Jun 21 - 27.

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

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

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


Jun 14 - 20. BOS #13

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

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

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

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


Jun 7 - 13. BCR #32

Spring, Week 12
It is not that the cessation of all thought is satori and good, and the arising of thoughts and the tendency to chase after them is delusion and bad. Just sitting, transcending good or evil, satori or delusion, is the zazen that transcends the sage and the ordinary person. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 24 - Tue Jun 20 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 16
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 16
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jun 10, 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. 68-74. (4.3 The Scenery of Life)

This week's case: Elder Ding Stands Still, Blue Cliff Record #32

Linji Yixuan (812?-867, 11th gen) was a disciple of Huangbo (d. 850, 10th gen), disciple of Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen. Elder Ding's dates are unknown. He was one of Linji's spiritual heirs.
Elder Ding asked Linji, "What is the essence of Buddhism?"
Linji, getting up from his seat, seized Ding, slapped him, and pushed him away.
Ding stood still.
A monk standing by said, "Elder Ding, why don't you bow?"
As he bowed, Ding suddenly became enlightened.
Yuanwu's Preface
Once the delusive way of thinking is cut off, a thousand eyes are suddenly opened. One word blocking the stream of thought, and all nen-actions [myriad impulses] are controlled. Is there anyone who would undergo the experience of dying the same death and living the same life as the Buddha? Truth is manifest everywhere. If you do not see it, this case is an ancient example.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Inheriting the spirit of Huangbo,
   Huangbo's whole potential follows in his footsteps;
How could he be gentle and quiet?
   Brought forth, why should it remain at ease?
Not difficult for Kyorei
To lift his hands and split Mount Kasan,
   The great spirit lifted its hand without much ado
Letting the Yellow River through.
   Splitting Flower Mountains's ten million layers.
Hakuin's Comment
Linji grabbed Ding. Cut through with a single statement, and myriad impulses cease; it is necessary to break up everything, even satori, so Linji grabbed him with his left hand and slapped him with his right hand.
Ding stood there, as if nothing had happened. Splendid! This state manifested because of the power of stability deriving from long-term practice of meditation. This is where the waves of the ocean of learning evaporate overnight -- let him stand there till tomorrow.
The monk standing by was indeed perceptive, one of Linji's associates. As Ding bowed, he simply revived; there is no odor of satori here.
Tenkei's Comment
Linji slapped Ding. What "great meaning of Buddha's teaching" would you talk about here?
Ding stood there, a complete blank, unaffected. A bystander suggested that he bow and be done, to close the matter. It's not that he had not had a vision of enlightenment, it's just that his awkwardness was spoiling the party.
Sekida's Comment
What is the essence of Buddhism? Every time this question is raised it seems fresh and new. That is why it is so often asked, and why there are so many answers to it.
Linji seized, slapped, and pushed him away. This can happen only when a close relationship exists between teacher and disciple. Although the disciple is not aware of his own condition, the teacher perceives it as clearly as if he were looking at an aerial photograph and could point out on it the precise mountain that the student is struggling up. He can do this because he has himself been through that experience.
Ding stood still. His condition at this moment is aptly described as, "The bottom of his pail had fallen out." Imagine you were carrying water in a pail and its bottom suddenly fell out. This is a subtle moment. If chance favors you, openness and emptiness will suddenly appear within you. All the complications that beset you will suddenly be gone, and you will truly understand the emptiness of which you have heard so much but hitherto could not grasp.
A monk said, why don't you bow? A chance event or remark, such as that unwittingly provided by the monk in this episode, may count for much in the kensho experience, just as it does when one has a sudden idea while trying to solve an intellectual problem.
Ding became enlightened. Kensho means seeing into one's own true nature. When this occurs, there is first an intuitive looking into the object (the action of the first nen), and then comes reflection on it by the second and third nen. The moment Ding became aware of the necessity of blowing, he was reminded of himself, and this reflection upon himself brought about this kensho experience. The first nen's intuitive action of looking into the object is an action of pure ego. Reflecting upon this pure ego is seeing into one's own true nature, and the kensho experience is brought about. However, we are every moment reflecting upon ourselves (and thus are conscious of ourselves), but the kensho experience does not normally occur because the third nen (which carries out the reflecting, integrating, and synthesizing operations of the mind, and has come to assume the position of representing our self-consciousness itself), is permeated through and through with a utilitarian way of thinking. We call this state of affairs the deluded, habitual way of consciousness. It is this which blocks the intuitive, pure cognition of the first nen.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
The whole force of Huangbo's character was handed down to his successor, Linji who, being the tough sort of person that he was, could not help being rough and impatient in his methods. So he responded to Ding's question in a characteristic way. He had no diffficulty whatsoever in dealing with his questioner. He was like that legendary Kyorei (a legendary figure, a sort of Chinese Hercules who by one stroke of his hand cleft the mountain ranges of Ka which were hidering the flow of the Yellow River to the ocean), who just lifted up his hand and without and difficulty piled up the Mountains of Ka into their ten thousand ranges.
Yamada's Comment
"What is the great meaning of Buddhism?" Ding means "the ultimate reality" or "the fundamental fact" of the Buddhist dharma. The "great meaning of Buddhism" is the fundamental fact of Buddhist dharma. We could also say "truth," but this gives the impression of something abstract and logical, which is not entirely appropriate. Ding is asking, "What is the ultimate fact of Buddhism?" This is precisely what everyone wants to know.
Linji grabbed, slapped, and pushed him away. This is typical of Linji. What a rough treatment!
Ding just stood there, at a complete loss what to do. This is a nice state of mind. All of his delusive thoughts have disappeared. Ordinarily, a person in such a situation would grow angry, "Is that what an honorable master should do to a student?" Why, there might even be a brawl! But Ding simply stood there stupefied. This is the moment of the great death, with all delusive thoughts totally exhausted. But, if you stop here, nothing would happen. Only a bothersome period would follow. To be fixed in this vertical position is a fatal error; you need another leap
forward. Then all things open up – it's the "great resurrection."
A monk standing nearby suggested that Ding bow. I'm not sure whether this monk had an enlightened eye or not. Hearing this, Ding started to bow and, at this very instant, all things collapsed. It was the "great resurrection." This last "one stroke" can be occasioned by many things. In our present Case, it was the phrase, "Why don't you bow in thanksgiving?" This was "the one word that cuts though the current," by which all delusive thoughts are chopped off.
Rothenberg's Verse
The Elder Stands Still
Stand still until the time is right --
so many people are lost when they move.

