Nangaku & Baso

There is a story about two monks, Nangaku and Baso. Baso has been practising meditation for ten years. Nangaku comes along.

Nangaku: What is the use of meditation?

Baso: To make a Buddha!

Nangaku picks up a tile. He starts to rub the tile.

Baso: What are you doing?

Nangaku: Making a mirror.

Baso: You can't make a mirror by polishing a tile.

Nangaku: You can't make a Buddha by meditating.

Baso is enlightened. This is a very important story and it was dear to Dogen.

The story tells us that gradual study (polishing, meditating) is endless. It has no natural limit, like polishing a tile. You will never get to the point where it turns into a mirror. A tile cannot become a mirror. However, in Dogen's sense, the tile is a mirror, since it showed Baso to Baso. Therefore, the tile was a mirror already. The mirror is a mirror before it is polished and it is a mirror after it has been polished. The polishing is also a mirror. The polishing is a mirror when the tile turns into a mirror and also when the tile does not turn into a mirror. When the tile does not turn into a mirror, it mirrors not turning into a Buddha. Mirroring in this way it turns Baso into a Buddha. When Nangaku and Baso are both Buddhas they are the same. They are the same as mirrors, but there is nothing the same about these two mirrors. Baso become Baso. When Baso becomes Baso he forgets he is Baso. Forgetting he is Baso he becomes a mirror. This mirror, however, is still just a tile. Therefore, there is no need to polish the tile. On the other hand, the mirror can become a tile when Baso is enlightened. When Baso is enlightened, not only the tile, but rivers, mountains and trees all become Buddhas and Buddhas become rivers, mountains and trees.

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