Osho on Zen Master Ta Hui
Born in 1089, Ta Hui (Dahui Zongao) was a Chinese Zen master. He was the 12th generation of the Linji school of Chan Buddhism. He was the dominant figure of the Linjee School during the Song dynasty. The enlightenment experience as the answer to the riddle of life and death, and the great doubt necessary to have the determination to break through, became central to Ta Hui’s teaching. Ta Hui’s letters to lay people reveal a compassionate teacher, who believed that the enlightenment promised by the Buddha was available to all people, regardless of their daily activities.
Osho talks about teacher, master and Ta hui, and says, “The great Zen teacher Ta Hui comes from the same lineage as Bodhidharma. He was born four hundred years after Bodhidharma had left for the Himalayas, to disappear into the eternal ice, the eternal silence there. I have called Ta Hui the great Zen teacher — not a master… it has to be explained to you clearly. The master is one who is enlightened. but sometimes it happens that the master may be enlightened, but is not articulate enough to give expression to what he has known. That is a totally different art. The teacher is not enlightened, but he is very articulate. He can say things which the master, although he knows, cannot bring to words. The teacher can say them, although he does not know.”
The teacher he has heard… he has lived with enlightened people, he has imbibed their energy, he has been showered by their flowers. He has tasted something transpiring from the enlightened ones, so he has a certainty that something like enlightenment happens, but he has no authority of his own; his authority is borrowed. And if the teacher is a genius, he can almost manage to express things over which masters have faltered, or they have remained silent. The teacher has his own utility. He is more available to the people — he belongs to the people. The master is on a high sunlit peak. Even if he shouts from there, only echoes reach to the people’s ears. But the teacher lives amongst the people, knows their life, knows their language, knows how things should be expressed so they can understand. The master remains committed to his experience, while the teacher is more committed to the people, to spread the message.
Once in a while it happens that the master cannot express at all. For example, Ramakrishna was an enlightened man, but utterly uneducated, uncultured, knowing nothing of great literature, knowing nothing of what other enlightened people have said. He experienced the beauty of his inner being, but he was absolutely handicapped as far as conveying it to others. He had to take the support of a man, Vivekananda, who was not enlightened but was a great genius — very intelligent, rational, logical, intellectual, well-versed, well-educated. He became the mouthpiece of Ramakrishna. He went around the world spreading his message. Whatever exists today as Ramakrishna Mission, is completely the work of Vivekananda, but he himself died in utter agony. The agony was more intense because he had been spreading the good news of ecstasy, but inside he was empty. His whole message was only verbal, but he managed it so cleverly that many started thinking of him as enlightened.
The same thing happened with Ta Hui. When he was just sixteen years old he was so intelligent… he left the world, and after one year of preparation he was initiated as a monk, when he was just seventeen. Then he went from master to master, seeking the right enlightened man who could show him the way. He found his master in Yuan Wu. It seems almost the same situation: Yuan Wu knows, but cannot say it. Ta Hui does not know, but can say it. Just living with the master, imbibing his energy, watching his grace — the way he walks, the way he sits, the way he remains silent…
Rarely, once in a while, Yuan Wu speaks a word or sentence. His statements are collected in a small book, BLUE CLIFF RECORD, but they are almost impossible to understand. They don’t seem to be related to each other, relevant to each other; they look fragmentary. They don’t create a system. Even though his words were recorded in BLUE CLIFF RECORD, Yuan Wu never addressed the people. On the contrary, he simply asked Ta Hui just to look into the BLUE CLIFF RECORD and express his opinion, say what he thinks of them. He was not certain that he had been able to say what he wanted to say, and whether what he had said conveyed anything or was just a futile exercise. In every case Ta Hui completely comprehended the subtle meaning.
THE OLDER MASTER EXCLAIMED, “YOU MUST BE SOMEONE WHO HAS COME AGAIN!”
By saying this he is saying, “You must have been born almost enlightened, just a little bit is missing; perhaps you may be able to manage it in this life. But you have understood my expressions perfectly well.” This was his seal, when he said “You must be someone who has come again!” — you cannot be new. You have been on the path for a long, long time; although you have not achieved the ultimate end, you are very close. But the master could not be deceived just by Ta Hui’s understanding of the words, which any intelligent man of great talent like Ta Hui could have done. Yuan Wu again said to Ta Hui, “It was not easy for you to get to this stage” — you have struggled hard — “Too bad that having died, you are unable to come back to life.” This will be clear to you if I refer to Jesus who says, “Unless you are born again, you will not understand the truth.”
There are two parts of the path. The first part is to let your ego die. It is strenuous, arduous, difficult, because you know only your ego, you don’t know your authentic self. You are jumping into an abyss, not knowing whether you will survive or not; THAT Ta Hui has done. But the second part — of resurrection, of giving birth to your new individuality, or your authentic being — has not happened.
