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Skeletons

ikkyu

Students, sit earnestly in zazen, and you will realize that everything born in this world is ultimately empty, including oneself and the original face of existence. All things indeed emerge out of emptiness. The original formlessness is the "Buddha," and all other similar terms — Buddha-nature, Buddhahood, Buddha-mind, Awakened One, Patriarch, God — are merely different expressions for the same emptiness. Misunderstand this and you will end up in hell.

One night ... a pitiful-looking skeleton appeared and said these words:

A melancholy autumn wind
Blows through the world;
The pampas grass waves,
As we drift to the moor,
Drift to the sea.

What can be done
With the mind of a man
That should be clear
But though he is dressed up in a monk’s robe,
Just lets life pass him by?

Toward dawn I dozed off, and in my dream I found myself surrounded by a group of skeletons ... One skeleton came over to me and said:

Memories
Flee and
Are no more.
All are empty dreams
Devoid of meaning.

Violate the reality of things
And babble about
"God" and "the Buddha"
And you will never find
the true Way.

I liked this skeleton ... He saw things clearly, just as they are. I lay there with the wind in the pines whispering in my ears and the autumn moonlight dancing across my face.

What is not a dream? Who will not end up as a skeleton? We appear as skeletons covered with skin — male and female — and lust after each other. When the breath expires, though, the skin ruptures, sex disappears, and there is no more high or low. Underneath the skin of the person we fondle and caress right now is nothing more than a set of bare bones. Think about it — high and low, young and old, male and female, all are the same. Awaken to this one great matter and you will immediately comprehend the meaning of "unborn and undying."

If chunks of rock
Can serve as a memento
To the dead,
A better headstone
Would be a simple tea-mortar.

Humans are indeed frightful beings.
A single moon
Bright and clear
In an unclouded sky;
Yet still we stumble
In the world’s darkness.

Have a good look — stop the breath, peel off the skin, and everybody ends up looking the same. No matter how long you live the result is not altered (even for emperors). Cast off the notion that "I exist." Entrust yourself to the wind-blown clouds, and do not wish to live for ever.

This world
Is but
A fleeting dream
So why by alarmed
At its evanescence?

The vagaries of life,
Though painful
Teach us
Not to cling
To this floating world.

Why do people
Lavish decorations
On this set of bones
Destined to disappear
Without a trace?

No one really knows
The nature of birth
Nor the true dwelling place.
We return to the source
And turn to dust.

Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain,
But at the peak
We all gaze at the
Single bright moon.

If at the end of our journey
There is no final
Resting place,
Then we need not fear
Losing our way.

No beginning,
No end.
Our mind
is born and dies:
The emptiness of emptiness!

Rain, hail, snow and ice:
All are different,
But when they fall
They become the same water
As the valley stream.

The ways of proclaiming
The mind vary,
But the same heavenly truth
Can be seen
In each and every one.

Cover your path
With the fallen pine needles
So no one will be able
To locate your
True dwelling place.