Blue Cliff Record 31, Book of Serenity 16

"Mayu Comes to Zhangjing," Blue Cliff Record, #31; Book of Serenity, #16

Mayu (b. 760?), Zhangjing (754-815), and Nanquan (748-835), were all disciples of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen, Hongzhou). Mayu, the youngest of the three, is on a pilgrimage from Mazu to visit two of Mazu's more prominent, now independent, former students.

Mayu came to Zhangjing carrying his bell staff with him, walked around Zhangjing's seat three times, shook his staff, ringing the bells, stuck it in the ground, and stood up straight.
Zhangjing said, "Good."
Mayu then came to Nanquan, walked around Nanquan's seat, shook his staff, ringing the bells, stuck it in the ground, and stood up straight.
Nanquan said, "Wrong."
Mayu said, "Zhangjing said, 'Good'; why do you say, 'Wrong'?"
Nanquan said, "Zhangjing is 'good,' but you are wrong. You are blown about by the wind. That will lead to destruction."


Yuanwu's Preface
With subconscious stirring, images appear; with awareness, ice forms. Even if there is no stirring and no awareness,you have not yet escaped from the confinement of the fox's hole. If you truly penetrate in your practice and become master of it, you will experience not a trace of obstruction. You will be like a dragon supported by deep waters, like a tiger than commands its mountain retreat. Then, if you let go, even tiles and pebbles become illuminating; if you hold fast, even pure gold loses its luster. And the koans of the old masters will become tedious.

Xuedou's Insertions
Zhangjing said, "Good." -- A mistake. [Or: Wrong!]
Nanquan said, "Wrong." -- A mistake. [Or: Wrong!]

Xuedou's Verse, Sekida trans
This mistake, that mistake.
Never take them away!
In the four seas, the waves subside;
A hundred rivers flow quietly to the sea.
The twelve bells of the staff tinkled up high;
Empty and silent is the road to the gate.
No, not empty and silent;
The enlightened man must take medicine
For the illness of "having no illness."

Xuedou's Verse, Cleary trans
This mistake, that mistake -- be sure not to omit them!
Then the waves grow calm on the four seas,
The hundred rivers return to the ocean tide.
The standard of the ancient rod is higher than the twelve gates.
Each gate has a road, empty and desolate.
Not desolate -- the adept should seek medicine for no disease.

Sekida's Comment
Mayu, full of self-confidence, came to Zhangjing to demonstrate his attainment. He adopted a proud attitude quite naturally. The customary salutation was to walk three times around the host's seat, stand in front of him, then retire to a corner to await his direction. But Mayu, a tiger on its mountain, haughtily stuck his staff in the ground and stood up straight before Zhangjing. Zhangjing know all about this. Everyon is the same when he has his first experience of kensho. So "Good" issued forth from his mouth. Zhangjing was letting go. Mayu was right, and at the same time wrong. He had still to go much further. But Zen is not a matter of designating things "good" or "bad." However, Zhangjing for the moment committed that fault for Mayu's sake. Nanquan's "wrong," then, is a decisive blow. Nanquan was holding fast. Neither holding fast nor letting go can avoid being one-sided. Everything has its advantages and disadvantages.
Nanquan said, "Zhangjing is 'good,' but you are wrong. You are blown about by the wind. That will lead to destruction." -- Nanquan was sweeping everything away. As the Zen saying goes, "When you kill, kill exhaustively."

Yuanwu's Comment
The first says "Correct": why is he also wrong? The latter says "Incorrect": why is he too wrong? If you attain understanding and Zhangjing's saying, you will not even be able to save yourself: if you attain understanding at Nanquan's saying, you can be the teacher of Buddhas and Patriarchs. Even so, patchrobed monks must prove it themselves before they will understand; do not just accept other people's verbal explanations.

Hakuin's Comment
Stood tall -- "Walking alone under the blue sky."
Zhangjing said, "Right, right" -- One hand upholds, spreading flowers on top of brocade.
Mistake -- This immense sword against the sky cannot be praised enough.
Wrong, wrong -- Another immense sword against the sky.
Mistake cannot be praised enough; a snake swallows a turtle nose.
Mayu then said -- Making himself a hostage, Mayu played the fool in order to see Nanquan. He's got nerves of steel!
Zhangjing is right -- This is not approval. It is a shrewd reply. When let go, both are released; in defeat, all lose. The eye that distinguishes dragons and snakes sees straight.
This is whirled about by the wind -- All that walking around brandishing a staff was his being blown about by the wind, you see.

