The perfection of the fourfold wisdom18 min read

Wide is the heaven of boundless Samadhi,

Radiant the full moon of the fourfold wisdom.

THESE two lines express enlightenment and the perfection of the fourfold wisdom. There is the phrase “boundless Samadhi’ The word Samadhi is Sanskrit, and can be translated as “right thought” and sometimes as “evenness,” the meaning being a state where the mind is one and undisturbed, with no distracting thought. Boundless (muge) means without restraint, unobstructed by anything, absolute freedom. These lines read on from the previous lines ; bo Jt the form of no-form and the thought of no-thought. On the surface of a mirror, good and bad, right and wrong, for and against, absolutely all worlds are seen as the same. So it is said that all objects are reflected in the self and the self again is reflected in all objects, like two mirrors facing each other with nothing between. The heaven of freedom of boundless Samadhi extends below and above and on all sides, and in it the full moon of the fourfold wisdom is radiant in its splendour. The four wisdoms are these: the wisdom of the mirror, the wisdom of Sameness, the wisdom of spiritual vision, and the wisdom of making perfect. The mirror-wisdom is that into which the eighth or “store” consciousness, in which are latent the seeds of taints and passions, is transformed; the wisdom of Sameness is the transformation of the seventh consciousness or thought- centre; the wisdom of spiritual vision is the transformation of the sixth consciousness or sense-centre; and the wisdom of making perfect is the transformation of the fivefold sense-consciousness. (The classical Buddhist psychology makes this division into eight consciousnesses.)

To state the doctrine very briefly: in the mirror-wisdom, as in a great mirror, shine all objects, perfect and without defect. Then by the wisdom of Sameness the differentiation of self and others, of this and that, is abandoned and they are seen as the same; the distinctions are left, and the Sameness is realized. Supreme compassion is born from this vision of universal Sameness. The wisdom of spiritual vision sees all rightly and with love, in themselves and in relation to each other; a treasury of all good qualities, this wisdom enlightens living beings and ends their delusion. The fourth wisdom is that by which is done all that has to be done and which brings it to perfection; for the welfare of all it performs actions and shows itself variously as the Buddha’s body of manifestation.

The four wisdoms are the fruit of Buddhahood and through them manifests fully the Buddha’s action. As the great Mirror which illumines all, there is nowhere he does not reach; seeing all clearly in the light of Sameness, he has no partiality; his spiritual vision is never deceived; and then out of his great compassion he brings to perfection all the candidates to perfection The manifestation of the three bodies of the Buddha is the application of the fourfold wisdom. The dharma body has to do with truth; the bliss- body, with wisdom; and the body of manifestation, with action. The Five States of the Soto sect, the Four of the Rinzai, are also only the practical application of the fourfold wisdom.

It might be supposed that the wisdom, or the three bodies, are for Buddhas alone, but it is not so. Zen master Rinzai says: “If you desire not to be separated from the Buddhas and patriarchs, then just cease looking outside. When the thought in your mind is the light of purity, that is the truth- body in you. When the thought in your mind is the light of non-discriminating, that is the bliss-body in you. When the thought in your mind is the light of not making differences, that is the body of manifestation within you. Those three bodies are you who are now before me listening.” What a delightfully direct sermon, to be sure!

The state attained by Zen meditation, where by the power of the boundless Samadhi the fourfold wisdom and the three bodies of the Buddha appear, is spoken of as heaven and the moon. Wide is the sky of Samadhi and radiant the moon of the fourfold wisdom—the doctrine is expressed in poetic terms. Needless to say it does not refer merely to some distant Buddha-world; we must never forget that the real reference is to what is close, our own mind. Hakuin always teaches from the standpoint, “all beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.” Talk about Zen training must not be mere idle spinning of a web of words, but must relate to our practical spiritual advancement. If it do not, it is doubtful whether any real peace will be attained. In brief, we should see through to the essence of the mind, should bring out the spiritual light of the mind to the full, and the spiritual action of the mind without restriction. The world which then appears is not the world as now seen by our little wisdom and limited vision, but is perfect and without restriction, namely without “I” and without body. That world without the limited I is the ultimate ideal. An ancient sings:

Throw away the little mind which is called the I, and see:

There is no limitation in all the three thousand worlds.

