One day, Governor Wang came to visit Rinzai. When they happened to pass the monk’s hall, he asked Rinzai, “Do the monks in this monastery all study the Sutras?” “No, they don’t.” “Do they then learn meditation?” “No, they don’t.” “If they neither study the Sutras nor learn meditation, what then do they do?” Rinzai said, “All are training to become Buddhas or patriarchs.” The Governor said, “It is said that though gold dust is precious, in the eyes it becomes an eye disease. What do you think?” Rinzai remarked, “I almost took you for a common fellow!”
Rinzai’s answer ‘All are training to become Buddhas or patriarchs’ means that all of them were trying to attain enlightenment. The governor countered his answer beautifully by remarking, “Though gold dust is precious, in the eyes it becomes an eye disease.” This purports that no matter how precious it is to become Buddhas and patriarchs, clinging to the images of them prevents you from seeing things as they are, namely keeps you from becoming enlightened. Hearing this unexpected response, Rinzai praised him for his good view by commenting that he had taken Wang as a common layman who didn’t know what it symbolised to become Buddhas or patriarchs and found him beyond his expectation.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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