Being attuned with the Unborn Buddha Mind is truly a marvelous reality. There is no greater genuine Self-realization than being with one accord in the Unborn. Bankei was truly blessed with the gift of being able to expound upon this profound awareness (undivided bodhipower) to others. Yet, in reading these passages from his teachings it’s apparent that this gift and Undivided-Awakening is limited to only a few—just a handful of bright shining stars in the midst of a raging universe that is littered with the eternal darkness of avidya. Less than 2% of the population is not even dimly aware of the import of the Unborn. Bankei was truly a singular-spirit who taught the Buddhadharma of the Unborn Buddha Mind with a Hammer—trying to breakthrough the dark layers of ignorance with a great slam-dunk—“Wake-up! All is perfectly resolved in that troubled head of yours…just accept the hardcore reality behind this Noble Self-realization—remove the blinders from your eyes and look into the very heart of THAT which you ALREADY ARE”! It was always disappointing for Bankei that no one else was on the same spiritual page. The next section primarily draws upon references to his autobiography, whose salient points we covered in our introductory blog to this Dharma series. The one part that struck me was Bankei extrapolating upon this frustration of not being able to find spiritual satisfaction from the attempts of others:
“When the teachers had presented their instruction, I took the liberty of putting in a word myself. ‘I realize it’s impertinent of me,’ I told them, ‘but please excuse me when I say that, while I’m not ungrateful for the instruction you’ve given, I get a feeling as if someone were trying to scratch an itchy spot through my shoe. Unless you reach right in and scratch, you won’t get to my real bones and marrow, and things won’t be settled through and through.’
“Like the honest teachers they were, they told me: ‘Yes, it’s just as you say. Even though we’re teaching others, all we do is memorize the words in the sutras and records and teach people what the old masters said. But, shameful though it is, we haven’t actually realized enlightenment ourselves, so when we speak, our teaching is indeed like trying to scratch an itchy spot through your shoe—naturally, it’s never satisfying. You understand us well,’ they said, ‘you can’t be just an ordinary man!’ (Haskel, pg.14-15)
What is amazing in these Bankeian accounts is how, at a future junction, vast numbers of people literally flocked to hear his teachings:
“At the time I was young and first began to teach this true teaching of the Unborn, no one was able to understand. When they heard me, people seemed to think I was some sort of heretic or Christian, so they were frightened off, and no one would go near me. But in time they realized they were wrong and saw that what I was teaching was the true Dharma itself. Now, instead of my original situation where no one would even go near me, I’m swamped with people coming to see me, anxious to meet me and listen to my teaching, after me continually, so that they don’t leave me in peace even a single day! Things come in their own due time.” (ibid, pg 16)
One cannot fail but applaud Bankei’s resolute determination to teach the Way of the Unborn Buddha Mind, regardless of the painfully slow progression; in later years it apparently paid-off:
“From time to time in the forty years I’ve been here, I’ve taught others this true teaching of the Unborn, and as a result this area has produced lots of people who are superior to teachers of Buddhism.” (ibid, pg 16)
Growing up deluded
” . . . What everyone has from his parents innately is the Buddha Mind alone. But since your parents themselves fail to realize this, you become deluded too, and then display this delusion in raising your own children. Even the nursemaids and baby-sitters lose their temper, so that the people involved in bringing up children display every sort of deluded behavior, including stupidity, selfish desire and the [anger of] fighting demons. Growing up with deluded people surrounding them, children develop a first-rate set of bad habits, becoming quite proficient at being deluded themselves, and turning into unenlightened beings. Originally, when you’re born, you’re without delusion. But on account of the faults of the people who raise you, someone abiding in the Buddha Mind is turned into a first-rate unenlightened being. This is something I’m sure you all know from your own experience.
“Your parents didn’t give you any delusions whatever when you were born, no bad habits, no selfish desires. But afterward, once you’d come into the world, you picked up all different sorts of delusions, which then developed into bad habits, so that you couldn’t help becoming deluded. That which you didn’t pick up from outside is the Unborn Buddha Mind, and here no delusions exist. Since the Buddha Mind is marvelously illuminating, you’re able to learn things, even to the point of thoroughly learning all sorts of deluded behavior. [At the same time,] since it’s marvelously illuminating, when you hear this, you’ll resolve not to be deluded, and from today on cease creating delusion, abiding in the Unborn Buddha Mind as it is. Just as before you applied yourself skillfully to picking up delusions and made yourself deluded, now you’ll use the same skill to listen to this and stop being deluded—that’s what a splendid thing the Buddha Mind is. Listen and you’ll realize the preciousness of Buddha Mind. Then, since there’s nothing that can take the place of this precious Buddha Mind, even if you want to be deluded, you won’t be able to be anymore!
“It’s because you don’t realize the preciousness of Buddha Mind that you indulge in self-centeredness, creating delusions that do you harm. Yet those delusions are so precious to you that all of you actually want to become deluded, even at the risk of your own life! Foolish, isn’t it? Unable to withstand the base impulses produced by your selfish desires, you become deluded. With all delusions it’s the same.
“Everyone insists that the way he likes to behave is his innate character, so he can’t do anything about it. He’ll never tell you how, actually, he indulges in self-centeredness because of his selfish desires, holding on to those kinds of behavior he likes; instead, he tries to sound clever and talk about how it’s all innate! To falsely accuse your own parents of something you never got from them is terribly unfilial. Is there anyone who’s born a drunkard, a gambler or a thief—who’s born with any sort of vice? No one’s born that way. Once you pick up a taste for liquor, it promptly develops into a drinking habit, and then, because of selfish desire, you find yourself unable to stop, without realizing you’ve become deluded. It’s only foolishness, so you’ve no cause to claim it’s innate and pass off the blame on your parents!
“When you hear this, I want you all from today on to abide in the Unborn Buddha Mind just as it is—the Unborn Buddha Mind you have from your parents innately. Then, you won’t create delusions about anything, and, since no delusions will remain, you’ll be living buddhas from today forever after. Nothing could be more direct! You’ve all got to realize this conclusively.”
One’s parent’s, too, obviously are oblivious to the innate Bodhi-Pearl that dwells within. Generation after generation, just a flock of mixed-emotions and conditioned mental synopses boiling in an endless sea of discontent—all conspiring to make sure that one never escapes the skandhic-prison; Bankei drives home the point that these demons of the mind, releasing every conceivable vexation known to man, prevent the seeds of Bodhi from ever taking root as the blackened seeds of delusion helps to determine the endless course of Mind-less predispositions that bear the mark of soiled societal and material expectations that ruin many a potential Light Bearer. On the other hand, it does no good to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of one’s parents—as if they are exclusively the source for these sins that forever bar the door to the Nirvanic Kingdom of True Self. No, the samsaric-spin of dependent origination is without question a shared responsibility; at some point one surrenders to the seducement of that consensual habit energy that has been making the rounds since time immemorial. What say you? One either grasps the diseased hand of ignoble self-deception, or one turns about from that ignominious sin against the Unborn Spirit by abiding faithfully as “living Buddhas from today forever after.”