Chapter 9: Look!
Chi Ch’ang grew old. More and more he seemed to have entered the state in which both mind and body look no longer to things outside, but exist by themselves in restful and elegant simplicity. His stolid face divested itself of every vestige of expression; no outside force could disturb his complete impassiveness.
It was rare now for him to speak, and presently one could no longer tell whether or not he still breathed. In the evening of his life he no longer knew the difference between “this” and “that.” The kaleidoscope of sensory impressions no longer concerned him; for all he cared, his eye might have been an ear, his ear a nose, his nose a mouth.
Of his last year, the story is told that one day he visited a friend’s house and saw lying on a table a vaguely familiar utensil whose name he could, however, not recall. He turned to his friend and said, “Pray tell me: that object on your table - what is it called, and for what is it used?”
The friend stammered out in an awe-struck tone, “Oh, master. You must indeed be the greatest master of all times. Only so can you have forgotten the bow - both its name and its use!”
It was said that for some time after this in the city, painters threw away their brushes, musicians broke the strings of their instruments, and carpenters were ashamed to be seen with their rules.
A man of the people one day asks Master Ikkyu: “Master, will you write for me some maxims of high wisdom?”
Ikkyu took up a brush and wrote the word Look.
“Is that all?” said the man, “Won’t you add a few more words?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice: Look, look.
“All the same,” said the disappointed man, “I don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have written there.”
Ikkyu then wrote the same word three times.
Slightly irritated, the man said: “After all, what does this word look mean?”
And Ikkyu replied, “Look means look.”
This one word look contains the whole message of Zen. Fra Giovanni in AD 1513 said: “The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we. but see, and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!”
The word look is exactly the whole substance of Zen. How to look contains all religion. How to look with pure eyes, so much so that there comes a unity in looking where the object and the subject both disappear and only pure look remains. In that purity of looking - nobody looking at and nobody looking at anything - in that purity of look, darshan, in that vision, truth is known.
Zen people talk about Three Pillars of Zen. These are the three pillars - they prepare you for the look. First is: no-form. Second is: no-mind. Third is: no-soul.
This will look strange, particularly because people who are accustomed to so-called religion know it almost as a cliché - that man has three existences: the physical, the psychological and the spiritual. And the politician and the priest and the professors go on talking about the health, the balance, between the physical and the psychological and the spiritual.
Zen says: No-mind means no psychology; no-form means no body, no matter; and no-soul means no spirit, no self. Zen says: The physical is the gross ego - ego number one. The psychological is a little more subtle, less gross, but still the ego - ego number two. And the so-called spiritual is the subtlest ego - ego number three. But they are all egos. And all these three egos make one egoist, create one egoist.