Sep 21 - 27

Autumn, week 1
"Everything is right here, right now. Thus, everything we do affects all past, present, and future, because it's all right here, right now -- not born, not destroyed." --Bernie Glassman
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Sep 23, 10:00 - 11:45am, in room 24 at Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY. Leader: Meredith

Chants for Sep 21 - Wed Sep 27:
  • Shorter Precepts, p. 47
  • The Four Commitments, p. 50
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle, Chapter 4 "Letting Go," pp. 36-46.
Next up: starting Sat Dec 16, our book will be, Yamada Koun, Zen: The Authentic Gate.

Case this week: Blue Cliff Record #34, "Yangshan's Never Been to the Mountain": CLICK HERE.

Events at Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Buddhism 101, is a four-part series. You need not have attended earlier parts to attend any of the dates. The three remaining dates are Sat Oct 14, Sat Nov 11, and Sat Dec 2. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE. For carpooling from White Plains, email to Brain LaVoie: brianlavoie43 -at- gmail -dot- com
  • Practice and Study Retreat. Fri Nov 3, 19:00, to Sun Nov 5, 13:00. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE


Blue Cliff Record 34

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #34
Yangshan's "Never Been to the Mountains"

  • Yangshan Huiji (Kyozan Ejaku, 807-83, 11th gen). Go to YANGSHAN
  • an unnamed monk
  • (commenting later) Yunmen Wenyan (Ummon Bun'en, 864-949, 13th gen) Go to YUNMEN
Yangshan asked a monk, "Where have you come from?"
The monk said, "From Mount Lu." [a beautiful and famous mountain in the southern part of China with many Zen monasteries]
Yanshan said, "Have you been to the Goroho Peak?" [i.e., Five Elder Peak, the most noted peak of Mt. Lu]
The monk said, "No, I have never been there."
Yanshan said, "Then you have never been to the mountains at all!"
Yunmen said, "Because of too much compassion these words have fallen into grasses."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Falling or not falling, who can tell?
   Out of the weeds, into the weeds -- who knows how to search?
White clouds piling up,
Bright sun shining down,
   The white clouds pile in layers, the red sun is clear and bright.
Faultless the left, mature the right.
   Looking to the left, no flaws; looking to the right, already old.

