Blue Cliff Record 91, Book of Serenity 25

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #91
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #25
Yanguan and the Rhinocerous Fan

Yanguan (750-842, 9th generation, Hongzhou) was a disciple of Mazu (709-788, 8th gen.). He trained with Mazu for 30 years, and, after Mazu died, wandered around for thirty more years. He was over seventy when he finally settled down to teach, until he died at ninety-two. Touzi (819-914, 11th gen.), Shishuang (807-88, 11th gen.), Zifu (870?-940?, 13th gen.), and Baofu (868-928, 13th gen.) were later masters whose response to the case has now become a part of the case. Xuedou (980-1052, 16th gen.) is the original compiler of the Blue Cliff Record, and here inserts his editorial comment. This is the only case (in GG, BCR, or BOS) in which Yanguan appears. We will meet Touzi, Shishuang, Zifu, and Baofu several times again.
The BOS version leaves out Touzi's, Shishuang's, and Baofu's remarks as well as all of Xuedou's editorial comments.
Yuanwu's Preface
Transcend delusive attachments, deceptive ideas, and all kinds of entanglements. Proclaim the marvelous teachings and uphold the precious treasury of the true Dharma. Secure the free command of the ten directions and the perfect serenity of the eight dimensions. Let the land of peace be realized. Now, tell me, is there anyone who will go hand in hand with the Buddha, testifying to the same realization, living the same life and dying the same death? This case illustrates.
Wansong's Preface
Lands and seas are boundless, yet they are not apart from right here. Things and previous kalpas, numerous as the dust, all exist right now. As when one is asked to show it face to face, being caught unprepared, one cannot present it. Tell me: Where is the fault?
One day, Yanguan called to his attendant, "Bring me the rhinoceros fan."
The attendant said, "It is broken."
Yanguan said, "If the fan is already broken, bring me the rhinoceros himself."
The attendant gave no answer.
Touzi said, "I wouldn't mind bringing that, but the horn on its head would not be complete."
   (Xuedou said, "I need to see that incomplete horn.")
Shishuang said, "If I brought it back to you, nothing would remain [for me]."
   (Xuedou said, "That rhinoceros is still there.")
Zifu drew a circle and wrote the ideograph "ox" in it. [The Chinese character for "ox" is one of the two characters for "rhinoceros."]
   (Xuedou said, "Why didn't you bring it out sooner?)
Baofu said, "Master, you are so advanced in years. Please engage someone else."
   (Xuedou said, "Regrettable! All efforts have proved fruitless!")
Xuedou's Verse
You have long used the rhinoceros fan.
If asked, however, you know nothing of it.
Infinite, the cool breeze, and the head and horns.
Like clouds and rain which have passed, it cannot be captured.
Hongzhi's Verse
Break the fan and look for the rhinoceros.
The word within the circle has prior significance.
Who knows the thousand years' darkness of the new moon?
It subtly turns into autumn's harvest moon.
Hakuin's Comment
Yanguan is just beating the bushes to scare the snakes. Thee rhinoceros fan is a fan with a handle made from rhinoceros horn. There is no example quite like this in the whole Blue Cliff Record. It is on an even higher level than the story about the end of summer retreat. "The fan is broken." The naive realist, he stumbled past. Greedily gazing at the moon in the sky, he lost the pearl in the palm of his hand.
Tenkei's Comment
Yanguan calls his attendant today in order to test his ability to face up to a situation and take appropriate action.
Sekida's Comment
"Bring me the rhinoceros fan." This fan was one on which a picture of a rhinoceros viewing the moon was painted. In Zen literature the ox is used to symbolize the Zen mind, and the rhinoceros is looked upon as a kind of ox. The rhinoceros here represents the enlightened mind. Yanguan is asking his attendance to present such a mind to him. "The fan has been broken." When one attains realization, one is supposed to transcend it. If one sticks to it and stays there, the so-called Dharma malady will start to develop. Being attached to anything, even Buddhahood, is looked upon with great aversion. The attendant knew this well. He was saying that before he experienced realization he had yearned for it greatly, but once he attained it he found it as useless as a broken fan. "If the fan is broken, bring the rhinoceros to me." When you have cast away your mean ego, another ego will stand in the place of the one cast out. There is never complete absence of ego. However, repeated elimination will ultimately lead to an egoless ego. Yanguan was asking his attendant to display such an ultimate condition.
Wick's Comment
When Yanguan asks for the rhinoceros-horn fan, he's asking the attendant to bring him the mind that abides in no place. But the attendant was no slouch! "It's broken." It wasn't broken until you brought it up and started talking about it; now it's broken. "In that case, bring me the rhinoceros." This is similar to another koan: A monk once asked Zhaozhou, "If everything returns to the one, what does the one return to?" (BCR #45). If the one is destroyed, what can you bring up? When we practice zazen, both pleasure and pain come up, and we can get stuck in either one. But when we are able to let them both pass, something new arises. If we take care of one thing, something else comes up. How can we keep taking care of each thing as it comes up? If we face our attachments, these negative ways of behaving, without really delving into our true self, we won't find peace. People think they've eliminated negative feelings if they ignore them. Even if you avoid the feelings, they are still there. True peace comes at a price, and the price is no self-pity and no self-delusion. The price is letting go of the small grasping self and putting in the time, effort, and perseverance to really see clearly. The price is patience and courage.
Yamada's Hekiganroku Comment
The rhinoceros is essential nature, and the rhinoceros fan is the realization of essential nature, it is satori. Yanguan is asking the attendant to present his own enlightenment. The attendant's reply seems to be saying, "I have thrown away any attachment to satori. There is nothing stinking of enlightenment here." "Bring me the rhinoceros." Yanguan is asking the attendant to present essential nature itself. In reply, the attendant is silent. Maybe he was stumped for an answer. Maybe he knew but wanted to see how Yanguan would reply. Or yet again, perhaps sitting there in silence was his way of presenting essential nature. "I would not refuse to bring it forth, but I fear that the head and horns would not be complete.” Essential nature is completely empty, it has no form or shape. Touzi is presenting essential nature which is "incomplete" in that it lacks both form and shape. “If I return it to the Master there will be nothing.” I am not against giving it to you but if I do there will be nothing left for me. Here is Shishuang presenting essential nature in its total emptiness. In commenting on this line, Yasutani Roshi uses a somewhat unusual expression: "I have returned it to you long ago and it is no longer with me." Zifu drew a circle and then drew the character for rhinoceros in the center. This is his way of presenting the rhinoceros. "The Master is advanced in years, it is better to ask someone else." When you start asking people to produce a rhinoceros this is totally beyond me, so you had better ask someone else. Remember that Baofu is speaking in place of the silent attendant. Many people have found this answer to be the most interesting of the lot.
Yamada's Shoyoroku Comment
When we speak about a rhinoceros fan, we must realize that, simultaneously, the entire universe is stuck to it. That is actually what this koan is all about. When he asks the attendant to bring the rhinoceros fan, he is saying in so many words, “show me the world of enlightenment you have realized.” Yanguan then tells him to bring him the rhinoceros. He is saying, bring me that broken thing; bring what is remaining after all trace of satori has been washed away. In other words, “show me your true essence.” Zifu drew a circle and wrote the ideograph “ox” in it. A story relates how Mazu once sent a letter to Qinshan which consisted solely of a circle drawn on the paper. Upon receiving the letter, Qinshan put a black dot of ink in the middle of the circle and sent it back. That’s an interesting exchange! The circle is the world of emptiness. The dot is the world of phenomena; it is the ox.
Rothenberg's Verse
Rhinoceros Encircled

