The best student goes directly to the ultimate (from The Shodoka)by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku
English version by Robert Aitken
Original Language Chinese
The best student goes directly to the ultimate,
The others are very learned but their faith is uncertain.
Remove the dirty garments from your own mind;
Why should you show off your outward striving?
/ Photo by nerissa's ring /
This selection from the Shodoka has that wonderful no-nonsense quality you often find in Zen teachings...
"The best student goes directly to the ultimate." That is, it is an effortless process of settling into the true nature of Being. There is no real work involved. It is "direct," already there. There is no need for learning, elaborate dogmas, or techniques. It is right there, immediately, and everything else just gets in the way. The "best students" just go silently "to the ultimate."
From the perspective of the Shodoka, that means that everyone else who is showing off their great spiritual efforts, their impressive theological learning, what they're really doing is proclaiming their spiritual shortcomings. They are saying, in effect, 'I need these elaborate aids to achieve what the best students attain effortlessly.' In other words, "their faith is uncertain," not steady enough to allow them to surrender to the Reality always present. The author works in a teasing jibe, saying they've got dirty laundry piled about the mind -- an uncleansed mind, musty mental habits that prevent a more direct perception of the ultimate.
I guess that's one more reason not to be a show off...