There's a man standing by who sees through it all.
He has completely attained another one's power.
He uses effort to make up for lack of skill.
He is always passing in and out through your senses.
He face turns yellow and green.
What can be done about the fact that there is such a man?
Strike once with a whisk, split the blossoming mountain to bits.
The whole world appears right now.
Its layers have fallen apart.

His doubt itself is a mountainous heap,
the pieces of his life discarded.
When he steps, the snowpack has started to melt,
when the sun is above no shadows are cast.

At night the fragile ocean sparkles with clumps of light:
Worry for the tangible world.
Hotetsu's Verse
So the essence of Buddhism is: you get slapped and shoved.
Also: Bowing in gratitude.
In this gentle roughness
Gnawing hunger is itself the food.


May 31 - Jun 6. GG #28

Spring, Week 11
It seems to me that we spend all our lives playing with toys. It begins as soon as we are born....This is all just playing with toys! Right up to our death, we exchange one toy for another, and we end our lives having done nothing but play with toys. Doing zazen means to actualize the reality of life. Zazen is the self which is only the self of the universe, without any playing with toys. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 24 - Tue Jun 20 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 16
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 16
Next Saturday Zen Service: Jun 3, 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. 61-68. (4.1 Sesshins Without Toys, and 4.2 Before Time and "I" Effort)

