Consider for example a madman. He does not know he is mad: when he realizes it is madness, soon he recovers. These days there is an increase of the madness which affirms its own sanity. To be saying one is sane is already madness. He who says ‘I am mad’ is indeed the real man.
I knew an abbot, extremely straightforward by nature, who, as it chanced from his karma, went out of his mind. He was so honest, it seemed that his very honesty drove him out of his mind. He was in a country temple in Mino, and the monks were anxious about him and came with him to Tokyo. I was at that time in charge of a school and they came to ask my help. I put him up in a little room in a small temple, and then took him to the hospital.
We all went along together, but when we came to the hospital he would not hear of going in. ‘I’ve come to Tokyo to see the city,’ he said. ‘As these monks here can tell you, I have never had even a cold in my life. It’s nonsense for you to about my going into hospital, ridiculous, I’m perfectly well.’ It was very awkward. But in such cases a lie is permissible. ‘Of course you are! Very strong, and nothing wrong with you at all. And the thing is, that there’s a health investigation going on, and it’s people who aren’t il and who’ve never had any illness that they want to examine; they want to have a demonstration of perfect healthiness. Luckily you have come to Tokyo for sightseeing, so you won’t mind just being examined in the hospital, you?’ ‘Oh, if it’s just an examination, all right,’ and he went in.
The head of the hospital made his various tests, and while he was running through them the abbot was saying: ‘Doctor, I’m not ill and have never had even a cold my whole life long.’ The doctor was saying with a faint smile: ‘No indeed.’ The patient was mentally sick, but when he asserted he had no illess the answer could only be: ‘No indeed.’ Tell the madman he is mad and he does not understand. If he could understand, he would be well again. Are not the people today all raving and yet bragging of their sanity?
The five skandhas have no fixed real nature, and in relation to our body and mind we are as if dreaming or raving when we take them as somehow an actual self.
Then what is this I? This I is a madman. It is clinging to empty delusions in a dream. When by good fortune through the holy teaching we realize little by little that the dream is a dream, that is joy. Still seeing the dream, still raving, yet more and more realizing the character of life, that it was a dream, was a dream—such is real happiness.
In each one of his works Master Dogen says: ‘Those who would practise Buddhism must deeply deeply feel the passing nature of things and have faith in karma.’ in the opening passages of his book on spiritual practice he says: ‘The heart which feels the passing nature of things is called the Bodhi-heart.’ He is urging us to feel impermanence and to believe in karma; first the round of impermanence, and then the principle of karma. The round of impermanence is seen by reviewing our past, looking back over tens and tens of years; the principle of karma has reference to our actual present experience.