“IT WAS NOT EASY FOR YOU TO GET TO THIS STAGE — TOO BAD THAT HAVING DIED,” died as an ego, “YOU ARE UNABLE TO COME BACK TO LIFE. WITHOUT A DOUBT, WORDS AND PHRASES ARE A GREAT DISEASE, BUT HAVEN’T YOU SEEN THE SAYING”
— and it is a beautiful statement from the master:
HANGING FROM A CLIFF, LET GO —
AND AGREE TO ACCEPT THE EXPERIENCE.
That is the most important part in it: hanging from a cliff, let go. That is accepting death of the ego. But don’t do it with effort, with tension. Don’t do it to achieve anything based on greed or ambition; just do it simply to discover your real self. The right way of doing is…agree to accept the experience. Yuan Wu tells Ta Hui: You have not agreed to accept the experience, so only the first half is complete. The ego has died and has left you in a limbo, because you have not been absolutely total in your let-go. Let-go you managed — but it was a managed let-go, it was not a spontaneous acceptance. You have not enjoyed the let-go. If you had enjoyed, then:
AFTER ANNIHILATION, COME BACK TO LIFE —
I COULD NOT DECEIVE YOU.
He was a man of few words. It is unfortunate… very rarely a few people become enlightened, but out of those few the major part never say anything. The few who say anything say only fragments, and in a language… unless you are enlightened it will not be possible to comprehend their meaning. And a few never say a single word. They don’t leave any trace on the sands of this bank, of this shore; they simply disappear into the other shore. Ta Hui, hearing this saying from the master Yuan Wu, hanging from a cliff, let-go — and agree to accept the experience… If you can manage this falling into the abyss as a celebration, with a joyful heart, then after annihilation, come back to life — then there is no problem: you will come back to life. In fact, what you used to think of as life was not life; now you will come to the eternal life. But the bridge between the two is total acceptance. Yuan Wu must have seen in the eyes of Ta Hui some doubt, some question mark. That’s why he adds, “I could not deceive you.”
Ta Hui remained with Master Yuan Wu; he fell in love with the master. When the master could even see in his mind just a little doubt, and had to say, “I could not deceive you,” it was clear that he had come to the right man, who could look into his very being and could say in exact words what had happened to him. Half of his journey was over, but because he had not been in a total accepting mood, the half had been incomplete…”Now accept totally, and resurrection will happen on its own.” Naturally Ta Hui would have doubted; that is the nature of intellect, to doubt, and he was a very intelligent man, young, fresh, and belonging to the genius category. He must have realized that the master had even seen the unexpressed doubt in his mind, and that is why he is saying, “I could not deceive you.”
He remained with the master. Listening to the master, imbibing his spirit, his presence, slowly, slowly he became very articulate, although enlightenment perhaps was still far away… And it became even farther away, because he started receiving honors from the people — even from the emperor, from the government — as a realized man. These are very dangerous things. When you are not realized and the government recognizes you, and great honors are conferred on you, you can get into a deluded state about yourself. You can start thinking, “Perhaps I am enlightened.” Two things can do this. One: he has learned in moving from master to master everything that Zen teaching is. So if you listen only to his words, it is very difficult for you to find that he is not enlightened. Unless you are enlightened, you will not be able to see the flaws, the small gaps, which are bound to be there because it is not his own experience; it is simply clippings from other masters that he has collected — collected with tremendous intelligence. He almost deceived the Imperial Power. They honored him as the “Buddha Sun,” as the “Sun of Enlightenment.”
EMPEROR HSIAO TSUNG BESTOWED THE TITLE “CH’AN MASTER OF GREAT WISDOM” FROM WHICH THE NAME TA HUI COMES.
Ta Hui means the “Great Master of Wisdom.” Only at the last moment it seems he attained enlightenment, just before he died, but then he did not say anything except a small verse. So I have called him “The Great Teacher” — and he was certainly a great teacher. He influenced millions of people; he was a great leader in the sense that anybody who came in contact with him was immediately intellectually convinced. But he had no presence, and he had no inner silence. It seems that only at the last moment he attained the goal, he completed the journey.
IT WAS ELEVEN SIXTY-THREE, ON THE NINTH DAY OF THE EIGHTH MONTH, AFTER SHOWING SIGNS OF ILLNESS, WHEN TA HUI TOLD THE CONGREGATION OF MONKS, NUNS, AND LAY PEOPLE, “TOMORROW I AM GOING.”
That is the first indication that he knows when he is going to die. The second…towards the pre-dawn hours, his attendant asked ta hui for a verse. That is an old tradition in China: when a great master dies, as his last statement, his last gift to the world, people ask him to write a verse.
