True Love, Ultimate Zero
A grueling seven-day Zen retreat takes
its toll on everyone—including the teacher. Joshu Sasaki Roshi says that
at 101 it takes him a few days to regain his energy, but when I met
with him following the July sesshin in Los Angeles, he was in an
expansive mood, talking for an hour about his teaching of Tathagata Zen.
Here is an excerpt.
activity of movement contains two different natures: difference and
discrimination. The single activity of “going” includes “coming,” and
the single activity of “coming” includes “going.” The activity of going
and coming is encompassed by the activity of equality.
universe is one: equality holds difference and discrimination within
it. The activity of equality includes plus and minus. Therefore, it is
You can only experience the state of equality; you cannot
describe it. If someone demands an explanation of it from me, all I can
do is kiss the person. Or I could hit him. Do you understand this? Have
you got it?
Generally people say, “We love equality, we love
equality.” Rather than simply mouthing those words, you must come to
understand this principle. When the state of equality is manifested, it
is the state of zero. This is the state where you no longer need to
insist on or claim your own self.
If you understand this
important point, then fine. There is no need to make any remarks. For
example, if the child calls to her father, “Daddy!”, what comment can he
make? If the father does not respond to this call, the child would
lightly nudge him and remind him, “Look at me.” Then, if he looks at
her, she’ll say, “I love you, Daddy.” The ancient Indians called this
the activity of karma.
Today, we don’t know if the ancient
Indians prior to Buddha understood this as Buddha did, as they simply
used the term “karma.” They did not define the activity of karma, but
Buddha made it clear that karma is the activity of “Thus coming” and
“Thus going.” Buddha defined it clearly and then he realized that none
of us can escape from the activity of karma.
The Chinese translated “Thus coming” and “Thus going” as nyorai and nyokyo. The term nyo—“thus”—is a very philosophical, important word. Nyorai
also implies God, or dharmakaya. The male activity and female activity
are completely separate and opposed to each other. The Chinese character
for nyo includes within it the symbol for “woman,” but in the context of Buddhism, while male presence exists in nyo, at the same time the natures of male and female are viewed as difference. As indicated before, nyo also means “Thus.” Man and woman are not as one. Nyo is nyo.
Things are as they are, in their own essence. But once you start to
talk about this totality as “object,” unification breaks and separation
of the states of female-ness and male-ness are manifested. In the
unified state, complete tranquility takes place, and there, the self
does not exist. You don’t need to say anything.
daughter and father are completely separated, there is no need for them
to say anything. Although she is with her father in a clearly separated
state, she has no need to call him. She is manifesting her self-ness,
alone, on her own. When the daughter is clearly separated from the
father, she does not need to call him. She is manifesting her
completeness by herself. The father could also be aware that the
daughter does not really require him, so he can remain in the “at ease”
In this state of independence, though they are
oppositions, without opposing, they coexist in one space, together. But
looking at the same situation from the broader vantage point, we can
also define it as opposition. Though seemingly opposing, they are not
really in opposition. That is the state in which it is not necessary for
anyone to insist on his or her “I am” self.
There, father and
child exist separately in one state, and they don’t bother each other.
Each is complete in herself or himself. This state we are talking about
inevitably appears, but without failing, it will break through and
manifest unification. Then all will disappear. Inevitably, the state in
which you no longer claim yourself will be manifested. Buddhism
concludes that this is the true self, true love, and the ultimate truth.
Zen’s view is that words cannot point out the ultimate truth. It is
utterly, completely zero. If true love exists as such, it is the
Nyo is also gotoshi in Japanese, meaning, “As such,” or “Like that.” The state of nyorai
is the state where one transcends the human condition. It is the
complete manifestation of “Thus coming.” You are no longer mother,
father, and child, and the great cosmos all becomes one. When you are
able to directly experience the activity of “Thus coming,” you are “at
ease” and in a tranquil state. No matter how much we talk, it will not
bring us satisfaction or true happiness. Only when we reach the state of
transcendence, “Thus coming,” can we be satisfied and “at ease,” which
is true love, the ultimate truth. Father is satisfied. Mother is
satisfied. Child is satisfied. They are not satisfied individually, but
the whole universe is satisfied. It is a totally tranquil state, the
Whenever we teach Zen, direct expression and directly
pointing out is critical. If you cannot promptly respond to the
teacher, you cannot say that you are practicing Zen. When you gaze at
the sky, what kind of direct pointing would be manifested? What direct
expression can you make by looking straight up at the sky? When the
daughter’s uncle visits the family, the mother, father, and child bow to
him and say hello to him, manifesting the basics of Buddhist
realization. In America or Europe, people use the direct expression,
“Amen.” Isn’t that the same thing?