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Ikka Myoju - One Bright Pearl 
by Dogen Ki-gen
from "Sounds of Valley Streams" Translated by Francis H. Cook

 

GREAT Master Tsung-i of Mt. Hsuan-sha, in Fu-chou, in great Sung China, had the Buddhist name Shih-pei, and the family name Hsien. Before he became a monk, he loved fishing, and floating along on the River Nan-t'ai in his boat, he learned how to fish from other fishermen. He never expected the Golden Fish, which is never hooked but jumps into the boat of itself. In the beginning of the Hsien-t'ung era, during the Tang dynasty, he suddenly wished to leave the world [and seek the Dharma]. He abandoned his boat and went off into the mountains. He was thirty years old, awakened to the dangers of this impermanent world and aware of the loftiness of the Buddha Way.

He finally ascended Mt. Hsueh-feng and, practicing with Great Master Chen-chueh [i.e., Hsueh-feng l'-ts'un], pursued the Way day and night. Once, in order to practice with other masters elsewhere and get to the bottom of the whole matter, he got together his traveling gear and was in the process of descending the mountain when his toe struck a rock and began to bleed. In pain, he had an awakening experience and said, "The body does not exist. Where does the pain come from?" Then he returned to Mt. Hsueh-feng. Master Hsueh-feng asked him, "What is this Ascetic Pei?" Replied Hsuan-sha, "Henceforth, I shall not deceive people." Hsueh-feng was delighted with this answer and said, "Everyone has the capacity to utter those words, but no one expresses them [as Shih-pei does). Hsueh-feng asked, "Ascetic Pei, why aren't you going on the pilgrimage?" Hsuan-sha answered, "Bodhidharma did not come East, the second patriarch [Hui-k'o] did not leave [for India]." This answer especially pleased Hsueh-feng.

Having been a simple fisherman, Hsuan-sha had never encountered the many sutras and treatises even in his dreams, but when he put his determination foremost, he manifested a spirit that surpassed that of others. Hsueh-feng considered him to be superior to others and praised him as an outstanding disciple. His clothes were of cloth, and because he always wore the same ones, they were covered with patches. His underclothes were of paper and he used mugwort [for padding]. Apart from his practice with Hsueh-feng, he had no other teacher. However, he experienced the power of succeeding to his teacher's Dharma straightaway.

After attaining the Way, he would instruct others by saying, "The whole universe is one bright pearl." Once a monk asked him, "You have a saying, 'the whole universe is one bright pearl.' How can a student [like me] understand that?" The master replied, "What is the use of understanding that the whole universe is one bright pearl?" The next day the master asked the monk, "What is your understanding of 'the whole universe is one bright pearl'?" The monk said, "What is the use of understanding that the whole universe is one bright pearl?" Hsuan-sha said, "I know that you are alive among the demons in the Dark Cave."

This expression, "The whole universe is one bright pearl," originated with Hsuan-sha. Its deep meaning is that the whole universe is neither vast and expansive nor minute and small. It is not square or round, middle or true. [Its dynamic workings are] neither the lively darting of fish nor the disclosure of forms distinct and clear. Moreover, because it is not birth and death or arrival and departure, just so it is birth and death, arrival and departure. Because this is the way it is, it is the past departing here, the present appearing from here. If it is penetrated to the bottom, who will see it as being limited to being a movement from life to death? Who can see it as being nothing but stillness?

"The whole universe" is the unresting pursuit of things as the self and the pursuit of the self as things. Answering "separated" to the question, "When feeling arises, is one separated from understanding?", is a turning of the head and an alteration of facial expression, an expanding of the problem and a seizing of opportunity. As a result of pursuing the self as things, it is an unresting "whole universe." Because of its priority over its functional manifestations, this principle remains as something ungraspable even in the midst of its functioning.

"One bright pearl" thoroughly expresses it even though not itself revealed in its name, and we can recognize it in its name "One bright pearl" directly transcends the eons, and because in eternal past it never ceased to be, it reaches up to the eternal present. Though there is one's mind now and one's body now, they are just the one bright pearl. This grass or that tree are not grass and tree, nor are the mountains and rivers of the world mountains and rivers; they are one bright pearl.

The expression, "How can a student understand that?" makes it seem as if [the question] originates in the student's deluded karmic consciousness, but in reality it is the Great Model itself manifesting as this functional appearance. Continuing, you can make a foot of water into a one-foot wave, which is to say, make a ten-foot pearl into a ten-foot brilliance.

