One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 2)
The Bright Pearl is round like the disc of the moon or the sun, but it has three dimensions so it has the ability to roll and move and this, in particular, is a symbol of the substantial experience of Buddhism. Moving and changing are examples of action. The universe and everything in nature and in our lives is changing and moving all the time, so it is similar to the pearl rolling in a bowl.
And the pearl is reality itself. And indeed the sentence
“the whole Universe in all directions is as splendid as a bright pearl”,
is essential to the Buddha Dharma. Master Dôgen appreciates Master Gensa so much because he was the first to say these words and to introduce them into Buddhism.
Who was this very famous Master Gensa? Master Dôgen says:
“Suddenly he desires to leave secular society; he leaves his boat and enters the mountains. He is already thirty years old (but) he has realized the precariousness of the floating world and has recognized the nobility of the Buddha Way"
Until this decision he was a fisherman on one of the big rivers of China and lived from fishing. He liked to sit in his boat in the floating water as he was a layman and had a normal social life. But it seems that he had already achieved the balanced state of a great person and we can be sure that he was not striving for fame, power and profit. Floating on the river he had the opportunity to reflect about life and the limitations we have until death. So he was asking,
“what is the purpose of our life”?
These questions became more and more important for him and therefore he decided to study and practise Buddhism; he left the river and his boat to look for the Great Truth. It is said that he had not read any sutra and had no knowledge of the theory and practice of Buddhism before. He was a layman who suddenly became aware of the fundamental questions of life and who then pursued the truth.
So he went away into the mountains and eventually entered the monastery of the famous Master Seppo. There he practised with intensity and patience and he was fully integrated into the life and work of the monastary. He had very simple clothing; for example, he had just one piece of cotton cloth, which he mended all the time when it became full of holes.
In the history of Chinese Zen-Buddhism there are many Kôan stories of the teacher Seppo and the student Gensa, which are of fundamental significance and which reveal the thetrue meaning and hitting the target of Buddhism. On several occasions Master Dôgen quotes these Kôan dialogues of Seppo and Gensa. Gensa became the successor of Seppo in this well-known monastery in China.