Tenkei's Comment
Zhangjing said, "Right, right." -- Does he really agree or not? The sword that kills, the sword that gives life: this is where you die or live. Is it Zhangjing's mistake? Mayu's mistake?
Nanquan said "Wrong." -- Does he disagree, or does he agree? This too is where you die or live. Nanquan completely takes away what Mayu was dwelling on. Mayu came wearing stock giving evidence of his crime, so Nanquan settled the case according to the facts.

Yamada's Hekiganroku Comment
Mayu, after circling three times, arrives in front of the master, plants his staff firmly on the floor with rings jangling, and stands there erect – a remarkable display of power, isn't it? It is as though Mayoku were saying, "Above heaven and under heaven there is only I," thus exhausting the entire universe!
Zhangjing said, "Right, right!" (Xuedou comments, "Wrong!") -- You never know how much he was really affirming Mayu's action. Zen monks are often mean and tricky. Sometimes they seem to praise you but all the while chuckle inside; or they appear to speak contemptuously of you, yet in their hearts they are in truth praising you.
Nanquan said, "Not right, not right!" (Xuedou comments, "Wrong!") -- Zhangjing's answer must have elevated the young Mayu quite high, who now probably thought, "Well, I am something, am I not?" Xuedou interjects again, "Wrong!" Last time it was "Wrong" to the answer "Right, right!" This time there is the same comment to the answer "Not right, not right!" Both "Right!" and "Not right!" are "wrong." In the essential world, there is no "Right!" and no "Not right!" Is there any distinction between good and bad in the world of Mu? If you close your eyes, for example, you see that there is nothing, no good or bad. "Right" is wrong, "Not right" is wrong too, since the essential world transcends good and evil. As an old phrase puts it, "'Yes' is no good, 'No' is no good, both 'Yes' and 'No' are no good."
With Zhangjing it is right, but with you it is not right. This is nothing but a whirling of the wind. In the end, it will perish. -- Nanquan means that Mayu's lofty self-presentation with his staff sticking loudly into the ground seems imposing, but in reality it's nothing but physical liveliness, nothing but a movement of the wind, that is, a mere performance of the body. That'll perish sometime. Never stay satisfied at such a level. Zhangjing's saying, "Right, right!" corresponds to "releasing," or setting free and Nanquan's saying, "Not right, not right!", matches with "gripping," or depriving of freedom. Both rebuke ("gripping") and praise ("releasing") are necessary. "No, you mustn't do that!" as well as "Very well done!" – both are important phrases; should the balance between them be uneven, real growth will be hindered. There can be no fixed pattern for this; it all depends upon the situation and the person in question. What is of utmost importance is that your reaction be always suited to the particular situation.

Rothenberg's Verse
The Body Returns
Move, a shadow appears.
Wake up, ice forms.
You, dragon, find water.
Tiger, talk to the mountain.
Circle the seat, shaking your head.
What is shook by the wind breaks down into dust.
This body of mine is made of four parts:
the skin and bones all return to the earth
the tears and blood all return to water
breath goes back to fire,
movement goes back to wind,
Where could this illusion I call myself be?


Wansong's Preface
Pointing to a deer, it becomes a horse. Grubbing the soil, it becomes gold. On the tongue, wind and thunder are raised. Between the eyebrows, a bloody blade is stored. While sitting, success or failure is perceived. While standing, life and death are examined. Tell me: what kind of samadhi is this?

Hongzhi's Verse, Wick trans
"Right" and "Wrong" -- watch out for the trap;
it seems to be putting down, seems to be approving.
Who's the elder is difficult to tell; who's the younger is difficult to tell.
He knows to release when it's time.
What's special about my snatching away?
Thumping the golden staff, standing all along;
circling the rope mat thrice he plays at leisure.
Being agitated a Sangha spawns right and wrong.
I reflect that a demon's seen in a withered skull

Hongzhi's Verse, Cleary trans
Right and wrong --
Watch out for the trap.
Seeming to put down, seeming to uphold,
It's hard to tell who is the elder brother, who the younger.
Conceding, he adapts to the time.
Denying, what's special to me?
One shake of the metal staff -- standing out all alone;
Three times around the seat, a leisurely romp.
The monasteries agitated, 'right' and 'wrong' are born;
It seems like they are seeing ghosts in front of their skulls.

