You heard of this old fellow Rinzai, and so you came here asking difficult questions, trying to shut me up. If I give you the actualisation of the whole body, you students can but stare stupidly, unable to utter a word. And I tell you that the ass cannot follow the path that the king-elephant walked on. But you, on all occasions, hit your chest, point at your ribs, and claim, “I understand Zen, I know the Way.” And yet whether you come here in pairs or three at a time, these such attitudes are of no use here. Bah! With this body and heart, you deceive innocent men and women of middle-class homes by wagging your tongues wherever you go. The day will surely come when you receive the iron rod. You are not monastics, and you will fall into the world of Asuras.
‘If I give you the actualisation of the whole body, you students can but stare stupidly, unable to utter a word’ means that when Rinzai responded to their questions by revealing the whole body that is the true-Self, they were at a loss for words because they couldn’t grasp his meaning. So, in order to say that the unenlightened cannot make sense of the meaning of the enlightened, Rinzai used a metaphor ‘the ass cannot follow the path that the king-elephant walked on’. He also warns that monastics should not mislead innocent laypeople with plausible and sweet words whilst they themselves don’t know what they are talking about and that they cannot be said to be true monastics. ‘The day will surely come when you receive the iron rod’ implies that such monastics cannot avoid paying for what they do, which is to fall into the world of Asuras that are warlike ghosts.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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