13. A Buddha    You are human.  You are A Buddha.
In the Meiji era in Tokyo, there were two renowned teachers who represented contrasting characteristics. The first teacher, Unsho, was an instructor in Shingon, and he strictly adhered to Buddha's precepts. He abstained from consuming intoxicants and maintained a strict diet, refraining from eating after eleven o'clock in the morning. On the other hand, Tanzan, the second teacher, was a philosophy professor at the Imperial University who did not follow the precepts. He indulged in food whenever he felt like it, even during the daytime, and drank wine despite it being forbidden for Buddhists.
One day, Unsho decided to pay Tanzan a visit. To his surprise, he found Tanzan enjoying a glass of wine, completely defying the Buddhist guidelines that Unsho held so dear.
"Hello, brother," Tanzan warmly greeted Unsho. "Won't you have a drink?"
Unsho, taken aback by the sight and deeply committed to his principles, replied firmly, "I never drink!"
Tanzan, without judgment or hesitation, responded, "One who does not drink is not even human."
This statement struck Unsho deeply, fueling his anger. "Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids?" he exclaimed.
Tanzan, with his characteristic wisdom, replied calmly, "Then if I am not human, what am I?"
Without hesitation, Tanzan offered his profound answer, "A Buddha."
In this story, the two teachers embody contrasting approaches to life and spiritual practice. Unsho represents the disciplined and ascetic path, strictly adhering to the precepts and guidelines of Buddhism. Tanzan, on the other hand, represents a more liberated and spontaneous approach, unburdened by rigid rules and unafraid to enjoy life's pleasures.
Through Tanzan's response, he reveals a profound understanding of the nature of enlightenment. He recognizes that being a Buddha does not depend solely on following external rules and restrictions. Instead, being a Buddha is a state of awakening and transcendence that goes beyond such limitations. Tanzan suggests that being a Buddha means embodying the essence of enlightenment, which can be expressed in various ways.
This story reminds us that the path to enlightenment is not confined to a specific set of rules or practices. While discipline and adherence to precepts can be valuable, they are not the sole indicators of spiritual attainment. True enlightenment transcends such distinctions and can manifest in different ways, depending on the individual's understanding and realization.
14. Muddy Road.  Are you still carrying her?
Tanzan and Ekido were on a journey together, navigating a muddy road under a relentless downpour. As they turned a corner, they came across a young girl adorned in a beautiful silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection without soiling her attire.
Without hesitation, Tanzan spoke up, "Come on, girl." He swiftly lifted her into his arms and carried her across the muddy path.
The rest of the journey continued in silence until they finally arrived at a temple where they would spend the night. It was then that Ekido could no longer contain his thoughts and expressed his concerns to Tanzan. "We monks are meant to keep our distance from females, particularly those who are young and beautiful. It is a perilous path. Why did you decide to carry her?"
Tanzan, serene and composed, replied, "I left the girl back there. Tell me, are you still carrying her?"
In this Zen story, Tanzan and Ekido encounter a situation that challenges the traditional norms and rules governing their monastic life. Tanzan's act of assisting the girl by carrying her across the muddy road raises questions for Ekido, who expresses his worry about the potential dangers of engaging with women, especially those who are attractive.
Tanzan's response carries a deeper message, encouraging Ekido to let go of the past and any lingering attachment to the incident. By asking if Ekido is still carrying the girl, Tanzan points out that the burden lies not in the action itself but in holding onto it mentally. He invites Ekido to release the weight of unnecessary concerns and judgments, allowing the present moment to be free from the weight of past actions.
This Zen story serves as a reminder to focus on the present, letting go of unnecessary attachments and judgments that hinder our growth and understanding. It encourages us to embrace a state of mindfulness and awareness, recognizing that our perceptions and interpretations can create burdens that hold us back from experiencing the true essence of life.