One day, the Master addressed the assembly: “All delusions, without exception, are created as a result of self-centeredness. When you’re free from self-centeredness, delusions won’t be produced. For example, suppose your neighbors are having a quarrel: if you’re not personally involved, you just hear what’s going on and don’t get angry.
Not only do you not get angry, but you can plainly tell the rights and wrongs of the case—it’s clear to you as you listen who’s right and who’s wrong. But let it be something that concerns you personally, and you find yourself getting involved with what the other party [says or does], attaching to it and obscuring the marvelously illuminating [function of the Buddha Mind]. Before, you could clearly tell wrong from right; but now, led by self-centeredness, you insist that your own idea of what’s right is right, whether it is or not. Becoming angry, you thoughtlessly switch your Buddha Mind for a fighting demon, and everyone takes to arguing bitterly with each other.
“Because the Buddha Mind is marvelously illuminating, the traces of everything you’ve done are [spontaneously] reflected. It’s when you attach to these reflected traces that you produce delusion. Thoughts don’t actually exist in the place where the traces are reflected, and then arise. We retain the things we saw and heard in the past, and when these come up, they appear as traces and are reflected. Originally, thoughts have no real substance. So if they’re reflected, just let them be reflected; if they arise, just let them arise; if they stop, just let them stop. As long as you’re not attaching to these reflected traces, delusions won’t be produced. So long as you’re not attaching to them, you won’t be deluded, and then, no matter how many traces are reflected, it will be just as if they weren’t reflected at all. Even if a hundred, or a thousand thoughts spring up, it will be just the same as if they never arose. It won’t be any problem for you—no thoughts to ‘clear away,’ no thoughts to ‘cut off.’ So understand this well!”
When Bankei speaks of self-centeredness, he’s referring to the self as expressed through the five skandhas (form, thought, sensation, volition, mortal/body consciousness). It’s the Skandhic-self that’s forever getting into trouble and always taking everything that happens so seriously. So, one needs to be freed from a skandhic-centered existence. Everything perceived through the skandhas is a potential delusional episode. Yes, every-thing. A sentient-being that constitutes a personality is really a composite of those five skandhas. Sans skandha, sans person. It’s as simple as that. All the junk passing by on a daily basis is just energy-signatures emanating through the frequencies that are produced via the skandhic-prism. Once the Pure Light of the Unborn passes through this prism, Its frequency is reduced to a wide variable of conflicting signals: love, hate, lust, greed, fear, confusion, anguish, pride, control, jealousy, along with an endless host of further aggregates that comprise the self (person)-centered Skandhic host-body. Belief in oneself as a person is the Mind Parasite that afflicts Actual Selfhood in the Unborn. The person and its associated skandhic soap-opera is an attachment Mind could well do without. Bankei says to vigilantly keep track when one of these skandhic-frequencies is trying to break through by not becoming attuned (attached) to them—in other words, tune-out the delusional frequencies. And the best way to tune-out the frequency is to turn-off the receiver—the body consciousness. Being centered in your Unborn-ness the skandhic-prism will dissolve-away like melting snow.
The principal object of worship at the Ryomonji was a Kannon made by the Master. Knowing this, when the Master was delivering a sermon, a monk from Oshu stood leaning against a pillar and asked:
“Is that image an old buddha or a new buddha?” The Master replied: “How does it look to you?” The monk said: “It looks to me like a new buddha.” The Master said: “If it looks to you like a new buddha, then it’s a new buddha, and that’s that; so what’s the problem? Because you haven’t understood that what is unborn is the Buddha Mind, you come and ask this sort of useless thing, thinking that’s Zen. Rather than ask this kind of worthless stuff and disturb everyone, just keep quiet, take a seat, and listen carefully to what I’m saying.”
According to Haskel’s footnote, Bankei had a great creative edge and sculpted many fine Buddhist statues; the one referenced here is that of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Although Bankei loved to create and admire Buddhist Art, he was never affected by them as if they somehow housed the lifeforce of the Unborn, along the lines of a graven-image. Either the monk was just being facetious or was really into a buddha somehow being concretized in wood or stone. Bankei just shrugs him off as being a direct hindrance to his sermon.
“What’s it look like to you, son?”
“A new Buddha”.
“Well, then, so be it then—if that’s what you perceive it to be than that’s what it is. A perception is a perception. But let’s just let it go at that. Your perception is really useless to the matter at hand today. Rather than asking such worthless stuff like perceptions, just take a seat and listen.”
A layman from Izumo presented himself for private instruction with the Master and asked: “When one is enlightened like your Reverence, do the Three Worlds [of the past, present and future] really appear as if they were glimpsed in the palm of the hand?”
The Master said: “What you asked me just now was whether, when one is enlightened like myself, the Three Worlds appear as if glimpsed in the palm of the hand; is that correct?”
The layman said: “It is.”
The Master said: “Is that question something you’ve been thinking over, or is it something that suddenly occurred to you just now to ask?”
The layman said: “Well, I didn’t really form this question on the spur of the moment, but as I’ve been mulling it over and just happened to think of it now, I asked you about it.”
The Master told him: “In that case, you needn’t bother asking about my affairs. Your wanting to see the Three Worlds can wait. First, thoroughly examine your own self—what’s really essential right here and now. Until you’ve examined your own self, however much I tell you about how things look [to me], you won’t be recognizing it, seeing it or settling it for yourself, so you won’t be convinced.
And even if you did believe it, you still wouldn’t be proving my words. Since you won’t have seen the Three Worlds for yourself, it won’t be of any use to you. When you thoroughly examine your own self, you’ll know for yourself both the visible and invisible. There won’t be any need for me to tell you, or for you to ask me. Without first of all thoroughly examining your own self—what’s really essential right here and now—you come asking me extraneous questions about whether or not the Three Worlds can be seen, all of which can easily wait. It’s just getting side tracked, going off on a tangent; it’s all irrelevant to you, like counting up my money for me without having even half a cent of your own. First off, listen closely to what I’m saying, and when you’ve really acknowledged it, today everything will be settled for you once and for all! So pay close attention and do just as I tell you, following my instructions. When you’ve acknowledged what I say and realized it conclusively, you’ll be an instant living buddha here today. As for your question about whether one can see the Three Worlds or not, you won’t have to carry it around to distant places, chasing about all over and asking others. Simply realize your mistake, and you’ll stop sidetracking yourself, so listen closely to what I say.”
The Master then presented his teaching of the Unborn, just as usual.
The layman, having heard it through, readily acknowledged it, and declaring, “How grateful I am!” withdrew.
In this “one-on-one” encounter, Bankei challenges the layman to try to stay-focused on the matter at hand and not to get “side-tracked” by superfluous distractions. The matter at hand is always, “thoroughly examine your own self”; no-thing else matters. Who cares what I think about some insignificant generalization? Once you can see into your own True and Best Self it won’t really matter what my perspective is, because everything is always perfectly resolved through the Unborn Buddha Mind. Being One with the Unborn you won’t always go scurrying and asking others for answers to your questions because the days of seeking answers outside of your Self will have ended. Being Unborn is sufficient unto Itself.