“Hyakujo was the direct heir of Ma Tzu and became most well known for his establishment of the first truly Zen monasteries and his treatise on sudden enlightenment.
To understand Hyakujo, the first thing is to understand that enlightenment can only be sudden. The preparation can be gradual, but the illumination is going to be sudden. You can prepare the ground for the seeds, but the sprouts will come suddenly one day in the morning; they don’t come gradually. Existence believes in suddenness. Nothing is gradual here, although everything appears to be gradual; that is our illusion.”
“Hyakujo introduced another thing: Zen monasteries. Before him there were Zen temples — small groups of people living in those temples, meditating, reading scriptures. But he introduced a new thing, the monastery, where people were absolutely devoted to a single-pointed goal: to become the buddha. No scriptures, no rituals… the whole energy has to be poured into a single direction: to discovering your intrinsic nature. And why monasteries? When there are thousands of people together, going into the unknown, it is easier for you, because you know that although you are going alone into your own space, thousands of others are also going into the same space on their own. You are not absolutely alone. Secondly, a monastery creates a certain atmosphere. That was the greatest contribution of Hyakujo.”
– Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus, Chapter #1
This gesture by Hyakujo is the greatest sermon delivered in the whole history of mysticism. Just to prepare his people he used to say, “Go and work in the field. You cannot work with the trees and with the grass and with the roses for long without yourself becoming as silent as they are.”
The people who live with nature naturally find a synchronicity between themselves and the rivers and the mountains, they are closer to the earth and its heartbeat.
Hyakujo first tried to bring the disciple close to nature, close to silence. Unless he is prepared, the great sermon cannot be delivered. A great sermon needs great disciples, and a great disciple is exactly one who is silent.
– This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen, Chapter #3
This series of talks is entitled THE GREAT PEARL, HYAKUJO, WITH THE HAIKUS OF BASHO. Hyakujo is immensely expressive and knows what he is doing and how to bring people to the unknowable.
Basho never wrote prose. Basho is one of the greatest poets in the world. His greatness is not in his poetry — there are far greater poets as far as the composition of poetry is concerned. His greatness is that his poetry is not just verbiage, is not just putting words together according to a certain pattern, his poetry is an experience.
I have put them together because Hyakujo never wrote any poetry. His approach is very prose and direct, and the haikus supplement what is missing in the prose. Basho expressed himself very graphically. His experiences are more paintings than poetry. And his understanding is — and I agree with him — that where prose fails, poetry may succeed. Poetry has a more feminine way, more subtle, more graceful, entering into the heart.
Prose directly enters into the head and immediately becomes a concern of logic and reason. Poetry has a different root, a different path. You don’t bring in rationalization as far as poetry is concerned. Something else becomes stirred in you, something deeper than the mind. Poetry cannot be a logical statement. It is an existential statement — what Basho himself has seen he has tried to put into words. Hence I have put together two great masters.
– Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus, Chapter #2