"From morning to night we make one decision after another and that's normal; there's nothing strange about it. But we see life in terms of problems, not decisions.” -Joko BeckChants for Wed Nov 16 - 22 (from Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book. See: BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule)
- Days Like Lightning, p. 46
- Heart Sutra, p. 12
Room 24, Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY
This week's reading: "From Problems to Decisions," from Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen. p. 179. (To order from Amazon CLICK HERE)
This week's case: "Yanshan Thrusts His Hoe Into the Ground" Book of Serenity, #15
We previously met Guishan (771-853, 10th Gen., dharma grandson of Mazu) in GG #40, BCR #70, BCR #4, and BCR #24 (BOS #60). Guishan was a disciple of Baizhang and thus a dharma brother of Huangbo. Guishan (from Mt. Gui) and his disciple, Yangshan (807-883, from Mt. Yang), are the founders of the Gui-Yang House, one of the fabled "Five Houses of Zen." One of the distinguishing features of the Gui-Yang House "was that it carefully considered both sudden enlightenment and the gradual cultivation of it, not getting caught up in the 'sudden versus gradual' dispute that was popular at the time. Seeing clearly is one thing, the Gui-Yang School teaches, but integrating it into your life is something else. Insight is sudden, integration is gradual" (Wick).
Guishan asked Yangshan, "Where have you come from?"
Yangshan said, "From the rice field."
Guishan said, "How many people are there in the rice field?"
Yangshan thrust his hoe into the ground and stood with his hands folded on his chest.
Gusishan said, "There are a great number of people cutting thatch on the South Mountain."
Yangshan took up his hoe and left immediately.
To know before a word is spoken is called "the silent utterance.' To not be bright but reveal itself is called "the dark activity." Place the palms together in front of the three gates and in both hallways they promenade. Such empathy there is! Dance in the middle garden and at the back gate a head is moved. How about that!
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans)
The old awakened one with deep feeling considers his descendants.
But now he's spurred on to uphold his household.
Keep in mind the part about the southern mountains:
with it inlaid in bone, engraved on the skin, let's show our gratitude together.
Hongzhi's Verse (Cleary trans)
The old enlightened one's feelings are many; the thinks of his descendants.
Now he repents of setting up a household.
We must remember the saying about South Mountain --
Engraved on the bones, inscribed on the skin, together requiting the blessing.
Teacher and apprentice join ways, father and son complement each other's actions; the family style of Gui and Yang is a guide for a thousand ages.
"Where are you coming from?" Could Guishan not have known Yangshan had come from the fields? He was just using this question to have a meeting with Yangshan. Yangshan didn't turn away from the question.
"From the fields." Now tell me, is there any Buddhist principle here or not?
"How many people are there in the fields?" Guishan enters deeply into the tiger's cave. Yangshan planted his hoe and stood there, immediately meeting as a patch-robed monk.
Xuansha's Comment (quoted by Wansong)
If I had seen him [Yangshan] then, I would have kicked over the hoe for him.
Touzi Yiqing's Verse (quoted by Wansong)
Few really understand the point of Guishan's questions;
When Yangshan answered him by planting the hoe,
Buddhas and Patriarchs disappeared.
Xuansha, kicking it over, as a bystander doesn't agree.
To avoid letting the blue yellow green deepen with spring.
Ping of Falun Temple's Verse (quoted by Wansong)
Meeting on a narrow road, escape is impossible;
When planting the hoe, standing with folded hands,
Having come across the Bridge, he walks on the shore,
For the first time realizing his whole body is muddy and wet.
How many people are there in the rice field? Is that a Zen question or an ordinary question? Yangshan sticks his hoe in the ground, demonstrating "Just this!" Yangshan got the point of the question. When he planted his hoe in the ground, everything disappeared including Buddhas and Ancestors. Planted firmly in the ground, Yangshan's hoe removed every square inch of soil.
"There are a great number of people cutting thatch on the South Mountain." What about them? What about all the people who are suffering? What about all the people who are getting old, getting sick, dying? What about all the people who are going to work every day to support their families instead of sitting zazen like a solitary monk? There are two sides here, and this koan requires that you see both of them. When we practice and penetrate into our concentration, we see that there's no self and no other. That is the view from the solitary peak. Expressing this state, Yangshan plants the hoe. Realizing that there are innumerable sentient beings who are suffering, the whole body is splashed with mire. Pull up that hoe and go take care of them!
Barbara Disco's Verse
Yangshan Plants His Hoe
Dense in a thicket
A Crystal Horse appears.
Looking towards the South
A Journey is taken,
The Path is nowhere to be found.
Parent and child perform a dharma dance to blaze the trail for later generations. But how many will understand, and how many will make a nest here? It is said that the family style for the Gui-Yang school has set a standard for many generations of practitioners. How can we not be grateful? Bringing up the real and the conventional together, they complement each other's actions. Gathering up and rolling out, they settle the matter. But say, what is the meaning of Yangshan's walking away, dragging his hoe?
Beyond stages, transcending expedient means,
mind to mind in accord.
When the mile-high weeds wither,
the boundless horizon appears.
Those old questions:
Where have I come from? What am I? What should I do?
A field, a hoe, and a moving toward those who labor.
What else is needed? What else is possible?