Blue Cliff Record 73, Book of Serenity 6

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #73
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #6
Mazu and the 100 Negations

  • Mazu Daoyi (Baso Doitsu, 709-88, 8th gen). Go to MAZU
  • Xitang Zhizang (Seido Chizo, 735-814, 9th gen). Go to XITANG
  • Baizhang Huaihai (Hyakujo Ekai, 720-814, 9th gen). Go to BAIZHANG H
  • An unnamed monk
Yuanwu's Preface
Preaching is non-preaching and non-teaching.
Hearing is non-hearing and non-attaining.
If preaching is non-preaching and non-teaching, what use is there is in preaching?
If hearing is non-hearing and non-attaining, what use is there in hearing?
But this non-preaching and non-hearing are worth something.
You are listening to me now, preaching here.
How can we escape that criticism?
Those who have eyes, see the following.
Wansong's Preface
When it is impossible to open the mouth, a person without a tongue can speak.
When it is not possible to lift up the feet, a person without legs can walk.
If you fall within the range of your opponent’s arrow and die under a phrase, how can you show the status of freedom?
When the four mountains [birth, old age, sickness, death] are about to oppress you, how can you attain thorough liberation?
A monk asked Great Master Mazu, "Apart from the four Phrases, beyond one hundred Negations [i.e., free from all theories and concepts], please tell me directly, Master, the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West."
Master Mazu said, "I am tired today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Zhizang."
The monk asked Zhizang about it.
Zhizang said, "Why don't you ask our master?"
The monk said, "He told me to ask you."
Zhizang said, "I have a headache today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Brother Huaihai."
The monk asked Huaihai about it.
Huaihai said, "I understand nothing about that question."
The monk told Great Master Mazu about it.
Great Master said, "Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans with Cleary trans in italics)
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black!"
   Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black;
It defies understanding.
   Even clear-eyed Zennists cannot understand.
Mazu's horses trampled over the world;
   Mazu tramples everyone in the world to death;
Linji wans't such a daylight robber.
   Even Linji is still no pickpocket.
Putting aside the four propositions, the hundred negations,
   Apart from the tetralemma, beyond the hundred negations,
You can only nod to yourself.
   In the heavens and the human world, only I know.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans with Cleary trans in italics)
Medicine becomes sickness -- reflecting on saints of old,
   Medicine working as illness --
   It is mirrored in the past sages.
sickness becomes a doctor -- who would he be?
   Illnes working as medicine --
   Sure, but who is it?
White head, black head -- sons of a good family
   White head, black head -- capable heirs of the house.
having phrases or being phraseless -- the activity of cutting off the streams of thinking
   Statement or no statement -- the ability to cut off the flow.
magnificently cuts off the path of the tongue-tip.
   Clearly sitting cutting off the road of speech,
You should laugh -- Vaisali's venerable old awl.
   Laughable is the old ancient awl at Vaisali.
Background Stories
The sixth patriarch (Huineng, 638-713) said to Master Nanyue Huairang (Nangaku Ej├┤, 677-744, 7th gen), "The Twenty-Seventh Patriarch of India [Prajnatara, 400s, Bodhidharma's teacher] foretold from your disciples will emerge a young horse who will trample everyone in the land to death. The sickness is in your heart; don't speak to quickly."
Later, Nanyue Huairang polished a tile and beat an ox, and the spiritual horse entered the stable; he was called Mazu, Ancester Ma ('horse'). He had the stride of an ox and he glare of a tiger. He could extend his tongue over his nose. On his soles were circular marks. One hundred and thirty-nine people succeeded him in the Dharma, and each became a teaching master in one area. Zhizang and brother Huaihai would become Xitang and Baizhang. When we look at this monk, he too is a student of Buddhism; he uses the four propositions and hundred negations to make sure of the source essence of the special transmission outside the teachings.
from left: Baizhang, Mazu, and Nanquan
One night Mazu and three of his greatest disciples, Baizhang, Xitang, and Nanquan, were gazing at the moon. Mazu said, "What should one do at this very moment?"
Baizhang said, "Just right to cultivate practice."
Xitang said, "Just right to make offerings."
Nanquan brushed out his sleeves and left.
Mazu said, "The scriptures go into the treasury (zang); meditation goes into the ocean (hai) -- only Nanquan alone transcends utterly beyond things."
from the Mahayanasamgraha
Existence is slander by exaggeration; "nonexistence" is slander by underestimation; "both existence and nonexistence" is slander by contradiction; and "neither existence nor nonexistence" is slander by intellectual fabrication.
Huangbo's Comment
If you want to undertand directly and immediately, everything is not it.
Nagarjuna's Comment
Wisdom is like mass of fire -- it cannot be entered from any side. . . . Wisdom is like a clear cool pool, it can be entered from any side.
Wansong's Comment
If you abandon the four propositions (existence, nonexistence, both, neither), the hundred negations are spontaneously wiped out. To Huangbo, I say: If you understand clearly and thoroughly, nothing is not it.
"Apart from the four propositions and beyond the hundred negations, please point out the meaning of living Buddhism." Looking at it the other way around: without abandoning the four propositions or hundred negations, where is the meaning of living Buddhism not clear? The monk's question is a question in the mouth of a shackle, but Mazu wasn't flustered.
"I'm tired. Ask Zhizang." Mazu spared his own eyebrows and pierced that monk's nose. That monk did not escape being sent away -- he really went and asked.
"Why don't you ask the teacher?" Zhizang too fit in the groove without contrivance. Yet the monk didn't open his eyes. Although the monk didn't have a sanguine nature, still he saw things through from start to finish.
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black." This statement kills everyone in the world with doubt. A duck's head is green; a crane's head is red. The ten-shadowed spiritual horse stands south of the ocean; the five-colored auspicious unicorn walks north of the sky.
Zhaojue of Donglin's Verse
The hundred negations and four propositions gone, wordless,
Black and white distinctly clear, determining absolute and relative.
Hakuin's Comment
"I'm tired today." Mazu is like a water spirit raining sweet dew. I wouldn't misconstrue these words to mean he neither explained nor did not explain. If you say he explained, the arrow has flown past. If you say he didn't explain, you won't get to see the sky by digging into the earth.
Xitang, also a Zen master, told the monk to go ask Baizhang because he was enlightened. This is like a killing by an expert swordsman, where the victim is unaware he's been cut through.
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black." A parent whose children make rain is even more so; there are situations where it is hard to tell which is which. Eight ounces, after all, is half a pound.
Tenkei's Comment
