Zen

The True Precious Stone (3)

One day the Buddha, showing a precious stone that changed colour depending on beholders, asked his students, “What colour is this?” Each of the students responded with a different colour. Then, the Buddha hid the precious stone in his sleeve and raising his hands, said, “What colour is this?” His students answered, “You don’t have the precious stone in your hands. Where can the colours be?” The Buddha said with a sigh of grief, “How can your ignorance be this deep? When I showed you a worldly precious stone, each of you produced words such as blue, orange, red, white, black and so on. However, when I show you the true precious stone, you say that you don’t know.”

Student: “What was the true precious stone that the Buddha showed?”

Master: “It cannot be hidden.”

Commentary:

Hiding it is revealing it.

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Zen

Rinzai 180

One day Rinzai said to Fuke, “Since I am going to spread Obaku’s teaching from now on, you should help me with what I lack.” Fuke, showing homage, retreated. When Kukbu came to see him, he repeated what he had said to Fuke. Kukbu also, showing respect, retreated.  Three days later Fuke visited Rinzai again and after greeting him, asked, “What did you say to Kukbu a few days ago?” Rinzai hit him with his stick. Three days later, Kukbu came to see him again as well and after saying hello, asked, “I hear that you hit Fuke three days ago. What happened?” Rinzai hit him with his stick as well.

Commentary:

Rinzai said the same words to both Fuke and Kukbu and responded by hitting Fuke with his stick when he was asked by Fuke three days later what he had said to Kukbu. He meant that whatever he said is the function of the true-Self by revealing the true-Self. Rinzai answered Kukbu’s question ‘I hear that you hit Fuke three days ago. What happened?’ by hitting him as well. He meant that his hitting might appear to be different from his speaking, but they are the same in essence as the function of Emptiness.

Student: “Why did Rinzai only hit his disciples whenever he was asked a question?”

Master: “Because the blind have difficulty distinguishing hugging from wrestling.”

©Boo Ahm

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of ‘Clinging to a branch of a tree on a cliff is not exceptional. One who can let go of the branch he is taking hold of is a true hero’?

A. ‘A branch of a tree’ symbolises plausible words spoken by the Buddha and ancient masters. ‘Cliff’ implies our lives that are doomed to end sooner or later. Most people who are anxious to escape from birth and death through Buddhism tend to cling to plausible words thinking of them as lifelines to save them. Being attached to such words is not grasping the meaning of them but being deluded by them.

This is why ancient masters would say that plausible words are rather a stake to tether people who want to reach enlightenment. Only he who is not deceived by such words can attain enlightenment. The Buddha said that everything is empty. When everything is empty, not only the Buddha but His words ‘everything is empty’ are also empty.

©Boo Ahm

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Zen

The Buddha’s Secret Remark

An official, bringing some offering to Master Woongoh, asked him, “They say that the Buddha transmitted a secret remark to his first student Mahakasyapa, who didn’t conceal it. What is it?” The master called him by his official title and he answered, “Yes.” The master asked, “Do you know?” The official answered, “No, it doesn’t make any sense to me.” The master said, “If you don’t know, it is a secret remark, but if you know, it is what Mahakasyapa didn’t hide.”

Student: “What is the secret remark?”

Master: “You are speaking it.”

Student: “What is it that Mahakasyapa didn’t hide?”

Master: “You are revealing it.”

Commentary:

The true-Self is impossible to hide even from the blind and the deaf.

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Zen

Rinzai 179

Rinzai asked a monk, “Where do you come from?” The monk gave a Katsu. The master made a polite bow with his hands in front and told him to sit down. The monk hesitated – then the master hit him. The master saw a monk coming. He raised his fly whisk. The monk bowed – the master hit him. Again, he saw a monk coming and again raised his fly whisk. The monk pretended not to see him. The master hit him.

Commentary:

When Rinzai tested if the monk knew the true-Self by asking, “Where do you come from?” the monk passed the first test and responded properly by revealing the true-Self through giving a Katsu. However, he couldn’t pass the more sophisticated test that Rinzai posed by inviting him to sit down whilst politely showing courtesy. When the monk was at a loss for words, Rinzai hit him as an answer and as punishment for failing to answer at the same time.

Seeing a monk coming, Rinzai tested if he knew the true-Self by raising his fly whisk. The monk answered the question by offering a bow, and Rinzai responded by hitting him. Seeing another monk coming, Rinzai tested whether he knew the true-Self by raising his fly whisk as well. The monk responded to Rinzai’s action by pretending not to see him, which was not different from offering a bow. Rinzai also responded by hitting him. It is not certain whether Rinzai approved the second and third monks by hitting them or not. What matters here is that we should grasp the meaning of Rinzai’s hitting the monks.

Student: “Why did Rinzai always respond by hitting monastics?”

Master: “Because you only saw him hitting them.”

Student: “Were the second and third monks enlightened?”

