Aug 16-22

Summer, week 9
"To spend your life being blinded and dragged around by your own desires is a pathetic thing. However you live, what you do with you life depends on you. With that understanding, just sit silently for ten years, then for another ten, and after that, for ten more years." --Kosho Uchiyama

Chants for Wed Aug 16 - Tue Aug 22 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Days Like Lightening, p. 46
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Aug 19, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 161-168. (Chapter 8, Section 1, Subsections 4-7)

We have one more week with Uchiyama. Our next book will be Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen.

This week's case: Book of Serenity #14, "Attendant Huo Offers Tea": CLICK HERE.


Aug 9 - 15

Summer, week 8
"In our ordinary human life, we are always trying to fulfill our desires. We're satisfied only when all our desires are met. In Buddhism, though, it's just the opposite: it is important for us to leave our desires alone, without trying to fulfill them. For breaking the ego's grip, nothing is more effective than giving something up." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Aug 9 - Tue Aug 15 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Facing Everything, p. 27
  • The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 28
  • Fukenzazengi, pt 1, p. 36
  • Menju, p. 42
Next Saturday Zen Service: Aug 12, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 149-161. (Chapter 8, Section 1, Subsections 2 and 3)

This week's case: Book of Serenity #14, "Attendant Huo Offers Tea": CLICK HERE.

Meredith will be away on Aug 12. Brian LaVoie will lead our Zen practice.


Book of Serenity 14

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #14
Attendant Huo Offers Tea

  • Deshan Xuanjian (Tokusan Senkan, 782-865, 11th gen). Go to DESHAN
  • Attendant Huo (Kaku, n.d.)
Wansong's Preface
An examining cane in hand, with a duckweed cover around him;
Sometimes wrapping a cotton ball in iron, sometimes a hard stone in brocade.
To overwhelm the soft by hard means is a matter of course;
How is it if you are weak when meeting a strong one?
Attendant Huo asked Deshan, “Where have all the past saints gone?”
Deshan said, “What? What?”
Huo said, “I gave the command for an excellent horse like a flying dragon to spring forth, but there came out only a lame tortoise.”
Deshan was silent.
The next day, when Deshan came out of the bath, Huo served him tea.
Deshan passed his hand gently over Huo's back.
Huo said, “This old fellow has gotten a glimpse for the first time.”
Again, Deshan was silent.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
When you come face to face, the adept knows;
   Coming right up face to face, an adept knows;
that moment is quicker than flint sparks or lightning flash.
   Here, sparks and lightning are slow.
The master strategist seeming to lose has profound intent;
   The plotter who lost the moment has a deep intent --
the militarist who underestimates his enemy lacks deep reflection.
   To fool the enemy army into not thinking ahead.
Every shot hits -- how could this be slighted!
   Each shot a sure hit,
   Who's fooled any more?

He whose jawbones can be seen from behind is hard to touch;
   When you see jowls from behind his head, the man is hard to run afoul of;
with eyes set deep beneath his brows, he is a nouveau riche.
   Setting his eyes under his eyebrows, he got the advantage.
A Background Tale
In ancient times, as seven wise women were traveling through a forest strewn with corpses, one woman said, "Here are the corpses -- where are the people?"
Another woman said, "What? What?"
The women looked around at each other and all suddenly realized enlightenment and felt the king of gods showering flowers in offering to them.
Huanglong's Comment
Deshan keeps deaf and plays dumb, but even so, he gets the advantage unseen. Mr. Huo covered his ears to steal the bell -- what can be done for the unseemliness of the onlooker?
Dagui's Comment
If you don't go up to the Dragon Gate, how can you know the vastness of the blue sea? Even if the waves crash a thousand fathoms, neverthless a dragon pays no notice.
Fuguo's Comment
Deshan really had ruthless hands and feet, but he saw that this monk was not a man to accept the hammer, so he stopped right away.
Wansong's Comment
Deshan usually thrashed the wind and beat the rain, hollering at the buddhas and reviling the patriarchs; this monk's errors filled the sky -- why did Deshan let him go? What is hardly recognized is that Deshan wrestled down oxen without using rope, killed people without using a sword -- how many has he ever let go?
The ancients each had techniques meeting people in accordance with the situation. Deshan said to Yantou, "You will shit on my head some day." Later Yantou said, "Even the great Deshan does not understand the last word." The ancients censured and extolled, letting go and holding back -- how could they be involved in gain and loss, victory and defeat?
If suddenly someone should ask me where the sages have gone, I'd slap him on the jaw and say, "They're here!" Even if Flying Dragon and Lame Tortoise draw in their heads and hoofs, and the attendant and Deshan lose their points and become tongue-tied, do you yet know the old fellow Deshan? As a young man he used to determine the arrays of dragons and snakes; grown senile, now he listens to a child's song.
Wick's Comment
What is the best way for a teacher to teach? How we react to a situation always depends upon conditions: the time, the place, the people involved, and the intensity of the relationships and the situation. There isn't some kind of absolute response that we can apply identically in every situation. Sometimes you wield the stick; sometimes you back off. Sometimes you retreat; sometimes you go forward. But we must understand that whatever we do affects everyone else. So how can we respond appropriately to each situation? How can we react in a way that's most effective? Huo was not one to accept the stick easily. Sometimes a tough word from the teacher that drives a rigid student away is the correct action. Each student is different, so the teacher tries to met each student in the place where he or she can benefit most from the teaching. Also, the student must meet the teacher where he or she is. When Huo asks where the holy ones went, he's saying, "Wherever the holy ones went, that is where I am going! That's where I am!" Deshan's answer -- "What? What?" -- should give Huo a clue. Instead Huo insults Deshan, and Deshan desists. Then when Huo brings Deshan tea the next day, Deshan pats him on the shoulder. He's showing Huo the answer to his question. Huo makes a remark and Deshan again lets it pass. Every time this attendant tries to grab onto something to aggrandize himself, Deshan gives him nothing to hold onto. Deshan was like a grandfather who lets his grandchild be just as he is, even if the child is playing in the mud. Eventually the child will want to get out of the mud and be clean.
Anbo's Verse
Rev. Huo Plays With Fire
Playing the fool in a blood bowl . . .
Does he really think It comes and goes?
The standard fine is a broken nose,
But even that would be unearned praise.
There is a mountain of virtue in restraint,
Teaching an unruly child. One light pat . . .
Then the old assassin lets it rest.
Tell Huo to check his back
Before puffing out his chest.
Hotetsu's Verse
"Where have all the past saints gone?"
A finch song, a broken cup
A harsh word, the pang of being judged
The vast sky and the unanswerable green of the fern,
Brooks, roads, subway cars, scents of flowers, of garbage,
All of it, each of it, complete,
Quietly displays all that ever was or will be
Brings our noble ancestors so fully and plainly before my face --
So present --
That for a moment I wonder at their absence.


