Scripture Is No More Than Waste Paper


[FN#107] Zen is not based on any particular sutra, either of

Mahayana or of Hinayana. There are twofold Tripitakas (or the three

collections of the Buddhist scriptures)-namely, the

Mahayana-tripitaka and the Hinayana-tripitaka. The former are the

basis of the Mahayana, or the higher and reformed Buddhism, full of

profound metaphysical reasonings; while the latter form that of the

Hinayana, or the lower and early Bud
hism, which is simple and

ethical teaching. These twofold Tripitakas are as follows:


The Sutra Pitaka.-The Saddharma-pundarika-sutra,

Samdhi-nirmocana-sutra, Avatamsaka-sutra, Prajnyaparamita-sutra,

Amitayus-sutra, Mahaparinirvana-sutra, etc.

The Vinaya Pitaka.--Brahmajala-sutra, Bodhisattva-caryanirdeca, etc.

The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra,

Mahayana-craddhotpada-castra, Madhyamaka-castra, Yogacarya

bhumi-castra, etc.


The Sutra Pitaka.--Dirghagama, Ekottaragama, Madhyamagama,

Samyuktagama, etc.

The Vinaya Pitaka.--Dharmagupta-vinaya, Mahasamghika-vinaya,

Sarvastivada-vinaya, etc.

The Abhidharma Pitaka.--Dharma-skandha-pada, Samgiti-paryaya-pada,

Jnyanaprasthana-castra, Abhidharma-kosa-castra, etc.

The term 'Tripitaka,' however, was not known at the time of Shakya

Muni, and almost all of the northern Buddhist records agree in

stating that the Tripitaka was rehearsed and settled in the same year

in which the Muni died. Mahavansa also says: The book called

Abhidharma-pitaka was compiled, which was preached to god, and was

arranged in due order by 500 Budhu priests. But we believe that

Shakya Muni's teaching was known to the early Buddhists, not as

Tripitaka, but as Vinaya and Dharma, and even at the time of King

Acoka (who ascended the throne about 269 B.C.) it was not called

Tripitaka, but Dharma, as we have it in his Edicts. Mahayanists

unanimously assert the compilation of the Tripitaka in the first

council of Rajagrha, but they differ in opinion as to the question

who rehearsed the Abhidharma; notwithstanding, they agree as for the

other respects, as you see in the following:

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by

Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Ananda--according to

Nagarjuna (Mahaprajnyaparamita-castra).

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by

Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Kacyapa according to Huen

Tsang (Ta-tan-si-yu-ki).

The Sutra Pitaka, compiled by Ananda; the Vinaya Pitaka, compiled by

Upali; the Abhidharma Pitaka, compiled by Purna--according to

Paramartha ('A Commentary on the History of the Hinayana Schools').

The above-mentioned discrepancy clearly betrays the uncertainty of

their assertions, and gives us reason to discredit the compilation of

Abhidharma Pitaka at the first council. Besides, judging from the

Dharma-gupta-vinaya and other records, which states that Purna took

no part in the first council, and that he had different opinions as

to the application of the rules of discipline from that of Kacyapa,

there should be some errors in Paramartha's assertion.

Of these three collections of the Sacred Writings, the first two, or

Sutra and Vinaya, of Mahayana, as well as of Himayana, are believed

to be the direct teachings of Shakya Muni himself, because all the

instructions are put in the mouth of the Master or sanctioned by him.

The Mahayanists, however, compare the Hinayana doctrine with a

resting-place on the road for a traveller, while the Mahayana

doctrine with his destination. All the denominations of Buddhism,

with a single exception of Zen, are based on the authority of some

particular sacred writings. The Ten Dai Sect, for instance, is based

on Saddharma-pundarika-sutra; the Jo Do Sect on Larger

Sukhavati-vyuha, Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha, and Amitayus-dhyana-sutra;

the Ke Gon Sect on Avatamsaka-sutra; the Hosso Sect on


Zen is based on the highest spiritual plane attained by Shakya Muni

himself. It can only be realized by one who has attained the same

plane. To describe it in full by means of words is beyond the power

even of Gotama himself. It is for this reason that the author of

Lankavatara-sutra insists that Shakya Muni spoke no word through his

long career of forty-nine years as a religious teacher, and that of

Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra[FN#108] also express the same opinion. The

Scripture is no more nor less than the finger pointing to the moon of

Buddhahood. When we recognize the moon and enjoy its benign beauty,

the finger is of no use. As the finger has no brightness whatever,

so the Scripture has no holiness whatever. The Scripture is

religious currency representing spiritual wealth. It does not matter

whether money be gold, or sea-shells, or cows. It is a mere

substitute. What it stands for is of paramount importance. Away

with your stone-knife! Do not watch the stake against which a

running hare once struck its head and died. Do not wait for another

hare. Another may not come for ever. Do not cut the side of the

boat out of which you dropped your sword to mark where it sunk. The

boat is ever moving on. The Canon is the window through which we

observe the grand scenery of spiritual nature. To hold communion

directly with it we must get out of the window. It is a mere stray

fly that is always buzzing within it, struggling to get out. Those

who spend most of their lives in the study of the Scriptures, arguing

and explaining with hair-splitting reasonings, and attain no higher

plane in spirituality, are religious flies good for nothing but their

buzzing about the nonsensical technicalities. It is on this account

that Rin-zai declared:[FN#109] 'The twelve divisions of the Buddhist

Canon are nothing better than waste paper.'

[FN#108] Mahaprajnyaparamita-sutra, vol. 425.

[FN#109] Rin-zai-roku.