Matter-of-Fact Advice

Daiye was a great Zen Master of the Sung dynasty in China, and he had a student monk named Doken who had spent many years studying Zen without much progress. One day the Master sent Doken to a distant place on an errand that would take half a year. Doken was very discouraged because it would his study of Zen in meditation. Doken's friend and fellow monk, Sogen, took pity on him and said, "I will accompany you and help you in whatever way I can so that you can continue to study even while travelling." So both of them set off on the errand.

One evening Sogen said sadly to Doken, "You know, I am willing to help you in ever way, but there are five things I can not do for you." "What are they?" asked Doken. "For instance," said his friend, "when you are hungry or thirsty, you must eat or drink by yourself. My eating will not fill your stomach. When you need to respond to the calls of nature, you must take care of them yourself; I can not be of any use. And then, in travelling, you must carry your own body along this highway." With these remarks, Doken's mind was opened. He did not know how to express his joy.

Sogen said to his friend, My work s done; you don't need my company any more," and he left. When Doken finished the errand and returned to the temple, Master Daiye immediately perceived the enlightenment of Doken.

Zen is matter-of-fact teaching. It is the realisation of things as they are. Doken looking for something secret about Zen for many years. But when Sogen gave such matter-of-fact advice, Doken sudden came to his sense and realised his truth. The Zen truth is everywhere in everyday life. Once experienced, a new world opens.


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