The Dragon of Myoshinji Temple

All Japanese know of the great painter Kano Tanyu, whose work exists even today at the Myoshinji temple. This is the story of the time when he painted the great dragon on the ceiling of the main hall of the temple. It was his masterpiece and is one of the art treasures of the world. At that time the master at Myoshinji was the celebrated Zen master Gudo, famous as the teacher of the emperor. He had heard that the dragons painted by Tanyu were so realistic that when a ceiling on which one had been painted fell down by chance, some said it had been caused by the movement of the dragon’s tail. When the painting of the dragon at Myoshinji was mooted, Gudo went to the painter’s house and told him: “For this special occasion I particularly want to have the painting of the dragon done from life.” Naturally the painter was taken aback, and saying: “This is most unexpected. As a matter of fact, l am ashamed to say that I have never seen a living dragon,” would have refused the commission. The Zen teacher, however, agreed that it would be unreasonable to expect a painting of …

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My friendship with Trevor Leggett

I first had the good fortune to meet Trevor in the early 1970’s when, with my wife-to-be, we made weekly trips from Kent to London to attend talks given by speakers from Shanti Sadan at the Friends’ Meeting House in Hampstead.  A different speaker was chosen for each talk throughout the six week termly series and as – unsurprisingly, since most members of Shanti Sadan had no prior experience of public speaking – the quality varied greatly, it was always with delight that we saw Trevor taking the chair. And anyone who has listened to the recordings of Trevor speaking on this website will readily appreciate just how much his audiences enjoyed his talks. At that time Trevor was in his fifties with a personality and presence that inspired both awe and attraction.  In our early years as members of Shanti Sadan, although he was always approachable, we spent little time in his company and he seemed rather remote – dedicated primarily to his work which at that time constituted authoring his early works on Yoga, Zen and Judo. But some years later, in the early 1980s, he invited us to spend a week away on retreat in the country …

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‘The World-Honoured One has been born!’ – Koan 40

Uesugi Masayoshi entered training at Meigetsuin, and the teacher set him the koan of the birth of the Buddha. A little after one year, Masayoshi had a realization during the Rohatsu training week, and shouted, ‘The World-honoured Buddha is born!’ Then he took a few steps forward and cried loudly, ‘In heaven above and earth below I alone am the honoured one!’ The teacher said, ‘Tradition tells: that the World-honoured One was twelve monthsin the womb,that he was born from the right side of his mother,that he took seven steps and then uttered his greatcry.  How did you come out? Say, say! If you cannot say, it is no Buddha that has been born but a fox-spirit making a false appearance.’ Masayoshi said:‘I entered my home and conformed to it,I followed the karma and conformed to it,I trod on the head of Vairochana.’The teacher: ‘What is this treading?’Masayoshi: ‘The holiest One is not in the first sixsteps.’  TESTS (1) What was the World-honoured One doing in the twelve months in the womb? Say! (2) Why was the World-honoured One born from the right side? Say! (3) A baby might take just one or two steps, or it might take eight …

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The Birth of the Buddha – Koan 39

Ishida Yamato-no-kami entered upon the Way at Enkakuji, where he had the Zen interviews with Ikka, who was the 124th teacher there. One day he asked the teacher, ‘In the scriptures which I have been reading since I began here, there are various different teachings about the day of the Buddha’s birth. Which day of which month is the right one?’ The teacher said, ‘Don’t talk about different teachings. When you see the nature to be Buddha, that is the birth of the World-honoured One.’ TESTS (1) If you say, See the nature to be Buddha, immediately a snake with two heads appears. Are the nature and the Buddha the same or different? If the same, why does it have to tell you to see the nature to be Buddha? If there is a difference, say wherein it is, that seeing the nature is something separate from being Buddha. (2) What is that you recognize when you talk about the nature being Buddha? Say! This became a Kamakura koan in the interviews of Gyokkei, the 131st teacher at Enkakuji. T.P.L    

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