Zen

Rinzai 62

For if Buddha and Mara happen to appear in one form, he could not differentiate them. Yet, as the gander king knows how to drink only the milk from a mixture of milk and water, so does the clear eye.

Followers of the Way, just beat up both Buddha and Mara. For if you love the sacred and hate the worldly, you go on floating and sinking in the ocean of birth and death.

Commentary:

Buddha is to Mara as Emptiness is to forms. Buddha and Mara are not different and separate from each other but one in the same way Emptiness is the same as forms. So, an ancient master would say, “There is a precious treasure hidden amidst forms between the sky and the earth.” Buddha and Mara always appear as one. That’s why they are said to be as difficult to distinguish from each other as milk and water are to distinguish from each other in a mixture of milk and water. An enlightened man is compared to ‘the gander king’ which can drink just the milk out of a mixture of milk and water.

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‘Just beat up both Buddha and Mara’ means that we should not be tempted to cling to Buddha and the sacred, or to hate and avoid Mara and the worldly since all of them are only illusions. In fact, all the labels, imaginary lines, including Buddha and Mara, are just illusions, which are also known as Mara. The state without any illusions is Buddha.

Student: “How can I beat up Buddha and Mara?”

Master: “You don’t have to try in vain to remove the horns of a rabbit.”

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Zen

Q. Will the earth come to an end?

A. Every moment is the end of something and the start of something new at the same time. Nothing is what it was yesterday since everything is in ceaseless change. It’s why a philosopher said that no one can swim in the same river twice. In Buddhism, it is said that everything that comes into being is bound to perish sooner or later.

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The essence of Buddhism is to realise what survives the end of, not only the earth, but also all the other things.

 

Student: “What survives the end of the earth?”

Master: “The earth is from it.”

 

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Zen

How can I take a boat that can cross the ocean of birth and death?

When a monk asked Master Sulbong, “How can I take a boat that can cross the ocean of birth and death?”, the master answered, “If you get on a raft, it will sink to the bottom, and if you get on a boat, it will sink, too.”

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Student: “Why do a raft and a boat sink whenever we board them?”

Master: “Because no vehicle is large enough to accommodate you.”

Student: “Then, how can I cross the ocean?”

Master: “Why don’t you jump over it?”

 

Commentary:

In order to reach your destination, you should know where you are now above all.

 

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Zen

Rinzai 61

One cannot call them true leavers of home; they are just ordinary laymen. A man who has left home should know how to see clearly and calmly, should know Buddha from Mara, the true from the false, the worldly from the sacred. If he has got this knowledge, he can truly be called a leaver of home. If he does not know Buddha from Mara, then in effect he leaves one home only to enter another, and is what is called a karma-producing living being. He cannot yet be called a true leaver of home.

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Commentary:

Them’ in ‘one cannot call them true leavers of home’ refers to the people who avoid crowded and noisy places and stick to only quiet places in order to enter the Path.‘Leavers of home’ has two meanings. One means those who have become monks for the purpose of attaining enlightenment. The other means enlightened people who have escaped home, that is, a burning house that symbolises the mundane world full of suffering. So, true leavers of home here means enlightened monks. ‘Know Buddha from Mara, the true from the false, the worldly from the sacred’ means to see and hear everything in both ways; as Emptiness and as forms. ‘In effect he leaves one home only to enter another’ means that leaving crowded places and sticking to only quiet places is like getting out of one home of ‘crowded’ illusions and entering another of ‘quiet’ illusions. This means that he is still being deluded by illusions of ‘crowded’ and ‘quiet’. That’s why he cannot yet be called a true leaver of home.

Student: “How can I be a true leaver of home?”

Master: “That’s another home.”

 

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Zen

Q. Does non-thinking require effort?

A. Above all, you need a correct definition of non-thinking. You should know that non-thinking is not to stop thinking altogether, just like stone, but rather to stop being deluded by illusions, or words. Granted, it may be possible to stop thinking during your practice in a quiet place, but it is impossible in your ordinary life, away from your practice room, which demands decisions and choices at every moment, no matter what effort you may make to stop your thinking.

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However, once you have realised that everything is empty, it is possible to stop being deluded by illusions, all the time, without any effort. I’d like to advise you to try to see everything as empty, to see everything as it is and not to try to stop thinking.