This week's case: Longtan's Name Echoed Long, Gateless Gate #28

Longtan Chongxin (b. 765?, 10th gen) was a disciple of Tianhuang Daowu (748-807, 9th gen), disciple of Shitou (700-90, 8th gen). Deshan Xuanjian (782-864, 11th gen) was Longtan's disciple. Deshan had been a renowned scholar of the the Diamond Sutra before this meeting with Longtan. Later, Deshan's disciples would include Xuefeng (822-908, 12th gen) and Yantou (828-87, 12th gen).
One day Deshan kept asking Longtan for instruction till nightfall.
Longtan finally said, "The night is late. Why don't you go to bed."
Deshan thanked him, made his bows, raised the door curtain and left.
Seeing how dark the night was, he turned back and said, "It's pitch black outside."
Longtan lit a lantern and handed it to Deshan.
Just as Deshan reached for it, Longtan blew it out.
At that Deshan came to sudden realization and made a deep bow.
Longtan asked, "What have you realized?"
Deshan replied, "From now on, I will not doubt the words of the old master who is renowned everywhere under the sun."
The following day Longtan ascended the rostrum and declared, "There is a man among you whose fangs are like trees of swords and whose mouth is like a bowl of blood. Strike him and he won't turn his head. Someday he will settle on the top of an isolated peak and establish my Way there."
Deshan brought his sutra commentaries and notes to the front of the hall, held up a torch and said, "Even if you have exhausted abstruse doctrine, it is like placing a hair in vast space. Even if you have learned the vital points of all the truths in the world, it is like a drop of
water thrown into a big ravine."
He then burned all his commentaries and notes. After making his bows, he left.
Wumen's Comment
Before Deshan had crossed the border, his mind was full of resentment and his mouth speechless with anger. He wanted to go the way south, intending to refute the doctrine of the special transmission outside the sutras. When he got to the road to the province of Rei, he asked an old woman if he could buy refreshment from her.
The old woman said, "Your Reverence, what are all those books you are carrying in the cart?"
Deshan said, "Those are commentaries on the Diamond Sutra."
The old woman, "In that sutra, it says the past mind can't be caught; the present mind can't be caught; the future mind can't be caught. Your Reverence, with which mind are you going to take refreshment?"
This one question tightly shuts Deshan's mouth, but hearing the old woman's words, he still did not completely die away. He asked her, "Is there a Zen master near here?"
She replied, "Master Longtan lives a couple miles away."
After Deshan arrived at Longtan's, he was entirely defeated. It must be said that his former and latter words are not consistent. It seems that Longtan, forgetting his own unsightliness, took too much pity on Deshan. Seeing a live charcoal in Deshan, he immediately threw muddy water over his head to extinguish it. Looking at the whole affair coolly, I think it is just a farce.
Wumen's Verse
Seeing the face is better than hearing the name;
Hearing the name is better than seeing the face.
Even though he saved his nose,
Alas, he lost his eyes!
Baiyun's Verse
When light and dark overcome each other, that is not worth talking about;
As long as there is any interpretation, this is not yet intimacy.
When the paper torch went out, the eyes emerged.
Breaking through the empire of China, finding no one at all.
Baoning's Verse
All at once a cascade comes down before the cliff;
In the middle of the night, the sun is bright in the palm of his hand.
Opening wide his mouth, he expresses the energy of spirit;
With whom will he travel freely throughout the world?
Dahong's Verse
When light and dark form each other, things are vague and remote;
Who would have known the back of his head would gush with spiritual light?
All in all he drew the line, cutting off the path of a thousand distinctions;
South, North, East, West, he arrives at his native village.
Cleary's Comment
Overall, the story illustrates a sudden shift from ratiocinative conceptual consciousness to immediate all-at-once cosmic consciousness. The "darkness outside" represents unknown dimensions of reality beyond the confines of ordinary perception and thought. The Zen teacher hands the hesitant seeker a paper torch, which represents the ordinary exercise of the intellect, thus demonstrating the incommensurability of the tiny light of the torch with the immense vastness of the dark. This simple action further shows how the impression of illumination given off by the torch depends on keeping the eyes trained on the immediate vicinity of the torch itself, just as reason only works within its own self-circumscribed parameters.
Low's Comment
What happens when the light goes out? How dark it would be. In such darkness what could be seen? The alchemists say, "Our sun is a black sun."
Sekida's Comment
Longtan acted intuitively, not conceptually, in blowing out the candle. Sensation (the first nen) plays an important role in realization, and Longtan intuitively knew this. The sudden change from light to darkness had a great effect on Deshan. But if the action had been done intentionally, all would have been spoiled.
Senzaki's Comment
Can't you see the dull face of Deshan, receiving a lighted candle that illuminated only a few feet around him? Then Longtan blew it out! The hungry dog suddenly turned into a lion. Johann Tauler, the fourteenth-century mystic who was a disciple of Meister Eckhart, had an experience like Deshan's. He wandered in the world of wilderness and passed through absolute darkness and the bottomless abyss. Then suddenly he entered into the realm of inner truth and declared, "God is Nothingness." Zen students: do not tarry in the realm of nothingness. Pass through the darkness and see that "God is Everything." Until that moment, candles and torches are blown out in vain.
Shibayama's Comment
As it was dark outside, Deshan turned around and said, "It is pitch dark outside." Not only outside but iwthin, his mind too must have been like a dark abyss. Psychologically, he was in a touch-and-go situation. Longtan quietly lit the candle and handed it to him. Just at themomen when Deshan was about to take it, he blew it out with one breath. What superb working! What excellent instruction! In an instant the whole universe was in sher darkness again, and at this moment, all of a sudden Deshan's relativistic self was dispersed, like a barrel unhooped. This is the great inner conversion which has been described in Zen: "The world has collapsed and the iron mountain has crumbled!"
Yamada's Comment
How incompentent intellectual understanding can be! Why did Deshan come to realization so soon after he met the master? He was ready for it. Previous to that moment, knowingly or unknowingly, Deshan's practice had been accumulating and had matured sufficiently so that the hard ball of doubt broke with one probe from the master. When Longtan blew out the candle, he was actually blowing out the darkness! Deshan deeply realized Longtan's view that all living beings are Buddha from the beginning.
Hotetsu's Verse
He shone with the light of his knowledge.
It was a beautiful, wonderful thing, really.
Also beautiful is how much farther it is possible to see
In the dark.


May 24 - 30. BOS #83

Spring, Week 10
Since desires and cravings are actually a manifestation ofthe life force, there is nor reason to hate them and try to extinguish them. And yet, if we become dragged around by them and chase after them, then our life becomes fogged over. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 24 - Tue Jun 20 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 16
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 16
Next Saturday Zen Service: May 27, 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. 52-60. (3.3 Waking Up to Life)

