"'Religion' is from the Latin religare, which means "to bind back, to bind man and the gods." What are we binding? First, we bind our self to iself -- because even within ourselves we're separated. And we bind ourselves to others, and eventually to all things, sentient and insentient. And we bind others ot others. Anything that is not bound together is our responsibility. But most of the time our task is to bind ourselves to our roommate, to our work, to our partner, to our child or friend,and then to bind ourselves to Sri Lanka, to Mexico, to all things in this world, and this universe.” -Joko BeckChants for Wed Nov 2 - 8 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
- Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage, p. 13
- Heart Sutra, p. 12
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY
This week's reading: "Religion," from Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen. p. 168. (To order from Amazon CLICK HERE)
This week's case: "Deshan Visits Guishan" Blue Cliff Record, #4
We previously met Guishan (771-853, 10th Gen., dharma grandson of Mazu) in Gateless Gate #40 (HERE), and in Blue Cliff Record #70 (HERE). Guishan was a disciple of Baizhang and thus a dharma brother of Huangbo. Guishan and his disciple, Yangshan, are the founders of the Gui-Yang House, one of the fabled "Five Houses of Zen." This is Deshan's (782-865, 11th Gen., dharma great-grandson of Shitou) first appearance. We shall see him again in Blue Cliff Record #28, Gateless Gate #13, Book of Serenity #14 and #22. Deshan's disciples will include Xuefeng (822-908) whose disciples will include Yunmen, Baofu, Chanqing, and Xuansha.
Deshan came to Guishan's temple. Carrying his pilgrim's bundle under his arm, he crossed the lecture hall, from east to west and from west to east. Then, staring around, he said, "Mu, Mu," and went out.
[Xuedou says, "It is seen through."]
Deshan reached the gate but then said to himself, "I should not be in a hurry." So he dressed formally and entered a second time to have an interview.
Guishan was sitting in his place.
Deshan, holding up his kneeling cloth, said, "Osho! [Priest!]"
Guishan made as if to take up his hossu [a short staff of wood or bamboo with bundled hair or hemp wielded by a Zen priest].
Then Deshan shouted "Kaatz!" swung his sleeves, and went out.
[Xuedou says, "It is seen through."]
Deshan, with his back turned on the lecture hall, put on his straw sandals and went off.
In the evening Guishan asked the chief monk, "The new arrival, where is he?"
The chief monk said, "When he went out he turned his back on the lecture hall, put on his sandals, and went away."
Guishan said "Someday that fellow will go to an isolated mountaintop, establish a hermitage, and scold the Buddhas and abuse the patriarchs.
[Xuedou says, "Frost on top of snow!"
The blue sky, the bright sun; there is no distinguishing east and west. Time and causation; medicine must be given to the sick. Tell me, is it best to let go or to hold fast? The case illustrates.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
The first seeing through,
The second seeing through,
Frost on top of snow:
Gret risk of slipping.
Like General Hiki, he entered the enemy camp
And narrowly escaped.
He made a dash for it,
But was not let alone.
Alas! He is seated among the weeds
On the isolated mountaintop.
Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
Once exposed, twice exposed;
Adding frost to snow, there's been a dangerous fall.
The general of the flying cavalry enters the enemy camp;
How many could regain their safety?
Hurrying past, he is not let go;
Atop a solitary peak, he sits in the weeds. Tsk!
Carrying his pilgrim's bundle. The regulatins governing monastic life were laid down by Baizhang, Guishan's teacher, and covered all activities. The attire of a monk visiting a teacher for an interview was formally specified. But Deshan disregarded the regulation, and, carrying his bundle under his arm, intruded into the lecture hall, passing to and fro and if he enjoyed perfect freedom to do as he pleased.
"Mu, Mu." Mu is "nothing." Deshan came to know this "nothing" when he had his great experience. When one has this experience for the first time, one is overwhelmed by its magnificence and thinks one has attained to the ultimate truth. It is true that one has had a glimpse of ultimate truth, but this is, all the same, a one-sided realization. One has come to understand only one of the two pillars of Zen. After such an experience one must once again return to the world of the ordinary activity of consciousness and become versed in positive samadhi. Nevertheless, Deshan's experience was a genuine one and his "Mu, Mu" was much appreciated by Xuedou.
"It is seen through." Xuedou's saying is subtle and delicate. What was seen through? Is he saying that Deshan saw through Guishan's Zen, or that Guishan saw through Deshan, or that he, Xuedou, has seen through both of them?
"I should not be in a hurry." Deshan, high-spirited as he was, retained some sense of discretion and, on further thought, turned back. Guishan had seen through Deshan and remained quietly sitting in his place.
Deshan, holding up his kneeling cloth, said, "Osho!" Deshan retained his severe look. He was on the offensive. The kneeling cloth is a folded cloth which a mok carries on his left arm on formal occasions. When he makes his bows, he first spreads it on the floor where he is to bow. Deshan's subsequent shout was a demonstration of Zen spirit -- "Zen-ki." Xuedou's second "seen through" expresses admiration of Deshan's Zen-ki and, of course, of Guishan's maturity.
"Someday that fellow will go to an isolated mountaintop...and scold the Buddhas and abuse the patriarchs." Scolding the Buddhas and abusing the patriarchs are examples of "holding fast." But this is only one side of Zen. The "isolated mountaintop" means the summit of Mount Sumeru (the supposed central mountain of the universe), a symbol of the absolute condition of being. But if a student remains there, his Zen is one-sided. He is like a man sitting on top of a hundred-foot pole, unable to stir an inch. With this comment, Guishan showed his grasp of Deshan.
