Case 12 Zuigan Calls His Master
Zuigan Gen Oshõ called to himself every day, "Master!" and answered, "Yes, sir!"
Then he would say, "Be wide awake!" and answer, "Yes, sir!"
"Henceforward, never be deceived by others!" "No, I won't!"
Old Zuigan buys and sells himself. He takes out a lot of god-masks and devil-masks and puts them on and plays with them.
What for, eh?
One calling and the other answering; one wide awake, the other saying he will never be deceived.
If you stick to any of them, you will be a failure.
If you imitate Zuigan, you will play the fox.
Clinging to the deluded way of consciousness,
Students of the Way do not realize truth.
The seed of birth and death through endless eons:
The fool calls it the true original self.
During my first sesshin with Sezaki Roshi this koan was the theme for his talks. That was a long time ago (1980) and I understood very little of what he said. I do remember he told us that every day Zuigan sat on this rock and and did what every Zen adept should do, remind himself to be awake. One might think that a transformative experience like Enlightenment would somehow change one in such a way that they would never after loose that awakeness found in samadhi. But in fact it is more complicated. The old habits of our thought and emotions are not so easily vanquished. Even after years of practice and many deep experiences one can still be prone to be caught by selfish emotions like fear and anger, and repetitive selfish thinking. Personally, my wife is capable of getting my blood boiling and for many years I had a boss who at times also upset me. But then through years of practice I developed an ability to drop emotions and when anticipated not let them arise. For the very reason that my wife is at times challenging she has been a great teacher for me. It is always difficult to drop selfish emotions in close relationships like marriage and work. We are all humans, prone to selfishness, easily deceived etc. but now that we have some skill in clear sightedness we need to remind ourselves to not be decieved, to be clear sighted, it doesn't happen automatically, at least for quite some time, Maybe for some, after years of practice clarity in all situations will be natural, but I am still quite failable . This is why Zuigan sits on the rock ( another translation) everyday and reminds himself to be awake.
But what is all this stuff about calling his Master and then responding like he is a bifurcated personality? This sure isn't the non-duality that I write about so much, or maybe it is. This is one of those catches in koans that can drive you crazy. So who is Zuigan's Master and who is your Master? If we weren't talking from within Buddhism but rather one of the many other world religions the answer would be God, but Buddhism is not a theocratic religion. We don't talk about the a single creator and ruling God like most of the other world religions. Buddhism arose out of a non-dual understanding in opposition to the traditional dualism that existed within Hinduism all those many years ago. Like most religions Hinduism set up a distinction between the individual and God. (Hinduism is often thought of as a polytheistic religion but still they have that single ineffable Universal Being they call Brahma.) Each individual human is thought to have it's independence, a spark of divinity which in the Hindu tradition is called the atman and in the Judeo-Christian- Moslem tradition is called the soul. Shakyamuni taught that there is nothing like a soul or atman in the human that fundamentally separates us from other beings, human or non-human. There is nothing at all special about us accept that there is something special. We have a large brain and we can understand. And we are all faced with a fundamental question which if we don't answer we will never find complete repose, there will always be an edge of suffering. Traditionally in Zen this is called the Question of Life and Death but it is often posed to us in other forms. In this Koan we see the question as, who is our true Master? This is the deep question of this koan.
Here is a story I heard from Harada Roshi that might put some light on the issue. There once was this monk who completed his training then left the monastery took off his robes and settled in a small village. He found shelter and not needing much more then some food he worked around town volunteering his services helping people. The people of the town liked the monk but didn't respect him because he showed no ambition. One day a messenger arrived in the town searching for the monk. The Great Buddhist Master of the monastery had died and had chosen the monk as his successor. The people of the town were amazed, this fellow who they had thought so little of was actually a Great Buddhist Master. They gathered in the town square and asked for a teaching from the monk before he left. The monk asked a couple from the town to come up and sit in the middle of the town square and then without any warning banged their heads together. They instantly cried out in pain. The monk asked, "Who gave this shout?"
The shout in pain that this couple made was done instantly without thought. There was no idea of self involved. Who then gave the shout? We might say some deeper unconscious self gave the shout but what is this self. A baby with his head hit will also cry out in pain but a baby does not have any idea of self, conscious or unconscious. Who is this baby's true Master? This is a very subtle question which can only be truly answered if we become like a baby, without thought, without an ego. The Buddha taught that all things come about through causes and conditions. This is true even with humans. This web of causality is all just natural, it could not be anything other then what it is. Nothing and no one is separate from what is natural but we human are very complex and we don't understand. We are filled with ideas and desires and an idea of our own separateness which creates a sort of fog in our understanding. We can't see clearly because of all that is going on in our head. But through the practice of zazen we can slowly clear out the fog and become like a baby and come to understand our true Master.