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Shobogenzo chapter 10, SHOAKU-MAKUSA: Not Doing Any Evil


Old Buddha says:

Not doing any evil,
Allowing what is good,
Cleansing one's thinking,
This is the teaching of the buddhas.

This, as the universal precept of the ancestral founders, the Seven Buddhas, is being truly communicated from past buddhas to future buddhas, future buddhas having transmitted it to past buddhas. It is not only of the Seven Buddhas: This is the teaching of all the buddhas. We should work on, work out and get to the bottom of this principle of enlightenment. This expression of the Sitting-method of the Seven Buddhas always sounds like expression of the Sitting-method of the Seven Buddhas. What has been communicated, what has been transmitted, is thorough acquaintance with what is going on in here. This already is the teaching of the buddhas. It is the teaching, the allowing, and the experience of hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of buddhas.

With regard to the said "any evil," among good, bad, and indifferent, there is bad. As an abstraction it is without appearance -- as goodness and indifference also are without appearance and are devoid of anything that leaks out from them: they exist only in real forms.

At the same time, within these three abstractions, actually, there are innumerable kinds of real situation. With evils, there are similarities and differences between what is harmful and bad in this world and what is harmful and bad in other worlds. There are similarities and differences between former times and latter times. There are similarities and differences between what is harmful and bad in the heavens above and what is harmful and bad in the human realm. How much greater is the difference in waking up to bad, good, and indifferent on the way of the Buddha's awakening, as opposed to the way of the world.

Good and bad are time. Time is not good or bad. Good and bad are facts. Facts are not good or bad. When facts are unbiased, bad is unbiased. When facts are unbiased, good is unbiased.

That said, when we are learning the Buddha's supreme integral truth of full awakening, when we are hearing the teaching of it, allowing practice in the groove of it, and experiencing the effect of it, it is deep, it is distant, and it is delectable.

We hear of this supreme awakening of Buddha sometimes from our mates, and sometimes from the sutras. And at the beginning it sounds like this: "Do no harm." If it does not sound like "Do no harm," it is not the Buddha's true method of Sitting: it may be the preaching of demons. Remember, what sounds like "Do no harm" is the Buddha's true method of Sitting. This "Do no harm" was not first concocted by an ordinary bloke and then kept going as it was: rather, when we hear teaching that is in process of becoming the expounding of Buddha's awakening, this is how it sounds. What sounds like this is speech which is the supreme awakening of Buddha in words. It is the Buddha's awakening talking already, and so it is talking the Buddha's awakening.

When it becomes expounding of the supreme awakening of Buddha, and is heard, wherein, being turned around, we desire to do no harm, and we get in the groove of doing no harm, and harm goes on not being done: then the power of practice is instantly realized. This realization is realized on the scale of the whole earth, the whole world, the whole of time, and the total reality of Sitting. Such is the scale of not doing.

Just such a person in just such a moment -- even if he lives at a place and comes and goes at a place where he might do evil deeds, even if he faces circumstances in which he might do evil deeds, and even if she seems to mix with friends who are doing evil deeds -- such a person is such that evil deeds cannot be done at all. Because the power of not doing realizes itself, evils cannot voice themselves as evils -- they are without the requisite tools.

There is a principle of enlightenment in taking up one thing at a time and letting go of one thing at a time. In just such a moment, the principle is known that evil does not break and enter into a person, and the principle is clarified that people do not destroy evil.

When I devote my whole mind to allowing it to be practised, and when I devote my whole body to allowing it to be practised, there is eighty or ninety percent realization of it even before the moment, and there -- behind the brain -- not doing is present. When you garner your whole body-mind and practise it, when anyone garners their whole body-mind and practises it, the power is instantly realized of allowing it to be practised through the reality of the four material and the five experiential elements -- in which case not even reduction to four or five elements taints the integrity of the self. Even the four material and five experiential elements of these reductionist days carry on being practised; and the power which the four and five elements have, as practice in the present moment, makes the said four and five elements into the practice itself. We cause the mountains, rivers, and the Earth, and the sun, moon, and stars, to allow the practice, wherein the mountains, rivers, and the Earth, and the sun, moon, and stars, in their turn, allow the practice in us.