 

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Zen

Hwang-byuk’s ‘on the end of my Zen stick’

Master Hwang-byuk said to a monk, “All masters all around the country are on the end of my Zen stick.” The monk went to Master Dae-soo and told him what Hwang-byuk had said. Then, Dae-soo said, “Although Hwang-byuk said so, how could he go to see all the masters all around the country?” When the monk returned to Hwang-byuk and told him what Dae-soo had said. Hwang-byuk said, “My story has already spread all around the world.”

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Student: “What did Hwang-byuk mean by saying, ‘All masters all around the world are on the end of my Zen stick’?”

Master: “He did what can’t be said.”

Student: “What did Dae-soo mean by saying, ‘Although Hwang-byuk said so, how could he go to see all the masters all around the country?’?”

Master: “He said what can’t be done.”

Student: “What did Hwang-byuk mean by saying, ‘My story has already spread all around the world’?”

Master: “He did what Dae-soo said.”

 

Commentary:

What can’t be said is hidden in what is done and what can’t be done is hidden in what is said.

 

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Zen

Rinzai 60

But students nowadays do not know the Dharma. They are like goats, nuzzling and nibbling at everything they come across. They cannot distinguish the servant from the master, nor the guest from the host. Because they want to enter the Path with a wild heart, they cannot enter the Path in crowded places.

Commentary:

They are like goats, nuzzling and nibbling at everything they come across’ means they follow illusions and words. In ‘They cannot distinguish the servant from the master, nor the guest from the host’, the servants and the guests mean forms, and the master and the host means emptiness, the true-Self. This implies that they can’t tell forms from emptiness, which is to be deluded by illusions. ‘Enter the Path’ means to attain enlightenment, or to realise the true-Self and ‘a wild heart’ represents a discriminating mind. Because such students have discriminating minds, they, thinking that they cannot attain enlightenment in crowded and noisy places, avoid them and stick to only quiet places in order to enter the Path.

In fact, there is no place without the Path, regardless of whether a place is crowded and noisy, or quiet. He who can’t enter the Path in crowded places cannot enter the Path in quiet places as well. So, ancient masters would say that a loving child should be able to recognise his or her mother at first sight even in a crowded market place.

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Student: “How can we enter the Path in crowded places?”

Master: “Crowded places are the Path.”

Student: “Why can’t I enter it now?”

Master: “Because you are blocked by the Path.”

 

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Zen

Q. Do enlightened people experience intense emotions and can they easily control their emotions if they arise?

A. Of course, they do. The belief that the enlightened are emotionless like stone results from the misunderstanding of enlightenment. If Buddha, for example, had not experienced intense emotion, strong compassion, how would he have devoted all his life to helping sentient beings?

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They experience the same emotions as we do; the enlightened feel hungry when they don’t have food and feel sorry when seeing the poor. However, their emotional ups and downs are even gentler than the unenlightened’s and they are not swayed by their emotions as the unenlightened are, since they see everything as empty. This is the way they enjoy their lives like seeing a film.

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Zen

Xuansha Hears the Sound of a Swallow

Xuansha was informally addressing his monastics when he heard a swallow singing. He said to the assembly, “This is the profound dharma of real form. It skilfully conveys the essence of the true teaching.” He then descended from the teaching seat. A monastic asking for an explanation said, “I don’t understand.”

Xuansha said, “Go away. No one will believe you.”

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Student: “What is the essence of the true teaching of the singing swallow?”

Master: “No one will believe you.”

Student: “Why does no one believe me?”

Master: “How can people believe you when even you don’t believe yourself?”

 

Commentary:

Why don’t you believe that your words are no less profound than the swallow’s song?

 

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Zen

Rinzai 59

Rinzai said, “An ancient master said, ‘Those who are turning to the outside and applying themselves to it are fools.’ If you master any situation you are in, wherever you stand, all becomes true; you can no longer be driven around by circumstance. Even if in your former, unregenerate days you had committed the Five Heinous Crimes, they turn into the ocean of deliverance.”

 

Commentary:

Those who are ‘turning to the outside and applying themselves to it’ means those who try to attain enlightenment depending on speeches and writings. They are going against Buddha’s teaching that His teaching is beyond words, the Sutras. ‘If you master any situation you are in, wherever you stand, all becomes true’ implies that if you can see a single thing around you as empty, or as it is, at this moment, you come to realise that everything, including yourself, is Emptiness, the true-Self. This is when you are enlightened. Then, you become aware that the Five Heinous Crimes are also empty, which means that they turn into the ocean of deliverance.

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Student: “Can I escape punishment if all the crimes I have committed are empty?”

Master: “When your crimes are empty, both the punishment for them and you are also empty.”

 

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