"Frost on top of snow!" This can have two meanings: "superfluous" or "severe."
Carrying his bundle with him. -- He'll even walk around in the bellies of the Buddhas of all times with those dirty shoes on. As far as Deshan is concerned, even Shakyamuni and Maitreya are tailwinds.
Crossed back and forth -- Too slick! What nerve!
With 'nothing, nothing,' he went out -- He had brought the cosmic "personal arrive at Dragon Pond."
"Exposed!" -- This is the great work of the Yunmen school of Zen it is not an easy thing to say. He exposes Deshan's ability. There is something important in this: twenty years of work after enlightenment.
"Still it won't do to be hasty." -- He set out to meet Guishan; it would be regrettable to leave without having thoroughly discussed the conditions of the mountains and clouds, the ocean and the moon; that would be somehow unsatisfying.
Guishan reached for his hossu -- Just like a great general, Guishan is not flustered and doesn't show the tip of his blade. The Guiyang House of Zen was taught from here: the Way is in the blink of an eye.
Deshan shouted and left. -- He took off like the whole universe was the size of a grapefruit. Guishan asks after him, knowing that Deshan has left. He has no use for the newcomer; he's watching the assembly leader.
"He will build a grass hut on the summit of a solitary peak." -- Since Deshan comes on so strong, he still has a way to go yet.
There is something scary about the Guiyang House. This saying is is the eye of this koan.
Has Xuedou exposed Deshan, or has he exposed Guishan? How do you do the exposing? This is called the hidden ploy of a Zen teacher. Since it is easier to distinguish dragons from snakes than it is to fool a Zennist, therefore a Zennist with a device is to be seen through before its deployment.
Looking around, Deshan said, "Nothing, nothing!" Then he went out. What insolence in front of a master! However, this action has two aspects: in one way, it mocks the master to his face, indicating, "I heard there was a great master called Guishan, so I came here to meet him, but ha! there is nothing!"; in another way, Deshan thus demonstrates his own understanding of nothingness by saying, "Mu, Mu!" and retiring thereupon.
Xuedou inserts a comment, saying he has seen through Deshan's mind and heart. This is a key point of the koan. About this, Yasutani says: "It could mean, 'How great the man is!' or 'He is quite a man,' or even 'He is a fake.' You should look at it according to your own level of understanding." At any rate, it can be said, firstly, that the true figure of Deshan in his total emptiness has been "seen through." Secondly, the level of his practice – the depth of his Zen understanding – has been "seen through" too. This "seeing through" takes place not as a conclusion after intellectual thinking and careful deliberation, but merely as an act of perceiving. It is like a mirror which reflects
whatever comes before it. How terrifying it is to be "seen through"!
"Still, I should not be so hasty." -- Deshan returned to Guishan's hall. This time he put on his formal robe and went to meet Guishan officially.
"Flourishing his sleeves and going out" indicates that Deshan wanted to have nothing more to do with the scene. And with this he was manifesting his own Zen understanding. Deshan, on his part, lingered too much in the world of satori -- something Guishan will also point out later. Xuedou, too, saw through him. He must have thought: Great as he is, Deshan is still incomplete.
"One day that fellow will go up to the top of a lonely peak, build a grass hut, and scold the buddhas and abuse the
patriarchs." -- You must be familiar with the saying, "When a buddha comes, kill him; when a patriarch comes, kill him." This does not mean that you should murder them in a physical sense; it means you must get rid of seemingly holy ideas such as "buddha" and "patriarch." The preaching of Shakyamuni and the teachings of Bodhidharma are all useless when you look at them solely from the essential point of view. And that is how Deshan will always look at things, Guishan comments. This remark is like a large net of prophecy thrown over Deshan, who, totally captured, will never be able to escape it. Great as Deshan was, this Zen match seems to show that Guishan's understanding was far superior.
"Piling frost on top of snow." -- This saying is a metaphor for something unnecessary, superfluous. You talk about such a strange prophecy, but how useless! The essential value of Deshan will never increase nor decrease, no matter what you say about it. What you did was simply piling frost on top of snow. Yasutani says: "'Piling frost on top of snow' literally indicates something redundant. But it implies praise, too. On the surface it abuses Guishan, but in reality it extols him – 'How great he was!"' You might as well savor the saying in various ways.
Carry Your Burden
In the real world, under bright light,
there's nothing to point out, nothing to lose
as long as the sickness fits the cure.
Carry your burden to the great hall
crossing from east to west and west to east.
Look around, there is nothing, no one is there --
do you want to be so completely revealed?
That visitor departed in rank disappointment,
she will leave the illusive wise city behind.
She will go to the top of a lonely peak
build a grass hut, live there, pass the time
deep with scorn for the rest of us.
A wild fox spirit? That's a wayward thing.
Even a cub knows the lion's roar.
Nothing can stop her from silencing
the tongues of all in the world.
So look down from there:
The scenery is lovely but the case is not complete.
A can can subdue a leopard.
Or, reason can subdue a leopard.
Har to tell what is meant, as the words are so close in Chinese.
The bundle carried, the haughty dismissal, the second try --
The formal clothes, the shout, the departure --
The lonely mountain hermitage, the frost on the snow --
Such profligate generosity! So superfluous, so unnecessary --
And so absolutely essential.