"Yaoshan Takes the High Seat," Book of Serenity, #7
Yaoshan Weiyan (Yakusan Igen, 751-834, 9th generation) was a disciple of Shitou Xiqian (700-790). Yaoshan appears in BCR #42, BCR #81, and BOS #7.
For a long time, Yaoshan had not ascended the high seat. The administrator monk spoke to him, saying, "The monks have been wondering about some guidance for a long time. Your reverence, for the sake of the assembly, will you please give us a talk?"
Yaoshan had the gong struck, and the monks then assembled. Yaoshan ascended the high seat, remained silent for a while, then got down and went back to his quarters.
Later on, the administrator monk said to him, "Master, a little while ago you agreed to give us a talk on behalf of the assembly. Why didn't you give us even a single word?"
Yaoshan replied, "There are sutra teachers for the sutras, and instructors for the commentaries. Why do you come and bother this old monk?"
Eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are each unique. The eyebrows are above the eyes. In soldering, farming, crafts, and trades each performs a service. Such a one is always at ease. How does a true Zen teacher proceed?
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans)
Catering to an idiots whim with bogus bills,
Ryoshi and Tsuifu both look back at the whip's shadow.
A cloud sweeps the endless sky; a crane nests in the moon.
Pure cold penetrates the bones -- he sleeps no more.
Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
A foolish child troubles over 'money' used to stop crying;
A good steed chases the wind, looking back at the shadow of the whip.
Clouds sweep the eternal sky; nesting in the moon, the crane --
The cold clarity gets into his bones, he can't go to sleep.
When the congregation gathered, how could they know the stars would blaze with glory? Xuedou said, "What a pity that old fellow Yaoshan bit the dust on even ground; no one in the world can help him up." I say, you too should lend a hand.
Huinan of Huanglong's Comment
Nowadays many people take the Dharma lightly; I would be like a farmer who lets the fields dry from time to time to make them parched and thirsty -- after that, when water is poured on, then the crops sprout.
Speaking when silent, silent when speaking; the gate of great generosity opens, with nothing blocking the way.
He had already bit the dust before leaving his room;
Quietly he returns, with no further mistake.
Teachers of scriptures and treatises still tell each other;
When one fact is distinctly clear he'll call them himself.
The case is reminiscent of BCR #92/BOS #1, in which the Buddha ascends the high seat and then concludes his discourse without speaking a word. Yaoshan has been steadfastly refusing to offer toys to his monks, to pay them with bogus bills, to temporarily satisfy them with clever words. His "talk" is silence -- yet his Dharma arrow goes deep.
"Why do you bother this old monk?" Yaoshan is saying, "What is it you want? If you were really hungry for the Dharma, you would have heard my Dharma talk." Yaoshan expressed the Dharma marvelously -- for those with eyes to see.
There's no limit to what you can accomplish if you just get out of the way. Forget the self and let the Dharma flow freely. That's what Yaoshan was doing.
You must clearly realize that in his ascending the rostrum, sitting still, and retiring to his room, he has completely revealed the essence. He is preaching perfectly in a loud voice. We encounter the same thing in the koan of Vimalikirti’s Entering the Dharma Gate of Non-Duality. (See BCR #84/BOS #48.) It’s a matter of grasping the world of oneness, the dharma gate of non-duality, the world of the true fact, the essential world. It will not do to simply come up with an idea of it in your minds. You will never be able to grasp the true fact in that way. If you do, it will disappear without a trace.
Daido Loori's Comment
Since the dharma of suchness is not about koans, scriptures, or commentaries, is this what has left Yaoshan speechless, or is it that he just has nothing to say? Or is it possible that he did say something after all? If so, what did he say? If you go to speech to express it, you have missed it. If you resort to silence to express it, you are still a thousand miles from the truth. If you think it's neither speech nor silence, or both speech and silence, you are practicing the self-styled Zen of the dilettante. What did Yaoshan say?
Daido Loori's Verse
The dharma of suchness,
infinitely profound and minutely subtle.
In twenty-five hundred years of transmission,
it has never passed from mouth to ear.
Scott Wren's Verse
Yaoshan Ascends the Seat
Dreaming With Open Mouth
You’re never at a loss for words,
yet you’ve made your deepest impression
in thunderous silence.
Then I feel each syllable I utter
cutting life like a tiny knife.
Carving out this lonely self,
until cold clarity reaches my bones.
And we sit there together like stones.
Yaoshan gives a dharma talk like the pines do --
And those who are hungry consume it.
With eyes to hear and ears to see --
Nothing is left unsaid.