Aug 2 - 8

Summer, week 7
"What is most valuable isn't fabricated in our heads: it arises when we open the hand of thought. Opening the hand of thought is itself what is most valuable." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Aug 2 - Tue Aug 8 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage, p. 13
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Aug 5, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 139-149. (8.1.1 Seven Points of Practice: 1. Study and practice the buddhadharma only for the sake of the buddhadharma, not for the sake of emotions of worldly ideas.)

This week's case: Book of Serenity #22, "Yantou's Bow": CLICK HERE


Jul 26 - Aug 1

Summer, week 6
"Since everything we encounter is our life, with the attitude or spirit that our whole self is taking care of its own life we aim at giving life to all things, all situations, all people, all worlds." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jul 26 - Tue Aug 1 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Essence of Atonement, p. 8
  • Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 15
  • Blinded by Passions, p. 31
  • Genjokoan 3, p. 33
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jul 29, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 127-137. (7.4 Magnanimous Mind; 7.5 The Direction of the Universal)

This week's case: Book of Serenity #22, "Yantou's Bow": CLICK HERE

Meredith will be away on Jul 29. Martin Alberti will lead our Zen practice.


Book of Serenity 22

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #22
Yantou's Bow

  • Deshan Xuanjian (Tokusan Senkan, 782-865, 11th gen). Go to DESHAN
  • Yantou Quanhuo (Ganto Zenkatsu, 828-87, 12th gen). Go to YANTOU
  • Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai, 807-69, 11th gen). Go to DONGSHAN
Wansong's Preface
People are probed with words. Water is sounded with a stick. Pushing away weeds and seeing the true manner is an eveyrday affair. When suddenly a burnt-tail tiger is transformed, then what?
Yantou arrived at Deshan's place. He straddled the entrance gate and asked, "Is this common or holy?"
Deshan gave a shout, and Yantou bowed low.
Dongshan heard of this and said, "Had that not been Yantou, it would have been most difficult to take."
Regarding this, Yantou remarked, "Old man Dongshan doesn't know good from bad. At the time my one hand upheld and the other hand put down."
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Crushing the visitor, wielding a scepter.
   Demolishing the oncomer,
   Holding the handle of authority;
Affairs have a ways of appropriate dispatch,
   Tasks have a manner in which they must be carried out,
countries have their own inviolable laws.
   The nation has an inviolable law.
If the guest serves reverently, the host is haughty;
   When the guest serves reverently, the host becomes haughty --
if the king resents admonition, the people flatter.
   When the ruler dislikes admonition, the ministers flatter.
Yantou's asking Deshan -- what did he mean?
   The underlying meaning -- Yantou asks Deshan;
One upheld, one put down -- see the movement of mind!
   One upholding, one putting down -- see the action of mind.
A Background Story
One day Yantou spread his sitting mat; Deshan pushed it downstairs with his staff. Yantou went down, gathered up the mat and went off. Next day he went up and stood by Deshan. Deshan said. "Where did you learn this empty-headedness?"
Yantou said, "I never fool myself."
Deshan said, "Later on you will shit on my head."
Another Background Story
Puhua pointed to the sage monk (Manjusri) statue in the meditation hall and asked Linji, "Tell me, is this ordinary or holy?
Linji immediately shouted.
Puhua said, "Heyang is a new bride, Muta's "old lady" Chan. Along with the little pisser of Linji, after all they have one eye."
Linji said, "This old thief!"
Puhua left the hall saying "Thief! Thief!"
Shoushan said, "Of these two thieves there is a real thief; tell me, which is the real thief?" Then in everyone's behalf he said, "Liu Benzi" (who was installed as second successor to the throne of China after Wang Mang, usurper of the Han dynasty claim to rule).
Xuedou's Comment
At that point, as soon as he bowed, to have hit him right on the spine would not only have cut off Dongshan, but would have held old Yantou still.
Wansong's Comment
When Yantou asked, "Is this ordinary or holy?" and Deshan immediately bowed, this too was like "the little pisser of Linji after all has one eye." Xuedou's comment gets at the same thing as Linji's saying, "This old thief!" Dongshan purposely took it up and falsely accused Yantou, wanting to show that at that time in the bow there was the provisional and the real. And after all when the fire reached Yantou's head, he hastily beat it out, saying, "Old man Dongshan doesn't know good from bad -- I was holding up with one hand and putting down with one hand." Thereat he finally lit the lamp and began to eat dinner. Both houses are distinctly clear.
Wick's Comment
Yantou is checking to see if it's a place he wants to study. "Is this place ordinary, or is it sacred? Am I going to have a great time here, or is it just going to be like the rest of my life?" Do I really wast to be here or not? Yantou's question, "common or holy?" is a trap. What can you say? As soon as you say one or the other, you're stuck in that position. How can you express it? Deshan gave a shout, and Yantou bowed. Yantou was checking out Deshan, but then he bows. So is the bow genuine, or is it just flattery? What's his intention? When Dongshan makes his comment, is he genuinely praising Yantou, or is he just probing Yantou to see how he would react? Yantou then remarks, indicating that he thinks he is better than Dongshan, and Yantou explains what he was doing. There's a stench of Zen on Yantou, a kind of arrogance.
Where are you stuck? How do you respond in these situations? Entering could be good or it could be bad. Leaving could be good or it could be bad. Or they could both be good. You never know whether something is going to turn out to be good or bad. It's all grist for the mill, as long as we're aware of it. Just do the best you can.
Charlie Pokorny's Verse
One foot in, one foot out –
This pain, this tethered soul, this beauty, this light released
Does the shout go beyond?
Does the bow come back?
Hotetsu's Verse
Common or holy?
No, not in the least.
That's why Yantou
and I bow.