This week's case: Daowu's Nursing the Ill, Book of Serenity #83

Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835, 10th gen) was a disciple of Yaoshan (751-834, 9th gen), disciple of Shitou (700-90, 8th gen). Before studying with Yaoshan, Daowu had studied under Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Guishan Lingyou (771-853, 10th gen) was also a disciple of Baizhang.
Guishan asked Daowu, "Where have you come from?"
Daowu said, "I come from nuring the ill."
Guishan said, "How many people are ill?"
Daowu said, "There are some ill, and some not ill."
Guishan said, "The one who is not ill -- isn't that you, dear Zhi?" ["Zhi" = short for "Yuanzhi," Daowu's other name]
Daowu said, "Ill or not ill -- it has nothing to do with 'that' matter. Say it quickly! Say it quickly!"
Guishan said, "Even if I could say it, it would have no connection with that matter."
Wansong's Preface
The whole body is ill, Vimalakirti is hard to cure. This grass is the medicine and Manjushri uses it well. Isn't it wonderful to encounter and grasp a man facing the ultimate, and obtain this place of peaceful ease?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Marvelous medicines never touched his lips.
   When has the wonderful medicine ever passed his mouth?
A divine doctor never had to take his pulse.
   Even the miraculous physician can't hold his wrist.
Seeming to exist, he's not nothing
   As though existent, he is basically not nonexistent
Being utterly empty, he's not something.
   Utterly empty, he is basically not existent
Unextinguished, he's born; undestroyed, he lives eternally.
   Not perishing, yet born, Alive without dying:
He even goes utterly before the ancient Buddhas and walks alone among the empty kalpas.
   Completely transcending before prehistoric buddhas, walking alone after the empty aeon.
Being quiet -- heaven covers, earth supports.
   Subsisting peacefully -- sky covers, earth supports;
Being active -- the crow flies, the rabbit runs.
   Moving on -- the sun flies, the moon runs.
Wansong's Comment
I say, it's all tending the sick -- it's not as good as Daowu seeing through the heart, liver, and guts. Guishan was a master of appropriate technique, sizing up the audience to make his pronouncement, he said, "Even if I could say anything, it would have no relaiton." Only Hongzhi says, "Where there is no relation -- that is just right to say."
Shishin Wick's Comment
There are those who are sick while being healthy, and those who are healthy while being sick. In our own minds, we create all kinds of distress and discomfort for ourselves because of our self-grasping ignorance. Guishan asks, "Isn't it you who's not sick?" Not sick yet sick. What kind of state is that? But, Guishan is challenging him too, implying, "Aren't you stuck on one side?" Aren't you like the fellow who carries a board over one shoulder and can only see on side of the street because the board is obscuring the view? Daowu retorts, "Don't go calling me a board-carrying fellow. Sickness and nonsickness have nothing to do with it." These categories are useful, but they are fabrications. Utimately, whatever you say about it doesn't reach it. But since you have to say something, tell me: What would you say?
Yamada's Comment
Although it might seem a friendly chat, each question is a severe examination. What is this talk about "sickness" after all? What is "that matter?" It is the essential world. Your essential nature has no form: it has nothing to do with sickness or no sickness.
Roberta Werdinger's Verse
Daowu Tends the Sick
Song of the Great Physician
In the mess and fuss of the sickroom a pearl rolls under the bed.
When the parade stops the brassy sound pours out of aching knees.
Myriad hands and arms function, though I’ve burned the patient’s chart.
In the humming center of the existent, emptiness begs for a backrub.
Over the lush thrum of the non-existent, a chiropractor cracks a back.
Don’t say life & death are two when living nurses tend dead bodies;
Don’t make slush out of the grave distinctions carved into headstones.
It takes a cold pond to skate this blade: I float over nothing and serenely bite frost.
Hotetsu's Verse
The stars at night: sick or healthy?
The room where Daowu tends a patient: a sick or healthy room?
Perceiving the sickness of health, the health of sickness,
Is a single step down an infinite road --
A sick or healthy step?


May 17 - 23. BOS #21

Spring, Week 9
Life functions and the power of buddha is actualized, precisely at the point where we become completely lost. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 3 - Tue May 9 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Days Like Lightening, p. 46
  • Heart Sutra, p. 12
Next Saturday Zen Service: May 20, 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. 41-52. (3.1 How to Do Zazen, and 3.2 Letting Go of Thoughts)

This week's case: Yunyan Sweeps that Ground, Book of Serenity #21.

Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835, 10th gen) and Yunyan Tansheng (780-841, 10th gen) were "dharma brothers" -- both were disciples of Yaoshan (751-834), who was a disciple of Shitou (700-90). Before going to Yaoshan, Daowu and Yunyan had studied and practiced together under Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen). Yunyan's disciple would be Dongshan Liangje (807-69, 11th gen), the founder of the Caodong (Soto) school; thus, Yunyan would become the grandfather of Caodong (Soto) Zen.
Xuansha Shibei (835-908, 13th gen) and Yunmen Wenyan (864-949, 13th gen) were also dharma brothers, disciples of Xuefeng (822-908). Some 80 or so years after the exchange between Yunyan and Daowu, Xuansha and Yunmen share their comments on it.
When Yunyan was sweeping the ground, Daowu said, "You are having a hard time!"
Yunyan said, "You should know there is one who doesn't have a hard time."
Daowu said, "If that's true, you mean there is a second moon?"
Yunyan held up his broom and said, "What number of moon is this?"
Daowu was silent.
Xuansha said, "That is precisely the second moon."
Yunmen said, "the butler greets the maid politely."
Wansong's Preface
Although you are freed of delusion and enlightenment, and have exhausted holiness and ordinariness, a particular capability is still needed to establish holiness and ordinariness, a particular capability is still needed to establish who is host and guest and distinguish between noble and base. It is not that there is no measuring of character or assigning of work. How do you understand the kndred spirit of the same branch?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Using what's at hand he finished up the yard.
   Borrowing temporarily, Yunyan comprehends the gateway;
He could use it and know when to desist.
   Realizing the function as is appropriate, Daowu then rests.
Before Elephant Bone Crag, a hand fiddles with a snake.
   The snake handler on Elephant-Bone Crag --
What you did as a youngster, now aren't you ashamed?
   The doings of childhood seem shameful when you're old.
Other Ancients Comment
In addition to to Xuansha and Yunmen, other disciples of Xuefeng, and of Xuefeng's dharma brother, Yantou, have also commented, though their comment was not included in the koan:
Changqing Huileng (854-932): "What if he had the broom turned on him and shaken in his face?"
Luoshan Daoxian (n.d.): "Ah, these two old guys don't know good from bad! This fellow Yunyan, bound hand and foot -- how long has he been dead?"
Baofu Congzhan (d. 928): "Yunyan is a lot like someone pushing a cart through mud, working hard every step of the way."
Shishin Wick's Comment
When we practice we are continually sweeping the ground of our mind. We sweep it clean, and then the dust settles again, and then we sweep again. Sometimes we're like kids. You tell you kid, "Clean your room." He'll say, "What for? It's just going to get dirty again!" Keep sweeping your mind clean. Since all is emptiness, who is the one who's hard at it? "You should know there's one who isn't hard at it." It's not a question of hard or easy. It's just a question of totally putting yourself into it, so that the self completely disappears, and all there is, is "hard at it." When there's no place to rest, you will now there's one who isn't hard at it. Daowu said,
"So, is there a second moon?" Who are you -- the one hard at it or the one not hard at it? If you say one, then there's two. So, is there a second moon? The one who's hard at it and the one who isn't hard at it: Are they the same or are they different? To see the one who's not hard at it, we have to penetrate through the barriers set up by the Zen teachers. To be the puppet master, you have to see that one who's not hard at it.
But we don't see it because we are fascinated and attached to two moons: good and bad,; man and woman; the one hard at it and the one not hard at it.
When we look into our own mind there's all kinds of places where we stick, like Velcro. There's even places we stick that we don't see.
Don't think that Daowu didn't know what to say when he desisted. That was the way he answered Yunyan. It's just a second moon as soon as he says something.
The one who isn't hard at it, that's the same as not-knowing. If you come from that place, if you tap into that place, each one of us is not-knowing. Each one of us is the one who isn't hard at it. But the one who's hard at it is obscuring that view. We work so hard trying to be something else other than just being who we are. If you're nervous, just be nervous. There is no second moon in that.
Tova's Verse
Yunyan Sweeps the Ground
The One
is not busy.
Daido's Comment
Yaoshan teaches his cubs well. In playing together, they learn to clarify the business of the mountain lion. Yunyan's "What is not working hard?" is a phrase that contains the merging of the sacred and the profane. Can you see it? Daowu is not impressed, so he presses further to see if Yunyan will try to set up a reality body apart from the physical body. Yunyan responds to the imperative without falling into intellectual explanations. With a single stroke of the broom, he sweeps up heaven and earth. But say, has Daowu exposed Yunyan, or is it Yunyan who was exposed Daowu?
Daido's Verse
Working hard or not working hard --
this is not a matter of yin and yang.
How could the first moon be anything other
than the second moon?
Hotetsu's Verse
Working hard is taking it easy.
Taking it easy is working hard.
The moon, for instance: nothing works harder --
Nothing's more at ease.
The river, for instance.
The flower beside the path.


May 10 - 16. BCR #89, BOS #54

Spring, Week 8
Self is what is there before you cook it up with thought. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 3 - Tue May 9 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
  • Fukenzazengi 1, p. 36
  • The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 28
Next Saturday Zen Service: May 13, 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. 27-39.

This week's case: Yunyan's 'The Whole Body is Hand and Eye,'Blue Cliff Record #89; Book of Serenity #54.

Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835, 10th gen) was a disciple of Yaoshan (751-834), who was a disciple of Shitou (700-90). Yunyan Tansheng (780-841, 10th gen), was also a disciple of Yaoshan and thus a "dharma brother" of Daowu. Yunyan's disciple would be Dongshan Liangje (807-69, 11th gen), the founder of the Caodong (Soto) school; thus, Yunyan would become the grandfather of Caodong (Soto) Zen.
Yunyan asked Daowu, "What use does the great Boddhisattva of Mercy make of all those hands and eyes?"
Daowu said, "It is like a man straightening his pillow with his outstretched hand in the middle of the night."
Yunyan said, "I have understood."
Daowu said, "How do you understand?"
Yunyan said, "The whole body is hand and eye."
Daowu said, "You have had your say, but you have given only eight-tenths of the truth."
Yunyan sai, "How would you put it?"
Daowu said, "The entire body is hand and eye."

