On Mutually Sharing Direct Self-Investigation1

Shin'ichi Hisamatsu

For many years we in the F.A.S Society have been advocating "mutually sharing direct self-investigation," and it has been considered the manner of Zen practice unique to the Society. You may have your own views on this matter. I would like to present my view and hear your critical response.

The ground on which we advocate "mutually sharing direct self-investigation" is, according to the term used in the F.A.S. Society, our true, Formless self. That is what is original to humans, to which no one's self is an exception. It is not anything exceptionally enjoyed by a particular person, or Awakened to only by a certain person. That is why it is said to be "original" to everyone of us. It corresponds to what in Buddhism has been expressed as, "Sentient beings are originally Awakened ones.2

That kind of self is the one originally common to everyone. Mutually getting Awakened to this self originally common to us all is the true meaning of mutually sharing direct self-investigation.

In connection with Zen practice people often refer to the expression, "sucking and pecking at the same time" (sottaku-doji; Ch., cuizhuo-tongshi). It is said that at the time when an egg hatches, as the chick sucks3 from inside, simultaneously the hen pecks at the shell, and this leads to breaking of shell and hatching of the chicken. Now the latter becomes the same bird as the parent. By mutually sucking and pecking, the two become the same birds. Because the pecking hen and the sucking and hatching chick are originally the same birds, not different at all, it becomes possible that when one pecks the other hatches out. That can be an illustration for our mutually sharing direct self-investigation. Those who are originally the same mutually become what they originally are. In our becoming what we originally are lies the true meaning of our mutually sharing direct self-investigation.

In the case of traditional Zen practice, when master and practitioner in a closed room meet one-to-one, the master is to develop the practitioner's original self. That can also be considered a case of mutually sharing direct self-investigation. Basically speaking, however, by mutually sharing direct self-investigation I mean, as already mentioned, our mutually becoming everyone's true, Formless self. That means that its occasion comes to be any time, at any place; it is never limited to a particular time or place. Where and when the true self gets mutually Awakened, there and then the direct self-investigation mutually shared is realized.

During my visit to the U.S.A., and then to Europe, people often told me4: We don't have guiding masters for Zen practice here; this means that for practice we are obliged to go to Japan. This is a big problem. We hope you will arrange things so that they may come to teach us here.

That led me to think that it would be too one-sided a situation if Zen practice -- by which I mean nothing but my so-called getting Awakened to the Formless self -- was impossible unless one goes to Japan or unless guiding masters come from Japan. That might be inevitable if Awakening be something attainable or realizable only by particular persons. But Awakening means getting Awakened to anyone's original self; it is not anything you can have another person teach you or hand over to you. There ought to be the possibility that one gets Awakened at any time at any place to what one's own original form, original mode of being, is. Therefore, even when one lives alone, no matter where one may be, getting Awakened is possible, and not a difficult thing. Speaking more radically, being Awakened, that is, any of us at any time at any place being Awakened, is the true mode of being of our true, Formless self. Getting newly Awakened is secondary. Our true mode of being is our being Awakened as we are. This being the case, according to my view, instead of having others develop our true self or lead us to Awakening, our being alone and being able to get Awakened is rather an authentic situation for Awakening.

That led me to the thought that there should be a method by which anyone, at any time at any place, will get Awakened for oneself. Not having any other person convey or teach it to you or develop it for you, but getting Awakened for yourself and proving that for yourself -- that ought to be the case. And I think that manner or method should be the basic one.

When you think you've got Awakened and ask another person to prove your Awakening to be true, the proof may possibly be wrong. Its authenticity or rightness being established by another person's proof cannot be the true mode of our being Awakened to the true, Formless self. Unless it is possible that when you get Awakened to your true self it be true and genuine no matter who should say what, you cannot be said to have got truly Awakened. In that sense, suppose someone's Awakening becomes evident not through oneself, but through another; such could not be said to be one's true, Formless self. For that reason, I think that fundamental method I have beeing thinking of ought to be established, and that there ought to be such a method.