It is not one Eye for all time; it is glistening eyes at many moments. Those moments, because they are moments in which the Eye glistens in eyes, allow the buddha-ancestors to practise, to hear the teaching, and to experience the effect. And because the buddha-ancestors have never allowed the teaching, practice, or experience to become tainted, teaching, practice and experience never get in the way of the buddha-ancestors. When a buddha-ancestor is thus allowed to practise, there is no buddha-ancestor who -- before or after the moment, in the past, present, or future -- tries to wriggle out of it.

When, by his doing, an ordinary being becomes buddha or becomes an ancestor -- when the doing does not get in the way of the buddha-ancestor that was already in him -- he, by his doing, becomes a buddha-ancestor. This truth should be attentively considered in walking, standing, sitting, and lying, through all twelve hours. In the doing that makes a buddha-ancestor, the ordinary being -- albeit without being destroyed or diminished or deprived -- has been dropped off. The doing allows our good and bad karma into the groove of practice. This does not involve us in doing something to change or manufacture karma. It is rather that there are times when karma, cause and effect, allows us into the groove of practice. The practice in which the original features of this cause and effect are already clear and distinct is just not to do. Nothing arises out of it. There is no constancy in it. It is not to be unclear about cause and effect. Nor is it to fall down into cause and effect. Because it is a dropping off.

When we really go into it like this, evils are realized as having become indivisible from not doing them. Aided by this realization we can see through and can sit away all evils, as not doing. Just in the moment of this sitting -- while we are realizing it in the beginning, middle, and end as not doing any evil -- evils do not arise from causes and conditions; they are nothing but not doing. When evils are seen without bias, all things in Sitting are seen without bias.

Those who recognize evils as arising from genetic causes and environmental conditions but do not see their own dependently originated self as a function of not doing, are a pitiful lot. If the seeds of buddhahood originate dependent upon conditions, then conditions originate dependent upon the seeds of buddhahood!

It is not that evils are nonexistent: it is simply a matter of not doing. It is not that evils exist: it is simply a matter of not doing. It is not that evils are emptiness; they are a not doing. It is not that evils are material forms; they are a not doing. It is not that evils are a not doing; it is simply a matter of not doing.

For example: spring pines are neither nonexistence nor existence; they are not doing. An autumn chrysanthemum is neither nonexistence nor existence; it is not doing. Buddhas are neither nonexistence nor existence; they are not doing. The pillars and the stone lanterns out there, and temple stuff like whisk and staff, neither exist nor do not exist: they are not doing. The self neither exists nor does not exist: it is not doing.

Learning in practice like this is the law of the universe being realized, and is us realizing the law of the universe -- we work at it from the standpoint of host and we work at it from the standpoint of guest. Being like this already, when we regret having done what was not to be done, this also is nothing other than not doing striving to work itself out. To purport, in that case, that if it will pass for not doing we might as well do it, is like walking north and expecting to arrive at Southampton.

The not doing of evils is not only a well looking at a donkey; it is the well looking at the well, and the donkey looking at the donkey. It is a human looking at a human. And it is a mountain looking at a mountain. Because there is explaining of this principle of mutual correspondence, it is the not doing of evils. It is:

The true Universal body of Buddha,
As space,
Showing itself in forms corresponding to concrete objects,
Like a moon in water.

Because what corresponds with concrete objects is not doing, what shows itself in forms is not doing. As space, it claps its hands to the left and claps its hands to the right. Like a moon in water, it is the water being restricted by the moon.

These instances of not doing are real realizations that should never be doubted.

To allow all that is wholesome and good: All that is wholesome and good, among the said three abstractions, is goodness. Even though all that is wholesome and good is included in goodness, there has never been any good that is realized beforehand and waits for somebody to allow it. And there is not any good that fails to appear at the very moment of doing good. The myriad kinds of good are shapeless, but, faster than iron is drawn to a magnet, and with more force than a Himalayan blizzard, they converge on the place of doing good. It is impossible for the Earth, mountains and rivers, the world, a national land, or even the force of accumulated karma, to hinder this coming together of good.

Still, the same principle applies: recognition of what is good differs between worlds. What can be recognized as such is called "good" -- and so it is like the manner in which the buddhas of the three times demonstrate the method of Sitting. The similarity is that their demonstration of the method, when they are in the world, is pure timing. Because the length of their life and the measurements of their body also have continued to be left entirely to the moment, they demonstrate the method in which there are no categories. So it is like good occasioned by faith-practice, and good occasioned by Sitting-practice, which are far removed from each other, not being different things. Or for example it is like a voice-hearer's keeping of precepts being a bodhisattva's breaking of the precept.