Yuanwu's Preface
When the entire body is the eye, while seeing you do not see; when the entire body is the ear, while hearing you do not hear; when the ntire body is the mouth, while speaking you do not speak; when the entire body is the mind, while thinking you do not think. Putting aside the entire body, if there are no eyes, how do you see? If there are no ears, how do you hear? If there is no mouth, how do you speak? If there is no mind, how do you think? If you are familiar with this point, you are in the company of the ancient Buddhas. However, putting aside being in the company of the Buddhas, with whom should you study Zen?
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
To say "the whole" is all right;
"The entire" is also well said.
   All over the body, right? Throughout the body, right?
If you take it conceptually,
You are a million miles away.
   Bringing it up is still a hundred thousand miles away.
When the giant roc spreads its wings,
The clouds of six directions vanish.
   Spreading its wings, the roc soars over the clouds of the six compounds,
Its wingbeats lash the seas
Of the four realms.
   Propelling the wind to churn the waters of the four oceans.
This is raising a speck of dust:
Much bleating but little wool!
   What speck of dust suddenly arises? What wisp of hair hasn't stopped?
Don't you see!
   Do you not see --
The net of jewels reflect each other!
   The pearls of the net drape a pattern, reflections multiplied in each other.
Where does the eye of the staff come from?
   Where do the hands and eyes on the staff come from?
I cry, "Tut! Tut!"
Hakuin's Comment
When you scoop up water, the moon is in your hands. It's like groping for a pillow while dreaming at night. Since the whole body all throughout is hands and eyes, Daowu's answer was lax.
Tenkei's Comment
Daowu's statement, "You've said quite a bit, but you've only expressed eighty percent," is the sinew and bone of this koan. It is the eye of a Zen teaching master switching a state of potential, a strategy for revival, turning freely.
Sekida's Comment
The great Bodhisattva of Mercy is Kannon (Avalokitesvara), who has a thousand hands and eyes. He (sometimes she) has empathy with all sentient creatures, looking into them individually and using a thousand different methods to save them.
It's like a man straightening his pillow. He has no thought but to arrange the pillow. He acts with his entire body and soul.
The whole body, the entire body: There can be no difference between these. But there can be a great difference in your degree of attainment and understanding.
Yamada's Comment
The entire universe is an eye, in which case there is neither seeing nor being seen; there is no one who sees and nothing which is seen since they are completely one. The entire universe is an ear since it is totally one. Thus, there is no sound which is heard and no one who hears since hearer and heard are completely one. Since there is essentially no mind there is no thinking. Although we spend our entire day thinking about one thing or another there is actually not a single thought. Both “whole body” and “throughout the body” are on the mark. Nevertheless, if you just bring them forth as concepts, if there is the slightest intellection mixed in, they are far indeed from the truth.
Rothenberg's Verse
Tossing and Turning
If you were just an eye, you still couldn't see it.
If you were just an ear, you still couldn't hear it.
If you were just a mouth, you could not speak it.
If you were just a mind, you would not perceive it.
Now with no eyes, how would you see?
With no ears, how would you hear?
With no mouth, how could you speak?
With no mind, how can you think?
Clutching a pillow in the middle of night
All over the body are hands and eyes
all through the body are hands and eyes.

Wansong's Preface
The eight compass points bright and clear. The ten directions unobstructed. Everywhere, bright light shakes the earth. All the time there is marvelous functioning and the supernatural. Tell me: How can this occur?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
One hole penetrates space. Eight directions are clear and bright.
   One hole, emptiness pervading;
   Crystal clear on all sides.
Without forms, without self, spring follows the rules.
   Formlessly, selflessly, spring enters the pipes:
Unstopped, unhindered, the moon traverses the sky.
   Unstopped, unhindered, the moon traverses the sky.
Clean, pure, jeweled eyes and virtuous arms:
   Pure jewel eyes, arms of virtues:
Where is the approval in "throughout the body" instead of "all over the body"?
   All over the body -- how does it compare to throughout the body being it?
Hands and eyes before you manifest complete functioning.
   The present hands and eyes reveal the whole works:
The great function is everywhere. How could there be any hindrance?
   The great function works in all ways -- what is taboo?
Wick's Comment
According to legend, as Avalokiteshvara looked down at the suffering of the world, her head literally burst from pain. Her spiritual father, Amitabha Buddha, put the pieces back together as nine new heads -- and her wish to help all beings caused the bodhisattva to grow a thousand arms, with an eye in the palm of each hand. With her manifold eyes, Kannon can perceive the suffering of all beings and with her thousand arms she can act to free them without limit.
Totally asleep at night, somehow your head slips off the pillow and you grope around, trying to find it, without thinking, without discrimination -- like the mother who unhesitatingly cuddles her crying child. You don't care if the pillow has a satin pillowcase or a coarse linen one; you embrace any and every pillow without discrimination. In the same way, Avalokiteshvara embraces every being without discrimination, with total freedom of activity. Not limited by ideas of enlightenment or delusion, self or other, just embrace that pillow.
Hands and eyes transcend the body. We use them to save all sentient beings. These hands and eyes are not bound by observation, behavior or words; they're not limited by ideas or images. For the bodhisattva, they function freely.
Charlie Pokorny's Verse
Yunyan's "Great Compassion"
Open the night eye, the all-gathering in eye
Of the yawning heart of this world -
Grope with the night hand, the transparent lotus hand
With all sentient beings already held on its palm.
Daido's Comment
If your whole body were an eye, you still wouldn't be able to see it. If your whole body were an ear, you still wouldn't be able to hear it. If your whole body were a mouth, you still wouldn't be able to speak of it. If your while body were mind, you still wouldn't be able to perceive it. Because of the activity of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion is her whole body and mind itself, it is not limited to any notions or ideas of self or other. Asking the question in the first place is a thousand miles from the truth. Answering only serves to compound the error. Don't you see? Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva has never understood compassion.
Daido's Verse
All over the body, throughout the body --
it just can't be rationalized.
Deaf, dumb, and blind, virtuous arms and penetrating eyes
have always been right here.
Hotetsu's Verse
Compassion, in the darkness, seeing nothing,
acts with unthinking naturalness.
Being awakened is like being asleep --
Nondiscriminating, responding spontaneously.
A patch of violets beside the path --
What could be more awake?
What more could Compassion do?