Of my home the blue is the ceiling and the earth the carpet,

Sun and moon the lamps, and the wind the broom.

The heaven of Samadhi and the moon of wisdom must be manifest in daily life. Here is a verse of a great one of the past:

There is no place where the moon*s beams do not reach,

But it is in the heart of the beholder that their brightness dwells.

It is the heart of the beholder that is important. Not-I means the Great I, and the actualization of the world of not- I must be the supreme ideal of humanity. The whole life of Zen master Hakuin was this alone.

There is a well-known story about him when he was at Shoinji temple. A girl among the congregation became pregnant. Her severe father bullied her for the name of the lover, and in the end, thinking that if she said so she might escape punishment, she told him: “It is Zen master Hakuin.,, The father said no more, but when the time came and the child was born he at once took it to him and threw the baby down. “It seems that this is your child/ ’ And he piled on every insult and sneer at the disgrace of the affair. The Zen master only said: “Oh, is that so?” and took the baby up into his arms. Thereafter during rainy days and stormy nights he would go out to beg milk from the neighbouring houses. Wherever he went he took the baby, wrapped in the sleeve of his ragged robe. Now he who had been regarded as a living Buddha, worshipped as a Shakyamuni, had fallen indeed. Many of the disciples who had flocked to him turned against him and left. The master still said not a word. Meantime the mother found she could not bear the agony of separation from her child, and further began to be afraid of the consequences in the next life of what she had done. She confessed the name of the real father of the child. Her own father, rigid in his conception of virtue, became almost mad with fear. He rushed to Hakuin and prostrated himself, begging over and over again for forgiveness. The Zen master this time too said only: “Oh, is that so?” and gave him the child. As soon as the truth became known to the world, the master’s spiritual fame became a hundred times what it had been before.

This story has been the subject of a play and also of various songs. But how would it be if such a thing happened to us? Some people will object: “Well, that was in the old days, but it couldn’t be done now. If one took that line nowadays, one would become an orphanage. . . .” Others will profess deep sympathy and admiration. Helping others, and at the same time making a name for oneself! They would like to imitate the Zen master; perhaps they have even got the ragged robe in readiness. But then, they reflect, in these days the authorities would never permit a child to be thrown out like that. And so after all, the sympathy and ragged robe are not needed.

The real point of the story is the Zen master’s great spirit of non-egoity. We should try to fathom the spirit of this attitude. In our life we are too narrow, too much imprisoned in our ideas of I and mine. Are we not always impelled by love and hate, afflicting and tormenting ourselves? We should try how the moon of the fourfold wisdom will dispel the black clouds of selfish delusion, so that we are no longer lost in the world of right way and wrong way.

In the No play called Semimaru, the sister of Semimaru is a madwoman who wanders about with her tangled hair standing on end, and singing a song of right and wrong. “The third child of the imperial house am I, who am called Hair-on-end. I was born a princess—on account of what karma is this? In my mind wild confusion, a madwoman of remote places and border lands, my green hair grows climbing towards heaven. Though I brush, it will not keep down/ ’ Singing, she shakes her hair, and as she raves the children follow her laughing and mocking. She turns, and becoming calm for a moment, reproves them: “Why do they laugh, the children? Is it that my hair is funny, growing the wrong way? Truly things the wrong way are funny, but more than my hair, their laughing at me is the wrong way.” Again she sings: “Strange, strange, the world before the eyes of the people! Seeds buried in the earth rise up as the twigs of a thousand forests; the moon riding in heaven is reflected sunk in the depths of the myriad waters. All see these things as right, but I call them upside down. I am a princess, yet I have descended among the common people; my hair growing upward is bathed with the star dew. How they call one thing the right way and another the wrong way—strange it is!” So sings the madwoman, and indeed it is strange. We should end our agony in the maze of right way and wrong way, and see through clearly. We are happy when things go right for us and resentful when they go wrong, now laughing and now crying. But to understand what is really right and what is really wrong, we must see through to the truth of right and wrong. When we do so and give up our little wisdom and narrow vision and clinging to delusions, we shall not be caught by any condition but can shine through them all and act freely with unshakable conviction.