That what is wholesome and good originates and dies dependent on genetic causes and environmental conditions, is not it. All that is wholesome and good is everything in Sitting, but that everything in Sitting is all good, is not it. Causes and conditions, and origination and death, and all that is wholesome and good, if they are true from the head, then all equally are true to the tail. All that is wholesome and good is an allowing, but it is one beyond the self and unknown to the self; nor is it of the other and nor is it known by the other. In knowing and seeing self and other, in the knowing there is self and there is other and in the seeing there is self and there is other, and thus individual eyes glisten energetically in the sun and in the moon -- and this is an allowing.

Just in the moment of allowing practice to happen, the realized law of the universe is right there, but that the law of the universe is emerging is not it, and that the law of the universe is enduring is not it. How much less could we call this allowing "what was originally practiced in the past"? Doing good is an allowing -- but not one that can be fathomed intellectually.

Allowing, right now, is energetic glistening of the eye -- but it is beyond the intellect to fathom it. That it has been realized is not for the purpose of fathoming intellectually what the method of realization is. What is fathomed by the energetic eye cannot be the same as what is fathomed by other methods. That the many kinds of good are existence, nonexistence, form, emptiness, and the rest, is all not it; it is simply that they are an allowing. Wherever they are realized and whenever they are realized, they are, without exception, an allowing. And in this allowing, without exception, there is realization of all that is wholesome and good.

Realization as allowing is the universe, but it is beyond arising and vanishing, and it is beyond causes and conditions. Getting in, as allowing; staying with, as allowing; getting free, as allowing, and so on, are also like this. At the place where we allow one among the many kinds of good, the whole reality of Sitting is allowed, the whole body of the Thus-Come is allowed, real land is allowed, and so on.

The cause-and-effect of this good, similarly, is the universe as the realization of allowing. That cause is before and effect after, is not it; it is rather that when cause is round fulfilment, effect is round fulfilment, when cause is in balance, reality is in balance, and when effect is in balance, reality is in balance. Anticipated by causes effects are felt, but it is not a matter of before and after, because it takes place in the truth of awakening in which before and after are in balance.

"Cleansing one's thinking" is (1) one's self, by oneself, naturally, or spontaneously; (2) cleansing; (3) that; (4) thinking, or intention. The meaning is this:

One's natural self is not to do.
What cleanses is not doing.
That is natural.
The intention is naturally one's own.

That is not a doing.
Thinking is not a doing.

The intention is to allow.
Cleansing is allowing.

That is an allowing.
Spontaneity is an allowing.

Therefore it is said, "This is the teaching of the buddhas."

Those called "buddhas" are, in some cases, like gods of nonconformity. But even among nonconformist gods there are those who fit in and there are misfits, and not all nonconformist gods are buddhas. In some cases, buddhas are like wheel-rolling kings. But not all sacred wheel-rolling kings are buddhas. We should work on and learn in practice enlightened reasoning like this. If we do not learn how buddhas may actually be, even if we seem to be striving hard without reward, we are only ordinary beings accepting suffering; we are never grafting in the groove of the Buddha's awakening. Not doing, and allowing, are donkey business being not yet gone, and horse business coming in.

Haku Kyo-i of Tang China is a lay disciple of Zen Master Bukko Nyoman, and a second-generation descendant of Zen Master Baso Do-itsu. When he was governor of the Hangzhou district he went to practise under Zen Master Choka Dorin. In the story, Kyo-i asks, "What is the great intention of the Buddha-Dharma?"

Dorin says, "Not doing any evil, Allowing what is good."

Kyo-i says, "If that were it, even a child of three could say it!"

Dorin says, "A child of three can say it, but an old man of eighty cannot practise it."

Spoken to like this, Kyo-i immediately makes a prostration of thanks and then leaves.

Truly, though Kyo-i is a descendant of the Shogun Haku, he is a wizard of the verse rare through the ages. They say he is one of the top twenty-four men of letters. Sometimes he is called a Manjusri and sometimes a Maitreya. Nowhere do his refined sentiments go unheard. Still, though he might be a big fish in the ocean of the brush, on the Buddha’s way of awakening he is a beginner and a late learner.