May 3 - 9. BCR #55

Spring, Week 7
Fundamentally, no matter what kind of circumstances we may have fallen into, we are always in the midst of enlightenment. To the extent that we live in the world of letting go of all our own puny ideas, we live in the middle of enlightenment. As soon as we open the hand of thought and let go of our own insignificant ideas, we begin to see that this is so. --Kosho Uchiyama
Chants for Wed May 3 - Tue May 9 (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: May 6, 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. 15-27 -- i.e. 1.4 "Practice Is for Life," 2.1 "Depending on Others Is Unstable."

This week's case: "Daowu's 'I Won't Say'," Blue Cliff Record #55.

Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835, 10th gen) was a disciple of Yaoshan (751-834), who was a disciple of Shitou (700-90). Jianyuan Zhongxing (b. ca. 800?) was a student of Daowu's and Shishuang Qingzhu (807-88) was Daowu's dharma heir. Taiyuan Fu (b. ca. 856? 13th gen) was a disciple of Xuefeng. The case deals with two episodes, about 35 years apart. The first happened about 835, when Daowu was about 66 years-old and Shishuang about 28. The second was probably about 868, 33 years after Daowu's death, when Shishuang was about 61.
One day Daowu, accompanied by his disciple Jianyuan went to visit a family in which a funeral was to take place, in order to express sympathy.
Jianyuan touched the coffin and said, "Tell me, please, is this life or is this death?"
Daowu said, "I don't say life; I don't say death."
Jianyuan said, "Why don't you tell me?"
Daowu said, "I won't say, I won't say."
On their way home, Jianyuan said, "Master, please say it to me right away. If you don't, I shall hit you."
Daowu said, "Strike me if you like, but I will never say."
Jianyuan struck Daowu.
Some time later Daowu passed away. Jianyuan came to Shishuang and told him the whole story.
Shishuang said, "I don't say life; I don't say death."
Jianyuan siad, "Why don't you tell me?"
Shishuang said, "I won't say, I won't say."
Upon these words, Jianyuan attained sudden realization.
One day Jianyuan, carrying a hoe, went up and down the lecture hall as if he were searching for something.
Shishuang said, "What are you doing?"
Jianyuan said, "I am seeking the sacred bones of the late master."
Shishuang said, "Giant billows far and wide; whitecaps swelling up to heaven. What sort of sacred bones of your late master are you searching for?"
["Heavens! Heavens!" --Xuedou]
Jianyuan said, "That was very good for me in order to gain power."
Taiyuan Fu said, "The sacred bones of the late master are still there."
Yuanwu's Preface
Absolute truth -- direct enlightenment; positive activity -- immediate understanding. Quick as sparks and lighting, he cuts through the complications. Sitting on the tiger's head and grasping its tail, he is still like a thousand-foot cliff. Be that as it may, is there any case for giving a clue for others' sake? See the case.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Hares and horses have horns,
Cows and goats have none.
   Rabbits and horses have horns; oxen and rams are hornless.
It is quite infinitesimal,
It piles up mountain-high.
   Nary a hair, nary a wisp; massive as giant mountains.
The golden relic exists,
It still exists now.
   The golden relics are still present now;
Foaming waves wash the sky.
Where can you put it? -- No, nowhere!
   With foaming waves flooding the skies, where can they be put?
   There's no place to put them;
The single sandal returned to India
And is lost forever.
   They've been lost, even on the way back west with one shoe.
Hakuin's Comment
Alive? Dead? Buddha spoke of not being born and not passing away; what about you?
Daowu won't say alive, won't say dead. He presents a pearl that lights the night, along with a tray and all. If it were up to me, I'd say, "Are you alive or dead?"
Why won't you say? The fool thought the teacher wouldn't say because he was keeping it a secret.
Tell me at once. What a bunch of hopeless cathedral-pigeon shit!
Shishuang also said, "I won't say." He is extremely kind. Gentlemen have the same manners everywhere. He presents a pearls that lights the night, tray and all.
Tenkei's Comment
Why not say? When you have seen what this is ultimately all about, it has no life to be considered alive and no death to be considered dead. What is this?
Sekida's Comment
From death there is no escape. It is the extinction of one's self. When one becomes truly aware of this, one can find no place to take refuge. Jianyuan was crying inwardly. He had seen death with his own eyes. He was hanging on Daowu, asking for help, like a frightened child clinging to its mother. Daowu's refusal to answer was cruel because he understood the matter too well. He know Jianyuan's heart-rending misery. He gave a direct answer. This problem of death cannot be solved by discussion, that is, by conceptual manipulation. Although it appears cruel, Jianyuan must be left to solve this problem for himself, with his own mind and body. In the end you have to solve it for yourself through your own zazen practice. Life and death repeat endlessly. Living and dying, we create the stream of being. Can it be called life or can it be called death? But this sort of discussion will not help you to meet the problem of death. Though an individual may be only the tiniest component on the stream of being, one's individuality constitutes a whole world for oneself. It needs to solve this question as a matter of desperate importance. At such a crisis one feels like using any means to force the other to answer. The urgency of the question drove Jianyuan to hit his teacher. This was such a great transgression that Daowu told Jianyuan to leave the temple for a while lest harm befall him, for if the other monks discovered what had happened they would take action against Jianyuan. Later, Shishuang, knowing his teachers method, repeated Daowu's words. But it was not imitation. Yuanwu comments here, "Very fresh."
