Apr 26 - May 2. BOS #57

Spring, Week 6
I can't stress enough how essential it is to look very, very carefully at this universal self that runs through everything in the universe. You live together with your world. Only when you thoroughly understand this will everything in the world settle as the self pervading all things. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Apr 26 - Tue May 2 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Genjokoan 3, p. 33
  • Torei's Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 15
Next Saturday Zen Service: Apr 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. 1-15.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's 'Carry It with You'," Book of Serenity #57.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). Yanyang Shanxin (b. ca. 850, 11th gen) was Zhaozhou's only dharma heir.
Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, "Where there is not one thing, what then?"
Zhaozhou replied, "Throw it away."
Yanyang said, "With not one thing, what is there to throw away?"
Zhaozhou remarked, "Then carry it off."
Wansong's Preface
Fiddling with shadows, toiling with forms. It's not understood that forms are the basis for shadows. Raising the voice to quiet an echo. It's not known that the voice is the root of the echo. You don't ride on an ox to look for an ox. This is using a wedge to remove a wedge. How can you avoid this error?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Be inattentive to careful moves and you lose to the opponent.
   Not prepared for meticulous action, he loses to the first to move --
Learn for yourself it's a shame to be surrounded due to carelessness.
   Realizing himself the coarseness of his mind, he's embarrassed at bumping his head.
The game ended, an axe-handle at the waist has rotted.
   When the game is ended, the axe handle's rotted at his side:
Washing clean a bumpkin, sporting with hermits.
   Clean and purify the ordinary bones to play with the immortals.
Huanglong's Verse
Not bringing a single thing, both shoulders can't bear it up
At the words he suddenly knows his error
In his heart is boundless joy
Since from poisonous ill he forgot what was on his mind
Snakes and tigers have been his intimates
Empty and still for a thousand years, the pure breeze still hasn't stopped.
Gerry Wick's Comment
How do you remove all of the stickiness of words and ideas, so that you don't stick to anything? When there is nothing, "throw it away," says Zhaozhou -- commenting that Yanyang was raising his voice to quiet an echo. An ancient teacher remarked, "Bringing not one thing, both shoulders can't lift it up." As long as you think you're bringing not a single thing, that idea itself is vastly heavy. Why not get rid of it? Throw it away! Don't even carry "not a single thing." Yanyang objects, "what is there to throw away?" Zhaozhou says, "Then carry it off." Zhaozhou doesn't argue with Yanyang, doesn't beat him down, but just gives Yanyang space. Clean all of the stuff that's sticky to you, the sticky-tape of all of your ideas and notions and your fears. Free youself from the trap of ideas and notions. And then throw away that idea of "no ideas." And if you can't throw it away, then carry it out.
Susan O'Connell's Verse
Yanyang's "Thing"
Today, I thought I knew you.
But now, my eyes water in the stench of rotting flesh.
And yet, if I try to forget you,
The moon and stars cry out “False! False!”
Believing is for children and politicians.
When the king gives up the throne,
True peace covers the land.
Daido's Comment
Yanyang arrives at Zhaozhou's place in dire poverty, looking for a helping hand. Zhaozhou's penetrating eye immediately sees the enormous burden that he is carrying and suggests that he let it go. Since he has nothing to let go of -- no eye, ear, nose, tongue body, mind -- the moastic cannot understand Zhaozhou's instructions. Not having yet penetrated Yunmen's sicknesses, he persists in his ignorance.
In the end, Zhaozhou acquiesces and lets him carry the whole thing off. At this point the old master, bringing it out like this, ends up pulling the rug out from under Yanyang. If he realized the weight of the load he was bearing, in an instant he would be free of it.
Daido's Verse
A bodyless person suffering a grave illness
sweeps away tracks, leaving a trail.
Only those who have thoroughly explored it
can know the wonder of the ceaseless flow.
Hotetsu's Verse
The nothing returns again to something.
If the nothing returns as something to obtain, have, grasp,
Scrape off that sticky something nothing.
Wash it away.
Otherwise, the nothing returns to mere being, the self-world river.
Flow on with that river
Smiling softly over the fall.


Apr 19 - 25. BCR #96

Spring, Week 5
All living beings, all of us, want to be happy, yet so few have any idea about how to realize this desire. When the Buddha looked around the world he saw beings with this desire for happiness doing over and over again in their ignorance the very things that were bringing them suffering. --Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Apr 19 - Tue Apr 25 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Genjokoan 2, p. 33
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Apr 22, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 11, "Living Our Love," pp. 171-193.

