Seppo: Master of Thisness

Osho on Enlightened Zen Master Seppo

Master Seppo was one of the great masters of Zen who lived about 850 c.e. in China.Seppo’s life symbolizes the actuality of spiritual discipline for real-seekers of truth.He travelled extensively to various pilgrimages from northeast to southeast China, visiting many famous masters.

Further, he diligently practiced zazen under master Tosu and later became an attendant to the great master Tozan.  “The treasures that come from outside are not your family treasures”, Seppo was awakened by this statement. It was after attaining his great enlightenment that he secluded himself in the mountains at Reinan and continued his dedicated practice.

During one of His discourse Osho has shared a conversation between two enlightened Zen Masters,

“SEPPO WAS SAYING GOOD-BYE TO TOZAN WHO ASKED HIM, “WHERE ARE YOU OFF TO?”

SEPPO ANSWERED, “I AM GOING BACK TO REICHU.”

“AT THAT TIME, WHAT ROAD DID YOU COME BY?” ASKED TOZAN.

“BY HENRIE,” ANSWERED SEPPO.

“AND BY WHAT ROAD ARE YOU GOING BACK?” ASKED TOZAN.

“THE SAME ROAD,” SEPPO ANSWERED.

“DO YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW THE ONE WHO NEVER LEAVES IS HIENREI, THE ROAD?”

People come and go, the road remains. Tozan is reminding Seppo, “Don’t be a coming and going, but be a remaining. There is nowhere to go, you are already there. Just realize it.”

SEPPO SAID, “I DON’T KNOW THAT ONE THAT REMAINS.”

“WHY NOT?” ASKED TOZAN.

“BECAUSE THE ONE HAS NO PERSONALITY,” ANSWERED SEPPO.

TOZAN SAID, “YOU SAY THAT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT ONE. IF SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE ONE HAS NO PERSONALITY?”

These dialogues are so totally different from the dialogues of Socrates and Plato. Beautiful dialogues, very rational, but these dialogues are simply of another world, of another consciousness. Tozan is a great master, an old master. Although Seppo has understood, is enlightened – but just to be enlightened is not enough. There are many dimensions to enlightenment. Tozan is trying to get Seppo to enter into another dimension. He knows isness, he knows thisness but he is not aware. That awareness has no personality. Still it is, it has no limits to it. Isness is oceanic, it has no boundaries.

It is so beautiful just to hear enlightened people tricking each other into new dimensions of being.

Osho say….

BELOVED OSHO,

WHEN SEPPO WAS LIVING IN HIS HERMITAGE, TWO MONKS CAME TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS. AS SEPPO SAW THEM COMING HE PUSHED OPEN THE GATE AND, PRESENTING HIMSELF BEFORE THEM, SAID, “WHAT IS THIS?”

THE MONKS ALSO SAID, “WHAT IS THIS?”

SEPPO LOWERED HIS HEAD AND RETURNED TO HIS COTTAGE.

LATER, THE MONKS CAME TO GANTO, WHO SAID, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

THE MONKS ANSWERED, “WE HAVE COME FROM SOUTH OF THE NANREI MOUNTAINS.”

GANTO SAID, “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO SEE SEPPO?”

THE MONKS SAID, “YES, WE HAVE BEEN TO HIM.”

GANTO SAID, “WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU?”

THE MONKS RELATED THE WHOLE STORY.

GANTO SAID, “ALAS! I REGRET THAT I DID NOT TELL HIM THE LAST WORD WHEN I WAS WITH HIM. IF I HAD DONE SO, NO ONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD COULD HAVE PRETENDED TO OUTDO HIM.”

AT THE END OF THE SUMMER SESSION, THE MONKS REPEATED THE STORY AND ASKED GANTO FOR HIS INSTRUCTION.

GANTO SAID, “WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK EARLIER?”

THE MONKS SAID, “WE HAVE HAD A HARD TIME STRUGGLING WITH THIS TOPIC.”

