Recently I’ve been reading a book titled Three Zen Masters: Ikkyu, Hakuin, and Ryokan published by Kodansha Press. The book is a biography on Zen masters Ikkyu, Hakuin and Ryokan.
I found a really great quite in there, not by the three masters above, but by another Zen master named Daitō (大燈) better known as Shūhō Myōchō (宗峰妙超, 1282-1337). He was the second patriarch of the main Rinzai lineage that exists today.
While abbot of Daitoku-ji temple, a major Rinzai Zen temple, he gave a final admonition to his students that is still recited there to this day:
All of you who have come to this mountain monastery, do not forget that you are here for the sake of the Way, not for the sake of clothing and food….Address yourselves throughout the day to knowing the unknowable. From start to finish, investigate all things in detail. Time flies like an arrow, so do not waste energy on trivial matters. Be attentive! Be attentive!
After this old monk completes his pilgrimage, some of you may preside over grand temples with magnificent buildings and huge libraries adorned with gold and silver and have many followers. Others may devote themselves to sutra study, esoteric chants, continual meditation, and strict observance of the precepts. Whatever the course of action, if the mind is not set on the marvelous, transcendent Way of the Buddhas and Patriarchs, causality is negated and the teaching collapses. Such people are devils and can never be my true heirs. The one who tends to his own affairs and clarifies his own nature, even though he may be residing in the remote countryside in a hut, subsisting on wild vegetables cooked in a battered old cauldron, encounters my tradition daily and receives my teaching with gratitude. Who can take this lightly? Work harder! Work harder! (pg. 16)
There’s something I find really inspiring about this quote. I feel that what Daito is saying is that whatever Buddhist practice you do, you should really feel committed to the Buddhist path, and not just kind of go in halfway. Maybe I’m interpreting this wrong, but I can see how someone who’s committed to doing esoteric chants (I don’t) and focused on the Buddhist path will really grow as a person, whereas someone doing it for curiosity and because it’s “cool” or might be looking for some tangible benefit, might not.
You can probably extend this to any Buddhist practice too.
Anyhow, just something cool I wanted to share.