This so-called fundamental method is what one assigns oneself and solves oneself. Unless such a method is established, any other method will be inadequate for Awakening. Concerning what kind of method that is I would like to speak on another occasion.5Anyway, unless what I have mentioned constitutes the basis, it will be impossible for us to get Awakened in relation to others, that is, to get Awakened through mutually sharing direct self-investigation.

Now your apprehension about the mutually sharing direct self-investigation, a fear that it will finally turn out to be an ignorant person leading another, sounds in a way reasonable. But being ignorant is not our original mode of being. Our original self, as I have been saying, is what is present to anybody at any place at any time. Its being present is our genuine mode of being. Being ignorant is not our genuine manner of being. Our true way of being is our being Awakened. That being the case, the true mode of our being may unfold itself on any occasion at any opportunity. Ignorant persons hand in hand becoming Awakened ones is, to tell the truth, not so much a possibility as the true way of being. Those who go hand in hand are really not ignorant but true human beings. It is here that the mutually sharing direct self-investigation truly finds itself.

When we read old records of Zen practitioners, we often come across cases in which they suddenly got Awakened on certain occasions, without any guidance of a particular master, with something as a momentum. Those cases reveal that a guiding master is not an inevitable moment for one's attaining Awakening. By the guiding master I would rather mean our true self. The Formless self is, indeed, our true guiding master. When the guiding master and I become one, I mean, when I get Awakened to my true or Formless self, then and there the ultimate relationship between master and practitioner is established. By getting Awakened to the true self I mean that what I was before Awakening, that is, practitioner, becomes one with what I am after Awakening, that is, master. Here true, ultimate Awakening is established. For that reason, although ordinarily solitary Awakening without a master is often rejected as not true Awakening, I would rather insist that solitary Awakening without a master is the ultimate Awakening. I say so because what is called master is our true self and because no true master exists anywhere else. The true self is the ultimate master.

Thus, the solitary Awakening without any master that I mean is far from what is understood in an ordinary sense. Shakyamuni is said to have attained Awakening under a bodhi-tree, and for his Awakening there was actually no master. None of the masters he had served before was the master of his Awakening under the bodhi-tree. That means that the master for his Awakening under the bodhi-tree was Sakyamuni's Awakening itself, so-to-speak. According to tradition, when he attained Awakening, Shakyamuni uttered the words: "All grasses, trees, and lands have attained Awakening." I understand this to mean that what is original to all is its master, and that what is called master is after all the self. For that reason our original master is Awakening itself. In Shakyamuni's Awakening, that Awakening was his master. In other words, the Awakened self is the master. Apart from getting Awakened to that master there is no Awakening. There practitioner and master are of one body, inseparably one. Instead of having another prove or confirm the authenticity of your Awakening, you attest it for yourself. Certainly, in this case, the self that is attested and the master that attests it are of one body, not two. In their being completely identical lies the autonomy, the independence, the ultimacy of this authenticity.

On the other hand, when the master is not like this, and when master and practitioner are not in the relationship as mentioned above, that doesn't seem to be the true master or the ultimate relationship between master and practitioner. Mutually sharing direct self-investigation as well comes to have its authentic manner in what I have explained. When one and the other mutually get Awakened to their root-source, the Formless self is realized as the true manner of mutually sharing direct self-investigation. I mean, one becoming the other, or mutually coming not to have either oneself or other, is truly mutually sharing direct self-investigation. And that, after all, is nothing but getting Awakened to the mutually original self. In Zen, that is truly the mutual sharing of direct self-investigation. In other words, mutually getting Awakened to our original self ought to be the true mutual sharing of direct self-investigation.