Jul 19 - 25

Summer, week 5
"When we live by vow the meaning of our lives totally changes. A bodhisattva living by vow is distinguished from a person living by the continuation of his karma." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jul 19 - Tue Jul 25 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Genjokoan 2, p. 33
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jul 22, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 116-127. (7.3 The Bodhisattva Vow)

This week's case: Gateless Gate #13 / Book of Serenity #55, "Deshan Carries His Bowls." CLICK HERE.


Gateless Gate 13, Book of Serenity 55

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #13
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #55
Deshan Carries His Bowls

  • Deshan Xuanjian (Tokusan Senkan, 782-865, 11th gen). Go to DESHAN
  • Xuefeng Yicun (Seppo Gison, 822-908, 12th gen). Go to XUEFENG
  • Yantou Quanhuo (Ganto Zenkatsu, 828-87, 12th gen). Go to YANTOU
Wansong's Preface
Ice is colder than water. Blue derives from indigo. When one's viewpoint excels that of the teacher, one is ready for transmission. If the children who are raised are not equal to their parents, the family will decline in a single generation. Tell: Who is the one who snatches up the father's function?
[In BOS, not in GG: Xuefeng came to Deshan and became in charge of cooking food. One day, the lunch was late.]
Deshan came down to the hall carrying his bowls.
Xuefeng asked him, "Old Master, the bell has not yet rung nor the drum sounded. Where are you going with your bowls?"
Deshan immediately went back to his room.
Xuefeng told this to Yantou.
Yantou said, "Great Deshan though he is, he has not yet realized the last word." [Or: "Old Deshan does not understand ultimate truth" -Senzaki]
Hearing of this, Deshan sent his attendant to summon Yantou and then asked him, "Don't you approve of this old monk?"
Yantou secretly whispered his intention.
Deshan remained silent.
Sure enough, the next day, when Deshan ascended the rostrum, his talk was quite different from usual.
Yantou went to the front of the Zen hall and rubbing his hands together, laughed loudly and said, "Wonderful! How happy I am that our Old Man has realized the last word. From now on he'll be subject to no one on earth."
Wumen's Comment
As for the last word, neither Yantou nor Deshan have ever heard it, even in a dream. When I examine this point, I find they are just like puppets on a shelf.
Wumen's Verse
If you grasp the first word
You will realize the last word.
The last word and the first word,
These are not one word. ["Are they not this one word?" (Cleary); "But neither the first nor the last is a word" (Low); "The last and the first, are they not the same?" (Senzaki)]
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
The last word: understood or not?
   The last word -- understand? No?
Deshan, father and sons, are exceedingly abstruse.
   Deshan the father and his sons are exceedingly indistinct.
Within the group there's a guest from Konan.
   In the assembly there is also a traveler from south of the river --
Don't sing the partridge's song before men.
   Don't sing of the partridges in front of people.
Bao-En's Comment
If you accept unrealities and take in echoes, you miss Deshan. If you suppress the strong and help the weak, you bury Yantou. I tell you frankly, for an example of the proverb, "When the teacher is excellent, the apprentices are strong," credit goes to Deshan and his disciples Xuefeng and Yantou.
Youke's's Comment
Those who conceal an army to fight by night do not see Deshan. Those who attack occupied territory by day can hardly know Yantou. What they don't realize is that the battle commander picks fights by day, the watch commander patrols the camp by night.
Keizan's Comment
Deshan just accepts the flow, being as is. Yantou and Xuefeng scatter rubbish in the eye; playing at being adept, they turn out inept.
Aitken's Comment
One might expect Deshan to say, as head of the temple, "The meal is late. You know our schedule is tight. When we have to wait for the meal, that means the time for the monks to rest is shortened, and they need their rest. So it's important that we have our meals on time." But he said no such thing. He just turned and went back to his room. This is the first noteworthy point of the case. As he turned around and headed back, he gave a silent teaching. Then Yantou brings up "the last word." What is the last word? When Deshan asked Yantou about this, Yantou "whispered his intention." What about Yantou's whisper? Can you fathom it? Suppose you were in the assembly the next day when Yantou exclaims "From now on, no one under heaven can outdo him!" How would you answer Yantou's implicit challenge.
Cleary's Comment
Part of the function of the koan's structure is to arouse doubt in the mind of the onlooker, in order to examine the doubt, the doubter, and the doubting. Some say Yantou was provoking an incident in order to help Xuefeng wake up. The "first word" and "last word" refer to samsara and nirvana, or the relative and the absolute, or responsibility and freedom. A genuine understanding of either implies an understanding of both.
Low's Comment
Later, when the two were traveling, Yantou would say to Xuefeng, "What comes in by the front door is not the treasure of the house." This in its way is a key to this koan. Picture Deshan with his bowl, Xuefeng challenging him, and Deshan turning back to his room. What is Xuefeng up to? Is he just being egoistic and rude? Is he thoughtless, or is he challenging Deshan, "Hey, show me your Zen"? What was in Deshan's mind when he returned to his room? Would he have controlled resentful thoughts, kept his mind aloof, and have refused to be moved by Xuefeng? Or would he have flowed out love and compassion toward Xuefeng, hoping in this way to help him overcome his ignorance? What would you have done? No one walked back to Deshan's room. Who, or what, is this no one? Then, in the second act, Xuefeng tells Yantou what happened. Was he bragging, saying the he caught the old man out? Yantou seems to think so and comments that Deshan doesn't know the last word. Why does Yantou side with Xuefeng? What is the last word of Zen? How is it that a renowned teacher such as Deshan does not know it? We have lost the real word, the live word, and so live in a twilight world. Words bring worlds into being -- so what brings words into being? How could we name that? One must say the last word without opening the mouth, and to know this word one must have already gone beyond anything. Then in the final act Deshan gives a talk like no other, and Yantou declares that he has truly grasped the last word of Zen. What was the talk that so pleased Yantou? Did Deshan give a talk?
Sekida's Comment
