What time is present
time? It is the time of the imminent extinction of living beings.
Looking around the Dharma realm, country fights with country, family
fights with family, man fights with man, and so forth until the
great fighting of world systems arises. An
"Quarrelling over land, war is made. Murdered
people fill the fields. Quarrelling over cities, war is made.
Murdered people fill the cities, and lead the earth to eat the flesh
of men. These offenses are not pardoned by death."
It is deeply hoped that
the heads of every state will embody the virtue of heaven and
earth's preference for life. Put forth good government and dispense
justice. Banish quarrelling and dispense with greed. Renounce
oneself and rescue people. Benefit oneself in benefiting others. See
the universe as one family. See all people as one person. "If there
is a man who has been killed, it is as if I killed him. If there is
a man who has been cheated, it is as if I cheated him." Constantly
and always turn back and look inwards. If one offends before
heaven, there is no place to pray.
The present. The present refers to the anniversary of Amitabha’s birthday, on the
seventeenth day of the third month, 1932, when this work was
written. It is also the time this commentary is written, the day you
read it, and any day it is remembered. As was true years ago, just
so is it true that now is the time of the
imminent extinction of living beings. It is not the time
of the destruction of all beings, for if that were the case either
we would all have been annihilated years ago or the author would be
lying to us, and neither is the case. The text predicts the imminent
destruction of all living beings in one locality. Certainly that
came to pass shortly after Water Mirror was written. It is about to occur again. Where? There is good reason
for not saying. If we do not know the place, we must assume it to be
the very place in which we dwell, and, frightened by the prospect,
alarmed and terrified, we will seek a way to avert the calamity, in
order to turn back heaven.
If we investigate this text we will see that it
possesses limitless living powers of transformation. Looking around the Dharma realm refers to an active peering, to moving about and looking. It is not
the still contemplation discussed in the first commentary. It is
what our tradition would call the active life, distinguishing it
from the contemplative one. This distinction of course, is forced;
the two are not apart from one another. Contemplation is not carried
out divorced from activity, for in the absence of activity one would
be not much different from stone or wood, a useless lump able only
to eat and defecate. Born in this world we should be of this world.
Suzuki has said,
"..we see both the Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas
shining in the sweat of their foreheads, in the tears shed for the
mother who lost a child, in the fury of passions burning against
injustice in its multifarious forms–––in short, in their never
ending fight against all that goes under the name of evil..."
In stillness we regard the Dharma realm and see bad karma well up and fill it all. Actively viewing the Dharma realm we see rank slaughter. An ancient said. Mencius said that
"The wicked tyrannies and struggles which cause the very earth to
devour the flesh of men, are offenses which cannot be atoned for
even by death."
It is deeply hoped.
The author here speaks to the leaders of all countries, to
all those in positions of authority, emperors, kings, presidents,
and heads of households. Heaven and earth's
preference for life. It is the nature of heaven and earth
to promote life, to nourish and protect it. But while they prefer
life, heaven and earth are just. Heads of state should also be just
in such a way. Put forth good government
means to aid all people, to oppress none, and to act
constantly for the weal of the people, not forcing them in any way.
It means to establish government which does not oppose or humiliate
a single citizen.
King Wen of the ancient House of Chou had such
a government. He regarded the common citizens of the state as his
own sons and daughters and it was his constant concern to provide
for their well being. Such a leader differs from those of this age.
Today there are heads of state who regard human life as a tool for
the achievement of their own personal goals or goals of the state,
slaughtering, imprisoning and oppressing the people. But King Wen,
while paternalistic, was not partial; he was just. Even in his time
there were jails, but they were not like those of the present age
with high walls of stone and steel. There is a saying, "King Wen
drew the earth and made jails." If one had violated a law the
King had a square drawn on the earth within which the prisoner was
confined. No one thus imprisoned would leave until his sentence
expired, because King Wen was not only fair but wise. He was a
diviner of no small accomplishment and always knew the whereabouts
of his citizens. Hence, he would tell his subjects not to move and,
like obedient children, they were still. In such a way is good
government established and justice dispensed.
Dispense with greed. King Wen was first vassal to King Chou of the House of Yin.
Although he was a feudal lord, the territories of King Wen covered
two-thirds of the empire. Nonetheless he had no thought to displace
his rightful sovereign. Benefit oneself in
benefiting others. In the Book of Songs it says of King Wen:
He measured out his magic tower measured it and planned it;
The people built it in one day, in just one day they made it.
He measured out and built the tower, he said to them, "No rush."
And the people flocked like children.
The King is in his magic garden;
The does and bucks lie all about,
The sleek does and the white birds glisten.
The King is by the magic pond --
Ah! The leaping of the fishes.
The King made a magic garden, a spirit tower
for himself and all the people. For the benefit of all, they willingly made it in a day.
