Blue Cliff Record 28

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #28
What the Holy Ones Have Not Preached (Extended)

Nanquan (748 - 835, 9th generation, Hongzhou) was a disciple of Mazu. Baizhang Niepan (10th gen., Hongzhou) was a disciple of the more well-known Baizhang, Baizhang Huaihai (720-814, 9th gen., another disciple of Mazu, and the teacher of Huangbo, Wufeng, Guishan Daan and Guishan Lingyou as well as Baizhang Niepan). Thus Baizhang Niepan was a dharma nephew of Nanquan. At the time of this encounter, Nanquan had "graduated" from Mazu and was traveling around visiting many masters before settling down as head of his own monastery.
Nanquan came to see Priest Baizhang Niepan.
Baizhang said, "Is there any Dharma that the holy ones have not preached to the people?"
Nanquan said, “There is.”
Baizhang said, “What is the Dharma that has not been preached to the people?”
Nanquan said, “It is not mind; it is not Buddha; it is not things."
Baizhang said, "You have preached."
Nanquan said, "I am like this. How about you?"
Baizhang said, "I am not a man of great wisdom. How can I tell if there is preaching or no preaching?"
Nanquan said, "I don't follow you."
Baizhang said, "I have talked quite enough for you."
Yasutani's Preface
All who have attained kensho, whether great or small: it is simply the 'stage of seeing the Ox' in the Ten Ox-herding Pictures. Firstly, your conviction about the Ox is still not strong enough. Secondly, your aspiration is too feeble. Thirdly, therefore, your mindset in everyday life is not firm enough. If you have merely seen the Ox, it will flee away. You will simply stick to your memory of past kensho and try to manipulate your subject. Even if you manage somehow to pass your koan, it doesn't mean you have passed it with the power of seeing the way. It's nothing but an illusion. Even when you pass a koan that way, there will be no real happiness. You may even wonder in your heart, 'Was that really good enough?' That's how almost two-thirds of the kensho people gradually become unable to see at all. Some of them bring to the dokusan room everyday common sense which has nothing to do with the Buddhist dharma. Therefore, what you should do is sit with all earnestness – not only because you've fallen into the state in which you can't see very clearly, but because you don't want to fall into such a state at all. Sit and sit and sit, and get a firm hold of the Ox. Once you've really caught him, he'll never go astray. That's the stage of capturing the Ox. There, your understanding is well established so that you make no more mistakes. But if your aspiration isn't solid enough, your everyday actions won't attain corresponding maturity. As for dokusan: don't just go in to pass the time of day. No one should wander into the dokusan room with nothing particular to say or ask. Still, if you are determined to attain kensho, it's good to come to dokusan incessantly. You'll not find the way on a piece of paper. Never consider an intellectual understanding you have read in a book to be the actual thing. In the sayings of the buddhas and patriarchs you read that all thoughts, concepts, perceptions and beliefs are erroneous. Even the buddhas of the three Worlds cannot know the taste of the tea I just drank. Nor is there any way for them to convey to me the taste of their own tea. That's what today's koan makes clear.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans; Cleary trans in italics)
Patriarchs and Buddhas have not preached,
   Zen masters and Buddhas never helped people;
Yet monks run after preachers.
   Seekers past and present run as if racing.
Clear mirror on the stand, sharply imaging.
   When a clear mirror is set up, the range of images is distinct.
Looking southward, see the Great Bear.
   Each one faces south to see the northern dipper.
The shaft hangs down. Where do you find it?
   The dipper handle hangs down; there is no place to look for it.
Saving your nostrils, you have lost your mouth.
   One may take up the nostrils but lose the mouth.
Yuanwu's Comment
Have all the sages since antiquity had a truth that they haven't spoken for people? If it had been me, I would have covered my ears and left. Look at this old fellow's scene of embarrassment.
Nanquan said, "They have." This was indeed brash.
It's not mind, it's not buddha, it's not any thing. Greedily gazing at the moon in the sky, this fellow has lost the pearl in the palm of his hand.
Baizhang said, "You said it." Too bad -- he explained in full for Nanquan. At the time I would have simply brought my staff down across his back to get him to know real pain. Although it was like this, you tell me, where did he say it? Nanquan said it's not mind, buddha, or any thing -- it's never been spoken. So why did Baizhang say, "You said it"? There are no tracks or traces in Nanquan's words. If you say Nanquan didn't say it, then why did Baizhang talk like this?
Baizhang said, "I am not a great man of knowledge either: how would I know whether it has been spoken or not?" Baizhang was an adept. This answer is undeniably extraordinary.
Nanquan said, "I don't understand." Actually, Nanquan did understand. This is not genuine not understanding.