What is more, he seems never to have seen the import, even in a dream, of this “Not doing any evil, Allowing what is good.” Kyo-i thinks that Dorin is telling him “Don't do any evil but do what is good!” -- recognizing this only as an imperative. He neither knows nor sees the truth that, in the Buddha’s way of awakening, the past and present are pervaded by age-old not doing of evil and time-honoured allowing of good. Thus, he has not set foot in the area of the Buddha-Dharma, and he lacks the power of the Buddha-Dharma, and so he speaks as he does. Even when the deliberate doing of evil is proscribed, and even when the deliberate doing of good is encouraged, it is all in the reality of not doing.

In general, the Buddha-Dharma, the Buddha’s method of Sitting, whether you are hearing about it for the first time in the vicinity of your mates, or whether you are enjoying its ultimate fruit, is completely the same thing. This is called “top being true and bottom being true,” is called “wonderful cause and wonderful effect,” and is called “buddha as cause and buddha as effect.” The truth of cause-and-effect to which the Buddha awoke is beyond discussion of reaping reward or retribution, and reductionism, and the rest of it; that being so, without buddha as cause, there is no experience of buddha as effect. Because Dorin is speaking this principle of enlightenment, the Buddha’s method of Sitting is present. Evils -- in however many layers they are covering the whole universe, and however many times they have gulped down the whole of reality -- are just the liberated possibility of not doing. The many kinds of good -- being already that which is good in the beginning, middle, and end -- are the essence, form, substance, energy, and other virtues of allowing, realized as they are.

Kyo-i has never trodden in these tracks at all, and so he says, “Even a child of three could say it.” Lacking the power to say something that truly says something, he speaks like this. How pitiful, Kyo-i, you are. Just what are you saying? Never having found out what the tendency of buddha is, have you ever known a three-year-old child, or have you not? One who knows a three-year-old child must also know the buddhas of the three times. How could one who has never known the buddhas of the three times know a three-year-old child? Do not think that to have met face-to-face is to have known. Do not think that without meeting face-to-face one does not know. One who has come to know a single particle knows the whole universe, and one who is versed in a single truth of Sitting is versed in the myriad truths of Sitting. One who is not versed in the myriad truths of Sitting is not versed in a single truth of Sitting. When a student of versing is versed to the hilt, he sees the myriad truths of Sitting, and sees a single truth of Sitting; and, on that basis, a student of single particles is inevitably studying the whole universe.

To think that a three-year-old child cannot speak the Buddha-Dharma, and to think that what a three-year-old child says might be easy, is extremely stupid. Why? Because to clarify birth, life, growth, development; and to clarify demise, death, dying, disappearance, are the one great purpose of a devotee of Buddha.

An ancient worthy said, “At the moment of your birth, you had in you the lion’s roar.” That bit of the lion’s roar is good vibrations coming from the Thus-Come's turning of the Dharma-wheel, and is itself the turning of the Dharma-wheel.

Another old worthy said, “Life and death, going and coming, are the human body as true reality.”

So to clarify the body as reality, and to enjoy the benefit of the lion’s roar, may truly be the one great matter, and it can never be easy.

For this reason, it is also the one great purpose to clarify the motives and actions of a three-year-old child. Between these and the motives and actions of the buddhas of the three times, there are similarities, and there are differences -- for which reason Kyo-i, in his stupidity, says what he says, never having heard a three-year-old child speaking the truth, and not even suspecting that such speaking of the truth might exist. He fails to hear Dorin’s voice, awake with truth, and louder than thunder, and so, as if to complain about Dorin not expressing the truth, he says, “Even a child of three could say that!" Thus Kyo-i does not hear the lion’s roar of an infant, and he blunders ignorantly by a Zen master’s turning of the Dharma-wheel.

The Zen Master, unable to contain his compassion, says further: "A child of three can say it, but an old man of eighty cannot practise it." What he is saying here is this:

'Among children of three there are truth-speaking words, to the bottom of which we should take pains to get. Among old men of eighty there are impossible-to-practise paths, on which they should painstakingly work. Whether an infant speaks the truth is up to you. But it is not up to the infant. Whether an old man is unable to practise is up to you. But it is not up to the old man.'

To pursue the Buddha’s truth of Sitting like this, to explain it like this, and to put ourselves on its pedestal like this, is the principle of enlightenment.

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting
Not Doing Any Evil

Delivered to the assembly at Kosho-horin-ji temple on the evening of the moon -- the 15th day of the 8th lunar month -- in the 2nd year of En-o [1240].


Translation last revised July 2008

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