"On Mutually Going Into The Matter Of Self"

Shin'ichi Hisamatsu[1]

translated by Gishin Tokiwa


For many years in the FAS Society I have been advocating a manner of Chan-practice named "mutually going into the matter of self" (sougosankyuu), which has been looked upon as something peculiar to the Society.  In this regard you must have your own views, and I would like to talk on how I think about it to wait for your critical responses.


As for the basis of my argument for "mutually going into the matter of self," in a term of the FAS Society, it is the true self or the formless self.  This is original to humans, for no one's self is excluded from it.  It is far from being anything possessed or awakened to by a particular person alone.  In that sense it is original to man.  Buddhism has expressions which correspond to this, such as:


Man originally has the Buddha-nature, and no one is lacking in it.

              Sentient Beings are originally Buddhas (i.e., awakened).


This means that such self really belongs to everyone, that it is originally common toevery person.  Mutually realizing this originally common self is what is truly meant by mutually going into the matter of self.


Chan people often speak of "sucking and pecking being simultaneous."  It refers to the manner with which a young bird is believed to hatch:  As it sucks from inside, the hen at no wrong moment but simultaneously pecks at the shell from outside, and the chick emerges from the broken shell. The latter then becomes the same bird with the parent.  One by sucking and the other by pecking, the two become the same birds.  The pecking hen and the sucking - hatching chick are originally the same birds, far from different, and that makes it possible that, as one pecks, the other hatches out.  That can be an illustration for our mutually going into the matter of self.  Those who are originally the same ones mutually become what they originally are.  In our becoming what we originally are lies the true meaning of our mutually going into the matter of self.


When mutually going into the matter of self is a one-to-one confrontation, such as between master and practitioner in a closed room as with the case in traditional Chan, the master is expected to develop the practitioner's original self.  That also can be a case of mutually going into the matter of self.  But, basically speaking, as I have already mentioned, it means nothing but everyone's true self, everybody's formless self, becoming the same formless self.  This means that its occasion takes place at any place at any time, not limited to any particular place or time.  For that reason, where the true self awakes in one another, there and then mutually going into the matter of self is established. 


During my visit to the U.S.A. and Europe some [ten] years ago I heard from people that the trouble with them was they had no guiding masters there, so that for Chan practice they had to go to Japan, and that they wished I could arrange things to have masters go there.  That led me to this thought: It would be too one-sided a situation if Chan practice -- by which I mean getting awakened to everyone's formless self -- were impossible without their going to Japan or having masters go there from Japan.  It couldn't be helped if awakening were to be attained by particular persons.  But it means getting awakened to everybody's original self.  Never is it anything you could have another teach you or hand over to you.  There ought to be a possibility that one gets awakened to what is one's original form, original mode of being, at any place at any time.  That is why I say it is possible, far from difficult, that one attains to this awakening even alone, wherever one may be.


To say more radically, being awakened, for anybody at any place at any time to be being awakened, is the mode of the true, formless self.  Newly getting awakened is a secondary matter.  The true mode of being is being awakened as one is.  That being the case, I wonder if it is not rather true that, being alone, one can get awakened before having another develop one's true self or help one get awakened. 


Then I have come to think thus:  There ought to be a method through which anyone at any place at any time gets awakened for oneself.  Instead of any solution being given or taught by another, without waiting for having another develop it for you, for you to get awakened to it for yourself, and for you who have got awakened to your self to have yourself verified, that is, to get awakened for oneself and to verify that awakening for oneself -- there ought to be some such kind of way or method, which is rather the basic method.


Now, for example, when you think you've got awakened and ask another to confirm your awakening, there may possibly be cases when the confirmation is wrong.  Resting on another's confirmation as final validation is, essentially speaking, not the true mode of getting awakened to the formless, true self.  When one gets awakened to the true self, no matter who says what, there ought to be one's own confirmation in that.  Otherwise, one cannot be said to have truly been awakened.


