by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

The Third Rank: The Host in Rightful Position

Within nothingness [Immaculacy] there is a path
That leads away from the dusts of the world.
Even if you observe the taboo
On the present emperor's name [i.e., even if you maintain complete silence],
You will surpass that eloquent one of yore
Who silenced every tongue.

--Poem on the Third Rank
Great Master Tozan
translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki in Zen Dust
quoted in A History of Zen by Dr. Y. H. Ku

The Guest Recognizes the Host

If there is no real separation from the Eternal, why do we not always recognize the Eternal in all situations and in all beings?--Because our spiritual vision is clouded by greed, hate and delusion.

When our spiritual vision is not clouded by greed, hate and delusion, the Great Immaculacy is everywhere to be seen. It is our spiritual vision that has changed, not It.

When mind and heart are sufficiently washed clean of the illusions that blind us to the Great Immaculacy, then it can be said that the Host is in its rightful position in ITS house--the house that we once thought of as "our" body and mind, but which in reality was always the Eternal's. This is the Third Rank.

The Beneficent Flood

When the house of body and mind (which is the house of karma) has been washed clean, a flood of Teaching is released. This beneficent flood is one of the signs of genuine conversion. The deepening of understanding of Preceptual Truth is an essential part of this flood, for once the house is cleaned it is vitally important to know how to avoid dirtying it again.

Preceptual Truth is more than the aggregate of all the Precepts. Preceptual Truth is rooted in the rightful relationship of Host and guest--the Eternal and our individual will. In this rightful relationship, the guest does not try to abrogate the authority and responsibility of the Host. In other words, we (the guest) stop playing God in thought, word and deed. The alternative to playing God is to allow the Eternal to help, guide, teach and lead. This is not subservience: it is following our own True Nature; it is being true to what we truly are.

Rev. Master's Commentary on the Precepts in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom (Plate XII; first edition: Plate VIII) shows (insofar as words are capable of showing) how to do this deep Preceptual training.


In How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, the flood of the Eternal's Compassion and Wisdom is emphasized in the Third Column, which corresponds to the Third Rank.

In the Five Aspects of Meditation, the emphasis is on waiting patiently, that is, taking refuge in the stillness of the Buddha Nature so that it is possible to hear and follow the guidance of the Eternal.

In the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, the Third Noble Truth--"When craving and ignorance cease, suffering ceases"--corresponds to the Third Rank. For craving and ignorance cease when the process of cleansing and conversion in the Second Rank is complete.


Click here to proceed to Part XLV, "The Fourth Rank: The Guest in Rightful Position"


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