NOTE: We'll finish our reading of Lovingkindness on Sat Apr 22. Our next book will be: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's Three Turning Words" Blue Cliff Record #96.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88)
Zhaozhou said, "Clay Buddhas cannot pass through water; metal Buddhas cannot pass through a furnace; wooden Buddhas cannot pass through fire."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Clay Buddhas cannot pass through water:
The divine light illumines heaven and earth;
Had Huike not stood in the snow --
   If standing in the snow were not stopped
Many deceptions, many pretenses.
   Who would not contrive an imitation?
Metal Buddhas cannot pass through a furnace:
Seekers came to visit Shiko and found
The warning notice on the board;
   Several words on the sign --
But everywhere -- the gentle breezes.
   Where is there no clear breeze?
Wooden Buddhas cannot pass through fire:
I always remember how the monk Hasoda (the Oven Breaker --)
Broke down the oven of sacrifice,
   Only when his staff suddenly struck
Whose god so long had bound himself.
   Was turning from self realized.
Hakuin's Comment
A clay buddha does not pass through water. The second Zen patriarch stood in the snow and suffered bitterly in search of truth, but if you do not know how to stop and rest, you'll vainly imagine there is virtue in ascetic exercises. There would be nothing but people who take cultivated imitation for the Way of the Buddha.
A gold buddha does not pass through a furnace. If you master this, you will be like a dragon finding water, come what may. Shiko had a sign on his gate warning of a "dog" that will bite off your head, tear out your belly, and chew off your legs -- but this is even colder than the spirit of Shiko's sign. Once you return to life after having been bitten to death by that dog, the clear breeze is cold here, there, and everywhere.
A wood buddha does not pass through fire. Hard to penetrate, hard to understand; whenever I hear it, it's dear to my heart. The Oven Breaker broke with his staff a sacrificial oven and liberated the spirit from it. Is the breaking turning from self? Would refraining from breaking be turning from self? Is this the self of the four qualities of buddha-nature: permanent, pure, blissful self?
Tenkei's Comment
A clay buddha will dissolve if it passes through water. Here, if all people just knew what they knew, they would be completely uninhibited and free as they see and hear, walk, stand, sit, and recline; so illumining the whole universe with no problem, it is your light. The second patriarch stood in the snow and cut off his arm, suffering bitter pains in quest of the teaching, but when he stopped and came to a complete rest, there was nothing at all -- it's just a matter of knowing what one has known all along. So stop and rest -- otherwise you are just making up imitations and undergoing suffering thinking you are on the quest of truth. Just be there and see. Illumining everywhere in the ten directions unobstructed, the entire totality is your great light.
The gold buddha shows that you can't get in for free here -- unless you have been through the transcendental forge and bellows of an adept and the cold has penetrated your bones.
The wood buddha brings up the Oven Breaker: when his staff struck, the oven broke down all at once, returning to original nature. If you release the spirit of the stove compounded of elements, letting go of everything all at once, when you neither grasp nor reject, then you will know that the four gross elements and five clusters are fundamentally empty. Thus having no conceptual mental images of objects of senses, for the first time you will know that a wood buddha does not pass through fire, for when it does it burns up.
Sekida's Comment
Clay Buddhas are clay Buddhas. There is no need to deplore, regret, or boast of the fact of being a clay Buddha. When it is immersed in water it will melt away. When it is melted away, it is melted away. Everything is in motion and flux. Impermanency is the nature of things. However, everything has its own divine light. Existence is a glorious thing. It has brightened the universe. A metal Buddha must be a strong one. But everything has its weak points as well as strong ones, its disadvantages as well as advantages. Metal Buddhas will melt in a furnace. When we are to fall, let us fall. Causation is not to be ignored. Wooden Buddhas will be burned in fire. Each individual Buddha represents the universal Buddha. Each individual Buddha himself is the absolute one. The clay Buddha, the metal Buddha, the wooden Buddha, each has his individuality and personality. At the same time, they are all Buddhas.
Barry Magid's Comment
Three stages of our practice; three perspectives on our mortality. The clay buddha is very vulnerable. Water, one of the most common things in life, can destroy it, since clay dissolves in water. Perhaps, like most of us, he thinks that because of the way he is made there is something intrinsically wrong with him, a basic flaw he doesn't know how to fix. He comes to practice with a curative fantasy right out of alchemy: maybe practice can change me into something different, stronger. The clay buddha is preoccupied with the fact that he is clay; he completely forgets the fact that he is a clay buddha. Regardless of what he is made of, there is already something intrinsically perfect about him just as he is. We may have to exhaust all our attempts at transformation, do everything we can think of to make ourselves something other than who we are, before we can stop hating ourselves for being made out of clay. We all come to practice as clay buddhas. We want to escape something we believe is wrong with who we are to escape whateer lays us open to suffering. We don't realize that the attempt at escape is itself an engine of our suffering. But gradually our practice may allow us to come to terms with who and what we are, and we may suddenly realize that even clay can make a buddha.
The gold buddha symbolizes our experience of realization. When this happens, we may think we've "got it." But Zhaozhou's second lesson lies in wait for us. There is nothing permanent, not even "enlightenment." As soon as we think we have achieved some new, perfect permanent, and invulnerable state, we have betrayed the very essence of our realization. Only when we fully accepted being made of clay were we able to experience ourselves as a buddha after all. But now realization becomes something we want to hold on to. Instead of feeling permanently trapped in clay, we want to be permanently enshrined in gold. But permanence is an illusion in either case. We have to let our gold be melted down. Anything we think we've gotten -- even if it's made of gold -- can only get in the way. Only when there is nothing and nobody left to obstruct it will the clear breeze blow freely in every direction. So even the gold buddha of realization goes back into the furnace of emptiness.
The wood buddha, like the clay budha with which we started is vulnerable to destruction. There is no immunity for any substance. But the wooden buddha knows that wood is a perfectly good material from which to carve a buddha nonetheless. Gone are all curative fantasies, gone are all self-reproaches about the inadequacy of who and what we are.
Be careful what you wish for. Only when our hopes are completely smashed will we be free.
The wood buddha is perfectly balanced between the experience of being made of wood and the experience of being buddha. Each is actually an expression of the other.
Rothenberg's Verse
Gold, Wood, Mud
A gold Buddha cannot pass through the forge
A wood Buddha cannot pass through the fire
A mud Budha cannot pass through the water.
Weeds ten feet deep in front of the chamber
If you pass through these verses you will need to know all.

The mud one dissolving, returning to water,
seeing a rabbit, releases a hawk.
One misconstrues, fooling ten thousand people,
adding error to eror -- you glimpse its name.
Who would not try to carve a replacement?
Clouds are steamed rice
Pancakes on the flagpole
Monkeys pitch pennies at night

The gleaming one will only melt,
singeing his eyebrows.
You can't sink your teeth in him;
Melting, glowing, cooling away.
Above the head, below the feet --
boundless, boundless.
Catch the thief! Catch the thief!
Caught him! Caught him!

(Master, it isn't me.)
Charring embers, he did not make it.
Burned up! Only you can know.
Smoke and charcoal, what then is left?
There's one who's turned away from his self.
The furnace explodes.
The fire dies out.
The water dries up.
We pass.
Hotetsu's Verse
Mud clay, gold metal, wood
Every strength depends upon weakness
Your destruction is incorporated into your being, as usual.
"The true Buddha is sitting in the recesses of the house."


Apr 12 - 18. BCR #80

Spring, Week 4
"What do I need right now in order to be happy?" The world will offer you a lot of answers to that question: you definitely need a new this and a different that. But what do you really lack right now? --Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Apr 12 - Tue Apr 18 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 23
  • An Unending Truth, p. 27
  • Facing Everything, p. 27
Next Saturday Zen Service: Apr 15, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 10, "The Power of Generosity," pp. 154-170.

NOTE: We'll finish our reading of Lovingkindness on Sat Apr 22. Our next book will be: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's 'A Newborn Baby'" Blue Cliff Record #80.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). Touzi Datong (819-914, 11th gen) was a disciple of Cuiwei. Touzi and Zhaozhou also both appear in "Zhaozhou and the Great Death" (BCR #41/BOS #63). Touzi was forty-one years younger than Zhaozhou. Touzi settled down in his temple when he was sixty-one years old. The incident related in this case must have taken place when both he and Zhaozhou were quite old.
A monastic asked Zhaozhou, "Does a newborn baby possess the six senses or not?"
Zhaozhou said, "It is like throwing a ball into the rapids."
The monastic later asked Touzi, "What is the meaning of 'throwing a ball into the rapids'?"
Touzi said, "Nen after nen, without ceasing." [or, "Every consciousness flows without ceasing," or, "Moment-to-moment nonstop flow."]
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
The question: the six senses. Purposeless.
   Inactivation of the six consciousnesses presents a question:
Well acquainted with it, the masters.
   The adepts both discerned where it comes from.
A ball is thrown into the rapids;
   A ball tossed on boundless rushing water --
Do you know where it is carried?
   It doesn't stay where it lands; who can watch?
Hakuin's Comment
Although none of the examples in the Blue Cliff Record are fatuous, this one is particularly outstanding, so even the ancients over the generations have mispercieved it. Xuedou used his truth-discerning eye to select this one from among the seventeen hundred koans; it lets us know how incomparably Zhaozhou and Touzi penetrated the depths. With this example, you'll have to give up your religioun. This monk was a scary guy who tried to catch Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou's answer, "a ball tossed on rushing water," is amazing and swifter than a spark. That's because he has a lot of breasts producing sweet and sour at will. There is no explanation for this; it cannot be praised enough; it is verbal samadhi. Touzi's answer, "moment-to-moment nonstop flow," is also amazing. Is there subtle inconceivable spiritual joy and meditative delight in this?
Tenkei's Comment
This monk misconstrues the state of the mindless wayfarer, comparing it to that of a newborn infant. This monk thinks that mindlessness means the ears are as though deaf, the eyes are as though blind, the six senses and six sense fields are cut off, and one becomes like a stone Buddha, as if one had burrowed into a hole. Anyway, concluding that it means annihilating the mind, he asks if the six consciousnesses are still there or what. Zhaozhou says it is like a ball tossed on fast-flowing water. See how it flows right away, no one knows where. Focus quickly! Is there any creation, maintenance, change, and destruction taking place herein? Are there any comings and goings of the six consciousnesses taking place herein? Is it something that comes into being or passes away? Is it something that begins or ends? Is there good in it? Is there evil in it? Open your eyes and look directly. What is it that is seeing right now? Take a look. This is Zhaozhou's underlying meaning.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
That ball will not stop in the place where it was thrown. It will move relentlessly with the current. Surely there is nobody who does not know that. And so, too, life flows on from instant to instant, from thought to thought, and there is nobody in the world who can foresee or ascertain its destination.
Sekida's Comment
Nen: either a unit of thought or a steadily willed activity of mind. The first nen always acts intuitively and performs a direct, pure cognition of the object. The second nen immediately follows the first and makes the first its object of reflection. The integrating, synthesizing action of consciousness is the third nen. Reasoning, introspection, and so forth come from the third nen. But this third nen, clouded by its ego-centered activity, often argues falsely and draws mistaken conclusions.
In Buddhist psychology the six senses are seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting together with the activity of consciousness. "It is like throwing a ball into the rapids." Moment after moment, the ball floats on with the stream. It has no time to stop and reflect upon itself. It corresponds to the action of the first nen. A newborn baby's senses may not yet be fully developed, but such as they are, they are pure, not yet overlaid by the delusive activity of consciousness as in an adult. The baby is capable of pure cognition, though that cognition is not fully developed. Full-fledged pure cognition is achieved by the practice of zazen, in which the delusive action of the third nen is cast off.
Nen follows nen, each passing away moment by moment. In ancient times, before scientific research had begun, this knowledge could be attained only through Zen practice, in which the different sorts of nen-actions are clearly perceived.
Rothenberg's Verse
A Newborn Baby
Is a newborn baby able to see?
Like throwing a ball onto swift-running water
Even a kingfisher cannot impale it.

