Tozan's Tripitaka

Master Tozan said, "The entire Tripitaka can be expressed in one character." Another Master, Hakuun, elaborated Tozan's statement with a poem:

Each stroke is clear though
hard to read,
Gautama failed to write it
many times.
So why not give the task to
Mr. Wang?
Perhaps he'll do it, after

Tripitaka is a Sanskrit word meaning "three baskets," which refers to the complete texts of the original Buddhist writings. The three baskets are Sutra (words of the Buddha), Vinaya (rules and regulations governing monks), and Abhidharma (commentaries and treatises on the teachings). It is an adage, here repeated by Tozan, that the entire teachings can be expressed in one word. But truth, simple and concrete, is ever-changing according to the specific condition and specific time. That which does not change is concept, and concepts are not living truths; they are lifeless statements, static thoughts. Thus, no matter how masterful the calligraphy, even if rendered by the famous artist Mr. Wang, the truth cannot be written, read, or spoken - only lived.


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