Zen

Xuansha’s “Person of Three Disabilities”

Xuansha said to the assembly, Elders in various places all talk about interacting with and benefiting all beings. If you encounter a person with three disabilities, how will you guide that person? Even if you take up a mallet or raise a whisk, the blind do not see you. Even if you speak eloquently, the deaf do not hear you. Even if you ask them to speak, the mute cannot speak. How will you guide them? If you cannot guide them, the Buddhadharma has no power. 

At that time, Dizang was in the assembly. He came forward and said, “I have eyes and ears. Master, how do you guide me?” Xuansha said, “I am ashamed.” Then he returned to the abbot’s room. 

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Student: “How will you guide a person with the three disabilities?” 

Master: Have you ever seen a person with the three disabilities?”  

Student: No, Ive seen a person with one, or two disabilities, but Ive never seen a person with the three disabilities at the same time. How will you guide him should you meet him?”  

Master: “I am too busy guiding a person with the three disabilities to answer your question now.” 

 

Commentary: 

The problem of sentient beings is that they are not aware of what their problems are. 

 

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Zen

Rinzai 42

What then can understand the Dharma and can listen to it? It is that which is brilliantly clear and shinning alone before your very eyes, albeit formless which can speak and listen to the Dharma. If you can really grasp this, you are not different from the Buddhas and patriarchs.

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Commentary:

What is controlling your body to read this at this moment? Dead bodies cannot do what you are doing now even though they have eyes and hands. Attaining enlightenment is to realise what controls your body to do what you do when you do something; talk, listen to the Dharma, walk, drink, think, dance, sing and so forth. ‘If you can grasp this, you are not different from the Buddhas and patriarchs’ means that if you realise what controls your body, you get enlightened since seeing what controls your body is realising the true-Self. It is because all your actions are just the functions of the true-Self.

 

Student: “What is the true-Self?”

Master: “What is making you ask this question?”

 

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of the Dharma Ending Age? Are there realms where there is no Buddha at all?

A. ‘To attain enlightenment, to see the Buddha is very difficult at the Dharma Ending Age because the power of the Dharma is on the decline’ is a popular phrase that is often misinterpreted. The Buddha is the ultimate truth and eternity itself without beginning or end, and the Dharma refers to Buddha’s teaching. The Dharma is also identified with the Buddha since Buddha’s teaching is the ultimate truth. The Buddha, or the Dharma has no end because it has no beginning and there is no realm where there is no Buddha.

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‘The Dharma Ending Age’ implies the time when people believe that the Dharma has beginning and end and that it is so old that it is nearing the end with its power fading, that is, the time when people are being deluded by illusions. To such people it may seem as if this were the Dharma Ending Age but in fact it is just an illusion of their own creation. To the people who are deluded by illusions, every moment is the Dharma Ending Age and where they are is the realm with no Buddha. Saying that now is the Dharma Ending Age is like saying that now is the universe ending age.

 

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Zen

Xuansha’s Blank Letter

Xuansha one day sent a monastic to deliver a letter to Xuefeng. Xuefeng received the monastic while he was teaching, opened the letter, and found a blank piece of paper. He showed it to the assembly and said, “Do you understand this?”

After a while he said, “Can’t you see what he says? Virtuous persons have the same understanding, even though they are one thousand miles apart.”

The monastic went back and reported this to Xuansha.

Xuansha said, “The old man on the mountain passed by me without knowing it.”

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Student: “What did Xuefeng see when he found a blank piece of paper from Xuansha?”

Master: “He saw The Three Vehicles and the Twelve Divisions of the Sutras.”

 

Commentary:

A single blank piece of paper is more than enough to express all Buddha’s teaching.

 

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Zen

Rinzai 41

Venerable Ones, get to know what plays with these shadows of light. It is the not only original source of all the Buddhas but also where all practitioners should return to. Your physical body, formed by the four elements, can neither speak nor listen to the Dharma; nor can your five viscera and six entrails; nor can the empty space.

 

Commentary:

To get to know what plays with these shadows of light, illusions is to realise the true-Self since all actions, that is, all illusions are the functions of the true-Self. The true-Self, the original source of all is the root of not only all the Buddhas but also all illusions. That’s why ancient masters would say that all illusions turn into the true-Self once we’ve attained enlightenment, that we can be enlightened if we can only see a single illusion as it is, and that every illusion is a gate to the true-Self. ‘All practitioners should return to’ means that all practitioners should realise that they are part of the true-Self that plays with these shadows.

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‘Your physical body, formed by the four elements, can neither talk nor listen to the Dharma’ means that the true-Self is not your physical body formed by the four elements; soil, water, fire and wind, but rather what controls your body every moment. That’s why I tell you to ask yourselves what you are when your bodies are not you.

 

Student: “How can we see the true-Self?”

Master: “Thank you for showing it.”