Whose baby is he talking about?
Mountains still mountains, rivers always rivers.
He blurs all senses to one.
He uses no tools.
He covers everything deft as the sky.
He moves like the sun and the moon, never stopping.
In the midst of a stagnant haze, he is able to act.
Moment to moment, unstoppable flow.
If I call baby the path, you would misconstrue;
Consistently babbling from beginning to end.
Drifting away, you'll grow up blind.
Hotetsu's Verse
There's a babe inside the adult,
Overlaid with learning, skills, delusions.
There's no going back, and what is going forward?
This, then this, then this . . . Watch and see!
"Not by your will is the house carried through the night."


Apr 5 - 11. BCR #59

Spring, Week 3
"Meditation does not turn us into gray, vegetative blobs with all the feelings washed out. The Buddha taught that we can feel pleasure fully, yet without craving or clinging, without defining it as our ultimate happiness. We can feel pain fully without condemning or hating it. This nonreactivity is the state of equanimity, and it leads us into freedom in each moment." --Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Apr 5 - Tue Apr 11 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Genjokoan, part 1, p. 32
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: Apr 8, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 9, "The Gift of Equanimity," pp. 136-153.

NOTE: We'll finish our reading of Lovingkindness on Sat Apr 22. You may want to order the next book now: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's 'Why Not Quote to the End?'" Blue Cliff Record #59.

Personnel and Background
Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). The Xinxin Ming is a poem of about 1,000 words in English translation, attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan (the "Third Patriarch," 530? - 606). Xinxin: "truthful heart-mind," "faith," or "trust;" Ming: "inscription," or "time-tested truth." Hence, Xinxin Ming: "Heart of True Entrusting," "Faith in Mind," or "Trust in the Heart." Zhaozhou, in his teaching, often cited the Xinxin Ming's opening lines: "The great way is not difficult; it just dislikes choosing." See also: BCR #2, BCR #57, and BCR #58.
A monastic said to Zhaozhou, "'The real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment. If you say a word, there arise choice and attachment.' How, then can you go about helping someone?"
Zhaozhou said, "Why don't you quote it to the end?"
The monastic said, "I have only this much in mind."
Zhaozhou said, "You know, the real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Spit in his face -- he is not sullied;
Call him names -- it doesn't touch him.
   Water cannot wet, wind cannot penetrate.
He walks like a tiger, moves like a dragon.
   A tiger walks, a dragon runs;
Spirits shriek, gods groan and weep.
   Ghosts howl, spirits cry.
His head is three feet long. Who is he?
   His head is three feet long -- I wonder who it is?
Facing you, he stands silent, on a single leg.
   Answering without words, he stands on one foot.
Yuanwu's Preface
Controlling the heavens, commanding the earth, transcending the holy, rising above the mundane, he shows us even in the myriad weeds the Wonderful Mind of Nirvana, and in the midst of Dharma battle holds the lifeline of the monk. Tell me, by what blessing can he be like that?
Hakuin's Comment
"How do you help people, teacher?" If you can't open your mouth, how can you teach others?
"Why not quote this saying fully?" There's still more of the saying, why don't you say it all? What an extraordinary, wonderful, amazingly great teacher!
"It's just this: 'The supreme way has no difficulty'" This flavor can be known only to those who have had the experience of dealing with students.
Tenkei's Comment
How does a teacher help others without words? This monastic posed a question on seeing a gap, but his question was nevertheless a product of subjective discriminatory mental activity.
"The supreme Way..." "If you want brevity, best just say this much." This answer was outside the monastic's expectations. Zhaozhou's way of helping people without running afoul of the the point sees the problem of the monastic's clinging to "as soon as there are words spoken", responding in such a way as to break it down. This is called the methodology of giving medicine according to the illness.
Sekida's Comment
Quoting to "the end" would presumably include all of the words Zhaozhou quoted in BCR #2: "The Real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment. With but a single word there may arise choice and attachment, or there may arise clarity."
"I have only this much in mind." The monastic shows that he has himself exercised a choice, cutting off the quotation where he does.
Rothenberg's Verse
Thick as Pea Soup
Water pured on you keeps you dry.
Wind guesting stops at your door.
It's like empty space -- solid, impervious.
Address your plea to the sky!
"Cover your ears," he draws back;
stops the words in their tracks.
"Stand on one foot," thus respond in silence.
See yourself in him,
see his idea in you.
Skim over the grasses, slide over the spears.
No blood, no breeze.
Hotetsu's Verse
Take it to the end: Give every bit of yourself!
"I only meant this much." He's made his choice and chosen small.
The Great Way, helping people:
Only take it all the way to the end.


Raven 41

Grouse has been bumming a bit -- feeling kind of down on herself. And, you know, just because Raven is her teacher doesn't mean Raven is always helpful. It's true that sometimes not being helpful is itself the perfect teaching. Yeah. And sometimes not.