"I'm tired today." This is a thoroughhgoing effort to help the other person. Here there is no principle of Buddhist doctrine or mystic marvel; let those with ears hear!
"I have a headache today." This too is a thorough-going effort to help the man; if only the monk would notice!
"When I come to this point, I don't understand." The three elders spoke as one, kindly helping out, but regrettably the monk doesn't notice.
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black." There are many misinterpretations of this current. All literalistic interpretations are wrong. This line is a kindly effort to help, penetrating bones and marrow, a distinguished favor impossible to repay even by bone-crushing labors. The statement is simply that Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black, familiar words from a familiar speaker, no different from saying "drinking tea and eating rice." Even so, it is wrong to speak this way if one has merely swallowed it whole without chewing. When you actually do manage to see, then it is so.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
"Zhizang had a white head-gear, Huaihai had a black head-gear." Huaihai's was the better answer. The reference is to an old story about two robbers, who knew each other but did not work together. One wore a black and the other a white hat or cap. One day 'Black' took a woman to a well and there the two stood looking disconsolate until presently 'White' came along. Seing the pair standing so disconsolately, 'White' asked what was the matter and why they were looking so miserable. 'Black' said that the woman had dropped some very valuable jewels into the well. She was offering to give half their value to whoever recovered them for her. 'White' took 'Black' aside and said he wold recover them but that the two of them should keep the whole for themselves and leave the woman. To this 'Black' agreed. So 'White' went down the well. But when he came out he found that all his own possessions, clothes, etc., which he had left at the well-side had gone, and the woman and 'Black' had disappeared too. He said: "Well, I knew I was a pretty bad fellow, but 'Black' is certainly cleverer than I." Thus Mazu is saying Huaihai was to be compared to 'Black.' His answer was better and more to the point than was Zhizang's.
The travelling monk who asked the question was undoubtedly one of the men who went about expecting hospitality from Zen temples and trying to start arguments. The wiser Zen teachers saw through them at once. Perhaps Mazu was justified in pleading weariness, for he really was a good age, but Xitang Zhizang was younger and his excuse about a headache was not a good answer. In either case, they left the way open for the questioner to return and trouble them again. Baizhang Huaihai's straightforward, blunt answer was by far the best. It gave no opening for the arguing traveler to come again.
Sekida's Comment
The hundred negations are arrived at by multiplying the four propositions (existence, nonexistence, both, neither) in the characteristic fashion of Indian philosophy. In short, they represent all the varieties of philosophical thinking. Disregarding all such philosophizing, what is the true nature of Buddhism? No-meaning is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from India, and at the same time the meaning of Buddhism. This no-meaning is the true meaning of the universe, which continues blindly on its course.
"Tired and cannot tell you." "Tired and "cannot" are a splendid exemplification of the direct preaching of non-preaching.
"Why don't you ask the master?" Every sentence is an expression of non-preaching.
"He told me to ask you." Although himself exercising non-hearing, the monk is not aware of it.
"I have a headache and cannot tell you about it." Xitang Zhizang tells so much.
"Coming to this point, I do not understand." This was most direct.
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black." The rose is red, the peony scarlet. The northern mountain is high, the southern hill low. This is the same as saying, "My eyes lie horizontally and my nose is vertical."
Wick's Comment
How to describe ultimate reality? "I don't feel like explaining it today." A perfect demonstration! The monk doesn't get it, so he goes to Zhizang. Zhizang also gives a perfect demonstration. And then Brother Huaihai provides yet another demonstration for the benefit of the monk.
How strong is your aspiration to drop away the four propositions and the hundred negations? When you walk, just walk, when you talk, just talk, when you sit, just sit -- without carrying extra baggage around. Can you see what Mazu is describing? To see it, you must look with your Dharma eye, the eye that's not attached to any form or color. Then you must learn to walk without lifting a leg and to talk without moving your tongue.
"Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black." Mazu cuts through it all with this statement. I was crying then, I'm laughing now. The sky is blue, the grass is green. Dogs bark, cats purr. Ducks have ducklings, geese have goslings. Why do we make it so complicated? The fundamental truth is always expressing itself perfectly; we just need to see it.
Yasutani's Comment
Oh, so you’ve done what I’ve told you and you still don’t understand? As I remember, Zhizang has white hair and Huaihai has black hair. Isn’t that leaving the four phrases and cutting off the hundred negations? Where is there anything which is not the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West? You useless fellow!
Yamada's Comment
“Leaving the four phrases and cutting off the hundred negations” means, in short, taking leave of all concepts and thoughts. The “meaning of the coming from the West” (or the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West, as it is also expressed) means the highest truth of Buddhism.
“I’m tired today, I cannot preach it for you. Go and ask Zhizang.” The Great Mazu has very cleverly avoided having to answer. But you must also realize that he is directly presenting the ultimate truth of Buddhism with his answer. This is preaching and not preaching at the same time.
“When it comes to that, I don’t know.” This “I don’t know” is wonderful! As was the case with Mazu and Zhizang, Baizhang Huaihai's words perfectly present the meaning of the coming from the West. But the monk fails to this “preaching where there is no preaching.”
“Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai’s head is black.” With his answer, Mazu has administered the coup-de-grace. What connection does this have to the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West? That’s the problem. If we try to figure it out intellectually, we will run up against a brick wall. Yasutani reads Mazu as scolding the monk for his failure to understand. That is certainly a fine interpretation, but “As I remember, Zhizang has white hair, etc.” still has a scent of meaning and intellectualizing to it. Yasutani goes on to say, “white is white and black is black,” but I feel that here, too, there is that lingering trace of intellectualizing. In Zen there must be no intellectualizing. There is just “Zhizang’s head is white, Huaihai’s head is black.” In fact just “black and white” would be enough. You may then think, “Ah, we’re talking about whiskey!” “Whiskey!” With that single word, everything is exhausted. In today’s case, it is just “Zhizang's head is black, Huaihai's head is white.” Nothing else. No meaning.
Rothenberg's Verse
Assent and Deny