GANTO SAID, “SEPPO CAME TO LIFE IN THE SAME WAY THAT I DID, BUT HE DOES NOT DIE IN THE SAME WAY THAT I DO. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE LAST WORD, I’LL TELL YOU SIMPLY — THIS! THIS!”

Maneesha, I am immensely grateful that you have reminded me of Seppo. I have always wanted to bring Seppo to you because he is one of the most precious buddhas who has walked on the earth. He was unique in his own way; in his teaching, words were not important but only thisness, the utter silence of existence. The chattering of the birds are the only holy scriptures in the world. And the commentaries of the bamboos are really honest, sincere and to the point.

Seppo would have loved this assembly, this moment of silent waiting. He was not as fortunate as I am. He had very few disciples but that is very unjust of existence. Seppo should have had the whole world as his disciples because what he is giving is the ultimate essence.

(THE CHIRPING OF BIRDS RUNS THROUGH THE SILENCE OF BUDDHA HALL.)

This was Seppo. They have all gathered here. This story makes Seppo’s method of teaching clear:

WHEN SEPPO WAS LIVING IN HIS HERMITAGE, TWO MONKS CAME TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS. AS SEPPO SAW THEM COMING HE PUSHED OPEN THE GATE AND, PRESENTING HIMSELF BEFORE THEM, SAID, “WHAT IS THIS?”

The monks must have been at a loss. In fact, Seppo’s opening the gate, standing before them, was a question to be asked by them. But before they had said anything Seppo himself without being questioned, asked, “What is this?”

In utter confusion those two monks said to Seppo, “What is this? We have not even asked, we have not even entered the gate, we have not even said hello to you and you open the gate, and standing before us irrationally ask, `What is this?’ In fact, we ask you about your behavior, `WHAT IS THIS?'”

They missed the point. SEPPO LOWERED HIS HEAD AND RETURNED TO HIS COTTAGE. This lowering of the head of the master is a deep sadness about the misunderstanding these two monks have shown. And he returned to his cottage because there is no point in saying anything more. He has already said more than is absolutely essential. This becomes clear — that he has already said more.

LATER THE MONKS CAME TO GANTO WHO SAID, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

Ganto was Seppo’s master.

THE MONKS ANSWERED, “WE HAVE COME FROM SOUTH OF THE NANREI MOUNTAINS.”

GANTO SAID, “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO SEE SEPPO?”

THE MONKS SAID, “YES, WE HAVE BEEN TO HIM.”

GANTO SAID, “WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU?”

THE MONKS RELATED THE WHOLE STORY.

GANTO SAID, “ALAS! I REGRET THAT I DID NOT TELL HIM THE LAST WORD WHEN I WAS WITH HIM. IF I HAD DONE SO, NO ONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD COULD HAVE PRETENDED TO OUTDO HIM.”

AT THE END OF THE SUMMER SESSION, THE MONKS REPEATED THE STORY AND ASKED GANTO FOR HIS INSTRUCTION.

GANTO SAID, “WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK EARLIER?”

THE MONKS SAID, “WE HAVE HAD A HARD TIME STRUGGLING WITH THIS TOPIC.”

GANTO SAID, “SEPPO CAME TO LIFE IN THE SAME WAY THAT I DID, BUT HE DOES NOT DIE IN THE SAME WAY THAT I DO. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE LAST WORD, I WILL TELL YOU SIMPLY — THIS! THIS!”

Ganto is saying that to ask, “What is this?” is not exactly right.

The existence cannot be questioned, it cannot be a `what’. It simply is, without any question and without any answer. Simply `this’. This small anecdote converging in the smallest possible word, `this’, gives you the very essence of religiousness — the mystery of it, the beauty of it, the truth of it. You cannot answer and you cannot ask, you have simply to live; to live thisness — in Gautam Buddha’s words suchness, tathata — is the whole of religious consciousness. Just live this moment in its totality, without wavering; neither thinking of the past which is no more, nor projecting about the future which is not yet. All that you have is the purity of thisness, this moment. And the glory and the ecstasy cannot be higher, cannot be deeper if you can understand the simple experience of thisness…

There is a story about one of Seppo’s disciples named Tozan:

WHEN HE FIRST WENT TO SEPPO HE HAD HARDLY ENTERED THE GATE WHEN SEPPO PUSHED HIM OVER AND SAID, “WHAT IS THIS?”

