both, which are held by the philosophers, proceed to examine and follow up the meaning of the [various] aspects of the egolessness of things and the stages of Bodhisattva hood. This is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning.

What, Mahamati, is the Dhyana with Tathata for its object? When [the Yogin recognizes that] the discrimination of the two forms of egolessness is mere imagination, and that where he establishes himself in the reality of suchness (yathabhuta) there is no rising of discrimination, I call it the Dhyana with Tathata for its object.

What, Mahamati, is the Dhyana of the Tathagata? When [the Yogin], entering upon the stage of Tathagata hood and abiding in the triple bliss which characterizes self-realization attained by noble wisdom, devotes himself, for the sake of all beings to the [accomplishment of] incomprehensible works, I call it the Dhyana of the Tathagatas. Therefore, it is said:

There are the Dhyana for the examination of meaning, the Dhyana practiced by the ignorant, the Dhyana with Tathata for its object, and the pure Dhyana of the Tathagata.

The Yogin, while in the exercise, sees the form of the sun or the moon, or something looking like a lotus, or the underworld, or various forms like sky, fire, etc.

All these appearances lead him to the way of the philosophers; they throw him down into the state of Sravakahood, into the realm of the Pratyekabuddhas.

When all these are tossed aside and there is a state of image-less-ness, then a condition in conformity with Tathata presents itself; and the Buddhas will come together from all their countries and with their shining hands will stroke the head of this benefactor.


At the time, Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva asked the Blessed One to explain concerning the deep-seated attachment to the existence of all things and the way of emancipation, saying: Pray tell me, Blessed One, pray tell me Tathagata, Arhat, Fully-Enlightened One, concerning the characteristics of our deep attachment to existence and of our detachment from it.

When I and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas understand well the distinction between attachment and detachment, we shall know what is the skilful means concerning them, and shall no more become attached to words according to which we grasp meaning.

When we understand well what is meant by attachment to the existence of all things and the detachment from them we shall destroy our discrimination of words and letters; and, by means of our wisdom (buddhi), enter into all the Buddha-lands and assemblies; be well stamped with the stamp of the powers, the self-control, the psychic faculties, and the Dharanis; and, well furnished with the wisdom (buddhi) in the ten inexhaustible vows, and shining with varieties of rays pertaining to the Transformation Body, behave ourselves with effortlessness like the moon, the sun, the jewel, and the elements; and hold such views at every stage as are free from all the signs of self-discrimination; and, seeing that all things are like a dream, like Maya, etc., [shall be able to] enter the stage and abode of Buddhahood, and deliver discourses on the Dharma in the world of all beings and in accordance with their needs, and free them from the dualistic notion of being and non-being in the contemplation of all things which are like a dream and Maya, and free them also from the false discrimination of birth and destruction; and, finally, [shall be able to] establish ourselves where there is a revulsion at the deepest recesses [of our consciousness], which is more than words [Can express].

Said the Blessed One: Well said, well said, Mahamati! Listen well to me then, Mahamati, and reflect well within yourself; I will tell you.

Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: said: Certainly, I will, Blessed One; and gave ear to the Blessed One.

The Blessed One said to him thus: Mahamati, immeasurable is our deep-seated attachment to the existence of all things the significance of which we try to understand with words. For instance, there are the deep-seated attachments to signs of individuality, to causation, to the notion of being and non-being, to the discrimination of birth and no-birth, to the discrimination of cessation and no-cessation, to the discrimination of vehicle and no-vehicle, of Samskrita and Asamskrita, of the characteristics of the stages and no-stages. There is the attachment to discrimination itself, and to that arising from enlightenment the attachment to the discrimination of being and non-being on which the philosophers are so dependent, and the attachment to the triple vehicle and the one vehicle, which they discriminate.

These and others, Mahamati, are the deep-seated attachments to their discriminations cherished by the ignorant and simple-minded. Tenaciously attaching themselves to these, the ignorant and simple-minded go on ever discriminating like the silkworms, which, with their own thread of discrimination and attachment, enwrap not only themselves but others and are charmed with the thread; and thus they are ever tenaciously attached to the notions of existence and non-existence. [But really] Mahamati, there are no signs here of deep-seated attachment or detachment. All things are to be seen as abiding in Solitude where there is no evolving of discrimination. Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva should have his abode where he can see all things from the viewpoint of Solitude.

Further, Mahamati, when the existence and nonexistence of the external world are understood to be due to the seeing of the Mind itself in these signs, [the Bodhisattva] can enter upon the state of imageless ness where Mind-only is, and [there] see into the Solitude which underlies the discrimination of all things as being and non-being, and the deep-seated attachments resulting there from. This being so, there are in all things no signs of a deep-rooted attachment or of detachment. Here Mahamati, is nobody in bondage, nobody in emancipation, except those who by reason of their perverted wisdom recognize bondage and emancipation. Why? Because in all things neither being nor non-being is to be taken hold of.

Further, Mahamati, there are three attachments deep-seated in the minds of the ignorant and simple-minded. They are greed, anger, and folly; and thus there is desire which is procreative and is accompanied by joy and greed; closely attached to this there takes place a succession of births in the [five] paths. Thus there are the five paths of existence for all beings who are found closely attached [to greed, anger, and folly]. When one is cut off from this attachment, no signs will be seen indicative of attachment or of non-attachment.