The last word. There are four wisdoms: Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, Universal Nature Wisdom, Marvelous Observing Wisdom, and Perfecting of Action Wisdom. When you first attain realization, the first, Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, appears. This is the fundamental wisdom. Usually, however, this wisdom is still dim. As you make progress, polishing the other three wisdoms, this Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom becomes ever more brilliant. That final state of great brilliance is the ultimate fulfillment of subtle enlightenment. Of course, it scarcely needs to be said that these wisdoms are simply names for aspects of actual experience. There are gradations in the development of these wisdoms, from which comes the idea of first and last.
Senzaki's Comment
Deshan should have waited for the signal before entering the dining room. Thus, the old master "got the goat" of the cook. The cook should have considered his own rule-breaking -- delaying the dinner -- before criticizing his teacher. Because his Zen was green, he was not master of his mind; he could not see both sides of the wrong. Xuefeng told Yantou about this. Xuefeng still thought he was right and the master was wrong. If Yantou had blamed Xuefeng he would have had to have heard a noisy argument, so he switched the blame to the master. The aim of Zen is to attain peacefulness, not to settle a matter of right or wrong. Deshan hears about, calls in Yantou, who whispered to his teacher that what he had said was in hopes of enlightening his brother monk. Deshan said nothing. You see how gently the master listened to the tale-teller, and how naturally he asked Yantou about it, and how easily and freely he listened to the whisperer, just nodding to him. The next day, Deshan gave an entirely different kind of talk. What kind of lecture do you think the master gave? To work on this koan you must watch your step minute after minute. In your home, in your community, and in your world, you must polish and practice your own Zen. Do not blame the law-breakers until you examine yourself as to whether you are a law-breaker or not. If you know that there is no ego to be supported, you can easily and gracefully give in. Most of the time you gain by giving in, and you lose by persisting. There is no such thing called "ultimate truth" outside your everyday life.
Shibayama's Comment
Deshan was a great and most capable Zen Master. Why did he quite naively turn back to his room without saying a word? Here we have to enter into Deshan's heart. Granting that he committed a blunder by coming down to the dining room before the mealtime was announced, there has to be his Zen at work here, worthy of a great Zen Master. There is no stink of Zen. He lives with no pretension, no affectation. His transcendental purity is like that of an infant. Listening to Xuefeng's report, Yantou felt sorry for Xuefeng, who did not realize his inability to appreciate Deshan's Zen at work. He attempted to inspire his good friend. He resorted to extreme measures, saying Deshan had not yet grasped the last word of Zen. Yantou was well aware that old Deshan was a truly accomplished Master. The koan here gets very intricate. For Xuefeng and the rest of the monks at Deshan's monastery, "The last word of Zen" now stands in front of them as a barrier they must break through. The great question here for everybody is whether the world-famous old Deshan had not in fact grasped the last word of Zen. Consequently, another question is "What is this last word of Zen?" Also it has to be asked whether there is really a so-called last word in Zen or not. What was the secret Yantou whispered? With this question Zen deprives a student not only of all his knowledge and intellect but even of the last smack of Zen. It will open up for him a true Zen vista, pure, lucid, immaculate and simple. Yantou ran a grand play, carrying around "the last word of Zen" until the end and demanding that Xuefeng and the rest of the monks break through this barrier. How will you respond to Yantou's call? How will you express appreciation for his efforts in producing such a grand play? If you are unable to greet him properly you have missed the point of the koan altogether. Here your concrete grasp of the koan based on your own training and experience is required.
Yamada's Comment
Deshan said nothing and quietly returned to his room. What a splendid state of mind! Deshan was not aware of it himself, but he had matured wonderfully with age. Can you appreciate it? Xuefeng was not able to. Here was Deshan unconsciously showing him the supreme world of Zen by his action. Similarly, Mahakashyapa realized what Shakyamuni really meant when he twirled a flower in front of the assembled monks.
The last word. Literally, the last word would seem to mean the highest state of consciousness in Zen. Yantou's device was to prod Xuefeng, who was lingering along the way, by making him wonder whether there might be a last word. What is it? He must strive to achieve it in deeper realization. The last word is that which is spoken without using lips and tongue. It has no meaning. It is nothing.
Yantou's exclamation after Deshan's "different" talk. Yantou was still trying to incite Xuefeng to deeper realization, but in spite of all these efforts, Xuefeng was not able to attain it at that time. It was some years later that Xuefeng finally came to great enlightenment under Yantou's guidance.
Wick's Comment
In his youth as a teacher, Deshan was renowned for being quick with a heavy stick -- yet here he just returns to his room without saying a word. Why is that? Yantou brings up the idea of a "last word." What is the last word of Zen? Do you ever reach the last word? If you say the last word, I can say something else -- and that becomes the last word. Of course, the last word may not be a word at all! Deshan calls for Yantou, who whispers his intention. What did he whisper and why was Deshan satisfied? Deshan's next talk is different. What was different about this talk? So the last word, is it understood or not? If you understand it, what do you understand? If you see clearly into it, there's nothing to understand, and no one to understand it. But if you don't understand it, you're only half a person. Paraphrasing Deshan himself from earlier in his career: If you say you understand it, I give you thirty blows. If you say you don't, I give you thirty blows. So what is it?
Charlie Pokorny's Verse
Hey Deshan! “What? Huh?”
No trace of those lofty heights.
Emptiness is taught for the stuck and staid.
A toothless tiger yawns on the high seat.
Gatha from the Diamond Sutra
So you should view this fleeting world:
a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
a flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
Hotetsu's Verse
Deshan, deep student of the Diamond (his beginning, his first word)
Burner of all his notes (no further words on that!)
At last becomes himself the Diamond.
In this fleeting world he comes --
   an ancient man
   bowls in hand
   no bell rung
   no drum struck
In this phantom dreamland he goes --
   an ancient man
   bowls in hand
   bereft of clue
   bereft of luck.


