Trevor Leggett’s Introduction to The Spur

THE SPUR IS AN ESSAY FOR SAMURAI, WRITTEN BY TOREI, A disciple of Hakuin in eighteenth-century Japan. He wrote this essay in 1755, and it is addressed to a samurai who has faith. So it is in Japanese, and not in Chinese as it might well have been if intended for monks. Torei got it approved by Hakuin, and it was then published. During the two and a half centuries of peace which Japan enjoyed up to the attack by Western powers in 1854, the samurai had become the administrators of the country. They were not just warriors, though they still had to wear two swords. The Chinese character for the very word “samurai,” which is used by Torei, also means “scholar.” It is the second element in the compound haku-shi, an academic distinction corresponding to a doctorate. Typical is the comment in a classic of 1830 called Introduction to …

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The teaching of the main text of The Spur

The teaching of the main text is summed up in a few sentences at the beginning: all that is seen, heard, felt, understood, is hon-shin. This word means literally heart-essence, explained here with consciousness-only texts. When we see a mountain, we see hon-shin in the form of a mountain; when we hear a bird singing, we hear hon-shin in the form of bird-song. When we lie down on a straw mat, we lie down on hon-shin in the form of a mat. Then Torei shows how Zen completes the Confucianism, which was the official doctrine for samurai at the time. He points out (as did some Confucians) that it is easy to intone phrases like filial piety, loyalty, and human-heartedness. But most people cannot in fact control their desires and fears, so they fall into evil ways, not stopping at murder of relatives. Zen will enable them to control themselves …

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The Spur by Torei

IN WHAT ZEN CALLS THE ASCENT FROM THE STATE OF THE ordinary vulgar man to the state of Buddha, there are five requirements. First is the principle that they have the same nature. Second is the teaching that they are dyed different colors. Third is the necessity for furious effort. Fourth is the principle of continuity of training. Fifth is the principle of returning to the origin. These five are taught as the main elements of the path. The true nature with which people are endowed, and the fundamental nature of the Buddhas of the three worlds, are not two. They are equal in their virtue and majesty; the same light and glory are there. The wisdom and wonderful powers are the same. It is like the radiance of the sun illuminating mountains and rivers and the whole wide earth, lighting up the despised manure just as much as gold …

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