Don't you know Hanshan?
He went very fast;
   Haven't you read of the Cold Mountain man, who went early on--
Ten years not returning,
He forgot the way he had come.
   Ten years he couldn't return, finally forgot the road on which he came.
Background: Hanshan's Verse
This is my resting place,
Hanshan knows the best retreats;
The breeze blows through the pines,
Sounding better the nearer it is.
Under a tree I'm reading
Laozi, quietly perusing.
Ten years not returning.
I forgot the way I had come.
Background Story 1
Guishan one day asked Yangshan, "When there are monks coming from various places, what do you use to test them?"
Yangshan said, "I have a way of testing."
Guishan said, "Try to show me."
Yangshan said, "Whenever I see a monk coming, I just lift up my whisk and say to him, 'Do they have this in other places?' When he has something to say, I just say to him, 'Leaving this aside for the moment, what about That?'"
Guishan said, "This has been the tooth and nail of our sect since time immemorial."
Background Story 2
Mazu asked Baizhang, "Where do you come from?"
Baizhang said, "from down the mountain."
Mazu said, "Did you meet anyone on the road?"
Baizhang said, "Not at all."
Mazu said, "Why did you not meet anyone at all?"
Baizhang said, "If I had met anyone, I would mention it to you, teacher."
Mazu said, "How could this have been happening?"
Baizhang said, "I am at fault."
Mazu said, "On the contrary, I am at fault."
Yuanwu's Comment
The point of testing someone is to know him intimately as soon as he opens his mouth. An Ancient said, "Immeasurably great people are turned about in the stream of speech." If you are one who has the eye on your forehead, as soon as it is being brought up, you immediately know where it comes down. "Did you ever get to Five Elders Peak?" If that monk had been a person of substance, he would simply have said, "A disaster."
Hakuin's Comment
This example is a difficult case with a number of significant details. "Where have you just come from?" This is an ordinary question, but if you therefore think it's the usual, you're mistaken. "I never got there." He doesn't even reveal his shadow. "You never traveled the mountain." Among the outward manifestations of the Guiyang school of Zen, the ancients appreciated this saying. That is why Yunmen made such a remark, leaking quite a bit; even the canes of Linji and Deshan cannot match. Why is there such significance in it? You must make the effort to see for yourself -- explanation by pictures won't work. "This talk was all for compassion." Yunmen drips blood; how can any comment about going into the weeds or getting out of the weeds be inserted? "A conversation in the weeds" means he came down to a secondary level of potential to speak.
Tenkei's Comment
"Where have you come from?" The point is, right now what place is this? Check and find out where you are. The monk said he had never been to Goroho Peak; unfortunately he missed what was right in from of him; apparently he didn't hear. He didn't realize it's the great matter right at his feet. "Been to the mountains" means passing through formal Buddhism and no longer establishing views of Buddha or views of Dharma. There is no such thing as roaming the mountains and enjoying the rivers in the context of formal Buddhism. As for Yunmen's remark, this is known as his method of lifting up and putting down, where one can censure and praise independently according to the situation.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Yangshan implies that it would have been much better to have gone to see the beauties of nature at Goroho Peak than to go round from temple to temple merely asking sophistical questions. Yangshan urged the climbing of Goroho Peak because he believed that the wonderful cloud effects, the glorious sunlight, the perfect view in whatever direction one looked from there, would inspire the viewer with a deep knowledge of the Buddha nature and the very heart of Dharma. It was on this very mountain that the famous hermit Hanshan took up his abode so as to be near the absolute Truth. Unfortunately he was traced there by somebody. Hanshan fled still farther into the hills and disappeared into the mountains with great haste and has never come back. No doubt he forgot the way back, for he was swallowed up in the beauty of those hills.
Sekida's Comment
"From Mount Lu." The monk associates himself with something spiritual and refined. "Goroho Peak? is the most famous part of Mount Lu. Yangshan's question was aimed at discovering if the monk had attained a true, subtle insight into Zen. "You have never been to the mountains at all!" With these words Yangshan dealt the monk a decisive blow. A more severe master, such as Deshan or Linji, would have used his stick on the monk. However, a gentle word can sometimes be more telling in its effect than a blow. Yangshan is a mature Zen master who, like Hanshan in Xuedou's verse, has gone into the world of unworldliness and forgotten the way back to the world of worldliness.
Yamada's Comment
"No, I have never been there." It would not be the least bit strange for either an enlightened person or an unenlightened person to answer like this. He's simply stating the facts. But a true master, observing the monk, knows whether he is just talking about ordinary affairs or, having attained kensho, he is talking from the viewpoint of the essential world. The master may not know right away but, as the exchange goes on, he knows. "Then you have never wandered in the mountains at all!" Yangshan is saying in effect: "You say that you have come from Mount Lu, but you don't understand anything at all about the real pleasure of wandering in the mountains." There is no record in the koan of what the monk said in reply, but he probably could not attain realization at this point.
Rothenberg's Verse
Come Down from the Mountains

Where have you just come from?
The mountains.
By the tone of your voice, I am sure
You never found the right peak at all.

Though everyone in the world is the same,
it is still appropriate to ask;
If you want to know the mountain road,
you must be the one who travels it.

You learn the truth of someone by testing their speech.
Not even a fly will get past your scrutiny.
Why try so hard to be clever?

No single hair common,
no single strand sacred.
The whole earth has never concealed it.
No particular ever reveals it.

when cold, no sense of cold.
when old, no sense of old.
Hotetsu's Verse
There are peaks and there are valleys
But it is all the peak.
Even so, it is, at the same time,
A big mistake.


Sep 14 - 20

Summer, week 13
"Usually we practice in order to acquire or gain something, not to let go. We start sitting because we want to become better in some way -- to improve our physical well-being, become more intelligent or more stable, experience samadhi or even enlightenment -- the list is endless. Usually practice is a matter of what we want to gain. But the message that keeps coming back (from the practice itself, as it were) is: "Let go! Let go! Let go!" To which we usually respond, "I don't want to. I want to be taught." But again what the practice keeps saying is, "Let go!" --Bernie Glassman
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Sep 16, 10:00 - 11:45am, in room 24 at Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY. Meredith will lead the dharma discussion.