Jul 12 - 18

Summer, week 4
"The activity of buddha is carried on together with the whole earth and all living beings; if it is not activity that is one with all things, it is not buddha activity." --Dogen
"Acting in accordance with the entire earth and with all beings is zazen practioners' whole life direction" --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jul 12 - Tue Jul 18 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 8
  • Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 23
  • The World of Dew, p. 26
  • An Unending Truth, p. 27
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jul 15, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 109-116. (7.1 Zazen as Religion; 7.2 Vow and Repentence)

This week's case: Blue Cliff Record #10, Muzhou's "Empty-Headed Fool." CLICK HERE.


Blue Cliff Record 10

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #10
Muzhou's "Empty-Headed Fool"

  • Muzhou Daoming (Bokushu Domyo, 780-877, 11th gen)
  • a monk
Go to MUZHOU on "Characters" page.
Yuanwu's Preface
Yes is yes; no is no. In the Dharma battle, each stands on his own ground. Therefore it is said, when one's activity is upward, even Shakyamuni, Maitreya, Manjusri, Samantabhadra, the thousand holy ones, and the religious teachers of the whole world become spiritless and silent. When one's activity is downward, even maggots, gnats, and all creatures become brilliantly illuminating and as independent as a ten-thousand-fathom cliff. However, how is it when one's activity is neither upward nor downward? If there is any rule, rely on the rule; if there is no rule, follow a precendent. See the following.
Muzhou asked a monk, "Where are you from?"
At once the monk shouted, "Kaatz!"
Muzhou said, "This old monk has been scolded by you with a 'Kaatz'!"
The monk shouted again, "Kaatz!"
Muzhou said, "After three or four shouts of 'Kaatz,' then what?"
The monk was silent.
Then BokushĂ» hit him saying, "You empty-headed fool!"
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Two shouts, three shouts;
   Two shouts and a third shout;
The knowing one knows well;
   Adepts are expert at strategic change.
If going hell-bent,
   If you call that riding the tiger's head,
Both are blind.
   Both would be blind.
Who is blind? Fetch him!
   Who is blind?
Expose him to the world!
   I bring it out for all to see.
Linji's Comment
I've heard all of you imitate my shouting. But I ask you, if a monk comes from the east hall and another monk comes from the west hall, and they both shout at once, which one is the guest and which on is the host? If you can't distinguish host and guest, then you must not imitate me any more after this.
Yuanwu's Comment
Some people say, "Why worry about Muzhou saying, 'After three of four shouts, then what?'?" and just go on shouting. Let them give twenty or thirty shouts, even go on shouting until Maitreya comes down to be born, and call this riding the tiger's head. If you understand in this fashion, it's because you don't know Muzhou.
Hakuin's Comment
"After three or four shouts": He gradually brought him to a pitfall; an expert commander is unique. Though this monk has no choice but to act, he remains silent; what about that? There is flavor in this silence, and Xuedou appreciates it.
Tenkei's Comment
"You thieving phony!": He shamed him, calling him an outsider with no guts but a high opinion of himself.
Sekida's Comment
"Katsu" (or "kaatz") is an onomatopoeic word for Zen shouting, which was originally used by the teacher when he wanted to sweep from the student's mind all kinds of complications, delusive thinking and so on. Later it came to have several uses. In the present case the monk used it to express his condition.
"This old monk is shouted down by you." Muzhou's reply did away with the monk's shout as if it had been absorbed by empty space. The monk shouted again, but is he a true dragon or a common snake?
"What about after the third and fourth shouts?" The lion was staying crouched. When the monk was then silent, Muzhou hit him. Deshan used to say, "I hit you if you answer, and I hit you if you do not answer." Linji often used hitting to express approval. "You empty-headed fool!" is an instance of approving while seeming to denigrate.
Yamada's Comment
"Where did you come from?" – a checking question. It tries to find out whether the monk is enlightened or not, or (if he is enlightened) how deep his realization is. When asked where they came from, most people answer, "I came from so and so." But this monk suddenly answered with a "Kaatz!" A wonderful Kaatz, which might be paraphrased, "Coming or not coming – what a silly question. Away with it! Kaatz!" But this first "Kaatz" doesn't really show whether the monk is actually enlightened or not. Shouting out loud does not necessarily guarantee authenticity.
"This old monk has been scolded by you with a Kaatz!" This is intended to test whether the monk's "Kaatz" was backed up by solid understanding. Once again, the monk hurled his "Kaatz!" This monk doesn't seem to be an ordinary fellow. He isn't mechanically imitating someone; with his "Kaatz" he is throwing his rugged enlightenment at Muzhou. Then Muzhou reveals his real power:
"After three or four shouts of 'Kaatz,' then what?" What happens after you've shouted "Kaatz" three, four, or hundreds or thousands of times? Will your "Kaatz! Kaatz!" bring you anywhere?
The monk was silent. Now this silence is the big problem. Many say that this silence is not bad, is in fact quite meaningful. Some say that he should have let out another "Kaatz!," but I don't think so. This silence is significant enough.
"You fake monk!" In Zen, there exists no end to the deepening process of our practice, so this severe phrase could be applied to any Zen personage. One famous verse goes, "Even the blue sky must be hit with a stick." At the beginning the monk bravely yelled out his "Kaatz"-cries, but then he became speechless. This judgment attests to Muzhou's supreme Zen-power. But this doesn't mean that the monk was blind.
Rothenberg's Verse
All this Shouting

Look up -- the sages suck in their breath
and swallow their voice
Look down -- worms, maggots,
all the rest of us sentient beings
beam out a shining light.

Walk straight ahead -- how will you deal?

After three or four shouts, a swipe at the head
Always let the monk make the first move
(all this violence, only, to cut away pride?)

Sometimes a shout is a crouching lion.
sometimes it is a jeweled sword.

Cut through the noise
Up! Down!
Slicing quick to the other side.

If there's no wound to enter,
you must find a way in,
Once through, you must not turn your back
to see where you are. Out!
Hotetsu's Verse
Where did you come from, after all?
Conceived in a shout and birthed from silence,
As was the Universe, Dao, God --
As is each eternal moment coming forth.