Jianyuan then carries the hoe, intending thereby to express his understanding.
"Limitless expanse of might roaring waves; foaming waves wash the sky." This means that the dead teacher's spiritual remains pervade the entire universe.
"It is a way of acquiring strength." This is an idiomatic phrase meaning, "Thank you for your teaching."
"The deceased teacher's spiritual remains still exist." This is bringing the story to its ultimate conclusion.
Yamada's Comment
Yasutani Roshi sees Daowu as saying, "I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to." Why not? Because he is neither living nor dead. Both life and death are concepts which were subsequently created by human beings. All words are merely compromises. There is nothing to understand; the corpse is just lying there.
From the essential standpoint, there is a world which does not change, regardless of the unfolding of phenomena. Viewed in terms of that which lives from the beginningless past to the endless future, there is neither life nor death.
This "alive or dead" is the same as "being or not being." From the phenomenal standpoint it is there. But from another standpoint there is nothing at all. "Not a speck of cloud obstructing the view." These two aspects of "having" and "not having" must be clearly grasped, together with the fact that they are intrinsically the same thing. Daowu is saying, "I won't tell you. Or rather, I cannot tell you. Realize it for yourself."
When Jianyuan marches up and down in the hall with a hoe in his hand, staring intently from side to side, he is displaying his understanding of the essential fact. But his action also betrays a certain air of self-satisfaction.
Shishuang says, "On the billows of the great ocean, whitecaps swell to the sky," he is not simply evoking a seascape. This is just a simile for our everyday lives. On the great ocean of our essential nature the waves rise and fall continuously: standing up, sitting down, sleeping and rising, eating and drinking. Where are the bones of the late master to be found? Where are you going to look for the remains of our dead master if not in the sitting, standing, sleeping, rising, eating and drinking which are the waves on the great ocean of our essential nature? We could also add mountains, rivers, grasses and trees. In short, the entire phenomenal world. To speak plainly, this itself is the remains of the departed master. This is the reason why Taiyuan Fu says later, "The sacred bones of our later master still exist." There is not a single thing which is not the remains of the departed master. Yamamoto GempĂ´ Roshi, whenever anyone died, would say, "He was not born, neither did he ever die. He is gone nowhere, he is right here. Don't ask him, he will not answer." Even when the body passes away, nothing at all is missing.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Death is not necessarily death nor is life necessarily life. Daowu and Shishuang both pointed at the dead body and said: I will not say alive and I will not say dead. That is indeed so. The substance of the Universe, if looked at analytically, is smaller than the smallest conceivable line, but if looked at from the point of view of its size, it is like a great mountain-peak rising up in front of our very eyes. Jianyuan took that garden hoe into the Hall of Worship and went round searching for the relics of his old teacher. Now those relics, no doubt, exist but they are filling the True World, and are not to be found by looking for them in any specified place. The universalized self, like great white storm-waves breaking against the heavens, has no one place of abode.
Rothenberg's Verse
Condolence Call
If you're close to reality, you can turn things around.
Is there a way to draw an unbroken path?
You come to the door for a condolence call:
Tap the coffin and ask,
"Alive or dead? Tell me right now."
I won't say, I won't say.
"Then what are you doing?"
Looking for relics of the Master.
"Waves spread far, clouds flood the skies. What else do you want?"
Heavens! Heavens!
He buys the hat to fit your head.
He pours water down on you.
He comes close to take you.
In the heavens and on earth,
he's found life in death --
smooth sailing from here on.
Does everyone see them? They flash like lightning.
Whose worn out sandals are these?
Rabbits and horses with horns! How bizarre! Chop them off.
Oxen and rams without horns! How bizarre! Chop them off.
You may fool others, but what pattern is that?
White foam fills the skies, where can relics be hid?
They won't fit in your eyes or your ears.
Hardly a memory, barely a wisp --
Clouds like mountains, turn like peaks.
Daido's Comment
Grappling within the forest of brambles, Zen practitioners the world over probe the question of life and death. Before it is realized,
it is like a ten-mile-high wall or a bottomless gorge. After it is seen, it is realized that, from the beginning, the obstructions have always been nothing but the self.
Lost in the doulbe barrier of life and death, the monastic has to know. Because of intimacy, the old master won't say. From the time of the Buddha down to the present, this is how it has been. However, if you think this old koan is about the corpse being alive or dead, then you too have missed the old master's teaching.
There is no place to put this gigantic body. When the universe collapses, "it" is indestructible.
Daido's Verse
In arriving, not an atom is added --
thus life is called the unborn.
In departing, not a particle is lost,
thus death is called the unextinguished.
Hotetsu's Verse
Alive or dead? Form or emptiness?
Meaning or no meaning? The body,
beautiful and poignant, presents all that has passed.
For a while it moved; then it stopped.


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.