Blue Cliff Record 99

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #99
Nanyang and the Ten-Bodied Herdsman

Nanyang Huizhong (675?-775); 7th generation; studied under both 5th Patriarch, Hongren, and 6th Patriarch, Huineng; became one of Huineng's five dharma heirs. Called "National Teacher" because he was teacher to the Emperor, Nanyang appears in four of our koans: GG #17, BCR #99, BOS #42, and BCR #18 (BOS #85). Emperor Suzong (711-762, reigned 756-762), 7th emperor of the Tang Dynasty, began studying under Nanyang while Crown Prince and continued to do so after succeeding to the throne. Suzong was succeeded by his eldest son, who ruled as Emperor Daizong (727-779, reigned 762-779), whom we will meet in BCR #18 (BOS #85). Vairocana is a celestial buddha regarded as the Dharma Body of the historical Buddha and the embodiment of emptiness.
Yuanwu's Preface
When the dragon calls, mists and clouds arise; when the tiger roars, gales begin to blow. The supreme teachings of the Buddha ring out with a silvery voice. The actions of Zen masters are like those of the most expert archers, whose arrows, shot from opposite directions, collide in midair. The truth is revealed for all ages and all places. Tell me, who has ever been like this? See the case of Suzong and Nanyang.
Emperor Suzong asked the National Teacher, Zen master Nanyang Huizhong, "What is the ten-bodied herdsman?" [or: "What is the Buddha with the ten bodies who guides the living beings?" or: "What is the samadhi of no conflict?"]
Nanyang said, "Go trampling on [or: "go beyond"] Vairiocana's head!"
The emperor said, "I cannot follow you."
Nanyang said, "Don't take the self for the pure Dharma body."
Xuedou's Verse
"Teacher of a nation" is also a forced name;
   "National Teacher" was forced upon him;
Nanyang alone may flaunt his good fame
   He made the name his own.
In China he helped a real emperor, having him walk on Vairochana's head.
   He helped the son of heaven trample on Vairocana's head.
He smashed the golden bones with an iron mallet;
   With an iron hammer, he smashed the golden bones;
What more is there between sky and earth?
   What else is left in heaven and earth?
The lands and seas of the universe are sunk in stillness by night;
   In the three thousand worlds the lands and seas lie sleeping.
I don't know who goes into the blue dragon's cave.
   Who will dare enter the dragon's cave?
Yuanwu's Comment
Nanyang said, "You must walk on Vairocana's head before you can understand." He further commented, "Do not acknowledge your own pure body of reality." That refers to what is inherent in everyone, complete and perfect in each and every one. See how Nanyang lets go and gathers in, taking on adversaries from all sides.
Sekida's Comment
   The ten-bodied herdsman. The herdsman is the Buddha; the ten bodies are his attributes. Various scriptures give different lists of the ten bodies. One set includes No-Attachment Buddha, Vowing-to-Sav-All-Beings Buddha,  Wisdom Buddha, Positive Buddha, Nirvana Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Mindful Buddha, Samadhi Buddha, Nature Buddha, and Easy Buddha.
   Don't take the self for the pure Dharma Body. It is a common Zen saying that your original self is the Dharma body itself. But now Nanyang is denying this and saying that your self is absolutely independent.
Yamada's Comment
When the emperor asks about the controller of the ten bodies he is actually asking, "What is Buddha?" Vairocana Buddha, known also as "Great Sun Buddha," is the most basic of all Buddhas. Simply speaking, it is emptiness itself. It is customary to think of Vairocana Buddha as something extremely holy and precious. You can think of Vairocana Buddha as the ultimate foundation of Shakyamuni Buddha. Usually this is expressed as the Buddha of the Absolute Three Treasures. But here is Nanyang telling the emperor to step on the head of Vairocana Buddha! What could this mean? Vairocana Buddha, no matter how holy and precious he may be, is in the end a concept. In zazen we throw away all concepts and come to a living experience of the actual fact. This is the purpose of Zen. It is customary for most religions to have elements of the holy and untouchable about them. We ourselves prostrate ourselves before the Buddha in veneration. However, what we are actually about here is getting rid of those concepts of "holy" and "special" and coming to an experience of the actual fact. In telling the emperor to step on the head of Vairocana Buddha, the National Teacher would seem to be acting with great rudeness. Nevertheless, with these words he is teaching the emperor (and us) that we must rid ourselves of concepts such as "holy" or "special." The emperor cannot understand this. This time, the National Teacher says, "Never consider yourself to be the pure and clean Dharma body." Never think that your essential nature is completely pure and spotless. Why? Because that, too, is a concept. The National Teacher is constantly urging us on to actual experience, to never be satisfied with concepts, no matter how august and worthy they may seem.
Daido's Comment
See that which is immovable and silent and do not be deceived by sounds and forms. See sounds and forms and do not be deceived by that which is immovable and silent. If you want to understand, you yourself must first walk upon Vairocana's head -- only then will you realize the samadhi of no conflict. If you avoid all ideas about the pure dharma body, it becomes clear that in the whole universe nothing is hidden. There are no barriers.
Daido's Verse
In our frantic search for the "gold,"
discriminating mind dominates and we miss the truth.
This is the cause of the endless cycle of birth and death,
yet the deluded take it for the body of reality.
Hakuin's Comment
The Flower Ornament Scripture speaks of ten bodies merging three worlds: the body of living beings, the body of lands, the body of consequences, the body of disciples, the body of solitary illuminates, the body of enlightening beings, the body of fully realized Buddhas, the body of knowledge, the body of reality, and the body of space. It also says that Buddha inherently has ten embodiments: embodiment as an enlightening being, embodiment of commitments, embodiment of emanations, embodiment of empowerment, embodiment of beatification, embodiment of force, embodiment of mental creations, embodiment of virtues, embodiment of reality, and embodiment of knowledge. There are also ten kinds of Buddha. Walk on the head of Vairocana, the reality body. Nanyang takes him by the hand up to the top of the highest mountain and breaks the emperor's attachment, like a hawk pouncing on prey, in communion with the source and master of exposition.
Tenkei's Comment
Saying "walk on Vairocana's head," he pointed out that one's own self is the reality body. Saying "don't approve your own pure reality body," he adds his indulgent footnote. Part of the technique of setting up teachings according to potentials, even "reality body" is a label stuck on afterward.
Rothenberg's Verse
The Play of the World

Mist comes up when the dragon howls.
Wind blows in with the roar of the tiger.
Gold and jade tumble together.
All arrowheads strike the common goal.
The play of the world runs from past through to future.
It fills all containers and sills them all out.
Those are its qualities, so what is it?
Within formless light you'll always be free.
Do not toy with your spirits, or they won't be revealed.
By night three thousand worlds are all still and silent.
Step out of the matrix and into the field.
Take my hand and come circle the one Certain Mountain.
We'll sadden ourselves not to death, but to life.
Hotetsu's Verse
"Jesus died to save you," say the Christians.
Buddha, also, dies to save you.
The twist, though, is you must kill him yourself --
And know you haven't been saved from anything.

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