Lesson
31

Bankei

2 of 6

Teaching to all

Bankei became a Zen man of the people. He spoke to crowds of ordinary country folk and as Zen students. With his simple and direct language, he impressed people with his sincerity. Bankei's Zen was refreshingly clear and relatively simple. You didn't have to be learned, live in a monastery or even necessarily consider yourself a Buddhist to practice them effectively.

Bankei was approached by a priest who boasted that his master possessed miraculous powers. This master could take a brush and write Amida in the air and the word would appear on a sheet of paper in the distance. Challenged to equal this, Bankei replied, "My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink."

Bankei’s broke completely from the predominating koan system. Rather than urging his followers to seek a hard-won satori through koan meditation, he exhorted people to experience the simple truth directly. Bankei assumed his own conviction would persuade others of the value of his method.

I won't tell you that you have to practice such and such, that you have to uphold certain rules or precepts or read certain sutras or other Zen writings, or that you have to do zazen. . . . If you want to recite sutras or do zazen, observe precepts, recite the Nembutsu or the Daimoku [the mantra of the Nichiren sect], you should do it. If you're a farmer or a tradesman and you want to work your farm or your business, then go ahead, do it; whatever it is, that will be your personal samadhi.

Long and arduous discipline was not required, Bankei taught. Even though he himself had undergone terrible hardships before realizing the Unborn, he assured people that it wasn't necessary or even advisable to follow his own example. He had had to struggle because he could not find a teacher able to teach him what he had to know, but now Bankei was there to point to the truth that was readily available. Life lived from the Unborn would bring experiences to deepen the appreciation and inspire one-pointedness.

All I do is comment directly on people themselves. That takes care of everything. I don't have to quote other people. So you won't find me saying anything about either the 'Buddha-Dharma' or the 'Zen Dharma.'