Grouse was looking rather moody one evening, and as the group was breaking up at the end of the meeting, Raven called to her, "Hey, Grouse! How's it going?"
"Oh," said Grouse, "I don't know. Sometimes I feel discouraged. Why is it that I'm taking so long to understand anything?"
Raven said, "Everybody takes the same length of time."
"There are folks who came after I did," said Grouse, shaking her head. "They ask intelligent questions and seem to be moving along in their practice while I just sit and sit and wonder what is going on."
Raven said, "They say the Buddha Macaw is still sitting somewhere and she's only halfway."
Grouse said, "That's not very encouraging."
Raven said, "Come to think of it, it's not." (adapted from Robert Aitken, Zen Master Raven)
Raven 40


Mar 29 - Apr 4. BCR #58

Spring, Week 2
"It is a rare and beautiful quality to feel truly happy when others are happy....As mudita grows, we see that the happiness of others is our happiness. They are not different. Thus mudita strengthens metta." --Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Mar 29 - Tue Apr 4 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Heart of True Entrusting, p. 21
Next Saturday Zen Service: Apr 1, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 8, "Liberating the Mind through Sympathetic Joy," pp. 119-135.

NOTE: We'll finish our reading of Lovingkindness on Sat Apr 22. You may want to order the next book now: Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought. Order it now.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's 'No Justification," Blue Cliff Record #58.

Personnel and Background
Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). The Xinxin Ming is a poem of about 1,000 words in English translation, attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan (the "Third Patriarch," 530? - 606). Xinxin: "truthful heart-mind," "faith," or "trust;" Ming: "inscription," or "time-tested truth." Hence, Xinxin Ming: "Heart of True Entrusting," "Faith in Mind," or "Trust in the Heart." Zhaozhou, in his teaching, often cited the Xinxin Ming's opening lines: "The great way is not difficult; it just dislikes choosing." See also: BCR #2, BCR #57, and BCR #59.
A monastic said to Zhaozhou, "You so often quote the words, 'The real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment.' Isn't that your point of attachment?" [Or: "Isn't this a cliche for people these days?"]
Zhaozhou said, "A man asked me the same question once before, and five years later I have still found no justification for it." [Or: "Once someone asked me, and I simply couldn't give an explanation for five years."]
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
King Elephant's yawn! King Lion's roar!
   An elephant trumpets, a lion roars;
Plain words stop men's mouths.
   Flavorless talk blocks people's mouths.
North, south, east, and west,
   South, north, east, west,
The crow swoops, the hare bounds.
   The sun soars, the moon courses.
Hakuin's Comment
This monastic is unusually audacious. Whenever something is established as "right," that won't do. The expression "people these days" subtly alludes to Zhaozhou.
Tenkei's Comment
Is Zhaozhou making it into a cliche, or not? It's an iron hammerhead without a hole. When Zhaozhou says, "Oh, that business? Someone asked me before and I couldn't deal with it for as much as five years," this is his living methodology of using a wedge to remove a wedge.
Sekida's Comment
The monastic had no doubt racked his brains and hit on this idea, and was confident that he could trap Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou, fully aware of the monk's intention, quietly said that the question came as no surprise to him. This was the first step in frustrating the monk. Zhaozhou stated the fact as it was, thus showing that he was not in any dilemma. He was not operating in the realm of old-fashioned logic. In Zen a sort of intuitive logic develops, which works with something of the immediacy of a computer. Zhaozhou's answer stemmed from such an intuitive understanding.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Zhaozhou, like a great King Elephant, might merely yawn, or roar like the King of the Lions; what he said might seem to be quite meaningless. Nevertheless, so great was his understanding of the Truth that his very lightest remarks could stop the critical moughts of argumentative questioners. Wherever you go, crows go on flying about and hares run about as usual. The way of nature points to the truth that the Real Way is not difficult.
Yamada's Comment
The Supreme Way can be seen as the way of nature of the true fact, the highest truth. "Choosing" here means choosing only that which suits one's fancy. "This is good, this is bad. I like this, I don't like that." If we think in terms of good-bad, like-dislike, this becomes a hindrance which tarnishes and scratches the truth. Just as it is, is fine. When it's hot, you take off your sweater. When it's cold, you put it on again. When something's funny, you laugh. When you're hungry, you eat. Isn't that fine just as it is? There's nothing difficult about it at all. But when we start to think in terms of that being better than this, we run into trouble. The Supreme Way is not difficult, it just dislikes picking and choosing. This is the common-sense way of looking at these lines. But we can take another step and see this in a more Zen-like manner. Is there actually choosing? If we truly realize, we see that, even when we like something in preference to something else, it is just liking and nothing else. "Oh, the weeds have popped up again in no time. Darn it!" There is just that "darn it!" From moment to moment, it's just that fact. This is the story of our lives. When something strikes us funny there's just "Ha, ha, ha!" In the same way, when we are happy, there is just "happy" filling the entire universe, with no room for anything else. There is no subject-object standoff, just happy. It might appear that when we are happy there is something we can objectify, something which can be the object of comparison. But actually there is just happy. Strictly speaking, can there be any room for choosing? How about if we examine this even more deeply? "The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing." That's it! Nothing else. The minute we add intellectual explanations about picking and choosing, it's already lost. There is just "The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing." This is said from the highest standpoint. In the case at hand, the monastic is asking, "You are always saying, 'The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing.' But aren't you perhaps resting on your laurels and refusing to budge from that world?" But Zhaozhou is more than a match for this monk. Zhaozhou's answer is saying, "If that's what you want to know, I was asked that before and I haven't been able to say anything for the past five years." Zhaozhou doesn't care a whit about whether there is a pitfall or not. Please savor to the full Zhaozhou's wonderful, totally free activity. His mind is totally free of any concerns about pitfalls. If this were Linji instead of Zhaozhou, he probably would have let out a great "Katsu!" shout.
Rothenberg's Verse
Cannot Explain
Don't pick or choose -- what a cliche!
You won't get it for thirty more years.
Walk the balance beam, solid as steel.
Do not judge others against yourself.
An ape eats a worm, a mosquito pierces the iron ox.
Animal, animal. A dragon slips into water, a tiger heads for the hills.
The raven flies, the rabbit runs, from night until day.
From past and from present, buried alive -- all at once.
Where will we end up without choice?
Hotetsu's Verse
The old man was 80 before he consented to teach.
By then, decrepit, and so unattached to whether or not he was attached,
He had nothing to left to teach -- nothing more than
a stone, a brook, or a breeze teaches.


Raven 40

What's the difference between analogy and metaphor? Strictly speaking, analogy involves four elements -- A is to B as C is to D (e.g. "Raven is to bird as Porcupine is to mammal"). Metaphor involves two elements: X is Y. So analogy compares a relationship (the relationship of A to B) to another relationship (the relationship of C to D), and metaphor compares two things (X and Y). But since X and Y might be names of relationships, this way of distinguishing analogy and metaphor can get fuzzy. Another way of distinguishing them is: analogy is a rational argument that two apparently dissimilar things are similar, while metaphor is a figure of speech (poetic). The rational/literal vs. poetic might be what Raven has in mind.

Porcupine came by Tallspruce one day to see if he could just hang out with Raven. He found her in consultation with Woodpecker, so he made himself scarce until Raven was free. Then he said, "You're an experienced master now. Do you have a general set of guidelines for your teaching of the Way?"
Raven said, "Don't give away the nest."
Porcupine said, "You seem to be saying that you can only give hints."
Raven said, "I don't hint. I say it directly."
Porcupine said, "OK, what is Mu?"*
Raven said, "Stillpond is an analogy, not a metaphor."
Porcupine said, "What's the metaphor?"
Raven said, "No longer a stranger to your inheritance."
Porcupine said, "Doesn't sound so direct to me.
Raven said, "OK, what is Mu?" (adapted from Robert Aitken, Zen Master Raven)
*"What is Mu?" derives from the story that Master Zhaozhou was asked, "Has a dog Buddha nature?" and replied "Mu."