Chants. See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule
For Wed Aug 23 - Wed Sep 20, the chants are:
  • Song of the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi, p. 18
  • Shinjin Gakudo, p. 42
Reading this week: Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle, Chapter 3 "Emptiness," pp. 26-35. Next up: starting Sat Dec 16, our book will be, Yamada Koun, Zen: The Authentic Gate.

Case this week: Gateless Gate #25, Book of Serenity #90, "Yangshan's Dream Sermon": CLICK HERE.

Events at Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Buddhism 101, is a four-part series. You need not have attended earlier parts to attend any of the dates. The three remaining dates are Sat Oct 14, Sat Nov 11, and Sat Dec 2. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE. For carpooling from White Plains, email to Brain LaVoie: brianlavoie43 -at- gmail -dot- com
  • Practice and Study Retreat. Fri Nov 3, 19:00, to Sun Nov 5, 13:00. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE


Gateless Gate 25, Book of Serenity 90

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #25
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #90
Yangshan's Dream Sermon

  • Yangshan Huiji (Kyozan Ejaku, 807-83, 11th gen). Go to YANGSHAN
  • Maitrya: Buddha of the future, successor to the present Buddha, Gautama (Shakyamuni)
  • An unnamed venerable monk
  • (in Wansong's Preface) Qu Yuan (ca 340-278 BCE): poet and minister whose verses included the lines: "All the world is muddied with confusion;/ I alone am pure./ People all are drunk;/ I alone am sober."
Wansong's Preface
Qu Yuan says, “Only I am sober” – this is nothing but intoxication.
Yangshan speaks of a dream; yet it is like in an awakened state.
Just say: I, Wansong, preach like this, and you all hear like this:
Just tell me, is this an awakened state or is this a dream?
Master Yangshan went to Maitreya's abode in a dream and was led to the third [GG] second [BOS] seat.
A venerable monk struck the anvil with a gavel and [GG] said, “Today the third [GG] second [BOS] seat is due to speak.”
Yangshan stood up, struck the stand with the [GG] wooden anvil with a [BOS] gavel, and said, “The Dharma of Mahayana is beyond the four propositions and transcends the hundred negations. Listen! Listen! [GG] I beg to tell you this! [BOS]”
Continuation of the Case
When Yangshan had said this, all the monks dispersed.
Yangshan awoke from the dream, and went to tell Guishan about it. Guishan said, "You have now reached the holy rank."
At this, Yangshan made a bow.
Similar Cases
BCR67: Great Master Fu Concludes His Lecture On the Sutra
BCR92/BOS1: The World-Honored Takes His Seat
BOS7: Yaoshan Takes the High Seat
Background Stories of Guishan and Yangshan
See also: BOS15, and BOS37.

* * *
Yangshan went with Guishan to the fields to help him with plowing. He said, "How is it that this side is so low and the other side is so high?"
Guishan said, "Water can level all things; let the water be the leveler."
Yangshan said, "Water is not reliable. It is just that the high places are high and the low places are low."
Guishan said, "Oh, that's true."

* * *
One day when they were picking tea, Guishan called to Yangshan, "All day I have heard your voice but have not seen your face."
Yangshan, not saying anything, shook a tea plant.
Guishan said, "You have got the function but not the essence."
"So what would you say?" asked Yangshan.
Guishan remained silent.
Then Yangshan told him, "You have the essence but not the function."

* * *
Guishan asked Yangshan, "In the forty volumes of the Nirvana Sutra, how many words were spoken by Buddha and how many by the devils?"
Yangshan replied, "They are all devils' words."
Guishan said, "From now on no one will be able to do anything to you."

* * *
When Guishan was in bed, Yangshan came to speak to him, but the master turned his face to the wall.
Yangshan asked, "How can you do this?"
The master rose and stated, "A moment ago I had a dream. Won't you interpret it for me?"
Thereupon Yangshan brought in a basin of water for the master to wash his face.
A little later Xiangyan also appeared to speak to the master.
The master repeated, "I have just had a dream. Yangshan interpreted it. Now it is your turn."
Xiangyan brought in a cup of tea.
The master said, "The insight of both of you excels that of Shariputra."

