Excerpts from The Gospel According To Zen: Beyond The Death Of God

“A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: ‘Have you ever read the Christian Bible?‘ ‘No read it to me,’ said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from Saint Matthew: ‘And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.’

Gasan said: ‘Whoever uttered those words I consider to be an enlightened man.’

The student continued reading: ‘Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.  For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.’

Gasan remarked: ‘That is excellent.  Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.'”

The Most Serious Question Of All

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk can remain in a  Zen temple.  If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together.  The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teaching.  The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place.  ‘Go and request the dialogue in silence,’ he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterward the traveler rose and went to the elder brother and said: ‘Your young brother is a wonderful fellow.  He defeated me.’

‘Relate the dialogue to me,’ said the elder one.

‘Well,’ explained the traveler, ‘first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one.  So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching.  I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life.  Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization.  Thus he won and I have no right to remain here.’  With this, the traveler left.

‘Where is that fellow?’ Asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

‘I understand you won the debate.’

‘Won nothing.  I’m going to beat him up.’

‘Tell me the subject of the debate,’ asked the elder one.

‘Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye.  Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes.  Then the impolite wrench held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes.  So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!’

Mumon’s comment: The stranger is like the wise theologian who preached the death of God.  Although his words are most eloquent his degree of attainment is obvious.  The one-eyed brother is like the pious churchman who worships God and asks him to solve his problems.  His motives are pure but his one eye is a handicap.  Now suppose you were to decide the winner of this debate.  If your decision is correct the death of God will be a joke too funny to laugh at.  On the other hand, if you cannot choose between the two no God will be powerful enough to save you from your fate.

Is God dead or not?

This is the most serious question of all,

If you say yes or no,

You lose your own Buddha nature.

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