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True Zen Teachings

True Living Buddha

As told by Taisen Deshimaru Roshi

One day, my master Kodo Sawaki confided in me,

"Why did zen impress me so much? It wasn't reading the Shobogenzo, or the words of the masters or any other book, that impressed my beginners mind.

"When I entered Eiheiji, I was very young. I worked in the kitchen and was an errand-boy. I couldn't wear the monk's robe. I cleaned the dojo and sometimes I went out to buy vegetables, tofu, burdock. Every day was like this.

But when I had the time, in the afternoon, before sleeping, I did zazen. I imitated the young monks in the dojo.

My room was in the kitchen, very dirty and very small, next to the vegetables. It always smelled of turnips and cucumbers, tamari and miso. That's where I did zazen.

One day the tenzo, the head of the kitchen, a very important person in Eihei-ji Temple - the second or third after the head of the temple - opened the door of the room.

He saw me in the posture and looked very impressed. He didn't do sampai, but he might as well have. He took a couple of steps back, joined his hands in gassho, rubbing them one against the other, and he said, "This is the true posture of the buddha in zazen: the true living buddha!

He was dumbstruck. The tenzo beat me very often and not a day passed without him getting angry at me. But that day, when he saw me sitting in the posture, he was completely respectful. He said in a loud voice, "True living buddha!"

So I thought, "Only the posture of zazen is the true living buddha. It is the only posture which inspires true respect in everyone. Through it, I will be able to face anything."

Source: Le Bol et le Baton. AZI Paris.


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