Master: “It depends on you.”

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of ‘When you speak or take a step, the Buddha reveals itself. Why do you wander in vain looking for it without recognising it?’?

A. This means that we should stop wandering in search of the Buddha by chasing after His illusion. The Avatamsaka Sutra says that if one, seeing the Buddha, is not attracted by or attached to Him, he is the one who knows the Buddha and His Dharma. Seeing the Buddha here implies to see the illusion of the Buddha. One who is not deluded by the illusion of the Buddha is the one who knows the Buddha. The real Buddha has no given form and reveals itself in the forms of everything, everywhere, all the time. It never conceals itself and cannot be hidden even for a moment.

There is nothing that is not the Buddha. All that we see and hear is nothing but the Buddha. Even we ourselves are the Buddha and all the sounds we make are the sound of the Buddha. There is no other Buddha to be attached to than that which reaches our eyes and ears. Believing that there is another Buddha other than this is being deluded by the illusion of the Buddha. This is why it is said that when you speak or take a step, the Buddha reveals itself.

©Boo Ahm

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Zen

The True Precious Stone (2)

One day the Buddha, showing a precious stone that changed colour depending on beholders, asked his students, “What colour is this?” Each of the students responded with a different colour. Then, the Buddha hid the precious stone in his sleeve and raising his hands, said, “What colour is this?” His students answered, “You don’t have the precious stone in your hands. Where can the colours be?” The Buddha said with a sigh of grief, “How can your ignorance be this deep? When I showed you a worldly precious stone, each of you produced words such as blue, orange, red, white, black and so on. However, when I show you the true precious stone, you say that you don’t know.”

Student: “What was the true precious stone that the Buddha showed?”

Master: “It is the worldly precious stone.”

Student: “What is the difference between them?”

Master: “If you see them as different and separate, both become worldly precious stones. If you see them as one, it is the true precious stone.”

Commentary:

Everything is from your mind.

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Zen

Rinzai 178

Afterwards, Issan asked Gyosan, “How do you understand what those two venerables were talking about?” Gyosan countered, “How do you understand it?” Issan said, “Only when rearing a child does one come to understand a father’s love.” Gyosan said, “Not at all.” Issan asked, “Then what?” Gyosan said, “It is like a thief ruining one’s home.”

Commentary:

Issan asked his disciple Gyosan to tell him his view regarding the dialogue between Obaku and Rinzai about the dialogue with the cook. Gyosan, conscious of his master’s intention, answered his question by posing another question in return because he also wondered what Issan’s answer was like. Issan answered, “Only when rearing a child does one come to understand a father’s love”, which means, “Only when a man gets enlightened and is in a position to teach his students, just as Obaku was, can he know the meaning of Obaku.” When Gyosan said, “Not at all” he didn’t contradict his master’s answer but meant, “I know what you mean, and I have another expression of what you mean.” So, Issan, sensing his intention, allowed him to give his own answer by saying, “Then what?” Gyosan highly acknowledged Rinzai by comparing him to a thief ruining one’s home. In the Zen community a thief symbolises an enlightened man, who is said to have stolen the whole universe. ‘Ruin one’s home’ implies to destroy one’s illusions. In short, Gyosan meant that Rinzai was a great master who tried his best to remove illusions from people.

Student: “What is Obaku’s love?”

Master: “A father’s love made Rinzai a thief.”

Student: “Did Rinzai ruin one’s home?”

Master: “You still have your home.”

The purpose of ruining one’s home is to make one a thief.

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of ‘Once you get to know an enemy, he can be your friend’?

A. This means that once you have realised what the essence of Mara is, you will come to know that it is the Buddha. When ancient masters said that we should get rid of or escape from Mara, they did not mean that we should move away or do away with it but meant that we should realise that it is also the function of the true-Self.

In essence, Mara is not Mara but the Buddha. The Buddha and Mara are not separate and different from each other but absolutely one. When we don’t see things as they are, that is, when we are deluded by illusions, we mistake the Buddha for Mara. This is why ancient masters would say, “Why do you struggle to avoid the Buddha while trying to see Him?” when they were asked how people could escape from Mara.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Zen

The True Precious Stone (1)

One day the Buddha, showing a precious stone that changed colour depending on beholders, asked his students, “What colour is this?” Each of the students responded with a different colour. Then, the Buddha hid the precious stone in his sleeve and raising his hands, said, “What colour is this?” His students answered, “You don’t have the precious stone in your hands. Where can the colours be?” The Buddha said with a sigh of grief, “How can your ignorance be this deep? When I showed you a worldly precious stone, each of you produced words such as blue, orange, red, white, black and so on. However, when I show you the true precious stone, you say that you don’t know.”

Student: “What is the true precious stone that the Buddha showed?”

Master: “It is in your hands now as well.”

Commentary:

It never moves at all but there is no place it cannot reach.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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