Tanka lived with Sekito three years and finally returned to Basho’s temple. Before paying his respects to Basho, he went into the monk’s hall and climbed up onto the shoulders of a statue of Manjushree.
Manjushree is one of the disciples of Gautam Buddha, the first disciple who became enlightened; hence, his status is just next to that of Gautam Buddha. The monk I have told you about who became enlightened sitting under the tree, and flowers showered and showered, was no one but Manjushree.
Now this was very strange of Tanka, coming back to the temple of Basho where Manjushree’s statue is worshipped. Basho loved Manjushree, felt some synchronicity between himself and Manjushree. Tanka went into the temple and climbed up onto the shoulders of Manjushree.
The monks were astonished and went to tell Basho, who came down to the hall. He saw Tanka and said, “My son, Tennen.”
Tanka climbed down from Manjushree’s shoulders and made bows to Basho, saying, “Thank you master, for giving me my dharma name.” And thereafter he was called Tennen, meaning son of nature.
Tanka is another formation of Tennen.
Rather than being angry with him, rather than being offended, “What kind of nonsense are you doing? It is insulting to Manjushree and it is insulting to me!” Instead of saying that, he said, “My son, Tennen.” He has initiated him with such love – “My son” – and has also given him the name Tennen.
Tanka climbed down from Manjushree’s shoulders and made bows to Basho, saying, “Thank you master, for giving me my dharma name.”
These kinds of anecdotes you will not find in any religious tradition around the world. What was the meaning of Tanka climbing up on the statue of Manjushree? In this gesture he is declaring without saying a single word, “I have reached higher than Manjushree. Do you recognize it or not?”
Basho recognized it. He said, “My son, come down. You will be known as Tennen.” To give the dharma name, the name of sannyas, is to accept the disciple.
It was also Tanka who features in the story about using a wooden statue of Buddha to burn in a temple one night to keep himself warm.
The night was cold, and in Japan there are wooden statues. When the priest went to sleep – Tanka was just a guest; the night was cold – he took one of the statues of Buddha and burned it. Now this would be utter disrespect by anyone anywhere in the world – but not in the world of Zen, and you will see why.