In that sense, it should be that, while being alone one gets awakened, and that this awakening is authenticated not through another but through oneself.  That is why I believe there has to be established such a method, my so-called basic one.  This basic method is what one applies to oneself as a task, a problem one asks of oneself and which one can solve for oneself.  Such a method has to be established.  No other method will be satisfactory for awakening.  About what kind of method it is, I would like to take another occasion to clarify it.  Anyway without such a method at base, there will be no establishing of attaining awakening in relation to another person, that is, through mutually going into the matter of self.[2]


As for your apprehension about mutually going into the matter of self,  among those unawakened if it will not turn out to be a blind one leading another one who is also blind, such a fear seemingly sounds reasonable.  But being blind is not how the original self is.  As I have been repeating, the original self presents itself at any place at any time with any person.  Its being present is its true mode of being.  Being blind is not anyone's genuine mode of being.  Being sighted is how man in the genuine mode of being is.  For that reason, there is all possibility that this genuine mode of being as awakening will unfold itself on any occasion at any opportunity.  Blind people taking one another by the hand thereby getting sighted is, to tell the truth, not so much a possibility as the true mode of being.  Those who go hand in hand are actually not blind but genuinely sighted humans.  Here mutually going into the matter of self truly finds itself.


Chan records on occasions of awakening cite not a few cases in which without attending any master, with something as a moment, on some occasion one abruptly gets awakened.  Those cases reveal that a guiding master is far from an inevitable moment for one's attaining awakening.  I would rather take one's genuine self for one's guiding master.  The formless self is one's true master.  When this master and oneself become one, that is, when oneself gets awakened to one's genuine, formless self, there and then an ultimate relationship is established between master and practitioner.  Getting awakened to the genuine self means that oneself before awakening, i.e., practitioner, accords with oneself in awakening, i.e., master.  Herein lies the true, ultimate awakening.


We know common references to the term "Attending no master, one gets solitarily awakened" (mushi-dokkaku; wushi-dujue) in the derogatory sense that it goes against true awakening.  Properly speaking, however, that means ultimate awakening.  In this case it is the genuine self that is the master.  Never does the master lie in another.  The genuine self is the master, the ultimate one.


Thus by the term "Attending no master, one gets solitarily awakened," I mean no ordinary sense.  Shakyamuni is said to have attained awakening under the Bodhi (tree).  For his awakening really he had no master.  None of those he had served as his master before that led Shakyamuni to his awakening.  The master for his awakening under the Bodhi was his awakening itself.  When Shakyamuni attained awakening, a legend says, he made the utterance: "Grasses, trees, and lands have all attained awakening."  That seems to mean that what is original to all is its own master, and that it is one's true self that is the master.


It is awakening that is one's true master.  With Shakyamuni, the awakening was his master.  In other words, the awakened self is one's master.  Apart from getting awakened to that master, there is no awakening.  Here practitioner and master are of one body, not two.  Instead of having another verify or confirm one's awakening, one does so for oneself.  Of course in this case the self that is verified and the master who does verification are undivided.  In their being completely identical is the autonomous, independent, or ultimate nature of the authenticity. 


Meanwhile, when the master as well as master-practitioner relationship are not like that, they cannot help ceasing to be authentic; they fail to be ultimate.  That is the same with mutually going into the matter of self in its genuine mode of being.  When one and the other get awakened to their respective root-source, i.e., formless self, then mutually going into the matter of self finds its own mode of being.  Here, one becomes the other, and mutually ceases to be either one or the other.  That is truly mutually going into the matter of self.  And that, after all, is nothing but getting awakened to one another's original self.  For Chan, originally, that is truly mutually going into the matter of self.  In other words, getting awakened one another to the original self ought to be truly mutually going into the matter of self.