* * *
Guishan sent Yangshan a mirror, and during a teisho Yangshan asked: "Is this Guishan's mirror or mine? If you say it is mine, did it not come from Guishan? If you say it is Guishan's, am I not now holding it? If you can say a word of Zen I will keep the mirror, if not I will break it."
Background Story, 2
A magician flew in from India one day. Yangshan asked him, "When did you leave India?"
The magician said, "This morning."
Yangshan said, "What took you so long?"
The magician said, "Oh, I went sight seeing here and there on the way."
Yangshan said, "You obviously have occult power, but you haven't yet dreamed of the great occult power of the Buddha Dharma."
The magician returened to India and told his followers, "I went to China to find Manjusri, and instead I found Little Shakyamuni."
Mumon's Comment
Just say, did he preach or did he not? If you open your mouth, you miss. If you shut your
mouth, you miss too. Even if you neither open nor shut your mouth, it is a hundred and
eight thousand miles away.
Mumon's Verse
The broad daylight, the blue sky -
He speaks of a dream in a dream;
Suspicious! Suspicious! [or "Absurd!" (Aitken), "Humbug!" (Shibayama), "Making up wonders" (Cleary), "Watch out!" (Low), "A monster among monsters" (Senzaki)]
He is trying to deceive the whole assembly.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
In a dream, wearing robes and meeting the elders,
   In a dream, wrapped in his patchwork robe, he calls on the elders;
a forest of saints stretches away to his right.
   The ranks of the saints serene, he sits to their right.
To be appointed and not give way, strike the sounding post.
   Responsible for humanity, he doesn't defer -- the sounding board rings;
Speak the Dharma without fear -- a roaring lion,
   Expounding the teaching without fear, the lion roars,
a heart peaceful as the ocean,
   Mind as peaceful as the ocean,
a liver capacious as a peck or a bushel.
   Heart as big as a bushel.
From a mermaid's eye, tears flow,
   Fish eyes shed tears,
a clam's guts make a pearl.
   Clam guts open in pearls.
Sleep-talking -- who knows my activity leaks away?
   Much talk -- who knows it leaks one's potential?
Those with splendid eyebrows should laugh at family skeletons so presented.
   Shaggy eyebrows -- laughable, they reveal the family disgrace.
Separate from the propositions, transcending the hundred negations,
   Beyond all predication:
Master Mazu and his disciples stopped using medicine for illness.
   Mazu, father and sons, in sickness stopped doctoring.
Benjiao's Verse
Talking about emptiness in a dream is very unusual;
How is it possible to get beyond all propositions and denials?
At that time, if could have upheld the Buddha's direction,
What need would there have been to strike the gavel in the hall?
Dagui Xiu's Comment
It's not that he doesn't understand the meaning according to the words, but if there were an adept in Maitreya's assembly, as soon as he saw Yangshan say, "The teaching of the Mahayana...," he'd immediately tell him to shut up, no only stopping Yangshan's sleep talk, but also avoiding making people later on talk of a dram in a dream.
Aitken's Comment
Yangshan could dream that he went to the Tusita Heaven and was led in to sit at the third seat because that was his seat, just below Maitreya and Shakyamuni. He had matured to that level. I think the old teachers must have recongnized Yangshan's dream was a makyo, going beyond promise and presenting the essential world itself. There, in the presence of the Buddhas, Yangshan confidently arose, struck the stand with a gavel, and said, "The truth of the Mhayana is beyond the Four Propositions and transcends the Hundred Negations. Listen, listen." The Four Propositions are the one, the many, being, and nonbeing. The Hundred Negations are made up with four negatives for each of the propositions -- not, not not, neither not nor not not, both not and not not -- making sixteen. Then each of these sixteen is found in the past, present, and future. That makes forty-eight. These have either appeared or have not yet appeared, so that makes ninety-six. Negate the original four and you get the Hundred Negations. The truth of the Mahayana has nothing whatever to do with such intellection. It is found, as the Budha pointed out in the beginning, beyond the realm of words. Yet even with the word "beyond" perhaps some kind of image appears. Yangshan ends with a cautionary, "Listen! Listen!" Pay attention! Who is hearing that sound? Don't neglect this point.