Raven 39


Mar 22 - 28, BCR #57

Spring, Week 1

Chants for Tue Mar 22 - Wed Mar 28 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Longer Precepts, p. 48
Next Saturday Zen Service: Mar 25, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 7, "Developing the Compassionate Heart," pp. 102-118.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's 'I Alone am Holy Throughout Heaven and Earth," Blue Cliff Record #57.

Personnel and Background
Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). The Xinxin Ming is a poem of about 1,000 words in English translation, attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan (the "Third Patriarch," 530? - 606). Xinxin: "truthful heart-mind," "faith," or "trust;" Ming: "inscription," or "time-tested truth." Hence, Xinxin Ming: "Heart of True Entrusting," "Faith in Mind," or "Trust in the Heart." Zhaozhou, in his teaching, often cited the Xinxin Ming's opening lines: "The great way is not difficult; it just dislikes choosing." See also: BCR #2, BCR #58, and BCR #59.
A monastic said to Zhaozhou, "It is said, 'The real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment.' Now, what are nonchoice and nonattachment?"
Zhaozhou said, "I alone am holy throughout heaven and earth."
The monastic said, "It is still choice and attachment."
Zhaozhou said, "You country bumpkin! Where are choice and attachment?"
The monastic was speechless.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Deep as the sea, high as the mountains!
   Deep as an ocean, steady as a mountain;
The fly's attempt to face the gale!
   A mosquito sports in a gale,
The ant trying to attack the pillar!
   An ant tries to shake an iron pillar.
Choice and attachment! Non-choice and non-attachment!
A cloth-covered drum that reaches the eaves!
   Discrimination, discrimination -- a cloth drum under the eaves.
Hakuin's Comment
No matter what Zhaozhou said, this monastic was planning to say that's still discrimination. "The supreme way has no difficulty, it just rejects discrimination." If you see yourself as ordinary and another as holy, you have not even dreamed of the living reality of the Zen teaching from which this statement derives. "In the heavens and on earth, only I alone am noble." There is no explanation. Is this discrimination? Is this nondiscrimination? It is what Buddha said when he was first born, but it should not be viewed literally. All the teachings of Budha's whole lifetime, and the essential issues of the Zen masters too, are all included in this one statement. The monastic takes the "I" of "only I" to mean the personal self, the self as contrasted with others. Zhaozhou is then unable to restrain his indignation, so one of his usual great sayings didn't come out. Even so, this is scary.
Tenkei's Comment
The words "alone noble" are an iron stake. As a matter of fact, this is also your own treasure, you know! Every individual, each one, is alone noble, no other. There is no discrimination at all. Zhaozhou's rebuff uses a wedge to remove a wedge. How so? This monastic thought discrimination is a bad thing, so he felt it must be better to avoid discrimination by all means. Where is the discrimination? What is it? Using a wedge to remove a wedge is Zhaozhou's method of revival.
Sekida's Comment
"The real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment." Te sun shines brightly, the moon shines serenely. They give impartially. When clouds come, it is cloudy. When it rains, it is rainy. Every day is a good day. However, we introduce discrimination and differentiation, calling things good or bad. All evils stem from this practice, that is, from choice and attachment.
"What are non-choice and non-attachment?" We have consciousness, which is equipped with the eye to see itself. Being has succeeded in seeing (realizing) itself. That is enlightenment. Enlightenment is empty. It is non-preference, non-attachment.
"I alone am holy throughout heaven and earth." Enlightenment represents being itself. When you attain enlightenment, you realize you are being itself, and this exclamation, "I alone am holy," emerges naturally.
"It is still choice and attachment." Zhaozhou spoke from the point of view of transcendence. But this monk was still seeing things from the relative point of view, and to him Zhaozhou's words sounded discrimination. In fact, the monastic had thought up his quesiton with the intention of shutting up Zhaozhou, whatever answer he might make.
"You country bumpkin!" Zhaozhou usually spoke calmly but to the point. However, he did not hesitate to utter a forthright condemnation when it was called for.
Yamada's Comment
"The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing." Picking and choosing means liking this in preference to that. I like tea better than coffee. I like him but I don't like her. As long as this kind of choosing according to one's whim is present, our basic peace of mind will be disturbed, that peace of mind which is like the bottom of the ocean where not a ripple disturbs the profound calm. The Supreme Way (i.e., our essential nature) is exactly like this; there is not a wave of disturbance in the essential world. But if picking and choosing should make their appearance, waves have already appeared on the surface of our consciousness and we lose our basic peace of mind.
"Above and below heaven there is only I." These were reportedly the words of the Buddha when he was born, and you can see images of the baby Buddha which show him pointing upward with one hand and downward with the other.
"Isn't that, however, picking and choosing?" No, it's not. But once you start to think about the meaning of Zhaozhou's words you're lost. That's choosing. Zhaozhou isn't dealing with concepts or meanings.The essential world is revealed totally in "Above and below heaven there is only I." There is no comparing between this and that. For example, when I say, "Ahh, that's nice!" it might seem like choosing, but actually in that moment there is just "Ahh!" (liking) in the whole universe and no room for dislike. Or, vice-versa, when I say, "Ugh, that's terrible?" there is just that "Ugh!" (dislike) and no room for liking. In addition to filling the entire universe, it is totally empty. "Ahh!" and "Ugh!" are totally void, they have no intrinsic substance. It is precisely because they are empty that they can become one with the entire universe. To feel regretful upon seeing the flowers fall and vexed upon seeing the weeds proliferate might seem like picking and choosing. But actually, it's not. When you say, "What a shame!" there is only that in the entire universe. When you say "Darn it!" there is only that in entire universe.
Rothenberg's Verse
Don't Pick or Choose
The right path is easy.
Just don't pick or choose.
Mountains will crumble, rocks will fall
Deep as the ocean, firm as the earth.
A mosquito flies in the fiercest of winds.
An ant tries to uproot an iron pillar,
picking, choosing, no, do not decide --
A cloth drum hiding,
making no sound.
The boom disappears in the empty space.
Hotetsu's Verse
"Alone, alone, all, all alone/ Alone on a wide, wide sea!"
The picking and choosing that picks nor chooses --
The alone that knows no aloneness --
The Great Way becomes you.


Raven 39

The trees are in charge. Aren't they always in charge? What we forget, they are remembering.