For the truth, you need not explain or teach
There is nothing to hear and no destination.

Nearly all of us suffer from this kind of malaise
At the mercy of someone else;
Obscurity extends forever.

They say that white stands for merging in brightness,
black for merging in darkness

Most people instead are absorbed in schemes.

In the vast country there is but one road.
You will run your footsteps down it.
In the future you will come up with a phrase
that will blanket everyone here on Earth.
Shoho Kuebast's Verse
Mazu's "White and Black"

If not
these eyes
these feet
right H
which is universally
longed for…
how else can happiness
be found?
Sturmer's Verse
The willows tell you everything
when their branches move
in the breeze.
But hurrying from place to place
with a small octopus
in each coat pocket
you want the answers written down
in blood as well as ink.
Hotetsu's Verse
I love this beautiful monk,
Adjudged clueless by a millennium of Zen teachers,
and his beautiful question:
   What is this Zen,
   when all of us are enlightened from the beginning?
   What happens when we sit in that posture we sit in?
   How can it be anything? How can it seem to be something?
I love his imperviousness to Nagarjuna's pliers:
   Bodhidharma came from the west, didn't come from the west,
   Both did and didn't, neither did nor didn't --
   and 100 negations of these.
I love that he is undaunted,
The question still carries him,
And he it.
Mazu and and two senior disciples
Have their nice answers:
   I can't explain it.
   I can't explain it.
   I understand nothing about that.

Those are fine pine-tree answers.
And what else could they say? The pine tree
Answers everything.
Yet still my man keeps asking.
I love that about him.
Five patient explanations he receives of the meaning for which he asks:
   I'm tired.
   Why don't you ask our master?
   I have a headache.
   I don't understand.
   This is white and that is black.

Each is as true as the day is long.
But I love this monk because he doesn't let me forget
That the meaning is
   Please tell me directly, Master, the meaning --
Nor that this query is not put to rest
By philosophy or pine trees.
The master and his top students must apprehend
that this beloved novice's persistence
Outshines their shining answers.

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