Jul 5 - 11

Summer, week 3
"there is only the ceaseless flow." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jul 5 - Tue Jul 11 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Genjokoan 1, p. 32
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jul 8, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 97-107. (6.3 Interdependence and the Middle Way; 6.4 Delusion and Zazen)

Thi week's case: Linji Draws a Line, Book of Serenity #95: CLICK HERE


Book of Serenity 95

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #95
Linji Draws a Line

  • Linji Yixuan (Rinzai Gigen, 812-867, 11th gen)
  • a temple steward
  • the monastery's tenzo (head cook monk)
Go to LINJI on "Characters" page.
Wansong's Preface
When the Buddha comes, one hits him;
When a devil comes, one hits him.
If there is logic, thirty blows;
If there is no logic, thirty blows.
Does one betray malice and hatred through misapprehension?
Or is one not able to distinguish the good [from the bad]?
Try to say it, and I’ll see!
Linji asked the temple steward, "Where have you come from?"
The temple steward said, "From selling brown rice in the province."
Linji said, "Did you sell all of it?"
The manager said, "Yes, I sold all of it."
Linji drew a line with his staff and said, "Have you sold all of this too?"
The manager shouted, "Kaatz!"
Linji immediately struck him.
Later, the tenzo came to Linji, who told him about this incident.
The tenzo said, "The steward didn't understand Your Reverence's intention."
Linji said, "How about you?"
The tenzo made a deep bow.
Linji struck him likewise.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Linji's total activity -- excellent quality.
   Linji's whole dynamic -- the character and tone are high:
His staff-tip has the eye to distinguish autumn fur.
   On the staff is an eye which can distinguish the finest hair.
Sweeping away fox and hare, his style is precipitous.
   Sweeping out the foxes and rabbits, the family manner is strict,
Lightning and fire scorch, transforming fish and dragons.
   Transforming fish to dragons, lightning fire burns.
Life-giving sword, death-giving sword.
   The life-giving sword, the death-dealing sword:
Leaning against heaven, illuminating the snow,
   Leaning against the sky, shining on the snow,
more sharply than the hair-blown sword,
   sharp enough to sever a hair blown against it,
evenly performing the decree, distinguishing delicate flavors.
   Equally the order's carried out, but tasting differs --
Who meets this painful spot utterly?
   Where it's totally painful, who is it that experiences it?
The Record of Linji, Chap. 22, Trans by Jeffrey Broughton & Elise Yoko Watanbe
The Master asked the temple Custodian, "What place do you come from?"
The Custodian said, "I've just come back from going to the provincial center to sell husked sorghum."
The Master said, "were you able to sell all of it?"
The Custodian said, "It all sold."
The Master with his staff slashed a line [on the ground] right in front of him, saying "By the way, could you have sold this?
The Custodian [springing free of the vajra cage] instantly gave a shout, and the Master instantly whacked him.
The Head Cook arrived. When the Master mentioned this exchange to him, the Head Cook said, "The temple Custodian hasn't understood the Preceptor's meaning."
The Master said, "Well, how about yourself?"
The Head Cook instantly bowed. The Master whacked him, too.
Wick's Comment
The steward doesn't take the first bait, so Linji throws out a second line. Is he asking about selling rice when he says, "Is it all sold?" Did you sell every bit of it, including your self? Did you see that all form is empty, including inside and outside? Did you drop away body and mind? But even that second arrow didn't go very deep. The monk had all his defenses up. He said, "Yeah, I sold it." Still, Linji doesn't give up. He throws out more bait. He hold up his staff, draws a line. "Did you sell this?" This is priceless. You may have sold the rice, but you can't put a price on this. The monk shouts; Linji hits him. What was Linji demonstrating by hitting him? Linji really cared about his monks. He used his stick to put energy in the monk's body. In many of these cases, a blow from the stick and everything's forgotten!
Sue Austin's Verse
Fox, coyote,
firedog, sundog, fogdog, dog dog,
wolf! - following the tracks home,
the book falls open and hits the mark.
Ryokan’s moon a torch to see
shining on the snow, a diamond blade
of hoar grass.
What person? What world?
A gourd dipper on a branch click, clack.
“It’s you, it’s you!”
Daido's Comment
Drawing a line with a staff is an action that contains the whole catastrophe; thus! Did you sell it all? Did you sell trimming the shrub, planting a tree, cooking the soup, editing a text? Is there any sacred activity that remains, or is it all gone? The director walks into Linji's trap and answers with a shout. He leans and falls over. Linji responds to the imperative and hits him. How would you have answered Linji?
The head cook sees that the director misses the point and presents his understanding with a bow. Linji hits him too. Tell me, are these two hits the same or different? To say the same misses it; to say different is off the mark; to say both or neither is a thousand miles from the truth. If you want to see into the point of Linji's actions, you must first understand being-as-it-is, which is the nature of things in objective reality, without the distortion of ideas and concepts.
Daido's Verse
Eloquent mouth and clever tongue diminish virtue;
cutting off the ten directions gets failing grade.
Opening up and kneading together.
spring is met at every turn.
Hotetsu's Verse
Sell your shout for a whack, or your bow for the same,
Sell all that you've grown, lose your load, lose your name.
Still that trace of the staff is beyond an exchange
'Cause what's given for free is in no one's price range.