There are in the Chinese Tripitaka two sutras bearing the title, "Suramgama", but they are entirely different in contents. The first one was translated into Chinese by

[1. "Sutra of Heroic Deed".]

Kumarajiva between 402-412 and consists of two fascicles. The second one in ten fascicles was translated by Paramiti in 705, and this is the one used by the Zen and also by the Shingon. The reason why it is used by the Shingon is because it contains the description of a Mandala and a mantram called "Sitatarapatala" (white umbrella), the recitation of which, while practicing the Samadhi, is supposed to help the Yogin, as the Buddhas and gods will guard him from the intrusion of the evil spirits. But the general trend of thought as followed in this sutra is Zen rather than Shingon. It was quite natural that all the commentaries of it belong to the Zen school. The terms used here are somewhat unusual--especially those describing the Mind. The sutra is perhaps one of the later Mahayana works developed in India. It treats of highly abstruse subjects. Below is a synopsis of it.

  1. The sutra opens with Ananda's adventure with an enchantress called Matanga who, by her magic charm, entices him to her abode. The Buddha, seeing this with his supernatural sight, sends Manjushri to save him and bring him back to the Buddha. Ananda is thoroughly penitent and wishes to be further instructed in the art of controlling the mind. The Buddha tells him that all spiritual discipline must grow out of a sincere heart and that much learning has no practical value in life, especially when one's religious experience is concerned. Ananda had enough learning, but no Samadhi to stand against the influence of a sorceress.
  2. The reason why we go through the eternal cycle of birth and death and suffer ills incident to it is our ignorance as to the source of birth and death, that is, because Mind-essence is forgotten in the midst of causal nexus which governs this world of particular objects.

This Mind-essence is variously characterized as something original, mysterious, mysteriously bright, illumining, true, perfect, clear as a jewel, etc. It is not to be confused with our empirical mind, for it is not an object of intellectual discrimination.

Ananda is asked to locate this Mind-essence. But, as his mind moves along the line of our relative experience, he fails to give a satisfactory answer. He pursues objective events which are subject to birth and death; he never reflects within himself to try to find the Mind bright and illumining which makes all his experiences possible.

  1. Even the Bodhisattva cannot pick up this mysteriously transparent Essence out of a world of individual things. He cannot demonstrate its reality by means of his discerning intelligence. It is not there. But that the Essence is there is evident from the fact that the eye sees, the ear hears, and the mind thinks. Only it is not discoverable as an individual object or idea, objective or subjective; for it has no existence in the way we talk of a tree or a sun, of a virtue or a thought. On he other hand, all these objects and thoughts are in

t" the Mind-essence, true and original and mysteriously bright. Our body and mind is possible only when thought of in connection with it.

  1. Because since the beginningless past we are running after objects, not knowing where our Self is, we lose track of the Original Mind and are tormented all the time by the threatening objective world, regarding it as good or bad, true or false, agreeable or disagreeable. We are thus slaves of things and circumstances. The Buddha advises that our real position ought to be exactly the other way. Let things follow us and wait our commands. Let the true Self give directions in all our dealings with the world. Then we shall all be Tathagatas. Our body and mind will retain its original virtue bright and shining. While not moving away from this seat of enlightenment, we shall make all the worlds in the ten quarters reveal themselves even at the tip of a hair.
  2. Manjushri is Manjushri; he is absolute as he is; he is neither to be asserted nor to be negated. All assertions and negations start from the truth of this absolute identity, and this is no other than the originally illuminating Mind-essence. Based on this Essence, all the conditions that make up this world of the senses are fulfilled: we see, we hear, we feel, we learn, and we think.
  3. Causation belongs to a world of opposites. It cannot be applied to the originally bright and illumining Essence. Nor can one ascribe to it "spontaneous activity", for this also presupposes the existence of an individual concrete substance of which it is an attribute. If the Essence is anything of which we can make any statements either affirmative or negative, it is no more the Essence. It is independent of all forms and ideas, and yet we cannot speak of it as not dependent on them. It is absolute Emptiness, sunyata, and for this very reason all things are possible in it.
  4. The world including the mind is divisible into five Skandha (aggregates), six Pravesha (entrances), twelve Ayatana (seats), and eighteen Dhatu (kingdoms). They all come into existence when conditions are matured, and disappear when they cease. All these existences and conditions take place illusively in the Tathagata-garbha which is another name for the Mind-essence. It is the latter alone that eternally abides as Suchness bright, illumining, all-pervading, and immovable. In this Essence of eternal truth there is indeed neither going nor coming, neither becoming confused nor being enlightened, neither dying nor being born; it is absolutely unattainable and unexplainable by the intellect, for it lies beyond all the categories of thought.
  5. The Tathagata-garbha is in itself thoroughly pure and all-pervading, and in it this formula holds: form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Rupam sunyata, sunyateva rupam. This being so, the Essence which is the Tathagata-garbha reveals itself in accordance with thoughts and dispositions of all beings, in response to their infinitely-varied degrees of knowledge, and also to their karma. In spite of its being involved in the evolution of a world of multiplicities, the Essence in itself never loses its original purity, brilliance .or emptiness, all of which terms are synonymous.
  6. The knowledge of an objective world does not come from objects, nor from the senses; nor is it mere accident; nor is it an illusion. A combination of the several conditions or factors is necessary to produce the knowledge. But mere combination is not enough. This combination must take place in the originally pure, bright, illuminating Essence, which is the source of knowledge.