I've already spoken too much for you. But tell me, where did Baizhang speak? If they had been two fellows playing with mud balls, both would have been covered with slime. If both were adepts, they were like bright mirrors in their stands. In fact in the beginning both were adepts; in the end they both let go. If you're a fellow iwth eyes, you'll judge them clearly. But say, how will you judge them?
Hakuin's Comment
Baizhang asked. This question is like a deadly poison.
A teaching they didn't tell anyone. That is, something that cannot be explained to others.
Nanquan said, "Yes." Truth comes out of a convict's mouth. "Yes" is cold. It was in order to say what he would later say that he drew his bow, keeping a reserve force of a million troops in his chest. When you confront an opponent in chess, it is impossible to conceal your moves.
What has not been told to anyone. It rings out through the mountains and the valleys. The first arrow was still light; the second arrow struck deep.
Nanquan said, "It is not mind,..." He came up with a bunch of nonsense. No kind of arrow can penetrate an iron shield.
Nanquan said, "That's all I know." He grabs the other's whistling arrow and shoots it right back.
I am not a great teacher either. He is completely unruffled. Indeed, it's like looking at a precious sword from heaven. But everyone's a bunch of thieves. The teaching that's been told and the untold teaching are the fangs of a man-eating lion.
Nanquan said, "I don't understand." Cornering him with "I have no idea," he changed his strategy. In an encounter between skilled sumo wrestlers, wind follows the tiger, clouds follow the dragon.
I've already told you too much. This has been an extraordinary, inconceivable conversation, but there is nothing quite as splendid as this last statement. Gold molds an iron mountain range.
Tenkei's Comment
What teaching have the Buddhas and Zen masters never told anyone? You must return to yourself to see. Ultimately the unspoken is inaccessible, where even Buddha didn't say a word, to which even Bodhidharma couldn't point. Eyes horizontal, nose vertical: it is what no one can do anything about, not even the sages from time immemorial.
It is not mind. Is this something that descended from heaven? Is it something that welled up from earth? Every individual ought to look and see.
Baizhang said, "You said it!" What a pity, a regrettable footnote, eh!
Nanquan said, "That's all I know." Knowing how to change and get through, Nanquan tosses a question back at Baizhang.
Baizhang said, "I am not a great teacher." He quietly prepared a way to escape.
Nanquan said, "I don't understand." Does he understand but say he doesn't, or does he really not understand? This is a bit of a difficult spot.
Baizhang said, "I've already told you too much." What did he tell him? Do you know?
Sekida's Comment
"Dharma" here means truth, law, or teaching. When the Buddha was dying he said, "In forty-nine years I have preached not a word." Huangbo said to his monks, "Do you know that in all the land of Tang there is no Zen teacher?" (BCR #11). There is a saying that Zen truth cannot and should not be preached. One must learn Zen for oneself and master it by oneself. But if this is so, why do so many people go on talking about Zen? In the most fundamental sense, from the viewpoint of the first principle of Zen, talking about Zen is nonsense. But to initiate the novice, it is absolutely necessary to talk about it.
Nanquan said, "There is." This is a Dharma Battle, in which both participants are attempting to bring out what it is impossible to bring out. Both Nanquan and Baizhang Niepan knew from the outset that they were tackling an impossible problem. Nevertheless, the Dharma that has not been preached by anyone must exist. What is it? The question must be asked.
It is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things. This saying derives from some words of Mazu, who once said, "This very mind is the Buddha" (GG30).
On another occasion he said, "No mind, no Buddha" (GG #33).
Then a monk asked him, "What do you say when a man comes who has finished these two?"
Mazu said, "I would say to him, 'No things.'"
"How about when a man comes who has finished all these?"
"I would make him understand the Great Way."
You have preached. Your words are not a direct expression of Zen truth -- that is, they do not spring from the first principle -- but belong to a secondary level: you are talking about Zen, in other words, preaching.
I am like this. How about you? When you speak from the first principle, you speak from the first principle. It does not matter whether the listener sees this or interprets your words as belonging to a secondary level. Nanquan, therefore, could say nonchalantly, "I am like this." The he assumed the offensive and said, "How about you?"
I am not a man of great wisdom. How can I tell if there is preaching or no preaching? This was the answer of a man of maturity.