At the end of an evening meeting, Raven announced, "The Assembly Oak will preside tomorrow night."
Woodpecker said, "This I'll have to see."
Next night, Raven appeared at his usual place in the circle. Woodpecker said, "You said the Assembly Oak would preside tonight."
Raven said, "I'm here, but I've forgotten what I was going to say." (adapted from Robert Aitken, Zen Master Raven)
Raven 38


Mar 15-21, BCR #52

Winter, week 13
"We dissolve the concepts of separateness that have ruled our lives by practicing metta for all beings without exception. Lovingkindness for all beings is the foundation of moral and spiritual awakening.” -Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Feb 22 - Tue Mar 21 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Hakuin's Song of Zazen, p. 14
  • Field of Boundless Emptiness, p. 28
  • Self and Other the Same, p. 28
Next Saturday Zen Service: Mar 18, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 6, "Breaking Open the Loving Heart," pp. 83-101.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's Stone Bridge," Blue Cliff Record #52.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88).
A monastic said to Zhaozhou, "The stone bridge of Zhaozhou is widely renowned, but coming here I find only a set of steppingstones."
Zhaozhou said, "You see only the steppingstones and do not see the stone bridge."
The monastic said, "What is the stone bridge?"
Zhaozhou said, "It lets donkeys cross over and horses cross over."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
No show of transcendence,
But his path was high.
If you've entered the great sea of Zen,
You should catch a giant turtle.
I can't help laughing at old Kankei,
His contemporary, who said,
"It is as quick as an arrow" --
A mere waste of labor.
Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
Not made inaccessible, in that his path is lofty;
One goes into the ocean looking to hook a giant tortoise.
His contemporary the Elder of Pouring Stream is worth a laugh;
Though able to say "whistling arrow," his effort was in vain.
Hakuin's Comment
This monk tried to test Zhaozhou's ability. Zhaozhou finally says, "It lets asses cross; it lets horses cross." Lay folk as well as clergy, the cat as well as he ladle, you might say. What is the principle of letting asses and horses cross? Whatever you say, you lose your life and get bogged down. Zhaozhou's Zen is lip Zen -- his whole body is a mouth. This is so-called verbal samadhi.
Tenkei's Comment
"It lets asses cross, it lets horses cross." Animate and inanimate beings cross over at the same time, without hindrance. "If you want to cross the stone bridge," he says in effect, "go ahead," inviting the monk onto the highway of true normalcy. Too bad the monk didn't realize it. There is also an echo in the words; here is where everyone gets out.
Sekida's Comment
There were three famous stone bridges of China at that time. They were not bridges of the kind we are familiar with but a series of rocks placed across a river as steppingstones. The monastic was asking not about the bridge but about Zhaozhou himself. His real meaning was "Zhaozhou is renowned throughout the whole country, but coming here to see him I find only an insignificant-looking monastic." Zhaozhou's reply says the monastic sees only Zhaozhou's external appearance, not the real Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou's follow-up refers to crossing over from one side of a river to the other. The river is the river of samsara (the realm of existence, of birth and death). Donkeys and horses represent all living creatures. Zhaozhou is saying that anyone who comes to him will be led to cross the river of birth and death.
Yamada's Comment
Of the three famous stone bridges in different parts of China, one was at the base of Mt. Tiantai, another at Nanyue, the mountain from which Master Nanyue (677-744) received his name. Then there was the stone bridge of Zhaozhou, located about 5 kilometers from the temple or hermitage where Zhaozhou was master. There were two things of note in this locality of Zhaozhou: the stone bridge and the famous Zen master Zhaozhou. Having come from afar to see the famous stone bridge of Zhaozhou (that is, to see Zen master Zhaozhou), what does the monastic find but simple steppingstones. He says, in effect, "Having heard about the famous Zhaozhou, I came here expecting to find an outstanding Zen master and what do I find but a tottering old monastic?" Zhaozhou's reply indicates, "You only see the tottering old monastic and don't see the real Zhaozhou." This monastic jumps at the bait, asking, "What is the stone bridge?" -- i.e., "Where is the real stone bridge? Where is the real Zhaozhou?" Zhaozhou fires back, "It lets donkeys cross, it lets horses cross." One rendering of this puts the accent on Zhaozhou, who lets both donkeys and horses cross according to his will. Another rendering would mean that the donkeys and horses trot across of their own will without Zhaozhou doing anything about it. The stone bridge is the essential world or the true fact. It is across this bridge of emptiness that horses and donkeys pass. People and cars can pass, too. The sun and the moon and the stars pass overhead. The seasons pass in succession. On the stone bridge of the essential, the true fact flourishes and decays in a never-ending cycle. In the world of human society we are born, grow old and die and other children are born into the world. A never-ending cycle of birth and death. This is what is happening at the stone bridge.
Barry Magid's Comment
To be a Zen Buddhist is to belong to the least exclusive club in the world; anybody can come in. Zhaozhou said: "It lets asses cross, it lets horses cross." Anyone can cross the bridge, just as anyone can pass through the gateless barrier -- it's wide open. The paradox is that we don't let ourselves in. The barrier is the very idea that there is an inside and an outside, that there is somewhere to go and there is something to get. As long as we make that distinction, we don't realize we're already inside. We spend our nose pressed up against an imaginary windowpane, wishing we were on the other side. Our life already includes everything. Zhaozhou says, the thing you're not seeing is non-discrimination itself, not making any distinction between between wood and stone, between horses and asses, dogs and buddha-nature. We think we have to choose between being selfish and selfless, between love that is personal and unique and a love that is spiritual and universal. On one side of that bridge, in our ordinary life, we think that love is what we need, and we organize our life around the lack of love or pursuit of love. On the other side, instead of a personal, unique love, we try to pursue a universal compassion for all beings indiscriminately. But people can't live on that side of the equation exclusively either. It's hard to build a bridge that is wide enough for both passion and compassion to cross side by side.
Rothenberg's Verse
Walk the Plank
I expected a stone bridge,
but there's only one log felled over the stream.
The solo path brings danger,
the log extends through the clouds.
Roll the tree over and no one can cross --
neither profane nor sacred will come.
People of power don't come by twos and threes.
Mountains smashed into bits become dust
on the floor of the oceans --
All we can do is pound waves on the foot of the cliffs
And swim the white surf through which no one can see.
Hotetsu's Verse
Clop, clop, clop, crossing the bridge,
All us beasts of burden treading on
Always crossing, never crossed,
Or always already crossed, and still crossing
From things to no-things, no-things to things
One step, one stone, one step, one stone.


Raven 38

If practice does you good, then wouldn't practice make you more good -- i.e., better -- than people who don't practice? Unless maybe those others just naturally have the virtues that we who practice are trying to acquire? That must be it. We're the remedial class, trying to catch up with those others who are perfectly beautiful and wonderful without having to practice. Even so, those others occasionally need some inspiration. How can we help provide them with some? Just try to be a sensible turkey.

One evening Raven took her perch on the Assembly Oak and said, "I worked with Jackrabbit Roshi for a long time, and there were certain things in his teaching that troubled me. I never asked about them, and finally I just came to the end and left. I think now that if I had spoken up sooner, it might have helped us both. So now I would ask you, is there anything in our program that troubles you?"

There was a long silence. Finally Turkey, a visitor that evening, spoke up. "I've been wondering," she said, "why it is that you don't have more songbirds in your community."

Raven said, "Maybe they're content just to inspire us from the trees."

Turkey asked, "How can they be inspired?"

Raven said, "Make sense."