Bring me that fan of rhinoceros horn!
It's broken.
Well, then, get me the rhinoceros.
It's horn will be broken.
I like a beast who's missing his horn.

I drew a circle surrounding the word:
Ah, why did you not bring this out before?
It's under his nose.
Hold back, it might be dangerous.

The purpose is worth nothing without the source.
The rhino horn fan has long been in use:
cool in summer, warm in winter.
All of us have one, so why don't we know?

The boundless breeze and the horn on the head.
Just like we can't chase clouds after rain
or catch smoke once it has risen away.
The idea's in the circle, it could be controlled.
But you cannot cool flights of the soul.
Susan Clement's Verse
Yanguan's 'Rhinoceros Fan'

you give me the Rhino Fan!
like Yunmen's staff
Nanquan's cat -
hot confusion
Andy Ferguson's Verse
Bring me the rhinoceros.
No matter how big.
No matter how small.
Bring it all.
Not a sinew or smatter of horn in the hall.
Sturmer's Verse
The rhinoceros
is not a rowdy beast.
His armor forms his intelligence.
We, on the other hand,
stand perplexed
unable to work out
where the rain of acorns
is coming from.
Hotetsu's Verse
Rhinoceros broken to make a fan, also broken. One brokenness or two?
Bring forth your brokenness and, what is the same, the rhino's.
Then you may draw a perfect circle
And behold what is right under your nose.

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