I had spent the better part of a year getting very familiar with the writings of Zen Masters from China and Japan, and of them all I had encountered, Hakuin Ekaku resonated most. If one excludes his writing, his art alone is worthy of much appreciation, as there’s something adorable about his big-eyed doodles, and his humorous depictions on scrolls. It is with great affinity that I’ll bring this Master up frequently in future posts (he’s already appeared a number of times). This post today is looking at a period of Hakuin’s life, and some of his teachings on enlightenment. Since there have been a few posts about the Five Dhyani Buddhas (the ‘enabled body of enlightenment’), this post will include Hakuin’s related information, and as I wanted to touch upon the Three Bodies a bit more, we’ll look at a period of Hakuin’s life where he attained the realization of the bliss body. We’ve looked at the Bliss Body (known as the Sambhogakhaya) in the post ‘Stars in the Buddha Field‘, so those may be good to go back and read for full understanding of today’s post.
In the post ‘No Suffering, Turning with the Wheel of the Dharma‘ we took a look at one possible origin of the word ‘dukkha’ (which is the Buddhist “Noble Truth” and translates to ‘suffering’, but the meaning was perhaps derived from Du (meaning bad) and Su (meaning good) + kha (meaning sky, ether, or space, and later the word ‘hole’), so dukkha is to have a poor “axle hole” in a cart wheel, dukkha’s implication being thus a rough ride and uneasy going. In the image of the Dharma Wheel used in Buddhism there are three swirls within the center, which I believe represent the three bodies, the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. The Three Bodies are one ‘body’ and represent enlightenment (which is non-duality), it is realization of void nature, but not an empty void, a luminous void, nothing and everything, it is the realization of Buddha’s teaching.
In Hakuin on Kensho: The Four Ways of Knowing by Albert Low, a monk asks Hakuin, “Are the three bodies and four ways of knowing inherent, or are they brought into being by our coming to awakening? Furthermore, are they realized suddenly, all at once, or with practice, do they come gradually?” The answer presented is that Hakuin “answered by saying that although the three bodies and four ways of knowing are originally inherent and complete in everyone, unless they are brought to light they cannot be realized. After you have become strong through study and practice, and the awakened nature suddenly manifests, you realize the essence of inner reality all at once. When one way of knowing is realized, all are realized. However, although you reach the level of Buddhahood suddenly, and without passing through steps and degrees, if you do not practice gradually, you cannot reach pure, unobstructed knowing (sarvajnata) and ultimate great awakening.” The student prodded the Master a bit further, asking what realization all at once meant, and Hakuin had responded that “when the discriminating mind is suddenly shattered and the awakened essence immediately appears, the universe is filled with its boundless light. This is called the way of knowing of the Great Perfect Mirror, the pure body of reality (dharmakaya). This is realization all at once. At this time alaya, the eighth level of consciousness, is transmuted.” [Note: We’ve gone over the Eight Consciousnesses and the Perfect Mirror and its relation to Samadhi and emptiness in great depth in the post ‘Genius in Thelema with Elaboration from Yogacara‘.]
The truth-body is known as the Dharmakaya, however for one to be doing pure will as a Bodhisattva one needs to receive the compulsion, or the instruction from “Buddha” through their Bliss Body (this image I had made a while back presented the 10 realms of enlightenment, where Bodhisattva is the 9th before full realization of “Buddha”, and Bodhisattva is enlightenment where ones actions or Will is motivated out of selflessness, for service of others, whereas Arhat/Sravaka is enlightenment for self only – the ability to “put oneself out” as to enter nirvana – but these lesser enlightenment actions are not in full accord with the Dharma). Without the sambhogakaya one is essentially in a “Dark Night of the Soul”, to borrow a term from Christian Mysticism.
Albert Low in his Hakuin on Kensho elaborated on this: “What does all this mean in terms of our practice? This awakening comes as another turnabout, this time in the seventh level of consciousness, the manas. This way of knowing transcends duality. In experience, the first turnabout in the eighth consciousness opens onto knowing as emptiness, knowing as vast space. Many koans point to this; one example is the Bodhidharma’s “Vast space, nothing to be called holy.” Another is the second half of Nansen’s “Everyday Mind is the Way”: “It is like vast space.” This knowing as emptiness; it is seeing that form is emptiness. Many people, as Hakuin points out, are content to stay with this awakening. He attained to this with his first kensho, but was fortunate to find a teacher who pushed him further. His teacher used to call him a “devil in the hole.” The hole was Hakuin’s awakening to the dharmakaya. The devil was Hakuin’s willingness to stay there.”
His willingness to stay there, was that he hadn’t penetrated the full mystery. The eighth consciousness is emptiness, or alaya-vijnana, meaning no-mind. A common Zen metaphor is kicking the bottom out of the bucket. As the above quote mentioned being a devil in the hole, let’s look at the story below. The story goes that Hakuin was being tested by his teacher.
The master asked, “How do you understand Joshu’s Mu?”
Hakuin replied, “What sort of place does Mu have that one can attach arms and legs to it?”
Master Shoju twisted his nose and said, “Here’s somewhere to attach arms and legs.” Hakuin did not know how to respond, and the master burst out laughing. “You poor hole-dwelling devil!” he cried. Hakuin ignored him, but the master continued, “Do you think somehow that you have sufficient understanding?”
Hakuin answered, “What do you think is missing?”
The master began to talk about the koan that tells of Zen master Nansen’s death. Hakuin covered his ears with his hands and began to rush out of the room. On his way out, the master called to him, “Hey, monk!” and, after Hakuin had stopped and turned around, added, “You poor hole-dwelling devil!”
From then on, almost every time Hakuin went to the master he was called a “devil in the hole.”
With the bliss body, also known as the enjoyment body (the sambhogakaya) being in unison with the dharmakaya (the truth body), comes the nirmanakaya. Albert Low on this writes, “Coughing, spitting, moving the arms, activity, stillness, all that is done in harmony with the nature of reality, is called knowing through doing things. This is the sphere of freedom of the transformation body (nirmanakaya).”
When these three are acting as one, for they are one, then is a student fully unencumbered by their “rupa” (form). The three bodies bring with them the four-fold wisdom, which enables one to maintain their equilibrium, their non-dual mind, to hold the emptiness realization, to “see their nature” (Kensho) is No-nature. In Hakuin’s Song of Meditation he writes that the four-fold wisdom is the radiance of the full moon, as the moon is a metaphor for enlightenment. As stated in the Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, 心月 – Mind (as the) moon, the natural mind or heart pure and bright as the full moon. The mind’s or heart’s moon-revolutions, i.e. the moon’s varying stages, typifying the grades of enlightenment from beginner to saint.
Hakuin is perhaps best known for his koan “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” which can be demonstrated in numerous ways, though one such demonstration would be of two individuals, the one holds out their palm, and the other thrusts their palm into theirs making a clap. This poetic performance being a demonstration of non-dual mind, where neither “self” exists, and both are in samadhi as ‘One Mind’. As Zen Master Huangbo taught, “One Mind alone is Buddha”, and Zen’s whole purpose is to see your nature, and to become a buddha.
Just make sure on your way to Buddhahood, you don’t become complacent with initial break-throughs or realizations, as you don’t want to become a hole-dwelling devil!
“To all intents and purposes, Zen practice makes as its essential the resolution of the Doubt Block. Thus it is said, “At the bottom of Great Doubt lies Great Awakening. If you doubt fully you will awaken fully.” – Zen Master Hakuin