The wind blows, but the moon in heaven is not moved;

The snow piles up but cannot break the rock-sheltered pine.

With unshakable conviction, right vision and right mindfulness appear naturally. The Shrimaladevi Sutra says: “When there is faith in the words of the Buddha, the conceptions of eternity, bliss, self, and purity arise. Then there is no contrary thought, and this is called right vision. Why is this? Because the truth-body of the Buddha is the perfection of eternity, the perfection of bliss, the perfection of self, the perfection of purity, and awakening to the truth-body is what is called right vision.” With right vision, the right mindfulness of the enlightened appears.

Another sutra says: “The Bodhisattva does not attend to other things, but just to the self. Why is this? Because awareness of his own mind is awareness of the mind of all. When he is free from cravings in his own mind, he is free from the cravings of all. When he is free from the anger in his own mind, he is free from the anger in all. When he is free from the foolishness in his own mind, he is free from the foolishness in all. In this sense he is called omniscient.” Vimalakirti knew that there is no birth, age, sickness, or death, but for the sake of living beings he manifested an illness, to show that when there is illness in anyone it is in the Bodhisattva because of the unity and harmony between them.

In ancient times in China, Abbot Hojo asked the famous Baso: “What is the Buddha?” He replied at once: “The mind, the Buddha.” Abbot Hojo had practised many years, but this seemed to knock away a block in his mind, and he immediately had a great realization. He went to Plum-tree Mountain, where he built a hermitage. Baso, hearing of this, sent a monk to ask him: “What did you obtain from the master that you have come here and live like this on the mountain?” Hojo replied: “He told me, ‘The mind, the Buddha/1 attained it and now am living here on Plum-tree Mountain.” The monk said: “Do you know that recently the master has changed the Buddhism he preaches?” The abbot asked: “How has he changed?” The monk said: “The master now teaches: no mind, no Buddha.” Abbot Hojo shouted: “The old master! Still bewildering the people! But though he make it ‘no mind, no Buddha, still for me it is just ‘the mind, the Buddha ” he concluded quietly. The monk came back and told this to Baso, who commented: “The plums are ripe.” Our conviction, our spiritual vision, should be like this.

The spiritual state of Samadhi and wisdom is reflected most clearly in daily life as indifference to life and death. Knowing the truth about them, he is free of both. Zen master Sengai painted a picture of his own passing away into Nirvana, like the famous pictures of the Buddha passing into Nirvana with all the mourners round weeping. Sengai made his picture deeply touched with daily life, for the rice plants and the radishes have come to join in the weeping. Dangling from the branch of a pine-tree is a straw bundle, and the poem of farewell:

What drops from the pine-branch?

Bean soup!

The meaning is that in the bundle is a jar of his favourite bean soup, which is also a purge. When Sengai’s disciples

asked him (on his deathbed) for the traditional last words, he wrote: “I don’t want to die.” Thinking this would not do, they asked him again, and this time he wrote: “Really I don’t want to die.” Not wanting to die, or hanging on to life, or limitless compassion—right is the unfeigned human feeling, and he does not permit speculation about anything else.

When coming, knowing bhence coming;

When going, knowing whither going.

But when clinging tightly to the side of a cliff,

In the thick clouds he does not know where he is!

Dokuon, who was abbot of Shokokuji temple at the end of the last century, was asked by a guest for a death poem and said: “I will not write a death poem. Because I don’t like dying.” And he did not write one. It is interesting to compare this with Abbot Sengai.

A contemporary of Dokuon was Tekisui of Tenryuji temple, who left this death poem:

I no use to the world; the world no use to me.

The great universe a mustard seed;

Mount Sumeru balanced on the palm.

