38. Memorising a few lines from a sutra can be an effective way to focus the mind. Evidently this was the practice of the monk who presented himself to Master Kempo and said: 'It is written, "Bhagavats in the ten directions. One straight road to Nirvana"'. To his credit, not only was he aware that the appropriate insight eluded him but he was honest enough to admit it. Hence his query: 'I still wonder where the road can be'.
The monk's predicament serves to illustrate both the value of scripture and its limitation. For while the words of scripture serve the teaching of the Dharma, they are powerless to capture or contain it. Therefore Zen would nudge its practitioners towards realising for themselves, in the here and now of their everyday lives, that which lies beyond the reach of conceptualisation and verbal formulation.
When Master Kempo lifted his staff, drew a line in the air and said 'Here it is', he gave the monk an opportunity to realise for himself that the road he was seeking, the road that his sutra study would not open for him, was right there before his eyes. For just as there are Bhagavats in the ten directions, so in this staff, in this gesture, in this brief comment, is the one straight road to Nirvana.
This teaching of Kempo's has a direct bearing on the practice of zazen.