Raven 37


Mar 8 - 14. BCR #45

Winter, week 12
"Compassion is the refinement of love that opens to suffering. When we feel anger, fear, or jealousy, if we feel open to the pain of these states rather than disgraced by their arising, then we will have compassion for ourselves. When we see others lost in states of anger, fear, and so on, and we remember how painful those states are, we can have compassion for those people as well.” -Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Feb 22 - Tue Mar 21 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Hakuin's Song of Zazen, p. 14
  • Field of Boundless Emptiness, p. 28
  • Self and Other the Same, p. 28
Next Saturday Zen Service: Mar 11, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 5, "Working with Anger and Aversion," pp. 62-92.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou's Seven-Pound Hempen Shirt," Blue Cliff Record #45.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835, 9th gen), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen).
A monastic asked Zhaozhou, "All the Dharmas are reduced to oneness, but what is oneness reduced to?"
Zhaozhou said, "When I was in Qingzhou, I made a hempen shirt. It weighed seven pounds."
Yuanwu's Preface
If he wants to speak, he speaks, and none can rival him throughout the whole universe. When he wants to act, he acts, and his activity is peerless. The one is like shooting stars and flashing lightning, the other like crackling flames and flashing blades. When he sets up his forge to discipline his disciples, they lay down their arms and lose their tongues. I will give an example. See the case.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
You brought a piece of logic
To trap the old gimlet,
But do you know the meaning
Of the seven-pound hempen shirt?
Now I have thrown it away
Into Lake Seiko
And sail before the wind.
Who will share the coolness with me?
Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
Wrapping it all up, he pressed the venerable old awl.
How many know the weight of the seven-pound shirt?
Now it's cast into West Lake;
With whom is the clear breeze of unburdening shared?
Hakuin's Comment
This is called a wrapping-up question, asking about the ultimate point where everything is included. The root source is ultimately one, the reality realm of one mind, immutable and unshakable. The seven-pound shirt: is this where myriad things return, indeed? Zhaozhou turns where it is impossible to turn, moves where it is impossible to move.
Tenkei's Comment
This monastic is one of those whose view is hardened at the point of radiant awareness; having a spot of satori, he took the Zen master to task with it. Yet that old Zhaozhou answered in a leisurely, relaxed manner. The shoulders would be terribly uncomfortable in a shirt so heavy. Do you consider this Buddhism? Do you consider it the Zen Way? Do you think it is the ultimate resort of the one? This is Zhaozhou's living tactic of turning freely beyond Buddhas and Zen masters where answer is impossible.
Sekida's Comment
The Dharmas include all the sentient and insentient beings of the universe. The Gundavyuha Sutra says, "All things of the three realms are reduced to one mind." The Gundavyuha Sutra stops at one mind, but this monastic wanted to go further and tried to get Zhaozhou to answer his impossible question. There is, of course, no possible philosophical answer to the question, and the monk knew this quite well. He was hoping to trap Zhaozhou into saying something like "emptiness" or "nothingness." Zhaozhou, however, could not be caught out in this way. His answer resembles his answer in BCR #30: "Jin province produces a big radish." Qingzhao seems to have been famous for fine hemp. Many hands skillful craftsmanship would have contributed to the weaving the cloth and making the shirt. When Zhaozhou put on his hempen shirt, he experienced a keep sensation, which was a direct recognition of the shirt for what it was. Touching and feeling the shirt was pure cognition of it. There reality is. It is not that the Dharmas are reduced to oneness but that the Dharmas are oneness and are this seven pounds of hemp.
Yamada's Comment
The monastic is closing in upon Zhaozhou with logical arguments. He seeks to corner Zhaozhou like a king in a chess game and call "checkmate!" He seems to have left Zhaozhou without any place to flee. How would you answer at such a time? You might try something like, "the one returns to the myriad phenomena." But this is logic-chopping. It is only thinking about the matter in logical terms. Zhaozhou doesn't answer with such logic-chopping. Instead, his reply is truly bold and imposing. Nevertheless, he no doubt said it in a low murmur as if it were nothing at all. He has presented us with the fact itself; we have "the one" right in front of us. Or it might be better to say we have the world where both the myriad phenomena and the one have completely disappeared. Zhaozhou has, without fanfare, presented us with the world where we are once again totally ordinary. Here is the true world of Zen. "You know, last year I had a robe made in Kyoto. They charged me 35 thousand yen for it!" Not until the satori is completely wiped away can one be considered truly outstanding. We are all intrinsically free-flowing water, water which flows pure and free and doesn't stagnate. Zhaozhou is really free-flowing water. For, like water, he is completely free while lacking any self-consciousness of his freedom.
Rothenberg's Verse
The Seven Pound Shirt
The many return someday to one.
And what will the one become?
I once made a seven pound shirt.
It was also a silver mountain.
Or an iron wall.
Don't use objects to teach us.
I wrap everything up in the ancient garment
and toss it into the western lake.
Who will share my shivering bare in the wind?
Wrapped up, all my hopes are drawning toether --
You can only rest after you've won.
Stephen Wolinksy's Verse
Advaita: Not two
Not One
Advaita resides in the bubble realm
A seductive illusion
Pop the bubble
Don’t imagine here is separate from there or there is
separate from here
Not Two
Not One either.
Hotetsu's Verse
The touch my lover brings, breeze in the pines,
That email to answer, moon rising over a winter lake,
A bowl of oatmeal, the prick of a pin,
The fluttering fall of a red maple leaf,
My friend's sweater, a moment's fear,
The raising and lowering of the teacher's eyebrows,
Flowers among the grass, playground sounds,
And the riverbank talks of the waters of March --
Everywhere, oneness never stops reducing.


Raven 37

Not both. Not neither. Exactly one. Pick one -- or one picks you. Do you look up or down?

Woodpecker said, "I'm like Owl, still thinking about our visit to the Little Church in the Grotto. I wonder, what's the difference between veneration and worship?"

Raven said, "One makes your tummy warm, the other doesn't."

Woodpecker asked, "Which is which?"

Raven said, "Not my business."

Raven 36


Mar 1 - 7. BCR #41, BOS #63

Winter, week 11
"Feelings of desire are quite natural, but when we follow them to find our happiness, we must be aware of their potential dangers.” -Sharon Salzberg
Chants for Wed Feb 22 - Tue Mar 21 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Hakuin's Song of Zazen, p. 14
  • Field of Boundless Emptiness, p. 28
  • Self and Other the Same, p. 28
Next Saturday Zen Service: Feb 25, 10:00 - 11:45am.
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY

This week's reading: Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Chapter 3, "Hindrances to Lovingkindness," pp. 48-61.

This week's case: "Zhaozhou and the Great Death," Blue Cliff Record #41, Book of Serenity #63.

Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835, 9th gen), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Touzi Datong (819-914, 11th gen) was a disciple of Cuiwei, who was a disciple of Danxia, who was a disciple of Shitou. Zhaozhou was almost 40 years older than Touzi. This meeting took place during the journey Zhaozhou undertook after the death of his master Nanquan.
Zhaozhou asked Touzi, "How is it when a person who had died the great death comes to life?"
Touzi said, "They should not go by night. They must arrive in the daylight."
Yuanwu's Preface
When right and wrong are intermingled, even the holy ones cannot distinguish between them. When positive and negative are interwoven, even the Buddha fails to discern one from the other. The most distinguished man of transcendent experience cannot avoid showing his ability as a great master. He walks the ridge of an iceberg, he treads the edge of a sword. He is like the kirin's horn, like the lotus flower in the fire. Meeting a man of transcendent experience, he identifies with him as his equal. Who is he? See the case.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
Open-eyed, he was all the more as if dead;
What use to test the master with something taboo?
Even the Buddha said he had not reached there;
Who knows when to throw ashes in another's eyes?
Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
In living is an eye hat's et the same as dying.
Why use antiserum to test an adept?
Even the ancient Buddhas, they say, never arrived;
Who know who can scatter dust and sand?
Hakuin's Comment
A cold question, this has a meaning outside the words. This is great death far from delusion, and far from enlightenment too.
Tenkei's Comment
One who has experienced great death means someone who has set aside everything, even the mysteries and wonders of Buddhism, affirmation and negation, gain and loss, and managed to become as if dead. However, to remain in that state is to get fixated on mindlessness, falling into a nonfunctional state of indifference, so one must come back to life, not keeping that state but tossing it into emptiness, thus neither grasping nor rejecting everything, attaining the realm of absorption in living. One is useless unless one comes to life, but how do you do it? Don't try to find your way by night, wandering around disoriented; go by day, Touzi says. Talking about dying and reviving is not yet reaching the original unaffected state but trudging along midway, so it is work in progress.
Sekida's Comment
The Great Death is the condition that appears in absolute samadhi, in which the activity of consciousness is stopped and the state called "body and mind fallen off" is reached. The delusive thinking of ordinary consciousness is cut off and your mind is purified. When you then come back once more to the ordinary activity of consciousness, you will find that it has undergone a great change. It is released from its spell, and suddenly you come to realize your true nature. The old self-centered world has been replaced by a new world of unity and equality. This is what happens when someone of the Great Death comes back to life again. Zen training does not stop here. This is the starting point of real Zen practice. The cultivation of Holy Buddhahood after realization is awaiting you. It is a process of ripening, of becoming mature. Unless you do this, everything remains green and unsatisfactory. Cast off attachment to your own realization. Forsake what you attain as it is attained, and try to reach a wier world -- wider and wider, until it is as boundless as outer space. Then you will understand emptiness. Touzi's reply means "A thief goes by night; you must not go stealing about like a thief. Come to me when you have attained the light of the mind."
Yamada's Comment
To die the great death in Zen means to practice the koan Mu and die completely to all concepts and thoughts. If this state continues, then suddenly an entirely new world will unfold. This is coming to the great life. Zhaozhou is asking in effect, "How will you treat a man who has died the great death and come to great life?" This is bait on Zhaozhou's hook as he waits to see how Touzi will respond. Touzi said, "I won't admit night-wandering vagabonds. You must come in the light of day." This is a good answer. But what does Touzi mean by "night-wandering vagabonds"? In the world of phenomena there is birth and death. But if you can truly grasp your
essential nature, you realize that there is neither life nor death. Touzi is saying, "What are you doing, babbling on about life and death? Since there is essentially no birth and death why do you come saying things like, 'How will you treat a person who has died the great death and come back to life?' Don't make such suspicious talk. I have no time here for night vagabond monks. Come out into the broad daylight!" A truly clear and forthright answer. He could never have made such a splendid response if he paused to consider what to say. It comes forth completely natural and spontaneous to fit the occasion and the understanding of the student. But such naturalness and spontaneity are not easy to come by. A true Zen master must be just such a person. There are no set patterns or prescribed rules to follow.
Rothenberg's Verse
To Die a Great Death
Even the wise can't always tell
where right and wrong are mixed
A man stands out from the crowd.
He scratches thin ice like a unicorn's horn
He burns like a lotus on fire.
After the great death, how will he come back to life?
   Only by daylight, never the dark.
There are such things!
A thief knows to stike the rich.
Seeing a cage, he makes a cage.
A flute with no holes strikes the soundboard of silence.
How is it before the rooster has crowed?
   The sound does not exist.
And how it it after the crow's time has gone?
   Each knows the time for himself.
If you want intimacy, ask no questions.
The eye blinks in death the same as in life.
Even the ancients have never arrived.
I don't know who scatters dust in the sand.
If it's you, now is the time to stop.
Wansong's Preface
Sansheng and Xuefeng are spring orchid and autumn chrysanthemum. Zhaozhou and Touzi are Bian's Jewel and Yan's Gold. In the marked scales, both trays balance evenly. In the bottomless boat, they cross over the river together. How about when both people meet?
Hongzhi's Verse
Even before the mustard-seed, castle and the kalpa stone,
the beginning is to be subtly investigated.
The vital eye illumines the emptiness within the ring.
Not allowed to travel by night, arriving at dawn,
the message does not depend on the goose and fish.
Baiyun's Verse
Dying away, coming to life -- his fangs are still showing.
One should arrive during the day -- already he's gone ahead.
In the villa pond of whose house --
A pair of mandarin ducks -- they cannot be depicted.
Shishin Wick's Comment
The Great Death is dropping away body and mind, totally penetrating through all of the barriers set up by the ancients and by your own self-grasping ignorance. It means letting go of all your defneses, all your projections, and finally letting it all drop away. What about when he revives? That doesn't mean grabbing on again to all these projections and beliefs. It's seeing clearly this life as it is. Great Death releases us to Great Life. After letting go and coming back again, you live a very ordinary life in a most extraordinary way. You'd better see it clearly if you're going to talk about Great Death. You had better not arrive at night, not quite sure what it is, clinging onto the ghostly shapes. Come in full daylight when it becomes Great Life.
Susan Griffin-Black's Verse
Zhaozhou Asks About Death
open hand
open heart
open gate
please enter
the way
Daido's Comment
It seems as though Zhaozhou is going out of his way to torment this old hermit. When the ancient masters traveled around like this visiting adepts, they wanted to see if their eyes were open. If there is even the slightest attempt to understand this encounter in terms of Buddhist doctrine or theory, this is not yet having died the great death. On the other hand, if you turn to blank consciousness to perceive it, you will only see the darkness of a ghost cave. It can be said that this is truly a case where the answer is in the question and the question is in the answer. Haven't you heard? Spring is always in the frozen branches, buried beneath six feet of snow. However, unless you first realize the truth you cannot engage it. So cut off both light and darkness and say a word.
Daido's Verse
A frozen tree blossoms
in the dead of winter.
Rising autumn mist reveals
a collage of red and gold.
Hotetsu's Verse
After the ecstasy, the laundry.
What is on the other side of death
Was always here on this side
Waiting, like the daylight and the laundry.


Raven 36

A couplet from FitzGerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
"Some little talk awhile of me and thee,
there seemed -- and then no more of thee and me."
A different translation renders Khayyam's (1048-1131) Persian as:
"Behind the veil there is much talk about us, why
When the veil falls, neither you remain nor I."
We do talk about ourselves. I talk about me, I talk about you, you talk about you, you talk about me, we all talk about each other. And yet there is no one there. And yet it would be foolish to try to get through a day without a sense of self and others. And yet that's an illusion. And yet necessary. And yet, and yet.

Also, wolverine's are extraordinarily fierce. How is fierceness relevant?

Wolverine came by unannounced one evening in early autumn.
"Hello," said Raven, "I'm Raven."
Wolverine said, "The Roshi is meeting this one for the first time."
Raven said, "Is that so? What happened to the first person singular?"
Wolverine said, "No-self has appeared."
Raven said, "Could've fooled me."

Raven 35