Jun 28 - Jul 4. BOS #38

Summer, Week 2

Speaking of the 4th of July and the Declaration of Independence and the whole "pursuit of happiness" thing:
That we make continuous scientific progress resulting in greater human comfort is fine, and that we possess the dissatisfaction that serves as the force for developing and progressing is also certainly a wonderful thing. The problem is that dissatisfaction with the present easily leads to impatience for our desires to be fulfilled, and that engenders a behavior of daggers drawn toward any and all competitors, resulting in the total loss of any peace in our lives. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jun 28 - Tue Jul 4 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Heart of True Entrusting, p. 26
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jul 1, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 89-97. (6.1 The Dissatisfactions of Modern Life; 6.2 Self Settling on Itself)

This week's case: "Linji's True Person," Book of Serenity #38

Linji Yixuan (812-867, 11th gen) was a disciple of Huangbo 770?-850, 10th gen), disciple of Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen.
Linji addressed the assembly, saying, "There is a true person of no rank. He is always leaving and entering the gates of your face. You beginners who have not witnessed him: Look! Look!"
Thereupon a monk asked, "How about this true person of no rank?"
Linji got down from the seat and grabbed him.
The monk hesitated, and Linji pushed him away, saying, "This true person of no rank; what a shit-stick he is!"
The Record of Linji, Chap. 3, Trans by Jeffrey Broughton & Elise Yoko Watanbe
Spoken at a Dharma-Hall Convocation: "Beyond the red-meatball [mind] there is the one true person [true mind or buddha nature] who can't be ranked. [I.e., who does not belong to the 'buddha' ranking and does not belong to the 'sentient-being' ranking.] [That true person/true mind] is constantly exiting and entering from the face-gates of all of you people [like the dazzling rays of light emitted from the face-gate of a buddha]. Those who have not seen with their own eyes -- look! Look!"
At one point there was a monk who emerged to ask: "What is the true person who can't be ranked?"
The Master got down from the [curved-wood] Chan chair, and grabbed him by the collar, saying, "C'mon! C'mon!"
The monk dithered.
The Master, thrusting him back, said, "[This] 'true person who can't be ranked' -- what a magnificent piece of dried shit!" And he at once returned to the fangzhang [personal chamber, ten-foot square].
The Record of Linji, Chap. 3, Trans by Thich Nhat Hanh
One day the Zen master came into the Dharma Hall and said, "On this lump of red flesh is a real person of no position who comes in and out right before your face. Whoever has not seen that person should look carefully. Have a good look!"
At that point a monk came up and asked, "What is that real person of no position?"
The master stepped down from the meditation platform, took hold of the monk and said, "Speak! speak! What is that real person with no position?"
The monk was perplexed.
The master let go of him and said, "The real person with no position is no more than dry excrement on a stick."
Having spoken, he went back to his room immediately.
Wansong's Preface
Taking a theif for a son, perceiving a servant as master. A broken wooden ladle -- how can this be the dried skull of an Ancestor! A donkey saddle cannot be the lower jaw of a grandfather. When the land is split up and the thatch roof is partitioned, how do we distinguish the master?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Delusion and enlightenment are mutually opposed
   Delusion and enlightenment are opposite,
Subtly conveyed, it's simple:
   Subtly communicated, with simplicity;
In spring, the hundred flowers bloom by a zephyr;
   Spring opens the hundred flowers, in one puff,
in strength, nine oxen are turned about with a jerk.
   Power pulls back nine bulls, in one yank.
It's hopeless to dig a hole in the mud -- it won't stay open
   It's hopeless -- the mud and sand can't be cleared away;
Clearly the sweet spring's eye has been closed.
   Clearly blocking off the eye of the sweet spring,
Suddenly dash out and it freely gushes forth.
   If suddenly it burst forth, it would freely flow.
Thich Nhat Hanh's Comment
The word "position" (in "person of no position") is often understood to mean our status in society. In this case it also means our exact location in space and time. The true person without position can't be located in time and space. This doesn't mean the true person isn't there; it's just that the true person can't be grasped. The Buddha can't be grasped. The Tathagata cannot be found in form, nor outside of form, nor in feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness, nor does the Tathagata transcend form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness (Anuradha Sutra). Master Linji was saying the same thing. This pile of flesh here, with blood, bone, and marrow, is not the true person. Nor is the true person something outside of them. We live our whole life in this ignorance, thinking our feelings and our flesh are the sum total of our true person. Our true person has no position, is not inside or outside, is not tricked by birth and death, by coming and going, by having or not having, by what we do or don't do. Our true person can't be found by means of our intellect, our reasoning. Our true person is our own miraculous Buddha, present in our wonderful relationship with all things. We are the clouds, the sky, all our ancestors and descendants. Our true person is a wonder. And when we can see this, we are well. We still have our ups and downs, but we don't identify ourselves with them; we know we are more than that.
"...no more than dry excrement on a stick." Linji expressed his disappointment but at the same time used an image opposite the one we have of the true person. We tend to think of a true person as pure and noble, someone extraordinary, so Linji uses this image of dried excrement to neutralize our view. If we have a set view about what our true person is, then that view has no more value than a piece of dry fecal matter.
Wick's Comment
"No rank" means "no basis on which to depend." We find security in our credentials. We are proud of our accomplishments and continually want recognition. Any hint of accomplishment or of feeling better than someone else is like putting chevrons on your sleeve and displaying your rank. No rank means to strip away all of your credentials and then see who you are. The true person of no rank is continually entering and leaving the five sensory gates of your face. Linji gave a clue about how to reveal that true person: "Mind is without form and pervades the ten directions. In the eye, it's called seeing. In the ear, it's called hearing. In the nose, it smells odors. In the mouth, it holds conversation. In the hand, it grasps and seizes. In the feet, it runs and carries. Fundamentally, it is one pure radiance. Divided, it becomes harmoniously united spheres of sense. Since the mind is not existent, wherever you go, you're free." By polishing away our credentials, our cherished views, our status and position, the true person of no rank will appear. On whose door does the moonlight not shine? Who is not the true person of no rank?
Non-Abiding Riding Waves' Verse
Linji's "True Man"
Watching the mind that thinks
the blind man sees through his ears.
Witness looking in and out
of the face
When it comes back to you let go
start over.
Daido's Comment
The true person of no rank is the real form of truth as it appears throughout the universe. It is fluid and in a constant state of becoming. The true person of rank is the real form of truth as it appears throughout the universe. It, too, is fluid and in a constant state of becoming. Rank and no rank are nondual. Therefore, each and every thing up to and including each one of us exists thus!
The essence of all phenomena is thusness; the real nature of body and mind is thusness. Therefore, it cannot be attained by any personal effort. Realized or not, it has always been manifesting as our very life itself.
Daido's Verse
It is at once you,
yet you are not it.
It must be understood in this way,
if you are to merge with suchness.
Hotetsu's Verse
Right where you are is everywhere-nowhere.
Without rank, position, business, affairs,
The no-rowing rowing of your no-boat boat:
Gentle, merry, carried by the stream.



