The Voices of the River Valley and the Form of the Mountains
(Keisei sanshiki) Part 2
Another famous story speaks about a master, who was later well known, who could not make any progress, though working intensely with his master on the Buddhist teachings. Being asked describe the state prior to the birth of his parents, he could not answer. He was expected to answer this question from his own experience and not by citing the Buddhist writings, which he had studied in detail. He was so discouraged that he decided to burn all his theoretical writings, which he had studied so hard, and to dedicate himself solely to simple tasks in the monastery.
His realization was,
“The image of a rice cake cannot satisfy hunger.”
In this case the image of the rice cake refers to the writings and Dharma-teachings of his own master. The teachings remain theoretical and shallow, if they don’t correlate with experiences and practices in your own life.
Eventually the disciple asked his master for assistance, so that he could continue on his Dharma-Path. But the master saw the extraordinary talent of his student and refused to grant him this wish. The master was probably convinced that his student would gain all the necessary experiences on his Buddha-way himself.
In most cases a verbal instruction wears itself out in words and thoughts and cannot replace real practice. Just like the image of the rice cake, which cannot be eaten and cannot satisfy hunger.
The story continues by telling us that the monk left for the mountains to seek solitude. He settled at a place where a famous master had been practising for years. The monk had set aside to strive for awakening and enlightenment. Instead he lived harmoniously within nature and with the passing of the seasons. He practised persistently and intensely and many years went by.
He planted a bamboo tree, which he nourished and cared for. One day, as he was sweeping the path to his shed, a piece of brick hit the bamboo.
It is said that he reached enlightenment by hearing this sound.
Grateful and deeply moved, he bowed in the direction of his master, because he had not explained hastily and to early what was waiting for him by eperiencing true enlightenment. He had left it to his own experiences life. Due to this fact alone, he had been able to wake up to the truth.
Finally, he wrote the following verse:
“At a single stroke I lost recognition. No longer need I practice self-discipline.[I am] manifesting behavior in the way of the ancients. Never falling into despondency.”
Later on, his master confirmed his state of enlightenment and said that this disciple had reached perfection.