Commentary by Gendo
“Followers of the way, as I see it we are not different from Shakyamuni Buddha. What do we lack for our manifold activities today? The six rays’ divine light never ceases to shine. See it this way and you’ll be a person who has nothing to do lifelong. “
(Linji, Chapter X)
“…Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of suffering…” (Bahiya Sutra – Buddha’s advice to Bahiya)
Here are words to consider from the standpoint of our own experience, to find their meaning not merely in reverence for some ancient text, but to put them to the test of what we know for ourselves. In this project, I offer the perspective of my own study with a Zen teacher.
Rinzai speaks of the “six rays’ divine light’ that ‘never ceases to shine.” In Rinzai’s time and culture, the senses were regarded as six: the five we identify (taste, touch smell, hearing and sight) with the addition of ‘mind’ whose response to the world of external stimulation is thought, or cognition.
What is the ‘divine light’? Other translators have used in place of ‘divine’, the words ‘miraculous’ or ‘wonderful.’ ‘Light’ I take to mean something revealed, like an object in darkness ‘brought to light.’
What is this wonderful revelation of the senses? The second text offers another perspective. It is presented in the form of a dialog between the historical person, the Buddha, and the person Bahiya, who approaches him for instruction while the Buddha is busy begging for alms. “Not now, Bahiya,” the Buddha says. Bahiya is persistant and after three attempts, the Buddha finally agrees to give him the ‘cheat sheet’ version of the teaching.
What the Buddha offers is ‘training’ to sense only the sensed. And then it is said, when one senses only the sensed, a further aspect of that experience is that “there is no you in terms of that.” And repeated: “no you there;” no you “here or yonder or between the two.” And, finally, “this …is the end of suffering.”
No you and no suffering, I suggest, is the same something wonderful beyond rational understanding, that Rinzai speaks of. Both are a kind of poetry for what defies description: like the first glimpse of morning sunrise, like the sudden song of a bird, like the sound of a ringing bell. In other words, before the self that judges and analysizes, has entered, and taken a step back to stand apart and attach words to describe what has happened.
That moment of experience free of self-conscious thought is an inspired moment free of comparison, one thing with another. It is a moment free of suffering because suffering is always known in relationship to something else. Disappointment always stands in relation to some preference, some other condition in contrast to the present moment.
But each of the six senses has its moments of unselfconscious sensation, a moment of nonjudgemental, pristine awareness. Buddhism is training to notice such moments, to notice the deep seated desire to experience nonjudgmental engagement, a desire that keeps us running around looking for the perfect solution, never found because it is already here. Stop the busy-ness, says Rinzai, and know in this moment the selflessness that we experience as ‘true,’ and the fullness we experience as ‘love.’