Above and below the heavens there is only myself, alone and sublime.
~ Shakyamuni Buddha
Two thousand four hundred and forty-five years ago Gautama Siddhartha discovered the true fact concerning his own existence and became Shakyamuni Buddha (the Awakened One, the wise man of the Shaka clan).
(Note: here I am following the accepted time frame of his life span as being from 463 to 383 BCE. with his awakening occurring at the age of 35.)
Shakyamuni used these words to express his discovery of the true fact: “Above and below the heavens there is only myself, alone and sublime.” This is describing the reality that the whole universe is but one existence.
This fact that he discovered has been transmitted for more than 2500 years down to this very day. What has made this transmission possible is the power this true fact has. It can be called the “power of the fact.”
With only that Shakyamuni’s great discovery was transmitted totally and perfectly to the Reverend Kashyapa (Gateless Gate, #6). What fact was passed on? It was the unbelievable fact that: “Twirling the flower” exhausts the whole universe; “smiling” alone exhausts the whole universe.
What about the transmission from the first patriarch, Mahakashya, to the second patriarch, the Reverend Ananda? Here also the transmission was made perfectly by just “Ananda!” “Yes!” (Gateless Gate, #22). This was the transmission and affirmation of the fact that “Ananda” exhausts all existence and that “Yes” exhausts all existence. Both of these transmissions occurred 2500 years ago.Eleven hundred years later Great Master Seigen Gyôshi (660-740),known as the founder of the line which later became the Soto Sect, was asked by a monk: “What really was the true fact that Shakyamuni tried to transmit to others?” In response Seigen Gyôshi replied: “What is the price of rice in Roryô?” (Book of Equanimity, #5). Today he might say: “Nowadays what is the cost of a kilogram of Niigata’s famous Koshihikari rice?” Why is this answer the world that Shakyamuni discovered? The answer is quite simple. The fact is that Seigen Gyôshi’s every word, every sound in every word, is exhausting the whole universe. This fact in itself, once and for all, is the world itself that Shakyamuni discovered. There is no difference at all from the transmissions of 2500 years ago.
And again, one hundred and fifty years later a monk asked the Old Buddha Jôshû (778-897): “What is the meaning of the Patriarch’s coming from the West?” In reply Jôshû said: “The oak tree in the garden” (Gateless Gate, #37). He answered: “The oak tree there in the garden. That is the whole universe, all existence.” Here also there is absolutely no difference with the transmissions of 2500 years ago.
And finally, another 1200 years has passed. It is the dokusan room at San’un Zendo in Kamakura. A practitioner asks Ryôun Roshi: “Exactly what is that world that Shakyamuni discovered?” Ryôun Roshi replies: “It is really good that we now have air conditioning in San’un Zendo.” Here again there is absolutely no difference from the transmissions of 2500 years ago. The time span of 2500 years during which the fact has been transmitted has not changed even an iota of it. Of course not. The “fact” means the whole existence. Could there be anything outside of the whole existence? The power of the fact is the power of the whole universe, the power of all of existence. And it is “the power of each and every one of you.” The purpose of our practice is to become aware of this “power” and personalize this “power.” I think there is no practice greater than this.
Translated by Jerome CUSUMANO