The Provincial Governor 0 Joji and his staff invited the master to take the High Seat.
From the High Seat the master said: “I cannot refuse your request to ascend this seat today. In the tradition of the patriarchs I should not even open my mouth in praise of the Great Matter. But then you would find no foothold anywhere. So today, being invited by the Governor, how could I conceal the fundamental principle of the Great Matter?”
The Great Matter implies the true-Self, Emptiness. The reason why master Rinzai said, “I should not even open my mouth in praise of the Great Matter” is that the true-Self is so perfect that it is beyond description. So, ancient masters would say that we are wrong if we even open our mouths to describe the true-Self. Even Buddha, when he first attained enlightenment, hesitated to teach it to others before starting his teaching because he found it impossible to describe the true-Self. This implies that Buddha and ancient masters expressed what can’t be explained in words, which means that we should grasp what is beyond words without being deluded by their words. So, Buddha also said on his deathbed, “Not a word have I said.” to advise people to grasp what is beyond words without clinging to his words. Prior to his talk, Rinzai was warning the congregation not to cling to his words but to grasp what is beyond his words when he revealed the Great Matter, the true-Self.
Student: “Provided that is wrong even to open our mouths to explain the true-Self, is it not wrong to keep our mouths shut?”
Master: “Keeping them shut is also wrong.”
Student: “What shall we do if we are wrong when we open our mouths and also wrong even when we don’t open our mouths?”
Master: “You should neither open nor keep your mouths shut.”
Student: “How is it possible?”
Master: “Grasp what is beyond words.”
Student: “How can I grasp what is beyond words?”
Master: “Words are just a finger pointing to the moon, not the moon itself. Take a close look at what they are pointing to but don’t cling to them.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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