I don't follow you. Nanquan was one of the greatest Zen masters. But at the time of the present case he was perhaps still rather young and inclined to be aggressive. Possibly he wanted to make the Dharma battle an animated one. If his first answer had been different, the whole conversation might have taken another course. Dongshan Liangjie (807-69, 11th gen., Hunan), founder of the Caodong sect, once said on a similar occasion, "Take my head and carry it away with you, if you want." And another occasion, "Coming to this point, my heart is breaking." Baizhang Niepan's words were, "I am not a man of great wisdom." Another teacher said, "Good morning." They were quiet and showed maturity. But variety is also important, and Nanquan's youthful bravery is greatly to be admired. A Dharma battle is not something to be won or lost but a matter of finding a way to express the inexpressible.
Yamada's Comment
Nanquan said, "There is." I think Nanquan didn't really believe that there exists such a dharma; rather, it was something like a kendô swordsman leaving an opening to lure in his opponent.
Baizhang asked, "What is this dharma that has never been preached to the people?" There could be various ways to answer this question. Vimalakirti just sat still in response to Manjusri's question, "What is the dharma gate of Not-two?", meaning, "What is the
world of true oneness?" (BCR84)
Nanquan said, “This is not mind, this is not Buddha, this is not thing." The emphasis is on the word "this." What is "this"? Zen means nothing but getting hold of this "This." Now, if you say, "This is not mind, this is not Buddha, this is not thing," the utterance does take on meaning. But if there is some meaning, it becomes something that has been preached. It has already ceased to be the "dharma that the patriarchs have never preached to the people." So, if you don't want to simply sit there without saying anything, but want to utter something, then it should be "THIS-IS-NOT-MIND-THIS-IS-NOT-BUD-DHA-THIS-IS-NOT-THING!" It's the same as this WHACK! [striking lecturn]. That's how I take it. I want you to come to sudden realization of this true world, the world you can't preach about at all. Concerning, "I have already preached to you fully," Yuanwu says, "What's the use of 'the dragon's head and the snake's tail' here?" The "dragon's head" refers to the grandiose question posed by Baizhang Niepan at the outset: "Is there a dharma that the patriarchs have never preached to the people?" What a pompous and dramatic thrust! But at the end, it came down to a miserable "snake's tail": "I have already preached to you fully." How incongruous! says Yuanwu.
Daido Loori's Comment
In the world of Zen adepts, with a single phrase or word, with a single encounter or a single response, you should be able to see whether one is deep or shallow. These two adepts, meeting like this, are clearly extraordinary. Baizhang Niepan's question is indeed difficult to respond to, but Nanquan, still fresh from Mazu's monastery, didn't hesitate in responding, "It's not mind, it's not Buddha, it's not a thing." But say, did he speak the dharma that had not been spoken by the sages of the past? Niepan wanted to know if that was all he had to say about the matter and Nanquan used this as an opportunity to turn the spear around. Niepan, too, was skillful, and though he seems dead, he is not. His answer was extraordinary: "I am not a teacher. How should I know if there is a dharma that has or has not been spoken?" the spear was again turned around. Nanquan then said, "I don't understand." Do you think he really didn't understand? Niepan's response to this was that he had already said enough. But what did he say that was enough? Is there a truth that has not been spoken to the people? If so, what is it? If not, why not? If your eyes are open, you should be able to clearly see through this encounter. How will you judge them?
Daido Loori's Verse
Buddhas have not appeared in the world,
nor is there a truth that can be given to the people.
There is only the yellow-voiced, cold cricket
singing in a pile of autumn leaves.
Rothenberg's Verse
Unsaid Truths

Is there more to all this than what you have heard?
   There is.
And what is it that people have been denied?
   Nothing, really.
   I've already said too much.
You've fallen too low this time,
frantic, hiding the body but showing your shadow.
   That's the way it is.
Say neither yes nor no to mind.
Say nothing.
Speak for no one.
Each guards her own land.
Hold onto your standards.
Keep those words out of sight.
Hang up your bowl
Call it quits for the day.
The wall-mirrors offer too many images.
Smash them, then I'll meet you.
The body is the tree of truth
The mind a smooth reflecting pool.
Do not blur it with dust and grease.
Keep it clean, wipe in circles from the center on out.
   Enlightenment is not a tree
   The mind is no more than broken glass.
   There has never been more than this,
   so let the dust settle in peace.
Hotetsu's Verse
You can't step in the same river twice, can't preach a dharma the same as what's been heard before.
Also, there's nothing you can preach that can't be preached (so, as Roshi John Lennon said, all you need is love.)
And here is Nanquan saying (preaching?) "it's not mind, it's not buddha, it's not things."
If he's preaching it, then it's preachable, so he must be not-preaching it.
I stepped into the Chattahoochee River once. Then stepped into it again.
I do that kind of thing all day every day -- entering what is the same, yet different,
Preaching what is unpreachable.
84,000 not-preachings per second.
I am like this. How about you?

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