In expressing what can be expressed, Hsuan-sha says, "The whole universe is one bright pearl. What is the use of understanding that?" This expression expresses the fact that Buddha succeeds Buddha, patriarchs succeed patriarchs, and Hsuan-sha succeeds Hsuan-sha. Even if you try to avoid succession, you can not do it because even if you avoid it for a while, any expression [such "what is the use of understanding?"] is, after all, the occasion of it's manifesting.

The next day, Hsuan-sha asked the monk, "What is your understanding of 'the whole universe is one bright pearl'?" This expresses "Yesterday I spoke the fixed Dharma [in asking, "What is the use of understanding that?"], and today I use a different approach [and ask "What do you understand?"]. Today, I speak the unfixed Dharma, turning my back on yesterday with a smile."

The monk said, "What is the use of understanding that the whole universe is one bright pearl?" This is nothing but a mimicry of Hsuan-sha; that is, "riding the thief's horse in pursuit of the thief." In speaking as he did for the sake of the monk, Hsuan-sha was conducting himself in the form of a different species." Reverse the light and illumine within yourselves; how many are there of "what is the use of understanding?" If I try to express it, there may be seven sugar cakes or eight herb cakes, but this is teaching and practice north of the Hsiang [River] and south of the T'an.

Hsuan-sha says, "I know that you are alive among the demons in the Dark Cave." You should understand that the faces of the sun and moon have not changed since time began. Because the sun's face always appears as the sun's face and the moon's face always appears as the moon's face, even though I say that my name is "Exactly Now" while it is summer, this does not mean that my name is "Hot."'

Thus, the bright pearl, existing just so and being beginningless, transcends changes in time and place. The whole universe is one bright pearl. We do not speak of two or three pearls, and so the entirety is one True Dharma Eye, the Body of Reality, One Expression. The entirety is Brilliant Light, One Mind. When [the bright pearl] is the entirety, nothing hinders it. Round [like a pearl], it rolls around and around. The merits of the bright pearl being manifested in this way, Avalokites'vara and Maitreya therefore exist now, and old Buddhas and new Buddhas appear in the world and preach the Dharma.

When it is just so, it hangs suspended in space, it is hidden in the linings of clothing, it is held under the chin [of a dragon], and it is worn in the hair topknot.' All these are the one bright pearl as the whole universe. It is its nature to be attached to the lining of clothing, so never say that it is attached to the surface. It is its nature to be guarded under the chin [of a dragon] or kept in a topknot, so do not think that it is found on the surface. When you are drunk, a friend will give you the pearl, and you must give the pearl to a friend. When you receive the pearl from a friend, you surely will be drunk. Because this is so, it is the one bright pearl as the whole universe.

Thus, though on the surface there may seem to be change or, no change [i.e., enlightenment or no enlightenment], it is the one bright pearl. Realizing it is so is itself the one bright pearl. The shapes and sounds of the bright pearl are seen in this way. Saying to yourself, "It is so,' do not doubt that you, yourself, are the bright pearl by thinking, "I am not the bright pearl" Confusion and doubts, affirmations and negations, these are nothing but the ephemeral, small responses of ordinary folk; however, still, they are [the bright pearl] appearing as small, ephemeral responses.

Should we not appreciate it? The bright pearl's colors and brilliance are boundless. Color after color and every scintillation c light are the merit of the whole universe. Could anything ever snatch them away? Would anyone ever toss away even a simple rock tile in the marketplace [while looking for the pearl]? Do not be anxious about being reborn in one of the six realms of cause an effect. The bright pearl, which from beginning to end is essential! uninvolved [with cause and effect], is your original face, your enlightened nature.

However, you and I, unaware of what the bright pearl is and is not, entertain countless doubts and nondoubts about it and turn them into indubitable fodder for the mind. But Hsuan-sha's expression has made it clear that our own minds and bodies are the one bright pearl, and so we realize that our minds are not "ours" Who can be anxious as to whether birth and death are or are not the bright pearl? Even if there is doubt and anxiety, they are the bright pearl. There is not a single activity or thought that is not the bright pearl, and, consequently, both advancing and retreating in the Black Mountain Cave of demons is nothing but the one bright pearl.

Kosho Horin-ji, 1238

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