Book of Serenity 86

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #86
Linji's Great Enlightenment

Huangbo Xiyun (Obaku Kiun, 755?-850, 10th generation) is the dharma "grandson" of Mazu (709-788) and the "son" of Baizhang (720-814). He is the dharma "father" of Linji (Japanese Rinzai, 812?-867). Huangbo also studied with National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong (675-775), though Huangbo would have been about 15 when Nanyang died. At some point he may also have studied briefly under Nanquan (748-835), another student of Mazu. Huanbo is reputed to have been very tall. When he and Baizhang first met, Baizhang exclaimed, “Magnificent! Imposing! Where have you come from?” Huángbò replied, “Magnificent and imposing, I’ve come from the mountains.”
Wansong's Preface
Even with a copper head, iron forehead, deva eyes, dragon eyeballs, falcon beak, shark jaw, bear heart, and leopard liver -- under the diamond sword no plans are accepted, and no measurement is possible. Why does it have to be thus?
Linji asked Huangbo, "What is the great meaning of the Buddha-Dharma?"
Huangbo hit him.
This happened three times.
Linji then took his leave and went to see Dayu.
Dayu asked, "Where have you come from?"
Linji said, "From Huangbo."
Dayu said, "What did Huangbo have to say?"
Linji said, "I asked him three times, 'What is the great meaning of the Buddha-Dharma?' and I got his stick three times. I don't know if I was in error or not."
Dayu said, "Huangbo was overly gentle like an old grandmother; he completely exhausted himself for your sake. Yet you come here and ask if you were in error or not!"
With these words, Linji came to great enlightenment.
Case: Longer Version, from Dogen's 300-Koan Collection
Zen master Linji had been at the assembly of Huangbo practicing single-mindedly for three years.
The head monastic, Muzhou, admired him, saying, "He is young, but there is something special about him." He sent Linji to the abbot, Huangbo, and had him ask, "What exactly, is the essential meaning of the Buddha-dharma?"
Linji went to the master as instructed. Before he had finished speaking, Huangbo hit him.
Linji asked the question three times, and Huangbo hit him three times.
Linji went back to Muzhou and said, "You compassionately advised me to ask a question of the master. I asked three times and was hit three times. I regret that something keeps me from understanding his profound teaching. I am leaving here today."
Muzhou said, "If you are leaving, you should bid farewell to the master."
Muzhou went first to the master and said,, "The young man who asked you a question fits the dharma. If he comes to bid farewell to you, please guide him with skillful means. Later he will manifest as a huge tree and provide shade for the world."
Linji went up to the abbot's room to bid him farewell.
Huangbo said, "Don't go anywhere other than Dayu's place."
Linji visited Dayu, who asked him where he was from.
Linji said, "Huangbo's."
Dayu said, "What did Huangbo have to say?"
Linji said, "I asked him a question three times and was hit three times. I don't know if I was wrong or not."
Dayu said, "Huangbo had such a grandmotherly heart. He exhausted himself for you. Why do you ask if you were wrong or not?"
Linji immediately had an awakening and said, "Huangbo's Buddha-dharma is not so extraordinary."
Dayu pushed him down and said, "You devil in the toilet! A few moments ago you were wondering if you had been wrong or not. Now you are saying that Huanbo's dharma is not extraordinary. What principle do you see? Say it. Say it!"
Linji punched Dayu's ribs three times.
Dayu pushed him back and said, "Your teacher is Huangbo. I have nothing to do with you."
Linji left Dayu and returned to Huangbo, who said, "You come and go. When is it going to stop?"
Linji said, "Just because your old grandmotherly heart is profound." He made a bow and stood next to the master.
Huangbo said, "Where did you go?"
Linji said, "Following your direction, I went to see Dayu."
Huangbo said, "What did he say?"
Linji told the story.
Huangbo said said, "If that guy comes to me, I will give him a set of severe blows."
Linji said, "Why do you talk about waiting? Do it now." Then he hit the master.
Huanbo said, "You crazy monastic, coming here and grabbing the tiger's whiskers!"
Linji shouted.
Huangbo said, to his attendant monastic, "Take this crazy monastic and show him to the monastic's hall."
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans)
Fledgling phoenix, a thousand-league horse --
a true wind traverses the bamboo flute
and life's activities function freely.
When coming suddenly, lightning strikes swiftly.
Where deluded clouds part, the sun shines alone.
Stroking the tiger's whiskers, don't you see?
He is indeed a great and powerful man.
Hongzhi's Verse (Cleary trans)
A nine-colored Phoenix,
A thousand-mile colt:
The wind of reality crosses the pipes,
The spiritual works goes into action.
Coming on directly, the flying lightning is swift:
When the clouds of illusion break, the sun is alone.
He grabs the tiger's whiskers --
Do you see or not?
This is a brave and powerful man of great stature.
Shishin Wick's Comment
Linji's enlightenment is important to understand. It's important that we realize what he realized. Letting go of all concepts of enlightenment, just be present to the moment. When you're sitting zazen, that's like rubbing two sticks together to make a fire. As you keep rubbing, it starts to get worm and maybe a little uncomfortable. But if you stop there, you've missed the best part! When your practice gets difficult, that's the best part. Keep going! Linji's meticulous effort in his duties at the monastery prepared his body and mind for his encounters with his teachers. Many times we talk about our unspoken truths, the conditioning that we aren't even aware of. How can we expand our awareness so that we see it functioning? It took Dayu's comments for Linji to see Huangbo's intent. How do you see it directly?
Daido Loori's Comment
Linji practiced at Huanbo's monastery for three years and never asked a single question until he was forced to by the head monastic. Can this be called ceaseless practice? Three times the old master answered, but Linji couldn't get it. In the end, it took the old hermit Dayu to bring him to realization. Be that as it may, tell me, what is the meaning of Huangbo's hitting Linji three times? What is the meaning of Linji's hitting Dayu three times? Since Linji enters the Way be virtue of Dayu's turning word, is he a successor of Dayu or Huangbo? The only saving grace about the whole farce is that, in the end, it all perished with the blind donkey.
Daido Loori's Verse
Huangbo's kindness was excessive;
Dayu's mouth was too extravagant.
Still the mist opened and revealed in a cloudless sky
the autumn moon alone.
Norbert Holter's Verse
Linji's Great Enlightenment

Back and forth he goes.
Phoenix rising
Thousand-mile colt.
Sturmer's Verse
You're already falling into the wind
like Buster Keaton,
or being battered about
by oversized boxing gloves.
A hurricane removes
the roof of your house.
A cannon ball rolls
down a long staircase.
Hotetsu's Verse
What is the great meaning of the Buddha-dharma?
Where else did you think the answer lay?
In the moonlight on the birch tree?

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