The Z Files – Case 9 – Not Attaining Buddhahood

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A monk asked Kõyõ Seijõ, “Daitsû Chishõ Buddha sat in zazen for ten kalpas and could not attain Buddhahood. He did not become a Buddha. How could this be?”

Seijõ said, “Your question is quite self-explanatory.”

The monk asked, “He meditated so long; why could he not attain Buddhahood?”

Seijõ said, “Because he did not become a Buddha.”

Mumon’s Comment:

 I allow the barbarian’s realization, but I do not allow his understanding.

When an ignorant man realizes it, he is a sage.

When a sage understands it, he is ignorant.

Mumon’s Verse

 Better emancipate your mind than your body;

When the mind is emancipated, the body is free,

When both body and mind are emancipated,

Even gods and spirits ignore worldly power.


Kõyõ Seijõ of Mount Koyo was a disciple of Pa-chiao (Basho). Kõyõ Seijõ’s dates of birth and death are not known, but it seems that he lived in the 10-th century or thereabouts, perhaps being contemporary with Yun-men or a little later. He was a great-grandson in the Dharma of Yang-shan, co-founder of the Kuei-yang school of Zen, a school best known for the gentle spirit of its Dharma encounters.

Daitsu Chisho Buddha (Buddha Mahabhijnanabhibhu) is the name of Buddha’s teacher. Dai means “great, without boundary.” Tsu means “to go through or pass freely,” without obstruction, from one place to another. So daitsu means “with complete or total freedom to go anywhere.” Chi means “wisdom” and sho is “the best.” Daitsu Chisho Buddha is the name of Tathagata (Nyorai) who appeared in the world three thousand dust particles of Kalpas ago, sixteen princes having become Shamis (novice) and having learned the Hokke Sutra under his instruction. After this Buddha’s Nirvana, the sixteen Shamis preached the Sutra to others. Among these disciples, the ninth Shami became Amida Buddha of our time, and the sixteenth Shami became Sakyamuni Buddha.

In many schools of thought, there is the belief that through meditation, a person improves him or herself, and becomes an enlightened individual, that they attain Buddhahood.  This is not the teaching of Zen.  Zen teaches that the Buddha essence is present in all things. Meditating does not equal becoming a Buddha (i.e., being enlightened). It’s merely a tool to control and discipline the mind. It should help us to get there (and there are some Zen practitioners who would tell that it’s the only way to get there), but in no way is guaranteeing that. Sitting in zazen for a million years isn’t going to make a difference.  Being enlightened occurs when we achieve the right mindstate, both in zazen and in our life. If we fail to do this, then it doesn’t matter what else we do.

 An individual cannot attain Buddhahood, he was born that way.  He has always had it.  Daitsu Chisho Buddha didn’t become a Buddha; he, like every being, and thing and thought and action, was Buddha to begin with, whether he sat for ten kalpas or not. The reason for Koyo Seijo not becoming a Buddha, although he practiced sitting meditation, zazen, for thousands of lives is very clear. He cannot become a Buddha – even in one hundred kalpas, because he is a Buddha right now. It is not a question of becoming, it is a question of entering and manifesting. We have to remember the difference between `being’ and `becoming’. Becoming is somewhere faraway in the future: something we have to reach. Being is just now, here. We only have to look and see the Buddha. We have always been a Buddha. Nobody can become a Buddha, because everybody is a Buddha. Seijo said, “Because he was a Buddha, and he was unnecessarily running after being a Buddha. How he can attain it?”

This is one significant point to remember: that when we experience the Buddha we are not becoming a Buddha. We have always been a Buddha; just we were keeping our back towards him. Now we have to take a complete one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn, and face ourselves.

Daitsu Chisho sat in the meditation hall for ten kalpas and the Buddhadharma did not appear. The meditation hall is not just a room with walls, floor and ceiling. The meditation hall is our body, the world, is everywhere. How long is a kalpa? As we know, it is a very, very long time. But, in fact, a kalpa is just now.

Text source: sacred-texts

photo credit: demandstudios


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