When this is realized, all the worlds in the ten quarters including one's own existence are perceived as so many particles of dust, floating, rising, and disappearing like foam, in the vast emptiness of space which the one illuminative Mind-essence eternally pervades.

  1. The question: When the Tathagata-garbha is in itself so pure and undefiled, how is it possible that we have this world of mountains, rivers, and all other composite forms which are subject to constant changes and transformations?

This doubt comes from not understanding the absolute nature of the purity of the Essence. For by purity is not meant relative purity, which is only possible by establishing a dualistic conception of reality. The Essence is neither in the world nor of the world, nor is it outside the world. Therefore the question, which is based on a dualistic interpretation of reality, is altogether irrelevant when applied to the nature of the Essence and its relation to the world.

Hence this remarkable statement: The Tathagata-garbha, which is mysteriously bright and illuminating as the Mind-Essence, is neither to be identified nor not to be identified [with the world]; it is at once this and not-this.

  1. Yajnadatta, a citizen of Shravasti, one morning looked into the mirror and found there a face with the most charming features. He thought his own head disappeared and thereby went crazy. This story is used to illustrate the stupidity of clinging to relative knowledge which rises from the opposition of subject and object. As we cling to it as having absolute value, a world of topsy-turviness comes to extend before us. The original bright and charming face is possessed by every one of us only when we realize the fact by reflecting within ourselves, instead of running after unrealities.
  2. Now Ananda wants to know how to get into the palatial mansion, which he is told to be his own. He is not in possession of the key wherewith he can open the entrance door. The Buddha teaches him in this way. There are two methods to effect the entrance, both of which being complementary must be practiced conjointly. The one is Samatha and the other Vipassana. Samatha means "tranquillization" and vipassana "contemplation".

By Samatha the world of forms is shut out of one's consciousness so that an approach is prepared for the realization of the final stage of enlightenment. When one's mind is full of confusion and distraction, it is no fit organ for contemplation. By Vipassana is meant that the Yogin is first to awaken the desire for enlightenment, to be firmly determined in living the life of Bodhisattva-hood, and to have an illuminating idea as regards the source of the evil passions which are always ready to assert themselves in the Tathagata-garbha.

  1. When this source is penetrated by means of Prajna, the entrance is effected to the inner sanctuary, where all the six senses are merged in one. Let the Prajna penetration enter through the auditory sense as was the case with Kwannon Bosatsu, and the distinctions of the six senses will thereby be effaced; that is to say, there will then take place an experience called "perfect interfusion". The car not only hears but sees, smells, and feels. All the barriers between the Sensory functions are removed, and there is a perfect interfusion running between them; each Vijnana then functions for the others.

The Buddha tells Rahula to strike the bell and asks the assembly what they hear. They all say that they hear the bell. The bell is struck again, and they again say that there is a sound which they hear; and that when the bell ceases to ring there is no sound. This questioning and answering .is repeated for a few times, and finally the Buddha declares that they are all wrong, for they are just pursuing what does not properly belong to them, forgetting altogether their inner Essence which functions through those objective mediums or conditions. The Essence is to be grasped and riot the hearing, nor the sound. To take the latter for reality is the result of confused mentality. By the practice of Vipassana this is to be wiped off so that the Mind-essence is always recognized in all the functions of an empirical mind as- well as in all the phenomena of the so-called objective world. By thus taking hold of the Mind-essence, there is a "perfect interfusion" of all the six Vijnanas, which constitutes enlightenment.

  1. The root of birth and death is in the six Vijnanas and what makes one come to the realization of perfect interfusion is also in the six Vijnanas. To seek enlightenment or emancipation or Nirvana is not to make it something separate from or independent of those particularizing agents called senses. If it is sought outside them, it nowhere exists, or rather it becomes one of particular objects and ceases to be what in itself it is. This is why the un-attainability of Sunyata is so much talked about in all the Mahayana sutras.

In the true Essence there is neither samskrita (created) nor asamskrita (uncreated); they are like Maya or flowers born of hallucination. When you attempt to manifest what is true by means of what is erroneous, you make both untrue. When you endeavor to explain object by subject and subject by object, you create a world of an endless series of opposites, and nothing real is grasped. To experience perfect interfusion, let all the opposites, or knots as they are called, be dissolved and a release takes place. But when there is anywhere any clinging of any sort, and an ego-mind is asserted, the Essence is no more there, the mysterious Lotus fades.

