Do Not Forget This World Of Phenomena

Trying to suppress delusion is delusion too.
Delusions have no original existence;
they’re only things you create yourself
by indulging in discrimination.

— Bankei

It’s said that Bakei’s (Yotaku) (1622-93) quest for enlightenment began when he was a boy and Confucian teachers couldn’t answer his questions. Eventually his search for answers led him to an Otokan lineage Rinzai teacher named Umpo. Bankei sat with a koan for a few years until, frustrated, he left Umpo to spend a few more years begging and wandering and then living as a hermit. His health deteriorated; he contracted tuberculosis. One day, he coughed up a ball of bloody phlegm and experienced great insight.

According to his students’ notes, what Bankei realized that day was that, “all things are perfectly resolved in the unborn.” Bankei later explained, “What I call the ‘Unborn’ is the Buddha-mind. This Buddha-mind is unborn, with a marvelous virtue of illuminative wisdom. In the Unborn, all things fall right into place and remains in perfect harmony.” The unborn is sometimes explained as the mind that processes sensory stimuli before the thinking, labeling, conceptualizing mind kicks in, which is also a good description of the mind of primordial awareness in Awakening of Faith.

Bankei’s quest was not yet finished. Another teacher, the Chinese master Dosha Chogen (d. 1662), told him that his realization was incomplete. He had realized the truth of emptiness. But, he was asked, what is the truth of the phenomenal world [of forms]? This is a place where a lot of students today still get stuck. Bankei initially walked off, but he chose to stay and study with Dosha.

The Circle of the Way:
A Concise History of Zen from the Buddha to the Modern World
Barbara O’Brien

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