Daito Kokushi's Admonition

Book Extracts

This admonition from Master Daito to his monks are among the final words of the master before his death. It is an exhortation to his followers of why they are there, what the Zen training is about and how they must continue once he has undergone transformation (died).

Portrait of Daito Kokushi


By Eigaku Kano (狩野永岳) - Fumie Takagi "Tradition and Innovation: Flower of Kyoto Painter, Eigaku Kano" 2002 Published by Hikone Castle Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6703274

All you monks who have come here to this mountain monastery, remember why you are assembled here. You have gathered for the practice of the Way and not for food and clothing. While you have shoulders, you will have clothes to wear and while you have mouths, you will have food to eat. Throughout the twelve periods of the day, devote yourselves unceasingly to the perception of the Inconceivable. Time flies like an arrow. Be reverent, do not allow your hearts to chase after the manifold. Take heed, take heed!

After my pilgrimage (death) you might be incumbents of richly endowed temples, towers and halls, with Sutra books inlaid with gold and silver, and devotees crowding all around. Or you may chant Sutras and Dharanis, sit in meditation for long hours without sleep, eat but one meal a day and keep all the religious observances throughout the six periods. But unless in your heart you truly dwell on the wonderful Way that cannot be transmitted by Buddha and Patriarchs, you will fail to bring forth the fruit and cause the downfall of the true line. Such as these belong to the family of evil spirits and may not call themselves my descendants, no matter how long ago I have departed from this world. But if there is just one person, even if living in remote wilderness in a hut thatched with just one bundle of reeds and eating wild plants and roots cooked in a pot with a broken leg, if only he whole-heartedly applies himself to investigate and clarify the One Great Matter, he sees me face to face every day and requites his debt of gratitude. Who would dare to despise such a one? Be diligent, be diligent!

(The Daily Devotional Chants of the Zen Centre - with comments by Venerable Myokyo-ni. Pub. The Buddhist Society 2008)

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