Shengmo Guang's Comment
"Right" can affirm nothing; "wrong" contains no real denial. Right and wrong have no master, myriad virtues are ultimately one. The owl and the chickens for no reason naturally separae by day and by night. I have no tongue -- I call a tortoise a turtle. If Kasyapa doesn't agree, let him furrow his brow."

Dagui Zhe's Comment
Zhangjing said "right" and fell into Mayu's target range; Nanquan, saying "wrong," still fell within Mayu's target range. I would do otherwise. If someone should suddenly circle my meditation seat three times carrying a staff and stand there at attention, I'd just say, "You should get thirty blows of the staff before even coming here."

Wansong's Comment
Mayu also once went to National Teacher Huizhong's [675?-775] place, walked around the seat three times, shook his staff and stood there. The National Teacher said, "Since you are capable of such as this, what further need is there is to see me?" Mayu shook his staff again. The National Teacher said, "You wild fox ghost! Get out."

Wick's Comment
If we carefully look at this right and wrong, we see that it is the basis of our motivation. We always want to be right, to be approved in some way. When Mara was not able to distract the Buddha, he finally said, "Even if you do realize your True Nature, who's going to witness it for you? Who's going to approve you? Who's going to say "Right! Right!"? The Buddha struck the ground, and said, "The great earth is my witness!" My own life is my witness! What good is approval from someone else, if you don't approve of yourself? It's not a question of right or wrong. It's a question of letting go of your fixed positions. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging people, and it can be important. When it becomes addictive, then it is a sickness. Then one can't have enough fame, enough money, enough recognition. That is why Nanquan says, "What comes from the power of the wind, in the end becomes broken and crumbled." It's addictive because somehow, we're holding very firmly to this notion of self. Watch how good you feel when someone approves of you, and how bad you feel when someone disapproves of you. What is it?

Yamada's Shoyoroku Comment
Mayu is presenting his own enlightened state of consciousness. This is not bad at all. And so Zhangjing says, “Right, right.” Yes, that’s good. Zhangjing differed from his teacher, Mazu, in being of a warm disposition and not given to strange behavior. This element of Zhangjing's personality appears in the present koan. He just says, “Right, right.” He gives his approval to Mayu’s way of presenting the dharma.
Nanquan said, "Not right, not right!" -- How very like Nanquan, the one who killed the cat in another famous koan, to refrain from immediately giving his approval!
With Shôkei it is right, but with you it is not right. -- If Mayu was really worth his salt, he would have realized that he had met his match with Nanquan and retired from battle. It is the body that shakes the staff, stands stockstill and presents itself as the only one in the whole universe, the world of complete enlightenment. It is precisely because there is a body that this can be done. Nanquan is telling Mayu not to depend on that body, since that body will decompose and disappear some day. He is saying that if we depend on the body and think that is satori, we are still mistaken.

Anbo's Verse
It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing
Ching-a-ching of the pilgrim’s staff - -
Will that put tigers and dragons to flight?
Reenacting the ancient scenes,
The Enlightened Guest grows over-ripe,
Chasing fog and grasping dreams,
Wind-blown into wrong and right.
A cool breeze at South Spring: mind, wind and banner dance.
Here it is mid-winter now;
Beyond the window, the old plum branch
Once again is drenched with white - -
Birth and death mingled on a single bough.
Sturmer's Verse
In a dream I ask
why there has to be
a vertical hierarchy
from ants to clouds,
and why, in the general
scheme of things,
a pebble should be right
and a wheelbarrow wrong.
Hotetsu's Verse
Sometimes you're affirmed, sometimes scolded.
You get judged. It happens. The teachers recommend equanimity.
Beyond that, though.
Judging aside. Equanimity, or lack of, aside.
There is just the fact
That what you just did,
And the time before that, and the time before that,
And now, and next time,
Was, is, and will be
Entirely right and completely wrong.

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