Cleary's Comment
Yangshan stated the timeless liberative teaching of Buddhism that universal absolute truth is beyond all categories of human thought. Then he closed by once again calling forth presence of mind.
Low's Comment
We do not wake up from a dream, but rather we wake up to the dream. Some, hearing that the world is a dream, assent to it intellectually but at the same time secretly think of it as a poetic way of talking. They believe the dream is real, and this is the deepest dream of all. The four propositions are the world is separate from me, the world is not separate from me, the world both is and is not separate from me, and the world neither is nor is not separate from me. The hundred negations are permutations of these four. In other words, is the Mahayana truth beyond the real world as we know it?
Sekida's Comment
Yangshan's dream was simply the realization of the Zen saying, "With holy ones, dreams and wakefulness make one and the same stream." And enlightened mind is always in playful samadhi, in which medicine and sickness cure each other, and ego is each moment nuetralized and melted away, leaving behind no vexations and frustrations to be discharged in dreams.
Senzaki's Comment
Yangshan's dream was his everyday life, and his daily task was nothing but his dream. He recognized himself seated in the third seat in the abode of Maitreya. Yangshan hit the podium with the gavel and spoke. He is not only telling what the Mhayana teaching is, but also showing it to everyone openly in broad daylight. Some say that the scriptures written in Pali are Theravada teachings and those in Sanskrit are Mahayana teachings. Our Yangshan would laugh at such statements. If you open your own third eye, you can read the whole of the Mahayana teachings in a glace at the blue sky, but if you close yourself off from your inner wisdom, both the scriptures written in Sanskrit and in Pali are nothing but papers smeared with nonsense.
Shibayama's Comment
As Wumen said, the key point of this story is: "Did Yangshan really give a talk or not? If he did, what kind of a talk was it?" Students must concentrate their efforts to open their Zen eye on this point. The rest, whether a dream or a reality, is an outer setting for the story and not important. If you say he did not give a talk, why then did he demand of the audience, "Listen carefully"? The essence of this koan lies here, and students must concentrate their efforts in training to see through this point. How is the Reality of the Dharma of Mahayana itself demonstrated? Did Yangshan thoroughly illustrate it in his striking the table with the gavel? When you can truly appreciate this talk, you will also understand why Wumen said that Yangshan deceived all the audience.
Yamada's Comment on Gateless Gate
In this case, Mu, zazen, standing up, sitting down, eating, drinking, Jack, Mary, and so forth appear on stage under the name of dream. We should know that not only are our delusions and the phenomenal world dreams, but also our enlightenment and the essential world itself are nothing but dreams. The fact of today will be dram tomorrow. Minute by minute, second by second, everything previous to right now is a dream. And, of course, now is a dream too. Yangshan stood up and struck the stand with the gavel, WHACK! "The Dharma of Mahayana is beyond all thought and expression!" More precisely he was saying, "WHACK!" Just this! What is the Dharma of Mahayana? Just WHACK! Just standing up and sitting down, laughing or crying.
Yamada's Comment on Book of Serenity
He says that the Dharma of the Mahayana transcends the four propositions and the hundred negations. The true fact is completely beyond all thinking. Then he strikes the gavel. “Clack!” That “clack!” itself is the Dharma of the Mahayana. To cry out “Katsu!” like Linji or stick up a finger like Jinhua Juzhi is the same thing. Whatever you bring up from the phenomenal world, that itself is the Dharma of the Mahayana. It is itself the essential world.
Padmasambhava's (8th-century Tibetan sage) Comment
When there is no distinction between dream and the waking state, then perfect meditation is realized.
Wick's Comment
Everything we see, think, and feel, in our self-grasping ignorance, is a dream. But if everything we experience is a dream, whet then is real? To say everything is real is delusion, to say nothing is real misses it. We exist -- but not in the way we think. Going beyond all words, how would you declare it?
Catherine Gammon's Verse
Yangshan's Declaration

