The Guru as the ‘midwife’

Zen is a beautiful path to enlightenment. Perfect enlightenment is the child to be delivered in the labor ward of Zen. It surpasses many doctrines in the world because of its utter simplicity and the fact that it is absolutely free of sectarian bias. It is for that reason that Zen will stand the test of time and will continue to exist for many tens of thousands of years to come.

The understanding of this (as is the case with all other paths) path of enlightenment is to be achieved through five excellences: aspiration (for enlightenment), teaching (it is when we teach others that we actually learn), practice (constant awareness and engaging in activities with unstoppable spirit of enlightenment), and achievement of the perfect enlightenment. Therefore the Teaching of Zen is superior according to one’s strength of aspiration and desire. As it is taught, so it is practiced; as it is practiced, (so is there) preparation of the stores (of inner merit – spiritual attainments); so there are stores, so there is the achievement of the perfect, complete enlightenment.


A monk asked Basho, “If there is a person who does not avoid birth (ignorance) and death (suffering) and does not realize Nirvana, do you teach such a person?” Basho answered, “I do not teach him.” The monk asked, “Why?” Basho replied, “This old monk knows good and bad.”

This dialogue was reported in another monastery, and one day Tendo said, “Basho may know good and bad, but he cannot take away a farmer’s ox or a hungry man’s food. If that monk asked me such a question, before he had half finished, I would hit him. Why? Because from the beginning I do not care about good and bad.”

ELUCIDATION: Neither enlightened nor deluded?

This Zen story shows the different methods of Zen teaching. The monk asked Basho an impossible question; for how can there be a person who is neither deluded nor enlightened? Basho uses a gentle and gradual method and is sensitive to the time and situation. He is like a knowing physician who diagnoses the illness and prescribes the proper medicine for cure.

Tendos methods are rough and abrupt, like shock treatment. He would take the ox away from the farmer and the food from a hungry man. He does not consider the relative value of good or bad, right or wrong, but attacks from the absolute point of view. His forceful way is very conspicuous and dramatic, and people tended to view it as heroic. Basho’s way is not flamboyant, but it is a sure way of teaching nevertheless. Both ways need well developed discipline, deep intuitive wisdom, and noble character on the Masters part.

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