ZEN 9: Cause and Effect Are One


Reference: Lectures on Zen

These are Yasutani-Roshi’s introductory lectures on Zen training from THE THREE PILLARS OF ZEN by Philip Kapleau.

There is little to comment here. Any comment is to empasize a point. The comments are in color.


Lecture 9—Cause and Effect Are One

You cannot hope to comprehend the exalted nature of Zen without understanding this lecture on inga ichinyo, the meaning of which is that cause and effect are one. This expression comes from Hakuin-zenji’s Chant in Praise of Zazen. Bear in mind that this lecture will not be an explanation of cause and effect in the broad sense but only in relation to the practice of zazen.

Strictly speaking, you ought not to think of zazen in terms of time. While it is generally true that if you do zazen for a year, it will have an effect equal to a year’s effort; and that if you practice zazen for ten years, it will produce an effect proportionate to ten years’ effort; yet the results of zazen in terms of enlightenment cannot be measured by the length of your practice. The fact is, some have gained deep enlightenment after only a few years’ practice, while others have practiced as long as ten years without experiencing enlightenment.

From the commencement of practice one proceeds upward in clearly differentiated stages which can be considered a ladder of cause and effect. The word inga, meaning cause and effect, implies both degree and differentiation, while ichinyo signifies equality or sameness or oneness. Thus, while there are many stages corresponding to the length of practice, at every one of these different stages the mind substance is the same as that of a Buddha. Hence we say cause and effect are one. Until satori-awakening, however, you cannot expect to have a deep inner understanding of inga.

Now let us relate this to the parable of Enyadatta, of which I spoke earlier. The time she saw no head reflected in her mirror and rushed about wildly looking for it—this is the first, or bottom, step. When her friends tied her to a pillar and insisted she had a head; when she began to think, “Possibly this is so”; when they whacked her and she yelled “Ouch!” and realized she had a head after all; when she rejoiced at finding it; when finally her joy abated and having a head felt so natural that she no longer thought about it—all these are different steps or degrees of progression—when viewed retrospectively, that is. At every one of these stages she was never without her head, of course, but this she realized only after she had “found” it.

In the same way, after enlightenment we realize that from the very first we were never without the Buddha-nature. And just as it was necessary for Enyadatta to go through all these phases in order to grasp the fact that she had always had a head, so we must pass through successive stages of zazen in order to apprehend directly our True­ nature. These successive steps are causally related, but the fact that we are intrinsically Buddha, which in the parable is Enyadatta’s realization that she had always had a head—this is equality, or undifferentiation.

Thus Dogen-zenji in his Shobogenzo states: “The zazen of even beginners manifests the whole of their Essential-nature.” He is saying here that correct zazen is the actualization of the Bodhi-mind, the Mind with which we are all endowed. This zazen is saijojo, wherein the Way of the Buddha suffuses your entire being and enters into the whole of your life. Although we are unaware of all this at first, as our practice progresses we gradually acquire understanding and insight, and finally, with satori, wake up to the fact that zazen is the actualization of our inherently pure Buddha-nature, whether we are enlightened or not.


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