Nothing can be said
Nothing can be not said
The old question:
How can I be your student?

In a jikido dream I dreamed I knew I was dreaming
and I was pleased with myself
and went on dreaming
until I woke suddenly in terror
at seeing daylight and being told
it was already after five

In the zendo it was night
the darkness clouded with the shadows of dreaming
and I was awake in time to light the lanterns

When the storm was breaking
I dreamed a message taken by Meiya—
a color xerox photo of the new No Abode
with Taj Mahal pillars and a pink-flamingo lawn chair
and telling her the dream a few hours later
I knew I was staying for guest season at Tassajara

Now, nothing I can say
and nothing I can not-say
in daylight leaking
in darkness cloudy with the shadows of dreams
and the old question—
how am I your student?

Now, done with knowing
nothing to say or not say
not even the old question

Seven days of sun
On the eighth day, rain
Hotetsu's Verse
There I was in Professor Maitreya's class,
Was it the second or the third seat?
Someone in a monk's cowl called on me
Did he bang the gavel first, or not?
Anyway, I took that gavel and banged it.
I had some point to make that seemed important.
Or I'd already made it.
I wanted the class to get it.
Something about propositions and negations and beyond.
Then I woke up and the dream


Sep 7 - 13

Summer, week 12
"Two important aspects of our practice and life [are] the intrinsic and the experiential. Intrinsically, we are enlightened, we are the Buddha. But experientially, we are not enlightened because we have yet to experience this fact." --Bernie Glassman
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Sep 9, 10:00 - 11:45am, in room 24 at Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY. Meredith will lead the dharma discussion.

Chants. See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule
For Wed Aug 23 - Wed Sep 20, the chants are:
  • Song of the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi, p. 18
  • Shinjin Gakudo, p. 42
Reading this week: Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle, Chapter 2, "Being Doing," pp. 16-25.

Case this week: Book of Serenity #68, "Jiashan Brandishes the Sword": CLICK HERE.

Events at Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Buddhism 101. Sat Sep 9, 9:00 to 17:00. Intro to Buddhism plus an afternoon retreat. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE. For carpooling from White Plains, email to Brain LaVoie: brianlavoie43 -at- gmail -dot- com
  • Practice and Study Retreat. Fri Nov 3, 19:00, to Sun Nov 5, 13:00. Information: HERE. Registration: HERE


Book of Serenity 68

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #68
Jiashan Brandishes the Sword

  • Jiashan Shanhui (Kassan Zenne, 805-81, 11th gen). Go to JIASHAN
  • Shishuang Qingzhu (Sekiso Keisho, 807-88, 11th gen). Go to SHISHUANG Q
  • an unnamed monk
Wansong's Preface
The emperor’s decree inside the land of his direct control;
The general’s command outside the walled regions.
Sometimes one gets power at the gate;
Sometimes one is sublime in the room.
Just tell me, who is this?
A monk asked Jiashan, “What if one sweeps away the dust and sees Buddha?”
Jiashan said, “You must brandish your sword. If you do not brandish your sword, the fisherman dwells in a nest of reeds [i.e., unable to catch a single fish].”
The monk mentioned this to Shishuang Qingzhu and asked him, “What if one sweeps away the dust and sees Buddha?”
Shishuang said, “He has no land [i.e., no country, no realm, to dwell in]. Where could one meet him?”
The monk reported this to Jiashan.
Jiashan ascended the rostrum and said, “As for the facilities at the gate [concrete teaching means and devices in Zen], the old monk [i.e., "I"] is superior to Shishuang, but for deep discourse expounding the true principle he is one hundred steps ahead of me.”
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
A sword's spirit drives out the bull.
The heavens are washing the soldiers.
   The star-brushing sword, the army-washing weather.
To achieve the quelling of a riot: Who is he?
   Settling disorder, deferring the merit, who else is it?
Once, there were battle clouds, the four seas were clear.
   One morning the haze of dust clears over the four seas:
With flowing robes, the emperor's governing is naturally effortless.
   Robes hanging down, the imperial rule is naturally effortless
A Background Story
Shishuang was at Guishan, where he served as the rice maker. Just as he was sifting rice, Guishan said, "Gifts from donors should not be thrown away."
Shishuang said, "I'm not throwing it away."
Guishan picked up a grain of rice off the floor and said, "you said you aren't throwing it away -- where did this come from?"
Shishuang had no reply.
Guishan said, "Don't take this one grain lightly -- hundred of thousands of grains come from this one grain."
Shishuang said, "Then were does this one grain come from?"
Guishan laughed and returned to his room. That evening he went up in the hall and said, "People, there's an insect in the rice!"
Another Background Story
After leaving Guishan, Shishuang studied with Daowu, and asked about enlightenment that meets the eyes. Daowu called to a novice to add water to the pitcher.
Wansong's Comment
In profound talk of the principle, Shishuang is better. In setting up method, Jiashan is ahead. Is there no one with two faces on one die?
Wick's Comment
Jiashan and Shishuang were asked the same question: When I get rid of all the confusion in my own mind and wisdom manifests, then what? Jiashan says essentially: "Cut that out. You're getting things all confused. Keep things in order, like Wansong's Preface says: emperor rules in the castle and the general commands in the field. What's the Buddha doing in your mind? Is that his seat?" One way to practice is cutting it off -- "hold your mind against incoming thoughts like a great iron wall." In the long run, letting it pass through is better than cutting it off. You can sit like a vast ocean letting everything in. The ocean accepts everything. If your energy channels are all open, delusive thoughts will pass through. To let them go, we have to illuminate our hidden beliefs that sustain our arrogance, anger, hatred, laziness, indifference, self-pity. Just let go of all your opinions, and the Buddha appears -- but Jiashan says, "Don't hold onto it."
Shishuang says, "Where would you meet the Buddha?" She has no name, no country, no gender, no occupation, no rank, no sword, no mother, no father, no lover. She doesn't even have a face. If you say all the dust has been swept, what about that new dust ball you're creating that you call Buddha? You can't depend on it.
As Jiashan then says, he has given the practical expedient (brandish the sword, cut through your image of Buddha), while Shishuang expounds the principle of emptiness, including the emptiness of Buddha ("He has no land.")
There are numerous paths to enter the way of Zen. Even Bodhidharma talked about entering by method or entering by principle. Either way, drop off attachment to your own thoughts, ideas, judgments, and opinions.
Margery Gibbons Farrar's Verse
Jiashan "Swinging the Sword"
Respecting our ancestors, respecting others,
For this case, Aitken-roshi’s cautions, for all the Whole Works.
In times of warlords, obeying Jiashan, swords remaining buried,
With Guishan, Shishuang, Shunryu, and Trudy, practicing every day
new with rice and insects, going out the gate, already it’s grass.
Hotetsu's Verse
No dust! Clear Buddha!
But the mind soon makes dustless clarity into "dustless clarity."
With Jiashan's sword, cut off those marks --
Or, with Shishuang's understanding, unhook them.
Fly, you fish. Swim, you birds.