AND TOZAN WAS IMMEDIATELY ENLIGHTENED. FORGETTING HIMSELF HE JUST LIFTED UP HIS HANDS AND DANCED AROUND. SEPPO SAID, “ARE YOU BEHAVING RATIONALLY?”

TOZAN SAID, “WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH RATIONALITY?”

SEPPO STROKED HIS BACK AND CONFIRMED HIS ENLIGHTENMENT.

A dance can say much more than any philosophy. A simple shout `Ho’, can bring you to this moment. Anything that can bring you to your home is the only religion I know of. The so-called religions of the world are simply deceiving and exploiting people. People have to be awakened.

Zen has become my most beloved for the simple reason that it does not create any theology. It does not bother about God. Because God is always that, God is always there. And the real concern is this, not that; here, not there; now, not then.

SEPPO WAS CUTTING TREES ONE DAY WITH CHOSEI AND SAID TO HIM, “WHEN YOU CUT, CUT TO THE HEART. THEN STOP.”

CHOSEI SAID, “I HAVE CUT AND FINISHED.”

SEPPO SAID, “FORMER MASTERS TRANSMITTED THE TRUTH FROM MIND TO MIND. WOULD YOU REALLY SAY THAT YOU HAVE CUT AND FINISHED?”

CHOSEI SAID, “THROWING THE AXE TO THE GROUND, IT IS TRANSMITTED.”

SEPPO STRUCK HIM WITH HIS STICK.

It is out of tremendous love and great compassion that a Zen master ever strikes anybody. This is a different language than saying that you have got it, that you are enlightened. A master’s stick is awaited by the disciple for years, because he will hit you only if he knows that his hit is going to awaken you; or he will hit only when you are awakened as a reward. In the modern world it will not be at all understood. When, for the first time, Zen stories were translated, everybody thought that they were some kind of jokes. They are not jokes. But because they were first translated by Christian missionaries, it was just to show to the world: “Look at the greatness of Christianity and look at these primitive people thinking that they are enlightened.” But the whole thing misfired. These stories were translated by Christian missionaries to prove Christianity’s superiority.

But in fact, these stories — if understood, experienced — simply prove that there cannot be anything superior to them. Their utter innocence… just look at the disciple dancing. Because he has got it! Just look at the master hitting the disciple as a reward. This is possible only at the very heights of consciousness. Man has progressed technologically, scientifically, but man has forgotten the language of his own being. There is progress in gadgets, but man is completely lost.

I want you to remember that your first task in life is to be fully, wholly aware of yourself. Because without being totally aware, you will never know the beauty and the splendor of this existence that surrounds you. You will never know your birth, your death. You will never really know that you ever lived. Without being aware you are all somnambulists, walking in sleep, talking in sleep.

And you have become so accustomed to your sleep that you can even do complicated things while you are completely asleep. You can be efficient in doing certain jobs while snoring within your being. The whole world thinks that in the morning they wake up, and by the evening they go to sleep again. It is sheer nonsense. Once you wake up, you never go to sleep. So the waking in the morning is just fake, very superficial. You have to learn the authentic awakening.

Source:

This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen

Chapter #2

Chapter title: The bamboos speak

28 May 1988 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium

References:

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:

  1. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  2. Ancient Music in the Pines
  3. Ah, This!
  4. A Bird on the Wing
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  7. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  8. God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
  9. Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
  10. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  11. Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
  12. The Language of Existence
  13. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  14. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  15. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  16. No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
  17. No Water, No Moon
  18. Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
  19. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing

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