By referring to "mutual" or "mutually" I don't mean the number, two or three, of persons. When I say "mutual" or "mutually," I mean all human beings. Referring to "mutual" or "mutually" in terms of all human beings seems to reveal its true meaning. In that sense, it is in the original self that we have the ground for mutually sharing direct self-investigation. We have its ground in that human beings all have the Awakened nature. That is why we can think that no single person is excluded from or goes beyond the mutual sharing of direct self-investigation. In terms of the original mode of being, all people are mutually sharing direct self-investigation; in terms of all humankind, humans are all mutually sharing direct investigation of their original self. It is not that investigation is conducted among members of particular groups or particular monasteries but that originally there is unity among all humankind. In that sense, the mode of being of the true self in which all humankind are united as one body ought to be the true field for mutually sharing direct self-investigation. It is in this true mode of being of self that there is established an inseparable relationship between oneness and manyness -- oneness being at once manyness and manyness being at once oneness. In that sense we can say that occasions are boundless for mutually sharing direct self-investigation, that the number of people now mutually sharing direct self-investigation is infinite, and that all human beings have been mutually sharing direct self-investigation.

Ultimately it means that all human beings are mutually sharing direct self-investigation as they get Awakened to their true self. Thus, mutually sharing direct self-investigation is far from being a manner particular to the F.A.S. Society, but the way authentic to all human beings.

To summarize: In the self getting Awakened to its original self lies the most basic point of mutually sharing direct self-investigation. In the simultaneity between sucking and pecking, the pecking parent is really the true self of the sucking chick, far from being anything particular. The sucking chick that emerges from within the shell is of one body with the pecking parent. In that sense, thinking that a master from outside pecks at me and then I hatch as a chick, establishes a strangers' relationship between master and practitioner. That leads to various evil practices or wrong views. Our master is always our ultimate self. When one gets Awakened to this ultimate self, the one who gets Awakened sounds like something different from the ultimate self. But the one who gets Awakened, actually, cannot be other than the ultimate self. There isn't any discrimination between them. The true self getting Awakened ought to constitute the true, ultimate relationship between practitioner and master. Therefore, no master exists apart from the true self. And there is no other way by which practitioner is attested by master than getting Awakened to the true self. The two ought to be completely the same matter. That is how they truly are.

Placing one's master outside brings about various evils and wrongs. In Zen, people speak of "investigation of one's own matter." This task should not be anything assigned from without; it ought to be something that emerges from within. The utmost depths of the "within" ought to be the true, Formless self. If an outside master assigns an old-case of koan to a practitioner, as usually happens, that koan will remain something separate from the practitioner. In other words, it will become a task assigned by another person instead of being something that has arisen from the true self. Then it will cease to have any relationship with oneself. In that case, practice tends to go not in the direction of the true self but solving some particular matter. If it ends only with the manner of practice which takes up any particular matter as a problem to solve, it cannot be an investigation of one's ultimate concern. Most possibly it will end as an investigation of someone else's concern.

Today I would like to take a rest here. I look forward to another occasion to investigate this matter.

[Translator's notes]
1 What followsis a tentative translation of a short lecture by Dr. Shin'ichi Hisamatsu, given at his residence in Kyoto on December 15, 1968, for the F.A.S. Society retreat. (The Japanese text is included in the third volume of the Collected Writings of Shin'ichi Hisamatsu's, Risôsha, Tokyo 1971; Revised Collection, Hôzôkan, Kyoto 1994)

The original title in Japanese, sôgo-sankyû, is made up of two words: The first word, sôgo, means "mutual," "mutually." The second word, sankyû, can mean "to attend a master for exhaustive investigation" and "to directly engage oneself in exhaustive investigation." This is because the character san has several meanings: According to The Chinese English Dictionary, compiled by the Beijing Foreign Language Academy in 1979, can (J. san) means: (1) join; enter; take part in, (2) refer; consult, (3) call to pay one's respects to, (4) impeach an official before the emperor. For the present case (1) and (3) are taken into consideration.

2 Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768), a Japanese Zen maser in the Edo period, made this remark in his "Song of Zazen" (J. Zazen-wasan).

3 Dr. Hisamatsu says, "The chick pecks from inside," but the translator follows the meaning of the term seen in its ordinary usage.

4 Dr. Hisamatsu was invited to give lecture as visiting professor at the Divinity School, Harvard University, in the fall and winter of 1957; on his way home the next year he travelled through Europe and India, giving lectures and holding talks with important thinkers.

5 Dr. Hisamatsu is referring to his "fundamental koan."

Last updated: 26 October, 1998