Gateless Gate 18, Blue Cliff Record 12

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #18
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #12
Dogen's 300 #172
Dongshan Shouchu's Masagin

Personnel and Date
  • DONGSHAN Shouchu (Tôsan Shusho, 910-90, 14th gen), disciple of Yunmen Wenyan
  • an unnamed monastic
  • Date guess: ca. 978
Yuanwu's Introduction (Sato)
The sword that kills, the sword that gives life: This has been the standard rule since of old, and is the pivotal point of today.
If you talk about killing, you don't harm even a single hair; if you talk about giving life, you lose your body and life.
Therefore it is said: The supreme one way can't be transmitted even by the thousand holy ones.
Practitioners who labor for forms are like monkeys trying to grasp reflections.
Just tell me, if it can't be transmitted, why are there so many entangling koans?
Those who have an eye to see, let them see!
Case (Aitken)
A monk asked Dongshan, "What is Buddha?"
Dongshan said, "Three pounds of flax."[1]
[1] Matching Aitken: Guogu, Low, Shibayama, T. Cleary SBCR. "Three pounds of burlap" (Cleary GB); "Flax. Three pounds" (Hinton); "'Masagin!' [three pounds of flax]" (Sekida); "Dongshan, who was engaged in weighing some flax, replied, "This flax weighs three pounds" (Senzaki); "'Masagin!' (Three pounds of flax!)" (Yamada); “Masagin [Three pounds’ hemp]” (Sato); "Three pounds of hemp" (Cleary & Cleary); "Here is hemp -- three pounds of it" (Shaw).

Wumen's Comment (Aitken)
Old Man Dongshan attained something of clam-Zen.
He opened the two halves of his shell a bit and exposed his liver and intestines.
Be that as it may, tell me: where do you see Dongshan?
Wumen's Verse (Aitken)
Thrusting forth "three pounds of flax!"
The words are intimate, mind is more so;
if you argue right and wrong,
you are a person of right and wrong.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida)
The golden crow swoops, the silver hare bounds;
The echo comes back, direct and free.
Who judges Dongshan by his word or phrase
Is a blind tortoise, lost in a lonely vale.

The abundant blossoms, the luxuriant flowers,
The southern bamboo, the northern trees.
One recalls Officer Lu and Changqing:
"You should not cry, but laugh!" Eh!
Daido Loori's Comment (Dogen's 300)
This is an old case that has been echoing in the halls of Zen monasteries for centuries, and yet there have been only a handful who have been able to penetrate Dongshan's meaning. People immediately rush to the words to understand, bnot realizing that words and speech are just vessels to convey the truth -- not yet the truth itself.
If you take Dongshan's "Three pounds of flax" to mean that this, in and of itself, is buddha, then you have missed his intent by a hundred thousand miles. We shoul understand at the outset that "Three pounds of flax" is not just a reply to the question about buddha, and it cannot be understood in terms of buddha. This being the case, then you tell me, what is buddha?
Daido's Interjections
Zen master Shouchu of Dongshan (Zonghui) was asked by a monastic, "What is buddha?"
   From amid the forest of brambles, a voice calls out.
Dongshan said, "Three pounds of flax."
   Like a bell when struck, the sound immediately appears.
The monastic had realization and bowed.
   I wonder about this.
Daido's Verse
Seeing a gap opening up in the monastic's question,
the old master moved quickly to stuff it with flax.
Those who accept words are lost:
those who linger in phrases are deluded.

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