  1. The Buddha then makes some of the principal persons in the assembly relate their experience of perfect interfusion. That of Kwannon among them is regarded as most remarkable. His comes from the auditory sense as his name implies. It leads him up to the enlightened state of consciousness attained by all the Buddhas, and he is now Love incarnate. But at the same time he identifies himself with all beings in the six paths of existence whereby he knows all their inner feelings and aspirations reaching up towards the love of the Buddha. Kwannon is thus able to reveal himself anywhere his help is needed, or to any being who hears him. The whole content of the Kwannon sutra is here fully confirmed.
  2. Learning is not of much avail in the study of Buddhism as is proved by the case of Amanda, who being enticed by the magical charm of a courtesan was about to commit one of the gravest offences. In the practice of Samadhi the control of mind is most needed., which is Sila (moral precept). Sila consists in doing away with the sexual impulse, the impulse to kill living beings, the impulse to take things not belonging to oneself, and the desire to eat meat. When these impulses are kept successfully under restraint, one can really practice meditation from which Prajna grows; and it is Prajna that leads one to the Essence when the perfect interfusion of all the six Vijnanas is experienced.
  3. We here come to the esoteric part of the Suramgama Sutra where the establishment of the Mandala is described, together with the mantram. In this Mandala the Samadhi is practiced for three weeks or for one hundred days, at the end of which those richly endowed may be able to realize Srotaapanna-hood.
  4. Next follows the description of more than fifty stages of attainment leading to final enlightenment and Nirvana; then effects of various karma by which beings undergo several forms of torture in hell are explained; then the causes are given by which beings are transformed into varieties of evil spirits and of beast forms. They, however, come back to the human world when all their sins are expiated. There are beings who turn into ascetics or heavenly beings.
  5. While disciplining himself in meditation the Yogin is liable to be visited by all kinds of evil beings whereby he is . constantly assailed by hallucinations of various natures. These are all due to highly-accentuated nervous derangements, and the Yogin is advised to guard himself against them.

When the Yogin has all these mental disturbances well under control, his mind acquires a state of tranquility in which his consciousness retains its identity through his waking and sleeping hours. The modern psychologist would say that he is no more troubled with ideas which are buried, deeply repressed, in his unconsciousness; in other words, he has no dreams. His mental life is thoroughly clear and calm like the blue sky where there are no threatening clouds. The world with its expansion of earth, its towering mountains, its surging waves, its meandering rivers, and with its infinitely variegated colors and forms is serenely reflected in the mind-mirror of the Yogin. The mirror accepts them all and yet there are no traces or stains left in it-just one Essence bright and illuminating. The source of birth and death is plainly revealed here. The Yogin knows where he is; he is emancipated.

  1. But this is not yet all. The Yogin must be philosophically trained with all his experiences and intuitions to have a clear, logical, penetrating understanding of the Essence. When this is properly directed, he will have no more confused ideas introduced by misguided philosophers. Along with the training in Samatha, the cultivation of Vipassana is to be greatly encouraged.


Dai-o (1235-I308), Daito (1282-1336), and Kwanzan (1277-1360) are the three outstanding luminaries in the history of the Japanese Rinzai school of Zen. All the masters of this school now in Japan are their descendants. Dai-o went to China and studied under Kido (Hsu-t'ang) in southern China, whose high expectations of the foreign disciple were fully justified as we can testify in the Japanese history of Zen. Daito is the founder of Daitokuji monastery and Kwanzan that of the Myoshinji, both Kyoto. Muso (1273-1351) who followed another lineage of the Zen masters was versatile in artistic accomplishments. There are many noted gardens designed by him which are still well preserved. He was the founder of many Zen temples throughout Japan which the most notable one is Tenryuji at Saga, near Kyoto. Hakuin (1685-1768) is the father of modern Rinzai Zen. Without him it would be hard to tell the fate of Zen in Japan. He was no founder of a temple of any ecclesiastical importance; he lived his unpretentious life in a small temple in Suruga province, devoting himself to the bringing up of Zen monks and to the propagation of his teaching among laymen.




There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;
Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;
Eyes fail to see it; It has no voice for ears to detect;
To call it Mind or Buddha violates its nature,
For it then becomes like a visionary flower in the air;
It is not Mind, nor Buddha;
Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way,
It allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.
It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound;
It is Tao having nothing to do with words.
Wishing to entice the blind,
The Buddha has playfully let words escape his golden mouth;
Heaven and earth are ever since filled with entangling briars.
O my good worthy friends gathered here,
If you desire to listen to the thunderous voice of the Dharma,
Exhaust your words, empty your thoughts,
For then you may come to recognize this One Essence.
Says Hui the Brother, "The Buddha's Dharma
Is not to be given up to mere human sentiments."



Those who enter the gate of Buddhism should first of all cherish a firm faith in the dignity and respectability of monkhood, for it is the path leading them away from poverty and humbleness. Its dignity is that of the son-ship of the Dharmaraja of the triple world; no princely dignity which extends only over a limited area of the earth compares with it. Its respectability is that of the fatherhood of all sentient beings; no parental respectability belonging Only to the head of a little family group equals it. When the monk finds himself in this position of dignity and respectability, living in the rock-cave of the Dharma where he enjoys the greatest happiness of a spiritual life, under the blissful protection of all the guardian gods of the Triple Treasure, is there any form of happiness that can surpass his?

The shaven head and the dyed garment are the noble symbols of Bodhisattva hood; the temple-buildings with all their ornamental fixtures are the honorific emblems of Buddhist virtue. They have nothing to do with mere decorative effects.

[1. Left to his disciples as his last words when he was about to pass away.]

That the monk, now taking on himself these forms of dignity and respectability, is the recipient of all kinds of offerings from his followers; that he is quietly allowed to pursue his study of the Truth, not troubling himself with worldly labors and occupations-this is indeed due to the loving thoughts of Buddhas and Fathers. If the monk fails in this life to cross the stream of birth-and-death, when does expect to requite all the kindly feelings bestowed upon him by his predecessors? We are ever liable as time goes on miss opportunities; let the monk, therefore, be always on e watch not to pass his days idly.