As I have been suggesting, what is meant by "mutually" does not concern anything numerical, such as among two or three persons; it concerns all human beings.  "Mutually among all human beings" is what is truly meant by the word "mutually."  Therefore, it is in the original self that mutually going into the matter of self has its basis.  It has its basis in that all human beings have the Buddha-nature.  That is why mutually going into the matter of self excludes no single person.  Properly speaking, everyone is mutually going into the matter of self.  In terms of mankind, the whole humankind is considered to be mutually going into the matter of original self.  It is not among members of particular groups or of monasteries, but among the whole mankind, which is originally linked up in one, that mutually going into the matter of self finds its place.  In that sense, the mode of being of the genuine self where the whole mankind is linked up ought to be the true place for mutually going into the matter of self.  In this genuine self's mode of being is established the relationship that is inseparably interchangeable between one and many.  Infinite in that sense are occasions for mutually going into the matter of self as well as the number of those who are doing so now; for this concerns all human beings.


Thus the ultimate meaning of mutually going into the matter of self lies in that all human beings are in the direction of awaking to one's own genuine self.  In that sense I understand that mutually going into the matter of self is actually all human beings' original mode of being, instead of anything peculiar to the FAS Society.


To sum up: In the self awaking to the original self is the basis for mutually going into the matter of self.  In the simultaneity of sucking and pecking, the pecking hen is really the true self of the young bird; it is not anything strange but the chick's genuine self.  The sucking chick that emerges from within the shell is of one body with the hen.  Likewise, in the way of thinking that some master pecks the practitioner from outside, and that the latter thereby hatches out, there is established a strangers' relationship between master and practitioner.  That kind of thinking results in various abuses or wrong views.  What is to be one's master is always one's ultimate self.  When one awakes to this ultimate self, the awaking one seemingly is distinguished from the ultimate self.  But actually the awaking one cannot be other than the ultimate self.  There is no distinction between the two.  The genuine self getting awakened ought to constitute the true, ultimate relationship between practitioner and master.   Therefore, apart from the genuine self there is no master.  Besides, apart from awaking[3] to the genuine self there is no verification of the practitioner by the master.  The two ought to be completely identical.  That is how things truly are.


Placing the master outside brings about various evils and wrongs.  As a Chan term, "going into the matter of self for clarifying it" (koji-kyuumei: jishi-jiuming) suggests, one's task -- the matter being the task -- should not be anything imposed upon oneself by another but something emerging from within.  The utmost depths of this "within" should be the true, formless self.  If -- as it is liable to happen -- the master abiding outside imposes an old-case koan on the practitioner, that koan will remain something separate from the practitioner.  In that case the task, instead of that which has come out from the genuine self, will remain something imposed by another.  Thus it will cease to be related anyway to oneself.  The practice tends to fail in going into the direction of the genuine self, but to end in the solution of some particular matter.  That will be going into the matter of others instead of self for clarifying it.


 Let me take a rest here, and wait for another occasion to go into and clarify further problems.  


[1] Translator's note: This is a translation of the lecture given at the author's residence in Kyoto, on 15 December 1968, for the attendants of an FAS mind-concentrating retreat.  The original text is contained in the author's collective writings, Hisamatsu Shin'ichi Chosakushuu volume three, pp. 594~603, Risosha, Tokyo 1971; Hozokan, Kyoto 1994.  In the FAS Society Journal 1997, pp. 106-113, the present translator offered his tentative English rendering of the same article with the title "On Mutually Sharing Direct Self-Investigation."  The present translation (October 2007) is a completely new one.  The translator expresses his thanks to Ms. Akemi Tsukui for her suggestions for improvement of the translation.


2 Translator's note: Readers are recommended, in this connection, to read the author's latest, great article, "Zettaikiki to Fukkatsu" ("Ultimate Crisis and Resurrection" in Tokiwa's translation), composed and written by the author himself, and made public in the next year in a book, Zen no Honshitsu to Ningen no Shinri (The Essence of Chan and the Truth of Man), a comprehensive research work of the FAS Society, a collection of articles contributed by both members and non-members, Sobunsha, Tokyo 1969, pp. 138~195.


3 The dots for the verb mezameru had been provided by the author.