Words That Heal

Senior's Talk by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Osho

Featured in Mountain Record 27.2, Winter 2008

Manifest truth; do not lie. This is the fourth of the Ten Grave Precepts, the moral and ethical teachings of Zen Buddhism. Eihei Dogen, a thirteenth century Japanese Zen master, offered a commentary on this precept:

The dharma wheel unceasingly turns.
There’s neither excess nor lack.
Sweet dew permeates the universe.
Gain the essence and realize the truth.


Photo by Mehrdad Azadi


Expounding on this precept, the eighth century Indian Buddhist teacher, Bodhidharma, commented, “Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous, and the dharma is beyond all expression. Not speaking even a single word is called the precept of refraining from telling lies.”

Master Sengcan, the third ancestor of Zen, is attributed with composing the Faith Mind Sutra, a poem whose opening lines are frequently regarded as pointing to the essence of Zen: The great way is not difficult when you avoid picking and choosing. The poem ends with this line:

Words, words, words; the way is
   beyond language.
For in the Way there is no yesterday,
   no tomorrow and no today.

The challenge in expressing ourselves through words is held in our intention to continuously manifest truth, and not to lie or deceive. There is a moment in our spiritual practice when we make a dedicated and systematic effort to consciously live by the precepts, to live this life openly in all that it entails and to manifest the truth of this reality. That’s what Dogen, Bodhidharma and Sengcan are clarifying for us.