The one path leading up to the highest peak is the mysterious orthodox line of transmission established by Buddhas and Fathers, and to walk along this road is the essence of appreciating what they have done for us. When the monk fails to discipline himself along this road, he thereby departs from the dignity and respectability of monk-hood, laying himself down in the slums of poverty and misery. As I grow older I feel this to be my greatest regret, and, O monks, I have never been tired day and night of giving you strong admonitions on this point. Now, on the eve of my departure, my heart lingers with you, and my sincerest prayer is that you are never found lacking in the virtue of the monkish dignity and respectability, and that you ever be mindful of what properly belongs to monkhood. Pray, pray, 'be mindful of this, O monks!

This is the motherly advice of Nampo;[1] old monk-mendicant of Kencho Monastery.



O you, monks, who are in this mountain monastery, remember that you are gathered here for the sake of religion and not for the sake of clothes and food. As long as you have

[1. This is Dai-o Kokushi's own name, Dai-o being his posthumous honorary title.]

shoulders [that is, the body], you will have clothes to wear, and as long as you have a mouth, you will have food to eat. Be ever mindful, throughout the twelve hours of the day, to apply yourselves to the study of the Unthinkable. Time passes like an arrow, never let your minds be disturbed by worldly cares. Ever, ever be on the look-out. After my departure, some of you may preside over five temples in prosperous conditions, with towers and halls and holy books all decorated in gold and silver, and devotees may noisily crowd into the grounds; some may pass hours in reading the sutras and reciting the dharanis, and sitting long in contemplation may not give themselves up to sleep; they may, eating once a day and observing the fast days, and, throughout the six periods of the day, practice all the religious deeds. Even when they are thus devoted to the cause, if their thoughts are not really dwelling on the mysterious and un-transmissible Way of the Buddhas and Fathers, they may yet come to ignore the law o moral causation, ending in a complete downfall of the true religion. All such belong to the family of evil spirits; however long my departure from the world may be, they are not to be called my descendants. Let, however, there be just one individual, who may be living in the wilderness in a hut thatched with one bundle of straw and passing his days by eating the roots of wild herbs cooked in a pot with broken legs; but if he single-mindedly applies himself to the study of his own [spiritual] affairs, he is the very one who has a daily interview with me and knows how to be grateful for his life. Who should ever despise such a one? O monks, be diligent, be diligent.[1]


Buddhas and Fathers cut to pieces--
The sword is ever kept sharpened!
Where the wheel turns,
The void gnashes its teeth.

[1. In those monasteries which are connected in some way with the author of this admonition, it is read or rather chanted before a lecture or Teisho begins.]



It was in the Shogen period (1259) that our forefather venerable Dai-o crossed the stormy waves of the great ocean in order to study Zen in Sung. He interviewed Hsu-t'ang (Kido) the great Zen master at Ching-tz'u (Jinzu) and under him Dai-o whole-heartedly devoted himself to the realization of Zen experience. Finally at Ching-shan (Kinzan) he was able to master all the secrets longing to it. For this reason he was praised by his master as "having once more gone over the path", and the prophecy was also given him that his "descendants would ever be increasing." That the rightful lineage of the Yang-ch'i, (Yogi) school was transported to this country of ours is to be ascribed to the merit of our venerable forefather.

Daito, my old venerable teacher, followed the steps of Dai-o who stayed in the western part of the capital; personally attending on him, he was in close contact with the "Master during his residence at Manju in Kyoto and at Kencho in Kamakura. Throughout the many years of attendance Daito never laid himself on a bed for sleep. He reminds us in many respects of the ancient worthies. When finally he mastered Zen, the venerable Dai-o gave him his testimony but ordered him to mature his experience for twenty years in quiet retirement. Surely enough, he proved to be a great successor truly worthy of his illustrious master, Dai-o. He resuscitated Zen which had been in a state of decline; he left an admonition for his followers to be ever mindful of keeping vigorously alive the true spirit of Zen discipline; all this is his merit.

[1. Muso Daishi is the honorific title posthumously given by an Emperor to Kwanzan Kokushi, the founder of Myoshinji, Kyoto, which is one of the most important Zen headquarters in Japan. All the Zen masters of the present day in Japan are his descendants. Some doubt is cherished about the genuineness of this Admonition as penned by Kwanzan himself, on the ground that the Content is too "grandmotherly".]

That in obedience to the august order of his Holiness the Ex-Emperor Hanazono I have come to establish this monastery, is due to the motherly love of my late master who chewed food for his helpless baby. O my followers, you may some day forget me, but if you should forget the loving thoughts of Dai-o and Daito, you are not my descendants. I pray you to strive to grasp the origin of things. Po-yun (Hakuun) was impressed with the great merit of Pai-chang (Hyakjo), and Hu-ch'iu (Kokyu) was touched with the words of warning given by Po-yun (Hakuun). Such are our precedents. You will do well not to commit the fault of picking leaves or of searching for branches, [instead of taking hold of the root itself].



I have three kinds of disciples: those who, vigorously shaking off all entangling circumstances, and with singleness of thought apply themselves to the study of their own [spiritual] affairs, are of the first class. Those who are not so single-minded in the study, but scattering their attention are fond of book-learning, are of the second. Those who, covering their own spiritual brightness, are only occupied with the dribblings of the Buddhas and Fathers are called the lowest. As to those minds that are intoxicated by secular literature and engaged in establishing themselves as men of letters and are simply laymen with shaven heads, they do not belong even to the lowest. As regards those who think only of indulging in food and sleep and give themselves up to indolence-could such be called members of the Black Robe? They are truly, as were designated by an old master, clothes-racks and rice-bags. Inasmuch as they are not monks, they ought not to be permitted to call themselves my disciples and enter the monastery and sub-temples as well; even a temporary sojourn is to be prohibited, not to speak of their application as student-monks. When an old man like myself speaks thus, you may think he is lacking in all-embracing love, but the main thing is to let them know of their own faults, and, reforming themselves, to become growing plants in the patriarchal gardens.



