Sunday, April 14, 2013


It was the very illustrious Japanese Rinzai Zen master Bankei Yōtaku (1622-93) [pictured left and below right], who was posthumously honoured with the Imperial title Kokushi (‘National Master’), who said, ‘The farther you enter into the truth, the deeper it is.’

Bankei cut to the chase, rejecting the formalism that infested the Zen of his time. His catchphrase cry was, ‘Get Unborn!’ That means, get rid of all the crap that holds you back from being one with the birthless, spaceless, timeless, boundless and imageless ‘face’ of the Unborn Buddha Mind (Fu-shō), which is said to be our true, authentic and original nature [see calligraphy below].

Some spiritual systems refer to the Unborn as the ‘Self.’ I will not try to define or describe the ‘Unborn’ or the ‘Self.’ What I will say is this---think of all those hundreds and thousands of ‘little selves’ (that is, the multitudes of ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’ that wax and wane from moment to moment in us). Well, the Unborn (or Self) is ‘something’---actually, in a very deep sense, ‘no-thing’---other than those false selves which we mistakenly take for the true person each one of us is.

Now, a student came to Master Bankei and complained, ‘Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?’

‘You have something very strange,’ replied Bankei. ‘Let me see what you have.’

‘Just now I cannot show it to you,’ replied the student.

‘When can you show it to me?’ asked Bankei.

‘It arises unexpectedly,’ replied the student.

‘Then,’ concluded Bankei, ‘it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over.’

We do make a helluva lot of excuses for ourselves, don’t we? We behave badly, and say, ‘Sorry, that’s just me. I can’t help it. I’ve always been that way.’ Well, that may or may not have been the way we’ve always been, but it is not the way we have to be, and in truth---I say, in truth---it is never (yes, never) the way we really are. Got that? In truth, we are not that way at all. Each of us is a person among persons, and like all persons we have choices. Yes, sometimes our range of choices is very restricted, or constricted, but we always---I repeat, always---have at least one power of choice left to us, namely, the ability to say, ‘I don’t want to be this way any longer, I want to be different, I want to be better.’ The words don’t matter. The desire for positive change does.

You and I were not born angry, sarcastic, judgmental, jealous, anxious, or whatever. We have become that way---as a result of lots and lots of decisions and choices we’ve made in response to activating events and experiences. No, it doesn’t matter---and it’s certainly no excuse---if you or I have come from a long line (say, several generations) of likeminded, similarly behaved---or misbehaved---people. We still can choose to be different. We can change---if we want change badly enough.

Yes, there is a power that makes all things---yes, all things---new. It lives and moves in those who know the Unborn Self as one.

So, no more excuses for any of us. It’s time to---Get Unborn! Now.


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