Aug 31 - Sep 6

Summer, week 11
"In Zen there are two ways of describing reality. Basically, one says that reality is all One, that everything is Buddha. The other describes the manyness of reality, its multitude of diverse phenomena and differences. What both sutras say is that these two ways of perceiving reality are not just valid, but essentially the same." --Bernie Glassman
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Sep 2, 10:00 - 11:45am, in room 24 at Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY. Meredith is out of town on Sat Sep 2. Zen practice will be led by Terry Truta.

Chants. See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule
For Wed Aug 23 - Wed Sep 20, the chants are:
  • Song of the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi, p. 18
  • Shinjin Gakudo, p. 42
Reading this week: Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle, "Introduction" (ix-xiii) and "No Yellow Brick Road" (5-15).

Case this week (well, fortnight): Book of Serenity #35, "Luopu's Obeisance": CLICK HERE.

Buddhism 101 Offered. Spend a day at our Boundless Way Temple in Worcester. On Sat Sep 9, from 9:00 to 17:00, they are offering "Buddhism 101" plus an afternoon retreat at the BoWZ Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA 01602. Schedule for the day:
9:00 - 12:00 Workshop
12 - 12:30 Lunch (bring your own)
12:30 - 13:15 Caretaking practice
13:30 - 17:00 Silent Retreat
For more details: http://tiny.cc/Buddhism101Fall17
To register: https://tinyurl.com/BoWTBuddhism101
For carpooling from White Plains, email to Brain LaVoie: brianlavoie43 -at- gmail -dot- com

Aug 23-30

Summer, week 10
"Everything is one with everything, whether we think so or not. That is our true self." --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed Aug 23 - Wed Sep 20 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Song of the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi, p. 18
  • Shinjin Gakudo, p. 42
Next Saturday Zen Service: Aug 26, 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. 168-172 (8.2) and pp. xiii-xxxvi (Prefaces by Warner, Okumura, Wright, Uchiyama)

This is our last week with Uchiyama. On Sep 2, we start on Bernie Glassman, Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen.

This week's case: Book of Serenity #35, "Luopu's Obeisance": CLICK HERE.