IN A SERIOUS VOICE TA HUI SAID, “WITHOUT A VERSE, I COULD NOT DIE.” HE TOOK UP THE BRUSH, AND WROTE:
BIRTH IS THUS
DEATH IS THUS
VERSE OR NO VERSE
WHAT’S THE FUSS?
This is the whole idea of Gautam Buddha’s philosophy of suchness condensed. Birth is thus… thusness or suchness mean exactly the same. There is no reason to think why it is: it is there.
BIRTH IS THUS
DEATH IS THUS….
There is no reason why you are dying.
A tremendous acceptability is part of the philosophy of thusness, or suchness. Everything that happens, the man of understanding simply accepts it — this is how things are, this is how nature functions. There is no complaint, there is no grudge.
BIRTH IS THUS
DEATH IS THUS
VERSE OR NO VERSE
WHAT’S THE FUSS?
THEN HE LET GO OF THE WRITING BRUSH AND PASSED ON.
Perhaps in this moment, when he was writing this verse, he completed his journey. The discourses that are going to follow were given when he was not enlightened, but he was very clear in explaining everything to the ordinary people. He moved amongst laymen, he talked to the ordinary people, and he talked in a way that they could understand. His whole approach was that the great masters are not available to the people; they are available only to very intimate disciples, or perhaps only to the devotees — who will take care of the millions? So he started moving amongst the people, and the people were rejoicing; that’s why the emperor honored him as a great master, as a sun of awareness.
Masters don’t move, they don’t go to the people; they know the gap between them and the ordinary people is too big, almost unbridgeable. Unless somebody comes close to the master on his own accord, there is no way for the master to penetrate his being. But Ta Hui was not a master, he was a very articulate teacher. He was not talking Zen; he was talking about Zen.
All that he had gathered… and he had gathered really very consistently, very logically. Only once in a while will I tell you that he has committed a mistake — which is natural, because he has nothing inside himself to compare it with. He has no criterion except his intelligence, his logic, his reason. But enlightenment is beyond your mind, beyond your rationality, beyond your intellect. That ultimate criterion is not within him. But he is certainly of immense cleverness, although blind; he has not seen the light. He describes the light as if he is a man who has eyes. He has only heard people who have eyes. But he has collected every piece of information in a very systematic way. So remember this: he is a teacher, not a master. And I make an absolute distinction.
A teacher is one who transfers knowledge which he has collected, borrowed from others. He can be very articulate. If you face a master and a teacher perhaps you may choose the teacher, because he will be more appealing to your intellect and mind. The master will look a little crazy. He will be jumping from one point to another point without creating a systematic philosophy. But the master has the real treasure, the teacher has only heard about it. The teacher is poor, howsoever clever…
I have chosen Ta Hui to help you understand the difference between the teacher and the master, because many religions have lost their masters. For example, Jainism in India has had no masters, no enlightened persons at all, for centuries — only teachers. Without an enlightened being, the religion loses its soul. It is only the small stream of enlightened people that keeps the religion breathing and its heart beating, that keeps it alive, flowering. And one enlightened person is not just a singular phenomenon; he spreads his illumination all around. Wherever he is, he carries a certain energy field, and whoever is receptive will be pulled into the energy field.
The teacher has no energy field. He is just repeating mechanically like a parrot.
But Ta Hui was certainly a great teacher, because he collected… he went to dozens of enlightened masters. He was so young when he was initiated into monkhood, and he gathered like a bee gathers honey from thousands of flowers. So on the one hand he is very rich; he has brought so much honey from different flowers. But on the other hand he is very poor; he has not contributed anything from his own being. But I am happy that at least in the end, at the very end of his life, he became enlightened. His small verse is certainly of great beauty:
BIRTH IS THUS — just a happening in a dream.
DEATH IS THUS — just a happening in a dream.
VERSE OR NO VERSE
WHAT IS THE FUSS?
He has entered into a realm of ultimate serenity and silence. It does not matter whether it is life or death. It does not matter whether he is following the tradition of writing a verse, or not writing it. Then he just let go of the writing brush and passed on…passed on into eternal existence. It does not matter when you become enlightened. Even if you become enlightened at the last breath of your life, it is perfectly good. You have not lost anything. You will see the whole life that you have lived as a dream. And
the moment you can see your whole life as a dream, it has lost all its impact on you. You have become totally free — free from all bondage of the body and the mind, free from all limitations. You are ready to enter into the limitless consciousness of existence itself.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Great Zen Master Ta Hui
Chapter title: Clear the mind
15 July 1987 am in Chuang Tzu Auditorium
Osho has also spoken on other Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Hyakujo, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Nan-in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- Ancient Music in the Pines
- Ah, This!
- Dang Dang Doko Dang
- Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
- Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
- Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
- Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
- The Language of Existence
- Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
- Nansen: The Point of Departure
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
- No Water, No Moon
- Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
- Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
- This Very Body the Buddha