Bankei Yotaku

Bankei Yotaku 
(1622-93), was an acclaimed Japanese Zen master in Japan. Bankei is renowned for the emphasis in his talks on the “Unborn” (Fu-shō) Buddha-mind or Buddha-nature, the birthless, deathless, timeless, spaceless, boundless Awareness-Isness-Aliveness, Our Real Identity. Bankei’s brilliance and directness is reminiscent of the style and approach of the ancient Chinese Ch’an Buddhist masters of the T’ang Dynasty.

Bankei repeatedly drove home the profound if paradoxical point that no sentient being, in their Absolute Identity as Buddha-Nature (Skt.:Buddhata, Jap.: Bussho), has ever really “been born.” That is to say,no one has actually ever gotten entangled in phenomena, bodies, minds, experiences, relationships, etc. We are always already none other than the One that is also Many; our real Nature is the undefined, unstructured, infinite Openness-Emptiness (Skt.: Shûnyatâ) of Pure Awareness that is also simultaneously appearing as all phenomena. We are Formlessness associated with and permeating forms, but never “born” or caught up as these forms.

Hence, Master Bankei famously summed up his entire teaching as Fu-shō—“Unborn!” This key word was often issued verbally by Bankei and also was inscribed by him as the simple caption to his famous calligraphic sumi-e painting of the Zen circle that he drew as the visual summary of his Way. The Master always advised people, “don’t get born,” i.e., don’t take on seriously even for a moment any false, limiting identifications of being a man, a woman, a Buddhist, a Confucian, good, bad, old, young, angry, elated, mortal body or even a distinct, immortal soul. In our True Nature we are always only the unmanifest Absolute, which manifests as the conventional “dream” of life while yet always remaining Absolute. Freedom is always Free, and our Real Identity is this Spiritual Freedom or Mind/Heart of Buddha-Nature.