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Shobogenzo Chapter 95, HACHI-DAININ-GAKU: The Eightfold Awakening of a Great Human Being

Every buddha is a great human being. That to which a great human being awakens is therefore called the eightfold awakening of a great human being. To awaken to this teaching is the cause of nirvana.

It was the last instruction of our Original Master, Sakyamuni Buddha, on the night that he entered nirvana.

1. Wanting little
The Buddha said, "You beggars should know that people of big desire and abundant wants abundantly seek gain, and so their cares also are abundant. A person of small desire and few wants, being free of seeking and free of wanting, does not have this trouble. Small desire, wanting little, you should practise just for itself. Still more, wanting little can produce all kinds of benefits: People of small desire and few wants have no tendency to curry favour and bend in order to gain the minds of others. Again, they are not led as if they were enslaved by the senses. Those who practise wanting little are level in mind; they are without worries and fears; when they come into contact with things they have latitude; and they are constantly free from dissatisfaction. Those who have small desire and few wants just have nirvana. This is called 'wanting little.' "

2. Being content
The Buddha said, "If you beggars desire to be rid of all cares, contemplate contentment. The teaching of knowing contentment is the very place of plenty, ease, and peace. A person who is content, who knows satisfaction, even when lying on the ground is still comfortable. Those who are not content, who do not know satisfaction, even when living in a heavenly palace are still not suited. Those who do not know satisfaction, even when rich, are poor. People who know satisfaction, even when poor, are rich. Those who do not know satisfaction are forever being pulled through the five desires, as if they were slaves; they are pitied by those who know satisfaction. This is called 'being content.' "

3. Enjoying peace and quiet
The Buddha said, "If you beggars wish to pursue the ease of serene spontaneity, depart from noise and dwell alone in seclusion. People of quiet places are revered alike by mighty Indra and all the gods. For this reason you should leave behind your own groups and other groups, dwell alone in some empty spot, and intend to eradicate disgruntlement. Those who like crowds thereby usher in lots of trouble. It is like a great tree, for example, when flocks of birds gather on it, whereupon it is in danger of withering and breaking. Worldly attachments sink a person in heaps of suffering. It is like an old elephant, for example, drowning in mud, unable to get himself out. This is called 'detaching oneself.' "

4. Persisting
The Buddha said, "If you beggars keep at it, nothing will be difficult. For this reason you should keep on persevering. It is like, for example, a trickle of water constantly flowing, whereby it is able to drill through rock. If a practitioner is always losing heart and quitting, that is like twirling a stick to start a fire and resting before it gets hot: even though the desire is there to get fire, fire cannot be got. This is called 'persisting.' "

5. Not losing mindfulness
The Buddha said, "For you beggars who seek friends in the good and seek sanctuary and help in the good, there is nothing like not losing mindfulness. If a person does not lose mindfulness, the desperados of care and anguish cannot invade him or her. For this reason, you should constantly exercise control over your thinking and be present in mind. One who loses mindfulness thereby loses all virtues. If your energy of mindfulness is strong, if your capacity for conscious thought and conscious awareness is robust, if your sense of direction is resolute, even if you go among desperados of the five desires you will emerge unscathed. It is like wearing armour to enter a battlefield, and thereby having nothing to fear. This is called 'not losing mindfulness.' "

6. Tending the stillness of dhyana

The Buddha said, "If you beggars regulate your heart and mind, your heart and mind will be still. When the heart and mind abides in stillness, one is consequently able to witness the manifestation of the Law of arising and vanishing of the world. For this reason, you should constantly persist in the practice of all kinds of stillness, all kinds of balance. If one achieves stillness, balance, stability, then the mind does not scatter. It is like a household that values water keeping a dike in good repair. Practitioners also are like that. Through tending well the stillness of dhyana, we prevent the water of wisdom from leaking away. This is called 'stillness.' "

7. Cultivating wisdom
The Buddha said, "If you beggars possess wisdom, you will be free of greed and attachment. And, through constant self-reflection, you will prevent wisdom from being lost. This is just to be able, within the reality which is my teaching, to attain liberation. Those who are not so inclined are already different from people of the enlightened way and are also different from those clothed in white -- there is nothing to call them. Truly, wisdom is a sturdy ship in which to cross the ocean of aging, sickness and death. Again, it is a great bright torch for the darkness of ignorance; it is good medicine for all sick people; and it is a sharp axe to fell the trees of anguish. For this reason, you should listen to, wish for, and grow your own wisdom, and thereby develop yourself. A human being who possesses the light of wisdom is, albeit as eyes of flesh, a human being of clear vision. This is called 'wisdom.' "

8. Not being wordy
The Buddha said, "If you beggars engage in all kinds of tittle-tattle and rambling discussion, your own mind will be disturbed. Although you have left home, still you will be unable to get free. For this reason, beggars, you should quickly throw away that wordiness which disturbs the mind. If you want to enjoy the ease that comes with extinction of cares, you should well and truly cut out the fault of idle discussion. This is called 'not being wordy.' "

This is the eightfold awakening of a great human being. One by one, each being equipped with the eight, there may be sixty-four. Expanded, they may be countless, immeasurable, unfathomable. Abridged, they are sixty-four. They are our Great Master Sakyamuni's final teaching; they are what his Great Vehicle instructs; they are his supreme swan song during the night of the 15th day of the second month... after which he did not expound the Dharma again but finally passed into pari-nirvana.

The Buddha said, "You beggars should constantly endeavour, with undivided heart and mind, to pursue the transcendent way of awakening. Everything in the world, animate and inanimate, without exception, is a perishing and unstable form. Stop for a while and talk no more. Time must pass and so I am going to die. This is my last instruction."

For this reason disciples of the Thus-Come invariably learned it. Those who did not practise and learn it, and who did not know it, were not the Buddha's disciples. It is the Buddha's treasury of the eye of true Sitting and his fine mind of nirvana. Yet many today do not know it, and few have seen or heard it: they do not know it due to the trickery of demons. At the same time, it is not seen or heard by those with scant good roots accumulated in their own past lives. During the bygone days of the genuine Dharma and the imitative Dharma, all disciples of the Buddha knew it. They practised it and learned it in experience. Now there is not one or two among a thousand beggars who has heard of the eightfold awakening of a great human being. We should mourn the barbarism of a decadent age: there is nothing even to compare it with. While the Thus-Come's teaching of the true reality of Sitting still permeates the great-thousandfold world, while the spotless truth of Sitting has not yet disappeared, we should be quick to learn it. Do not be slack or lazy. To meet the Sitting Method of the Buddha, even in countless ages, is hard. To receive a human body also is hard. Even in receiving a human body, a human body on the three continents is better. And a human body on the southern continent is best of all -- because it can meet Buddha, hear the Dharma, leave home, and realize the way of awakening. Those unfortunates who died before the pari-nirvana of the Thus-Come neither heard about nor learnt this eightfold awakening of a great human being. That we now are seeing and hearing it, and learning it, is the influence of long-accumulated good roots. In learning it now, and thus developing life by life, until arriving without fail at the supreme awakening of Buddha and expounding this teaching for living beings, may we be akin to Sakyamuni Buddha; may there be no differences.

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting
The Eightfold Awakening of a Great Human Being

Written at Eihei-ji temple, on the 6th day of the first lunar month in the 5th year of Kencho [1253].

This translation August 2008.

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