Sentient beings are primarily all Buddhas:
It is like ice and water,
Apart from water no ice can exist;
Outside sentient beings, where do we find the Buddhas?
Not knowing how near the Truth is,
People seek it far away,--what a pity!
They are like him who, in the midst of water,
Cries in thirst so imploringly;
They are like the son of a rich man
Who wandered away among the poor.
The reason why we transmigrate through the six worlds
Is because we are lost in the darkness of ignorance;
Going astray further and further in the darkness,
When are we able to get away from birth-and-death?

As regards the Meditation practiced in the Mahayana,
We have no words to praise it fully:
The virtues of perfection such as charity, morality, etc.,
And the invocation of the Buddha's name, confession, and ascetic discipline,
And many other good deeds of merit,--
All these issue from the practice of Meditation;
Even those who have practiced it just for one sitting
Will see all their evil karma wiped clean;
Nowhere will they find the evil paths,
But the Pure Land will be near at hand.
With a reverential heart, let them to this Truth
Listen even for once,
And let them praise it, and gladly embrace it,
And they will surely be blessed most infinitely.

For such as, reflecting within themselves,
Testify to the truth of Self-nature,
To the truth that Self-nature is no-nature,
They have really gone beyond the ken of sophistry.
For them opens the gate of the oneness of cause and effect,
And straight runs the path of non-duality and non-trinity.
Abiding with the not-particular which is in particulars,
Whether going or returning, they remain for ever unmoved;
Taking hold of the not-thought which lies in thoughts,
In every act of theirs they hear the voice of the truth.
How boundless the sky of Samadhi unfettered!
How transparent the perfect moon-light of the fourfold Wisdom!
At that moment what do they lack?
As the Truth eternally calm reveals itself to them,
This very earth is the Lotus Land of Purity,
And this body is the body of the Buddha.


Visitors to a Zen monastery in Japan will be greeted by various Buddhist figures enshrined in the different parts of the institution. This section is devoted to the description of such figures.



Each Buddhist sect in Japan has its own Honzon, i.e. "the chief honored one" as its main object of worship: for instance, the Jodo and the Shin have Amida Nyorai; the Shingon, Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana); the Nichiren and the Zen, Shaka Nyorai (Shakyamuni). But this tradition Is not uniformly observed by the Zen sect and much latitude has been allowed to the founder of each temple or monastery.

The Buddha Shakyamuni is the proper one no doubt for all Zen institutions, for Zen claims to transmit the Buddha-heart--the first transmission taking place between Shakyamuni and Mahakashyapa. Shakyamuni thus occupies the main seat of honor on the Zen altar. But frequently we find there a statue of Kwannon (Avalokitesvara), or Yakushi (Bhaishajyaguru), or Jizo (Kshitigarbha), or Miroku (Maitreya), or even a trinity of Amida, Shaka, and Miroku. In this latter case Amida is the Buddha of the past, Shaka of the present, and Miroku of the future.

When the Honzon is Shakyamuni he is sometimes attended by a pair of Bodhisattvas and another of Arhats. The Bodhisattvas are Monju (Manjusri) and Fugen (Samantabhadra), and the Arhats are Kasho (Mahakashyapa) and Anan (Ananda). Shakyamuni is here both historical and "metaphysical", so to speak. Seeing him attended by his two chief disciples, he is a historical figure, but with Monju and Fugen who represent or symbolize wisdom and love, the two ruling attributes of the highest Reality, Shakyamuni is Vairocana standing above the world of transmigration s. Here we see the philosophy of the Avatamsaka or Gandavyuha incorporated into Zen. In fact, our religious life has two aspects--the experience itself and its philosophy.

This is represented in Buddhism by the historical trinity of Shakyamuni, Kashyapa, and Ananda, and by the metaphysical one of Vairocana, Manjushri, and Samantabhadra. Ananda stands for learning, intellection, and philosophizing; Kashyapa for life, experience, and realization; and Shakyamuni naturally for the unifying body in which experience and intellection find their field of harmonious co-operation. That religion needs philosophy is sometimes forgotten, and one of the great merits achieved by Buddhism is that it has never ignored this truth, and wherever it is propagated it helps the native genius of that land to develop its philosophy or to supply an intellectual background to its already-existing beliefs.

Perhaps it is only in the Zen monastery that the birth of the Buddha, his Enlightenment, and his Nirvana are commemorated. Mahayana Buddhism is much given up to the idealistic or metaphysical or transcendental interpretation of the historical facts so called in the life of the Buddha, and the evolution of the Bodhisattva-ideal has pushed the historical personages to the background. Vairocana or Amitabha has thus come to take the place of Shakyamuni Buddha, and a host of Bodhisattvas has completely displaced the Arhats.

