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Bankei Yotaku - From the Gyogo Ryakki

Bankei Yotaku - From the Gyogo Ryakki

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Published by Frederic Lecut
3 articles from the Records of Zen Master Bankei on how to handle questionable behavior
3 articles from the Records of Zen Master Bankei on how to handle questionable behavior

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Published by: Frederic Lecut on Feb 01, 2012
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uring the [Great Training Period at the Ryomonji], there was an incident in which some money was lost in the Fudo Hall. 1 One day, when the Master ascended the lecture seat, a monk came forward and said: "I am such-and-such a person of such-and-such province and a student at the such-and-such temple. This winter I have been practicing in the Fudo Hall. A monk in the place next to mine lost his traveling money, and because I was in the seat beside his, he suspected me of taking it. The rumor has spread through the entire hall, and I beg your Reverence to conduct an inquiry." The Master asked: "Did you steal anything?" The monk replied: "At a unique religious gathering like this, such a shameless act would never even cross my mind!" The Master told him: "Then everything is all right." The monk said: "Yes, but at this meeting, monks are gathered from all over Japan, and I'm worried that if there is no inquiry, I'll be given a bad name throughout the country. I beseech your Reverence's kind understanding." The Master said: "If there's an inquiry, the guilty one will have to come out—is that all right too?" The monk then declared: "It's I who have shown the very worst kind of shamefulness, being self-centered and arrogant in a case like this after I'd listened to your wonderful teaching every day!" And, shedding tears of gratitude, he withdrew.

1. Fudo (SKT: Acala) is a wrathful Buddhist deity particularly popular in Japan. The Ryomonji's Fudo Hall was erected in 1676.

Handling delinquents


hen the Master was in retreat at the Jizoji, Sekimon Osho * of the Ryomonji sent [the monk] Tenkyu ** to call on him and inquire after his health. *** When he met the Master at the temple gate, Tenkyu delivered a message from Sekimon, saying: "At the Ryomonji are a number of novices who are remiss in their duties and rude in their behavior, upsetting the decorum of the temple. It was thought that if they were to go someplace else—the Nyohoji, perhaps, or the Korinji —they might change their ways, and I wished to ask your Reverences opinion." When Tenkyu had spoken, the Master summoned Shuin, Sokaku and myself, **** and, repeating for us the gist of the message Sekimon had sent with Tenkyu, said: "What's known as a Zen temple is established precisely to bring together wicked fellows such as these, winning them over through personal contact and making them into good men. But, without any such attitude, completely lacking in compassion, you want to dispose of wrongdoers elsewhere, to have them go and create disturbance someplace else! Is a person like that fit to be abbot of a Zen temple? When one whose heart is without generosity or compassion becomes abbot of [my] temple, it is the beginning of the end for my teaching!" After this severe upbraiding, everyone, whether it was the abbot, the temple officers or the Master's personal attendants, was afraid to complain to the Master about the behavior of the monks.

* Osho is a general term of respect for Buddhist monks, similar to "Reverend," but may have the added meaning of teacher or abbot. Sekimon Somin (1642-1696) was a Dharma heir of Bankei who became the third abbot of the Ryomonji. ** Tenkyu Shihaku (d. 1722). A disciple of Bankei. *** A letter of this period (1692) addressed to Bankei from Lord Kyogoku's wife indicates that Bankei was suffering from pains in the feet which prevented him from standing. *** Itsuzan Sonin, the compiler of the present work. The others are Bankei's disciples Reigen Shuin (16531718) and Taikei Sokaku (d. 1719). These three, sometimes referred to as the "three jisha (attendants)," served as Bankei's close attendants during his last years.

The missing paper


hen the Master was in Shinyashiki * in Aboshi, he was unable to find a document he needed. His attendants searched about everywhere, but they too failed to find it. Later, they discovered it at last. When this happened, the Master scolded them, saying: "If you all had, right from the beginning, determined to find it, even if you had for this to tear the house down, it would have quickly turned up. But since you went about it half-heartedly, you were unable to locate it. While this memo is nothing of great importance, my having you search for it was to cultivate in you the sort of resolute attitude that you will carry with you through life. With a half-hearted frame of mind, you won't become even half a man!" Afterwards, when the Master was staying at the Oshiken, ** he was [preparing to] calligraphy a Buddhist name *** and found that the brush was missing. Although his attendants searched about in every possible way, they failed to find it, and this time, once again, he scolded them as he had before.

* Located in Hamada, referred to previously. ** A sub-temple on the grounds of the Nyohoji. *** The religious name assigned to a disciple by a Buddhist priest. The priest customarily writes out the characters of the name himself. Buddhist names are given to both monks and laymen on particular occasions, such as joining the priesthood or becoming a lay disciple.

Adapted from Bankei Zen -Translations from the Records of Bankei by Peter Haskel

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