See all people as one
person. Heads of states, be like King Wen. Do not
discriminate you and I, that and this. See no national differences;
rather see all people as one family. Heads of state, be like King
Wen who said, "If there is a man who has been killed, it is as if
I killed him. If there is a man who has been cheated, it is as if I
cheated him." Be like Minister Yi Yin,
of whom it was said, "if one man was without food, it was as if
he himself starved him; if one man drowned, it was as if he drowned
him." Always turn back and look inward.
Such ancient ministers of state always turned back the light
and examined themselves, thinking, "if anything has gone wrong in
the land, it is through my own failure to teach the people." The
ancient rulers did not blame heaven but themselves. If today’s
rulers did the same, what problems would remain unsolved?
An ancient ruler who is an example of all that
should not be done is King Chou of Yin, the last ruler of that
dynasty. Wicked and debauched, he was under the sway of one of his
wives, Su Ta–chi, who had been possessed by the spirit of a fox. Of
all the spirits who possess people, the fox spirit is most fierce.
The fox essence is crafty, cunning, and cruel.
Su Ta–chi disliked the King’s uncle, Pi Kan,
who was a truly accomplished sage. Pi Kan was not only wise and
learned, but possessed great virtue. It was just this virtue which
frightened the fox spirit to plot his death. Pi Kan had served the
empire well, and the common people revered and honored him. His
popular support was such that to order his death would outrage the
people. The fox spirit nonetheless was determined. Knowing her
husband, the King, to be a pragmatic man willing to experiment, she
drew on popular knowledge and said, "Pi Kan is very clever and must
be a sage, Certainly his heart has three hairs and seven holes." (In
the heart of ordinary man there is one hair and one hole. When the
hair moves it touches the hole and knowledge arises. It is the
virtue of three hairs and seven holes that made the prime minister
Not knowing whether his wife spoke truly or
not, the King called his uncle and said, "You really are extremely
clever, certainly your heart differs from that of ordinary men.
Please lend it for inspection." Although Pi Kan was the King’s
uncle, he was still his subject, and so could not refuse. Obediently
he opened his chest, removed his heart, and gave it to the King.
Although he had no heart, he did not
immediately die. At that time he recalled a letter which had been
left with him by his friend, the great official and diviner Chiang
T’ai Kung, with the instructions that it be opened only in the case
of extreme danger to his life. Feeling that the time was indeed
appropriate, he read the letter which said, "When your heart has
been taken by the King, mount a horse and ride to the north gate.
There you will find a seller of ‘empty heart vegetable’, (a hollow
vegetable like a green pepper). Say to him, ‘Sir, if vegetables have
no heart they can live. If man has none, can he?’ If that vegetable
vender tells you that man can live without a heart, you will go
well. If not, you will die."
Pi Kan mounted his horse and rushed to the
north gate where he encountered a greengrocer. "Old man," he said,
"peppers can live without a heart. Can man?"
"Of course not," came the reply. Thereupon Pi
Kan, the good minister of Yin, fell dead. His heart incidentally,
was just as Su Ta-chi said it would be with three hairs and seven holes.
So impressed was the King that he gave her the
title of Wise Wife and fell even more under her influence. One day
they were traveling and saw a pregnant woman.
"She is carrying a son," said Su Ta–chi.
"How do you know?" asked the King.
"Never mind that," she said, "If you don’t trust me, just look for yourself."
"Very well," said the last King of Yin, and
summoned the woman, opening her belly with a sword to reveal the
son. The corpses of both mother and child were tossed at the side of
the road while the Wise Wife, the fox spirit, placed her husband
ever more under her spell.
It is also related in the Book of History how the King and his wife stood on the balcony in the early spring
watching two men working in the thawing waters. One, an old man,
worked constantly and energetically, unaware of the cold. The other,
a young lad, shivered in the icy waters.
"Strange," remarked King Chou.
"Not at all," said the Wise Wife. "The old man
was conceived in his parents’ youth when the vital principles were
in full strength. Consequently his bones are full of marrow. That
young one, on the other hand, was conceived in his parents’ last
years, when they were weak. His bones are almost empty." King Chou scoffed.
"Take a look," she said with the air of a
petulant woman. The King summoned the two workers and sliced the
shin of each. True enough, the bone of the old man was full, and
that of the young one was like a reed, almost empty.
Such was the conduct of the last King of the
House of Yin who took the lives of the people to be his own
playthings. It is just this disregard for the people, committing
atrocities and offenses before heaven, which is the ruin of empires,
the fall of nations, and the undoing of kings. Such a monarch is
unfit to hold the mandate of heaven, and his past offenses persist
in spite of death. It was in the face of such wrong doing that the
mandate of heaven ended for the House of Yin and revolved to the
House of Chou. The founder of that dynasty was a model for the
rulers of all countries, for the good prince is truly one who turns
back the light and inspects himself, who puts forth good government
and dispenses justice, and for whom the people will come joyfully
like children and in a single day build a magic tower.
Heads of state, those of you in power, see how
King Chou of Yin fell and how King Wen of Chou rose in his place.
Follow his model, put forth good government and dispense justice.