Zen Master Dokai of Mount Fuyo was a wellspring of ceaseless practice. The emperor gave him the title of Zen Master Josho and bestowed upon him a purple robe, but he wrote to the emperor explaining his inability to accept the robe and title. Although the emperor censured him for this, the Master never accepted them. His rice gruel has passed down to us the taste of the Dharma. He built a hut on Mount Fuyo with monks and laymen gathering around him in the hundreds. However, because there was only one meal a day, many of them left. In accordance with his vow, the Master did not go to meals offered by donors.
One day, he gave the assembly of monks this teaching: “To begin with, those of us who have left home to become monks have a dislike for the dust and troubles of the secular world and seek to be free of birth and death. Therefore, we rest our minds, abandon discriminatory thinking, and bring an end to all entanglements. So, how can we worry about worldly fame and fortune? We should straightaway let go of all dualistic notions and let neutral ones drop off as well. Then, whenever you encounter any sights or sounds, it will be as if you were trying to plant a flower in stone. Whenever you encounter gain or fame, it will be like getting dirt in your eyes. Still, it is not that it hasn’t been happening since beginningless time, or that we are ignorant of the process, but it is making the head into the tail. Why should we suffer from our cravings and greed? If we don’t put a stop to it now, when will we do it? This is why the ancient sages taught people that it is necessary solely to exhaust the present moment. When we are able to exhaust the present moment, what further problems can there be? If we attain this great peace of mind, it will be as if even the Buddhas and Ancestors are our enemies. Then everything in the world will naturally be cool and simple and for the first time you will be in accord with the other side.
“Have you not heard of Baso’s disciple Inzan who had no wish to see people his entire life? Or of Joshu, who, to his dying day, did not wish to speak to anyone? Hentan collected chestnuts for his meals. Daibai used lotus leaves for his clothing and Shi’e used only paper to protect himself against the cold. Gentai simply wore cotton cloth. Sekiso set up a “dead tree hall”, where he sat and slept with the monks – he only wanted them to bring an end to mind. Tōsu had others prepare the rice, cooked it with them and ate together with them – he wanted them to have insight into who they are. Now, since ancient times there have been such examples of the sages. If they had no worth, how could we delight in them? Friends, if you too master yourself in this way, you will truly be a person without fault. If, on the other hand, you fail to experience it directly, I fear you will simply waste your effort in vain.
“Though there has been nothing in this mountain monk’s own practice to be particularly commended, I have been privileged to be the head of this mountain monastery. So, how could I sit by while our provisions were used up in vain, suddenly forgetting the legacy of the ancient sages? Now, I hope to demonstrate, as best I can, the attitude of how the people long ago lived as temple masters. I have discussed this with various senior priests. We will not go down from the mountain, nor go to meals offered by donors, nor have a monk in charge of fund-raising. Instead, we will divide whatever crops we harvest from our own fields into 360 parts, using one part each day for food, no matter how many people are present. If there is enough to make rice, then make rice. If there is not enough for rice, make gruel. If there is not enough for gruel, make rice broth. For the interview with new arrivals, we will simply serve tea, without the customary tea ceremony and cakes. We will simply arrange a tearoom that we can go to and make use of on our own. The essential thing is to strive to cut off entanglements and concentrate solely on realizing the Way.
“What is more, our life is already complete and our landscape has everything: the flowers bloom, the birds chirp, the wooden horse neighs forever, the stone ox gallops. Beyond the blue horizon, the form of the green mountains fades away; when distant from our ears, the voice of the babbling brook does not exist. Up in the mountains, the monkeys howl as the dew moistens the moon in the sky. In the woods, the cranes whoop as the wind swirls around the pines in the clear light of dawn. When the spring breezes blow, the withered trees sing dragon songs. When the autumn leaves wither, the flowers scatter in the frozen forest. The jewel-like steps are covered with moss designs; people’s faces take on the air of haze and mist. The sounds and dust are stilled; conditions are just what they are. One flavor, solitary, there is no way to approach.
“Before you all today, I – a mountain monk – am setting forth what the gateway to our monastic family is: it is just not to be attached to expedient means. Why should it be necessary for me to lecture, raise a hossu, give a shout, hit anyone with a stick, to raise my eyebrows and glare with my eyes like a lunatic? I would not only belittle those in training, it also insults the sages of former times.
“Do you remember that Bodhidharma came from India and sat for nine years in zazen facing a wall? And the Second Ancestor, standing in the snow and cutting off his arm, suffered only what can be described as hardship. Still, Bodhidharma did not utter a single word and the Second Ancestor did not ask a single question. Yet, can we say that Bodhidharma never taught others? Can we say that the Second Ancestor was not seeking a master?
“Whenever I start speaking of what the ancient sages did, I feel there is no place on earth where I can hide, for I am overwhelmed with shame at the weakness of those of us in later generations. And what is more, having already been supplied with the four necessities – nourishment, clothing, bedding, and medicine – we treat ourselves to delicacies served in 100 different ways. We really must raise the Bodhi-mind at once, but I fear that our behavior is so compulsive that we will continue on, passing through myriad lives in the six realms of delusion as a result.
“Time flies like an arrow; we should deeply regret wasting it. Although we are like this, still it is a fact that other people, relying on their own merits, have been liberated. I cannot teach you by force, but my friends, haven’t you ever heard this ancient verse:
“Mountain fields yield millet,
For vegetables we have faded yellow pickles;
Whether you eat them is up to you,
If you choose not to eat, you are free to go east or west.”
“I pray, fellow practitioners, may each of you be diligent. Take good care of yourselves.”
This captures the essence of what has been transmitted from Ancestor to Ancestor. There are many anecdotes about Master Dokai’s ceaseless practice, but for the moment I have just related this one. We students of a later age should yearn for a practice like his and follow the example he set on Mt. Fuyo, for it is the correct standard established at Jetavana Monastery.