In Buddha Nature No North or South

...Frequently I travel abroad to teach people of other countries about
the heart of Tea. Recently I was invited to the Philippines where, in
a private meeting, I offered tea to President Ramos and his wife and
engaged in a cordial exchange of ideas. This encounter stands as one
moment in my continuous efforts to bring to realization the phrase
"peacefulness through a bowl of tea." Whenever I travel outside Japan,
I think of the words uttered by the Sixth Ancestor of Zen, Hui-neng
(638-713), who said, "While we may say that humans mark distinctions
of north and south, in terms of buddha-nature south and north do not exist."
The Sixth Ancestor of Zen Buddhism that was founded by the great
teacher Bodhidarma, Zen Master Hui-neng was a youth without formal
education, whose occupation was cutting firewood and producing
charcoal. One day when he had descended from the mountain to sell
charcoal and kindling, in a certain street while standing in front of a
house, Hui-neng suddenly heard a voice reciting a sutra. Of course there
was no reason for such a woodcutter to desire to penetrate the words of
the sutra. But the echo of the recited phrases somehow resonated within
his mind and he inquired of the old woman within the house about the sutra.
Thereupon Hui-neng learned that what he had just heard was the Diamond
Sutra, and that the words that had particularly moved him were o musho ju
ni sho goshin (From the mind that abides nowhere comes forth a bodhisattva) .
The old woman further informed him that if he wanted to learn the meaning
of those words he should seek out the Fifth Zen Ancestor Hung-jen (601-674).
Thus Hui-neng traveled north and sought out Zen Master Hung-jen, but it was
not at all easy for him to enter the gate to Zen learning. Even today this is
true, as I myself have experienced and know well. He was spoken to roughly,
"You, who have spent your life as a poor woodcutter from the barbarian
South, this is not a place to which you should come." Hui-neng wasn't even
allowed inside. At this moment Hui-neng uttered the words I mentioned
Humans mark distinctions of north and south, but in buddha-nature south and
north do not exist.
Or to paraphrase, "Just as there are persons who are born in the south such
as myself, there are those born in the north. Since, after birth, all humans
possess buddha-nature, why do you discriminate on the attributes south or
north." Startled by this single piercing phrase, Hung-jen permitted him to
begin study, and later acknowledged Hui-neng as his successor.
In this story the foolishness of humans who discriminate against others
because of the country in which they were born or the color of their skin is
forthrightly proclaimed.
All of us who study chanoyu, through that practice, aim towards actualizing
respect and harmony among people. At the same time, through the same
practice, one's self and body are polished and reflected upon, and one's mind
is brought to a state of clarity. Genuine peace, peace without discrimination,
achieved through a bowl of tea -- this is what I pray will be accomplished
through the Way of Tea.