Gateless Gate 2

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #2
Baizhang and the Fox (extended)

Baizhang (720-814, 9th generation, Hongzhou) was a disciple of Mazu (709-788, 8th gen.) and the teacher of Huangbo and Guishan. Baizhang appeared as a secondary character in two of the Mazu koans. He is the primary character in seven of our cases. Huangbo (770? - 850, 10th gen.), one of five dharma-transmitted disciples of Baizhang, became a great master in his own right, and was the teacher of Linji (812-867, 11th gen.)

Whenever master Baizhang delivered a sermon, an old man was always there listening with the monks. When they left, he left too. One day, however, he remained behind. The master asked him, “What man are you, standing in front of me?”
The man replied, “Indeed, I am not a man. In the past, in the time of Kashyapa Buddha [the sixth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity, Shakyamuni being the seventh; “The time of Kashyapa Buddha” means long, long ago] I lived on this mountain as a priest. On one occasion a monk asked me, 'Does a perfectly enlightened person fall under the law of cause and effect or not?'
I answered, 'He does not.'
Because of this answer, I fell into the state of a fox for 500 lives. Now, I beg you, Master, please say a turning word [a word or phrase which has the power to turn delusions into enlightenment] on my behalf and release me from the body of a fox.”
Then he asked, “Does a perfectly enlightened person fall under the law of cause and effect or not?”
The master answered, “The law of cause and effect cannot be obscured.”
Upon hearing this, the old man immediately became deeply enlightened. Making his bow, he said, “I have now been released from the old fox and will be behind the mountain. I dare to make a request of the Master. Please perform my funeral as you would for a deceased priest.”
The master had InĂ´ [an official position and title in a Zen monastery, being the monk in charge of rules, regulations, and the registry of monks] strike the anvil with a gavel and announce to the monks that after the meal there would be a funeral service for a deceased priest.
The monks wondered, saying, “All are healthy. No one is sick in the infirmary. What's this all about?”
After the meal, the master led the monks to the foot of a rock behind the mountain and with his staff poked out the dead body of a fox. He then performed the ceremony of cremation.
That evening the master ascended the rostrum in the hall and told the monks the story.
Huangbo thereupon asked, “The man of old missed the turning word and fell to the state of a fox for 500 lives. Suppose every time he answered he made no mistakes, what would happen then?”
The master said, “Just come nearer and I'll tell you.”
Huangbo then went up to the master and slapped him.
The master clapped his hands and, laughing aloud, said, “I thought the barbarian's beard was red, but here is a barbarian with a red beard!”

Illustration by Mark Morse, http://www.thegatelessgate.com/

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