Blue Cliff Record 1, Book of Serenity 2

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #1
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #2
Emperor Wu Asks Bodhidharma

Emperor Wu of Liang asked Bodhidharma, "What is the deep meaning of the holy truth?"
Bodhidharma said, "Emptiness, no holiness."
"Who is standing before me?"
"No knowing."
The emperor did not grasp his meaning.
Thereupon Bodhidharma crossed the Yangtse river and went to the land of Wei [or, "to Shaolin"]
Book of Serenity continues: and faced a wall for nine years.
Blue Cliff Record continues: The emperor later spoke of this to Baozhi, who said, "Do you in fact know who this person is?"
The emperor said, "No knowing."
Baozhi said, "This is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara [or, "He is the embodiment of compassion"], the bearer of the Buddha's Heart Seal."
The emperor was full of regret and wanted to send for Bodhidharma, but Baozhi said, "It is no good sending a messenger to fetch him back. Even if all the people went, he would not turn back."

Yuanwu's Preface
Smoke over the hill indicates fire, horns over the fence indicate an ox.
Given one corner, you grasp the other three; one glance, and you discern the smallest difference.
Such quickness, however, is only too common among robed monks.
When you have stopped the deluded activity of consciousness, then, whatever situation you may find yourself in, you enjoy perfect freedom, in adversity and prosperity, in taking and giving.
Now tell me, how in fact will this sort of person behave?
The case of Emperor Wu and Bodhidharma illustrates.

Wansong's Preface
Benka's three offerings did not prevent his being punished: If a luminous jewel were thrown at them, few are the men who would not draw their swords.
For an impromptu guest, there is not an impromptu host; he's provisionally acceptable but not absolutely acceptable.
If you can't grasp rare, valuable treasure, let's toss in a dead cat's head and see.

Xuedou's Verse
The holy teaching? "Emptiness!"
What is the secret here?
Again, "Who stands before me?"
"No knowing!"
Inevitable, the thorns and briars springing up;
Secretly, by night, he crossed the river.
All the people could not bring him back.
Now, so many years gone by,
Still Bodhidharma fills your mind -- in vain.
Stop thinking of him!
A gentle breeze pervades the universe.
The master looks around:
"The the patriarch there?
-- Yes! Bring him to me,
And he can wash my feet."

Hongzhi's Verse
Empty -- nothing holy:
   Emptiness, no holiness --
The approach is far off.
   the questioner's far off.
Succeeding, he swings the axe without injuring the nose;
Failing, he drops the pitcher without looking back.
   Gain is to swing the axe and not harm the nose;
   loss is to drop the pot and not look back.

Still and silent, cooly he sat at Shaolin
In silence he completely brought up the true imperative.
   In solitude he sits cool at Shaolin;
   in silence the Right Decree's fully revealed.

The clear moon of autumn turns its frosty disc;
   The autumn's lucid and the moon's a turning frosty wheel;
The Milky Way thin, the Dipper hangs down its handle in the night.
   the Milky Way's pale, and the Big Dipper's handle hangs low.
In succession the robe and bowl have been imparted to descendants;
   In line the robe and bowl handed on to descendents
From this humans and divinities have made medicine and disease.
   henceforth are medicine to men and devas.

Yasutani's Verse
Holy reality, emptiness
The man, unknowing.
Spring breeze and autumn moon speak heavenly truth.
Reverent monks building temples to no merit.
Emperor Wu, how could you know the willows' new green?

Rothenberg's Verse
The Highest Truths
Bodhidharma secretly crosses the river.
You already know what's on the far side.
When you see smoke, you know there is fire.
When you see horns, you know there's an ox.
"Hmm, the dimwit decides to speak up.
Bah! What he says is not work a cent.
He won't lose the wild fox spirit!"
Cross from west to east, and then east to west.
Let no one know which side you're on.
Inside one phrase you will see through to many.
It takes just one arrow to fell one eagle,
even one more will be more than you need.
Enough already, I'm clear to the other side. I ask:
"What end is there to the pure wind, circling the earth?"
Forget the target, up there in the heights of the truth.
That is one place where emptiness will never find you.

Hakuin's Comment
The emperor wonders who this is in his presence. At least that's better than pretending he knows! Bodhidharma got out of there heavy of heart, "stirring up a pure breeze with every step." As for Baozhi, he is a guy who, same as Bodhidharma, makes a show of reaching out to help. Everything, meadows, mountains, and all, is the embodiment of compassion.

Tenkei's Comment
The cosmic void is empty; not a particle can stand in it. There's no such thing as ordinary or holy. The emperor doesn't understand Bodhidharma's answer; he grabs onto the words and merely tries to rationalize: "Aren't you a holy man? You can't tell me there is no ordinary or holy!" Ultimately, Bodhidharma does not know Bodhidharma, the emperor doe not know the emperor. When they meet, they do not know each other. Even Shakyamuni Buddha and Vairochana Buddha do not actually know. Is the Buddha's Heart Seal something that can be transmitted, or is it ungraspable? Grab your nose and find out.

Hotetsu's Verse
The deep meaning of the holy truth is that there is no holy truth.
Therefore, not knowing pervades everywhere
Like a mountain mist, like a speck of mud on a trouser leg --
Like a sincere and pious prayer.

Story BCR1/BOS2

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