Jun 21 - 27.

Summer, Week 1
When we let go of all our notions about things, everything becomes really true. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Jun 21 - Tue Jun 27 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Shorter Precepts, p. 47
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jun 24, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 82-89. (5.2 The Activity of the Reality of Life).

(Meredith is away in New Orleans this week. Brian LaVoie will lead the Saturday practice.)


Jun 14 - 20. BOS #13

Spring, Week 13
All existence, all living beings, are living out the power of one great all-pervading life. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 24 - Tue Jun 20 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 16
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 16
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jun 17, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought, pp. 75-82. (5.1 Universal Self)

This week's case: Linji's "Blind Donkey", Book of Serenity #13

Linji Yixuan (812-867, 11th gen) was a disciple of Huangbo 770?-850, 10th gen), disciple of Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen. Sansheng Huiran (b. 830?, 12th gen) was one of three dharma descendants of Linji.
When Linji was about to die, he entrusted Sansheng with his Dharma and said, "After my passing, do not destroy my treasury of the Eye of the true Dharma."
Sansheng said, "How would I dare destroy your treasury of the Eye of the true Dharma?"
Linji said, "If someone asks you about it, how will you answer?"
Sansheng instantly shouted, "Kaatz!"
Linji said, "Who knows that my treasury of the Eye of the true Dharma has been destroyed by this blind donkey?"
Wansong's Preface
Devoted entirely to others, oneself is unknown. Straightaway eliminating Dharmas, you shouldn't be bothered by there being no one. Mean treatment, like breaking a wooden pillow, should be used. What about when it's time to depart?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
At midnight the robe of faith's transmitted to No of Ro (Huineng):
   The robe of faith is imparted at midnight to Huineng,
seven hundred upset monks on Yellow Plum Mountain (Huineng's monastery)!
   Stirring up the seven hundred monks at Huangmei.
The True Dharma Eye of Linji's limb;
   The eye of truth of the branch of Linji --
the blind ass extinguished it and people despised him.
   The blind ass, destroying it, gets the hatred of others.
Mind and mind together sealed --
   Mind to mind they seal each other;
Ancestor to Ancestor transmitting the lamp.
   Patriarch to patriarch they pass on the lamp,
Seas and mountains being leveled,
   Leveling oceans and mountains,
a giant fish becomes a phoenix.
   Magically producing a roc:
It's just that such splendid words are hard to compare with;
   Just the name and word is hard to compare --
any time as a device he can metamorphose.
   In sum, the method is knowing how to fly.
Wansong's Comment
In reality this thing does not increase even though a thousand buddhas appear in the world, nor does it decrease when a thousand sges pass away -- how could one Sansheng be able to cause it to prosper or die out? Sansheng came out and said, "How dare I destroy the teacher's treasury of the eye of truth?" The treasury of the eye of truth has not become extinct. Linji asks further, and Sansheng shouted. In high antiquity and later times, since Baizhang was deafened for three days by Mazu's shout, none have compared to this shout of Sansheng.
Wick's Comment
In the Zen tradition, the first instance of Dharma transmission was when Shakyamuni Buddha said, "I have the all-pervading True Dharma Eye. Now I give it to Mahakashyapa" -- and thereby acknowledged Mahakashyapa as his successor. The True Dharma Eye is the reality of what is -- but as soon as you think about it, it's something else. The True Dharma Eye is unborn and undying, and cannot be extinguished.
Master Linji died young, at the age of fifty-five, but the school he founded continues to thrive. His Dharma has been transmitted through the generations to this day. This is another sense in which the True Dharma Eye has not been extinguished. Transmission in Zen does not rely on letters but is transmitted outside the scriptures, from teacher to student, because the experiential fact of the truth does not belong to the realm of logic and intellect (though it does not exclude it either). Because the transmission is always from teacher to student, there can be no self-proclaimed masters in Zen. Each generation vows to his or her teacher to not let his or her True Dharma Eye be extinguished.
Linji is not criticizing Sansheng by calling him a blind donkey, but in fact this is very high praise indeed. Here, to be "blind" means to manifest the state of "no eye" -- the state the Heart Sutra describes as "no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind." When you manifest that state, there is no separation between you, the act of seeing, and the object seen. Not deceived by intellectual conundrums, delusions, knowledge, preoccupation, and attachments the blind donkey is a liberated person who maintains the heart of not-knowing, not seeing. Sansheng says, "How could I let it be extinguished?" But tell me: How would you extinguish something that's unborn and undying?
Ryan Ginn's Verse
Linji's "Blind Ass"
The tools of the trade passed on
Eye to Eye
Warm hand to warm hand
In this lineage
we shout, dance, and slap
when the cup is full
We empty it
The treasury of the eye of truth is not to be
Or taken for granted.
Daido's Comment
Seeing his death appearing, Linji wants to confirm his senior disciple Sansheng as his successor. He says, "After I pass away, do not allow my treasury of the true dharma eye to perish." Since this is a matter that has never advanced nor declined in countless aeons, even before and after the appearance of the buddhas and the ancestors, why does he make such a request?
Sansheng understands his teacher and shows his own provisions. Still, not satisfied that the matter has been settled, the master presses further: "Later, when someone asks about my teaching, how will you answer them?" Sansheng shouts. Linji has no choice but to respond to the imperative: "Who would think that my treasury of the true dharma eye would perish with this blind ass?" But say, what is Linji's intent in saying this? Did his treasury of the true dharma eye perish or not?
Daido's Verse
Eyeball to eyeball,
each confirms the other.
Passing from mouth to ear, it perishes;
pasing from ear to mouth, it is born anew.
Hotetsu's Verse
I think of praying: dear God, when my time is nigh, let me enter
that good night as Linji did:
teaching with my last breath,
learning with my last awareness.
But never mind.
Linji's dying words granted that prayer long ago
And laid bare our imperishable treasury of the true dharma eye.