Blue Cliff Record 11, Book of Serenity 53

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #11
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #53
Huangbo's 'Partaker's of Brewer's Grain'

Huangbo (760?-850, 10th generation) is the dharma "grandson" of Mazu (709-788) and the "son" of Baizhang (720-814). He is the dharma "father" of Linji (Japanese=Rinzai, 812?-867). Huangbo also studied with National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong (675-775), though Huangbo would have been about 15 when Nanyang died. At some point he may also have studied briefly under Nanquan (748-835), another student of Mazu. Huanbo is reputed to have been very tall. When he and Baizhang first met, Baizhang exclaimed, “Magnificent! Imposing! Where have you come from?” Huángbò replied, “Magnificent and imposing, I’ve come from the mountains.”

Huangbo addressed the assembly and said, "You are all partakers of brewer's grain [gobblers of dregs]. If you on studying Zen like that, you will never finish it. Do you know that in all the land of Tang there is no Zen teacher?"
Then a monk came forward and said, "But surely there are those who teach disciples and preside over the assemblies. What about that?"
Huangbo said, "I do not say that there is no Zen, but that there is no Zen teacher."


Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
Commanding is his way of teaching;
But he made it no point of merit.
Seated majestically over the whole land,
He distinguished the dragon from the snake.
Emperor Taichu once encountered him
And thrice fell into his clutches.

Xuedou's Verse (Cleary trans)
Cold, severe, his solitary mien does not take pride in itself;
Solemnly dwelling in the sea of the world, he distinguishes dragons and snakes.
Even the emperor of China was treated lightly;
Thrice he personally ran afoul of those claws and fangs.

Sekida's Comment
"You are all partakers of brewer's grain." Huangbo originated this expression which has become a popular saying used to belittle those who imitate old Zen masters. The literal meaning is that you eat the grain left over by the brewers after they have removed the wine and then think that you have had a taste of the real thing.
"There is no Zen teacher." It is an iron rule that Zen cannot be taught. You must attain it by your own practice, study, and research. No doubt when Huangbo first said this it must have sounded astonishing to his students. His words have been handed down to the present day. The Buddha said, "In my forty-nine years of Dharma activity I did not preach a word."

Rothenberg's Verse
It Takes a Word
One right word is all it takes
it can smash the chains and break down the gates
Who knows such words?
-- Look around you and see,
What's the use of today?
shock the country, stir up the crowd
swallow all in one gulp and dwell in the clouds
Look back at that monk who could walk across water
Don't let him get away with it:
"You smug fellow, if I had known you could conjure up wonders,
I would have broken your legs!"
Then he who speaks disappears
(he has said the word)
I hold up my palms with nothing to do
having heard the word, don't seek out the flock
they will only abuse it and get out of hand
cut through the clouds, walk inside rock, always say yes to work the distant land is only seen when it peeks above the horizon
the glacier's waters cannot be held back --
they return to the waves of the sea


Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans)
Roads being split, threads being dyed -- how bothersome!
Catching at leaves and lining up flowers ruins the Ancestors.
Subtly grasping the handle that educates Southerners,
the cloud-and-water inscribing tool is on the potter's wheel.
Tangles and shards removed and crushed, downy hairs razored off.
Balance scale, bright mirror, jeweled ruler, golden sword:
Old Huangbo even divines autumn fur,
cutting off the spring breeze, not allowing arrogance.

Hongzhi's Verse (Cleary trans)
Paths divide, threads are dyed -- too much trouble.
Leaves in clusters, flowers in rows -- ruins the ancestors.
Subtly wielding the guiding handle of creation;
Vessels of water and clouds are on the potter's wheel.
Clearing away tangles and chips, shaving off down:
The marked balance, the jeweler's mirror,
The jade ruler and gold knife:
Old Huangbo can perceive even an autumn hair;
Cutting off the spring wind, he doesn't allow exaltation.

Ekai Uji Laurie Senauke's Verse
Huangbo's "Dreg-Slurpers"
You can’t teach it to us,
We can’t learn it from you.
Forest creatures just head for the clearing
When the night is dark
And the moon is full.
Wander all over Green Gulch valley
Searching among rocks and flowers, roots and trees,
Can you honestly say there are no teachers of Chan?

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