Book of Serenity 35

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #35
Luopu's Obeisance

  • Jiashan Shanhui (Kassan Zenne, 805-81, 11th gen). Go to JIASHAN
  • Luopu Yuanan (Rakuho Genan, 834-98, 12th gen). Go to LUOPU
Wansong's Preface
Speedy action and swift speech shatter the assault of non-Buddhists as well as of heavenly devils.
A master of surpassing caliber, transcending even the principle of his own school, condescends to help a student of excellent aspiration and of the sharpest wisdom.
What if you meet a fellow who never turns his head even if he gets hit with a stick?
Luopu came to Jiashan and without bowing stood facing him.
Jiashan said, "A chicken dwells in the phoenix nest. It's not of the same class. Go away."
Luopu said, "I have come from far away, hearing much about you. Please, Master, I beg you to guide me."
Jiashan said, "Before my eyes there is no you, and here there is no old monk."
Luopu shouted, "Kaatz!"
Jiashan said, "Stop it, stop it. Don't be so careless and hasty. Clouds and the moon are the same; valleys and mountains are different from each other. It is not difficult to cut off the tongues of the people under heaven. But how can you make a tongueless person speak?"
Luopu said nothing.
Jiashan hit him.
With this, Luopu started to obey Jiashan.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Head wagging, tail swishing, the red-finned carp
   Waggin his head, shaking his tail, the red-tailed fish;
could utterly and independently change its form.
   Independent through and through, he knows how to turn around.
Though he has had technique to cut off tongue tips,
   Even if he has the art to cut off tongues
he was subtly led by the nose to realize mind.
   Pulling his nose around subtly conveyed the spirit.
Illuminating night outside the blinds, the moon appears as if at noon.
   Outside the screen of luminous jewels, wind and moon are like day;
Before the cliff of a withered tree, wildflowers are always in spring.
   In front of the cliff of dead trees, flowers and plants are always in spring.
Tongueless man, tongueless man -- an intimate phrase fully reveals the right decree.
   Tongueless man, tongueless man,
   The true order's completely upheld in one knowing phrase
Walking solitary in one's fiefdom, all is clear. May all under heaven be happy and joyful.
   Walking alone in the kingdom, clear and comprehending
   Let everyone in the land be happy and joyful
Some Backstory
Luopu had been studying with Linji. At length, he left Linji, and went to Mt. Jiashan where he built a hut for himself near Jiashan's monastery. When Jiashan learned of Luopu's presence, Jiashan wrote Luopu a letter and gave it to an attendant to deliver. When the attendant presented the letter to Luopu, he took it and, without reading it, extended his hand to the monk as if asking for something else. When the monk didn't say anything, Luopu hit him and told to go back to his master. When the monk told Jiashan about this, Jiashan said, "If he opens the letter, he'll be here in three days If he doesn't open the leter, nobody can save him." Three days later, Luopu appeared -- and that's where the case begins.
Related Story
Once, Zen master Tianyi Yihuai (993-1064) said to a monk, “A handless man can use his fist. A tongueless man can speak. If suddenly a handless man strikes a tongueless man, what does the tongueless man say?”
Wick's Comment
This koan is about the confusion of awakening, for awakening has confused Luopu. Jiashan says to him, "It's not that you can't cut everything off, but how can you give life? As a Zen student, you can summon peace and tranquility on your cushion, but how are you going to deal with the myriad difficulties that arise in life, the things that you've suppressed in your zazen? Sure you can kill your pain by cutting it all off with your zazen, but how are you going to use that pain to give life to your life, a life that's free and unfettered. If you acknowledge the parts of yourself that you don't like, it opens you up. Every time we expose something negative within ourselves, we'll contribute not only to unifying ourselves but also to the universal process of wholeness -- with ourselves and all sentient beings, and all insentient beings as well.
Luminous Owl's Verse
Luopu's Acquiescence
Once the tongue is cut off
the sun and rain must be used to speak,
the mountains and rivers extending a single hand.
But who can express herself
by spring’s silently pushing forth ten-thousand sprouts
for the one with ears to hear?
Hotetsu's Verse
"It's no use walking anywhere unless our walking is our preaching." (St. Francis)
St. Francis never said,
"Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words."
At least, he never said it using words.
Perhaps he walked it, tongueless.
Perhaps, when he spoke, he spoke the same way.


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.