Blue Cliff Record 58

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #58
Zhaozhou's "No Justification"

Personnel and Background
Zhaozhou Congshen (778-897, 10th gen) was a disciple of Nanquan (748-835), who was a disciple of Mazu (709-88). The Xinxin Ming is a poem of about 1,000 words in English translation, attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan (the "Third Patriarch," 530? - 606). Xinxin: "truthful heart-mind," "faith," or "trust;" Ming: "inscription," or "time-tested truth." Hence, Xinxin Ming: "Heart of True Entrusting," "Faith in Mind," or "Trust in the Heart." Zhaozhou, in his teaching, often cited the Xinxin Ming's opening lines: "The great way is not difficult; it just dislikes choosing." See also: BCR #2, BCR #57, and BCR #59.
A monastic said to Zhaozhou, "You so often quote the words, 'The real Way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment.' Isn't that your point of attachment?" [Or: "Isn't this a cliche for people these days?"]
Zhaozhou said, "A man asked me the same question once before, and five years later I have still found no justification for it." [Or: "Once someone asked me, and I simply couldn't give an explanation for five years."]
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
King Elephant's yawn! King Lion's roar!
   An elephant trumpets, a lion roars;
Plain words stop men's mouths.
   Flavorless talk blocks people's mouths.
North, south, east, and west,
   South, north, east, west,
The crow swoops, the hare bounds.
   The sun soars, the moon courses.
Hakuin's Comment
This monastic is unusually audacious. Whenever something is established as "right," that won't do. The expression "people these days" subtly alludes to Zhaozhou.
Tenkei's Comment
Is Zhaozhou making it into a cliche, or not? It's an iron hammerhead without a hole. When Zhaozhou says, "Oh, that business? Someone asked me before and I couldn't deal with it for as much as five years," this is his living methodology of using a wedge to remove a wedge.
Sekida's Comment
The monastic had no doubt racked his brains and hit on this idea, and was confident that he could trap Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou, fully aware of the monk's intention, quietly said that the question came as no surprise to him. This was the first step in frustrating the monk. Zhaozhou stated the fact as it was, thus showing that he was not in any dilemma. He was not operating in the realm of old-fashioned logic. In Zen a sort of intuitive logic develops, which works with something of the immediacy of a computer. Zhaozhou's answer stemmed from such an intuitive understanding.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Zhaozhou, like a great King Elephant, might merely yawn, or roar like the King of the Lions; what he said might seem to be quite meaningless. Nevertheless, so great was his understanding of the Truth that his very lightest remarks could stop the critical moughts of argumentative questioners. Wherever you go, crows go on flying about and hares run about as usual. The way of nature points to the truth that the Real Way is not difficult.
Yamada's Comment
The Supreme Way can be seen as the way of nature of the true fact, the highest truth. "Choosing" here means choosing only that which suits one's fancy. "This is good, this is bad. I like this, I don't like that." If we think in terms of good-bad, like-dislike, this becomes a hindrance which tarnishes and scratches the truth. Just as it is, is fine. When it's hot, you take off your sweater. When it's cold, you put it on again. When something's funny, you laugh. When you're hungry, you eat. Isn't that fine just as it is? There's nothing difficult about it at all. But when we start to think in terms of that being better than this, we run into trouble. The Supreme Way is not difficult, it just dislikes picking and choosing. This is the common-sense way of looking at these lines. But we can take another step and see this in a more Zen-like manner. Is there actually choosing? If we truly realize, we see that, even when we like something in preference to something else, it is just liking and nothing else. "Oh, the weeds have popped up again in no time. Darn it!" There is just that "darn it!" From moment to moment, it's just that fact. This is the story of our lives. When something strikes us funny there's just "Ha, ha, ha!" In the same way, when we are happy, there is just "happy" filling the entire universe, with no room for anything else. There is no subject-object standoff, just happy. It might appear that when we are happy there is something we can objectify, something which can be the object of comparison. But actually there is just happy. Strictly speaking, can there be any room for choosing? How about if we examine this even more deeply? "The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing." That's it! Nothing else. The minute we add intellectual explanations about picking and choosing, it's already lost. There is just "The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing." This is said from the highest standpoint. In the case at hand, the monastic is asking, "You are always saying, 'The Supreme Way is not difficult; it just dislikes picking and choosing.' But aren't you perhaps resting on your laurels and refusing to budge from that world?" But Zhaozhou is more than a match for this monk. Zhaozhou's answer is saying, "If that's what you want to know, I was asked that before and I haven't been able to say anything for the past five years." Zhaozhou doesn't care a whit about whether there is a pitfall or not. Please savor to the full Zhaozhou's wonderful, totally free activity. His mind is totally free of any concerns about pitfalls. If this were Linji instead of Zhaozhou, he probably would have let out a great "Katsu!" shout.
Rothenberg's Verse
Cannot Explain
Don't pick or choose -- what a cliche!
You won't get it for thirty more years.
Walk the balance beam, solid as steel.
Do not judge others against yourself.
An ape eats a worm, a mosquito pierces the iron ox.
Animal, animal. A dragon slips into water, a tiger heads for the hills.
The raven flies, the rabbit runs, from night until day.
From past and from present, buried alive -- all at once.
Where will we end up without choice?
Hotetsu's Verse
The old man was 80 before he consented to teach.
By then, decrepit, and so unattached to whether or not he was attached,
He had nothing to left to teach -- nothing more than
a stone, a brook, or a breeze teaches.

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