But Zen has not forgotten the historical side of the Buddha's life. While Zen is not apparently concerned with earthly affairs, the fact that it has been nurtured in China where history plays an important rôle in the cultural life of the people, points to its connection again with the earth. So the three most significant events in the development of Buddhism are properly remembered and elaborate rituals are annually performed at all the main Zen monasteries in Japan for the Buddha's birth-day, his attainment of Enlightenment, and his entrance into Nirvana.[1]

[1. Respectively: April 8, December 8, and February 15.]

The Buddha's birth as represented by Zen followers laces him in the most remarkable contrast to that of Christ. The baby Buddha is made to stand straight up with his right hand pointing at heaven and with his left at the earth, and he exclaims: "Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the honored one!" The voice reaches the furthest ends of the Chiliocosm, and all the living being--even matter is not dead in Buddhism-share in the joy of the Buddha's birth, realizing that they too are destined to be Buddhas.

On April 8 this baby Buddha standing in a bronze basin is taken out of the shrine, and the ceremony of baptizing the baby with sweet tea made of some vegetable leaves is performed; the tea thus used is afterwards given away to children. Recently, the celebration of this day takes place on a grand scale in all the larger cities of Japan, not only by Zen followers but by all Buddhists including monks, priests, laymen, laywomen, and children.

Shakyamuni as the Enlightened One sits on the lotus throne enshrined in the main hall of the Zen monastery. He is generally in the meditation posture.

The Nirvana scene is generally represented pictorially, except perhaps the one at the Nirvana Hall of Myoshinji, Kyoto, which is a bronze-slab. The most noted Nirvana picture is by Chodensu, of Tofukuji, the whole length of which is about sixteen yards.



When Shakyamuni is not found in the Main Buddha all, one of the following Bodhisattvas is enshrined in his ace: Monju (Manjusri), Fugen (Samantabhadra), Kwan-non (Avalokitesvara), Yakushi (Bhaishajyaguru), Miroku (Maitreya), Jizo (Kshitigarbha), or sometimes Kokuzo (Akasagarbha).

Monju and Fugen generally go in pairs and are the chief Bodhisattvas in the Avatamsaka (Kegon) conception of the world. Monju stands for Prajna. Sitting on a lion he holds a sword which is meant to cut all the intellectual and affectional entanglements in order to reveal the light of transcendental Prajna. Fugen is found on an elephant and presents love, Karuna. Karuna is contrasted with Prajna in that Prajna points to annihilation and to identity whereas Karuna points to construction and to multiplicity. The one is intellectual and the other emotional; the one unifies and the her diversifies. Fugen's ten vows are well known to students of the Kegon.

Kwannon is exclusively the Bodhisattva of compassion. In this respect he resembles Fugen. A special chapter is devoted to him in the Hokkekyo (Saddharma-pundarika) and so in the Ryogonkyo (Suramgama). He is one of the most popular Bosatsus or Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. For an English translation of the Kwannongyo as rendered into Chinese by Kumarajiva see p. 30 of the present Manual.

Yakushi is the Bodhisattva-doctor. He holds a medicine jar in his hands and is attended by twelve gods each of whom presents one of his twelve vows. The main object of his appearance among us is to cure us of ignorance, which is the most fundamental of all the ills the flesh is heir to.

Jizo is principally or popularly the protector of children nowadays, but his original vows are to save us from wandering in the six paths of existence. He thus divides himself into six forms each of which stands as guardian in each one of the six paths. Hence the six Jizo we often find by the country roadside. He is generally represented in priestly robe, with a shaven head, and carries a long walking staff in his hand. In the Kamakura and the Ashikaga period he was quite a popular object of worship, and we find many fine artistic sculptures of this Bodhisattva in Kamakura.

Miroku is the future Buddha and at present has his abode in the Tushita Heaven waiting for his time to appear among us. He is also essentially compassionate as his name implies. He is sometimes called a Buddha and sometimes a Bodhisattva. Although he is supposed to be in one of the heavens, he is frequently encountered on earth.



The Arhats, generally sixteen in number, are enshrined in the second story of the tower gate. They are all registered as dwellers in some remote mountains, and each is the leader of a large following. Their superficially grotesque and irregular appearances contrast in a strange way with those of the Bodhisattvas. They are miracle workers and tamers of the wild beasts. This characteristic seems to have excited the interest of the Zen monk-artist who has turned them into one of the favorite objects of his artistic imagination.

In a large Zen monastery the five hundred Arhats are given a special shelter in the premises.

Bhadrapala is one of the sixteen Arhats and had his satori while bathing. He is now enshrined in a niche in the bath-room attached to the Meditation Hall. When the monks take their bath, they pay respect to his figure.[1] The picture shown below belongs to Engakuji, Kamakura, and is one of the national treasures of Japan.

[1. The Training of the Zen Monk, p. 40.]



Of the many protecting gods of Buddhism the following may be counted as belonging more or less exclusively to Zen, and they have each his or her own special quarter where they perform their several official duties for Buddhism.

The Niwo or "two guardian kings" are found enclosed at either side of the entrance gate. They represent the Vajra god in two forms; the one is masculine with the mouth tightly closed, and the other is feminine with an opened mouth. They guard the holy place from intruders.

The Shitenno or the four guardian gods are enshrined in the Buddha-hall at the four corners of the altar. Of these gods the most popular one is Tamonten (Vaisravana), the guardian of the North. This fact comes perhaps from his being the god of learning and also of wealth.