Oh this follower of the Way! If not mad, then stupid.

Muso Kokushi expressed his realization, transcending birth and death, with this:

Since nothing has come into existence from anywhere,

Why grieve over its returning?

The loyal minister Fujifusa, with the fugitive Emperor Go-daigo on his back, came to Kasagi Mountain. Lord and subject, both starving, thought to shelter from the stormy night under a pine. But the dew fell from the tree, soaking the emperor’s robe, and the minister, weeping at his master’s plight, joined his palms and made a poem:

What can I do? I sought the shelter, but even here

Our sleeves are wet with the dew.

This noble and faithful minister later entered Myoshinji temple, and after many years of hard training meditating

on Original Perfection, he had the great realization and ultimately became abbot. When in the world, he was a great minister labouring for his master and his country; then as a great Zen teacher he worked for the salvation of the whole world.

The activity of realization is no-activity; the work is nowork, it is only a manifestation of light. A poem by Master Dogen reads:

Never thinking of protecting the little rice fields,

Yet it does not fail—the scarecrow.

There is an old song:

Not for the sake of a beholder, in the deep mountains

Blossoms the cherry out of the sincerity of its heart.

The great activity is when the world and self become one, when all things and self are seen to have the same source. From that state of realization the light is again shone to where he stands. Then every movement of his hand, every step with his foot, spiritualizes what he meets; he makes spiritual use of every event and thing. Before and after his footfall, the breath of holiness is bom.

The green of the willow is the graceful form of Kannon;

The wind in the pines is the sermon of salvation.

At the front gate the willow’s green expresses the grace of the Bodhisattva Kannon; behind the temple the whisper of the pines is the voice of the sermon.

The old pine declares the prajna;

The silent bird revolves the absolute.

Truly the ancient pine is speaking the holy words of the mystic prajna scripture; the bird motionless on its branch holds the secret of the absolute. When flowers are red and willows green as they stand, this is the miraculous state, the manifestation of the spiritual absolute. Miraculous yet not miraculous, spiritual yet not spiritual—because when all is holy there is nothing specially to be called holy. It is the world as it is, the world of Thusness (tathata). When the heaven of Samadhi opens wide, the truth and the way are before the eyes, are under the foot. To put it a little more directly, heaven and earth are in the self, everything is endowed with the self. The moon of the fourfold wisdom illumines all and leaves no dark comer. What is called realization, what is called illusion, is just having this or not having it. The sage, the ignorant, is only having and using it, or not.

The modem way with everything is to investigate by analysis and dissection, but instead they destroy the life of the thing. So while they talk of construction, what they do leads to destruction. In the essays of Hatosu he relates how a man of this sort peeled off the skins of a scallion one by one, and at the end found he had nothing left. “There is only skin; there is no real scallion at all,” he concluded. This is worth remembering. Peeling off the skins, he was destroying the thing itself, and taking its life. If instead he had buried it in the earth there would have been something. There would have been life; sprouts would have come, and it would have flourished.

Zen master Rinzai says: “When he is ever the lord, at once all is Truth, and there is no slave. When he becomes the lord, everything around him comes to life. The living path to Buddhahood and liberation is to take the stand ever on the self, always and everywhere to be the lord and master, to concentrate on where one stands and bring to life what is before one.”

To talk of Samadhi or wisdom while spinning Utopias or fantasies in a world of dreams, is to end as a sleep-walker. Zen always warns us to turn our light on the place where we stand. Saint Jiun used to say: “Satisfied with the day, and satisfied with the place where he is, the superior man acts and reveals his greatness.” If each brings this great spirit and feeling to his task, in his own province, the environments will rectify themselves, and step by step prosperity will come. Every day is a good day; in every place the Pure Land reveals its glory; the Buddha light appears in the earth we stand on. We shall be blessed with real success and lasting peace. Hakuin’s whole life was shining the light onto the place where he stood. The fruit of it is the wide heaven of Samadhi and the glory of the radiant moon of wisdom.

© Trevor Leggett