When Master Rinzai was at the High Seat, a monk asked, “What is the first phrase?”
The master said, “When the seal of the three essentials is lifted, the vermilion points remain well imprinted. Before a thought has been brought in, host and guest are clearly distinguished.”
The first phrase means the first phrase that reveals the true-Self. Not only ancient monks but also modern monks often ask masters, “What is the first phrase?” instead of “What is the true-Self?” ‘The seal of the three essentials’ means the true-Self, Emptiness. The reason why the true-Self is referred to as the seal of the three essentials here is that the true-Self is described as its essence, its action and its form when it functions. ‘When the seal of the three essentials is lifted’ means ‘When the true-Self functions’. ‘The vermilion points’ means forms that are the functions of the true-Self. So, ‘When the seal of the three essentials is lifted, the vermilion points remain well imprinted’ means that when the true-Self functions, its forms appear clearly. ‘Before a thought has been brought in, host and guest are clearly distinguished’ means that we should be able to distinguish host, the true-Self from guest, form clearly in no time whenever we see things. In other words, we should be able to see and hear things in two ways; as the true-Self and as forms, at the same time.
Student: “What is the first phrase?”
Master: “Before your question.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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