It is difficult to trace historically how Benzaiten (Sarasvati), who is the goddess of the River, finds her shrine in a Zen monastery. Some say that Benzaiten is not Shravasti but Sridevi. Whoever she may be, a female form is often found among the audience of a saintly priest, and later she appears in his dream telling him how she who was formerly an enemy of Buddhism is now enlightened and will be one of its protectors, and so on. In any event there is room even in the Zen monastery, where the severest kind of asceticism is supposed to prevail, for a goddess to enter.

Idaten is a god of the kitchen looking after the provisions of the Brotherhood. The original Sanskrit term for it seems to be Skanda and not Veda as may be suggested from i-da or wei-t'o. He is one of the eight generals belonging to Virudhaka, the guardian god of the Southern quarter. He is a great runner and wherever there is a trouble he is instantly found there. In the Chinese monastery he occupies an important seat in the hall of the four guardian gods, but in the Japanese he is in the little shrine attached to the monks' dining-room.[1]

Ususama Myowo is a god of the lavatory. Ucchushma in Sanskrit means "to dry", "to parch", that is, to clean up filth by burning, by fire, for fire is a great purifying agency. Myowo is Vidyaraja, a special class of the gods who assume a form of wrath.[2]

Sambo Kojin seems to be a Japanese mountain god in the form of an Indian god. He is found outside the temple buildings. As the monasteries are generally located in the mountains this god who is supposed to preside over such districts, is invited to have his residence in the grounds so that he would be a good protector of the Brotherhood against the inimical influence of evil spirits.

Daikokuten whose Indian prototype is sometimes regarded as Mahakala is at present a purely Japanese god. He carries a large bag over his shoulder and stands on rice bales. Though his phallic origin is suspected, he has nothing, as he is, to do with it. He is a god of material wealth and like Idaten looks after the physical welfare of the Brotherhood. He is not such a universal object of respect in the Zen monastery.

Wherever the Prajnaparamita is preached or copied or recited, the sixteen "good gods" stand about the place and guard the devoted spirits against their being lured away by the enemy. As Zen is connected with the philosophy of Prajna they are also the gods of Zen. The picture below shows more than sixteen figures. Of the extra four personages standing in the foreground the two on the left are the Jotai Bosatsu (Sadaprarudita) and Jinsha Daio while the two on the right are Hsuan-Chuang with a kind of carrying-case on his back and Hoyu Bosatsu (Dharmodgata). Jotai and Hoyu are the principal characters in the Prajnaparamita as told in the second series of my Essays in Zen Buddhism. Hsuan-chuang is the translator of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra in six hundred fascicles and also that of Nagarjuna's commentary

[1. See also my Training of the Zen Monk, p. 106.

2 Ibid., p. 44.]

on the sutra in one hundred fascicles. While he was traveling through the desert, he was accosted by Jinsha, the god of the wilderness, who was responsible for the unsuccessful trips repeatedly attempted by the devoted Chinese pilgrims to India prior to Hsuan-chuang. The god was carrying six of the skulls of such victims about his neck. Listening to the Prajnaparamita as recited by Hsuan-chuang, he was converted and became a most devoted protector of the holy text. Hence his presence here.



Besides these mythical personages the Zen monastery gives shelter to some other historical characters deeply connected not only with Zen but also with Buddhism as a whole. Bodhidharma as founder of Zen Buddhism naturally occupies a chief seat of honor beside the Buddha Shakyamuni. With Japanese Zen followers, however, the founder of a given temple is more highly honored, and in each of the principal Zen institutions in Japan there is a special hall dedicated to the founder of that particular monastery, where an oil-lamp is kept burning all day and night. Bodhidharma is a unique figure and may be identified wherever he is. He is one of the favorite subjects for the Zen masters to try their amateurish brush. Kwannon is perhaps another such subject.

Fudaishi (Fu Ta-shih), also known as Zenne Daishi (Shan-hui), 493-564, was a contemporary of Bodhidharma. Although he does not belong to the orthodox lineage of Zen transmission, his life and sermons as recorded in the Transmission of the Lamp (Ch'uan-teng Lu)[1] are full of Zen flavor, so to speak. His famous gatha is well known to all Zen students.[2] Tradition makes him the inventor of what is known as Rinzo (luntsang), which is a system of revolving shelves for keeping the Chinese Tripitaka. For this reason he, together with his two sons, is set up in the Buddhist library as a kind of god of literature.

The Zen monastery harbors many old eccentric characters of whom the most noted of a Chinese origin are Kanzan (Han-shan) and Jittoku (Shih-te).[3] They are vagabond poet-ascetics. Another belonging to this group of

[1. Fas. XXVII.

  1. Introduction to Zen Buddhism, p. 58.
  2. Zen Essays, III, Plates XIV and XV, with their accompanying explanations.]

Characters is Hotei (Pu-tai).[1] That Hotei plays quite a different rôle in Japanese Buddhism from what he does in Chine, I have explained in my article in the Eastern Buddhist, VI, 4, "Impressions of Chinese Buddhism".

Shotoku Taishi (574-622) was really one of the most remarkable figures in the cultural history of Japan, and it is no wonder that the Japanese Buddhists pay special monastery buildings. One of the legendary stories circulating in Japan with regard to Bodhidharma is that he came to Japan after he had finished his work in China and was found in the form of a miserable beggar at Kataoka Yama, near Nara. Shotoku Taishi met him there and it is said that they exchanged poems.