 

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Zen

Q. Why is it that after a while of sitting meditation, I begin to feel dead inside?

A. Let me ask you back. Have you ever died, or been dead so far? If not, how can you say that you feel dead when you have no experience of how the dead feel? Do you think that the dead can feel? Feeling dead is a kind of illusion. You are practising in the wrong way. You are meddling with illusions or being deluded by them during the time that you think you are spending practising Zen. Your state is referred to as ‘fallen into darkness’, or ‘fallen into the den of fox’ and Zen practitioners are likely to fall into it.

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Zen meditation is not just sitting without thinking. Such a problem as this comes to you when you try to remain without thinking. Zen meditation is to focus all your attention on an ultimate question, called a koan, such as ‘What am I when my body is not me?’. When all your attention is concentrated on the question, such a thought can’t occur. When you feel dead again, just ask yourself what it is that feels dead?

 

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Zen

Yantou’s “Original Permanence”

Ruiyan asked his teacher Yantou, “What is the original permanence?”

Yantou said, “Movement.”

Ruiyan said, “What happens when movement takes place?”

Yantou said, “You don’t see the original permanence.”

Ruiyan silently reflected on the matter.

Yantou said, “If you agree with this, you are bound by subject and object. If you disagree with this, you fall into an endless cycle of birth and death.”

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Student: “Why don’t we see the original permanence when movement takes place?”

Master: “Because movement prevents you from seeing the original permanence.”

Student: “Why did Yantou say, ‘Movement’ when asked what the original permanence was?”

Master: “Because ‘movement’ prevented your seeing the original performance.”

 

Commentary:

When a master shows a fluttering leaf in order to explain the wind,

don’t be deluded by the leaf.

 

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Zen

Rinzai 40

The scholars of the Sutras and Treatises take the Three Bodies as absolute. As I see it, this is not so. These Three Bodies are merely words, logical props. An old master said, “Even when we talk about the Buddha Bodies and the Pure Land based on their literal the meaning, we do this depending on the true-Self.” Thus, you should know that the Dharma Nature Bodies and the Pure Land are only shadows of light.

 

Commentary:

‘These Three Bodies are merely words, logical props’ means that the Three Bodies are only imaginary lines, labels used to explain and describe the Buddha, the true-Self, and are not the Buddha itself. Words and phrases employed to illustrate the Buddha, however beautiful and plausible they may sound, are not the essence of the Buddha but only fingers pointing to the Buddha. Clinging to those words is to be deluded by illusions of the Buddha. So, ancient masters would say, “If you cling to words, all Sutras become Mara’s talk.”  Buddha also said on his deathbed, “Not a word have I said” in order to prevent his students from clinging to his words.

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‘Even when we talk about the Buddha Bodies and the Pure Land based on their literal meaning, we do this depending on the true-Self’ means that everything we do to express the Buddha, whether speaking or gesturing, is the function of the true-Self, the Buddha. In other words, the Dharma Nature Bodies and the Pure Land are only shadows of light, illusions. The ground from which these words come from is the true-Self.

 

Student: “What are the Three Bodies?”

Master: “Don’t be belied by such words.”

Student: “Then, what are the Three Bodies?”

Master: “The Three Bodies.”

 

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Zen

Q. What is the meaning of the following Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) from the Bible?

Jesus said: “Life in God’s Kingdom is Like this.  A man went to the marketplace to hire workers for his vineyard. He offered them a silver coin and they went off to work. At 9am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm he went again and hired men at an agreed wage. At 6pm there were still grapes to be picked so he hired more men and agreed to pay them a fair wage.  At 8pm all the grapes were picked so he gathered all the men and paid them, starting with the ones hired at 6pm. All the workers got the same amount, a silver coin. The workers who had started at 9am were angry but the man said to them, ‘I paid you what we agreed, are you cross because I was generous to those who came later?’”

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A. This paragraph implies that once you enter God’s Kingdom, there is no difference whatsoever with regard to how long you tried before entering the Kingdom. Some people meet Christianity at birth while others find it late in their lives. This parable implies that regardless of how early people start to follow Jesus’s teaching and how long they have followed it, once they enter the Kingdom, there is no difference at all there. Likewise, in Buddhism once you attain enlightenment, there is no difference whatsoever, regardless of how long you have practised prior to attaining enlightenment. Enlightenment attained after practising for 30 years is not different at all from the one attained as a result of practising for one year.

 

Student: “Why is there no difference after entering God’s Kingdom or attaining enlightenment?”

Master: “Because there is no discrimination there.”

 

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Zen

Guishan’s Water Buffalo

Guishan said to the assembly, “One hundred years from now I will be reborn as a water buffalo at the foot of this mountain. On the left side of the buffalo’s chest the characters, ‘I am a monastic of Guishan’ will be written. If you call it the monastic of Guishan, it will be a water buffalo. If you call it a water buffalo, it will be the monastic of Guishan. Tell me, what will you call it?”

Yangshan came forward from the assembly, bowed, and walked away.

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Student: “What will you call it?”

Master: “I will call it a water buffalo?”

Student: “How could you call the monastic of Guishan a water buffalo?”

Master: “Because I respect him.”

 

Commentary:

If you know the Buddha, every name is His name.

If you don’t know the Buddha, even Buddha is not his name.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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